Sunday, August 31, 2014

Maran HaRav ztz"l

From an email that has been circulating....

These words should be a zchus for a refuah shleima for my beloved friends R' Tzvi Moshe ben Eitan Avraham Halevi and R' Moshe Tzvi ben Freida Simcha, all of the injured soldiers and kol cholei yisroel.
Also - the speedy zivug of R' Daniel Simcha ben Chava Reizel, Shmuel Refoel ben Menachem Mendel, Rivka Esther bas Eliyahu Peretz and Rachel bas Geula and anyone reading this and all those who are looking.
Friday, gimmel Elul, was the yahrtzeit of HaRav Kook ztz"l. He was one of the most influential rabbonim in the last 100 years and arguably the greatest and most unique. There is so much to say about him personally and about his thought that I would need to write a few full length books in order to scratch the surface. Since the daily demands of gemara-rashi -tosfos and shulchan aruch occupy my time [not to mention feeding my little Adina-le], the books will not be appearing from my pen anytime soon [although much has already been written].

When Rav Eliyashiv would say "The Rov" without a last name, he meant Rav Kook of whom he was a great admirer [and I believe that Rav Kook made the shidduch between Rav Eliyashiv and Rav Aryeh Levin's daughter]. Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach related that when he was little he would go to watch Rav Kook learn Tanach and was tremendously inspired just watching him. Later, Rav Kook was his mesader kiddushin when he was married.
I wanted to share a few highlights about his personality from which we can all learn and grow therefrom [is that a word? Now it is...:-)].
1] Diligence - He would learn fifty pages of gemara every morning after a "gezunte shluf" of 2 hours a night!
He wouldn't write with a pen but with a pencil because his thoughts flowed so quickly that he didn't have time to dip his pen in the ink quill. [What is a "ink quill"? What is a "pen"?]
Before he died from a painful skin cancer he was crying. His brother asked him if he was crying from the pain and he explained that he was crying because of all of the deep thoughts going through his head that he didn't have the strength to write down.
When he was a Rov in England during World War 1 and he needed to learn English, he was afraid of bittul Torah so he went through the Tanach with an English translation. [I learned yiddish by going through the Lubavitcher Rebbe's sichos in Yiddish and Hebrew translation:-). So now I understand Yiddish and have a nice background in the Sichos Kodesh of the Rebbe Ztz"l. BARUCH HASHEM!].
2] Tzidkus: He wore tfillin all day long. When he was learning in the Volozhiner Yeshiva some of the students didn't appreciate this behavior. The Rosh Yeshiva [the Netziv] told the boys to leave him alone. For other boys it might be haughty and arrogant but for this neshama it was completely natural without a trace of arrogance [gyveh]. He penned a sefer called חבש פאר about the kedusha of tfillin.
When he was a Rov in England and he would walk to shul on Shabbos, the goyim would stand outside in order to see the "holy man". Even the goyim appreciated his kedusha.
His house was constantly filled with people who came to ask for favors or to learn from him etc. No matter how busy he was, whenever his elderly father entered the room he would stand up until his father sat down or left the room.
Rav Kook's brother related that this holy neshama would make a bracha on his mother's milk BEFORE HIS FIRST BIRTHDAY!
From the age that he realized that a woman is a woman - he didn't look at one. His wife once covered her face and brought him a shyla in Taharas Hamishpacha. He paskened that she was permitted to her husband. She said "How come when I brought you this very same shyla, you were strict with me and said that we were assur?"
When he was a yeshiva bachur, he rented a room from a woman. He paid the first price she asked for and didn't bargain [so un-Jewish:-)]. When asked why he didn't try to lower the price, he explained that keeping the teaching of Chazal to minimize one's speech with women is worth the extra half-ruble.
3] Tefilla - Rav Isser Zalman Meltzer [father in law of Rav Aharon Kotler and one of the great roshei yeshiva of his generation] said "I wish that I would daven mincha on Yom Kippur like Rav Kook davens on a regular weekday."
In 1921, Rav Kook went to rest in a place called "Har-Tov". One day he was uncharacteristically late for davening and he was instead involved in a conversation with a simple Jew about plants and flowers. His talmid Rav Charlap asked his Rebbi what happened and he explained that he was so thirsty and yearning for a connection with Hashem that he felt that if he davened he would die from כלות הנפש [unrequited love]. In order to come down to earth, he spoke about mundane matters.
In 1914 Rav Kook went to the Galil with Rav Charlap zt"l. Rav Charlap related "I woke up in the middle of the night and found him on fire, pacing the room to and fro, with a stormy spirit. He grabbed me and his hands were cold like ice and his face was burning like a torch. He said 'Rav Yankev Moishe, I am burning up from Ahavas Hashem'.
4] Ahavas Yisrael - He once said about himself "I never refused a request to do a favor for a fellow Jew" [!!!!]. [I know of two such people out of the thousands upon thousands of people that I have known in my lifetime]. This was a person who due to his position a Chief Rabbi was asked thousands of favors, some by people who made his life miserable with their anti-zionistic zealotry for whom he particularly extended himself.
After the slaughter of the students of the Chevron Yeshiva in 1929, Rav Sarna, the Rosh Yeshiva related that he felt tremendous anguish. But Rav Kook felt it more. When he heard the news - he fainted....
A sick person once needed money and Rav Kook didn't have any handy, all he had was an expensive watch that he received from an American [which is a great story in and of itself] which he promptly handed over. Other times poor people would come and if he didn't have money he would tell them to choose any sefer on his shelf which they could sell and use the money.
5] Rav Kook taught that Eretz Yisrael is not merely a "Jewish Homeland" but the life and breath of Am Yisrael. He also repeatedly emphasized that Am Yisrael are more than just a people who have more laws than anyone else but the essence of holiness on earth from which all of the other nations receive their existence and spiritual sustenance.

