Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Toda Rabbah!

Every Wednesday night we have a shiur for the daughters of Sorah, Rivka, Rochel and Leah. This week a larger group than normal came and I would like to thank you ALL for coming [including CAF who joined in from across the ocean]. It is an unending source of inspiration for me when I see the eagerness of people who are not even obligated to learn but nevertheless have a unquenchable thirst for dvar Hashem. It is additionally quite flattering that people actually come to here ME speak words of Torah. When I give a shiur to guys we have singing afterwards, hugs, high fives etc. But with the ladies OBVIOUSLY there is none of that. "Just" Torah. And yet they come with a smile and a great desire to be elevated to the higher realms of spiritual existence on this planet of Earth.

Plus, they laugh [or giggle] at my jokes. And I'm not funny. SO POLITE!!!:)

So to those who came tonight or ever [including the future] - THANK YOU!!

PS - As I mentioned in the shiur, I just learned yesterday how to use spell check. I am told that I misspelled: shiur, Sorah, Rivka, Rochel, Leah, Dvar and Hashem. Can't win 'em all.


Tuesday, June 29, 2010

What Is A Friend?

“A friend is one that knows you as you are, understands where you have been, accepts what you have become, and still, gently allows you to grow.”

William Shakespeare

One thing I often write about is the high levels of criticism I observe in relationships. Parents criticize children, children criticize parents, wives criticize husbands, husbands criticize wives etc. etc.

It would be quite worthwhile to keep Will's words in mind [especially given the fact that he wrote it in English I can understand unlike much of what he wrote in his books. When I had to read Shakespeare in school I used the "Artscroll" elucidated Shakespeare].

The questions are WHAT to say and HOW to say it. Thinking about this will bring much peace to our lives while at the same time helping others grow.

How To Love

“Send two dozen roses to Room 424 and put `Emily, I love you' on the back of the bill.”

Groucho Marx

We are now in a period where we have to work on Ahavas Chinam [baseless love] to combat sinas chinam.

Love means giving to another person on HIS/HER terms. All too often we express love in ways that WE appreciate but not necessarily in ways the object of love values. One avoda is to try to put yourself in the other person's shoes and try to determine what his/her needs are.

Think about it.....

What Are We Mourning?

What are we mourning during these 3 weeks? An ancient shul?

We live in a world where little children are sold [by their own family members!] into slavery and prostitution. Where there are people who are starving, where disease abounds, where indescribable evil is perpetrated by animals masquerading as human beings. There is so much suffering.

Hashem originally put Adam and Chava into gan eden to teach us that a place of UNLIMITED PLEASURE is where man belongs. Yet today we are so far removed from there.

The beis hamikdash means that Hashem's sweet, warm, loving presence is felt on earth, resulting in a blissful existence for all.

THAT is what we are lacking. Some people live a privileged existence so they don't feel the destruction so much, but opening up ones eyes will make one realize how much we need Him back here with us.

Our job as Jews is to bring Him back.

Sunday, June 27, 2010


What sorta name is KORD?

Love and blessings!!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Technology And Brain Damage

An excerpt from a piece on the harms of modern technology from the New York Times on June 6th - Yashar Koach to R' Aharon Yisrael ben R' Moshe Mordechai for bringing it to my attention. If you want to go to the site and read the whole article PLEASE temporarily remove your computers ability to show pictures as there are some not "ma tovu ohalecha yaakov" pictures on the site.

SAN FRANCISCO — When one of the most important e-mail messages of his life landed in his in-box a few years ago, Kord Campbell overlooked it.

Not just for a day or two, but 12 days. He finally saw it while sifting through old messages: a big company wanted to buy his Internet start-up.
“I stood up from my desk and said, ‘Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God,’ ” Mr. Campbell said. “It’s kind of hard to miss an e-mail like that, but I did.”

The message had slipped by him amid an electronic flood: two computer screens alive with e-mail, instant messages, online chats, a Web browser and the computer code he was writing.

While he managed to salvage the $1.3 million deal after apologizing to his suitor, Mr. Campbell continues to struggle with the effects of the deluge of data. Even after he unplugs, he craves the stimulation he gets from his electronic gadgets. He forgets things like dinner plans, and he has trouble focusing on his family.

His wife, Brenda, complains, “It seems like he can no longer be fully in the moment.”

This is your brain on computers.

Scientists say juggling e-mail, phone calls and other incoming information can change how people think and behave. They say our ability to focus is being undermined by bursts of information.

These play to a primitive impulse to respond to immediate opportunities and threats. The stimulation provokes excitement — a dopamine squirt — that researchers say can be addictive. In its absence, people feel bored.

The resulting distractions can have deadly consequences, as when cellphone-wielding drivers and train engineers cause wrecks. And for millions of people like Mr. Campbell, these urges can inflict nicks and cuts on creativity and deep thought, interrupting work and family life.
While many people say multitasking makes them more productive, research shows otherwise.

Heavy multitaskers actually have more trouble focusing and shutting out irrelevant information, scientists say, and they experience more stress.

And scientists are discovering that even after the multitasking ends, fractured thinking and lack of focus persist. In other words, this is also your brain off computers.

“The technology is rewiring our brains,” said Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute of Drug Abuse and one of the world’s leading brain scientists. She and other researchers compare the lure of digital stimulation less to that of drugs and alcohol than to food, which is essential but counterproductive in excess.

Technology use can benefit the brain in some ways, researchers say. Imaging studies show the brains of Internet users become more efficient at finding information. And players of some video games develop better visual acuity.

More broadly, cellphones and computers have transformed life. They let people escape their cubicles and work anywhere. They shrink distances and handle countless mundane tasks, freeing up time for more exciting pursuits.

For better or worse, the consumption of media, as varied as e-mail and TV, has exploded. In 2008, people consumed three times as much information each day as they did in 1960. And they are constantly shifting their attention. Computer users at work change windows or check e-mail or other programs nearly 37 times an hour, new research shows.

The nonstop interactivity is one of the most significant shifts ever in the human environment, said Adam Gazzaley, a neuroscientist at the University of California, San Francisco.

“We are exposing our brains to an environment and asking them to do things we weren’t necessarily [meant] to do,” he said. “We know already there are consequences.”
Mr. Campbell, 43, came of age with the personal computer, and he is a heavier user of technology than most. But researchers say the habits and struggles of Mr. Campbell and his family typify what many experience — and what many more will, if trends continue.

For him, the tensions feel increasingly acute, and the effects harder to shake.
The Campbells recently moved to California from Oklahoma to start a software venture. Mr. Campbell’s life revolves around computers.

He goes to sleep with a laptop or iPhone on his chest, and when he wakes, he goes online. He and Mrs. Campbell, 39, head to the tidy kitchen in their four-bedroom hillside rental in Orinda, an affluent suburb of San Francisco, where she makes breakfast and watches a TV news feed in the corner of the computer screen while he uses the rest of the monitor to check his e-mail.

Major spats have arisen because Mr. Campbell escapes into video games during tough emotional stretches. On family vacations, he has trouble putting down his devices. When he rides the subway to San Francisco, he knows he will be offline 221 seconds as the train goes through a tunnel.

As computers have changed, so has the understanding of the human brain. Until 15 years ago, scientists thought the brain stopped developing after childhood. Now they understand that its neural networks continue to develop, influenced by things like learning skills.

So not long after Eyal Ophir arrived at Stanford in 2004, he wondered whether heavy multitasking might be leading to changes in a characteristic of the brain long thought immutable: that humans can process only a single stream of information at a time.

Going back a half-century, tests had shown that the brain could barely process two streams, and could not simultaneously make decisions about them. But Mr. Ophir, a student-turned-researcher, thought multitaskers might be rewiring themselves to handle the load.

His passion was personal. He had spent seven years in Israeli intelligence after being weeded out of the air force — partly, he felt, because he was not a good multitasker. Could his brain be retrained?

Mr. Ophir, like others around the country studying how technology bent the brain, was startled by what he discovered.

The Myth of Multitasking

The test subjects were divided into two groups: those classified as heavy multitaskers based on their answers to questions about how they used technology, and those who were not.
In a test created by Mr. Ophir and his colleagues, subjects at a computer were briefly shown an image of red rectangles. Then they saw a similar image and were asked whether any of the rectangles had moved. It was a simple task until the addition of a twist: blue rectangles were added, and the subjects were told to ignore them.

The multitaskers then did a significantly worse job than the non-multitaskers at recognizing whether red rectangles had changed position. In other words, they had trouble filtering out the blue ones — the irrelevant information.

So, too, the multitaskers took longer than non-multitaskers to switch among tasks, like differentiating vowels from consonants and then odd from even numbers. The multitaskers were shown to be less efficient at juggling problems.

Other tests at Stanford, an important center for research in this fast-growing field, showed multitaskers tended to search for new information rather than accept a reward for putting older, more valuable information to work.

Researchers say these findings point to an interesting dynamic: multitaskers seem more sensitive than non-multitaskers to incoming information.

The results also illustrate an age-old conflict in the brain, one that technology may be intensifying. A portion of the brain acts as a control tower, helping a person focus and set priorities. More primitive parts of the brain, like those that process sight and sound, demand that it pay attention to new information, bombarding the control tower when they are stimulated.

