Tuesday, August 31, 2010

New Series!! - Marriage #1

Based on what I've read, learned, observed, thought, heard etc. and hopefully it will be of help to someone out there... Feel free to add, subtract etc. Sometimes my language will be directed at the females, sometimes at the males, but usually what is written applies to BOTH equally.

Don't treat your husband with any less cordiality and politeness than you treat Mr. Rosenberg from the third floor.

Signs From Above

Some signs I receive from Hashem that He is here.

A day and a half ago I gave a shiur on artificial insemination. It was the first one I have ever given. Hours later someone comes up to me in the beis medrash with a question he wanted to discuss about - guess what. I hadn't yet posted the shiur so there was no way he could know I was just learning the sugya. What are the odds?!

This morning I was learning a sugya and I had an idea of a possible chiddush in what I was learning. I was disappointed that nobody I saw spoke about it because it made sense to my [albeit puny] brain. Hours later I was learning a completely different sugya and lo and behold - the very insight I had thought of was brought up [and rejected...]. Almost 25 years of learning and I never recall seeing anyone discuss it but on the day it occurred to me - there it was.

This happens ALL the time! I am thinking of somebody and the phone will suddenly ring - it's HIM! Or I will suddenly meet him on the street - a minute or even two seconds after I thought of him. What are the odds?!

There are many other signs. Do you have any? I would love to hear.

Sharing is caring.....

Monday, August 30, 2010

"Love me when I least deserve it, because that's when I really need it.”

Swedish Proverb

Thank You

I would like to thank all of my sweetest friends who promptly responded to the previous post [E.G. B.F C.A.F. and R.S.]. I have already learned and hope to continue the discussion on this topic which is nothing less than the foundation of our future as a people!

Hyperbole? I think not. A strong nation is predicated on solid families. The solidity of our families is created by the unique bond shared by husband and wives to the exclusion of all others.

A new shiur based on the Pachad Yitzchak here and some important yesodos on the mitzva of tenufas bikkurim here.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Just Friends

Dear Rav Ehrman,

You don't know me but I read and enjoy your blog. I have a question. I have been married for about 8 months. My husband is all in all a good, decent guy [although marriage is a lot more challenging than I thought]. He learns daf yomi, davens 3 times a day with a minyan and works hard to support us. But something is bothering me a lot.

We invite other couples over for shabbos meals and get invited as well [we live in an active community of young couples] and my husband is friendly to other wives in ways that make me uncomfortable. He says that I am being jealous and overbearing but to me it borders on the flirtatious. He sometimes meets girls he once dated and it seems that he is not completely finished with them and really enjoys their company. Maybe he is right and I am overreacting. He told me that women by nature are jealous so it is my problem and not his. I would appreciate your input.

Dear -----

I, too, read and enjoy the blog and appreciate the fact that I am not the only one:). Thanks for visiting the "mevakesh".

I have very strong feelings about your question.

STOP! There is nothing so insidious to the marital bond than friendships with members of the opposite gender. As long as a couple has guests and nothing is happening between members of the opposite gender then one could argue that one may continue. The moment it goes beyond polite you are in a danger zone. A guy gets attracted to a female very quickly and easily. And remember, in public most people put their best foot forward and seem a lot more attractive than they really are, whereas when one is married he sees all of his spouses faults. So who looks better at the shabbos table? A young, pretty, pleasant mannered woman or his annoying nagging wife [by the way - her [the young pretty one] husband thinks that she is annoying and nagging as well but that is another story].

There is no room for ANY type of friendship between the genders outside of marriage. Polite? Yes. Civil? Always. Friends? Never. Both on halachic and common sense grounds such relationships are unacceptable. The reality is that numerous marriages in the frum community have been destroyed because of inter-couple interaction, not to mention the problems in the business world where people work together day after day in a close intense environment.

Keep in mind the brilliant saying of Chazal "Ain apotropos li'arayos" which basically means that you could lock a guy up in jail and he would still find a way to get what he wants. If our desire to learn were as strong as our yetzer for women we would all know Shas by heart. Talking about Shas - don't be confused by his external frumkeit. The yetzer hara isn't impressed - you shouldn't be either.

So I recommend that for the next few months you eat either alone with him to bolster your relationship or [second best] with family, but NOT with other couples. I hope he is receptive and would be willing to speak with him if you think it would help.


PS - Sweetest friends - I generally don't ask for feedback [and likewise receive almost none] but this time I would particularly appreciate your input. I hope that by reading this blog you learn from me but I would also like to learn from you. If you have had experiences or hold an opinion - please share ally.ehrman@gmail.com


Recently I have been rereading the Sefer Hazikaron for Maran HaRav Hutner ztz"l the Pachad Yitzchak, hence the numerous posts with his insights. Here is another.

Sometimes he would encapsulate entire philosophies into one sentence. "Darwin put Materialism into nature. Marx put Materialism into history. Freud put Materialism into the soul of man. All of the Materialism's caused destruction to Holiness. But Freud dug his sword in the Paroches."

