Friday, August 28, 2015

Some Thoughts On An "Underrated" Sugya - Thought Provoking

לזכות ידידי אהובי ר' צבי משה בן איתן אברהם הלוי לברכה והצלחה הוא וכל הנלוים אליו

3 opinions about how to stand for davening - Why no cross reference?

The mishna [Brachos 30] says that one may only daven with כובד ראש – seriousness [literally a "heavy head"]. There is another gemara in Yevamos [105b] also discusses how one must daven and quotes three opinions. 1] Your eyes should be focused downwards. 2] Your eyes must be focused upwards. 3] Your eyes should be looking down and your heart should be focused above.

 The first opinion apparently holds that one must be submissive when davening. The second opinion holds that one must feel a sense of spiritual elevation and the third opinion merges the first two opinions and strives for both submission and elevation.

What is odd is that our gemara [in Brachos] doesn't mention that gemara [in Yevamos] and that gemera doesn't mention our mishna. Since they seem to be talking about the same issue it would be only natural to cross reference in one or both places.   In fact, the Rif here does mention the gemara in Yevamos but our gemara omits it.



The gemara in Rosh Hashana [26b] also discusses a similar issue. There is an argument there whether the shofar should be bent or straight פשוט או כפוף . Rashi understands this to be a dispute as to whether one should daven on Rosh Hashana with one's face downward, in a submissive pose, or straight up with more confidence. Once again it would seem that this discussion would be germane to our gemara in Brachos, yet both gemaros neglect to mention each other.


Any thoughts?

[In the sefer Marbeh Amida הערה א  the Gaon Hamechaber has a mehalech but I am looking for something that works for my brain…]


After writing this [on the 134 bus going to Binyanei Ha-umahJ] I found the sefer עין אליהו  who writes that the machlokes in Yevamos is dependent upon two opinions found in Brachos. The opinion that says that one must daven with his eyes down is following the mishna that one must daven with כובד ראש. The opinion that one must daven with one's eyes upwards is following the opinion mentioned in the Braisa in Brachos that one must daven with simcha [are the two opinions necessarily arguing? That is apparently a Machlokes rishonim which we may or may not return to on these pages:-) - E.E.]. The conclusion of the gemara is that both are necessary. As far as the body is concerned one should be submissive, for the body comes from a putrid drop. Therefore, one should daven with one's eyes downwards. As far as the soul is concerned one should feel elevated and confident for the soul is a piece of Hashem כביכול  [the language of the Tanya – חלק אלו-ה ממעל ממש!]. Therefore, the heart is focused upwards.


The Pnei Yehoshua in Brachos understands כובד ראש  to mean that one should literally have a "heavy head" and bow his head down a bit while elevating his heart heavenwards, in order to fulfill the conclusion of the gemara in Yevamos [not like the עין אליהו  we mentioned earlier who understands that כובד ראש  precludes having one's heart directed upwards]. 


Either should be fine

The Turei Even asks [Rosh Hashana 26] that if the gemara in Yevamos concludes that one needs both submission and uprightness, why is there an argument on Rosh Hashna about whether the shofar must be  פשוט or כפוף  - bent or upright. Since you CAN'T have both, either should be fine?

Paroh Vs. Moshe

 Rav Dov Hakohen Kook Shlita [עד שהמלך במסיבו עמ' ס"ג] contrasts the obligation to have one's heart directed above and his eyes below with a heavy head to the behavior of Paroh who had a heavy HEART [כבד לב פרעה] and an elevated head [מי לי בשמים לי יאורי ואני עשיתיני – "Who is to me in heaven, the river is mine and I created myself"]. The contrast to Paroh's arrogance is Moshe the quintessential humble person who also was [literally] in the heavens.

I hope that this discussion provokes yet more discussion....:-)


Seek Out My Face

Regarding the previous post...


The pasuk says לך אמר לבי בקשו פני את פניך ה' אבקש - About you [Hashem] my heart said, seek out My face, the face of Hashem I will seek out.


"Seek out My face" simply means the face of Hashem. But it can also mean  - my own face. My heart was sent by Hashem [as the commentators explain] to tell me that I should seek out my פנים - pnimiyus, deep recesses of my soul, and the result will be that את פניך השם אבקש - I will be seeking out the face of Hashem. For to find my true self is to find Hashem. 


צור לבבי וחלקי לעולם - The rock of my heart and my portion forever, says Dovid Hamelech. Who is in the hearts of the Jewish people, explain Chazal on this pasuk? Hashem. To look inside is to find Him.


People are ALWAYS looking outside. Hence the obsession-addiction to their social media toys. We don't look inwards but outwards. Hence, we find nothing but emptiness and constantly try to fill the void with more. But alas, it is a bottomless pit...