Tzvi Moshe Kantor - To Know And Overcome

In this week’s Parsha we see Am Yisrael’s interaction with Bilam – prophet of the nations. Bilam is sent repeatedly to curse the Jews but each time Hashem directs his mouth only to bless them.
There is an interesting Gemara in Brachos (12:b) that says that Chazal wanted to take the whole segment of Bilam and make it part of Kriyas Shema. Due to the fact that it was simply too long to say this idea was not accepted. Chazal suggested maybe one Passuk from the entire segment would be sufficient to add to Kriyas Shema. What was this Passuk? “Hen C’Lavi Yakum V’Ch’Ari Yisnasha” Like a lion-cub shall the Jews get up; they shall arise like a lion.

Even though a Halachic technicality prevented the insertion of this verse into Kriyas Shema, a very important conceptual question needs to be addressed: What did Chazal see in this Passuk that it should fit in with the general theme of Shema? The only reason that such a conversation about this verse could start is that its message is deeply rooted in the overlaying theme of the rest of Shema. Thus our question now turns into three: What is the theme of our Passuk? What is the theme of Shema? And do the answer to the first two questions share a common denominator?

The following is an adaptation of Reb Tzadok HaCohen’s understanding.
Shema is all about Kabbalas Ol Malchus Shamayim -accepting the yolk of Heaven. In layman’s terms when we say Shema our intent is to accept God as God, and give ourselves over to Him (by doing His Mitzvos – the vehicle of our relationship).Hashem Echad - God is One. V’Ahavta - You gotta love Him with all you got. V’HayaDo the Mitzvos. VaYomer. Don’t forget that God runs the show.

Kriyas Shema is about clarifying that God is in charge and our lives revolve around that concept – this is Kabbalas Ol Malchus Shamayim.

Our Passuk “Hen C’Lavi Yakum V’Ch’Ari Yisnasha” is talking about Teshuva - repentance; returning to Hashem. ‘They shall rise like a lion.’ When a Jew; Heaven-forbid, transgresses the will of Hashem it’s really like taking a fall. But the Jewish Soul is uniquely empowered to overcome.

Why is the parallel of getting up to that of a lion? We can explain in the following way. The Mishna in Pirkei Avos (5:20) tells us that in Avodas Hashem we need to Misgaber C’Ari, become strong like a lion. What does it mean to become strong? “Eizeh Hu Gibor? HaKovesh Es Yitzro!” (4:1) Who is strong? He who conquers his Yetzer HaRa! The overcoming of that which prevents us from growing is the greatest strength in the world, and this is the strength of a lion.
So the Passuk of “Hen C’Lavi Yakum V’Ch’Ari Yisnasha” is where Bilam gives the Jews the biggest compliment of all. When a Jew falls, he always has the ability to embolden himself once again, get up like a lion to overcome that which holds him back from closeness with his Creator.

Now we can begin to understand how the two concepts are related.
A sin, or distance from Hashem of any kind (We should never know of such things. Amen!) is called ‘Prikas Ol’ A removal of the yolk. Doing Teshuva is the way that we rectify these mistakes. It thus would logically follow that the very opposite of Prikas Ol, (i.e.: what we accomplish through Teshuva) is Kabbalas Ol Malchus Shamayim! Accepting that sovereignty back upon ourselves!

Reb Tzadok HaCohen explains that the knowledge that there is always an option for Teshuva is intrinsic to the essence of Kabbalas Ol Malchus Shamayim - the very message that Kriyas Shema is trying to relay.

For us the lesson should be very clear. Built in to the way we relate to Hashem is the fact that we can fix it. I need to know that no matter where I find myself, no matter what the situation is, no matter how far I feel, I can always, always get back up. As clearly as a need to know that God exists, I need to know that He is waiting eagerly for me to develop a relationship with Him. I mess up, that’s true, but I’m human after all. As we see from Bilam, it’s my ability to overcome that sets me apart from the rest of the world. Let them get caught up it their whatever. A Jew is much, much bigger that that. A Jew can always break free. A Jew can always become close to HaKadosh Baruch Hu.

B’Ezras Hashem we should all be Zocheh to really internalize this. To know, clear as day, that we have the power to overcome all obstacles. This is the single most empowering thing that a Jew can know. If we can really understand this, and more importantly live by this, there is no doubt that we will live lives of happiness andfulfillment moving closer to the Creator and ultimately the Redemption!

Talya Wolfson On The Holy Tents Of The Jews

Hi all!!

As we approach the 17th of Tammuz and the 3 weeks to follow, it is as essential time as ever to immerse ourself in Torah. We know that every fast day is a time of reflection, both on teh communal and individual level. The lessons we learn from this week's Torah portion reminds us of the values by which we try to live our lives. Perhaps this Shabbat we can devote some time to introspect and reflect to what extent we live our lives by these ideals!!In Parshat Balak, we read about Bilaam’s numerous attempts to curse the Jewish people and the transformation of his words into blessings.

Rabbi Reuven Spolter points out that it is unusual for the Torah to devote such a lengthy portion to a story of a non-Jew.Perhaps even more surprising is that the rabbis have adapted the words of this wicked man into our own morning prayers that we say each morning upon entering the beit kenesset: Ma tovu ohalecha Yaakov, mishkenotecha yisrael - How good are the tents of Yaakov, your dwelling places Yisrael (24:15). Let us try to understand what lessons we can learn from the very strange story of Bilaam that we read this week, and in doing so perhaps we can better appreciate the words we say to start off our day each morning with these words. When looking at this verse in the context of the parsha, we see that there is a strikingly different introduction to this blessing than the other two times Bilaam blesses the people. Before Bilaam recites this last blessing, the Torah tell us: Vayisa Bilaam et einav vayar et yisrael shochen le’shvatav - And Balaam raised his eyes and saw Israel dwelling according to its tribes (24:2)Rashi explains that when Bilaam looked upon the dwelling places of the Jewish people, he saw that their tents were not facing one another, “so that they should not peer not each other’s tents.” In witnessing this awesome sight, Bilaam saw the unique qualities of modesty and a respect for one another that the Jewish people possessed. Chazal explain that this was Bilaam’s special ability was in being able to detect when when Hashem was angry with the Jewish people. Bilaam knew that the Jewish people were only susceptible to destruction when they had been sinful and were deserving of punishment by the will of Hashem. When Bilaam saw that the Jewish people were camped in such a modest and respectful way, he realized that in the merit these qualities that were so much a part of Jewish life, the Jewish people would always be beloved to Hashem and would be Divinely protected.

But, how did Bilaam know that these qualities of modesty and respect would be everlasting? Perhaps the answer to this question is found in the very words Bilaam says: How good are the tents of Yaakov, your dwelling places Yisrael. Bilaam did not simply see the Jewish people acting modestly and respectfully; he saw that their dwelling places were set-up according to this value system. He realized, then, that no matter how far the Jews might stray from these ideals, they would return each night to their homes, to an environment that reminded them constantly of the values by which they must conduct their lives. If this is all true that the Jewish people of the time were characterized by their modesty and propriety, it is all the more surprising that we find at the very end of the parsha that the Jewish men were seduced by the Moabite women (and ultimately to worship their gods).When we look closer at these verses, we see how it came to be that the Jewish people seemed to act in a manner that was so antithetical to the Jewish values around which they lived their lives.

The Torah tells us: Vatikran le’am eloheihen - they (the Moabites) invited the Jews to sacrifice to their gods. The world used to describe their gods is written in the same form as the Hebrew word that Bilaam uses to describe the tents (ohel) of the Jewish people. Perhaps the Moabites did more than just invite the Jews to serve the Moabite gods – they invited the Jews into their homes - they removed the Jews from their stable foundation, from their homes in which they were surrounded by Torah ideals. And indeed Rashi tells us that this seduction and invasion of Moabites into the Jewish society was on the advice of Bilaam. The only way the Jews would be led astray from their moral lifestyles would be to bring them out of their dwelling places. This, Bilaam realized, would be the only way to release the Jews from their Divine protection.Bilaam’s plan proved successful, at least for a time - as the Jews were seduced and a plague was sent by hashem in which thousands of Jews were killed. When Pinchas finally ends the plague by killing two of the perpetrators, the Torah goes out of its way to tell us that the Jewish people were weeping in the petach ohel moed – at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting. The ohel moed, a central part of the Mishkan, which was the second word Bilam uses to describe the Jewish living quarters. It was when they returned back to the ohel moed, to their ohel and mishkan that the Jews were able to recognize how far they had come from Hashem.

All too often it is easy to stray away from the path we want to be on and it becomes more and more difficult to return to the values and standards that we once lived up to. When we create a foundation for ourselves that embodies the value system we want to live by, and when we create permanent structures in our lives that remind us who we are and who we want to be, then it is much easier to return to the path that we know is right and true. This is at least one of the very important lessons we learn from the episode of Bilaam and its connection to the sin of idolatry at the conclusion of the parsha. I think that we can now understand why is it that we must learn this lesson specifically from the non-Jewish observer. While it is true that it is essential to place ourselves in environments that are conducive to living a Torah lifestyle, the Torah does not propose that we completely isolate ourselves from the surrounding world. We must realize that even when interacting with the world around us, we must allow our Jewish values of modesty and respectfulness to guide us in our daily interactions. This idea is highlighted further in the closing line of this week’s Haftorah: He has told you, O man, what is good, and what the Lord demands of you; but to do justice, to love loving-kindness, and to walk modestly with your God (Micah 6:8). Though we often think of modesty only in terms of hiding ourselves and covering ourselves up, the Jewish concept of modesty is also about our actions. This is why the pasuk tells us not simply to dress modestly, but to walk modestly – when we go out into the world, wherever we may find ourselves, we must walk and act according to Jewish values, customs and beliefs.