"The source of all impurity in our generation is the disrespect people have for the sanctity of man" ["Avi Avos Hatumah be'tekufaseinu hu hazilzul bi'tzuras ha'odom"]. He explained the phenomenon as follows: What makes man unique is his free will. At the end of days there will be a nullification of man's free will. So the kefirah of Freud with respect to the uniqueness of man's soul fits in with the period right before the end of days!

A King With Power

Maran Harav Hutner Ztz"l said that the apikorsim [heretics] of our time "reden andresh ve amolega apikorsim." [Speak differently than the apikorsim of the past.] He explained with a moshol.

There are two ways of creating a revolution against a Monarchy. In Russia the Communists unseated the Czar. They completely nullified the position of king. In England there is still a Kingdom [or at least a Queendom]. But the King lacks all power.

In the olden days the apikorsim said that there is no G-d [like the Russian Revolution]. Today many people believe that G-d exists but it is only a honorary position without true power [as in England].

Kabbalas Ol Malchus Shomayim means to accept Hashem as the ruling King invested with all the power of Kingship.

עד אחד נאמן באיסורים here.

Friday, August 27, 2010

True Happiness - The Torah Perspective

Every year in the weeks leading up to Rosh Hashanah we read Parshat Ki Tavo. In this portion, we find a brief description of the blessings that Klal Yisrael will experience if they follow in God’s ways. This is followed by a rather lengthy description of the curses that will befall the Jewish people if they do not follow the Torah. Chazal explain that we read these curses just before we embark on the new year – as if to rid ourselves of the curses and start the year fresh and pure.

Surely reading the curses could not be enough to purify us and save us from the various curses the Torah speaks of in the parsha. We must try to understand the lessons of the parsha in order that we will merit that the next year is one of blessing and not of curse. The Torah tells us that the reason the Jewish people will suffer the terrible curses is as follows:

lo avaddeta et Hashem Elochecha be’simcha ubetuv levav merav kol

You did not serve Hashem your Gd with joyfulness, and with gladness of heart when you had an abundance of everything (28:47)

One might ask how we can be punished so severely for not having a certain emotion - as we know, our emotions are not always easy for us to control!

In order to answer this question, we must understand the Torah perspective on happiness, which is highlighted in our parsha.The first of several times we find the concept of simcha, happiness, in the parsha is at the end of the section that deals with the laws of Bikkurim - the dedication of the first fruits of our crops to Hashem. Before laying down the basket of fruit before Hashem, one is required to retell the story of the bitter enslavement of Egypt and the miraculous redemption we experienced when Hashem took us out.After the process is completed, the Torah tells us:

Ve’samachta bekol hatov asher natan lecha Hashem Elokecha

Rejoice with all the good that Hashem, your Gd, has granted you (26:10).

There are several puzzling questions that we might ask in trying to understand this process. Firstly, why is it necessary to recount the bitter details of our past before dedicating the fruits of Israel to Hashem? And, why do we mention these dreadful details at all if we are recounting all the good that Hashem has granted us?

Additionally, it would seem that if Hashem gave us these fruits, He would want us to eat them and enjoy them! Why is that giving a portion of the fruits back to Hashem functions as our way of showing him how happy we are to have the fruit in the first place?

Human nature is such that we only realize what we have to be thankful for when those things are lost or taken from us. Therefore, it is only in giving away a portion of the fruits that the Jewish people suddenly realize how lucky they are to have crops - enough to offer to Gd and to still be able to sustain their families.

In a similar vein, the Jewish people only appreciate the freedom and pleasures of living in the land of Israel after recalling the bitterness and the hardships we faced in Egypt.In this way, the Jews were able to understand that the hardships they faced in Egypt were actually the first steps towards becoming a nation and ultimately entering and settling in the land of Israel. This is perhaps what the verse in our parsha means when it writes:

Gd has not given you a heart to know, and eyes to see, and ears to hear, until this very day (Devarim 29:3)

As Rashi explains, it was only on this very day - as the Jews entered the land of Israel -that they finally recognized the kindness Hashem had shown them over the last 40 years.

Many commentaries asked what was it about this day that the Jewish people suddenly felt the need to cling to Hashem?

When the Jewish people entered the land of Israel, all the wonders and miracles that they had experienced in the desert suddenly came to an abrupt end. There was no longer an endless supply of food, water, or shelter. The Jewish people suddenly had to open their eyes and their ears and perhaps most of all their hearts in order to see, hear, and feel Gd in their lives.

As Rav Dovid Tzvi Hoffman notes, so many of us ask for miracles to inspire us and reveal Gd’s presence in the world we live in - but in reality the inspiration from such miraculous signs and wonders is only temporary. The Jewish people saw unbelievable sights when they left Egypt and even heard the voice of Hashem at Har Sinai (and still they continued to sin against Gd throughout their journey in the desert).

