Rosh HaShana, Shofar by Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen

An inspiring teaching from Reb Yosef Ben Shlomo HaKohen.
editor "Hazon – Our Universal Vision" 

Reb Yosef, z’l, returned his soul to the Holy One on 27 Elul, 5771,  September 25, 2011

A Letter to My Visionary Friends: 

"Dear Friends,

 During ELUL we prepare for Rosh Hashana – the New Year. This is a season of “teshuvah” – spiritual return; thus, during Elul, it customary to blow the shofar at the end of the weekday morning service. The sound of the shofar serves as a reminder to all of us to begin the journey “home” – to our Creator, to our own souls that were created in the image of the Creator, and to the Torah path of our Creator which enables us to fulfill the life-giving purpose of the Divine creation.

The sound of the shofar is a wake-up call, and it is not just a wake-up call to become aware of our personal and collective weaknesses which are preventing us from fulfilling our mission on this earth. The sound of the shofar is to also serve as a wake-up call to become aware of our personal and collective strengths which can enable us to fulfill our mission on earth, as individuals and as a people."

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Rosh Hashana excerpt:

This sacred and uplifting period gives us the opportunity for heartfelt prayer, spiritual study, and reflection on how we can increase love and goodness in the world. And through praying, celebrating, and feasting with others, we are reminded that we are part of a community which can be a source of life and blessings for others.
May we be blessed with an uplifting year.
Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen

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The Rosh HaShana Revolution
A Teaching by Yosef Ben Shlomo HaKohen z'l, found in his archives.

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Please make MiSheberach for Reb Yosef, Yosef ben Udal.  - Joy

With great sadness, I share that Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen, zt'l, was niftar 27 Elul, 5771.

Blessing Each Other by Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen

- Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen

Dear Friends,

In this letter, I would like to discuss with you the following way to strengthen each other during this very difficult period for our people and the world.

We can bless each other.

We can give each other a blessing when we greet each other, when we separate from each other, or even during our conversations with each other. In fact, the word that we use to greet someone or to part from someone is “shalom” – a blessing for peace, harmony, and wholeness.

Anyone who visits a traditional Jewish community will notice how Jews love to bless each other. This is especially true when Jews are about to depart from each other. Among traditional Jews, there is no such thing as a simple “good-bye,” especially when one is departing from family members or friends whom one may not see for a long period. During such a departure, there can be a flow of many blessings, such as: May Hashem give you good health; may Hashem fulfill the requests of your heart for the good; may Hashem give you the strength to do many mitzvos; may you find joy in your Torah study; may you have nachas (satisfaction and pleasure) from your children; may you have a good livelihood; may Hashem bless you and protect you; and lech l'shalom – may you journey to shalom. A short and sweet Yiddish blessing which is popular among many Jews is, Zei gezunt – Be healthy!

In formulating a more personal blessing, we should choose words that are appropriate for those whom we are blessing; moreover, the poets among us can use their creativity in composing the blessing. We need to remember, however, that even a simple “Good morning” can be a powerful blessing, when the words come from the heart.

It is fitting to give a blessing for success to one who embarks on a new venture or undertakes a new job. And we should certainly give a blessing to someone who is starting a mitzvah project. We should not, however, give a blessing to any immoral or unethical work which is prohibited by the Torah. (Cited with sources in “Love Your Neighbor” by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, pages 44, 45)

We have a tradition that the blessings of individuals who have achieved greatness in good deeds have special merit. In this spirit, I will share with you the following story from the Chareidi community in Jerusalem:

Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, a leading 20th century sage, describes one of his encounters with the tzaddik, Rav Aryeh Levin, during the ten days of “teshuvah” – spiritual return and renewal – which begin on Rosh Hashana and conclude on Yom Kippur:

