Spiritual Leader of Brooklyn Heights Brings Torah Numerology to a New Dimension

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Rabbi Aaron Raskin, noted congregational rabbi, author, and teacher, founded Congregation Bnai Avraham in Brooklyn Heights 32 years ago and has been the congregation’s spiritual leader ever since.

His followers call him a spiritual superhero. His positive energy, scholarly acumen, and deep commitment to community, know no bounds. He is known for his hundreds of halachic videos and for his oratory skills. His congregants love that he donned a superman costume on Purim, did cartwheels on Simhat Torah, and stood on his adult son’s shoulders to blow shofar at Yom Kippur’s end.

Rabbi Raskin’s mission?  “I am a public servant, helping and teaching people, enriching their lives, bringing purpose to people and bringing people back to their purpose.”  He utilizes Jewish wisdom to guide individuals to live their best lives.

Born into a long line of prominent rabbis, Rabbi Raskin’s maternal grandfather, Rabbi Jacob J. Hecht, zt”l,  served as an official translator to the Lubavitcher Rebbe.

At four, Rabbi Raskin dreamed of becoming an astronaut. But when he visited his grandfather’s shul at six, he was so enthralled by the experience that his future aspirations took a turn.

Rabbi Raskin is the nephew of Rabbi Abraham Hecht, zt”l, former rabbi of Congregation Shaarei Zion and Rabbi Sholem Ber Hecht, the rabbi of the Sephardic Jewish Congregation and Center in Queens.

Rabbi Raskin’s paternal roots can be traced to the Shaltiel Gracian-Chein family, the heads of the Jewish community of Babylon and later Spain (1061).  The Shaltiel family nasi, Yehuda ben Barzilai, studied under the RIF, R’ Yehuda, a Rishon and author of significant halachic works (1070-1140). Rabbi Shaltiel Chein (1376) was the last rabbi of Barcelona until the 1391 pogrom.

Rabbi Raskin is also the emissary of the Lubavitcher Rebbe and established Chabad of Brooklyn Heights.  He was ordained as a dayan, a rabbinical judge, and consults on Beit Din cases.

Rabbi Raskin is the author of seven books, the most recent, Simanim.

An expressive storyteller, writing has become another spiritual tool employed by Rabbi Raskin to educate and to connect with his followers.

His first book, Letters of Light (2003), was inspired by his childhood fascination with the Hebrew Alphabet. “As a carpenter employs tools to build a home, so Gd utilized the 22 letters of the Hebrew Alphabet to form heaven and earth – the letters continue to be a source of creation, reflection, prayer, and inspiration in our everyday lives.”

 

In By Divine Design, Rabbi Raskin’s second book, he expounds on the lessons found in the broken, enlarged, and even missing letters of the Torah.

What inspired Simanim the sequel to By Divine Design?

There are no chapter headings, punctuation marks or page numbers in handwritten Torah scrolls. So how do we know how to divide the text into sentences, chapters, and parshiot? Rabbis living between the seventh to tenth century arrived at a brilliant solution to this question and created simanin/mnemonics with a specific numeric value indicating the exact number of verses in each Torah portion. Most simanim are one word. For example, the parasha Chayei Sarah contains 105 verses with a mnemonic of יהוידע, Yehoyada.

105 = 70 + 4 + 10 + 6 + 5 + 10.

Rabbi Raskin expounds on Rav Feinstein’s renowned work and brings the commentary to the next dimension. Rabbi Raskin’s revolutionary book delves into the mysteries of the siman, a seemingly insignificant aspect of the Torah, providing inspirational insights and life lessons for every Jew.

Continuing with the siman Yehoyada, Rabbi Raskin finds Benayahu ben Yehoyada in Chayei Sarah’s haftorah and uncovers connections between this man and Sarah Imeinu.  One similarity is that both were considered alive after their deaths because of their righteousness.  Each parasha’s chapter also contains kabbalistic sources, a story, the gematria (numerology) of the mnemonic, and a positive action to take.

Visit rabbiraskin.org to view his lectures and to order Simanim and his other books including his powerful tribute to women, Thank You G-d For Making Me A Woman.

Rabbi Raskin can be reached at ravraskin@gmail.com.