When they entered Israel they suddenly had to search to try to see, hear, and feel Hashem in their lives. It was on this very day that the Jewish people finally understood what it meant to be the Jewish people – to struggle to feel Hashem in their lives. When one searches and then finds Hashem, the relationship is much stronger and longer lasting than the fleeting moments of miraculous revelation.

This is one of the manifold lessons that the shofar calls out to us if we listen closely. The predictable pattern of the shofar is the straight tone, followed by the broken notes, and then concluding with the straight sound once more. Rabbi Tendler notes that this is the pattern of our lives – each broken note, each struggle and challenge, only brings us to the next phase of our life in which we are strong and solid once more.

With this understanding we can better explain the verse in Tehilim: ashrei haam yodeah teruah – Happy is the People that know the teruah (Ps. 89:16). What does it mean to know the teruah, and how does this knowledge bring the Jewish people eternal happiness?

To answer this, we must understand the meaning of the word teruah. One definition of the word, from the root roah, means brokenness. The verse, therefore, is telling us that the Jewish people find happiness in knowing that the moments of brokenness are ultimately for our good and for our growth. We understand that the moments of pain are only temporary – they only bring us to moments of greater strength and harmony.

Shira Smiles notes that there is a second definition of the word, which stems from the word reut, companionship. Perhaps there is also a deeper meaning of the above verse in Tehilim. It is through the broken moments that we feel distanced and even abandoned by Hashem, that we are then forced to seek Him out – and when we do, we find true and lasting companionship with Hashem.

When our faith in Hashem is dependent on grand miracles and inspiring revelations, our moments of closeness to Hashem are passing, our moments of clarity and bliss are fleeting. When we live in constant search of Gd in our lives, there are sure to be moments of struggle and even pain – but these will be only temporary - while the connection we create with Hashem will be everlasting. When we can see the moments of hardship, toil, and pain as part of our lifelong struggle to see, hear, and feel Gd in our lives, then even in such bitter moments we are able to thank Hashem for what we have, always trusting that we will be stronger because of it all.

May we all rejoice in knowing that we do have struggles and let us this bring a year of searching, finding, and letting Gd into our lives - and may this lead to true and eternal simcha!


Thursday, August 26, 2010

Heart Rending

This is my translation of a letter made public by R' Yosef Weitzman, a counselor for parents and children. It was written by a 15 year old girl before she committed suicide [I saw it in a journal called "Bisod Siach"].

To Mommy, there are so many things I want to tell you... How much I feel alone now and that nobody cares. What do you know about me?! Nothing!

You think everything is ok but the truth is that my neshama is empty.

I come home to an empty house. The house seems so big and cold... Even the heater which is supposed to warm the house in the winter doesn't take away this feeling of coldness.

Once, when I was little, you told me that when all is said and done, one can only tell everything to family, but now I know what you told me is big baloney. When you come home from work, you say hi, I watch television, instead of telling me, "Sweety, I want to speak to you" you go right to sleep. Only Hashem knows how many times I tried to wake you. Only Hashem. I shake you, beg you, daven that you wake up, the tears begin to fall but still you don't wake up.

.... Your daughter is so alone. She needs you at these moments. My big brother already has a family and I don't want to trouble him with my problems. And Daddy? He doesn't care about anything. Not about me and not about anyone. Both of you never even wonder where I was when I come home. Today we fought. A big fight. Because the whole day I didn't see you and I felt so alone and after you woke for a few minutes you went back to sleep. I begged you to talk to me and you said ok but you weren't really listening. And when you listened you connected what I said to all these topics which really weren't connected. You told me to shower and then we will talk but I didn't want to. I knew that if I showered you would fall asleep and then I couldn't talk to you and my distress would resurface.

Daddy told me that I am a masochist, that he can't stand me for a second, and I was so hurt. So hurt! I am not a masochist. Right? Tell me that I am not, mommy.. Just tell me no, that I am your sweet little daughter.. When I call you at work you don't have time for me. I ask you if you are busy and you tell me "a little". I try to speak but you give me dry answers "Yes" and "No".

Mommy, pay attention to me, I am lonely and need you... Mommy, forever, I love you...."

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


“Our judgments judge us, and nothing reveals us, exposes our weaknesses, more ingeniously than the attitude of pronouncing upon our fellows.”

Paul Valery

The way Chazal put it was "kol haposel bi'mumo posel". The revered mashgiach Rav Volbe ztz"l calls it a "panas kessem" - a magical flashlight. If you want to know about yourself, explore how you judge others. A person only sees the world through the prism of his own experiences. I often remind myself when being criticized [all too often...], that the words say more about the criticizer than they do about me. [This takes place after I feel hurt and get defensive.]

There are really two issues at hand [I have been learning a lot of Brisk recently so everything is two issues]. 1] How to criticize and 2] How to receive criticism.1] In a word - with a lot of love, genuine care about the criticized and after verifying that the person feels good enough about himself that will allow him to accept the criticism in a healthy, productive way. Also, the criticism should [generally] be sugar-coated. As Rebbetzin Mary Poppins taught me in my impressionable youth: "Just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down." Well, more than a word.

