Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A shiur given last night to prepare for shmini atzeres here.

עת רצון

Tfilla is accepted at a time of good will - עת רצון

Tehillim creates this עת רצון and enables our tefillos to be accepted. That is why whenever we are in trouble we say tehillim - that is what creates an עת רצון.

There is no greater עת רצון than hoshana rabba. That is why the ushpizin of hoshana rabba is Dovid Hamelech - the author of Tehillim and Sweet Singer Of Israel.



[Maran in the Ma'amarei Pachad Yitzchak]

לא המתים יהללו י-ה

From Maran HaRav Hutner in Ma'amarei Pachad Yitzchak, said on Hoshana Rabba:

The pasuk says "Lo hameisim yihalelu y-oh ... vi'anachnu nivareich y-oh may-atah vi-ad olam halleluy-oh" - The simple meaning is that dead people can no longer praise Hashem but we will praise him forever.

The simple understanding is erroneous.

The true meaning is that mortal being cannot praise Hashem. [צו דען וואס א מענטש דרייט זיך דא ארום אויף דער וועלט זיביצעק יאר איז אים מוציא מכלל מתים -  That a person walks around the world for 70 years excludes him from the category of "dead person"?] But we who are going to live forever after tchiyas hameisim will praise Hashem forever.

Monday, September 27, 2010

The Holy Progression

U'vichein tein pachdicha - FEAR! That is Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur.

U'vichein tein Kavod - GLORY! That is Sukkos, in memory of the Clouds of Glory.

U'vichein tzaddikim yiru vi'yismachu - THE FEAR AND JOY OF THE RIGHTEOUS! That is Shmini Atzeres which Chazal say is the day where the Jewish People and Hashem have an intimate meal together to which no other nation is allowed entrance. This is reminiscent of the end of days where it says "Vinisgav Hashem livado ba'yom ha'hu".

[Rav Yechezkel Sarna Ztz"l in his "Dlayos Yechezkel"]

The Power Of Will

Copied from Reb Shmuel at tikkun:

Rousing words of encouragement from a master:

Our problem is not that we don't have the opportunities to grow. It is that we don't have the proper will and desire to grow. In all circumstances, there are always excuses. The kids were sick, the boiler broke. I had to work overtime. I was so tired when I came home and I had to spend some time with the family. We know the excuses and they're all valid excuses. But they don't really explain our failures.

We fail because we despair of being successful.

We fail because we do not believe that we have it within us to succeed. It is not the interposition of obstacles that prevents us from succeeding but our own lack of confidence and determination and sheer will.

We fail because we are making a mistake. Because the truth is that we do have it within us to succeed. Because the truth is that each of us possesses the most incredible Divinely-powered instrument that can help us smash all obstacles and scale all peaks.

It is called the human will.

- Rabbi Shlomo Freifeld, founder and dean, Yeshiva Sh'or Yoshuv

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Being A Lifeguard

Based on the Rebbe Shlita - Ushpizin of Moshe Rabbeinu, Succos 5771:

A name is a person's essence so we have to understand Moshe's name.

Moshe had 7 names according to Chazal but the name the Torah calls him by [Moshe] was given by a non-jewish woman! Why?!

Also, he was called Moshe "Ki min hamayim mishisihu" he was drawn from the water. Grammatically he should have been called "Mashui" which means that he was [passively] drawn from the water. Why "Moshe" which means to actively draw.

The Rekanti [a early commentator] says that the fact is that the daughter of Paroh called him Mashui but the Torah calls him Moshe. The reason is that after being drawn from waters that drown, his essence is to save others from waters that drown them, both spiritually and physically. That is "Moshe" - one who draws others from the water.

After the Jews were saved from the Yam Suf the passuk says "Vaya'aminu Bashem u'biMoshe avdo" - They believed in Hashem and Moshe his servant. Moshe saves from the water.

In our lives we must walk in his path and try to help save others from the drowning waters of this world.

Ah gut mo'ed sweetest friends!!:)

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Marriage 15

Chazal say that a man must love his wife as much as he loves himself and HONOR his wife more than he honors himself.

So a woman must treat her husband like a king [as we mentioned previously] and a man must honor his wife more than he honors himself. For instance, if he has 50 dollars in his pocket he should preferably spend it on her. What a beautiful home it is when couples fulfill the words of Chazal. I honestly think that if people would take these words to heart and apply them most problems would be solved.

Let's say you don't feel like honoring her or you don't feel loving towards her - then what?


We all fake things at times and we should. Hopefully your act will become so convincing you will begin to believe it yourself. Our external acts influence our interior feelings.
A lengthy, fascinating [at least I thought so] article on the topic of tenai b'mitzvos and an audio shiur on Sukkos based on Maran ztz"l in the "Pachad".


Visiting your Rebbe on the regel here.

Ultimate Embarrassment

"How embarrassing for man
to be the greatest miracle on earth
and not to understand it!
How embarrassing for man
to live in the shadow of greatness
and to ignore it,
to be a contemporary of God
and not to sense it.
Religion depends upon what man does
with his ultimate embarrassment."

