Friday, October 29, 2010

Making Every Moment Last

In Parshat Chayei Sara we read about the conclusion of the lives of both Avraham Avinu and Sara Imeinu. Interestingly, we find that the recording of the deaths of these two remarkable figures in the Torah places emphasis not on the loss or the sadness of their departure from this world, but instead on the recognition and celebration of the live that they led. As we read about the final days of Avraham and Sara, we can learn invaluable lessons about what it means to live a most fulfilled and meaningful life.

The parsha begins with the enigmatic description of Sara’s death:

And the life of Sarah was one hundred years and twenty years and seven years; [these were] the years of the life of Sarah (Breishit 23:1)

Rashi, based on the Midrash, explains that the Torah lists the years 100, 20, and 7 separately in order to highlight that at each stage of her life, she was equivalent in purity and in beauty as she was in earlier years. The Chatam Sofer expounds upon this verse, explaining that Sara continued to gradually and consistently develop her character with each passing year. In other words, the Midrash does not come to tell us that she was stagnant and unchanging throughout her life, but just the opposite – she used every experience in her life as a springboard from which she could grow and evolve.

The ability to live each year, each experience, each moment of one’s life to the fullest is also demonstrated by Avraham Avinu in our parsha. As the Torah tells us:

Abraham was old and come along in days (24:1)

Many commentaries question the seemingly redundant words - “come along in days” – how are these words different than “he was old”? The Zohar explains that these additional words teach us that it was as if Avraham took along with him all of the days that he lived. Avraham was able to utilize each moment to the best of his ability, and in doing so he made these moments a part of him. Like Sara, Avraham used each day as an opportunity for growth and each moment contributed to building his character and personality.

Rabbi Akiva Tatz explains that in this world, our mission is to constantly use the physical world we live in to develop our spiritual selves and our relationship with Hashem. When we get to the next world, we will no longer have opportunities to do mitzvot or to perfect our middot – we will only be able to take with us all the spiritual wealth, so to speak, that we have accumulated during our lifetime along with us. In this light, we can better understand what it means that Avraham took every moment that they lived with them into the next world – because he seized every moment of his lifetime - every opportunity to develop his middot and his relationship with Hashem. In this way, Avraham was able to make the fleeting experiences of this world into eternal moments of the next.

The same is true of Sara – as the Torah tells us veyehi chayei Sara (these are the lives of Sara). It is striking that the word chayei is written in plural – in what way can Sara have lived more than one life? Perhaps we can suggest that the word chayei refers to Sara’s life in this world and in the next – because she spent each moment in this world working on herself, like Avraham, it was as if she took all of those years with her when she passed on to the next world.

The key to maximizing the time we spent in this world is to recognize each and every moment – even the seemingly insignificant times in our life - as an opportunity of growth and development. This is perhaps one of the lessons we learn from the detailed description of Avraham’s dealings with Ephron in this parsha. Rabbeinu Yonah points out that this interaction with Ephron is actually the tenth and final test that Avraham faces in his lifetime. How could it be that this rather simple and private conversation with a non-Jewish landowner be the ultimate and climactic test in the life of Avraham?

Rabbi Liebowitz suggests that the fact that this interaction seems so inconsequential is exactly the point. In last week’s parsha, Avraham proved his dedication to fulfilling the Divine will in the most dramatic episode of the akeida. In some way, the struggle of dealing with Ephron was a very different challenge. While the akeida was very clearly and definitely a test of Avraham’s faith and devotion to fulfilling the Divine will, the relatively minor challenge of maintaining his patience and integrity when dealing with the deceitful and frustrating character of Ephron was a true test of Avraham’s ability to live a Divinely inspired life on a moment-to-moment basis.

Sometimes it is the seemingly insignificant moments that are the most challenging for us to remember what it means to be living a life dictated by the values of Torah - when we are frustrated by long lines, or we are bargaining at the street fair – we must be reminded that we can make those moments count if we strengthen our character by behaving according to Torah ideals even when it is so much easier to just let them go. Every interaction we have – with a stranger or with a close family member of friend – is an opportunity to develop our middot and to make a Kiddush Hashem.

We see in this parsha that Ytzchak Avinu learned this lesson from his parents. When Rivkah saw Yitzhak for the first time, the Torah describes Yitzchak in the following way:

Vayeitzei Yitzchak lasuach basadeh (24:63)

The commentaries question what the rather unfamiliar term, lasuach means. Rashi understands the word to connote prayer, while the Rashbam interprets the word to mean that he was planting in the field. Rav Menachem Ben-Zion Zaks z"l, as cited by Shlomo Katz, suggests that perhaps Yitzchak was doing both of these things. What impressed Rivkah so much about him was that she saw he was capable of working the field with proper care and attention at the proper time, and to pause in his day to be able to turn to Hashem with appropriate intent and devotion. We see, once again, that a quality that marks a Torah-dedicated Jew is someone who gives the proper focus to all things that he does in his life -making sure to make the most of each experience by putting the most energy we can into it.

I just want to conclude with the beautiful words of Rav Moshe Wolfson, in Wellsprings of Faith, which serve as a reminder of the power of time:

A day is a piece of a lifetime. But time is more than that: it is what canvas is to a painter, for time is a medium that records, with infinite sensitivity, everything we do and everything we are. According to the Zohar, on every day of a person’s life, a new ‘day’ comes down to him from heaven. That day is like a blank sheet of parchment, and whatever a person does is inscribed upon that day.