Rav Zeven explains that there is a difference between the two words that Bilaam uses to describe the Jewish buildings: The ohel is a temporary structure, while the mishkan is a permanent one. Even when we do leave our more permanent home base, be it when we leave our homes and enter the "real world", or even when we are exiled from the land of Israel with no Beit Hamikdash to keep us grounded, we must still live by the ideals that have continued to mark the Jewish people as the beloved people of Hashem. Perhaps this is why we recite Bilaam's final words each morning – specifically as we enter the beit kenesset, the temporary replacement of the Beit Hamikdash, we are reminded of that although we do not have the Holy Temple to center us and ground us in the Jewish value system, we must create for ourselves structures in our lives that can provide this positive influence on us – in our homes and in our communities.

This Tuesday, the 17th of Tammuz, we begin the three-week period in which we commemorate and mourn the loss of the two Holy Temples. May we all continue to create and maintain structures, relationships, and environments that help us to sustain our Jewish ideals. At the same time, may we all continue to yearn for the time that we can return for good to Israel, to our Holiest Mikdash. May our dedication to Jewish life all over the globe bring the final redemption and return of all Jews to our home in Eretz Yisrael.


Thursday, June 24, 2010

Be Alive

"Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies inside us while we live."

Norman Cousins

Dovid Hamelech says in Tehillim "Lo amus ki echye" - which can be translated: I don't want to die even when alive because I want to truly live.

Carpez Diem!! Seize the moment. Every second we are given is an opportunity to make cosmic changes. We have to live with CHIYUS [boundless vitality]!!!! Daven with chiyus, learn with chiyus, walk down the street with chiyus, kiss our loved ones with chiyus, host company with chiyus, dance with chiyus, make brachos with chiyus, etc.

Only one thing should be done without chiyus.


If you have to do something wrong do it with the chiyus of a 109 year old man ten minutes after quadruple bypass surgery.

Love and blessings:)!!!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Bi'sinas Hashem Osanu?

"Your task is not to seek love, but merely to seek & find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it."

The Jews said "Bi'sinas Hashem osanu" - Because Hashem HATES us [he took us out of Egypt - Devarim 1/27]. Where did they get this idea? Rashi says that there was a deep psychological mechanism at work, today called "projection". The Jews really felt animosity towards Hashem so they projected their feelings upon Him and said that He hates them. This was obviously not true. Hashem LOVES Am Yisrael. Every day in davening we say "AHAVA RABBAH AHAVTANU" - Hashem loves us with a great love. Afterwards we say "Vi'ahavta es Hashem Elokecha" - We love Hashem. Only after experiencing His love for us can we love Him ["Kimayim haponim liponim keyn lev haodom li'odom"].

This is something to work on! Feeling Hashem's love for us and our love for Him. There is a book I highly recommend called "Chovos Ha'levavos" [Duties Of The Heart in English translation]. A true classic in the field! He talks about how to come to love Hashem [in Shaar Ha'ahava].

The mutual love is there. It is incumbent upon us to uncover it by removing all of the external layers of our reality that prevent us from getting there.

We also have a lot of love to share with our surroundings. Unfortunately there are many barriers that prevent this love from being actualized.

May we overcome our inhibitions and walk by the light of Rebbe Akiva's rule "Vi'ahavta li'rayacha kamocha - zeh klal gadol baTorah!!"

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

A Horrible Master

"Technology is a wonderful servant but a horrible master."

One Sunday afternoon a kallah was standing under her chuppah waiting for the chassan to place the ring on her finger. Suddenly, her phone rings! She answers "Hi Shaina! How are you? ... Great! Uh, this is SOOO awkward but SOOOO exciting, Duvie is about to put the ring on my finger and that means we are MARRIED. So I really can't talk now, can I call you back from the yichud room in about 15 minutes? I'm reeeeeally sorry..... Thanks - soon by you!"

That story never happened. WHY? Because at a girl's wedding she wants to be COMPLETELY focused on what is going on at that very moment at that very place and nowhere else. [And because I don't think a wedding dress has a pocket to hold a phone. Maybe it does. I never wore one. You know, there is SO much material there and so much going on with that dress you would think they would remember to put in pockets. I mean take some of the material that drags 15 feet behind her on the floor and make a pocket. Or maybe there is a reason. I have gone on an unnecessary tangent. Mechilah!] May I suggest that WHATEVER you are doing, if you want to get the most of the experience your cellphone [and other mobile devices] should be OFF.

Davening - the phone vibrates and he is concentrating, but not on what he is saying or G-d but on who called. After shul I often notice people looking intently at their phones seeing who called during davening. This means that they were not focused during the davening. [In general I notice that a large number of people find davening to be boring and are happy at any type of diversion that can take them away from what they consider a repetitous and tedious exercise. That is for another time. But in a word - people don't really believe Hashem is listening because people don't really believe in Hashem. "Belief" is defined as how our the holy books define belief which is FAR beyond the scope of this post. But suffice it to say that a kippah on one's head is no guarantee of a true belief in Hashem but only a guarantee that one's baldness will be less accentuated. Nor is the title "Rabbi" meaningful in this regard. Some simple unlearned Jews believe in Hashem a great deal more than some Rabbis. Other Rabbis believe in Hashem a great deal more than most others. But the title itself is meaningless.]

Learning - Who could call that is more important than G-d. Learning is G-d speaking to us through His Torah. No phone call can trump hearing the voice of G-d. So why are people always learning with their mobile devices on?! I can no longer properly teach Torah because as hard as it was to keep peoples attention in the olden days [10-15 years ago], today it is virtually impossible. Nothing I say can be as interesting as a text message the student received ["Hey, what's for dinner?"].

Interpersonal relationships - Almost the only time I manage to have an uninterrupted conversation with someone is on Shabbos. All week long the phone will invariably ring or vibrate. Sometimes he answers.

This I find both rude and offensive.

Sometimes he looks at the screen and continues the conversation with me.

This I find rude and offensive [albeit less than when he answers].

Aren't you talking to ME?! [Well, not anymore..] Am I sensitive? Yes and I am not embarrassed to admit it. [Although I am embarrassed to admit some other things. So I won't. OK, one thing. When I was a kid and the Miami Dolphins lost I would cry. One more thing. I enjoy hugging Teddy Bears. But I prefer people.] But I believe that every person I have ever met is sensitive [just some more than others] and quite a few people are offended by such behavior. It is CERTAINLY NOT a show of respect. We all intuitively know that when we are with a VERY "important" person [such as a potential employer during an interview] our phone is off. Just the phone being ON means that the person is not truly here as part of his consciousness is elsewhere [or nowhere].

Sweetest beloved friends. The world stands on three pillars -Torah, Avodah [prayer] and Gemillus Chasodim. So please! Keep your phones off during all three activities that we delineated above.

OF COURSE mobile devices can be used for much good but we MUST use them with CHOCHMA!!! The masses use them indiscriminately.

This makes me sad. [Although using the word "indiscriminately" makes me happy. Hope I spelled it rite.]

Thanks for letting me share.

Love and blessings:)

Monday, June 21, 2010

Enjoy It

"Life is full of beauty. Notice it. Notice the bumble bee, the small child, and the smiling faces. Smell the rain, and feel the wind. Live your life to the fullest potential, and fight for your dreams."

Ma rabu ma'asecha Hashem - enjoy it!!:) There are limitless opportunities in this world - if we would only take advantage!


"The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, the education, the money, than circumstances, than failure, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company... a shul... a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice everyday regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past... we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it. And so it is with you... we are in charge of our attitudes."

A quote worth internalizing.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Journey

"The road of life twists and turns and no two directions are ever the same. Yet our lessons come from the journey, not the destination.”

In numerous places the Torah is called "DERECH" - a path [for example "vi'hodata lahem es haderech yeilchu bah"]. All too often we are focused on the destination but forget about the path. We ask ourselves "What have I accomplished?" "When am I finishing the masechta?" "When will I become a tzaddik?" etc. etc. focusing on the final goal. We forget about the PATH, the JOURNEY. That might be why the written Torah never explicity discusses the next world [the oral Torah talks about the next world in many places]. We must focus on the journey and the final destination will be determined by the Holy One.

PS - Please keep davening for Rivka Bas Yael.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Seven Times

I've come to believe that all my past failure and frustration were actually laying the foundation for the understandings that have created the new level of living I now enjoy.

Tony Robbins

The famous pasuk says "sheva yipol tzaddik vi'kam" - A tzaddik falls seven time and rises. The sefarim teach us that this does NOT mean that DESPITE the fact that a tzaddik continuously falls spiritually, he gets up again. Rather it means that BECAUSE he falls seven times, he becomes the tzaddik he is [I discuss this idea here].

Why SEVEN times? There are various approaches.

Today after davening a friend approached me and shared that he recently read that a study was conducted and it was found that before people keep their new-years resolutions, they will first fail SEVEN times. So seven is an exact number.