2] One of the 48 ways of acquiring Torah is "Ohev es hatochachos" - Loving rebuke. Rebuke helps us grow. Amazing!!! BUT [ a big "but"], make sure not to blow it out of proportion. Yes, maybe you are not perfect but that doesn't mean you lack all redemptive traits. You are GOOD, you are WORTHY and your are loved by many - particularly the Master Of The Universe. You have a specific uniqueness and task shared by nobody on earth.

And like we said earlier, the person rebuking and criticizing has his own issues and his words are often a reflection of those issues.

Love and Blessings!!!:)


I was recently discussing with an overseas friend [A.T. you know who you are] the issue of copyright. It is very broad and complex and not as one-sided as presented here but it is always necessary to be careful of any breaches of halacha and honesty and ask a competent halachic authority in cases of doubt. Some people care about doing what is right and they are truly blessed.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Sweetest friends - another video from the same site here. At listen to the opening joke. KNEE-SPLITTING!

And here is a pil'ei plaos'dike shiur on daas ha'isha bi'kiddushin based on Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz's sefer Shaarei Chaim.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

"Let's go to the videotape."

Warner Wolf

Via HaRav Reb Shmuel I found this video. Good Lubavitch stories.

I am Lubavitch.

And Satmar. And Belz. And Tolna. And YU. And Mercaz Harav. And Lakewood. And Mir. And KBY. And .......




L and B!

Two shiurim on sirtut in mezuza I enjoyed here and here.

Friday, August 20, 2010

To Be a Jew

Many of us consider the month of Elul as a time in which we work to strengthen our connection with Hashem. It is curious, then, that we find that in this week's parsha, Ki Teitzei (the parsha that contains more individual mitzvot than any other parsha) that there is almost no mitzvah directly related to the relationship between man and Hashem. Instead, we find over 70 mitzvot that we would categorize as mitzvot ben adam lechavaro - between man and man.

We learn from this that the month of Elul is not only about strengthening our bond and connection to Hashem, but also with other members of Klal Yisrael. Although some of the mitzvot we read about do not seem to pertain to all of us, by examining several of the mitzvot that we find in the parsha, we can see an underlying theme and a lesson we can learn for our own lives.

Rabbi Yitzchak Etshalom suggests that the mitzvot found in Parshat Ki Teitzei are not only mitzvot between man and man, but more specifically they are mitzvot pertaining to the Jewish family and the values upon which the Jewish home should be built.

The first halacha we find is regarding a man who wants to marry a beautiful woman who he has taken captive from war. This is followed by the halacha pertaining to a man who has two wives – one more beloved than the other. And finally, we learn the laws of the rebellious, wayward child.

Rashi explains that these three laws are found next to one another because they are all related. He explains that if a man marries a woman for her superficial beauty, his initial attraction to her will ultimately fade as her beauty does. In time, a man who marries based on beauty, or lust, will be unhappily married to a woman whom he married for all the wrong reasons. A marriage between a man and wife that are not unified in their values or their love for one another are then likely to have a son that will rebel against them and their ideals.

In trying to elucidate Rashi’s comments, Rav Binny Friedman explains why a man that marries a woman based on superficial beauty alone is doomed to fail. He explains that such a relationship is driven by lust - it is based only on taking, on making oneself feel good and satisfied. In contrast, a relationship built on love and mutual respect is formed and maintained by giving to one another. In such a relationship, a person actually gains more and takes greater pleasure in giving than in taking. A marriage that lasts, according to Rashi as learned in this parsha, is one based on love and not lust, on giving and not taking.

The importance of founding a Jewish family and home based on compassion and kindness is highlighted further at the end of the parsha. The Torah informs us of certain nations with which the Jewish people are forbidden to marry, including Ammon, Moav, Egypt and Amalek. Interestingly, the only nations that are forbidden to the Jewish people for eternity are the people of Ammon and Moav – because they did not go out to greet the Jewish people with bread and water.

Many commentators ask what makes the omission of a kind deed so loathsome in the eyes of the Torah – that the people of Ammon and Moav are presented in even harsher terms than the Egyptians that enslaved us for hundreds of years and Amalek whom we know we are meant to eradicate from the world!

Chazal explain that an inherent quality of the Jewish people is to be gomlei chessed – performers of kind deeds. This characteristic is the foundation of all Jewish interactions and relationships. For this reason, the Torah does not want us to interbreed, so to speak, and start Jewish families with those who do not share the intrinsically Jewish qualities of giving, kindness, and sensitivity.

We find the demonstration of this sensitivity in several of the mitzvot that we read about in our parsha. The most obvious perhaps is the mitzvah of shiluach hakan – in which an individual is obligated to send away the mother bird before taking her young offspring, in order to spare her the pain of seeing her offspring being taken from her.