“I once met Reb Aryeh trudging at his usual pace through the streets of my neighborhood, the Sha’arey Chesed section of Jerusalem, during the ten days of teshuvah. ‘Where are you going?’ I asked him. ‘Oh,’ he replied, ‘I am heading for the home of Dr. Miriam Munin.' Anxiously I asked him, ‘Who is sick in the family?’ His answer was: ‘Thank God, we are all well. But the holy day of Yom Kippur is approaching, and since Dr. Munin is an outstanding physician who has treated people with loving-kindness all her life, I am going to her to receive a blessing for the New Year that has started for us.’ ” (From “A tzaddik in our time” by Simcha Raz, page 355)

I also learned from my Chareidi teachers that one does not have to be a tzaddik in order to give a blessing. Each of us is precious to Hashem, and each of us has some spiritual merit; thus, we all have the ability to bless others. In this way, we become messengers of the One Who is the Source of all blessings. Our sages therefore caution us not to underestimate the importance of another person’s blessing, even if this person seems to be an “ordinary” individual. As the Talmud teaches:

“Rabbi Elazar said in the name of Rabbi Chanina: ‘A blessing given by an ordinary person should not be unimportant in your eyes.’ ” (Megillah 15a)

This teaching is also relevant to the giver of the blessing, for no one should underestimate the importance of the blessing that he or she gives to others. Both Jews and Gentiles, states the Talmud, have the spiritual potential to bless others and to have their blessings fulfilled (ibid).

It is proper to answer “Amen” if someone gives you a blessing; moreover, you should also respond “the same to you” or a similar phrase, such as, “May the blesser be blessed.”

I am a member of the family of Kohanim, the descendents of Aharon. Hashem gave our family the mitzvah to bless the people each day; thus, giving blessings is our family business. The following is the traditional blessing that we say, and I give this blessing to all of you:

“May Hashem bless you and guard you. May Hashem illuminate His countenance towards you and endow you with grace. May Hashem lift His countenance to you and establish shalom for you.” (Numbers 6:24-26)

And I would like to add the following blessing:

“May Hashem bless you from Zion, and may you see the good of Jerusalem all the days of your life.” (Psalm 128:5)

Have a Good and Sweet Shabbos,
Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen  (See below)

A Related Story and Comments:

1. Although Rav Yechezkel Sarna, the head of the Chevron Yeshiva in Jerusalem, was ill and very weak, he exerted himself one Saturday night – a few weeks before he passed away – to go to the yeshiva in order to pray with the students the evening prayers. As he was walking up the steps, he and the person accompanying him realized that the students had finished praying. Nevertheless, Rav Sarna continued up the steps.

“Why are you troubling yourself?, asked his companion. They have already finished praying!”

Rav Sarna responded: “Praying with the congregation is the fulfillment of a rabbinical obligation, but blessing the students to have a good week is the fulfillment of ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’ (Leviticus 19:18) – a Torah mandate!”

Although he missed the opportunity to pray with the congregation, he could still fulfill the mitzvah of loving others through blessing them. (This story is found in “Love Your Neighbor” by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, page 45.)

2. “A tzaddik in our time” is published by Feldheim:
Hazon - Our Universal Vision

Yom Kippur by Yosef Ben Shlomo HaKohen

Selections from the Hazon study programs

You are gracious and compassionate to all Your handiwork.” 

(Yom Kippur Prayer – Repetition of the Musaf)

Dear Friends,

On Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, we engage in the process of “teshuvah - spiritual return. During this process, we regret and confess our various sins and weaknesses. We are not to despair, however, about our erring past, for teshuvah leads to atonement and new life. For example, during the era of the Prophet Ezekiel, when our people faced great danger, many cried out, “Since our sins and our iniquities are upon us and we are wasting away because of them, how can we live?” (Ezekiel 33:10). In response to this lament, the Prophet proclaimed the following message of the Living One:

As I live - spoke the Master of All, the Compassionate and Just One - I do not desire the death of the wicked person, but rather the wicked person’s return from his way that he may live; return, return from your evil ways - Why should you die, O Family of Israel?” (33:11)