Monday, September 20, 2010

Two Questions

AHHHHHH RAV SHIMON SHKOP! To learn his Torah is to enter a garden of delicacies and to experience sublime pleasures which make all of this world's pleasures seem lame in comparison. A my'seh with the Rebbe ztz"l related by one of his students from the sefer "Torah Yevakesh Mi'pihu".

I was a young man who wanted to be accepted to the yeshiva in Grodna. I came from a poor family so we couldn't afford traveling expenses. I was given a little bit of food for the three day walk [!] and told that when the food runs out I was to ask Jews to open their hearts and share their food with me. When I finally arrived in Grodno I was exhausted. I was also very nervous about the test. What if I fail and don't get accepted? What an embarrassment it will be for me and my family and then I will have to make the return trip with a horrible feeling. So I made sure to prepare the page of Gemara very well.

I was shown to the office of the Rosh Yeshiva, Reb Shimon Shkop. His office was also the kitchen in his home. He said to me "I have two questions for you". UH OH! The test was beginning. "The first question is .... When was the last time you had a warm meal?" I thought for a little and answered "Three weeks". Reb Shimon said "My wife is not home and I am not much of a cook but I will do my best". He then proceeded to cook me a meal which I ate - with doubles! Now that I was satiated Reb Shimon said "And the second question ...." UH OH!! Now the test begins for real. "When was the last time you slept on a bed?" I told him that I didn't remember. So Reb Shimon went into a room and prepared a bed for me which I proceeded to sleep on. I found out afterwards that it was his own bed.

That was my fahrher [entrance examination] for the Grodna Yeshiva. Since then I have had many tzaros. I lost my family in the holocaust and many other tzaros. What kept my Judaism alive all those years were those two questions that Reb Shimon asked me on my fahrher for the Grodna Yeshiva.

זכות הצדיקים יעזור ויגן ויושיע!!

A Special Guest

An email I received from RBYF from the Pirchei Agudas Yisrael Newsletter related to the previous post:

When R' Dov Ber of Radoshitz would stay at an inn he would awake the guests: "!שטיי אויף-- Wake Up! א אורח וואסטו קיין מאל ניט געזען איז אנגעקומען-- A visitor that you have never seen, has arrived. ווי נאר ער פארט ארויס קענסטו עהם נישט זען ווידער-- Once he leaves, you'll never see him again." "?ווער איז דער אורח-- Who is this guest?" they would ask. The רבי would reply, "היינט-- Today!"

Time Is Running Out - Act Now!

Rabbi Nissim Yagein told the following story: He was once visiting Bikur Cholim Hospital and he saw a little boy filled with life, running around, asking his parents for chocolate milk and bamba. He asked one of the nurses "What is this child doing here - he looks completely healthy?" She answered in a somber tone. "He has a tumor but doesn't understand the severity of the situation."

Two weeks later the child was no longer amongst the living.

There are many people who are walking around with a decree over their heads that their time is coming to a close but are oblivious to this fact. Come to think about it, there is a decree upon us all- it is just a matter of time.

This means that we should take advantage of every second. Time never comes back and all we have with us at the end is our good deeds. No, not even our money. As Dovid Hamelech put it כי לא במותו יקח הכל

Sort of takes away my desire to watch baseball highlights.... Time is SHORT.

Arichus yomim vi'shonim to all of my tyere friends:)!

Marriage 14

I often wonder. I see the way women respect a Talmid Chochom and yet when it comes to their own husbands they don't accord him any respect at all [or very little], even though he himself may be a Talmid Chochom. So if they clearly understand the importance of respect - why don't their husbands get a piece?!

One time a wife of someone I know well solved the riddle for me. A Talmid Chochom, she explained, is superior to me, so I give him respect. But my husband - he is my equal! He doesn't deserve special respect.


Sweetest friends, the Rambam!!! He tells us how to keep Shabbos and Kashrus and also teaches how to relate to a spouse. Your husband should be treated like a KING! That is what he writes. A King. How would you treat the President of the United States if he came to your house?! Even if you had differences with him I assure you that you would treat him with respect. Your husband deserves no less! Plus, the President a Goy - your husband is Jewish!

Ladies try it. I promise you it will only increase the peace in your home.

"What about my husband?" I hear the ladies asking. "Is he allowed to treat me like his slave or something? Where is the equality?!"

That - is for a future post....

PS The book on shalom bayis by Rav Aroush that I recommended is called "The Garden Of Peace" [I think].

Friday, September 17, 2010

The Essence of Yom Kippur

When approaching the day of Yom Kippur, it is easy to become paralyzed by the power of the day - to feel overwhelmed by the significance of these moments in which Hashem will seal our fate for the coming year. Some of us stand in awe - feeling that we have not done nearly enough over the last few days, or the last month, in preparation for this day. Others stand in trepidation – after a month long of preparation, introspection, and Rosh Hashanah resolutions that we have struggled to keep even over the last week. We all might be wondering if it is a hopeless cause to do teshuva today, because we are bound to sin again tomorrow.

