The Official Site of Rabbi Yonatan Y. Halevy

New Book! Available at YehiShalom.com

March 24, 2014 By: Rabbi Yoni Category: Uncategorized

Cover of Yehi Shalom

Cover of Yehi Shalom

My new book “Yehi Shalom: A Guide to the Laws of Pesach and Kashrut” is now available!
This book is a handy resource for both Ashkenazim and Sepharadim, written in English and including hundreds of sources.
List price is $25 but we are offering the book for just $20 in honor of Pesach! The book can be shipped anywhere in the US for an additional $5.
Please contact rabbi@rabbiyoni.com or call (858) 752-1025.

We’re back online!

October 17, 2013 By: Rabbi Yoni Category: Uncategorized

Dearest friends,
After quite some time offline, RabbiYoni.com is back! We are in the middle of re-installing some of our lost features, so please be patient as we begin our journey to completion!
With love,
Rabbi Yoni

The Sound of Redemption

March 12, 2013 By: Rabbi Yoni Category: General Blog News, News and Politics

A Jewish Star - Season 4

A Jewish Star – Season 4

It has been over a year since I last wrote an article. The reason? I only write from inspiration, and the inspiration to write a piece worthy of publication has been far from my reach. Until today, this Rosh Chodesh of Nissan, the month of our redemption.

Checking Yeshiva World News as I do too often during the day, I came across an article about a reality show called “A Jewish Star”. My curiosity aroused, I clicked on it and spent the next half an hour watching the first episode of auditions – and was left so inspired that I could not wait to sit down and write about it!

We are taught in the Zohar, that every creature in Hashem’s world says “shira” – their own, unique song. Every person’s soul, every creation’s spirit, calls out from within, wishing to sing to Hashem, to elevate itself to the highest levels of purity and cling to the Creator. Every song is unique, every tune special, each displaying the love and hate, joy and sadness, the duality of feelings and emotions that have for so long been gathering within.

It is that moment – the moment where the Neshama’s floodgates just burst open – that the Jewish people connect to their unique destiny and begin to travel along the road to redemption. “Shira Chadasha Shibechu Geulim” – “Those who were saved sang a new song”, the song of their collective Neshama calling out and affirming for the world to hear – we are alive! We have been through the best and the worst – and we always emerge with song on our lips!

From the shtetl’s in Europe to the villages of Sepharadic countries; from the Piyutim of the Chachamim to the Rebbe’s tisch; Klal Yisrael has never stopped singing. With eyes closed, arms embracing each other, swaying like flickering candles, illuminating the darkness of exile. Never stopping to sing, not for a moment forgetting their home, their destiny and their purpose, the Neshamot kept singing and singing, yearning for the moment in time where Hashem would hear their song once again.

While the Jewish world has always been connected to music and singing, we have seen that the world around us has taken this area of existence seriously as well. Numerous reality shows around the world allow people of any age and background a chance to display their Neshama’s song to the world. They are then judged and go through a weeding out process until a final talent is discovered, helping them reach their dream of singing on a level perhaps a little higher than before.

We have read about youth from our own community who have had to step out and try their hand at such competitions. We know how many of our friends and colleagues religiously watch these shows. We ourselves may even be awed by the raw talent, the compliments and criticisms, the standing ovations or the occasional boos from a disappointed crowd.

After thinking about this for so long, I cannot help but feel so sad, so scared, that people whose moral compass is so different than ours, whose ethical standards are so off when compared to our own, are actually the judges, the role models, the idols if you may, of this generation!

This group has finally given us a chance. A chance at showing our fellow Jews that they need not run to foreign fields, that we have green pastures with the flowing water of Torah, that we have a place for them to display their talent and be judged by people who are humble and God-fearing, albeit each in their own way!

Oh, just the thought that there are Jewish musicians who are respected enough by our children to feel honored to perform in front of is a blessing! The thought that these people spend their days and nights unlocking peoples Neshamot and soaring with them into the world of song with Kedusha and Tahara, are showing our people how to do the same! Let us lift our heads and feel proud that we have merited to such a beautiful thing in such dark times!

HaRav Avraham Yitzchak HaKohen Kook, the original Chief Rabbi of Israel, wrote that in the generation of our redemption, our artists – authors, poets, painters, musicians – will have to make a choice. A choice that will be so hard to make, yet so worthwhile. Our artists must make a choice to use their talents for holy purposes, to sing the name of Hashem, to inspire the Jewish people to return, and ultimately to usher in the era of our final redemption, let that be soon!

With tears of happiness in my eyes and feelings of joy in my heart – I thank Hashem for letting us see such a beautiful thing, and bless the judges of this new show – do Hashem’s work, let Him be your guiding compass, and inspire a generation of people who will aspire to be like you!

Please take a moment to watch the first episode below (and notice that the amazing kid who got through is named Yoni!) or visit www.ajewishstar.com for more information!