The lessons we learn from this beautiful mitzvah are manifold. For one, in recognizing that the mother-bird has this deep bond for her children, we are reminded of the love that a parent has for a child. The parent-child relationship is one that is founded on unconditional love, in which the parents’ love for the child grows as the parent gives more and more. In this way, the Torah reminds us once more that true love is not about taking, but about giving – about fulfilling a loved ones needs and desires.

The last set of laws that we will examine together reveal the great lengths a Jew must go to help a fellow Jew in need – these are laws regarding returning a lost item and assisting an ox that is falling on its path. At first glance, these laws do not seem to fit with the theme of building a Jewish family environment. A closer look at the verses reveals that they are, in fact, in line with this theme. In fact, the inclusion of these laws in the parsha sheds light on an even deeper lesson to be learned. The Torah tells us:

Lo tireh et shur achicha oh et shev nidachim vehitalamta me’hem hashev tashivam le’achicha

You shall not see your brother’s ox or sheep straying, and ignore them. Rather you shall return them to your brother (Devarim 22:1)

In the above verses, the Torah specifically refers to other members of the Jewish people as our brothers. The Torah is, in fact, continuing in its theme of mitzvot relating to the responsibilities one has towards their family. Here, however, we see that the Torah refers not to the insular and immediate family, but to the entire Jewish community.

It is noteworthy that the Torah does not simply tell us to return the item, but the Torah specifically tells us not to ignore the animal, or the item, that is misplaced. The Torah recognizes that human nature causes us to instinctively want to serve ourselves and to put our own needs before others – we do not always want to go out of our way to return the lost item to its owner when it will cause us a delay, or it will be burdensome for us in any way. The Torah therefore reminds us that we can and should overcome these instincts and instead go out of our way, out of our comfort zones and even be willing to make personal sacrifices, to help a fellow Jew.

At times a person feels it is easiest to give of ourselves for our family members because we feel so connected to them - we are willing to go great distances to make them happy. Other times, however, perhaps when we are in more troubled times ourselves, it is most difficult to treat the people closest to us with the respect, sensitivity, and appreciation they deserve.

In this month of Elul, when we are working on self-improvement in various ways, the Torah comes to remind us the importance of first and foremost treating our own family members with the utmost care, love, and devotion. It is one area that certainly all of us can work on to some degree.

Beyond this, the Torah teaches us one of the most fundamental lessons about what it means to be a Jew: To be a Jew is to be part of the larger family - and we are responsible for all members of this larger, extended family. We are required to go above and beyond for every Jew as if he is our own brother, sister, parent or spouse.

We are now in the weeks leading up to Rosh Hashanah, the day we commemorate the day man was first created in the image of God. In preparing for this day, we must ask ourselves what does it mean to be in the image of Hashem? The answer I think is found in this week’s parsha – to be godly is to give, to care, and to protect one another. After all, Hashem does all of those things for us every moment that we live and breath.

On the day man was created, Hashem blew life into man – Hashem put a piece of Himself into mankind. We are all, therefore, inherently connected to Hashem – and therefore we are also intrinsically connected to one another. During this time of teshuva, we are all working towards returning to Hashem, to strengthening our bond with our Creator. Perhaps one way we can and should go about doing this is by strengthening our bond with one another.

May we all be able to take this message with us for the remainder of this year and for the whole of the next year - always remembering what makes us a unique people - and let us all strive to live up to our godly potential by being able to give of ourselves to whatever capacity we can! May we realize that the opportunity to give to God is presented to us each time we are presented with an opportunity to help a fellow Jew. May we all seize every opportunity to give - because the ability to give is not only the ability to be godly, but it is also the ability to love!


The Lesson Of Undigestible Food

I can't resist - another two mesholim from Maran Ztz"l.

A student once complained that he understood most of the shiur but not all of it. Rav Hutner replied "There is an interesting phenomenon. Some foods a person is unable to digest but they nevertheless help his body function well. So too, sometimes intellectual contact with concepts beyond the ken of one's understanding open up new horizens of intellectual acuity.

A student once complained that he is falling into despair. Rav Hutner replied that he should turn himself into a "shtik chiyus" - a piece of life and vitality. "A sheretz [dead insect] that falls into water is metamei the water. But if it falls into a spring, the water remains pure. A spring is alive and can't become tamei. If you have life you won't be contaminated by the sheretz of despair"

The Moshol

Continuing from the previous post about metaphors - meshalim .... based again on the teachings of Maran ztz"l.

We find many meshalim in our sources about a king and his people. The king - Hashem, His people - us. The reason for this is because the entire institution of kingship was created so that we would understand Divine kingship. The word for rulership in Hebrew is memshala, coming from the word moshol . Rulership on earth is just a moshol for the Divine.

The highest level of Divine service is love. The Rambam says that one must be infatuated with Hashem. Enamored, obsessed and overwhelmed with a desire and yearning to come close. The moshol for this is in Shir Hashirim, a love song alluding to the love we must feel for Hashem. The sefer begins with the words "Shir hashirim asher li'shlomo" - A song of songs of Shlomo. Shlomo was a great ruler - moshel, and from him we learn about the holiness of a moshol.