Time is fleeting – it passes us by and there is no turning back. And yet, in some way we are able to somehow hold on to these moments by making them apart of us. We learn from Avraham and Sara that when we seize each moment as an opportunity for growth, we are changed and in that way even when the moment passes, the impact of the time we spend in our lifetimes is everlasting. Perhaps if we can see every experience - the big and the small, the times of prayer as well as the daily activities and interactions - as an opportunity for spiritual growth, then we will truly be being present, focused and dedicated to whatever it is we are doing and making sure that we are acting according to Torah ideals. In this way, we can truly make the most of the precious gift of time. May we all paint the canvas of our lives with moments we are proud of and fill the parchment of each day with experiences that help us reach our greatest potentials!


Since it is not the Torah way to forget about others in one's time of joy, I recommend this in order that to help others experience their own simcha. Open your hearts - and checkbooks....

Thursday, October 28, 2010


My wife usually asks me not to mention her. Not on the blog, not in shiurim, not ever. This is called "Modesty". We at Mevakesh value this middah. BUT, today is different. It is her birthday. So on her birthday I thank her for giving me the five most wonderful gifts I could ever ask for.

Five? Don't you have four?

I did.

But today we had a GIRL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Another birthday girl.

AHHHHHHH SWEETEST MOST BELOVED FRIENDS. FOR ALL THOSE WHO DAVENED FOR ME - THANK YOU. And may Hashem answer all of you tfillos li'tova both in the material and spiritual realms!!

I have been waiting for seven and a half years. Am I happy? No. English doesn't have a word for how I felt today. Do I deserve it? No. But Hashem is GREAT!!!

Tonight this shiur was given including a musical interlude celebrating the bundle of joy I have been blessed with.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A Peek Into The Psyche Of A 21st Century Jewish Teenager

By Doni Joszef, LMSW

You’ve seen me around town. I’m your prototypical Jewish teenager, voyaging through the strange sea of adolescence. Don’t be fooled by my blank stare or my un-engaging affect; beneath the surface simmers a whole array of thoughts and emotions. Just take a closer look… If you want to know me, feel free to check out my Facebook profile. It’s quicker, simpler, less challenging, and, quite simply, much cooler than having a real heart to heart. Until proven innocent, I may consider you non-existent, at best, or guilty, at worst – depending mainly on my fluctuating moods, which depends mainly on the whims of my ever-digitalizing social life (read: did she accept my ‘friend request’ or not). Indeed, my self worth feels proportionate with the amount of cyber “friends,” “fans,” and “followers" I’ve managed to amass.

Once we’re on the topic of moods and emotions, I generally like to simplify the terminology as such: :-) = I am happy.:-( = I am sad.: - I = I am indifferent. (And this is usually the face I show most often).:-O = I am surprised (a.k.a. “OMG”) You get the idea. Earning my trust and attention is a strategic skill. I’m happy to hear words of wisdom from caring rabbis, so long as they can first win my confidence with a jump shot, guitar riff, or good sense of style. I’m proud of my Jewish-ness, so long as it can be identified with Matisyahu or Bob Dylan. The state of Israel may have been an inspiring novelty for my parents, but to me it’s all about Kosher KFC and the Inbal lobby. Unless you can show me a YouTube clip to demonstrate your point, I’ll probably have a hard time following. ADHD are the initials of my generation, and I’d like to thank my parents’ generation for inventing Ritalin and Adderall to slow down my otherwise speedy, cluttered, scattered brain. I guess it’s the least they can do to combat the insanely over-stimulated society they helped create (with good intentions, of course). I can’t believe there was really a functional world without Internet access just a few years ago. How did anyone get by before cell phones, GPS, Google and iPads? It’s strange that while I have access to the most advanced contraptions and cutting edge devices, my generation is showing symptoms of declining mental stability. Seems counterintuitive – don’t you think?

My parents may have studied and worked hard to achieve the lifestyle they currently enjoy, but I’ll figure out some way to keep the cozy lifestyle without putting in all of that extra dirty work. There’s gotta be some get-rich-quick strategy, and I’ll make sure to implement the required procedure (so long as I can do it from my iPhone). If my parents had to spend days in libraries to research what I can instantly access via Google, why can’t I, likewise, accelerate their notion of a long and laborious road to success? I’m not as respectful or revering of my elders as they may have been as youngsters, but this doesn’t really bother me in the slightest bit. Chill out adults; when you take yourselves too seriously, it’s hard for us to play along. Granted, “respect” isn’t a prime part of my vocabulary, but I’m slick enough to pin my parents, teachers, and therapists against each other – and, so, my strategic “triangular operation” has earned me the right to deride any form of authority. You may call this manipulation, but I just think of it as maximizing on opportunities. When the authorities openly point fingers at one another, I naturally feel a sense of entitlement. Like I was wronged and you all better figure out who messed up. Works wonders when I’m in a jam. Sounds bratty? Well, then, it’s for the parents/teachers/counselors to figure out where the blame lies. And until they do, I’ll be my own Master of Ceremonies.

Although I like to “chill,” I’m driven to succeed down the road. Regardless of what my report cards may reflect, I’ll “make it” – in some shape or form. I’m not sure how much of this drive comes from parental expectations, social competition, genuine aspiration, or plain old go-getter Jewish-genetics – but it’s probably some combination of these and many other ingredients. I can’t stand being preached to or lectured at, but when sincerely and honestly engaged, I’m all yours. I know when I’m being talked down to, probably better than the one doing the talking.