The above verse expresses a life-giving message of hope, and it is chanted during the concluding service of Yom Kippur. Is this message of hope only relevant to the Family of Israel? The answer can be found in the Book of Jonah which we chant during the afternoon service of Yom Kippur. This book tells the story of how the Compassionate One sent the Prophet Jonah on a mission to the city of Nineveh, the capital city of Assyria, which was guilty of a number of sins, especially theft. Jonah was told to give them a warning which would prompt them to do teshuvah. The story begins with the following passage:

And the word of the Compassionate One came to Jonah son of Amittai saying, ‘Arise! Go to Nineveh, the great city, and call out against her, for their wickedness has ascended before Me.’ But Jonah arose to flee to Tarshish from before the Compassionate One.” (Jonah 1:1-3)

Why did this prophet of Israel want to flee from his mission to Nineveh? The classical biblical commentators, Rashi and the Radak, cite the following explanation of our sages: Jonah sensed that the Gentiles were “close to doing teshuvah.” He was therefore afraid that his mission would succeed, and the people of Nineveh would indeed change their ways. If so, it would point an accusing finger at his own people, who failed to heed the call of their prophets to do teshuvah. Jonah therefore wanted to avoid a mission which could evoke Divine judgement against Israel.

Jonah’s love and concern for Israel caused him to flee from his mission. The Book of Jonah describes the unique way in which the Compassionate One caused Jonah to return to his mission; however, that part of the story is a topic for another discussion.

When Jonah finally arrived in Nineveh, he proclaimed the following Divine message: “Forty days more and Nineveh shall be overturned” (3:4). The Book of Jonah describes how the people and their king believed the warning; thus, they donned sackcloth and fasted. The king also proclaimed: “Everyone shall turn back from his evil way, and from the robbery that is in their hands” (3:8). Their teshuvah was accepted because they changed their behavior, as it states:

And the Just One saw their deeds, that they returned from their evil way; and the Just One relented concerning the evil He had said He would bring upon them, and did not do it.” (3:10)

What was Jonah’s reaction to their teshuvah and the Divine forgiveness which resulted? It states:

And it displeased Jonah greatly and angered him. He prayed to the Compassionate One and said, ‘Please O Compassionate One, was this not my contention when I was still on my own soil? Because of this I had hastened to flee to Tarshish, for I knew that You are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger, abundant in lovingkindness, and relent from doing harm. So now, O Compassionate One, please take my soul from me, for better is my death than my life” (4:1-3).

Jonah was in anguish, for he felt that Israel would now be condemned for not doing teshuvah; thus, he prayed that he would not live to see the destruction that was awaiting Israel. (Commentaries of the Radak and Ibn Ezra)

Jonah left the city and sat down to watch what would happen. The Book of Jonah then describes how the Creator of all life taught Jonah a universal lesson:

The Compassionate and Just One designated a kikayon (a leafy shady plant), which rose above Jonah to form a shade over his head, to relieve him from his discomfort. Jonah rejoiced over the kikayon, a great joy. Then the Just One designated a worm at the dawn of the next day, and it attacked the kikayon so that it withered. And it was when the sun shone that the Just One designated a stifling east wind; the sun beat upon Jonah’s head and he felt faint. He asked for his soul’s death, and said, ‘Better is my death than my life!’ And the Just One said to Jonah, ‘Are you so deeply grieved over the kikayon?’ And he said, ‘I am greatly grieved to death.’
The Compassionate One said, ‘You took pity on the kikayon for which you did not labor, nor did you make it grow; it lived one night and perished after one night. And I – shall I not take pity upon Nineveh the great city, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and many animals, as well?’ ” (4:6-11).