Interesting. Scramble the letters of the word שלמה and what do you get?


Good Shabbos Sweetest and Most Beloved Friends!!!:)

A shiur I heard last night about friendship.

Thursday, August 19, 2010


Everything we experience in life should be seen as a metaphor for what is deeper and spiritual.

Example: You get up in the morning. At night you were dead, laying there motionless. In the morning - TCHIYAS HAMEISIM!!!! You are ALIIIIIIIIVE. Think about this 'micro' tchiyas hameisim, have gratitude, and extract to the 'macro' tchiyas hameisim. One day, all of those presently in a state of what we call 'death' are coming back.

Example 2: Honor. When receiving honor one should think how much his personality and actions affect others, prompting them to honor him. From this one can extract how much his deeds affect the upper worlds.

ישמע חכם ויוסיף לקח

[Based on Maran HaRav Hutner ztz"l in the Sefer Hazikaron P. 72]

L and B!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

What You See Isn't What You Get!

Richie lives in Beverly Hills. One day his son and little friend were playing in the house as he entered his walk-in-closet. It was piled high with 100 bills [I bless you with the same]!! His son's friend said "Oh, you also have those green papers!"

A little girl was once at my house and she saw my Encyclopedia Talmudit and exclaimed "Oh, you also have those yellow books!" YELLOW BOOKS!!! One of the most important sets of books in the history of the world! But to the uninitiated - yellow books.

This is lesson for life. Some people only appreciate the externals. What a person looks like, what he does for a living, where he lives etc. A deep person goes deeper.

Some people only appreciate this world and what they see. A deep person goes deeper.

Ain Od Milvado.


The very FIRST word we say every morning is 'THANKS".

In that spirit I would like to thank all of my friends who read the blog and listen to the shiurim. I don't usually know when people come but the One Above does and that is a merit for me. So I thank you all - both of you.


L and B

Monday, August 16, 2010

Oh Bernie!

"Bernie, why don't you spend more time with the kids?"

"You are right! Kids, you want to go to a Knicks game tonight?"

"Oh Bernie, all you are ever interested in is sports!"

"You are right! I am too interested in sports! We'll do something else. Hey kids, you want to go out to eat tonight?"

"Bernie! With you it's always about food, food, food!"

"You are right! I eat too much! Hey kids, you want to go to visit Grandma and Grandpa tonight."

"Bernie - grow up. You are not a small child anymore that needs to go back to mommy and daddy!"

"You are right! Hey kids, you want to go for a walk in the park?"

"Oh Bernie! How come you never spend any time with me."

Bernie - can't win!

What I wrote happens in many homes in different variations [with wives not having a monopoly on criticizing of course. Husbands get into the act as well]. This Elul - let's drop critical words from our repertoire. If you want to change someone - set a personal example and see what happens.

L and B!

Do What You Can!!

The Sfas Emes is OFF THE CHARTS AWESOME! Maran HaRav Hutner once gave one of his famous ma'amarim in Chaim Berlin. Afterwards one of the talmidim approached him and noted that what he said was already said by the Sfas Emes. Rav Hutner replied "Is there anything that the Sfas Emes didn't say?!"

A Sfas Emes in Terumah: Moshe was commanded to make the Menorah but was having great difficuly fulfilling the command. So Hashem said "Don't worry about it. Throw the gold in the fire and the Menorah will emerge." And so it was.

Fregt the Holy Light the Sfas Emes: If he can't do it, why command him in the first place??


Answer: Moshe was required to perform to the extent of his capability and ONLY then can he merit Divne help.

We, too, must do every we can to be GREAT and Hashem will take care of the rest.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

שיתברר ויתאמת

There are two ways of resolving points of doubt in learning.

1] Finding one strong, incontrovertible proof.

2] Finding numerous hints that might not explicitly resolve the doubt but certainly point one in the direction of truth.

The advantage of the former is that the proof is clear and cogent while the advantage of the latter is that the numerous hints one sees serve to drive the point home with more emphasis.

NOW, we can understand the famous beginning of the Messilas Yesharim, where it says that the obligation of every Jew is "she'yisbarrer vi'yisameis aitzel ha'odom mah chovaso ba'olamo" - to clarify and find the truth revealing your obligation in this world. Many of our spiritual titans have tried to understand the difference between "yisbarrer" and "yisameis". Yisbarrer is that it should become clear through one proof what your purpose in this world is. "Yisameis" is to find many hints in your life until this truth penetrates to the core of your soul.

[Based on Maran Harav Hutner ztz"l]

People spend much time reading the sports pages and finding out what is going on in Washington - and in China, but are ignorant as to the purpose of their own existence. This requires much soul-searching and introspection.

But what's an Elul for?!

Short Davening

Is it permitted to daven in short pants?

The answer given by the poskim is that if one would come to a meeting with the President of the United States in shorts then one can also daven that way, as that is how he would appear before a "king".