For better or worse, I’m skeptical, cynical, and suspicious. The Internet and media have exposed my childhood to grim realities from which my parents were probably sheltered. I’m not smarter than them, per se, but I’m certainly more technologically savvy, and experientially curious. I may not be as dumb as some of my teachers believe; but I’m probably not as smart as I think I am, either. Humility isn’t one of my favorite practices. I love the trait in others, but haven’t yet matured to see its appeal for myself. I’m too cool to get inspired or emotionally animated, but catch me in a dark room full of Jewish peers, singing one of those slow Hebrew songs that I generally feel proud to mock– and you just may discover an unexpected soft spot. Don’t force me into that position, because my emotional network is too guarded to be manipulated. But with the right time, place, and company, it will almost naturally evolve.

I look at pop-culture with a mixture of admiration and suspicion; the glitter certainly catches my attention, yet something inside refuses to see celebrity icons as true heroes to model. But that doesn’t stop me from becoming one of their millions of Facebook fans. Identifying with something – anything - gives me some glimmer of a defined sense of self – and that, my friend, is gold for any teenager. Superficiality irritates me more than anything – especially when I see it operating within myself. I’m American, I’m Jewish, I’m a teenager – three very confusing roles that seem contradictory and complimentary, simultaneously. I think. I feel. I’m aware. During this strange and bizarre stage, I embark on my lifelong search for whatever it is we humans search for – and I’m not even aware of this immanent quest as it unfolds within me. This is my Google Status, my Facebook Status, My Twitter Status, and my Emotional Status. In other words, this is me. I’m a 21st Century American Jewish Teenager.

Nice to meet you.

Doni Joszef, LMSW, has published numerous articles on communal trends with a self-reflective twist, exploring spiritual realities, psychological dynamics, and the fascinating place where these two roads merge. He is currently pursuing various post-masters certifications at New York University, specializing in Child Therapy, Family Therapy, Addiction Treatment, and Advanced Clinical Practice.Doni welcomes feedback and input (working on welcoming criticism, too) at

For more information, visit

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Small Tzitzis And Relationships

In Eastern Europe many Jews wore tzitzis that were halachically too small. This posed some very serious issues - particularly on Shabbos. The solutions here.

The latest offering on marriage and relationships [a bit on the charif side but we love him anyway......

Monday, October 25, 2010


I just spoke to someone I know who has been trying for years to get married. It is sad.

I have been single [22 years] and married [16 years] and frankly being married is a thousand times better [even though my parents treated me really nicely:)]. In almost all respects it is better. No, sweetest friends - it is not good for man to be alone. [It is also not good to drink Coke but that is for another post.]

So please - set someone up. Bring a couple together and build the Jewish people. Focus on the older singles who have been alone for longer and have a narrower field of prospects. Help a divorcee, or better, a widow or widower. It is not their fault that their spouse died! Yet people often shy away from such people.

And daven. Davening is good. It helps metaphysically and also helps one transcend their personal problems and concerns. It isn't good to think about oneself all of the time as many people do. This is actually our nature but we were created to elevate ourselves.

After you davened pick up the phone. Call. "Hey, do I have someone for you.......!!!"

Love and blessings and see you at the chuppah!:)

Parenting 4: Time

People are busy. But kids need time. Quality and quantity. REMEMBER! Your children are more important to you than your job or anything else for that matter. This should be reflected in the amount of time you set aside to be alone with them. Turn off your phone and blackberry, take out your bluetooth, remove all other external distractions and be with your child - in body and spirit.

It costs nothing - but is priceless.

Friday, October 22, 2010

To See Good and Do Good

In Parshat Vayeira, we continue to read about the life of Avraham Avinu and to gain insight into his greatness. Chazal tell us that the quality traits that Avraham Avinu developed in his lifetime have been passed down to his descendents – let us understand what these qualities are and how we can live up to our spiritual potential by following his example.

The Mishnah in Pirkei Avot lists some of the defining and exemplary traits of Avraham Avinu:

Whoever possesses these three qualities belongs to the disciples of Abraham our father: a good eye, a modest spirit, and a humble soul (Avot 5:22)

Among other things, in this week’s parsha, we learn what it really means to possess at least some of these qualities that characterized Avraham Avinu – most specifically we will try to understand what it means to have a good eye - as we find that throughout the parsha, the words of the Torah call attention to who and what Avraham sees. The parsha begins by telling us that Hashem appears to Avraham at the entrance of his tent and relates:

And he lifted his eyes and saw, and behold, three men were standing beside him, and he saw and he ran toward them from the entrance of the tent, and he prostrated himself to the ground (Gen. 18:2)

Many commentators ask an obvious question about the opening lines of the parsha: what made Avraham feel that it was appropriate to leave the presence of the Shechina – even if it was to fulfill a mitzvah? Beyond this, the Torah never tells us what Hashem wanted to tell Avraham before the meeting was “interrupted” by the 3 men – is it possible that Hashem never finished this conversation?

Both of these questions can be answered based on a beautiful insight of the Rashbam. At times, Hashem appears to man in the Divine image through prophetic vision. At other times, however, Hashem appears to man through the form of a messenger – and this is precisely what happened in our parsha. While the reader understands that these 3 men were in fact angels of Hashem that were sent on a very specific Divine mission, Avraham understood that on some level every individual is a messenger of Hashem in this world and must be treated accordingly. With this understanding, the opening words of the parsha - And Hashem appeared to him [Avraham] - refer to three men that Avraham runs to greet. This interpretation of the text may explain why the Torah never does tell us that Avraham left the presence of the shechina.In truth, at least in Avraham’s mind’s eye, he did not depart from Hashem’s presence when he went to greet the messengers, but instead, he was running towards the shechina.

