Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A Test

I know some people who are poor and can't pay the bills. I know others who have lots of money but are consumed by financial concerns.

I know some people who are having trouble conceiving. I know others who have children but they are a source anguish either because they are ill, off the derech or otherwise difficult.

I know some people who are single and are dying to get married. I know others who are married but are having trouble maintaining a loving relationship with their spouse.

I know some people who are ill. I know others who are healthy but are physically and emotionally overwhelmed by life's responsibilities.

I know women whose husbands died. I know others whose husbands annoy them to death.

I know children who are orphans. I know others who have parents but can't stand them.

I know some people who are unemployed. I know others who are employed but hate their jobs.

I know a lot of people who are dead. I know others who suffer so much from life that sometimes they wish they were dead.

Lesson: Life is a TEST. To pass the test means to maintain one's faith and joy in the face of all troubles.

The secret - never stop counting your blessings.

On that note: A talmid chacham came to America to raise funds for his sick daughter - and then he became sick himself, lo aleinu. Please daven for Yisrael Refael ben Sarah Nesha. Tizku li'mitz.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Surprising Omission

The gemara says that according to the strict letter of the law it is sufficient to light ONE candle every night of Chanukah. Our custom of lighting one additional candle every night is a beautification of the mitzva. Why, asks Tzvi Moshe, does the Shulchan Oruch ONumbered ListMIT the basic law of Chanukah that one must light one candle a night??

Tzvi Moshe is HIP!

Rav Shachter on the nonsense of America.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Nazir And Tefillin

Right now I am learning Maseches Nazir [well actually right now I am writing this blog, but you catch my drift]. At the Shabbos table my daughter [the older one - not the baby] asked me a SHTARKE kashya. How does a nazir fulfill the mitzva of tefillin? We know that he doesn't cut his hair [sometimes forever] and an excessive amount of hair is considered a chatzitza [interposition] by the poskim.

Nazir, tefillin, can they go together?

Ad kan kushyas Gila Shoshana. Gila is in High School which I find quite remarkable because it was just like yesterday that I was starting High School and older boys would come up to me in the cafeteria waiting to order lunch and say such delightful things as "Get to the back of the line, stupid freshie." I am sure that Bais Yaakov girls in Yerushalayim are more gentle [not gentile - gentle].

Spread Light This Chanukah - Not Darkness

The Messilas Yesharim teaches that the most harmful middah is leitzanus - scorn, ridicule, mockery and cynicism. A leitz can never grow because he is always looking to ridicule. In fact the nation that is the personification of evil on earth, Amalek, is called a "leitz" by chazal. Leitzanus is evil.

The internet is filled with leitzem. Their tortured souls can find no rest until they mock what is holy to the Jewish people. The chumash, the gemara, the medrash, tzaddikim, halacha, even G-d Himself - everything is fair play. The goal - to mock, to belittle, to insult and to degrade. The result - nothing is holy, so now I can do and say whatever I want.

My answer - If you have questions and difficulties with certain parts of our tradition you are in good company. Moshe Rabbeinu had questions on Hashem and every scholar since his time has been trying to understand to the best of his capability. We ask - but with respect and an abundance of humility. So the skeptic's job is to learn. Study the Tanach in depth, gemara, medrash, moreh nevuchim, emunos vi'deos, kuzari, sefer ha'ikkarim, mahral, ramchal etc. etc. They also had questions and worked hard to answer them. I have yet to meet an apikorus who has made a serious study of Torah with a desire to reach truth [although he might exist and I just haven't met him]. Most heretics are too busy either mocking religion or watching monday night football to study seriously.

Remember, if one is devoid of spirituality he is nothing more than a monkey with a laptop and a blackberry [to paraphrase the Rambam]. We readers of Mevakesh are trying to spread light on an internet so filled with darkness.

Love and blessings.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Today chof kislev was the yahrtzeit of Maran Hagaon Rav Yitzchak Hutner Ztz"l. Here is an article recently written including a mention of one of the chiddushim from his sefer Toras HaNazir [and also a mehalach of his son-in-law shlita]. Yutorah also has many shiurim based on his Pachad Yitzchak [including on Chanuka]. I maybe would link it but I have only one hand at my disposal and am finding it difficult to use the other which is holding Chana Leiba who is completing another "mishmar."

זכות הצדיקים יעזור ויגן ויושיע

Friday, November 26, 2010

The Everlasting Light of Torah

In Parshat Vayeshev, we read the remarkable story of Yosef’s dreams, the sale of Yosef, and his eventual descent to Egypt. By the end of the parsha, we find Yosef, the beloved son of Yaakov Avinu, living on his own in Egypt - a lone Jew in a culture that is completely antithetical to the value system in which he was raised.