However, even if one WOULD wear shorts I strongly believe that it is a serious breach of respect for tfillah. The pasuk says "ruchi asher alecha udvarai asher samti bi'feecha", this is given as a source that there is not just strict law ["dvarai"] but the SPIRIT of the law is important as well [Ruchi - My Spirit]. When I was young and attended summer camp we all davened in shorts [those who davened at all]. In those days my heroes were not Reb Shimon Shkop and Reb Chaim Shmuelevitz but Li'havdil Reb Lee Mazzilli [bonus points if you know what team he played for and which position! - without outside help] and Reb Bernard King. But today as I have hopefully changed my perspective I see it as a lack of reverence for Hashem, for davening and for a shul.

Where I live some of the kids and even some adults daven this way. I wish I could say something but I have learned that even though one of the 48 ways to acquire Torah is to "Love Rebuke" [ohev es hatochachos] not EVERYBODY is holding there yet and I don't think it would help.

But for those reading, maybe......

L and B

PS - I have good reason to suspect that someone has broken into my blogger and email account, so if I blog something or send you an email that doesn't sound like me - it's not. [Talya Wolfson also posts a dvar Torah as you have seen. That is not a pseudonym for me but a real person. I can't write as well as she does. But besides her nobody should be posting.]

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Evil Or Weird

This shabbos I davened mincha in the Beit E-l Yeshiva for mekuballim. It took over an hour to daven [normally it takes about 25 minutes] because the chazzan [the Rosh Hayeshiva] said shmoneh esrei with special kabbalistic kavanos. However he will never make it into a newspaper unless he is involved in criminal activity or takes 6 figures from a professional athlete to give him business advice etc. But he will never be newsworthy if he just involves himself in everything that is holy- prayer, learning and chessed.

Newspapers look for what is evil or weird but if something is good and pure they are generally not interested. So why pollute our minds? There are so many more worthwhile things to read!!

Sweetest friends, ever since I stopped reading newspapers my quality of life has improved. Join me. And if you are worried that you won't know what is going on, worryeth not, you will find out. Most other people know and will tell you. That is how I heard about what I alluded to before.
Three part shiur on zimmun and other great stuff po, po vi'po. I you enjoy as much as much as I did!

L and B!!
Tzvi Moshe on Shoftim!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Making the Most of Elul and Making it Last

Hi guys! The time of year that we find ourselves in now is a time in which Hashem is literally sitting at the gates of Heavens awaiting our prayers and repentance. As the verse in Shir Hashirim tells us, kol dodi dofek, upitchu li – the voice of my beloved knocks, open the door for me. Let us try to understand how the lessons of Parshat Shoftim help us to seize this opportunity to open the door to this calling and to connect with Hashem during the month of Elul and for the remainder of the year.

The parsha begins with the following words:

Shoftim ve’shotrim titen lecha be’kol shaarecha

Judges and officers shall you appoint for yourself in all of your gates

On this verse, many commentaries ask what is the purpose of the seemingly unnecessary word, lecha – what is the Torah trying to tell us by emphasizing that the judges are for our own sake? Moreover, why is the word lecha written in the singular when the command has just been given to the entire people?

In order to answer these questions, we must understand the deeper meaning of this verse.

Rav Moshe Feinstein explains that the word, lecha, comes to remind us that while we must appoint official judges to uphold and enforce the law, we must realize that every individual must accept responsibility over him/herself to follow the right path and not rely on others alone to push them in the right direction.

Rav Frand suggests that this understanding of the text explains why the guidelines for the judges listed in the verses that follow seem to be addressed to every Jewish individual and not only the appointed judges. Rather than writing they, the judges, should judge fairly and honorably, the Torah tells us: you shall not pervert justice, you shall not show favoritism, you shall not take a bribe (Devarim 16:19).

Ultimately, we must all be our own judges – of our own characters, thoughts, and actions. During this time of introspection and repentance, the Torah reminds us that we have the ability to look inside of ourselves and to make changes in our lives.

The Netivot Shalom develops this idea further - based on a beautiful idea found in the Sefer Yetzeira that says the human body is likened to a small city with seven gates to the outside world: two eyes, two ears, two nostrils and the mouth. Based on this, the Netivot Shalom explains that the gates that we are commanded to guard in the beginning of our parsha are these 7 gates of our bodies.

In essence, these gates, our senses, are what allow us to interact with our surrounding world. They allow us to take in sights, scents, and sounds, while also enabling us to reveal our thoughts and feelings into reality with the power speech.

So what does the Torah mean exactly when it tells us to guard these gates, these portals that allow us to perceive reality and to channel our internal thoughts into the external world? Perhaps in answering this question we can understand a valuable lesson about what our mindset and our goals should be during the month of Elul.

Often in the month of Elul we are suddenly moved to make drastic and dramatic changes upon ourselves – promising to transform ourselves in various ways for the upcoming year. Unfortunately, after several days the inspiration and the enthusiasm of Elul fade away. Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur come and go, and we find ourselves at the end of it all unchanged and discouraged by our failures.