This is perhaps the first level of understanding what it means to have a good eye – to see each other as the messengers of Hashem in this world - and to treat each other accordingly. Avraham demonstrates this ability later in this parsha, in the stirring dialogue in which he insists that he can find enough righteous people among the evildoers of Sedom to save the city – once more we see this inherent and instinctual drive that Avraham had to find the good even amidst virtually all evil.

What we learn from Avraham Avinu is how to be come a true baal chessed (literally someone who masters the trait of kindness) – the first step towards doing so is being able to see the good and positive in those around us. It is when we attune ourselves to the good in those around us that we are not only moved to help those in need, but to go out of our way to seek out those who we can help. Rabbi Frand points out that this idea is conveyed in the Gomorrah (Ketuvot 68a), which tells us: Anyone who shuts his eyes from the obligation of tzedakah is like one who worships idols. “It does not say one who shuts his wallet or his pocket from charity,” Rabbi Frand writes, because the first step in being able to give tzedeka is to seethat others need it. And this is precisely what Avraham does – as he sits at the opening of his tent searching, awaiting the opportunity to see someone in need to whom he could offer his hospitality.

Avraham's ability to literally seek out those in need goes even one step further - demonstrating for us another important aspect of what it means to see the world with a good eye. Rashi explains that the Torah writes, he [Avraham] saw twice in the verse quoted above – once to indicate that he literally saw them, and the other to illustrate that he understood that they were not comfortable to approach him to ask for his hospitality. To see the world with a good eye is not only to notice those who obviously need our help, but to try to understand what it is that need of us - even before they have to ask and even if they are not willing to ask!

The way we view others not only affects the amount of chessed we are willing and ready to do, but it should also impact the way we do it. The Torah tells us with great detail that Avraham ran towards the men and hurried to prepare food for them – his eagerness and excitement to be able to extend his hand to them is obvious from the text. So often when we do favors for others, we do so begrudgingly, or carelessly at best. If only we saw each other through the perspective of Avraham Avinu, we would see the favors we do as greater pleasure for us than for the receiver.

Just as it is often a struggle to see Hashem on a constant and consistent basis, though we trust and know that He is present at all times, so too it can be quite challenging to see godliness in those around us. At these times let us remember that Avraham Avinu was able to see the goodness and godliness in the 3 strangers - all the while with the impression that they were idol-worshippers The words of the mishnah remind us that all the descendants of Avraham Avinu already possess the good eye - we have the ability to see the world from Avraham's most admirable perspective - but it is up to us to open our eyes to see the world in this way. This parsha helps us to do so by modeling for us what it means to see and to live with this point of view. On one level, we learn that to have a good eye is to search to see Hashem in all people we encounter. On another level, we learn that we must open our eyes to notice those who need us and to try to understand what those needs are. Finally, we must remember let this perspective affect not only what acts of kindness we do, but also how we do so. May Hashem open our eyes to the endless opportunities to help each other and give us the strength and means to do so!


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Parenting #3

“Hereby Resolved…”A Father’s Kabbalos

by Dr. Jerry Lob [From the "Jewish Observer" of blessed memory].

I will remember that I am your Tatty (father) and that I love you.

I will remember that you are a child.

I will find ways to show you that you are loved. I will say “I love you” more often and I will express it in other ways as well, perhaps with touch, tone of voice, smile, look on my face, and by giving of my time.

I will not degrade you, laugh at you, ridicule you in any way.

I will say “I am sorry” when I’m wrong.

I will criticize less and focus more often on the positives in you.

I will look for the big picture, keep perspective, keep my eyes on the prize, the prize of a loving, caring, joyful relationship with you.

I will remember that you are fragile, that my words and tone of voice can damage and slice through you, that you are soft even when you act hard. I will not be fooled when you act uncaring. I know different and I will remember.

I will tell you directly and assertively when I disagree with you, but not in a rage, and not with sarcasm, and with no eye rolling.

I will not hit you, no matter what. I will remember the words of Rabbi Shlomo Wolbe, shlita, that in this era it is prohibited to hit our children, that it will lead to their hatred. And the words of my Rebbi, the Rosh Hayeshiva Rabbi Yitzchok Feigelstock, shlita, that in this generation we need to follow the derech of warmth, no hitting.

* * *

I will smile more to you. I will smile more, period.

I will be attuned and more open to feel joy about you, to revel in your very existence. And I will display this joy more often.

I will respect you. I will respect your feelings, your need for space and privacy. I will respect your dignity. I will respect your opinions and your decisions, though at times I may overrule them (in your younger years).

I will be more patient. I will be more patient. I will be more patient. I will think often of Hashem’s midda of erech apayim (slow in anger).

I will set appropriate boundaries for you, for your safety, for your growth, for your ruchniyus, and I will not shirk my responsibility. And I will remember that it’s OK for you to be upset with me. I do this out of love.

I will remember that you are a work in progress, not a finished product, and while your pronouncements may sound secure, confident, finished, they’re not. I will patiently wait for you, with anticipation and some trepidation, through your journey.

I will be less concerned with kibbud av, and more concerned with kavod habrios (you are my most precious briya) and I will remember the Mishna that kavod comes to those who give it to others.

I will choose my battles and try to remember that the battles themselves are not personal, but part of the miracle of your growth. And I will learn to bite my tongue more.

I will be more loving to Mommy and always respectful to her. I will remember the look on your face when I’ve said something hurtful to her. I will make more effort to bring joy into our family, to bring to our home a spirit of song.

I will remember that no matter your age, you still look to me (as I look to my father), and what is important is not so much the information I impart to you, but who I am to you.