As we take a closer look at Yosef’s life, we see that his individual struggle of resistance to external pressures serves as a microcosmic experience of the Jewish struggle to maintain our identity and our beliefs in the face of conflicting and often challenging cultures throughout the ages. The story of the Chashmonaim – the tale of the few against the many, the Torah pure against the impure – is certainly one example of this timeless struggle. It seems no coincidence, then, that we read the story of Yosef each year as we approach the holiday of Chanukah - when we commemorate the miraculous survival – both physical and spiritual - of the Chashmonaim. As we try to understand the lessons embedded in this week’s parsha, we must also consider how these messages relate to and enhance our appreciation of the upcoming chag.

There are several moments in the parsha that highlight the struggle Yosef had to overcome in order to maintain his Jewish ideals in the adverse society he lived in. Perhaps the most obvious example of this is when Eshet Potiphar attempts to seduce him. We see from Yosef’s response that his willpower to say no came from his commitment to Hashem:

In this house, there is no one greater than I, and he has not withheld anything from me except you, insofar as you are his wife. Now how can I commit this great evil, and sin against God?" (39:9).

We see that in spite of his immediate surroundings of pagan worship and immoral behavior, Yosef upheld his lifestyle as a God-fearing Jew – consistently allowing his understanding of ratzon Hashem dictate his decisions. This constant awareness of Hashem’s presence and influence in Yosef’s life is highlighted later in the parsha. When the two officers beseech him to interpret their dreams, Yosef instinctively responds:

"Don't interpretations belong to God? Tell [them] to me now" (Gen. 40:7)

Evidently, even after Yosef is sold by his own brothers for a seemingly unjustifiable reason, and still after he is thrown into jail for a crime he never committed, Yosef was able to see yad Hashem in all that was happening around him. In spite of the hardships, he still trusted that the Divine Will is ultimately in charge and it is God that determines how dreams unfold to become reality. What is perhaps most notable in this scene is that his conviction in a Divine influence in this world was so strong that he presented this view, even to those who clearly had differing beliefs than he did.

So often when we are surrounded by people who do not have the same value or belief system as we do, we begin to doubt the validity of the truths that we have always maintained. Perhaps at first we are able to hold on to our beliefs, but we refrain from expressing those views or displaying those values to avoid being different. Consequently, we may not be completely true to ourselves in the way we speak or the way we interact with those around us. Unfortunately, once we give up the externals in hopes to fit in, it becomes much easier for us to lose track ourselves of who we really are and who we want to be.

While we know our thoughts and intentions influence our actions and words, it is important to remember that the reverse is true as well – our internal thoughts and motives can be shaped by the way we interact with our surroundings. Often times we concern ourselves with how people perceive us based on the way we present ourselves externally – perhaps we should be more concerned about how the way we portray ourselves to the outside world can deeply affect our insides.

Yosef was the lone Jew in the Egyptian culture of the time and yet he was not ashamed to display his steadfast faith in Hashem. By displaying his beliefs and values in his daily interactions, Yosef was able to uphold and preserve his internal spiritual essence - even in the most trying times. In fact, Yosef became somewhat of a representative of Hashem in the society - when he brought prosperity to the Egyptian culture, the Egyptians associated the success with Yosef’s God. In this way Yosef was able to make a real Kiddush Hashem – even in a culture that rejected the notion of a moral life dictated by a single God. As the Torah tells us:

And his master saw that the Lord was with him, and whatever he did the Lord made prosper in his hand (39:3).

Rav Milston so poignantly notes that the act of a Kiddush Hashem can only be impacting when it is “an external expression of an internal reality.” In other words when we act according to what we truly believe to be right and true, then the sincerity shines through and that is when we make a Kiddush Hashem. Perhaps it was this transparent and genuine faith that Yosef displayed that caused those who knew him to accept that there was at least some truth and value in what he believed.

Like Yosef, the Chashmonaim were a small minority living in a culture that denied all aspects of Jewish religious and spiritual values. The Greeks sought to prove that there was no Divine Providence in the natural world and rejected and the notion of a supernatural force behind nature. It seems that the ability of the physically meek Jews to be victorious came from the same source that gave Yosef his unbeatable willpower to succeed – and that is the fundamental faith and trust in Torah values that cannot be compromised. In a time when the Greeks tried to diminish the light of Torah, the Chashmonaim did not allow Greek philosophy to penetrate their belief in the truths of the Torah - so much so that they were therefore willing and able to stand up to defend their beliefs in a Divine presence that is so often masked behind nature.

From both the stories of Yosef and the Chashmonaim, we are reminded of our role as the Jewish nation - as the ambassadors of Hashem in this world. When we fulfill G-d’s command with the conviction that it is the most ideal way to live, only then can those around us appreciate the beauty of the Torah and the value of living by the ethical standards that the Torah demands of us. As Rav Menken notes, the more immersed an individual is in Jewish ethics, the greater the influence he can have. Certainly the more passionate he feels in these convictions the deeper impact he can make.