I hope that in understanding the essence of the day, based on the Torah portions we read and the prayers that we say on Yom Kippur, we will realize that no matter what happened yesterday, last week, or last year, we all have the opportunity for repentance on Yom Kippur. Hopefully these insights will help us to overcome those overwhelming thoughts feelings and allow us to make the most of the day.

The Torah protion we read on Yom Kippur explains the laws and rituals of the service performed on Yom Kippur in the time of the Beit Hamikdash. Just before the laws are given to Aharon, the Kohen Gadol, the Torah tells us:

And the Lord spoke to Moses after the death of Aaron's two sons, when they drew near before the Lord, and they died (Vayikra 16:1)

Why does the Torah go out of its way to tell us that the laws of the Yom Kippur service are delivered after the death of Nadav and Avihu – who had brought a foreign fire into the Holy of Holies? Rashi explains that this seemingly random juxtaposition was intended to remind Aharon that he must learn from the mistake of his sons; he must remember that it is only on Yom Kippur the Kohen is allowed to enter the Holy of Holies.

As we read these words each year, we are reminded that Yom Kippur is the one day of the year that Hashem opens the Holy of Holies for the Kohen Gadol - representing all of Klal Yisrael - to enter into a new dimension of closeness to Hashem.

We gain further insight into this unique aspect of the day from the Haftorah of the day, which begins with the following words:

Pave, pave, clear the way; remove the obstacles from the way of My peopleI have seen his ways, and will heal him; I will lead him… (Isiah 57:14-18)

All year we pray to Hashem in the Shmoneh Esreh that He should help us in our teshuva process. Unlike all other days of the year when we must initiate the process and seek out Hashem to repent, on Yom Kippur Hashem seeks us out, paves the path, and leads the way for us to return to Him.This message is developed throughout the Haftorah, as the prophet continues: You shall cry, and He will say: 'Here I am' (Isiah 58:9). In all other instances in the Torah that we find the word hineini (Here I am), it is man is telling God that he is with Him. On this day, however, Hashem calls to us to tell us that He is with us.

If we allow ourselves to be convinced that we are too distant from the ways of Hashem to return to Him, then we have allowed our yezer harah prevent us from following the path of return that Hashem paves for us on this day. In order to turn to Hashem and ask forgiveness, we must be able to forgive ourselves. This is perhaps a deeper understanding of the words we say repeatedly in the Slichot leading up to Yom Kippur:

Chatanu Tzureinu; Selach Lanu Yotzreinu

We have sinned - our Rock; Forgive us - our Sculptor

In our beseeching Hashem to forgive us, we remember that He is the one who formed us – He created us in such a way that we are capable, even expected to sin throughout our lifetimes.

Rabbi David Aaron explains that if we truly believe that all that we experience in this world is part of the Master plan, the great tapestry of life that Hashem is weaving – then even the mistakes we have made somehow fit into this Divine plan. It is on Yom Kippur that we are able to look back and reflect on the past, understand how those mistakes made us who we are today, and make changes for the future.

We must understand that it is part of human nature to make mistakes – it is what we do now that we have made those mistakes that determine how righteous we are. Rav Nevenzahl explains that all year Hashem gives us the ability to make choices - to paint the portrait of our own lives. On Yom Kippur Hashem does an even greater kindness by giving us the opportunity to change that picture, to "transform the black lines into white ones."

This is the true meaning of the statement of our Rabbis that on Yom Kippur our sins do not merely get erased, but they transform into merits.

In Hebrew word the word zocheh – merit, has the same root as the word zacha – pure. On Yom Kippur we have the ability to increase our merits by purifying ourselves. We have the ability not only to remove the barriers that separate us from Hashem, but to transform them into gateways of closeness to Him. Perhaps these are the paths that the Haftorah refers to that open on this special day of the year.

In this light, we can explain the Rambam's striking words that the more one confesses, the better it is. In order to allow this purification process to occur, we must be able to acknowledge what those barriers are. Each confession we make becomes another route in which we can connect, or reconnect, with Hashem.

May these insights into the essence and uniqueness of the day inspire each of us so that we should not feel paralyzed by our thoughts and feelings of regrets as we stand before Hashem on this Day of Atonement. Instead, may we all realize that each mistake we have made gives us a new opportunity or gateway to come closer to Hashem on this most awesome and auspicious day of the year!


Thursday, September 16, 2010

Check out Tzvi Moshe!!

Please daven for Shaul Pesach ben Pessa Leah bi'soch she'ar cholei yisroel!


Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Marriage #13

Rav Shalom Aroush wrote a book for men and another for women on Shalom Bayis. PLEASE read his book [I think that they have both been translated into English]. The translator says that he received many positive responses. One man told him "If not for the book I would have shot my wife 7 times. One to kill her and another 6 into her dead body." [Please excuse the violence. I'm just quoting.]