[The stories and much, more are cited and documented in the sefer Otzros HaRiiyah in the first chapter].
What can we learn from this angel?? This is a man-angel who said that he can "see" how sins seal one off from the Divine Light? He has many passages where he relates his semi-prophetic mystical visions of spiritual worlds. He is beyond us! I am a pashute yid and how can I strive to emulate this elevated neshama? [His handwriting was once brought to a handwriting expert ("graphologist") who wasn't told the identity of the author. He looked at the text and after analyzing the letters he said "This is a person who lived 350 years ago at least. Such people no longer exist in our world..." I would guess that being such a great ohev yisrael and also a kohen that he was a gilgul of Aharon Hakohen].
That is true. We are probably not going to reach his level. But still, what we CAN learn is to be a bit less materialistic, a bit more spiritual, less ego and self absorption, more love, care, sensitivity and devotion to others.
If Jews would truly care in both thought and practice about other Jews MOST of Klal Yisrael's problems would be solved instantaneously.
There is enough money among the Jewish people that NOBODY has to be poor, yet there are so many in need.
There are enough jobs to be had yet so many are unemployed.
All of the horrible "get" stories we hear would never happened if people internalized the ethic that one must NEVER EVER hurt another human being - even if we feel that this person pained us.
So many of the single people would be married if others were not able to sleep at night wracking their brains thinking about possible matches and doing everything they can to make it happen [as per the recent Mishpacha Magazine article about the tzadik Mr. Rechnitz from L.A. who is putting his considerable fortune to good use by offering incentives for people to make shiduchim].
All of the lashon hara and rechilus on the blogs, websites and newspapers would cease because people would think "How would I feel if people wrote that about me [even when true]?"
All of the horrible scandals involving breaches in tzniyus [you know to what I refer] and monetary indiscretions would stop because such behavior is simply unholy and impure. Some of the perpetrators are sick and need help. The community would make sure that offenders are duly punished, distanced .... but also helped.
Many of the kids off the derech would come back because they would see a religious world that is not filled with hypocrisy and criticism but with love and acceptance.
Beloved friends - it is in our hands!!!
To conclude with two great quotes from the Rav ztz"l:
 We are great and our faults are great and therefore our problems great and great are our consolations.
Oros Hatchiah 5
The pure tzadikim do not complain of the dark, but increase the light; they do not complain of evil, but increase justice; they do not complain of heresy, but increase faith; they do not complain of ignorance, but increase wisdom.
Arpilei Tohar page 2
Love and blessings to all:-)

Words Of "Bracha"

Today, someone showered a "blessing" on my head that I would more likely hear on the 1 train going from the West Side uptown to the Bronx or the C down to Penn station, spoken by one of the "bruthas" but not from the mouth of a yid-ben-yid in Eretz Yisrael.

