Friday, December 9, 2016

Pictures From 1900

Everybody in these pictures is long dead. The world population in 1900 was 1.6 billion. They ALL thought that their problems were a big deal. But now - just a picture on a blog. 

Our problems are not forever. They pass and we pass. All you are left with are your mitzvos and maasim tovim!!!


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Image result for picture 1900 year

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Thursday, December 8, 2016

An Open Discussion About A Closed Issue

לזכות יהודי הנמצא במצוקה גדולה - שה' ישפיע עליו שמחה ופרנסה!

It is very interesting. The only time we hear of sexuality in our times is when there is a perversion of it. Either it is a story of abuse such as rape or pedophilia, infidelity in relationships [i.e. affairs], people who choose "alternative" lifestyles [called affectionately by the Torah "abomination"], or other aberrations [there is now a polygamous cult in Tel Aviv. They say it will bring the geula, which really means they are looking for religious license to be permissive - hey,  what's better than bringing the geula??]. If a man has a healthy relationship with his wife it is not newsworthy. But if he has a marriage ceremony with his one and only true love - his dog "Spot" - THAT is newsworthy. 

Why is sexuality only worthy of discussion when it involve perversions?

Let us look at the Torah. In Beresheis there is talk about sexuality - Adam "knew" his wife Chava. This knowledge was not going out for a pizza and asking about her family. ["So, Chavi, what does your father do?" "Oh - he is the Founder and CEO of the world". "Really?! My father too!!" "What about your mom?" "I don't have one". "Really?! Me neither!!!"] It was carnal. Then in Parshas Noach and in Parshas Lech Lecha then in Parshas Vayera etc. etc. there is talk of sexuality. It runs through the entire Tanach. It is clearly a central part of our religious life.

One sixth of Torah Shebial Peh is about sexuality. It is called "Seder Nashim". The moshol for our relationship with Hashem Yisborach is couched in sexual terms - Shir Hashirim which is called by Rebbe Akiva "Holy Of Holies". 

Or how about the pasuk referring to the geula that we all await anxiously every second of every day: 

כִּֽי־יִבְעַ֤ל בָּחוּר֙ בְּתוּלָ֔ה יִבְעָל֖וּךְ בָּנָ֑יִךְ וּמְשׂ֤וֹשׂ חָתָן֙ עַל־כַּלָּ֔ה יָשִׂ֥ישׂ עָלַ֖יִךְ אֱלֹהָֽיִךְ׃

As a young man "marries" a young woman,
so will your sons "marry" you;
as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride,
so will your God rejoice over you.

That is a sexual metaphor that is used to describe the relationship between Klal Yisrael and Hashem. If the moshol wasn't holy it wouldn't be used for such an elevated nimshal. So the ultimate geula relates to sexuality. 

The Mishna [Yevamos 65] teaches that the ENTIRE world was created for Pru Urivu. Think about it - couldn't Hashem have thought of a different way to perpetuate the species?? OF COURSE he could have. But he chose sexual relations as the ONLY way to procreate [naturally and ideally]. And if procreation is the purpose of creation that means that so is sexual relations. The world was created for procreation which is generated by sexual relations which places relations in an exalted position of being indispensable element of the our very raison d'etre. 

One can compare this to the famous Ran in Kiddushin [beginning of second perek]. The gemara says that there is a mitzva for a woman to receive Kiddushin herself because there is more of a mitzva for the person himself to do the mitzva than it is through a shaliach. Asks the Ran: What mitzva? She is not commanded to have children? That is only the man's mitzva! He answers that since she helps the man fulfill his mitzva, it is also a mitzva for her and her part is transformed into a mitzva [see Chidushim Ubiurim Al Ha-shas of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, simman 27]. So too we can say that since relations are an essential aspect of Pirya Vi-rivya and Pirya Vi-rivya is the purpose of creation - so too are relations part of the purpose of creation. Remember - Hashem has this all thought out and he decided that the goal of creation should be executed via relations. הלא דבר הוא. 

A person spends hours and hours looking for that most beautiful esrog. He wants to do the mitzva bi-hiddur. What about the mitzva of Onah [obligatory conjugal relations]? Why don't people spend hours learning - bikdusha ubitahara based on Torah and not chas vi-shalom based on shmutz - about how to make their wives most happy and fulfill the mitzva bi-hiddur. Why is an esorg more important than his wife and their relationship. A short shmooz the day before his wedding and that is the first and last time he hears about it for life.