If we look inwards, to the world of deep emotion and profound intellect - we will traverse a bridge that will lead us to the One who is not only Above but Below as well.


לזכות ר' משה גבריאל בן יהודית לברכה והצלחה בכל מעשי ידיו הוא וביתו וכל אשר לו 


Thursday, August 27, 2015

Addicted - Thank G-d For Shabbos!

All day. Every day. Clicking. Pressing. Texting. Scrolling up. Scrolling down. Talking. It never ends. Wherever I go. In shul. The Mikva. The supermarket. The Beis Medrash. The bus. The street. The Kotel. Mother's picking their kids up from nursery.

All day. Every day. Clicking. Pressing. Texting. Talking. It never ends.


[More to come bl"n...]

Pollard's Release From Prison

R' Aviner

Q: When Jonathan Pollard is finally released from an American prison after thirty years, should he recite Ha-Gomel?


A: Certainly, as the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 219:1) rules that one who is freed from jail recites this blessing.


Q: But the Mishnah Berurah writes in the Biur Halachah (d.h. Chavush) that in the case of one who is imprisoned but not in danger, the Sefardic custom is to recite Ha-Gomel but the Ashkenazi custom is not to do so, and Pollard is Ashkenazi.  Furthermore, there are rules in a American prison and people are not randomly killed there.


A: 1. He has been in danger on account of the harsh treatment he received there, including years of solitary confinement.  2. He has been with other prisoners who could have murdered him (Piskei Teshuvot 219:4).  3. He has been in a life-threatening situation various times on account of illnesses, and he continues to be very sick.



Q: If so, it is clear that he should recite Ha-Gomel…


A: Furthermore, the Kaf Ha-Chaim (219:1) brings that Sefardim should recite Ha-Gomel when being released from jail on account of the lack of personal freedom, even if there were wonderful conditions.  And Ashkenazi Poskim hold that one recites the blessing if one is bound in handcuffs and this is the case here (Piskei Teshuvot ibid. #1.  Although Ha-Rav Chaim Kanievski said that Pollard should not recite Ha-Gomel based on the simple understanding of the words the Mishnah Berurah writes in the Biur Halachah brought above.  Parashah Sheet "Divrei Shi'ach" – Parashat Re'eh 5775 - #131).


Q: Should we recite Ha-Tov Ve-Ha-Meitiv?


A: Yes, upon the good news of his release (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 222:1.  And this is also the opinion of Ha-Rav Chaim Kanievski.  Parashah Sheet "Divrei Shi'ach" – Parashat Re'eh 5775 - #131).


Q: When should we recite this blessing?


A: Upon his release.


Q: Why don't we recite the blessing now over the good news that he will be released?


A: We only recite it when he leaves the prison and is free, since there can always be complications.


Q: Should everyone recite this blessing?


A: Anyone who is truly joyous.  See Aruch Ha-Shulchan (ibid. #1).


Q: Should one recite Mechaye Ha-Meitim when meeting him after his release?


A: No, since we have known all along that he was alive.  We only recite this blessing if we have not heard from someone in over a year and there is a possibility that he is dead.


A: Should one recite Shehechiyanu when meeting him after his release as one does when not seeing his friend for 30 days?


A: Yes.  Although there are those who do not, for various reasons, customarily recite Shehechiyanu over seeing a friend (see Piskei Teshuvot 225:2.  And Ha-Rav Chaim Kanievski said that one should not recite Shehechiyanu when seeing Pollard based on the Mishnah Berurah 225:2.  Parashah Sheet "Divrei Shi'ach" – Parashat Re'eh 5775 - #131).  But Rabbenu Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah quotes all of these blessings in Sidur Olat Re'eiyah (Vol. 1 pp. 380-382) as the basic Halachah lays out (and see Shut She'eilat Shlomo 3:83-84, 86).  


Q: But Shehechiyanu is only recited when one is joyous to meet his friend, and not when one has never met the person (Shulchan Aruch ibid. #2)?  And is someone who visited Pollard in prison, as Ha-Rav did, in the category of a "friend"?!


A: This is a unique case (see Piskei Teshuvot ibid. #2).  Pollard is all of our friend since he saved our entire Nation from the non-conventional weapons of the enemy.  When the Netziv met the Aderet for the first time, he recited Shehechiyanu (see Ha-Rav's commentary on Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 59:21).


Q: This was special since the Aderet was a Torah giant!  And the Munkatcher Rebbe recited Shehechiyanu upon seeing the Saba Kadisha for the first time (Shut Yayin Ha-Tov #48-49), as did Ha-Rav Yosef Chaim Zonnenfeld over the Munkatcher (Masaot Yerushalayim p. 21).  And Ha-Rav Ephraim Greenblatt ruled that one should recite Shehechiyanu the first time he meets Ha-Rav Moshe Feinstein (Shut Revivot Ephraim 6:104).  It therefore seems that this is a special halachah for Torah giants!