What did I learn from the experience that you may want to use?

1] He is on a lot of pain. Happy people don't speak like that. Instead of being insulted - have mercy on his tortured soul.

2] I didn't take it personally. It had much more to do with him than it had to do with me. [It hurt a little I must admit, but not too much...]

3] If I was cursed - Hashem wanted me to be cursed. Shimi Ben Gera curses Dovid Hamelech and his reaction? השם אמר לו קלל. Hashem told him to curse. He has free choice but if he said it then I KNOW that it is from Hashem to me. If Dovid heard these words then this is what he had to hear.

4] The gemara [Shabbos 88b] says that one who is insulted and refrains from answering is zocheh to shine like the sun. Just like the moon complained that the sun and the moon can't share the throne and as a result the moon was made smaller and the sun shines brightly [Chullin 60], so the insulter becomes smaller and the insulted party becomes so much bigger.

5] Sweetest friends!! Don't take things to heart. Your job in this world is to do "tov" and not to worry what people are saying to you and about you.....


Saturday, August 30, 2014

Wise Rabbi

This was told by R' Saul Berman about his father R' Ephraim Berman who studied in Slabodka and later became a Rav in the U.S.:

...... One remarkable get stands out in my memory. From the start this one was unusual. I saw the dining room had been set up for a get so I asked my father whether I could sit in. He said I could not but that if I sat quietly in his study (which opened out into the dining room), he would not object; he admonished me, however, to remain completely silent. That was odd. Quite early, the young wife arrived, accompanied by her father. As the three of them sat there together, the father passed a piece of paper across the table (a check, perhaps?) to my father. That was doubly odd. The paper might well have been a payment but it was strange – usually the get was paid for at the end of the proceedings and not at the beginning; and typically it was the husband who paid the fee, not the wife. Soon my father’s favorite sofer arrived, accompanied by two edim, though I had never seen either of them before – they were both strapping young men who looked to me more like baseball players than like kosher edim. Eventually, the husband arrived. My father exchanged a few brief comments with him off on the side, and so the ritual began.

Everything started to move very rapidly: the final confirmation of the correctness of the parties’ names; the scripted exchanges to assure consent, the waiver of disclaimers; the designation of the sofer and the edim; the transfer of the writing materials. Even the sofer seemed to be writing more rapidly than was his pious style, albeit he retained his usual intense concentration so as to make sure the bill of divorcement would be error-free. The edim and the divorcing parties and the woman’s father sat silently; nor did my father call the parties aside, severally or together, as was his practice, to speak with them to comfort them or to urge reconciliation. Just silence, and the slight scratching of the quill until the writing was completed, the text reviewed, and the edim, somewhat clumsily, had signed the get. Rapid, pre-scripted, verbal exchanges were followed by the actual delivery by the husband to the wife of the get itself. Neither of them looked the other in the eye. The wife then handed the get back to my father for re-reading and for the official confirmation that she had received a get.

My father then wrote the petur for the wife, but instead of waiting for the husband’s petur likewise to be written, my father immediately delivered the petur to the now-divorced wife, whereupon she and her father, without a word, both scurried out of the house, in haste. My father then completed the petur for the husband and gave it to him while the sofer finished packing up his materials and walked out the front door. I thought it was all over and was about to get off my chair when I saw the husband, after slipping the petur into his inside jacket pocket, lean across the table and say something to my father. My father, nodding, pulled out the (check?) slip of paper the wife’s father had handed him earlier. As the edim deftly moved in on either of his sides, close to my father, my father took the piece of paper and tore it to shreds. In rapid succession, the husband lunged across the table at my father; the edim grabbed the husband by his arms and dragged him across the table and pinned him onto the floor as my father retreated to the rear of the room. The edim then lifted him off the floor, carried him to the front door and, summarily, threw him out onto the sidewalk. I watched through the living room window as the husband picked himself up, dusted himself off a bit, raised a fist back toward the house, and marched off down the street, defeated.