There is a Facebook group in a modern Orthodox community where married man and married women who are interested in "expanding their horizons" can find each other [so I am told]. This is obviously beyond - disgraceful, shameful, dishonorable, inexcusable, unpardonable, unforgivable, reprehensible, despicable, abominable, contemptible and heinous. 

But there is a reason such a group exists: people aren't happy with their own marriages in general in which case that almost always means that their sexual relationships are not satisfying. So they look elsewhere. 

Divorces cause so much pain and distress to so many people. If the sex life of the couple was as exciting as it should be then many divorces just wouldn't happen. אהבה מכסה על כל פשעים  - The intense love and excitement that the couple felt for each other would give them the ability and will to work through their issues. 

My suggestion is not to write books about intimacy with provocative names and give advice counter to the standards of Torah and tzniyus like a certain well known fellow [who calls himself Rabbi and sports a beard] whose name is well known. Chas Vi-shalom.

What I am saying is that since the Torah places shalom bayis at the top of it's list of importance - so much so that we erase the very name of G-d for shalom bayis [for to create shalom bayis is to write the name of Hashem - Maharal] - it behooves every married couple to make sure that they are sexually satisfied. Otherwise - people will continue suffering in silence and many of the negative consequences which started in a dysfunctional bedroom will continue to manifest themselves.

In addition - it is necessary for people to understand the difference between the kedusha of the Jewish marriage and the tumah of the outside world.

In the words of Rav Hutner:




So we have many reasons to bring this critical topic - with tzniyus and kedusha - to the fore and to stop shushing it up. That only exacerbates the many problems so many people are having. There must be more rabbonim and female spiritual guides [such as Rebbetzins] who are trained to treat these problems and more sefarim written about sexuality according to the Torah because to date there are almost none. 

ואין כאן מקום להאריך יותר. 











Wednesday, December 7, 2016

A Brief Biography Of Our Lives

Lizchus someone close to me who is having a very rough time - Hashem should help him out of his distress. 

So goes life [Note - This piece is written from the male perspective because that is the persuasion of the writer. With slight modifications it applies to women as well. Mevakesh is for both genders and all Jews]:

A baby boy is born. He has a bris. Dozens come to welcome him. There is much joy. He is the apple of his parents eye.

Years go by. He has his ups and downs. Family dynamics are always complex. But now is his Bar Mitzvah. Hundreds come to celebrate. He receives many gifts including checks. All he had to do to earn it all was turn 13. WHATTA DEAL! He is truly the star of the day. 

Years go by. He is just another kid. One of hundreds of millions. Adolescence is a very difficult period. The body changes. There are strong urges that he may not satisfy. [Some do and feel really guilty]. His is trying to forge his identity. Adults seem strong and at times very intimidating. It is only after one becomes an adult that he realizes that adults are filled with flaws and are to a great extent still children in many ways.... 

He gets a little older and meets a girl he thinks he knows and thinks he loves so he marries her. Hundreds come and dance around him. For 7 days his praises are sung. Gifts are given in abundance. Parents and in-laws give large amounts of money for the simcha and after. 

Then.....

Then he starts life. Nobody is dancing around him anymore. He will hear more praises about himself during the aufruff and sheva brachos than he will for the next many years to come. He is no longer the star. 

Marriage isn't easy. The sweet girl he dated screams at him and can be very critical and hyper-sensitive. Children come and with the joy they bring also come problems. Each child is a story. This one has a physical condition. This one has learning disabilities. Sometimes they don't get along. Having a pregnant wife is hard not only on the wife but on the husband as well. Some pregnancies involve complications. Even those that don't aren't pleasant. 

Then there are tuition payments, car payments, mortgage payments and limitless other payments. Work is hard and pressuring. Different organizations ask for his time and money. In childhood it was an "all expenses paid" deal. Now it is also "all expenses paid". The difference is that now, HE is the one who is paying the expenses. And he has to pay WHETHER HE HAS THE MONEY OR NOT. That can be distressing. 