A: One who saves his friend, and all the more so one who saves the entire community, has an aspect that is comparable to a Torah scholar.  See Pele Yoetz Erech "Hatzalah", who explains the saying of our Rabbis: "Even those of Israel who are empty are as full of Mitzvot as a pomegranate [is full of seeds]."  How so?  It is those who save lives.  And the Pele Yoetz emphasizes: One who saves lives is greater even than a Torah scholar. 


Obstacles To Change

Rabbi Dr. AJ Twersky - Jewish Action

Of course a person should do teshuvah, but I am a bit puzzled. I observe Shabbos, I keep kosher and taharas hamishpachah. I daven every day, I attend a Daf Yomi shiur and I am honest in my business dealings. What exactly should I do teshuvah for?”

People may not actually say this, but some certainly think this way. Yet King Solomon said, “For there is no man so fully righteous that he always does good and never sins” (Ecclesiastes 7:20). Even the greatest tzaddik is not free of sin. How, then, can a person who is quite far from being a perfect tzaddik not feel a need to do teshuvah?

Several psychological defense mechanisms tend to discourage an individual from changing, from doing teshuvah. The obstacles to teshuvah are denial, rationalization, trivializing, projection, habituation and ego.

1} Denial

Throughout Tanach, the prophets repeatedly exhorted the Jewish people to abandon their errant behavior, but as is evident from the Scriptures, they were not very successful. Isaiah explains why. “Surely you hear, but you fail to comprehend; and surely you see, but you fail to know. This people is fattening its heart, hardening its ears and sealing its eyes, lest it see with its eyes and hear with its ears and understand with its heart, so that it will repent and be healed” (Isaiah 6:9-10). No psychology text can improve on Isaiah’s description of denial. Because people are intent on doing whatever they wish, they resort to denial, one of the best-known defense mechanisms so that they are unaffected by the reality of what they see and hear.

We are creatures of habit, and we are comfortable when we can do things without the need to exert much effort. Change is uncomfortable, and in order to avoid this discomfort, our minds block out those realizations that would call for change. The natural state of all matter—including human beings—is inertia, but one must force himself to overcome inertia in order to grow and change.

2} Rationalization

Denial enables a person to maintain the status quo. When reality threatens to overcome denial, the mind employs other defense mechanisms to reinforce the denial—such as rationalization. One of the themes in Proverbs is the tendency to rationalize. Ramchal says, “If a person is confronted with one’s laziness, one will doubtless come back with many quotations culled from the sages and the Scriptures and with intellectual arguments, all supporting, according to his misguided mind, his leniency with himself” (Mesillas Yesharim, Chapter 6).

Denial is not always possible, so the mind is very clever in rationalizing; in other words, justifying one’s actions by giving logical-sounding reasons for them. The Torah stresses the gravity of speaking lashon hara, for example, which requires both teshuvah vis-à-vis Hashem and forgiveness from the victim. Oftentimes one who speaks lashon hara may attempt to justify his behavior by claiming “But it’s the truth!” Defamatory speech is lashon hara, even if it is true.

3} Habituation

The Talmud says that when a person does a forbidden act several times, it loses its opprobrium. Habituation enables one to think that these transgressions are permissible. His conscience is lulled into thinking, It’s really not so terrible. Thus, even though the morning minyan begins promptly at 6:30 am and ends at 7:05, there are some minyannaires who habitually show up at 6:45 and leave before everyone else. They are so accustomed to arriving late and davening at breakneck speed, they see nothing wrong with it.

4} Projection

One who projects onto another will not be able to do genuine teshuvah. Sins committed against another person are not forgiven on Yom Kippur unless one has obtained forgiveness from the offended individual. The defense mechanism of projection turns things around: I did not offend him. He offended me. He should really be apologizing to me.

5} Trivializing

The tendency to trivialize halachah is another impediment in the road to teshuvah. I missed Minchah, but I was so busy at the office. Anyway, it’s not a big deal. Or, I chatted with my friend during the Reading of the Torah, but doesn’t everybody? (This is the only sin for which the Shulchan Aruch says, “There is no forgiveness.”)

6} Ego

Inasmuch as teshuvah for an offense against another person requires that one make amends and ask forgiveness, there is ego resistance to humbling oneself, apologizing and making restitution where required.