The bottom line of the books: Take personal responsibility to make your marriage work.

My favorite piece of advice [to men]: NEVER EVER criticize your wife. Ever. It will have no effect.


It WILL have an effect.

It will make her hate you.

A Bracha On Erev Yom Kippur

A good ma'aseh deserves another good ma'aseh:).

When darkness covered the earth and no light was seen on the horizon, in the days after the holocaust the Heilige Klausenberger Rebbe who had lost his wife and 11 children rose like a lion to rebuild and inject new life into the Jewish people. He busied himself starting yeshivos, building mikvaos, marrying off couples and bringing broken hearts and souls back into the to a life of love and fear of Hashem.

Erev Yom Kippur 1945, the Rebbe prepares himself for the service of the holy day, deep in thought. A soft knock is heard at the door. The Rebbe opens.

A young girl is standing at the door. She bashfully says:"Today is Erev Yom Kippur and my father used to give me a bracha before the holy day. But my father is no longer with us because he went up with smoke to the heavens, from now on the Rebbe is my father. Please, give me a bracha!"

The Heilige Rebbe placed a napkin on her head and placed his holy hands on the napkin and gave her a bracha. Soon after she happily left the house there was another knock on the door. Another young girl. And another. And yet another... One after the next until 87 [!] orphaned girls received a bracha from the Rebbe as a father to his daughters.

זכות הצדיקים יעזור ויגן ויושיע

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Kvittel And The Rebbe

A tearjerker!

A wedding at Moshav Talelei Shachar. Uncle Shmuel, the uncle of the chassan, approaches the microphone after the chuppah to say a few words.

"Dear Congregation, for 30 years I am an electrician on the Moshav, but now I feel an obligation to tell a story that is more befitting for a Rabbi than for an electrician. Eight years ago I decided to travel to the death camps in Poland. As you know my parents are holocaust survivors and I felt a strong need to find out where they came from. My wife was against the trip. You don't vacation in Aushwitz, she argued. But ultimately I was able to convince her.

One day we visited a small, unknown death camp where my father was an inmate for four years. We walked around the camp and wiped away tears. Suddenly we saw a man in Chassidic garb, about 85 years old rushing towards us.

"Are you Jews from Israel?"


"Today is our Rebbe's yahrtzeit. His grave is about 5 kilometers north. Go there, write a kvittel [note] and ask for something you need and you will see wonders and miracles. Believe me, any person who came on the yahrtzeit and wrote a kvittel received what he asked for."

Nu, continued Uncle Shmuel, I am not so religious and wanted him to leave me alone. However the Divine Spirit suddenly rested on my wife and she pressured me to go until I relented.

We arrived at the grave and saw Chassidim chuckling back and forth. I wanted to leave but my wife pressured me - "Shmuel, write a kvittel!" What kvittel? I don't speak to dead people, I told her. You write. So my wife took out a pen and paper and wrote something. I have no idea what she wrote. She then found a crack and stuck it in. In the meantime the Chassidim got on their minibusses and left. Suddenly a big Polish farmer came with two pails. He started gathering thousands of kvittlach and placed them in the pails.

"Hello Mister! What are you doing?"

The Polish farmer answered in broken English that once a year he gathers the papers and burns them in his courtyard.

Thousands of people come and write kvittlach to some Rebbe who died a long time ago. What were they writing? The curiosity was killing me. So I decided to pick out ONE kvittel and see what a person wrote. Just one.

Dear Friends, Chosson and Kallah, for 8 years I am walking around with this kvittel and with your permission I will read it.

Shmuel the electrician took out his wallet and pulled out an old, creased, yellowed note and started to read.

"Dear Rebbe,

They tell me that you are connected to the Creator and you make sure that people are granted whatever they ask of you on your yahrtzeit. I am a simple Jewish boy and I have one request. I know a kindhearted girl named Michal. Please do me a favor and ask the Creator to convince her to marry me.

Natan from Moshav Tallelei Shachar"

Natan and Michal - MAZEL TOV! This kvittel was written by our chattan 10 years ago when he was 17 and a half and today I am at his chuppah. Today I see the power an elderly Rabbi possesses to make things happen... Do you understand, from the thousands of kvittlach I took specifically the kvittel of my beloved nephew and guarded it like a treasure. You are right, Shmuel is no big religious guy but Shmuel tells you that you Natan and Michal are not only a match from Heaven - but a match from the kvittlach.

The Chosson Natan ran towards his Uncle Shmuel and looked at the kvittel. "I am shocked, I don't believe it. Only a blind man would not admit that this is a case of Divine Providence. I forgot about it completely. How did you pick it up from the thousands of kvittlach?!

Yes, dear invited guests, Natan forgot about the kvittel, the Rebbe and the request but the Holy Shechina which surrounds the chuppah of this couple caressed his head and sent him a reminder.

Two weeks later Natan and Michal travelled to Poland.