I will not take revenge when I am hurt. Even if you have intentionally hurt me and even if I am so angry, so very angry, I will not respond in kind. I will remember that I am the parent and you are the child. I will try to find quiet and calm. I will not give you the silent treatment, either. I will ask for your apology, but I will not take revenge.

I will laugh more. I will be on the lookout to laugh more with you. At times I will try to laugh at myself.

I will remember the sparkle in my father’s eyes when he saw me or introduced me to others, the sparkle that spoke more eloquently than words of his pride. And I will sparkle for you.

I will play more with you. I will give you your own time with me everyday even if only for a few minutes.

I will learn more with you. And I will try to make this time warm and joyous and not full of tension and anger.

I will be determined to be proud of you. I will see your inner beauty, not your grades or how you look, but your neshama, your goodness, your kindness, your unique strengths, skills, and talents.

I will remember that each child is different and may have a different derech. I will love you because you are, not because you do. And not because of what you give to me.

I will attempt to bring more joy into Shabbos and Yom Tov and into Yiddishkeit. I will remember that it is my simcha in Torah and mitzvos that will draw you to them, my enthusiasm that will generate yours, and it is my love of Hashem that will deepen your love of Hashem.

I will take an interest in your life. If you share it with me, I will feel joy in your joys and sadness in your sorrows. I will not make light of your reactions. I will take you seriously. I will be available for you and will be respectful if you choose not to share.

* * *

I will not look at you with disgust. I will not call you names. You are my child.

I will not try to break your spirit. I will try to embrace, celebrate and guide your spirit.

I will not ignore your suffering. I will put aside my work and my tiredness and my chessed work and even my learning to be there for you, whenever you need me. You are my most important mitzva.

I will look deep into myself and remember how painful childhood and adolescence can be, and I will honor you and support you. I will not abandon you when you need me most, even when it feels like you are pushing me away.

I will have more fun with you and I will remember that our shared laughter and love brings the Shechina.

I will remember that I am your Tatty,
and that I love you.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

My sons [they should live, be well and increase!] just brought home a fish tank with a new fish. VERY FISHY!!!

[If you watched the Gong Show as a kid then you definitely just gave me a major gong!!]

Which brings up the question - is one allowed halachically to drink the water from a fish tank if the fish is not kosher. How can water not be kosher??

Well, there is a famous rule of "kavush ki'mivushal" - if something is soaked for 24 hours it is like cooking it. Here the unkosher fish is being soaked in the water, rendering the water unkosher.



Can't give away all my secrets.

ויה"ר שנפרה ונרבה כדגים!!
An article on the mitzva of having children [is that the mitzva? Maybe. Maybe not. FIND OUT!].

Some thoughts on the parsha based on the sefer of the heilige Pnei Menachem, here.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Not To Embarrass

Have you ever been the Shaliach Tzibbur in Shul? One thing I have noticed is that acting in that role is like being a referee in sports [li'havdil!] - you can't win. You are either too slow or too fast, you sing too much or not enough, the nusach isn't right, you didn't pronounce a word correctly etc. etc. All this for FREE! What a deal:)!

May'se that I heard from the Rebbe Shlita who heard it [if I am not mistaken] from a person present:

Rav Moshe Feinstein was davening in his Yeshiva on the Lower East Side. The Shaliach Tzibbur said the shir shel yom as is our custom. The problem was that he said the wrong day. Hayom yom revi'i on tuesday [for example]. Uh Oh! Reb Moshe heard and proceeded to say the entire tefilla for yom revi'i from beginning to end so as not to embarrass the chazzan.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

What Every Body Is Saying

In order to act with kindness towards others we must understand how people work. In fact Rav Volbe calls Mussar "Torah Psychology". Here are some salient points from a book called "What Every Body Is Saying" that I saw somewhere. It also gives us more appreciation of the greatest wonder in all of Hashem's creation - MAN!

People tend to distance themselves from those with whom they feel uncomfortable. They'll lean away, point their feet away or put something between themselves and the other person. They'll create artificial barriers with either their shoulders and arms or with inanimate objects in front of them.

Pacifying behaviors, such as rubbing of the forehead or touching the neck or cheek are automatic responses to the brain's "Please help me feel comfortable again" request. The brain asks and the hands respond.

When you cross one leg in front of the other while standing, you reduce your balance significantly. If there was a threat you wouldn't be able to respond quickly. For this reason the limbic brain allows us to perform this behavior only when we feel comfortable or confident. [I know a Gadol who when speaking publicly crosses one leg in front of the other. He is also a very confident person. Now I see the connection....]

Confident and higher status people claim as much physical territory as possible (with both their body and their things), while less confident people tend to shrink.

The human brain is programmed to sense the slightest hand and finger movement. In fact, our brains give a disproportionate amount of attention to the wrists, palms, fingers and hands. Hiding your hands creates a negative impression, makes people suspicious. [Also, watch out for closed fists. This is a sign that the person is in a battle mindset.]

When individuals carry their thumbs high, it is a sign they think highly of themselves.

Research tells us liars tend to gesture less, touch less and move their arms and legs less than honest people (Vrij, 2003). This is consistent with limbic reactions. In the face of a threat (for example having a lie detected, we move less or freeze so as not to attract attention).

Friday, October 15, 2010

Taking Our Journey

Our Rabbis explain that the early stories about our ancestors that comprise most of Sefer Breishit remind us that the Torah is not merely a law-book of halachic principles and guidelines, but the words of the Torah are meant to instill in the Jewish people a value system and a sense of morality by which we must interact in and with the world around us.This beautiful understanding of the purpose of Sefer Breishit leaves us still with a question: If these early stories are included for us to learn important lessons from our ancestors, why doesn’t the Torah start with Parshat Lech Lecha – when we are first introduced to the story of Avraham Avinu and the birth of the Jewish family? In understanding the place of these early stories in the Torah, we come to learn an important lesson about how to approach and apply the Torah to our lives.