So sweetest friends - if you failed you are on the road to perfection:).

Parshas Chukas From Talya Wolfson

Hi all! I hope everyone had a good week!!

This Shabbat we read Parshat Chukat, which opens with the following words: Vayidaber Hashem el Moshe ve’el Aharon: zot chukat hatorah asher tziva hashem - Hashem spoke to Moshe and Aharon saying: This is the statute of the Torah, which the Lord commanded (19:1-2). The Torah goes on to explain the confusing, even paradoxical instructions for the Jewish people regarding the function of the parah adumah (red heifer) as atonement.Chazal ask why is that the Torah introduces this practice by telling us that it is the chukat hatorah, the statute of the entire Torah? These striking words suggest that there is a fundamental lesson to be learned from the nature of the parah adumah.The parah adumah is the paradigmatic chok (a law that we do not fully understand) in the Torah - as the entire process is mysterious and its reasoning unknown. What is the most puzzling part of the process is that while the one who is impure is purified, the one who is pure becomes impure.

Later in the parsha, there is another seemingly paradoxical incident that we must grapple with. When the Jews once again, complain to Moshe about the water in the desert, Hashem sends a plague in which serpents swarm the area and many Jews are killed. In order to stop the plague, Hashem instructed Moshe to place a serpent made of copper on a pole suspended for all to see. When the Jewish people looked up and saw this serpent they were saved from the fatal bite of the deadly serpents that were in their midst. Similar to what we find with the parah adumah, we see that the very thing that saved the Jewish people was what had caused the problem in the first place! The paradox of the serpent is summed up best in the Gomorrah (Rosh Hashana 29a) that Rashi quotes in our parsha: Does the serpent kill or give life? Rather, when Israel looked towards the heavens and subjugated their hearts to their Father in Heaven they would be saved, and if not they would wither.

In order to understand the meaning of this irony, let us understand why the serpent was both the source of punishment and the salvation for the Jewish people at this time. The serpent symbolizes the yetzer hara, most specifically our desire to disobey the command of Hashem—as we recall it was the serpent that first introduced this desire into the psyche of humankind in the Garden of Eden. The Netivot Shalom points out that throughout the desert experience, the Jewish people were not lacking the necessities of survival, as Hashem miraculously provided manna and water for them. The Jews of the desert constantly complained because they were unable to fulfill their desires - they always wanted more.

The Mishnah in Pirkei Avot tells us: Who is rich? One who is satisfied with his portion. In other words, when we desire things in the physical world - we are never truly satisfied. The Jews in the desert were so focused on their physical desires that they never felt complete or content - they always wanted more. This is why the consequence for their complaints came in the form of the serpents - symbolizing that the people had been overcome by their own desires - and this is what led them to sin time and again.But why then did the salvation come in the form of the serpent, as well? We know that our drives and desires are not inherently bad - after all, we could not reproduce and continue to populate the world without them. In fact the word yetzer actually means to create – this drive can be used for evil (yetzer ra) or for good (yetzer tov). The fact that the serpent both caused and ended the plague came to teach us that our desires could also be used for the positive.

I think that with our understanding, we can take the words of Rashi a step further. By looking up in the serpent suspended above them, the Jews would be reminded that their desires, their constant craving for more, could and should be directed upward to Hashem. In this light, we can also understand what the rabbis meant when they wrote that the parah adumah served as atonement for the sin of the Golden Calf. It is the same calf that both led the Jews to one of their gravest sins and provided them with atonement. And perhaps this is the deeper explanation of why it is during this process of the parah adumah that the one who is the purifier becomes impure.Our desires have the potential to lead us down a path of never being fully satisfied with what we have (for the Jews of the desert it was food and water, perhaps for us it is money, honor, and other physical pleasures). At the same time, Hashem reminds the Jewish people that when channeled and directed in the proper way, the same desires can inspire us and drive us to grow in our avodat Hashem. We find the answer of how to accomplish this in our very parsha. It is the thirst for water that brings about the plague in this weeks parsha. The Gemorrah(Baba Kama 82a) tells us: There is no water except Torah. If only the Jewish people were thirsting for Torah and spiritual sustenance and trusted that Hashem would continue to provide for them physical sustenance as He had for the past 40 years - the Jews would not have to suffer the plague. If only they channeled their desires for the right things - in the right direction.The rabbis explain this idea further, as they tell us that the Torah is the only antidote to the yetzer hara:I created the yetzer hara, and I created the Torah as its remedy (Baba Basra 16a).By following the guidelines prescribed by the Torah that we are able to channel our drives and desires for the good and to avoid sin. It is in this parsha that we see the transition that the Jews must make from the miraculous life of the desert to the more natural way of life in the land of Israel. It is in this parsha the Jews learn that they will not be accompanied by Moshe, Aharon, or Miriam into the land - they would no longer have the miraculous manna in the merit of Moshe, the endless supply of water in the merit of Miriam, or the clouds that guided them in the merit of Aharon. It is at this very crucial turning point in our history - as they would enter the land and it would be more difficult for the Jews to recognize Hashem's presence in the world and in their lives - that they had to internalize chukat hatorah - the fundamental truth that the Torah, with all its intricacies, that at times seem incomprehensible, are actually what purify us and help guide us in our spiritual growth.It is the perplexing incidents in the Torah and in our lives that allow for an endless amount of learning and discovery - and this allows for an endless amount of growing. Let us all take comfort in knowing that every part of us has the potential for good and feel overjoyed that Hashem has provided us with the Torah as a means in which we can purify ourselves and channel our drives for the good. Let us appreciate what we do have and thirst for Torah, which we know gives us true sustenance, strength, and satisfaction! May we all be zocheh to be able to use all that Hashem gives us to better ourselves and to strengthen our relationship with Hashem!

Shabbat Shalom!!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

From Death To Life - From Tzvi Moshe Kantor

Our Parsha this week – Parshas Chukas – is above time in a major way. Two massive chronological anomalies cannot be ignored. By analyzing the confusing timeline of the last few Parshios (we are going back to Shlach) and how they relate to Chukas, hopefully we will come away with the important message of how to deal situations when we feel that we are down and out.

(The following ideas came out of a conversation with my dear Rav and guide, HaRav Amos Luban Shlit’a)

Let’s present our first problem. The jump from Parshas Shlach to Chukas chronologically spans a whopping thirty-eight years - the entire duration of the nomadic wanderings of the Jews in the desert. What happened in all that blank space? What happened in those thirty-eight years, and why don’t we know about it?

A more microcosmic approach lets us in on another problem. Our Parsha begins with Hashem commanding Moshe about a very specific law of spiritual purity – the Para Aduma, the Red Cow. When raised, killed and burned correctly the ashes of this red cow had the ability to release a person from the grips of Tumas Meis - impurity of death. Tumas Meis is the highest level of spiritual impurity that exists. When one comes in contact with a Jewish corpse, that person contracts Tumas Meis with all of its complications. The only way to remove Tumas Meis is through the ashes of the Para Aduma.

Here’s the problem - Chazal tell us that this law was not just given earlier than Parshas Chukas – it was given to Moshe already in Parshas Beshalach - long ago before the giving of the Torah! Why did Hashem choose to surgically remove the laws of Para Aduma and implant them in our Parsha? The Parsha that contains the most bulk about the journeys in the desert – how are these at all relevant to one another?

Let’s begin our analysis by checking out what goes on before, during and after Parshas Chukas.
Before Parshas Chukas, in Parshas Shlach, after the sin of the spies that is described there, Hashem decrees against the Jewish people that all people of age who saw the miracles of Egypt will die. The nation will wander in the desert until the entire generation dies. Everyone has got to go.

We see this pattern continue in our Parsha as well. In Chukas a ‘large portion’ of Jews die due to a plague of snakes (21:6) . The leadership of the Jewish people comes to an end as well. Both Miriam and Aharon die (20:1 and 20:28 respectively). And on top of that Moshe’s death is decreed (20:12)

Our Parsha comes to a close by stating that the Jewish people reached their final stop. The Jewish people reach the Jordan River. The edge of the Jordan River signifies that the last leg of the journey into Israel was complete. But based on the curse from Parshas Shlach, the arrival at Eretz Yisrael can only mean one thing – Everyone had officially died. Everyone present at the bank of the Jordan was from a new generation.

In short, Chukas is the Parsha of death.

In a few weeks from now we’ll read Parshas Dvarim. Chazal tell us over there that for thirty-eight years prior, Moshe had no conversation with Hashem. There was no direct contact between God and the Jewish people. For as long as the generation of the spies was still around God was just ‘killing’ time (and people) in preparation to enter Eretz Yisrael.

Now we have a better understanding of the significance of Chukas. If Chukas is the real-time accounting of what happened from the curse against the spies’ generation until the arrival at the bank of the Jordan then between the lines of the deaths that take place explicitly is more, mass-death. And there is nothing written about it because God wasn’t talking to Moshe telling him what to write!

Like we said. Chukas is the Parsha of death.

This may begin to explain why Para Aduma shows up in the beginning of Parshas Chukas. HaKadosh Baruch Hu introduces the Parsha of fatality with the solution of how to overcome the shackles of death. Let’s analyze it little more closely.