I did not believe, nor did I much understand, what I had just witnessed. When the edim left I asked my father to explain; and, so, he told me the following story: The couple had been married for less than a year; it was clear the relationship was not a good one; there were no children; there were no joint assets to divide. When the wife asked for a get, the husband said he would only give her a get if her father paid him $20,000 (which, at that time, was a considerable sum of money). The negotiations remained deadlocked for quite a while, so they agreed to consult with my father, who met with each side separately. He told the wife’s father to give him a check for the $20,000, but that the check, he was confident, would never be cashed. He then told the husband that he (my father) would get the check for the full amount from the father-in-law and that he (my father) would hold onto it until after the get was delivered. (My father was careful never explicitly to say he would convey the check to the husband.) The husband agreed to the terms. The rest I saw with my own eyes......

[From Cross-Currents]

Friday, August 29, 2014

גולדה בת רחל לאה

Please daven for Golda bas Rochel Leah on a respirator.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Spiritually Sensitive

לזכות רבי אפרים אבא בן מרים שושנה לברכה והצלחה הוא וביתו וכל אשר לו!

Rav Aharon of Belz [d. 1957] is known in the Chasidic world as "Reb Aharon Kadosh Hashem" and Kadosh he was.... There are many people today [some of whom I know personally] who saw and met Rebbe Aharon.

In 1930, he was in Vienna in order to receive medical treatment. At the same time, the Lubavitcher Rebbe [known as the Raayatz] was there for the same reason. The Raayatz was there with his two sons in law, one of them being Rebbe Menachem Mendel, the future Rebbe, who already had a tremendous mastery over the Torah in his youth [like knowing Shas by heart with the Rosh and I think Rif as well].

The two sons-in-law were walking down the street one day and they crossed paths with Rav Aharon who used to almost run down the street. They weren't dressed as chasidim [don't tell Lubavitchers this story...:-)] and didn't introduce themselves. First, Rebbe Menachem Mendel's brother in law said shalom to the Rebbe. Then Rebbe Menachem Mendel said shalom. The moment he felt the hand of Rebbe Menachem Mendel, he didn't let go. He held it with tremendous dveykus for TWENTY MINUTES on a sidewalk in Vienna.

He had acute spiritual sensitivities and the many stories are legend. He had a special hakpada [among many others] that nobody should touch the water before he was toivel in the mikva. One time they prepared the mikva for him with all of his hakpados. The moment his foot touched the water, he stepped back and refused to immerse himself. It turns out, that the person preparing the water wanted to check the heat of the water and touched it beforehand.

The Rachamestrivka Rebbe Shlita related that when he was going to his wedding with the daughter of the Skverer Rebbe in the United States, he went to Rebbe Aharon to get a bracha. The Rebbe offered much hadracha about marriage and also told him not to engage in any arguments about hashkafos with people who have different opinions than he does. The Rachamestrivker was a bit bothered by this piece of advice. It was against his nature to have such arguments so why did the Rebbe have to tell him this?

At the time, going to the U.S. from Israel was a long trip with numerous stops on the way. It turns out that a person with questionable hashkofos found this future tzadik and decided to try to convince him to his way of thinking. It was then that the Rachemestrivker understood Rebbe Aharon's hadracha. Who knows what type of bad mood he would have been in for his wedding had he started to argue with this person. [On one flight from the US, a secular-anti-religious-pro-arab-dog-loving-charedi-hating-woman from Tel Aviv engaged me in an argument and to this day I still have a bad taste in my mouth. I learned my lesson...:-)] 
זכותו יגן עלינו ועל כל ישראל אמן!

Jewish Blood

An intersting statistic. In the present war, a few dozen soldiers have been killed, Hashem yerachem. Last year, according to the Ministry of Health over 8,000 Israelis died from smoking. Some rolled up tobacco in a white piece of paper is a far greater enemy than the Arabs. 

We kill ourselves many many times more than the Arabs kill us. If Israel would fight against smoking with the same fierceness that they fight against Hamas, many many lives would be saved....

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Modern Civilization

In the aftermath of the Holocaust, Romain Gary, in his book The Dance of Genghis Khan, summed up civilization this way: “The ancient Simbas, a primitive tribe of cruel cannibals boiled their victims and then consumed them. The modern day Germans, heirs to thousands of years of culture and civilization, turn their murdered victims into soap. This, this passion for cleanliness – that is civilization.”