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks explains that in order to understand the role of Judaism in this world, one must first appreciate and experience the world that we live in. As he so aptly writes, “We cannot apply Torah to the world unless we understand the world.” Only when we understand the world, culture, and society we live in can we hope to successfully influence and impact our surroundings by implementing Torah values and ideals. For this reason, it is essential to understand the roots of within the context of the greater world.

If the goal of Torah is to guide the Jewish people in how to impact the world we live in, then it is no only essential that we know what the world needs, but we must also know what we have to offer – this is true both on the national and individual level. This is perhaps the challenge every individual faces – as each of us has a mission during his lifetime to both explore and understand the world he lives in, while simultaneously embarking on an inward journey of self-discovery.

This seemingly paradoxical journey is precisely the adventure that Avraham embarks on in this week’s parsha – in understanding Avraham’s journey we can learn important lessons about how we, too, can recognize and ultimately fulfill our individual potentials:

And Hashem said to Abram, "Go forth from your land and from your birthplace and from your father's house, to the land that I will show you (Gen 12:1)

A basic understanding of Hebrew tells us that the words lech lecha mean go to yourself. On a deeper level, Hashem tells Avraham, go find yourself - go on a journey to discover and develop your unique qualities and abilities. In order for Avraham to fulfill his destiny, he had to first discover his inner strengths so that he ultimately live up to his God given potential. In fact, based on this interpretation, Rav Dessler writes that when one sets out to devote their life to serve Hashem, the first act he must do is discover and recognize his dominating qualities.

The Torah tells us that Avraham going to an unidentified land - land that I will show you. We know that this journey was both a physical and a spiritual one – just as the physical destination remained unknown to Avraham, so too the destination of his spiritual journey was unknown to him at the time. Like Avraham, most of us do not yet know where our path will lead us, or what our inner strengths are – and like Avraham we must be prepared to search for them and likely we will discover what they are.

The commentaries point out that the Torah never tells us what qualities deemed Avraham worthy of being the Father of the Jewish nation, nor does the Torah tell us any details about how Avraham discovered Hashem in his surroundings. Rabbi Glasser suggests that perhaps the reason for these omissions is that the Torah does not define or outline for us one right path towards discovery of oneself, developing ones relationship with God, or impacting our surroundings. There is not one right way to embrace and embark on a Divinely inspired life. The ideal that Avraham models for us is not necessarily one specific quality or path, but it the readiness to take that first step on the path towards exploration and growth.

So often when we fail to live up to the potential, it is because we are not prepared to make changes to leave our comfort zones or face challenges that lie ahead on a new path that is open to us. We learn from Avraham Avinu that it is essential that we take these steps, even leaps forward - to embark into the unknown sometimes. It is only when we take these strides forward that we are able to discover our inner strengths and then use that discovered potential to make a difference in our own lives and the lives of those around us.

The Sfat Emet, based on the Zohar, explains that the words lech lecha were not addressed only to Avraham Avinu – rather, these words were a universal call that Avraham chose to answer. Hashem chose all of us –and He gives us the opportunity to choose Him – to answer the call as Avraham did. We each have a slightly different call to answer, but essentially it is the same call that unites us – we each have different paths to take but when we all follow in the footsteps of Avraham wherever they lead us – then we can make the greatest and lasting imprint on the world we live in.

May we all have the courage and confidence to take these steps – big and small – to continue to explore and understand the world we live in and in doing so, may we discover the uniqueness that each of us has to offer. May Hashem help each of us to live up to each of our greatest potentials!

Shabbat Shalom, Taly

Thursday, October 14, 2010

For the ladies who missed the shiur on Wednesday - [THREE BILLION OF YOU!!!] here it is. And for those who came - thanks for making it happen. And for thos who like the Thursday night sichot in Yeshiva - tonight I won't be giving it but we have bs"d from previous years which I would link if I didn't want to put away this machine I keep pressing and get down to business.


Wednesday, October 13, 2010



TO ME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

ON MY BIRTH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

39 years ago TODAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thank you Hashem for giving me 39 great years. You could take me, any time, any day and yet you let me stay here and enjoy all of Your blessings.

39 is the gematria of 'L[a]T' which means in Aramaic a curse. But it is also 'T[a]L" which is dew - a blessing. I hope I have been a blessing to the world and not the opposite!!

In English 'L"T' reminds me of LOT - Hashem, please give me a LOT more good, healthy, happy years.

And to my sweetest friends!!!! The Gemara says that on one's birthday special powers of blessing are granted [see the sefer Yom Malkeinu for a few hundred pages on the topic]. So I bless you all...

ה' ימלא כל משאלות לבכם לטובה בין בגשם ובין ברוח ותזכה כל אחד ואחד בשמו הטוב יבורך לעלות במעלות התורה והיראה מתוך שמחה וטוב לבב ותראו בקרוב בנחמת ציון וירושלים


אלחנן בן לאאמו"ר ר' יצחק יונה שליט"א ואמי מורתי הענא מרים שתחיה

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The shiur for women is starting up again on Wednesdays at 7:15pm at ohr hachaim 5. The topic: Hashem.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Thoughts on holy extremism here.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Tzvi Moshe here!

Parenting #2

Previous post continued. Great parents - not such geshmak children. Examples.