Perhaps we can suggest the following. What is Para Aduma really all about? In a more day-to-day perspective, what is Tumas Meis? What does it mean to be sealed off due to the impurity of death? (The word tuma is cognate to the word "atum" - sealed). The question needs to be asked, well what is death really?

Va’Atem HaDveikim Ba’Hashem, Chayim Kulchem HaYom - If you’re connected to God you are fully alive. And if I, God forbid, connect to sin? I’m called dead even if I’m alive – dead-man walking - so to speak. Life comes through connecting to HaKadosh Baruch Hu. Death is the opposite.

Sometimes when I come in contact with a little ‘death’ – when I have a little slip-up in my Avodas Hashem, a snowball effect stops me from breaking the cycle. A little bit of ‘death’ leads to more and more. It’s the saddest things when my mistakes become bigger than me. When I can’t seem to overpower that which I’ve messed up. This is the way I encounter Tumas Meis in my day-to-day.

What’s the solution to Tumas Meis? Para Aduma. What’s going on with Para Aduma? Para Aduma teaches me the important lesson of getting up from the ashes.

We take this young, red cow and we kill it. We kill it and we burn it. We burn it until it’s mamesh destroyed, there’s nothing left of this poor thing – just ashes. Ashes are the ultimate death. There is seemingly no life to found in ash. The cow while it’s alive can’t help purify. It’s only when we pick up the ashes can we unlock purity again.Purity comes from seeing the greatness that comes out of the ashes.

The Passuk says, “Sheva Yipol Tzadik V’Kam” – ‘The Righteous one falls seven times and get’s up.’ The Passuk here is not just telling us what a righteous person can do –it is giving us the very definition of what it means to be a Tzadik! I’m a Tzadik, I’m close to Hashem, I’m achieving greatness when I learn to get back up – when I learn to rise from the ashes. When I fall, when I come in contact with a little bit of death, and I get up – it is there that I achieve the most greatness.

Parshas Chukas – the Parsha of death itself, the Parsha that shows us consequences of distance from Hashem also contains within it the solution. The biggest growth you will ever have will come from your power to get back up. Even if you feel totally destroyed – you can do it. There is potential for life - even in ashes

“Lev Tahor Bara Li Elokim, V’Ruach Nachon Chadesh B’Kirbi” – David HaMelech says “Hashem, You created me with a pure heart - and renew a refreshed spirit within me.” Wait, if I have a pure heart, why do I need a new, refreshed spirit?

The answer is, that even when I’m down and out – the Jewish soul will forever contain holiness. Sometimes I’m not so in touch with that – and that’s ok, we’re human; we fall. But we have the ability to become refreshed, to re-access the purity inside of us,if only we really believe in ourselves that we can.

B’Ezras Hashem we should all be Zoche to tap into this place inside of us. There is an everlasting purity to the Jewish soul that is never extinguished. It may be covered. It may seem unreachable. But it is those moments that we empower ourselves to stand up that we will achieve the highest heights. If we can do this there is no doubt that we will live lives of happiness and meaning, moving closer to the creator and ultimately the redemption!

Start Ups

I heard an interesting statistic: Israel has more start up companies per-capita than any other country in the world.

This means that Jews like new. We are compared to the moon which always renews itself. Ha'levai that we should always feel renewal in our Avodas Hashem!!:)

Personal Transformation

"Personal transformation can and does have global effects. As we go, so goes the world, for the world is us. The revolution that will save the world is ultimately a personal one."

Some people know more about what is going on in China than about what is going on in their own kishkes. The sefarim talk about how every person is an olam katan. By transforming the olam katan we transform the WORLD. First our own miniature world - and ultimately the cosmos. By focusing on what is external to us we miss the boat.


Love and blessings:)

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


“When you hold resentment toward another, you are bound to that person or condition by an emotional link that is stronger than steel. Forgiveness is the only way to dissolve that link and get free."

"To forgive is the highest, most beautiful form of love. In return, you will receive untold peace and happiness."

“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you."

The Rambam in Hilchos Tshuva says that the idolators ["arelei lev" - cruel-hearted] refuse to forgive but the Jews as a people are forgiving. When you forgive, you not only do a favor for the forgiven but do a much more major favor for YOURSELF!

So to refuse to grant forgiveness is to take yourself out of the category of one who possesses Jewish qualities and to make yourself MISERABLE. It just isn't worth it to hold on to anger or a desire for vengence. So if you are asked [otherwise there is no obligation], forgive from the heart. You will feel blissful.

As I am writing I am trying to apply my words to somebody who has knowingly harmed me on numerous occasions. It is NOT easy! But if he comes to ask - that will be the GREATEST day of my life [outside of the birth of my children, my marriage and the '69 Mets. I was born in '71]!! [He does NOT read this blog, so don't see this as a message to him.]

Remember, people are filled with flaws. G-d understands this and gives us 613 mitzvos of tshuva. Every sin committed or mitzva not done properly can be fixed. Should we be less understanding than Hashem Himself?!


Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Be A Giver

Guest Dvar Torah from Talya Wolfson:

This shabbat we read Parshat is rare that we find an entire parsha named after a single person...especially a person that we do not remember for the better....I think that perhaps we can guess that the incident of Korach and his followers is extremely important to read and learn from...I hope we can each do so over shabbat, and maybe these words can help!“Every argument which is for the sake of will ultimately endure, but every argument which is not for the sake of heaven will not endure.And what is an argument which is for the sake of heaven? This is the ‘argument’ of the students of Shammai and the students of Hillel.And what is an argument which is not for the sake of heaven? This is the argument of Korach and his congregation” (Pirkei Avot 5:20)The oft-quoted Mishnah above does not tell us what characterizes what is or is not an argument for the sake of heaven. Instead, the Rabbis provide examples of each and leave it to us to determine wherein lays the difference between Hillel & Shammai and Korach.In understanding the story of Korach that we read about this Shabbat, hopefully we can better appreciate the deeper meaning of this Mishnah and the lesson we can learn for our own lives.

At first glance, the words of Korach do not seem to be all that problematic: You take too much upon yourselves, for the entire congregation are all holy, and the Lord is in their midst (16:3).As we have learned from previous parshiot, all of Klal Yisrael is, in fact, holy and Hashem does dwell among all of the people—it seems there may actually be some legitimacy to Korach’s question.Moreover, we read just a few weeks ago in Parshat Behaalotcha that Aharon was rewarded with the task of lighting the Menorah, because he had been envious of the other tribal leaders for their having been able to bring gifts during the dedication ceremony of the Mishkan. What is the difference between Aharon wanting to have more of a role in the service of Hashem and Korach’s seeming desire to have a higher role in the service of Hashem?

The difference between Aharon and Korach may be subtle, but this difference is what qualified Aharon to be the Kohen Gadol (the very position that Korach was challenging), and Korach to be forever remembered as a rebel.Whereas Aharon wanted to be able to give to Hashem as the other tribal leaders did, Korach wanted to take away the role of the Kohen Gadol in being able to serve Hashem on a higher level. Rav Binny Friedman points out that the very first words we read about Korach are vayikach Korach, and Korach took (16:1). This is not merely stating what Korach did, but also who he was—he was a taker. Korach’s challenge was not a means to raise himself spiritually in his service to Hashem, but it was instead driven by his desire and greed for honor and glory. Chazal point out that what is different about the complaint of Korach than all other challenges of that generation, was that Korach was not complaining about something that was lacking (i.e.water or meat), or about concern (i.e. Golden Calf and Sin of the Spies); in this case, Korach was simply challenging authority in hopes to bring Moshe and Aharon down, rather than to accomplish any greater goal. Perhaps, this is at least one level of understanding why the Mishnah defines Korach’s argument as not for the sake of Heaven—Korach’s arguments were not to raise himself up towards Hashem on His heavenly throne, but instead to diminish the power of others, to lower the status of those around him.So often when we feel discontent with our lot in life, our status either in the physical or spiritual realm of our lives, we are more inclined to try to bring others down to our level than we are to try to work our way up to theirs.In describing the ground swallowing up Korach and his followers as a consequence of their acitons, the Torah tells us that this method of trying to bring others down will only bring us down further.

As the parsha continues, we learn the alternative, right way to raise ourselves in the way that Korach was unable, or not willing to do.While Korach’s claim that all of the Jewish people are inherently holy is not wrong, what Korach failed to recognize is that everyone is on their own level of kedusha—and this is based on how hard we work to get closer to Hashem. It is true that we are all part of the am segula, that Hashem loves each one of us equally and unconditionally, but this does not take away from our obligation to always work towards better ourselves and our relationship with Hashem.We find this lesson embedded in the symbolism of the different episodes in the parsha.In order to prove to the nation that Aharon was in fact chosen by Hashem to be the Kohen Gadol, all of the tribal leaders were instructed to bring a staff to leave overnight in the courtyard. The following morning when the people find that only the staff of Aharon flowered and generated almonds, they understood that Hashem had chosen him for this role. Rav Frand notes that many commentaries ask why the staff contained both the bud that preceded the fruit, as well as the fruit itself (naturally, the bud disappears once the fruit bears itself on the tree)? Rav Moshe Feinstein suggests that the symbolism of the bud along with the fruit highlights the importance of preparation—the fruit cannot blossom without proper preparation; closeness to Hashem cannot be experienced without our efforts. In Judaism, we are not simply judged only for the outcomes of our efforts, but we are judged also on our efforts and our intentions/motivations. Korach’s words were not inherently wrong, but his intentions were. Korach wanted to prove that everyone is holy as a means to excuse himself from not having to work on developing himself or his relationship with Hashem. We learn from Korach’s mistake, that even after we have achieved a certain level of closeness with Hashem—we must still be working to get higher and higher, closer and closer. This is the precise fundamental of Judaism that Korach was challenging—if we are all holy, he wondered why do we have to keep working on ourselves and our relationships with Hashem? [If we could just imagine if we took that approach with any of our relationships, it would become immediately clear to us why that is a very ominous attitude to have and detrimental approach to take in our relationship with our loved ones.]