Where are all the people who danced around him? Busy with their own lives. He needs financial help? Go to the bank. Maybe they will help. With interest of course. Can't ask parents - they have other kids and in addition, they know the situation but aren't helping. He is an adult and must fend for himself. Party's over. It ended long ago. He needed to be held when he was a baby but now his doting mother has other things on her mind. He is on his own. 

Parents get older which involves many health issues. Then one by one  - they go.  

In short - life is never simple.  

Then - HE goes.

The funeral? Dozens maybe hundreds. When the average goy dies a lot fewer people come than to the average frum Jews' funeral [so I hear] because we have stronger, more consolidated communities - the schools, shuls etc. bring us together. The funeral won't have a bad turnout.

Shiva - lots of visitors. Lots of praise. The last time people took the trouble to say nice things was 60 years before during the wedding period. 

A year passes. Barely a minyan shows up at kever. 

Gone - and almost completely forgotten. Life goes on. 

This world is for the living. Just yizkor and some learning and tzdaka li-ilui neshama. 

So it goes. 

May I quote Thoreau [I spent a lovely Shabbos in "Gush" 25 or so years ago. That must be the hashpaah...:-)]?

“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation. From the desperate city you go into the desperate country, and have to console yourself with the bravery of minks and muskrats. A stereotyped but unconscious despair is concealed even under what are called the games and amusements of mankind. There is no play in them, for this comes after work. But it is a characteristic of wisdom not to do desperate things..”

Quite distressing. 

What is the answer?

This is what I think.

Ultimately - we will indeed be forgotten. We are very small and people pay little attention to us when we are alive and even less when we are dead. Just a few minutes in the sun. Our problems are ours and ours alone. Maybe a lone person here and there who is there for us. Maybe. If we have a good spouse and a close friend or two then we are very lucky. But we will often suffer alone. 

What we CAN do is forget about ourselves. Decide that our task in this world is to bring light and kindness into the lives of every person we meet. A smile, a kind word, a ride, a check. 

I had a Rebbi back in my youth named Rabbi Chaim Flom. He was REALLY a tzadik. He COULDN'T TAKE IT, couldn't take it, when his car was not full. So he stopped at every bus stop and asked everybody if they were going in his direction so that he could give them a ride. So tens of thousands enjoyed his chesed. 

His daughter once had to go to  the emergency room because part of her finger had been ruptured. On the way there he saw a policeman giving tickets to parked cars whose meters had run out. So he got out of the car and quickly filled up the meters one by one so that they would be saved the fine. One story of thousands. 

When we die Hashem judges us. Who were we living for? Ourselves or others? How much did we care? How much did we care about Hashem? How did we take rough times? With Emunah and simcha [they go together] or with complaints and depression? 

Life is short. Nobody gets out of it alive. 

Decide to be bi-simcha regardless. Resolve to do good to everyone we can. Look for opportunities. When you learn - learn in order to teach and do. Not for the tremendous intellectual satisfaction it brings. That will be a necessary by-product. Learn because your job is to cling to Hashem and learning His Torah is the best way.

Daven hard. Not only for yourself but for others. To want for yourself is easy. EVERYBODY wants for themselves. Want for others with the same passion and intensity that you want for yourself. 

Then - your life in this world will be filled with meaning and joy. In the next world - beyond belief. People who were here for others end up with the greatest amount of bliss. That is the paradox - the more you are for yourself, the less you will receive. The less you are for yourself - the more you receive. But your selflessness is not in order to receive reward because if it is then it is about you again. That is poison. 

Sweet friends - a day filled with light, simcha, hatzlacha and tremendous help from Hashem in enjoying your millions of brachos and dealing with your many challenges. 
  
Bi-ahava rabba mei-halev,
Me 

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The Eternal Hatred

R' Dr. Sacks 


“Go and learn what Laban the Aramean sought to do to our father Jacob. Pharaoh made his decree only about the males whereas Laban sought to destroy everything.”

This passage from the Haggadah on Pesach – evidently based on this week’s parsha – is extraordinarily difficult to understand.

First, it is a commentary on the phrase in Deuteronomy, Arami oved avi. As the overwhelming majority of commentators point out, the meaning of this phrase is “my father was a wandering Aramean”, a reference either to Jacob, who escaped to Aram [Aram meaning Syria, a reference to Haran where Laban lived], or to Abraham, who left Aram in response to God’s call to travel to the land of Canaan. It does not mean “an Aramean [Laban] tried to destroy my father.” Some commentators read it this way, but almost certainly they only do so because of this passage in the Haggadah.