Jonah, grieving over Israel and over his own misery, had prayed for death. The Compassionate One responded with a message of life! Jonah was reminded that the Divine compassion gives human beings the opportunity to renew life through the power of teshuvah. How did Jonah react to this message? Midrash Yalkut Shimoni states:

At that moment, he (Jonah) fell upon his face and said, ‘Conduct Your world according to the Attribute of Compassion.’ ”

In this spirit, the Radak explains that one of the reasons why the Book of Jonah was incorporated in our Sacred Scriptures is to teach us the following truth:

The Blessed God has compassion on people from any nationality who do teshuvah; moreover, He forgives them.”

Yes, Jonah was concerned about the fate of Israel, but he needed to be reminded that Israel’s fate is connected to Israel’s mission. And the goal of this mission is expressed in the following words from a Yom Kippur prayer: “May all creatures bow before You and may they develop a unified society to do Your will wholeheartedly”(Shemoneh Esrei).

Maimonides writes in his Mishneh Torah that the fate of all human beings during the coming year is sealed on Yom Kippur (Hilchos Teshuvah 3:3). May the Forgiving One therefore seal all of us in the “Book of Life.”

May we be blessed with a Good Shabbos and a “Gmar Chasimah Tovah” – a Good Sealing!
Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen (See below)

Related Teachings:

1. During the Ten Days of Teshuvah – from Rosh Hashana until the end of Yom Kippur – the following verse is added to the daily Shemoneh Esrei prayer: “Who is like You, O Father of compassion, Who in compassion remembers His creatures for life.”

2. Any human being can get close to the Compassionate One, as it is written: “The Compassionate One is close to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him sincerely” (Psalm 145:18). The Radak explains that the words “all who call upon Him” apply to any human being regardless of nationality. Any human being can therefore pray directly to the Compassionate One and engage in teshuvah without the need of an intermediary. There will be a universal teshuvah in the messianic age, as it is written: “All the ends of the earth will remember and return to the Compassionate One” (Psalm 22:28). In his commentary on the words “will remember,” Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch writes:

Defection from God was never an inborn trait with individuals or with humankind as a whole. The unspoiled hearts of children are close to God, and the same was true of humankind in its pristine state. Alienation from Him came much later. Therefore, through the stimulus emanating from Israel, they will all ‘remember’; their original consciousness of God will come alive again, and they will ‘return’ to Him.” (The Psalms - Translation and Commentary By Rabbi S.R. Hirsch)

Hazon - Our Universal Vision:

Beloved Reb Yosef, z"l, was niftar 27 Elul 5771

Yom Kippur and Joy

Yom Kippur and Joy

"Feel tremendous joy on Yom Kippur that the Almighty forgives us for our transgressions.  
The greater your awareness of receiving atonement, the greater your joy."
  - R. Zelig Pliskin - Gateway to Happiness

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Joy Serves G*d in Joy as a passionate performing percussionist, poet, publisher, photographer, publicist, sound healer, spiritual guide, artist, gardener and Gemini. "Ivdu Et Hashem B'Simcha" -Psalm 100:2 ....... Joy Krauthammer, active in the Jewish Renewal, Feminist, and neo-Chasidic worlds for over three decades, kabbalistically leads Jewish women's life-cycle rituals. ... Workshops, and Bands are available for all Shuls, Sisterhoods, Rosh Chodeshes, Retreats, Concerts, Conferences & Festivals. ... My kavanah/intention is that my creative expressive gifts are inspirational, uplifting and joyous. In gratitude, I love doing mitzvot/good deeds, and connecting people in joy. In the zechut/merit of Reb Shlomo Carlebach, zt'l, I mamash love to help make our universe a smaller world, one REVEALING more spiritual consciousness, connection, compassion, and chesed/lovingkindness; to make visible the Face of the Divine... VIEW MY COMPLETE PROFILE and enjoy all offerings.... For BOOKINGS write: joyofwisdom1 at, leave a COMMENT below, or call me. ... "Don't Postpone Joy" bear photo montage by Joy. Click to enlarge. BlesSings, Joy