One of the axioms of human behavior is that a person will always choose to do that which is most comfortable for him. We find that an addict will not agree to change until he hits “rock-bottom,” i.e., that the pain incident to the addiction is greater than the pleasure it provides. This is equally true of the non-addict. Therefore, oftentimes individuals only agree to change when they have reached rock-bottom.

But what can constitute rock-bottom for the non-addict? A person who contemplates his life goals and sees that his behavior is jeopardizing his reaching those goals may reach rock-bottom. But this requires giving serious thought to defining one’s goals and purpose in life. Confronting death can usually lead to such introspection. I recently attended the funeral of a great talmid chacham. A man next to me said somewhat somberly, “Reb Z. is taking along with him much Torah and mitzvos. What will I be taking along?”

The first chapter in Mesillas Yesharim is entitled “A Person’s Obligation in His World.” The theme of Mesillas Yesharim is the refinement of one’s character. Changing one’s character traits is a major challenge and is usually met with great resistance. Many times real change won’t happen until one realizes that unless one does so, his life is meaningless.

Uncompromised honesty is necessary to see through the psychological defenses that are a barrier to teshuvah. Rosh Hashanah, the Ten Days of Penitence and Yom Kippur are days in which one should be inspired to evaluate the meaning of one’s life. Only when we are aware that we need “fixing” will we do teshuvah.

Go Out To War

Rabbi Moshe Shalit
The declaration, "When you go out to war against your enemy" [Devarim 21:10], is interpreted by the author of the Tanya as the "Divine soul" going out to battle against the evil inclination – the "animal soul." Rebbes of Chabad who followed him expanded this basic idea by finding new details in the verse that refer to this war. The following are some examples of their comments.
"When you go out" – By the very fact that it arrived in this world, the soul left its natural habitat, high and exalted directly under the Throne of Glory. The act of leaving is in itself an act of war. If we left and have arrived in this world, we are already in this war. It is important for us to recognize this fact.
On the other hand, we must take into account that we must always feel that we are on the move – leaving our natural place and going into "enemy territory" because this is G-d's will. The only way we can win the war is to continue to "be led" by our close clinging to G-d, to feel that this world is external to our natural place, but we must always remember that we have been placed exactly where G-d wants us to be. We have not come here in order to float above reality and to withdraw from humanity, we are searching for "close contact," and we want to be active and have an effect on the world.
"To war" – Even though the ultimate goal is not to shatter the evil inclination but rather to refine it and mend it – to achieve a situation where the evil inclination also loves G-d – we must wage war along the way to the exalted goal. The evil inclination will never reach a stage when it changes direction and accepts our way if it does not first suffer from painful blows. The war must change it into a "tool" for refinement and mending.
"Over your enemy" – What is written is not "against" your enemy but rather "over" your enemy. You are definitely on top, because you come with the power of a Divine soul which is "part of the G-d above."
There is another and deeper explanation. Remind your adversary what is "above your enemy" – what is above him, his own spiritual root. In this way, you will remove the basis of the evil. The foundation of the animal soul stems from the beasts that are mentioned in the legends of creation. The foundation of the enemies, according to mystic lore, is the separation from divinity, whose goal is to create a fire of yearning that will lead to a renewed closeness. As time passed and the worlds descended lower and lower, the distance for the purpose of becoming closer became a void and was blocked. When we awaken the animal soul from its foundation, "over your enemy," the possibility will arise to overturn it and to bring it into our forces. "When man began to fight the war, the opposite side lost its force."
"And you will capture its captive" – Aside from the victory itself, there are other bonuses. The captives are Divine sparks which exist within the shells and the evil inclination, and now they return home, to become holy.
The captive entity from the evil inclination is still called "its captive." It is still related to evil, because within it there are still special powers, like the extra merit that those who have repented have over the entirely righteous people. The sparks have unique strengths, and the novelty stems from the fact that they reach us as a result of our waging war.
The Holy One, Blessed be He, gave the shells strength, and this is strong and true power. He also gave us strong and true power, in order to be able to conquer them. This is not a victory over a meaningless void, because the Holy One, Blessed be He, created them with great power in order to oppose sanctity, but we are able to capture this strength from them! And when we capture such strength, the novelty is great and prominent.

Keep The Cow

There once was a 94-year-old rabbi in the 1890's in a small shtetle in Poland whose worn-out body began to surrender. The shtetle doctor prescribed for him a shot of whiskey three times a day, to relax him.

However, not to be lured into worldly pleasures, he declined. But the doctor heard that the rabbi loved milk. So he instructed the rabbi’s wife to spike his milk three times a day.

Eventually, the elderly rabbi approached his final hour. As several of the townsfolk gathered around him at his bedside, the townsfolk asked if there were any words of wisdom the rabbi wanted to leave to the people in the town.

"Oh, yes," he replied. "Never sell that cow!"