The Artist & the Ghost Bicycle – Jewish Burial Rites

Not long ago, a young promising artist was riding a bicycle. In the intersection, came a speeding truck. They met their tragic end. I did not know the person – but I felt very badly for them. I was further dismayed when I learned that the family – not versed in the laws in Judaism – seemingly decided to cremate their body. I knew other families that did the same thing.

Burial vs. Cremation Pamphlet

The other day I was at a funeral of a family friend. At the funeral I picked up a pamphlet by Author Doron Kornbluth entitled “Cremation vs. Burial – A Jewish View.” Among his works, he has a book named the same. It talked about Jewish and secular reasons for burial – like how cremation pollutes the environment.

Our Body Belongs to G-d

Just recently, I was eating breakfast at the synagogue. A man – a car salesman – asked “Rabbi, What does Judaism say about cremation?” I told him that the Torah prohibits cremation. The body of a person is not our property – it belongs to G-d. We use it – but we cannot deface it – like making self inflicted wounds, scars or tattoos. Apparently the verse that prohibits cremation is “From dust (earth) you came and to dust (earth) you shall return.” (Bereshit / Genesis 3:19)

Respect the Person’s Body

He said to me “Yea, I always thought that. It seems like a disrespect to G-d – kind of throwing the body He gave us into the face.” I told him it is a tremendous disrespect for the person themselves as well. In cremation – they crush the bones and burn it at a temperature of 1800 degrees.

Respect the Artist’s Work

It clicked to me. “That’s a very good point you said.” I thought back to the artist who was cremated. Imagine if the mother decided to burn her child’s art. It would be a disrespect for the work of the artist and the artist themself.

I gave him the pamphlet to read.

The Torah says “Hash-m is the greatest artist.” Giving a Jew a proper burial is to respect His creation and His creations.

The Man Who Stole the Ghost Bicycle

Once we were riding in the car. Someone pointed out to me – “Look someone stole that white bicycle.” I thought it was a bit amusing. A last respect memorial to a person is stolen by a thief. Apparently, it was so audacious, I was amused. It was a bit like defacing a memorial to a person or people. The body itself intact is the best memorial of a person – burning it is tantamount to, or much worse than defacing a memorial.

A Last Act of Respect to the Person

Many other reasons exist against cremation. Judaism says respect the person alive and when they pass on. Respect them, respect their body and let the soul rest in peace.

“The American Dream” – Will it Really Make You Happy? or Two Things that Really Make You Happy

Does American Dream Bring Happiness?

We were discussing “The American Dream” – Buy a House, a Car and Live there with Family – at the Shabbat Table. Sounds attractive. It’s good to have a house. It’s good to have a car. It’s good to have a family. Will they make you happy?

What You Do with What You Have Makes You Happy

Perhaps. But we mentioned previously that it is not necessarily what you have that makes you happy – it is what you do with what you have that gives you satisfaction. If someone does acts of kindness with their car – carpool, drives kids to pick apples or peaches, drives an old woman to do shopping – the kindness makes you happy – not owning the car or the house.

The Secret to True Happiness / Your Soul is the Source of Your Satisfaction

Why? Because we are in essence a soul that seeks a relationship with the creator – Hash-m. The soul wants to do the will of G-d. When we do – we become closer to him – that gives our soul satisfaction.


Dwelling in Israel Makes You Happy

In Last week’s Parasha / Weekly Torah Reading – Ki Tavo it says “VeHaya Ki Tavo El Haaretz”. “Behold when you come to the Land.” In Hebrew grammar there is a Vav HaHipuch. The letter Vav in front of a word – usually means “and”. Sometimes the Vav changes the past to the future. Haya – means “it was” (past) – VeHaya means “it will be” (future). The word Vehaya starting a verse – usually refers to happiness. Why Because we want the past to be in the future – that’s when one is happy. When will someone be Happy – ki tavo el haaretz / when you go to the land – Israel. When a person settles in the land of Israel – they attain a higher level of happiness.

The Soul’s Connection to Israel – Connecting to Happiness

Why? One reason is Apparently because souls come through Israel before entering the body. So when a person goes to Israel – the soul feels a connection to its place of origin. Also Israel is a holy place – the soul feels comfortable in a place of holiness. There are other reasons as well.

Torah Study Makes You Happy

Further in the Parasha it says : “And you will rejoice with all the Good that G-d gave you …” Some Commentators – like the Baal Haturim explains that the word HaTov / the good refers to Torah. The Ohr HaChaim HaKadosh – says that if a person would know the satisfaction of learning Torah –  he would become astounded to the sweetness it brings. Torah Study makes you happy. We can understand the reason being similar to the reason above. Torah gives the soul spiritual satisfaction and a closer connection to Hash-m.