A Jewish Star 2013–Auditions: Episode 1

The Kuzari: Jewish Philosophy with Rabbi Yoni – Class 9

February 01, 2013 By: Rabbi Yoni Category: Kuzari, Media

Watch the 9th class in Rabbi Yoni’s exciting and newest series – The Kuzari: In Defense of the Despised Faith

January 24th, 2013/5773

Every Thursday night from 7:30-8:30 – Sepharadic Kehillah of San Diego – www.sksandiego.org

Can’t find the class you are looking for? Check out our Media page!

The Kuzari: Jewish Philosophy with Rabbi Yoni – Class 8

February 01, 2013 By: Rabbi Yoni Category: Media

Watch the 8th class in Rabbi Yoni’s exciting and newest series – The Kuzari: In Defense of the Despised Faith

January 17th, 2013/5773

Every Thursday night from 7:30-8:30 – Sepharadic Kehillah of San Diego – www.sksandiego.org

Can’t find the class you are looking for? Check out our Media page!

The Kuzari: Jewish Philosophy with Rabbi Yoni!

October 19, 2012 By: Rabbi Yoni Category: General Blog News

Rabbi Yoni teaching Jewish philosophy in Jerusalem.

Rabbi Yoni teaching Jewish philosophy in Jerusalem.

A new and exciting, text-based class in Jewish Philosophy with Rabbi Yoni!

The Kuzari: In Defense of the Despised Faith
Thursday Evenings at 7:30pm, beginning November 1st
Do you want to tackle the deepest ideas of Judaism in a clear and exciting way?
Are you a seeker of the truth and possess an intelligent, thinking mind?
Take a front seat in the debate arena as the sharpest minds debate on the fundamentals of religion, faith, and a diverse range of basic Jewish concepts. It took the esteemed 12th-century sage, Rabbi Yehudah HaLevi twenty years to complete this work. In its unique question-and-answer format it records an ongoing dialogue between the 8th-century king of the Khazars and a Rabbi. The depth and scope of the ideas discussed in this book are nothing short than brilliant, and the reader cannot help but be awed at the authoritative, wide-ranging virtuosity of Rabbi Yehudah HaLevi as “the rabbi” in the debate confidently repudiates the arguments of Judiasm’s detractors and demonstrates the superiority of Torah over any other religion or belief system.

Join us as Rabbi Yoni takes us on a weekly journey through the world of Jewish Philosophy!

*The Hebrew/English version of The Kuzari by Rabbi Daniel Korobkin is required for this class. See below for more information.

The Kuzari: In Defense of the Despised Faith
Rabbi N. Daniel KorobkinThis new edition includes an improved English translation and commentary along with a vowelized Ibn Tibbon Hebrew translation of the original Arabic, and a beautiful layout making this the most readable translation of The Kuzari. Discover it for yourself!

This hardcover and 723 page classic work is sure to add to your Jewish library!


You can find this book for sale at Eichlers.com or Feldheim.com by clicking the links on this page. Both stores sell compact editions of the same book.

You can also order this book from RabbiYoni.com by replying to this email with your request for a book, by Wednesday night, October 24th. The book will be $40, which may be slightly more expensive than stores but will include shipping and delivery to our first class.

Please make sure to order the exact version of the Kuzari, as Hebrew and English translations of the original Arabic will vary.

Mazal Tov to Rabbi Avi and R’ Levi!

August 02, 2012 By: Rabbi Yoni Category: General Blog News


ימא טבא לרבנן
Mazal Tov to Rabbi Avi Kozma!

On your additional Semicha!

Rabbi Yoni and all of us at RabbiYoni.com would like to wish a special Mazal Tov to Rabbi Yoni’s dear friend and study partner, Rabbi Avi Kozman shlit”a, Former Chief Rabbi of the Republic of Macedonia, and student of our Rabbi and Teacher HaRav Yaakov Peretz shlit”a, on recieving his additional Semicha (Rabbinic ordination) from the Chief Rabbinate of Israel, signed by Rabbi Yona Metzger shlit”a, Chief Rabbi of the State of Israel. May you continue to spread your warmth, love, and light to the Jewish people in the way of our Holy Torah!

ימא טבא לרבנן

(Belated) Mazal Tov to R’ Levi Morrow!

On your first Semicha!

Rabbi Yoni and all of us at RabbiYoni.com would like to wish a special Mazal Tov to Rabbi Yoni’s dear friend and stuent, R’ Levi Morrow, of Los Angeles – Israel, on recieving his first Semicha (Rabbinic ordination) from our Rabbi and Teacher HaRav Yaakov Peretz shlit”a, in the Laws of Marriage. May you continue to spread your warmth, love, and light to the Jewish people in the way of our Holy Torah!

If you would like to list your Simcha in one of RabbiYoni.com periodical mailings, please reply to this email with your good news!

Mazal Tov emails are only sent out once every few weeks/months. Please be patient with your listings.


Birthday Blessings from Rabbi Yoni

May 02, 2012 By: Rabbi Yoni Category: Uncategorized

Rabbi Yoni

Rabbi Yoni, Melave Malka - San Diego, California

I’m not wishing myself a Happy Birthday!