Abraham. Yishmael.

Not geshmak.

Yitzchok. Eisav.

Not geshmak.

Dovid. Avshalom. OYYYYYYYY!

Great parents. Rough kids.

So daven lots and try to be the best possible parent but the outcome is not in your hands.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Parenting #1

A sweet friend has suggested that I also post about parenting - so the series begins.... [Marriage and relationships will bez"h continue.]

The most important thing one has to realize at the outset is that ultimately the way a child turns out IS NOT UP TO THE PARENTS!!!!! They can do their best to impart their values and give their love and do everything a model parent does but when all is said and done the child has a mind of his own and will determine his fate. For nine months we can more or less control the child but then the child gets a mind of his own [we call this transition "birth"].

We all know people who grew up in homes which left much to be desired [or "messed up" to be blunt] yet turned out great. We also know people who grew up in great homes and turned out in a way that leaves much to be desired [see inside previous brackets:)].

So one must CONSTANTLY daven that his child go on the right path. Lots of tefillah, good parenting skills - and then hope for the best.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Our Guide

Our Sages teach us that the difference between Noach and Avraham is that Noach was only worried about saving himself and his family whereas Avraham was concerned with saving the whole world.

We are talmidim of Avraham Avinu and there is a MABUL out there. The Internet, movies, TV, newspapers, drugs, alcohol, broken homes etc. etc. etc.!!!

Let's DO something!

Good Shabbos Sweetest Friends!!!:)

Thursday, October 7, 2010

I wanted to thank everybody who has contacted me recently for all of the feedback.

Have a GREAT Shabbos and a Chodesh MATOK!!!!!! [In Tolna they don't say Mar (bitter)Cheshvan but Ram (elevated) Cheshvan.]
This weeks shiur on the parsha.

Also I was asked to publicize this link where girls can sign up to send in divrei torah anonymously

The email address to send to is

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Kasheh Zeh Tov!

A personal note.

When I was looking for a wife, I went out with two girls once each. I didn't like it - so I quit. [A pattern I developed in childhood...]

I decided that in a few years [when I would be 25] I would try again. In the meantime I'd marry my Gemara.


Anyway, about a year later I went out with a girl only because I felt guilty saying no to a Rebbe of mine who suggested it. Saying no has never been a strong point of mine. Plus, I wanted to go to the zoo and I wouldn't go alone. Well, as the Good Lord would have it - we got married. [Maybe because compared to the other creatures in the zoo, I seemed like a desirable partner.] Engaged after less than a month, married soon after. Smooth sailing all along.

But I really missed out on something. Anticipation. Disappointment after disappointment. When it happened it was "cool" but not the same as it would have been had I suffered for it more. Of course it was the will of Hashem that it happened this way but what is easy isn't always what is better. Since then, BARUCH HASHEM I have had the opportunity to go through some very challenging times . They have made me more sensitive, understanding and spiritual.

THAT is what life is about. The motto in my home that I learned from a friend who didn't move a limb for the last 42 years of his life [after being shot] is: KASHEH, ZEH TOV! - Difficult is good.

The Rebbe Shlita related that a holocaust survivor told him that people might think he is crazy, but there is something he misses about the concentration camp. One day he found a half of a page of gemara. He learned that page with such a bren, with such pining, with such desire, that he has never been able to replicate that blissful pleasure. What you achieve when you overcome adversity is truly priceless.

Keep my words in mind sweetest friends - no matter where you are in life.



4] When a person is in love there are physiological changes that occur which make a person feel ecstatic, as if flying on a cloud [if it has happened to you then you know what I mean]. However it never lasts more than a short time. Like a drug - it wears off. But when "under the influence" - you are flying. When someone is rejected while in this state of bliss it hurts like terribly. This being the case one must realize that he or she is living in a fake, illusionary world and losing this person is really not the end of the world. He is just a guy - with many faults and inadequacies. So is she [not a guy - but with many faults]. He is NOT your key to eternal happiness. Happiness is not found solely with another person but in ones own heart and mind.

You will meet another guy who will also put you [albeit temporarily] in a state of bliss. No one person has a monopoly on helping you achieve your goals in life. The next boy you meet will possess positive qualities that the one you just lost doesn't possess. You will marry him, love him and most likely - be annoyed to death by him from time to time. Just like the boy you just broke up with would have. Keep perspective.

5] It hurts? Good. Feel the pain. Feeling pain when something hurts is healthy. A drugged up mental patient doesn't feel pain. That is not healthy. When someone dies the Torah mandates that we cry and mourn. It is healthy behavior. And therapeutic. So, too, when losing a potential spouse with whom you felt close it is appropriate to mourn. Cry. Then move on. I have met many young men and women in my life and still haven't met perfection. She isn't perfect. Cry. Then move on. It's over.

6] If the person broke up with you it is a pretty good indication that not only is the relationship not the right thing for him - but for you also. Something in the relationship wasn't right. Better now than afterwards. Right now a friend of mind is going through a divorce which is 1000 times more painful than breaking up with a boy you dated for 5 months. Much more painful and costly [the house, loads of money] with more victims [i.e. the children]. BETTER NOW THAN LATER.

7] Suffering is good. It builds character. Ask people who have suffered a lot in their lives where they got their strong character.

8] Maran HaRav Hutner has a letter where he tells a boy to stop living from date to date. Dating and marriage isn't everything. Invest in same-gender relationships. The truth is that a girl has a lot more in common with another girl. Boys just aren't interested in most things you are interested in. So deepen those relationships. Invest in work, go to shiurim, spend time with family etc. [not in that order]. It is better to be married but there are benefits to being single. Take advantage because before you know it you are going to be standing under the Chuppah and the famous singers Ehrman and Schwecky are going to be doing a duet of "Im Eshkochech". Time flies.