Every argument we have, every internal debate or choice we have to make can be le’shem shamaim, for the sake of Heaven—and it should be. With every decision we make we are able to reach higher, to grow vertically. Sometimes to gain in the spiritual world, is to lose in the physical world – this is what Aharon understood, but Korach did not– that to serve Hashem and to raise himself up is to be willing to give. When we are givers, and not takers in any of our relationships, certainly with Hashem, then we rejoice in others abilities to serve Hashem and try to emulate their ways—rather than try to prevent them from doing so.May we always know that Hashem does love us unconditionally and recognize our place as part of Hashem's beloved, holy nation - and let this awareness not, G-d forbid, prevent us from bettering ourselves constantly, but inspire us and move us to want to live up to all of the potential we have! May we all be able to respect, admire, and emulate those around us—always making conscious decisions to raise ourselves up. In that way, we can become models for one another in inspiring all of Klal Yisrael to keep growing and growing, higher and higher!


Monday, June 14, 2010

Tzvi Moshe On Your Purpose In Life

This week’s Parsha deals mainly with Korach’s power-struggle against Moshe and Aharon. Korach (a member of Shevet Levi, who already had the honor of working in the Mishkan) creates a confrontation against the leadership by claiming that he too deserves to lead the people. “Why do you deserve to dominate the nation? Do I not deserve to be a leader? Perhaps I am more fitting for your position! And what about your brother Aharon; is he so special? Can I not fulfill his role?!” Perhaps if we can more deeply analyze Korach’s argument we will come away with a deeper understanding of how to really tap into our own inner-potential.

We have a few questions that we need to address. First, what’s so bad about what Korach did? He was already from Shevet Levi and all he wanted to do was move up in life. Ok, so he was envious of Moshe and Aharon’s positions of power, but is that enough for a death sentence? We also need to address a cryptic line in the Zohar. The Zohar says that through his argument on the leadership of Israel, Korach was arguing on the Torah itself. What does this mean? We also need to understand Korach’s punishment. Hashem implemented a new punishment that was never used before in history: the ground opened up and swallowed Korach. Why was Korach deserving of this punishment specifically?

(I saw these ideas in my notes from a while back in the name of the Beis Avaraham [Perek Simchas HaTorah] But I was unable to find the source inside.)

Buckle your seat-belts; this is going to be deep.

We can begin our analysis with a famous acrostic that presents itself time and time again in Jewish literature. The word Yisrael is comprised of six letters, each standing for a word on it’s own. The letters in Yisrael - spelled Yud, Shin, Reish, Alef, Lamed each begin a word in the phrase “Yesh Shishim Ruba Osios Latorah” ‘There are six-hundred-thousand letters in the Torah.

It’s not just cute that this phrase happens to fit into the letters of Yisrael. There is real significance in this. The deeper meaning is that the very concept of the presence of 600,000 letters in the Torah is intrinsically intertwined with the identity of who Am Yisrael is, and for that reason that phrase appears in the word Yisrael.
How are the two concepts of Am Yisrael and letters of the Torah related? It’s brought down that in the same way that there are 600,000 letters to the Torah, there are also 600,000 root-souls that comprise the Jewish people: each Jewish soul corresponding to a letter somewhere in the Torah. (It’s explained in the Kabalistic sources that these souls splinter over time, resulting in vastly more that 600,000 Jewish people in the world.) Put simply the Torah as a unit represents Am Yisrael as a whole.
We can explain this as follows: A Torah-scroll is a delicate balance. Each letter is placed in an exact location. If even one letter is missing, one letter is extra, if one letter formed incorrectly or is replaced by a different letter - the whole Torah is null and void. This shows us the critical importance of every letter in the Torah. With even one letter off, the whole thing is considered off balance.

I might look at certain letters in the Torah as more significant: The Beis that starts the word Bereishis, or maybe the Alef that starts Anochi Hashem Elokecha. These letters really carry weight! These letters matter! But now we see that the truth is, that just like if that Alef or Beis is messed up the whole Torah is off, any letter - anywhere can also throw off the delicate balance of a Torah scroll.

In the same fashion, each Jewish soul has a unique Tafkid. Hashem sends each and every soul down to this world with a very specific mission to complete. No other soul can do this duty. And in the same way that each letter is of make-it-or-break-it-significance to the whole, If I’m missing out on my task, the whole Jewish people is lacking because of it. Even if I look at someone else’s position in Am Yisrael as greater than where I am holding, I need to remember that without me doing my job in the world, the whole Jewish people are missing out.

To take this a step forward we need to revisit a line from the Zohar that we often quote. “Istakel B’Oraisa V’Bara Alma” Hashem looked into the Torah and from it created the world. The Torah is the blueprint of creation; it is the very fabric of reality. In more abstract terms, the Torah itself permeates everything in the expanse of the cosmos, there is a universal Torah, upon which the entire universe rests upon. And like we explained, that ‘universal Torah’ is deeply inter-connected with the Jewish people. With every Jewish soul fulfilling its purpose, the Torah upon which creation stands is in good shape, and therefore the universe is doing great. But in the sad event that a Jewish soul is not living up to it’s potential, it’s as if there is a blemish in this Torah, and the entirety of the universe suffers for it.

With all of this in mind we can begin to answer our questions. What was so wrong with Korach’s attempt at power? He was trying to take someone else’s role. And by making an attempt to take Moshe and Aharon’s Tafkidim - their unique roles, automatically he began to neglect his own.

This explains the line from the Zohar That Korach rebelled against the Torah! By leaving his unique role in the world he was, (in what ever way we can understand it) neglecting his letter in the Torah! And through this he was rattling the very fabric of existence.

This now explains his punishment beautifully. Why did the ground swallow him up? Korach lacked self-knowledge, and through this he came to desire someone else’s position in life; he neglected his unique position in the universe, his ‘letter in the Torah.’ Through this the ‘universal Torah’ was being toyed with, thus creation as a whole was to suffer for it, therefore Hashem sent the world itself to exact its revenge against him for messing with the harmony of the universe, so the ground swallowed him up.

Where did Korach go wrong? He thought that he would be better off if he tried being some one else. But we know that Korach doing Korach’s job is infinitely greater than Korach doing Moshe or Aharon’s job. Hashem sends every Neshama with a specific role, and that’s my comfort zone, that’s where I thrive, that’s where I can do my part in pushing the universe to perfection.

I think that people don’t hit their potential in this area for two reasons: 1) They are too busy looking at other people and, 2) they are engaging in defensive Avodas Hashem.

Let’s explain.

If I look to much at the other guy, then I start seeing all of his greatness and I miss out on my own. This is exactly Korach’s mess-up. I can only fulfill my potential by becoming the best me. This brings us to the second point.

What’s defensive Avodas Hashem? Where my entire focus is on correcting my faults. If I’m in a fight and all I care is about defending myself, I’ll never be able to truly advance. So what do we have to do? focus on strengths.

Here’s some practical advice as to how: If you sit for a few moments you can jot down your strengths. “I’m good at Kibud Av V’Em” “I Daven” well” “I give good advice” – everyone can come up with a few. Then pick one of those things that you’re good at: a natural talent in your Avodas Hashem, and make it better. If you’re good at it, work, and become awesome at it. This is how we advance in Avodas Hashem. This is how we fight offensively against the Yetzer Hara - focusing on strengths.
B’Ezras Hashem we should all be Zoche to live lives of such growth, not to be trapped by Korach’s pitfall, but rather to understand that the greatest thing in the world that I can be is myself. If each and everyone of us focuses on coming together as the best individuals that we can be, we will, without a doubt, live lives of meaning and happiness moving closer to the Creator and ultimately the redemption!

What Will Happen When Moshiach Comes?

On the yahrzheit of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, a BRILLIANT exposition of the Rambam on yemos hamoshiach from the niftar, here and part 2 here. [We have a number of more shiurim based on his torah which you can find by searching on yu torah "lubavitcher ehrman".] This is the latest offering on hodaas baal din bi'dinei nefashos.

PS - Mazel tov to R' Shmuel Brown and his wife [known on the blog as Tova bas Tilla] on the birth of a baby boy -TORAH CHUPPAH AND MAASIM TOVIM!!!!!.

Also to R' Aharon Yisrael ben Moshe Mordechai Feit and wife on the birth of their son. TORAH CHUPPAH AND MAASIM TOVIM!!!!!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Bad Traits Destroy

Never underestimate the power of jealousy and the power of envy to destroy. Never underestimate that.