Tonight (the 11th of Iyar) is my Hebrew Birthday. How old am I? Well, I’d rather not divulge that information! :)

I recall a few years ago, a discussion I had with one of my Rebbeim, the Kalever Rebbe shlit”a of Williamsburg. I asked him why he does not accept donations for his blessings like other Chassidic Rebbes do, and he responded so sincerely, “I came to this world to give, not to take”. I decided from that moment on, that as much as I could – that would be my motto for life.

Therefore, on my birthday, I recall a teaching of the Lubavitcher Rebbe zt”l, about birthdays. Unlike many other rabbis who disapproved of celebrating birthdays, the Rebbe believed that a birthday is a time to reflect on ones life, to give charity, and to decide who one wished to become. The Rebbe also believed very strongly that a person had the unique spiritual capability to bless people on his or her birthday, and thus turned birthdays from a day where one takes – to a day where one gives.

My Blessing To Each of You

To my dearest friends, readers, students and supporters,

The Zohar teaches that before one may bless, one must praise the name of Hashem: יתברך שמו של מלך מלכי המלכים הקדוש ברוך הוא – יהי שם ה’ מבורך מעתה ועד עולם.

I would like to take this opportunity to bless each and everyone of you with all the blessings included in our Holy Torah. I thought that perhaps I could list a few specific blessings below, and each will take what they need, and pass on the rest to those who need them more:
Read the rest of this entry →

A Message from the Kalever Rebbe for Purim 5772

March 07, 2012 By: Rabbi Yoni Category: Chagim - Jewish Holidays

Purim’s Lesson: The Danger and Futility of Assimilation

Rabbi Yoni with the Kalever Rebbe shlit"a

Rabbi Yoni with the Kalever Rebbe shlit"a

My dear fellow Jews,

We live in a time of great peril to our small and precious nation. A modern day Haman has arisen in the country once known as ancient Persia, homeland of the Haman of antiquity. And, sadly, the threats this man spews forth are every bit as frightening as those of his evil forbear: his evil wish to wipe the Jewish homeland and its inhabitants from the face of the Earth. Indeed, this wicked man’s designs extend to Jews wherever they may reside as he makes it clear that Jewish interests anywhere are legitimate targets for his malevolent aspirations.

As Purim fast approaches let us pay close attention to its lessons, for the keys to our ancestors’ survival in those times are the very lessons we need to hold onto for our own survival now.

The Rabbis of the Talmud posed a difficulty question asking, “What did the Jews of ancient Persia do to deserve a decree of total annihilation?” The answer given seems to raise more problems than it resolves: “Because they partook of the feast of that evil man (Achashverosh, King of the Persian Empire).” This merely begs another question–after all, we are told that kosher food was provided for the Jews at the feast. What then about their participation at this meal warranted such grave punishment from Hashem?

Read the rest of this entry →

The Waters From Which I Drank: In Memory of Rabbi Yosef Tendler–Rosh Mechinat Ner Yisrael

February 12, 2012 By: Rabbi Yoni Category: General Blog News, News and Politics, Stories

NOTE: I generally proofread and edit the articles that I write, so that they will be easy for the reader to understand. This article though is quite different – it is a stream of consciousness I experienced in the aftermath of Rabbi Tendler’s death, with which I hope to fulfill the words of our Sages: “Words that come from the heart – enter the heart”.

Rabbi Yosef Tendler, of blessed memory.

Rabbi Yosef Tendler, of blessed memory.

Ner Yisrael. Those words stir inside of me deep feelings, both special and conflicting. Feelings of enlightenment and of confusion. Of growth and of failure. Of clarity and of darkness.

Although I am a proud graduate of the Ner Israel Rabbinical College, I am no poster child for the institution. Throughout the five years I spent there, I learned more than I have ever learned in my entire life. I met brilliant minds the likes I am doubtful I shall ever meet again. I learned under Rabbis of such high caliber and stature, that I shudder at the thought that I share the same title.

On the other hand, I struggled there more than I have in any other place. I struggled with learning how to learn – and to this day thank my mentors and role models for helping me become accomplished in that regard. Yet I also struggled with maintaining my world view, in a place where only one view was tolerated and accepted. I struggled with listening to speeches from the same authority figure who the previous night had disbanded my Chassidic gathering or ceremony of thank to Hashem for giving us a State of Israel to call Home, due to the classic Lithuanian yeshiva opposition to such things.

Thus, even though I may share different ideas or understandings than than that of my former yeshiva, I have always been very careful to fulfill the famous folk saying, “never throw a stone into the well from which you drank”. To this day, I remain indebted to the outstanding institution and staff which took me under it’s wing and helped mold me into who I am still becoming today.

For years, I didn’t know what to do with these feelings. Should I simply ignore the inconsistencies? Should I pretend to have not been affected? Should I give thanks for that which helped me, and simply refrain from speaking about that which seemingly did not? This dilemma came to an abrupt halt when I received the latest news from Baltimore – our Rosh Mechina, Rabbi Yosef Tendler, had passed away. Reeling from this news, it took me a few days to sort out my thoughts – and yet, I still don’t have complete clarity – but that which I did sort out, I would like to share with you.

Read the rest of this entry →