Natan kissed the tombstone and said: "Dear Rebbe, Michal and I are deeply touched. Thank you for your prayers and we promise you honorable Rabbi, to build a holy Jewish home outside the Moshav."

On the other side of the old, creased, yellowed note Michal wrote with a shaking hand the following words:"Daven for us Rebbe that we should succeed on our new path", and she stuck it deep, deep into a hidden crevice so that no Polish farmer would be able to remove it.


[Told by Rav Yaakov Levi, Ohr Ha'Emunah Netzvim Vayeilech]

Monday, September 13, 2010

The Loss Of Fear - Part 2

This is a reply to T.R.B.S.M. whose email inspired this post.

The Yomim Noraim are not ONLY days of fear but days of joy as well [this is clearly implied by the Rambam and others]. "Az yiraninu kol atzei hayaar lifnei Hashem ki ba lishpot ha'aretz" - The trees rejoice because Hashem is judging the land!

We are afraid because our contract might be up and we are happy because Hashem is CLOSE when He is judging and because we know that He loves us and will only do what is best and because the Jewish people as a whole will definitely have a favorable judgement.
זה היום עשה ה' נגילה ונשמחה בו

If "Zeh hayom asah Hashem" - you realize that today is a gift from Hashem, "nagilah vi'nismaicha bo" - then you will rejoice in Him. But if you take today for granted - simcha will elude you....

[Rav Yechezkel Weinfeld Shlita]

Marriage #12

The single most important ingredient in marriage is RESPECT. Respect means finding a place in your heart to host the feelings and needs of another person.

A true story: A man divorced his wife, who was a very prominent educator, endowed with many talents. Two years later he remarried a woman who seemed very unimpressive - intellectually, financially and emotionally. He claims that with his new wife he became a happy and satisfied person.

"My ex-wife is superior to my present wife in all respects, a better person, smarter, more balanced..." BUT? "My second wife - believes in me! I am not perfect and she always gives me a chance. She doesn't count, like my ex-wife, the minutes until I disappoint her once again."

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Loss Of Fear

About 16 years ago Rav Soloveitchik's son, known affectionately as "DR. Grach" wrote a famous article in Tradition which generated a great deal of discussion and argument. One of his many astute observations was that while today people are "frummer" than they once were [note the mass scale of Torah learning in yeshivos and kollelim, minyanim everywhere, ubiquitous payos, head covering for women, the popularity of mikva for women and men etc.], the palpable sense of FEAR of Hashem that people once had is all but lost.

It says in the Holy Books that one should cry during davening on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. I see very few tears if any during these Days of Awe. I think that people are just not afraid for their lives anymore. Things are COOL! Well, the reality is that things are NOT cool. People DO die [many many this past year, of all ages. The Angel Of Death doesn't discriminate]. So my own small blessings the we should merit to feel the awe during these Days of Awe. And if you are not afraid for your lives and well being - I am. So you can do me a favor and daven for Elchanan ben Henna Miriam and his family [keyn yirbu!] that we should make it through this coming year in good health. If you are interested you can send me your name and I will return the favor and daven for you.

The fear I am talking about is constructive. It is the impetus for a transformation of the self [known in our literature as "tshuva...].

Love and blessings and wishes for eternal good for all:)!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Marriage 11

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket- safe, dark, motionless, airless -- it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.”

C.S. Lewis



“Even in the common affairs of life, in love, friendship, and marriage, how little security have we when we trust our happiness in the hands of others!”

“The best day of your life is the one on which you decide your life is your own. No apologies or excuses. No one to lean on, rely on, or blame. The gift is yours - it is an amazing journey - and you alone are responsible for the quality of it. This is the day your life really begins.”

One of the greatest lessons of the Torah is personal responsibility [see Avodah Zara 17b about Eliezer ben Durdaya]. When doing tshuva we must take upon ourselves full responsibility for our actions, past, present and future. This is EMPOWERING. It means that we don't have to entrust our happiness and well-being in the hands of others.

Just us and Hashem.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

What Lies Within Us

What lies behind us, and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

On Rosh Hashana we don't mention sin nor do we talk about our plans to improve our deeds in the future. Rosh Hashana is about NOW. Here is a shiur explaining the avoda of the day. When I saw the quote from Ralphie I thought it fit in beautifully. See also Taly's uplifting and enlightening Dvar Torah from this past week.

PS - An observation: Why is it that on Labor Day people don't work. Shouldn't it be the day when people do work? If a day would be called "Vacation Day" and everybody would go to work as always, wouldn't that be weird?!


Rabbi Yehudah Cooperman the founder of Michlala related the following story:

When he was in Gateshead Yeshiva the Gaon and Tzaddik Rav Leib Lopian used to give a Thursday night shiur in gemara. One time one of the boys asked a strong question on the Rebbe from a Tosphos. R' Leib went throught the Shas in his head and tried to find a resolution to the question. He smoked cigarette after cigarette [then it was not known how detrimental smoking is to one's health] and sat deep in thought. There was silence in the room as the clock advanced 11:00 - 11:30 - 12:00 - 12:30. Then R' Leib rose and said in English [the shiur was in Yiddish]: "Checkmate".