New Rules in Baseball – How to Choose a Way of Life

I told someone I can throw a curve-ball that goes from one corner of the room to another corner. I did it. I threw the ball – spinning it with two hands – it hit the floor and went to the other corner.

I continued – perhaps baseball should change the rules and allow any kind of ball you choose to be used – a tennis ball, a soccer ball, a basket ball, a rubber ball. Perhaps also the bats can be changed – you can use a broom, a stick ball bat, an aluminum bat, a pipe. Perhaps for gloves – use plastic bags. Instead of bases – they could have a pit that you must jump over.

Sounds fun? Perhaps – but it’s no longer baseball. Call it what you want – but it is not baseball. Take a tomato soup – remove from the ingredients – tomatoes, paprika, salt, pepper. It’s no longer soup it’s water.

In the past many people chose the Torah or Judaism as a way of life and followed it. Yet many said let’s choose Torah as a way of life but they say – let’s change this law. Let’s add this law. Let’s remove this law.

Sound’s fun? Perhaps – but it is no longer Judaism.

Many Jewish people say they followed Judaism – but they cooled down. Why? Perhaps they weren’t following Judaism – they were following a watered down dish that people called Judaism.

The Torah is the Only Divinely given document that was given to entire nation of millions of people.

G-d looked into the Torah and created the world. The Torah is the blueprint of the world. To change the laws of G-d – is like changing the rules of baseball. But human rules are susceptible to change – G-d’s laws are not. G-d is Omniscient, Omnipotent, and Immutable. We may make errors – He does not.

Choosing authentic Judaism is the proper way to follow the way of G-d.


Gratitude to the One Who Gives

This week’s parasha – Ki Tavo – talks of the first fruits / Bikurim. Farmers bring the first fruits that blossom – of the 7 species special to Eretz Yisrael / the Land of Israel – to the Beit HaMikdash / the Holy Temple in Yerushalayim / Jerusalem.

He says a text and he gives the fruits to the Cohen. The rich people who would bring fancy baskets of gold and silver – the Cohen would return the basket. Yet the Cohen would not return the baskets – made of reeds – of the poor people. Why?

  1. The poor people worked hard to make the basket – Hash-m appreciates the hard work of the common man for a Mitzvah.
  2. The poor people – may have put the best fruits on top and the lesser quality fruits on the bottom – thus we didn’t want to embarrass him by taking out the fruits.
  3. The Cohen was sending a message that I’ll take this basket – so that, with the help of G-d – you will return next year with a gold basket.

The Mitzvah of first fruits is to show that all that we have we owe our first and foremost gratitude to Hash-m. We also do the redemption of first born boys and first born animals showing our gratitude that all we have is a Gift from G-d.

It’s Good – Yes – It’s Good

G-d is kind. He is our parent. The parent wants the best for the Child & Hash-m wants the best for the child. You are Hash-m’s child.

Though at times it is hard to believe everything is for the good – everything is for the good.

Nachum Ish Gamzu – used to say “Gam Zu Letova” – also this is for the good.

Rabbi Akiva used to say “Kol DeAvid Rachmana leTav Avid” All that the Merciful One (Hash-m) does He does for the best.”

What is the difference between the two statements? One is a higher level than the other. I forgot which is higher – but Nachum ish Gamzu was the Rebbe / Rabbi of Rabbi Akiva – so I would expect that Nachum’s statement was a higher level.

I looked it up and found this on a website:

Gam Zu Letova verses Letav Avdin: [1]

The Gemara [2] states that every person is to accustom himself to recite “Kol Mah Deavdin Min Shemaya Letav Avdin/Whatever is done from Heaven is done for the good”, as was seen with the story with Rebbe Akiva.  Elesewhere, the Gemara [3] states that Nachum Ish Gam Zu would say Gam Zu Letova. What is the difference between these two statements? The explanation is as follows: Every punishment or act of suffering has an aspect of Chesed [/ Kindness] in its root. A person who finds this Chesed ends up sweetening the Gevuros [/ Aspect of Strict Justice], and immediately turns the the severity to kindness. This was the level of Nachum Ish Gamzu. One however who does not know the aspect of Chesed contained within the severity is to say the previous statement.

[1] Keser Shem Tov 33 / [2] Brachos 60b / [3] Taanis 21a

We know the stories – once a King or Emperor asked a gift from countries he ruled. The Jews from Israel sent a box full of jewelry, gold and precious  gems. They sent Nachum Ish Gamzu to bring it to the Emperor. He slept at an Inn. The inn keeper – sneaked into his room and took the jewelry and filled the box with sand. When Nachum got to the king – he found that the treasure chest was filled with sand. Nachum said “Gam Zu LeTova” – also this is for the good. Someone told the king – perhaps this is the same sand that Avraham Avinu / Abraham used to fight the war against the 5 kings. The king had a country he was trying to conquer – he tried the sand. When thrown, the sand turned into arrows and he defeated his enemy. The King richly rewarded the Jews for the gift.