Oliver Stone

Three things take a person out of the world - kinah, taave and kavod [jealousy, illicit desire and honor] - Pikei Avos. In Parshas Behaaloscha we read about the complainers who "hisavu taave" had inappropriate desire for meat [TAAVE], and were removed from the world. Next week in Shlach we read about the leaders who were afraid of losing their positions of importance [KAVOD!] in Israel, so they gave a bad report about the land. They died. Then we read about Korach and his chevre who were jealous [KINAH!] of Aharon and their ending wasn't pretty either.

Yes sweetest friends - kinah taave vikavod motziin es hoadam min haolam!!!

Blissful Shabbos!!!:)

Thursday, June 10, 2010

This must not be read by single people but in my opinion MUST be read by married people. It is a treatise [good word - hope I used it and spelled it right] on the kedusha of marriage written by the late great Rosh Yeshiva of Slabodka, Hagaon Rav Isaac Sher ztz"l.

If you are a "Gush guy" or would like to be, Rav Amital's sefer is now available here.

As for my own reading - tonight I read my Simcha'le an Amelia Bedelia story. I LOVE that lady. So literal!

PLEASE daven for Tova bas Tilla that she should have a healthy birth SOON!!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Hesped For Rebbe Ztz"l From Very Non-Chassidic Rosh Yeshiva

That best portion of a man's life, his little, nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and love.

William Wordsworth

Gimmel Tamuz is coming up and if you don't know what that means then this probably won't interest you. But it interested little me so I thought I'd share it.

Love and blessings!!:)

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Sank You Sank You

Baruch Hashem I have returned home safely. When in America I was the recepient of many chasodim so I would like to thank some of the people who were so kind and gracious.

Yonason [ben Baila Dvorah] Fruchter who give me three rides - two in his car and one on his shoulders during the wedding. He is a true man of chessed as all of his friends know. Semicha in YU, a TRUE ben torah, tall, handsome and a CATCH! Whoever is the lucky one will forever be joyous.

Dov Ber Sultan also gave me a few rides. A true ben torah, very sweet and soft-spoken and going to dental school. Whoever gets him will likewise be VERY fortunate.

Dovid [ben Aliza Aidel] Leichtung ALSO gave me a ride. Semicha at Landers and a masmid and wonderful guy. I just met him on this trip and truly like him. Young ladies.... he can only marry one - will you be her??

Ariel Waintraub gave me a ride to the supermarket to buy food. Without food a person dies. Thanks for saving my life. Ariel will be the first Chief of the FBI who has peyos.

The Malitzkies who hosted me for the weekend very graciously and helped me feel at home.

The Jaspan brothers [bnei Esther] who organized the chug and AY gave me a few rides. I love them both but two wonderful young ladies already snatched them, so for shidduch possibilities look above [to Hashem and on this post]. Also thanks to all the Yidden who came.

Aviva Fleischmann who organized the shiur at my house. I would give more information about her but I wonder who is special enough to merit her. Very special! Thanks also to all of the young women who shlepped to the city to learn Torah. You love Hashem!!

My parents who let me use their apartment. Thanks, it was beautiful!!

Shwecky - who sang at the wedding and enabled me to spend most of the simcha airborne. He also made me realize that I am NOT Shwecky. HUMBLING:)

To Reb Shimon Dovid Klein who invited me downtown to see how to combine olam hazeh and olam haba in one. We learned Rav Kook on the 46th floor. We were high and got yet higher:).

To my family who missed me. My w-f- is such a tznua that she doesn't like when I mention her - so I won't.

Thank you to those few people who came over to visit - especially those who opened up. I like open.

To the countless individuals who approached me to introduce [or reintroduce after many years] themselves. It was wonderful meeting so many people and flattering that so many people wanted to talk to me. I really made a LOT of new friends this past week - of ALL ages.

Finally [besides who I forgot] MAZEL TOOOOOOOVVV to Shmuel Tzvi [ben Dovid Akiva ben Yechiel Michel] and Rivka Chaya [bas Yitzchak Yehoshua] Rauch who were the purpose of my trip and I will NEVER forget it. Your simcha was my simcha [I think that this was quite apparent by the abundant excitement I exhibited the entire weekend]. I love them both and daven that the Ribbono Shel Olam give them limitless bracha in gashmiyus and ruchniyus. Klal Yisroel needs special people like the chasan and kallah and they will be a blessing to the world. Their families were especially gracious and kind to me and I wish them many more simchas.

Rauches and Stern's - YOU'RE THE GREATEST!! :)

Monday, June 7, 2010

Never Bored

I am always learning new things about people I already know. You think you know somebody well? I promise you that there are aspects of this person with which you are not familiar [and maybe even he is not]. The soul of man is so deep! It is nothing less than fascinating to plumb the depths of someone's soul. When you do this it enables you to connect, appreciate and ultimately come closer to this person.

Torah is the same way. You can see the same source a THOUSAND times and then hear or think of a brand new insight that never occured to you. That is what the gemara in brachos means "Im shamoa biyashan tishmi'u bichadash" -if you constantly review the old you will see the new.

Many years ago a seminary girl was in my house and she said to me something to the effect of "Aren't you bored with torah already?! Don't you want to go to university and study exciting new material?"

Sweet young friend - no. I am not, and will never be, bored with torah.


Value Time

Until you value yourself, you won't value your time. Until you value your time, you will not do anything with it.

M. Scott Peck

I am about to travel back to Israel. The entire journey from door to door will take close to a day. My tfillah to Hashem [which I publicize so that others will be similarly inclined to pray] is that I should take advantge of the time at my disposal and not waste it on matters that will not benefit my soul. SUCH POTENTIAL! No phones, no blackberries, no computer, no distractions. Just a long stretch of time to be used for the edification of the soul.

Hatzlacha to all!!!:)


Real love is a permanently self-enlarging experience.

M. Scott Peck

Love is expanding the "I" to include another person. The more people you love, the more you are expanded. The word in hebrew for happiness is "simcha" which is related to the word "tzmicha" - sprouting. When you "sprout" and grow you are happy. That is why we are so happy when we get married or have a child - we have become bigger.

The greatest love is towards Hashem because this expands you beyond infinity.

SWEETEST FRIENDS! - Let's find more people to love, there are so many!!!:)

Friday, June 4, 2010

Don't Forget!

The spies were messengers of Moshe Rabbeinu. The Heilige Chiddushei HaRim adds that we are ALL messengers. Our neshamas have been sent to this world to fulfill certain tasks that ONLY we can accomplish. But a well known Jewish thinker once wrote the following line which rings so true for so many.

"Man is a messenger who forgot the message."

Good Shabbos Sweetest Friends!!:)

Tzvi Moshe On The Spies

This week’s Parsha opens with the issues of the Meraglim - the spies. An all-star group of the desert-generation’s biggest leaders set off on a journey to inspect Eretz Yisrael and immeasurably fail to bring back a positive report. They return to the Jewish camp with descriptions of unconquerable giants and mountains that foreshadow decimation and metaphors that describe utter obliteration; all at the hands of unbeatable gargantuans – ‘It is a land that eats its inhabitants!’

We need to analyze what was the exact point that generated this skewed perspective of the land, and from there we will hopefully discover how Hashem Yisborach wants us to engage reality.
There is a term that comes up again an again in relation to the spies - LaTur, meaning to scout, spy or explore. “Shlach L’Cha Anashim V’Yaturu Es HaAretz”, ‘Send men to explore the land.’ (13:2). “Eileh Shemos HaAnashim Asher Shalach Moshe LaTur Es HaAretz”, ‘These are the men that Moshe sent to scout the land’ (13:16). “VaYishlach Otam Moshe LaTur Es HaAretz”, ‘And Moshe sent them to spythe land (13:17). And similar expressions of the term appear again in Passuk 21, 25, twice in 32, and again in Passuk 36.

Why to we need to mention the same language of‘LaTur’ – To spy - so many times?

At the very end of the Parsha our word, ‘LaTur’ makes another guest appearance, this time in a totally different role- in a paragraph dealing not with the land of Israel, but rather in regards to Tzitzis. Hashem gives us the following instructions: V’LoSasuru Acharei Lvavchem V’Acharei Eineichem Asher Atem Zonim Achareihem. L’Ma’an Tizkeru Va’Asisem Es Kol Mitzvosai.” Here, our word, Sasuru has a different connotation – to stray. ‘And you shall not stray after your heart and eyes which drive you to lustfully follow after them. So that you will remember and perform all of My commandments.’

(We need to now add another question to the previous two. When the Passuk instructs us ‘Lma’an Tizkeru - in order that we shall remember, what exactly are we supposed to remember that will drive us to fulfill Hashem’s commandments?)

Rashi explains the following: V’Lo Sasuru can be understood here in the same way that it was used before by the Meraglim. In the same way that the spies scouted out the land; the eyes and the heart are the spies of the body. The eyes and heart perceive and internalize desires and passions based on externalities that present themselves and from that point they drive a person to come to sin. So too by the spies, their judgments based on externalities led to their mistakes
Based on Rashi’s definition we are coming to see that the spies that explore have a general negative connotation about them. Spies get caught on externals. this is the beginning of the problem.

We learn from this Rashi that the downfall of the Meraglim was their susceptibility to the enticements of apparent realities. LaTur doesn’t just mean to spy; it also has the connotation to be led astray or distracted.

In order to fully understand this issue we need to begin to clarify our perception of creation and what does ‘real’ really mean?