Second, nowhere in the parsha do we find that Laban actually tried to destroy Jacob. He deceived him, tried to exploit him, and chased after him when he fled. As he was about to catch up with Jacob, God appeared to him in a dream at night and said: ‘Be very careful not to say anything, good or bad, to Jacob.’ (Gen. 31:22). When Laban complains about the fact that Jacob was trying to escape, Jacob replies: “Twenty years now I have worked for you in your estate – fourteen years for your two daughters, and six years for some of your flocks. You changed my wages ten times!” (31:41). All this suggests that Laban behaved outrageously to Jacob, treating him like an unpaid labourer, almost a slave, but not that he tried to “destroy” him – to kill him as Pharaoh tried to kill all male Israelite children.

Third, the Haggadah and the seder service of which it is the text, is about how the Egyptians enslaved and practised slow genocide against the Israelites and how God saved them from slavery and death. Why seek to diminish this whole narrative by saying that, actually, Pharaoh’s decree was not that bad, Laban’s was worse. This seems to make no sense, either in terms of the central theme of the Haggadah or in relation to the actual facts as recorded in the biblical text.

How then are we to understand it?

Perhaps the answer is this. Laban’s behaviour is the paradigm of anti-Semites through the ages. It was not so much what Laban did that the Haggadah is referring to, but what his behaviour gave rise to, in century after century. How so?

Laban begins by seeming like a friend. He offers Jacob refuge when he is in flight from Esau who has vowed to kill him. Yet it turns out that his behaviour is less generous than self-interested and calculating. Jacob works for him for seven years for Rachel. Then on the wedding night Laban substitutes Leah for Rachel, so that to marry Rachel, Jacob has to work another seven years. When Joseph is born to Rachel, Jacob tries to leave. Laban protests. Jacob works another six years, and then realises that the situation is untenable. Laban’s sons are accusing him of getting rich at Laban’s expense. Jacob senses that Laban himself is becoming hostile. Rachel and Leah agree, saying, “he treats us like strangers! He has sold us and spent the money!” (31:14-15).

Jacob realises that there is nothing he can do or say that will persuade Laban to let him leave. He has no choice but to escape. Laban then pursues him, and were it not for God’s warning the night before he catches up with him, there is little doubt that he would have forced Jacob to return and live out the rest of his life as his unpaid labourer. As he says to Jacob the next day: “The daughters are my daughters! The sons are my sons! The flocks are my flocks! All that you see is mine!” (31:43). It turns out that everything he had ostensibly given Jacob, in his own mind he had not given at all.

Laban treats Jacob as his property, his slave. He is a non-person. In his eyes Jacob has no rights, no independent existence. He has given Jacob his daughters in marriage but still claims that they and their children belong to him, not Jacob. He has given Jacob an agreement as to the animals that will be his as his wages, yet he still insists that “The flocks are my flocks.”

What arouses his anger, his rage, is that Jacob maintains his dignity and independence. Faced with an impossible existence as his father-in-law’s slave, Jacob always finds a way of carrying on. Yes he has been cheated of his beloved Rachel, but he works so that he can marry her too. Yes he has been forced to work for nothing, but he uses his superior knowledge of animal husbandry to propose a deal which will allow him to build flocks of his own that will allow him to maintain what is now a large family. Jacob refuses to be defeated. Hemmed in on all sides, he finds a way out. That is Jacob’s greatness. His methods are not those he would have chosen in other circumstances. He has to outwit an extremely cunning adversary. But Jacob refuses to be defeated, or crushed and demoralised. In a seemingly impossible situation Jacob retains his dignity, independence and freedom. Jacob is no man’s slave.