Once Rabbi Akiva wanted to sleep at a town. No one let him stay over their house. He said “All the merciful one does is for the good.” He slept in the forest. He had a candle to read, a donkey to travel, and a rooster to wake him. The candle blew out. The donkey was killed by a lion. The rooster was killed by an animal. He said “What Hash-m does is for the Good”. The next day he went to the village and found that it was ransacked and pillaged by brigands. The townspeople were taken captive.

If he had stayed there – he would have been taken captive as well.

Find the good in every situation.


Composing Yourself at Stop Signs

You are in a rush. You’re traveling down the big boulevard – encountering a series of non-synchronized stoplights.

You now consider the Yellow light to mean – “speed up” instead of “slow down”.  Not prudent – but you are late.

The stop lights in life allow us to recompose our thoughts. We may treat it as a minor annoyance – but stopping in traffic or in an elevator gives us opportunities to calm down – to think of new plans – to call in to the office to say we are running late. Perhaps we hit a snag in life – it may be a message – to rethink your attitude towards the situation.

Don’t lose your composure based on the situation. Hash-m wants us to be in control – not the situation to control us.

It is not worth it to arrive 5 minutes earlier if it entails endangering people.

Use these moments to rethink the situation – perhaps G-d wants you to stop and think.

The Message in the Hebrew Language

Hebrew is the language of creation. With combinations of hebrew letters Hash-m created the world. Hebrew is the mother of all languages. For instance – the word fruit – comes from the Hebrew word “Perot”. The Hebrew letter Peh can also have a sound of “F”. In English – add an “H” after a “P” and it makes the “F” sound – similar to Hebrew.

It is interesting that a scientist developed a program that by saying a particular Hebrew letter – the sound pattern that it makes translated into a graph will form a similar image to the letter.

In another post we wrote of the origin and message of the English language – yes – it was created by Jewish people. Now we present the Message in the Hebrew language.

We learn in Talmud : Tractate Shabbat 104a

Alef beit means learn [elaf] the wisdom [bina] of the Torah.
Gimmel dalet means give to the poor [gemol dalim]. Why is the leg of the gimmel extended toward the dalet? Because it is the manner of one who bestows loving-kindness to pursue the poor.

It continues and tells us how a person is to act.

An Interesting Article that also discusses the topic is at a site for Stam – Sefer Torah, Tefillin, and Mezuzot

Holy Soul – The Travels of a Soul

A person is composed of a body and a soul.

I like to look at logic. What is the proof?

Let’s investigate. We can say a person has a body. Yes. We see it.

Proofs that a Soul Exists

What about a soul? We don’t see it. How can we prove we have one?

Ask a Doctor – What is the difference between a live body and a dead body? Both can be identical physically – but one is animate – the other not.

Torah says – “When a person passes away – their soul leaves the body.” Thus a proof to the soul. Meaning the only physical difference between a live body and a dead body is not physical – there is a spiritual element that animates it.

Past Life Regression Hypnosis – Proof of Existence of Soul

Another proof – a person can be hypnotized to be able to tell what happened in a past life. The facts spoken by the hypnotized in past life regression hypnosis can be confirmed by checking history. Many documented cases exist.

Reincarnation into Various Forms

In one life a soul can be in a male body and in the next life it can be reincarnated in a female – and vice versa. In one life a soul can be in a gentile body and in the next life it can be reincarnated in a Jewish body – and vice versa. In one life it can be in a healthy body and in the next it can be reincarnated into a non-healthy body (ie, autistic, etc) – and vice versa. In one life a soul can be in a human body and in the next life it can be reincarnated in an animal, plant or rock – and vice versa. A person can be Ashkenzi in one life and Sefardic in another life.

Why does the soul travel?

One of the 13 principles of fact of Judaism brought by the Rambam is – there is reward and punishment. If a person follows Torah – he is rewarded – if not the opposite. So in one life – if a person didn’t reach the mark – they might have to be reincarnated to do a tikun – reparation of the soul.

Extracting the Sparks of Holiness

Sparks of holiness are spread among the nations. A Jew can collect those sparks of holiness. Dina – the daughter of Jacob / Yaakov – was violated by Shekhem ben / son of Hamor. He was holding a spark of holiness of Rabbi Hanina Ben Teradion. She extracted it from him.

Why the Jewish Nation is Spread throughout the World

The Jewish nation is spread throughout the world to retrieve these sparks of holiness and to bring them to fruition. Once a rabbi saw a holy spark in a man. He was not using his time or efforts for spiritual growth. The rabbi invited him to take a drink at a cafe. By giving him a benefit – he was able to extract this soul of holiness.