It is clear that R' Leib could have offered many different answers that would have satisfied the student but he only wanted an answer that he himself was happy with. If the transmitters of our tradition are endowed with such intellectual honesty then we can trust that our tradition is trustworthy.

Marriage 9

There are two ways of treating cancer.

1] Treating it in its incipient stages.

2] Treating it after it spreads.

In the former case there is hope, in the latter it is MUCH more difficult to help.

In relationships there are problems. If they are treated early they are much more likely to be resolved. If one lets them fester, afterwards it may be too late.

This means that couples should often see someone [a Rabbi or Counselor] while engaged or early on in marriage when problems arise and they find that they are having difficulty resolving them on their own. Some couples wait too long and the damage is irreparable.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Marriage #10

Everybody likes a challenge. Finding a spouse is an exciting challenge. How am I going to capture her heart? But once he "has" her the challenge is over and now he looks towards other vistas [what on earth is a vista? Why do I use words if I don't know what they mean? Why don't I use dictionary.com?]. His wife and marriage become boring.

This is a grave error! There are constantly new challenges in marriage. Just keeping it fresh, lively and exciting is a challenge. Plus, life [i.e. Hashem] is always sending difficulties and new opportunities for growth to make life interesting. The quality of your relationship with your spouse upon the birth of a child or a career change is something to get your juices flowing. Also, over time there is built up anger and tension. Dealing with this and maintaining love and harmony are areas where one should feel he still must work to achieve success.

With blessings for love and harmony - I remain faithfully yours...

Ba'al Hamevakesh - E.B.H.M.

Shavua Tov:):)

Friday, September 3, 2010

Choose Life

This week we read the double portion of Netzavim and Vayelech – both of which contain very timely messages for the month of Elul.

As we have seen over the past weeks, Sefer Devarim can be read as one extended speech that Moshe delivers before the Jewish people enter the land of Israel. In Parshat Netzavim, Moshe reminds the Jewish people that they must heed to the words of the Torah in order that they live a long life:

Behold, I have set before you today life and good, and death and evil (Devarim 30:15)

Rashi explains this enigmatic verse by telling us that if one does good, then he will be granted life; but if one chooses to do evil, he will receive death.

Several verses later, we find a similar statement with slight, but notable differences:

I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. You shall choose life, so that you and your offspring will live (30:19)

The words of this command are striking. Firstly, why does Moshe repeat the message that he delivered only a few verses earlier? There must be a new lesson to be learned from these words! Moreover, according to Rashi’s interpretation of the first verse, it should read choose good and Hashem will give you long life. As we read these dramatic words, we must wonder - if it is God that determines who lives, what does the Torah mean when it tells man to not simply to choose good, but to choose life? Is it God or is it man that chooses life?

Interestingly, a similar question arises when reading the Rosh Hashanah liturgy. In one of the most poignant prayers of the Rosh Hashanah service, U’netaneh Tokef, we recite the following words:

It is true that You alone are the One Who judges, proves, knows, and bears witness…You will open the Book of Chronicles - it will read itself, and everyone's signature is in it…On Rosh Hashanah will be inscribed and on Yom Kippur will be sealed how many will pass from the earth…who will live and who will die

With these words we are reminded that God it is God who opens the Book of Life on Rosh Hashanah and judges who will live and who will die. And yet, at the very same time, we say that the book will read itself, that man signs his own name into the book that Hashem opens for us on this day. Again, we might ask: Is it God or is it man that ultimately decides whose names are written into the book of life?

In answering this question, we can gain a better understanding of our goals and our mindset on Rosh Hashanah and the days leading up to the new year. As Rav Kirzner once noted, man often makes the mistake of thinking that the pen of judgment rests in God’s hand alone on Rosh Hashanah, rather than realizing that Hashem opens the book and puts the pen in our hand. On Rosh Hashanah, we become responsible for writing ourselves in the book of life; we become partners with Hashem in determining what lies in our future. We know that we do not actually sign our names into the book of life - so what can we do to ensure that our names are signed in the right book?

The Arizal explains that on Rosh Hashanah - the commemoration of the final step of creation – Hashem decides whether the world should be created anew each year. The decision is made by Hashem’s determination that man has the ability to accomplish the goals for which the world was first created. On this day, Hashem judges us not for actions that have taken place already in the past, but for what could be in the future. Hashem judges us not for actions that have taken place in the physical realm we live in, but for something that lies beneath the surface - our desire to dedicate our future to becoming a partner in fulfilling God’s mission in this world. As the well-known verse in this week’s Torah portion tell us:

The hidden things belong to the Lord, our God, but the revealed things apply to us (Devarim 19:28)

On the day that we are judged for what is hidden, internal and known only to God, it is up to each of us to truly feel that we are ready and able to dedicate ourselves to working towards achieving the greater task and purpose for which Hashem placed us in His world. If we are ready and willing to be God's partner, so to speak, then certainly He will grant us life and opportunity to fulfill these goals. If we are able to reach a point on Rosh Hashanah that we are in touch with our internal drive to fulfill our potential and our purpose in this world, then we have essentially written ourselves in the book of life.