Laban is, in effect, the first anti-Semite. In age after age, Jews sought refuge from those, like Esau, who sought to kill them. The nations who gave them refuge seemed at first to be benefactors. But they demanded a price. They saw, in Jews, people who would make them rich. Wherever Jews went they brought prosperity to their hosts. Yet they refused to be mere chattels. They refused to be owned. They had their own identity and way of life; they insisted on the basic human right to be free. The host society then eventually turned against them. They claimed that Jews were exploiting them rather than what was in fact the case, that they were exploiting the Jews. And when Jews succeeded, they accused them of theft: “The flocks are my flocks! All that you see is mine!” They forgot that Jews had contributed massively to national prosperity. The fact that Jews had salvaged some self-respect, some independence, that they too had prospered, made them not just envious but angry. That was when it became dangerous to be a Jew.

Laban was the first to display this syndrome but not the last. It happened again in Egypt after the death of Joseph. It happened under the Greeks and Romans, the Christian and Muslim empires of the Middle Ages, the European nations of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and after the Russian Revolution.

In her fascinating book World on Fire, Amy Chua argues that ethnic hatred will always be directed by the host society against any conspicuously successful minority. All three conditions must be present.

[1] The hated group must be a minority or people will fear to attack it.

[2] It must be successful or people will not envy it, merely feel contempt for it.

[3] It must be conspicuous or people will not notice it.

Jews tended to fit all three. That is why they were hated. And it began with Jacob during his stay with Laban. He was a minority, outnumbered by Laban’s family. He was successful, and it was conspicuous: you could see it by looking at his flocks.

What the sages are saying in the Haggadah now becomes clear. Pharaoh was a one-time enemy of the Jews, but Laban exists, in one form or another, in age after age. The syndrome still exists today. As Amy Chua notes, Israel in the context of the Middle East is a conspicuously successful minority. It is a small country, a minority; it is successful and it is conspicuously so. Somehow, in a tiny country with few natural resources, it has outshone its neighbours. The result is envy that becomes anger that becomes hate. Where did it begin? With Laban.

Put this way, we begin to see Jacob in a new light. Jacob stands for minorities and small nations everywhere. Jacob is the refusal to let large powers crush the few, the weak, the refugee. Jacob refuses to define himself as a slave, someone else’s property. He maintains his inner dignity and freedom. He contributes to other people’s prosperity but he defeats every attempt to be exploited. Jacob is the voice that says: I too am human. I too have rights. I too am free.

If Laban is the eternal paradigm of hatred of conspicuously successful minorities, then Jacob is the eternal paradigm of the human capacity to survive the hatred of others. In this strange way Jacob becomes the voice of hope in the conversation of humankind, the living proof that hate never wins the final victory; freedom does.

When One Needs To Be Bi-simcha

לזכות יהודי השרוי במצוקה הרוצה בעילום שמו!!

לזכות משה יהודה בן פעשא דינה

לזכות ר' יהודה יעקב בן דינה חאשע ואשתו היקרה 

This is deep.

Beyond what I can explain. 

A surface explanation:

Simcha is especially necessary at a time of spiritual falling. At that time, there is no defense against deep falls and fear from spiritually harmful forces, other than simcha. A simcha not only of the heart but one that is expressed in a very external way. When a person is on a high, such great expressions of simcha are not necessary because then pleasure and splendor fills all of his limbs. But when he is down it is the right time to externally display his simcha.  

Similar to this is the simcha of Chosson and Kallah when a man descends from the Kabbalstic plateau of what a male represents as the gemara alludes to when saying that a man should descend from his level and marry a woman. The fear is that man will sink to depths of depravity in his lust for women. Therefore external exhibitions of simcha are necessary. Through this, the kabbalistic "gvuros" level of women will merge with the kabbalistic "chesed" level of men, the name of Hashem will be complete and the Shechina will dwell among them. 

So we dance at weddings to save the chosson from a potential fall. 



The Simcha Of Mesirus Nefesh

לזכות יהודי השרוי במצוקה !

The madreiga of being completely and uninterruptedly suffused with the simcha of giving one's life for Hashem. 



Being Strong In Simcha With Hashem

לזכות יהודי השרוי במצוקה שה' יוציאנו מאפילה לאורה!!

There are great people who are capable of  their greatness through a strengthening of simcha in Hashem. If these people are distracted a little from their elevated level and cease to "wave the flag" of strength and exultation, immediately they fall from greatness to smallness and stumble in coarseness and crude pleasure and they have no other recourse other than to return to their greatness and strength. When they discover that they only stumbled because of the time and smallness - that in itself is teshuva and they return to their original clear, personal level.