The Captive woman

In last week’s parasha – Ki Tetze – it talks of the possibility – during a war – for a soldier in battle to marry a non-Jewish woman captive – which is not the case during times of peace. She is called the Eshet Yefat Toar – the woman of pretty appearance. She goes through a whole procedure to make him unattractive in his eyes. He waits a month and after conversion he can marry her. The Ohr haChaim says that the eshet yefat toar is a euphemism for a spark of holiness – hidden in this captive. The man by his act is able to extract that holy spark from her soul.

Why are some people handicapped or look like they do?

People are born with a soul that reflects the deeds of the individual in a previous life. Some people are born advantaged as a reward or incapacitated as a punishment for what they did in a previous life. Some autistic people are highly developed souls – that transgressed in a previous life – and came back handicapped to make a reparation for what they did in a past life.

I heard that the face of the person reflects the deeds of the person in a previous life.

Can a Soul be Born Evil?

A person has freedom of choice. He or she chooses good or evil. A person is born with certain tendencies. These tendencies can be used for good or the opposite. If a person is jealous – they can use it to bring down other people or to bring up themselves. Kinat Soferim Marbe Hochmah – the jealousy (of wisdom) of the scholars increased wisdom.

Is a soul Destined to Be Evil or Good?

Every thing is in Heaven’s hands except for fear of Heaven. Meaning that it is G-d that provides you with all but you decide about your acts to follow good or evil.

Stuck in the Mud – Call Out “Father”

A day camp camping trip in Brooklyn. The boys spent a great day at a park. To their dismay – one of the campers was missing. Volunteers searched the area. In the dark of night – one volunteer heard a sweet, small voice of a boy about 5 years old calling “Totti! Totti!” (Totti means father in Yiddish)

He called for backup help. He found the boy, stuck in the mud, meters away from the ocean.

Baruck Hash-m / Thank G-d the boy was saved. It is possible being stuck in the mud helped him from a worse fate – being swept into the water.

We are sometimes stuck. Stuck in a dead end position or relationship. Some are stuck in the mud – the impurity of the world – like porn, improper relations, etc. They don’t know how to get out. The solution? Call out to Totti – Your Father in Heaven – Hash-m.

As it says in Tehillim / Psalms 121:5: Hash-m is your guardian – He is Your shadow of your right hand.

Why the Right hand? The right hand represents mercy. Have mercy on others & Hash-m will have mercy upon you. Even just calling out to Him – He will help.

Waste Two Minutes – Get Rejected – Save Two Hours or Get a “No” – Get Up and Go.

People Hate Rejection

People think – “If I am Rejected – it is a reflection on me.” Possible – because people usually buy from who they like. So good sales people are personal sales people. A good sales person looks at the interest of the client and tries to fulfill that need. It is demand pull not sales push.

OK – you didn’t make the sale. Perhaps the person couldn’t afford a $40,000 car. That’s not a reflection on you – that you are unworthy. It is that this person didn’t have the income to afford – that kind of car. Don’t take it out on yourself.

Does No mean No?

Rabbi Yiyzi Greenman has a seminar. He says “No” does not mean No. It means No for now. Maybe a “No” means “at this time I cannot commit” but ask me later.

So if you get a “no” – get up and go.

Perhaps rejection for an item you were selling is not a reflection on you but – What about if a person rejected you as a potential spouse? Is that a reflection on you? Possible. Perhaps you have some self improvement to do – go out and buy your Pirkei Avot / Ethics of the Fathers and better yourself.

But sometimes it is two great people that don’t go together.

In the Torah world – people take dating seriously. Meaning their main concern is finding if the person is a suitable mate for marriage. They treat dating like a long term bond. They have resumes and references.

People call references just as if one one would call those of a potential employee. They don’t go out to have a dead end relationship. Once a Yeshiva Boy – learning Torah – was of marriageable age. He had a “friend” among his references – that apparently was jealous – that spread negative information to those seeking him as potential mate for their daughter.

Upset – he asked his rabbi – why his “friend” was doing this. He responded “It takes a lot of time, and energy to date – Perhaps – Hash-m doesn’t want you to take the time to date so you may concentrate on your Torah studies.” A short time later – he found a suitable marriage mate – that didn’t call that “friend”.

The rejections of his potential mates saved him much valuable time.

Rushed to Avoid Doing Good

I’m in a rush. I don’t have time to take to walk over to that poor person to give him a quarter or so. I am in that rushed state of mind and don’t notice that the bus I’m taking is not stopping at this stop today.

At times we are rushed and avoid doing good or thinking out if a decision is good according to Torah or not. In the end – we lose – time, money, whatever. It happens to me – what can I do. I write to help others – and myself – learn from my mistakes.

Do Good – Save Time

Don’t be Left Out from doing good. Strengthen yourself and do the good and save your time in this world and the next. You don’t lose by doing a mitzvah in this world – this time is saved for your reward in the next world.