Indeed in Parshat Vayelech, we see that when one chooses to be partners with God, he is granted a long and complete life. In this parsha we learn that Moshe dies after 120 years. The Talmud (Rosh Hashanah 11a) tells us that Moshe died on the same day he was born as a sign of his righteousness. Moshe was a model of someone who lived a complete life of not one day less than 120 years - because Moshe dedicated each moment of his life to the service of God and the fulfillment of the role Hashem determined for him in this world.

It is not expected that we might be on the level of Moshe Rabbeinu to be able to dedicate every moment of our life with the proper mindset of fulfilling our given task. In the opening lines of Parshat Netzavim we learn that no matter how distanced we may have become from fulfilling our role as a partner with Hashem, we are always given the opportunity to reconnect and reunite with Hashem:

You are all standing this day before the Lord, your God the leaders of your tribes, your elders and your officers, every man of Israel (Devarim 29:9)

Rashi, among others, explains that the word hayomthis day – is included in order to show the Jewish people that although they have caused Hashem to be angry time and again throughout their travels and travails in the desert, Hashem still gives us the opportunity to stand before Him. The Zohar explains that the word today refers to Rosh Hashanah – a day on which we stand before Hashem in prayer and supplication. It is not a day of fear, regret, and distance - but a day of closeness and unification with Hashem. If Rosh Hashanah was a time in which Hashem judged us solely on our past and the impact we have made on the world over the years, it is true that many of us would find our sins outweigh our good deeds, and our future would look quite ominous. However, on Rosh Hashanah Hashem does not simply judge us for who we were, but instead He asks of us on this day who we want to be.

Our avodah over the next days leading up to Rosh Hashanah is to ask ourselves how much we are willing to dedicate ourselves to our higher and greater purpose in God's world - to fulfill God's commands, to develop ourselves, and to do all that we can to better the world around us. As the opening lines of the parshiot go - we must first stand in the present moment before God (Netzavim hayom lifnei Hashem), in order to walk forward and onward towards fulfilling a meaningful and complete life as Moshe Rabbeinu did (Vayelech Moshe...ben meah ve'esrim shanah).

On the day of Rosh Hashanah, we must not dwell in the past. Instead, may we feel and express our choice in the present moment to live complete and meaningful lives. Once we have determined that we are ready for such dedication, then we are ready to focus the next 10 days in the right mindset and with the right intentions for the future. It is then that we will be able to do teshuva not simply to rid ourselves of our past mistakes, but to use our past as a springboard for growth in the future that we have chosen for ourselves. May we all sign ourselves in the book of life and may God ultimately seal our names each year in the book of life each year ad meah ve'esrim (until 120)!


Marriage #8

There is a mitzva from the Torah to judge others favorably. I found something interesting. The more I like and respect a person the more likely I am to judge him favorably.

When a spouse [or anyone else for that matter] does something that bothers you, assume the best. She didn't mean it, he forgot, she tried her best, etc. This will bring peace to the home. If you are wrong and the person really had bad intentions - you will still bring peace to the home. Can't lose.

It happened to me once that someone judged me extremely unfavorably. It was actually quite hurtful that someone would think something so horrible of me when the reality [which only I can know because the person was judging my intentions] was the complete opposite. Some time later he asked me for forgiveness, telling me that he is sorry - but what I did was really horrible...

So instead of changing his own self and judging someone favorably, he decided to stand by his position [judging unfavorably, which is against halacha], continuing the previous injustice perpetuated.


Thursday, September 2, 2010

Marriage #7

Chavi is in a bad mood. She snaps at her husband. It is so convenient because he is there, present, available for attack. This is not recommended but we understand. People are just people. What is Chavi's job now? To say the following: "Binyamin, I am really in a ROTTEN mood and what I said has NOTHING to do with you. I just get that way sometimes. This will probably happen again. Nothing personal, really."

This will transform Binyamin from public enemy number one into a friend. He will then [if he is a baal middos] say "Oy Chavi, you must be having such a rough time. Is there anything I could do to help?" And if he says this even before she explains and doesn't get defensive to her onslaught - then he gets the "Mevakesh Lev Husband Of The Year Award".


As we get close to the New Year I would like to thank once again everybody who reads and those who verbally or via email encourage me and contribute their own input. It really adds! I value the connections I have made and thank those who have taken of their time to connect. To connect with another Jew on a spiritual level is an exquisite life transforming experience.

I also thank Taly Wolfson for her insightful, inspiring and well written weekly divrei Torah.