9] Hashem runs the show. He knows who you are supposed to marry and he is NOT the guy. Let Hashem do His job with His timetable. Work on emunah. If you increase your faith in Hashem because of what happened then you have gained an eternal treasure. EMUNAH IS ALES. Faith in Hashem is the foundation of our existence. Remember that He loves you and love Him back for all you do have - and for all you don't.

10] DAVEN!!! Then daven more. It is good for your neshama and good for the world.

I once heard from a well known Rov that three girls whom he dated seriously ended up dying young. At the time he was disappointed, but now he has a healthy wife, children and grandchildren. Hashem works in mysterious ways.

There is much more to say but I will leave it here. I apologize if anything I wrote was hurtful to anyone. Anyone who wants to take the conversation further can contact me.


Breaking Up Is PAINFUL

Recently I have been in touch with people who have had relationships end in very painful ways. The question is - What is the correct approach?

To completely cover the topic would require a full length book, but here are a few thoughts from a very small man.

1] We don't understand Hashem. Don't try - it is very frustrating to try to understand something that by the very definition of who you are [i.e. human] you can't understand.

2] Expect in advance that in life things are NOT going to go the way you like. This is usually the case. Every time you get into a car there are going to be red lights all along the way - and quite probably traffic as well. Turn on a shiur [or a shir] and enjoy the ride. Your parents are going to die in your lifetime - unless you die [chas vishalom] young. Enjoy them when you have them but they don't last forever. You are going to get married to someone you are going to find annoying at times. Nobody likes EVERYTHING about a spouse [nor do they like everything about themselves]. Enjoy his good qualities and know that he is a package deal - even though you might not like the whole package. You are going to dislike certain parts of your job. I don't know ANYONE who likes every part of their job. You are going to have children - but they won't be a breeze. Pregnancy isn't fun but they don't come out with such gratitude that they listen to everything you say. We are so often disappointed because we EXPECT things to go our way.

THIS WORLD IS NISYONOS, constant tests of one's faith and resilience - not fun and games. For pure reward and pleasure there is another world - and we don't want to go there anytime soon....

3] Try to learn lessons from the relationship. There is SOOO much to learn and it would be "bal tashchis" to move on without internalizing lessons that will help you in the future. If you can't think of any lessons - talk it out with a friend.

WOOPS, my chavrusa has come and we are going to learn the greatest work of brilliance since the beginning of time - GEMARA!:)

To be continued.....

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

A Cemetery For The Living

[Warning: Don't read if you are put off by shtark mussar. Don't say you weren't warned...]

There I am, in a place with lifeless people. It is depressing! No life, movement or vitality.

A cemetery? No! A shul.

Ahhhhh sweetest friends, what are we going to DO?! No life, no feeling, no emotion, no crying out, no ecstacy. Just a dull recitation [some don't recite, they just sort of scan the page] of the same old thing every day.


When a person davens with feeling and makes some noise he is shushed. The Arizal says that one must loudly chant psukei di'zimra in order to remove all of the powers of evil that prevent our prayers from being accepted. Zimra means song and also means pruning [i.e. cutting the branches of a tree to promote its growth]. We must SING it to chop down the dark side. But for most people psukei di'zimra is BOOOOORING. So they skip it.

After Barchu we sing to Hashem as the angels do. Do the angels yawn when they sing to Hashem?

Shema means - "HASHEM, YOU ARE EVERYTHING. I LOVE YOU!". Imagine someone saying I love you with ZERO feeling. INSULTING!

Shmoneh Esrei - Hashem, give me health, a livelihood, forgive me for my sins, REDEEM THE WORLD, thank you for all of the gifts you give me daily. All that said with slightly less feeling then one has when he brushes his teeth.

After davening I should be a different person.

But I am not.

That is something to REALLY cry about.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Blessing Hashem For Our Blessings

In honor of the birth - a dvar halacha. [I think we don't have enough halacha on Mevakesh. I gotta speak to the editor...] When a son is born the bracha of hatov vi'hameitv is made. For a girl a shehecheeyanu is made upon seeing her for the first time.

See the Tzitz Eliezer [13/20] for a discussion. He also talks about when one should name his daughter. Not surprisingly he doesn't say to do it at the bris.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Welcome To Our Planet!

A MAJOR Mazel Tov to Yaakov Dov Hakohen and Rochel Miriam Slomnicki on the birth of their ben habechor.

I love the two of them so much I married them. Besides my wife there are very few people I can say I married.

שיזכו לגדלו לתורה חופה ומעשים טובים ויאיר את עיני כל יושבי תבל בתורה ויגמול חסדים רבים לשמח לבבות אנוש

כן ירבו!!!!!!

Marriage 16

[By the way - I don't always remember what number I am up to, so I am liable to skip or repeat numbers. As they say here "Lo Nora".]

Sometimes in relationships the other party has personal problems. Don't take it personally.

Example: My husband [full disclosure - I don't and never will have a husband. This doesn't bother me] gets annoyed when things aren't exactly the way he likes them. I try my best to please but am not perfect and he will express his displeasure.

Advice: Don't take it to heart. He has a problem [and an ego]. The world is not here to serve him. Sometimes things just don't go as we wish and a mature person accepts that. It is the child in him that complains and grumbles. I [the wife] also have a childish part in me that hasn't fully developed. My husband should realize that and not take my own inadequacies to heart.