The Rambam in Yesodei HaTorah lays down a core principle about the nature of the universe: All of creation is predicated on God. If God were to cease to be (which of course is an impossible contemplation) it would automatically render the universe to naught – existence would end. The opposite on the other hand is not true. If the universe became not, it would not affect Hashem in the slightest. Our existence is totally predicated on God and it’s not a two-way street. We need Him, but He doesn’t need us.

What does this mean? It means that HaKadosh Baruch Hu is the standard-bearer for real. Hashem ‘exists’ way more than we do. We live on condition that He sustains us, while no such thing holds true by God. Hashem is super-real, meta-real, really-real, and we just happen to exist.

Obviously this is problematic to the untrained mind. “What do you mean? I see me! I feel me, and I sense the world around me. All of this stuff? It’s definite. God is a ‘Maybe’.”
This is obviously a very shallow perception of reality. Let’s explain.

When you talk to a person, do you talk to their face? No. Their face is merely a means to speak to that person’s mind, to that person’s soul. Have you ever seen a mind? If you cut open a brain will you find mind-stuff? No. The mind is invisible, but you can feel in yourself that it is the most real part of you - much more real that any physical limb. You are still you even if you lose your thumb or have someone else’s kidney. The body is a means to relate to the soul or mind. The mind is much more real than any part of you, but it is the least physically apparent.
How about love? Have you seen that? If you see a couple walking, you may sense love – but you won’t do so with any physical perception. Love is very real, but there is nothing in the physical reality that displays it, only manifestations of it.

Our Emotions. The Soul. God. You can’t see any of these things – but they are the realest part of our lives.

So we can suggest the following – contrary to common understanding – the most real things in the universe are the least physically apparent.

Based on the above let’s try to understand the holy words of the Sfas Emes in his explanation of the Meraglim.

He explains that every object in the world has a Nekuda HaPenimis an internal-point. It’s the holy aspect of an object – how Hashem wants this thing to be used or perceived. It’s for this reason that Hashem gives the object existence. (Take food as a very basic example. Hashem pulls the strings of cause-and-effect to ensure that a very specific portion of food makes its way to the plate in front of you. Hashem specificially wants you to channel the energy that this food provides for a very specific purpose. This is the food’s Nekuda HaPenimis. )

Can you see a Nekuda HaPenimis? No. But the entire reason that any object exists is because of it – so it is now very understandable to claim that the Nekuda HaPenimisof any given thing is its realest part!

This is a unique power of a Jewish soul. We, more than anyone else have the unique power to tap into what is truly real – we have the ability to reach essence.

When did we get this power? Way back in Parshas Lech Lecha, when Hashem extracts Avraham from the apparent reality. The constellations clearly dictated that Avraham was not destined for children. But Hashem said, ‘It doesn’t matter! From this point forward you are not subject to the apparent, obvious, physical reality!” And from that point forward we were empowered to penetrate to the Nekuda HaPenimis of the world.

Now we can answer our first two questions:1) Where did the Meraglim go wrong?2) What is the obsession with LaTur?

Based on our deeper understanding of LaTur the Psukim are emphasizing exactlywhere the Meraglim went wrong from the very start! The whole mindset of theMeraglim was LaTur in the way that we explained V’Lo Sasuru Acharei Lvavchem V’Acharei Eineichem –The Psukim go to great lengths to describe how the Meraglimgot caught on the external reality. And was because of this that they messed up.

Nothing that they said in their report was a lie. The land was dangerous. The giants were powerful. The Meraglim were in fact weak. But this is all the apparent, external reality. We as Jews are connected to the Nekuda HaPenimis, and the Nekuda HaPenimis of Eretz Yisrael is to have the Jews in it! And if the apparent reality dictates otherwise? So what?! Hashem wants us in that land, so we are going there!

And with this lesson we can answer our third question. Let’s remind ourselves: The Passuk says: V’Lo Sasuru Acharei Lvavchem V’Acharei Eineichem Asher Atem Zonim Achareihem. L’Ma’an Tizkeru Va’Asisem Es Kol Mitzvosai.” ‘And you shall not stray after your heart and eyes which drive you to lustfully follow after them. So that you will remember and perform all of My commandments.’

What is the flow of the Passuk here, and what are we supposed to remember that will push us to keep the Mitzvos? The Sfas Emes contines with a really beautiful idea:

It is Lo Sasuru that we should remember! It is our constant awareness of Lo Sasuruthat will drive us to keep the Mitzvos! Why? Because all too often I look at myself or I look at my surroundings and I don’t see any feasible way to grow or succeed in myAvodas Hashem. ‘I’ve done too many Aveiros to make a comeback now. It’s not happening. It’s like the whole world is against me getting close to Hashem!’

We’ve all felt this at one time or another, but now we are coming to see the answer. In Davening we describe Torah, Mitzvos and my relationship with Hashem as Ki Heim Chayeinu - for they are our life - V’Orech Yameinu - the value of our days. Do you hear it? We are saying that Torah, Mitzvos and my relationship with the Creator is my Nekuda HaPenimis! And I have the ability to get to that no matter what then physical reality dictates!

If I focus on Lo Sasuru then nothing can hold me back from keeping all the Mitzvos, all the time! Even if the whole world stand between me and my relationship withHaKadosh Baruch Hu - it just doesn’t matter.

B’Ezras Hashem we should all be Zoche to this out look. The world is a mask. It covers the essence – but we are uniquely empowered to uncover that mask. If we can begin to live lives of Lo Sasuru then there is no doubt we will grow and live with happinessand fulfillment, moving closer to the Creator and ultimately the redemption!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Thank You

I thank all of the sweet yidden who came to my house tonight. Chazal say that whenever there are ten Jews the Divine Presence dwells, so hopefully on a humid summer evening on the upper west side we brought the Shechina down. I especially appreciate my beloved friends the tzaddikim R' Avraham Yitzchak and R' Yosef Ezra Jaspan for organizing everything and bringing the food. If every Ramaz graduate would turn out like those two, I would probably also send my kids there [after they separate boys and girls, of course...:)].

May we always meet to talk torah and try with all of our koach to penetrate the thick lining the surrounds our heart and connect to The Source Of All Being in a simcha'dige way.

For the billions who didn't make it - there is always next time.

Pursuing Wealth Or Avoiding Bills: A Matter Of Intention

A letter to the editor I received via email and received permission to reprint. I agree and enjoy seeing the other side:).

Dear Mevakesh Lev,

How does one infer that people are pursuing "the most desired and yearned for resource on the planet earth" as opposed, to say, running from the least desired thing: bills. Many work hard just to get by, to live a life where they might provide a good yeshiva education for children, be able to purchase excessively priced shmurah matzot or daled minim, or buy a nice dress for a wife to feel appreciated and look nice for yom tov. On the outside, the actions of such a driven person might look the same as one who does indeed chase after the Benjamins. But the two are quite different indeed. Much like the Meraglim - two people can articulate the same message using the same words, but it is the subtleties, in the intonations (see Ramban on "efes!") that can be the difference between lashon hara and divrei shalom vemet.

Clarification Of Intentions


I MUST ASK MECHILAH. There is no doubt in my mind that everybody whom I meet is a better person than I am. I know better than anyone else how far I am from any level of righteousness. I am riddled with spiritual faults in ALL areas. I often give mussar both in shiurim and on the blog. I do this because I feel that everybody needs to improve in some way and hearing and reading words of admonishment and/or inspiration will help elevate us. This in no way implies that I am any better than anyone else. Au contraire - I am worse! I am also not judging anybody. Everybody has their own personal battles and NOBODY really knows what is going on with someone else. When I meet someone in whom I find fault I really try to judge favorably. So if you think I have you in mind when I write something - I don't! If you feel that something I write applies to you and you want to improve - GREAT.

So PLEASE judge me favorably and don't assume that I am chas vi'shalom attacking you. This is certainly not my intention. Sometimes I am told that people dislike me [the word "hate" has also been used] because of shiurim I gave. The answer is to open the heart and realize that the goal is to make the world a better, holier place.


Reb Shmuel on the evil inclination

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

When "Ivdu Es Hashem Bisimcha" Becomes A Challenge

Tonight I was in Flatbush paying a shiva call at the Chernikoff's who lost their son Daniel only about two months after his wedding. Sadder than sad. The father asked people to learn li'iui nishmas Daniel Ari ben Avraham Kaddish.

May this be the last tragedy we hear about and Moshiach should come to redeem us from all of the tzaros of the prat and the klal.


Newspapers - The Sequel

Since this blog presents things as I see them I feel a lacking because the Torah way is to hear variant opinions. So I will share that a friend whom I respect greatly felt that the recent post on newspapers was too extreme.

Love and blessings!:)

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

From Mount Moriah To Midtown Manhattan

Today I was in midtown Manhattan and I was observing all of the yidden and goyim pursuing the most desired and yearned for resource on the planet earth.


Sweetest friends - It is just colored paper with pictures! But people spend a lifetime trying to accrue as many pictures of Ben Franklin as they can. Then they die.

All gone.

Baruch Atah Hasehem Elokeinu Melech Haolam Shelo Asani Aved - LA'KESEF!


Please Inform

Anyone who is planning to come [see previous post] is requested to email me [called in America "RSVP"] today if possible.

Thank you and "HAVE A NICE DAY".

PS - I love America! I just walk around the city here saying to people "have a nice day".