I would like to ask forgiveness from anyone whom I may have hurt. I have MANY faults but Baruch Hashem I am not mean spirited or insensitive and do my utmost never to hurt a living being. So if you think I slighted you in some way please tell me so I can make amends [what does that word MEAN?].

I bless ALL of my sweetest friends with a New Year filled with boundless bracha in both the material and spiritual realms. All those who want a spouse, parnassa, health, children and everything good should be granted their wishes in the most simcha'dike way and share their blessing with the whole world. I hope we can continue growing together and being mechazek each other.

We should see bi'karov mamesh the geulah hashleima וידע כל פעול כי אתה פעלתו ויבין כל יצור כי אתה יצרתו ויאמר כל אשר נשמה באפו ה' אלקי ישראל מלך ומלכותו בכל משלה אמן כן יהי רצון


Marriage #6

Rav Chaim Vital the student of the Arizal is quoted in the sefarim as saying that in Shomayim one is judged first and foremost on how he treated his spouse. If he is derelict in this area all of his other interpersonal mitzvos are discarded!

A story that may or may not be true. A man I know of is mamesh, mamesh a tzaddik. He donated his kidney to a complete stranger. He saved a life and a life, the gemara teaches, is like an entire world. Wow!

He also unceremoniously dumped his wife who is completely brokenhearted and demanded a divorce because "I am not in love with you anymore" and caused the poor children tremendous emotional turmoil.

How is Hashem judging this person? I don't know but I suspect......

Marriage #5

People have many variant needs - spiritual, emotional, material and physical. When we get married we naturally expect that our spouse will help fulfill our needs. Here is a MAJOR yesod: No spouse will fulfill ALL of your expectations!

Example: She is pregnant and wants someone who understands her. HE DOESN'T UNDERSTAND YOU. He has never been pregnant never will be pregnant and never wants to be pregnant! You want to commiserate with someone who understands - call your friend Faige, she has already done this 8 and a half times [B'shaah tova!].

Another example: You, Shloime, are bothered by a perplexing Rashba [HALEVAI!]. Shaindee is NOT the address [unless she IS the address. If she is I'd like to meet her...]. Ask the Rov in shul.

Wait, but let's say that there is no other place to go? For example - he wants something only his wife can provide for him? What does he do now?!

Well, we know what much of the world does, but what does a Jew do?

Answer - THAT'S LIFE! You can't have everything you want always. Some people can't accept this, but we, b'nei Torah see it as an opportunity for growth. Denying gratification is a prized Jewish value.

As many of the other posts there is much to expand on but I will leave it up to the wise reader to think about it him/her self.

A shiur in Hebrew about a Mashgiach Kashrus who discovered he was a goy. Can you eat from his Hechsher?

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Marriage #4

A husband wakes up "bright and early" at 11:30am on a Sunday morning. His wife is shocked! In classical "fawning loving wife" form she RIPS him.

"Is this the ben-torah I married?! A lazy bum - and slob! Your smelly socks are piled up like a mountain. You are such a good basketball player but you can't seem to get your socks in the hamper. And you made me wait for you last week for an hour, can you ever come on time?! ..... [It is important when ripping someone to bring up all the things you are annoyed about.] This is not what I expected!"

Is she right? Of course! He is lazy .. and a slob ... and always late. She really WASN'T expecting this.

But she also wasn't expecting a husband who is such a doting dedicated father. And someone who would buy her an expensive piece of jewelery he couldn't afford - just because she admired it in the storefront window. And someone who lifts her spirits when she is down. And someone...

Conclusion: Don't forget the good. Focus on it. You will be happy. So will he.

Marriage #3

One of my favorite stories:

In a village in Europe in order to marry a girl you had to pay the father with cows [women of all ages - please forgive the moshol!:)]. A really special girl - 10 -11 cows. Average girl - 5-6 cows. Less - 2-3 cows.

There was a certain fellow in town who was especially shrewd. Everyone was sure that he would get a great girl at a bargain price. He ended up with the least attractive, least desirable girl in town for which he paid [drum roll] SIXTEEN COWS!!!

HOLY COW!!! [li'ilui nishmas Phil Rizzuto]

Nobody could believe it! This dull, unintelligent girl with almost no skills and less personality for such an exorbitant price?!

About a month after the wedding someone came to visit and the girl was unrecognizable. Beautiful, well-mannered, noble and with many intelligent things to say. Not to mention a FANTASTIC cook. The visitor pulls his friend aside and whispers - "What happened? Such a drastic change!"

The shrewd chosson answers "Every day she looks in the mirror and says to herself 'My husband paid SIXTEEN COWS for me.'"

Moral: Always make your wife feel that she is worth diamonds and pearls. She will become her greatest self and you will both be happy.

Happy wife - Happy Life.

Marriage #2

Divorce has terrible ramifications for young children especially when they are manipulated and used as part of the battle. The gemara says at the end of gittin that when a man divorces his wife even the mizbeach sheds tears. Why the mizbeach?

Because the mizbeach feels that animals should be sacrificed - not children.....