The key to maintaining this motivation after Elul is to make a connection between our thoughts and our actions, between our head and our body. In the moments of our inspiration we must set our resolutions for growth and determination for change into motion. We must make our thoughts into a reality.

The Sfat Emet explains that the need to actualize our thoughts into action is precisely why we need to appoint both the shofet (judge) and the soter (officer) over ourselves. An individual must employ his personal “judge” to decide what is right and good to do, but then that person needs a personal “officer” to ensure that he follows through on his thoughts. It is not enough to make a judgment about oneself that they want to change; one must follow through on those thoughts to actually make those necessary changes come into fruition!

From the opening verse of Parshat Shoftim, we learn that every Jewish individual must be his/her own judge. The parsha concludes with the command – ki taaseh hayashar beyenei Hashem – for you shall do what is straight in the eyes of Hashem (Devarim 21:9). We each have the ability to perceive and judge what is proper in the eyes of Hashem – we must therefore resolve to do what is right and then put these thoughts into words and deeds that will elevate us and bring us closer to Hashem.

Throughout the month of Elul, we recite Perek 27 of Tehilim, in which we say the following words: I ask of Hashem one thing, that I would dwell in the house of Hashem all the days of my life. Ultimately what we all want is to feel that we are in the presence of Hashem - not only in the month of Elul, but all year-round, all the days of our lives.

It is essential that we act now during this time in which Hashem is literally knocking on our doors – eagerly waiting for us to come closer to Him – to establish this closeness with our Creator. If we want the inspiration of Elul to last and the closeness we feel with Hashem during this time to endure long after the "holiday season," we cannot make lofty resolutions that are too difficult and unrealistic to live up to. The Midrash explains based on the words, kol dodi dofek, that when one does even a tiny amount of true teshuva, he creates an opening the size of a pinhole - and Hashem then expands the tiny opening that allows us to enter his palace through the opened gates of Heaven.

Likewise, Rav Pinchas explains that the 613 mitzvot are 613 gates that allow us to enter Hashem’s palace. If we can just focus on one mitzvah, one action – if we can just channel one thought we have to change our ways over the next few weeks – then we have opened the door upon which Hashem is knocking. Once we allow Hashem to enter, Hashem will bless us and help us with all of the other things you want to work on for the rest of the year and for the rest of our lives.

I hope that over the next few weeks we can use the ability that Hashem gave us to be our own judges - to make our own assessments of what we can and should be working on to improve ourselves and our connection to Hashem. May we use our judgement to choose just one small mitzvah to work on over the next few weeks - be it saying one bracha, refraining from loshon hara for just 5 minutes a day, or anything else that comes to mind - we must be our own judges because only we know what is truly in our minds, only we can ensure that those thoughts become a reality. As we prepare for the ultimate Day of Judgment, let us be our own judges to determines what actions we can take - and may Hashem help us in being able to make that small change that can open the gateway to a lifetime of character development and closeness to Hashem.



Friends Of Youth

"The most beautiful discovery true friends make is that they can grow separately with growing apart."

I often attend simchas where the chosson and kallah have "flipped out". The chosson has a black hat and payos and always carries around his small gemara and Noam Elimelech. The kallah spends most of her free time crying into her tehillim and asking Hashem for children [at least 12 to start] who are tzaddikim and learning Hilchos Lashon Hara. But at the wedding you see their old friends who have not yet had the Light Of Hashem shine upon them and are still living in the world of Facebook, Monday Night Football and Bloomingdales.

I find this heartwarming. Just because they are on separate paths [in the meantime] doesn't mean that they can't love their friends of youth. Of course in a situation where the old friend doesn't respect the new path of the inspired, the friendship may not continue.

והמבין יבין

ps - those who have called me recently should know I changed my overseas number and in the meantime am having trouble with the new number, so I am not ignoring you.

pps - A new article on the halachic geder of yiras Hashem. The author would appreciate comments, questions, additions or subtractions [even pointing out typos].

Love and blessings and a GREAT SHABBOS!!:)

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Gimmel Elul

The third of Elul: Rav Kooks 75th yahrtzeit - צדיקים במיתתם קרויים חיים

המוות הוא חזיון שווא, מה שאנשים קוראים מוות הוא בעצם תגבורת החיים ותעצומותם. מתוך השקיעה הנוראה בקטנות אשר יצר לב האדם השקיע אותו בה הרי הוא מצייר את תגבורת החיים הזאת, בצורה מדאיבה וחשוכה שהוא קוראה מוות -אורות הקודש חלק ב' עמ' שפ"ב

Death is an optical illusion. What people call death is really an enhanced, reinforced life. Because of the horrific immersion in the pettiness that his yetzer hara generated, man pictures it in a dark, depressing way and calls it death. [Rav Kook Oros Hakodesh vol. 2 page 382].


Speaking of tzaddikim - a number of great talks about Rav Mordechai Eliyahu ztz"l here [in hebrew].

Please daven with great kavanna for Chava bas Shoshana Bluma.