I think this understanding of what it means to be the ambassadors of Hashem provides insight into a deeper understanding of the concept of parsumei nissa (publicizing the miracle), which is associated with lighting the Chanukah candles. After all, the act of calling attention to our successes seems antithetical to Jewish values of modesty – and yet we are commanded to publicize the Jewish victory for as many people to see. In grappling with this question, Rabbi Liebowitz points out that it is essential to remember that the act of parsumei nissa is not to call attention to our successes, but instead to Hashem’s greatness and influence in shaping the world we live in. Once again we see that the way we present ourselves externally could and should make an impression on our internal spiritual essence - through the lighting of the Chanukah candles we display to the outside world our fundamental faith in Hashem's control in this world - in so doing we remind ourselves and strengthen ourselves of this fundamental truth.

And so, we must allow the lights of Chanukah to reignite our own recognition of Hashem in our lives and that the Torah outlines the ideal path for us to live our lives. When we are reminded of these truths, then we can be the light unto the other nations – continuing the Jewish legacy of maintaining pure faith in Divine Providence dictated by the timeless moral compass of the Torah. May Hashem continue to give the Jewish people the strength and courage to be immersed in Jewish values, to take pride and joy in our attempt to live up to Torah ideals, and to be the strong spiritual force in the world we live in.


Wednesday, November 24, 2010


“I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder."

G.K. Chesterson

The first word out of a Jew's mouth every morning - "thanks".

"Yehudi" means "thanks".

A Jew IS thanks and gratitude.

Internalizing what you have to be thankful for is the secret to happiness.

The secret is OUT!!!:)

Love and Blessings Tyere Yidden!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


Should a Jew celebrate Thanksgiving?

Since there are various Rabbinic views on the topic, and my opinion certainly doesn't count in the presence of greatness, I will add something that everybody would agree with on principle.


If it does - bi'teavon [unless you follow those luminaries who consider it a Gentile practice and thus forbid it.]. If not - I have a few other suggestions for better ways to spend your time.....

And maybe there is Kibbud Av Va'aim involved. That counts, too.

Incidentally, Jews have there own Thanksgiving day. We call it "Chanuka" [see Shabbos 21 - "Mai Chanuka....."].

Love and Blessings!:)

Monday, November 22, 2010

"What we can or cannot do, what we consider possible or impossible, is rarely a function of our true capability. It is more likely a function of our beliefs about who we are."

The Sfas Emes says that to the extent you believe in Hashem, He will show you that He is here. Most people live without a constant awareness of Hashem, so they feel that He is distant.

Similarly we may add, that the more you believe in yourself, the more YOU will be able to show yourself what tremendous abilities you have. Reb Tzadok Hakohen says that we must believe in both Hashem and ourselves, i.e. that he gave us the ability to be great.

An article on making a kinyan on Erev Shabbos that will take effect on Shabbos.

Friday, November 19, 2010

In Parshat Vayishlach, we read about the embittered encounter between Yaakov and Esav. In the very dramatic scenes of the parsha - as we watch Yaakov both mentally and physically prepare himself for the upcoming battle with his brother - we learn a timeless lesson both about how to view ourselves and how to relate to Hashem during moments of uncertainty and fear.

In the past few parshiot, Yaakov demonstrates his unwavering faith in the face of the many struggles that he has to overcome. He fearlessly tricked his father, stole the bracha from his brother, and ran away from the house of Lavan. It is surprising then that we find Yaakov in the beginning of our parsha, to suddenly be in a panic as he readies himself to face his brother, Esav. The Torah tells us:

Vayar Yaakov meod vayetzer lo

Yaakov became very frightened and was distressed (32:8)

How can we understand Yaakov’s sudden fear? Can this fear be considered a lack of faith – did he no longer trust wholeheartedly that Hashem was going to protect as He had over the past years he was on the run? To answer this question we must understand the reason Yaakov is so fearful about his imminent meeting with Esav. Yaakov says:

I am unworthy of the least of all the mercies and of all the truth, which You have shown Your servant (32:11)

We see that Yaakov’s doubts were not in Hashem’s word or ability to protect him; Yaakov doubted his own worthiness to be saved. As Rashi explains, Yaakov’s concern was that he used up his merits already, or that he would come to sin and would no longer merits Hashem’s miraculous intervention. Rav Moshe Taragin notes that this humility and even lowliness is the proper mindset of every Jewish individual – to never feel that we are complacent in our merits or that we have filled our quota of good deeds to deem us as righteous in the eyes of Hashem.

Yaakov’s unassuming nature is demonstrated further in Rashi’s interpretation of the three words that Yaakov instructed his messengers to tell Esav: im lavan garti (literally translated, I have sojourned with Lavan). Rashi explains that Yaakov wanted to assuage his brother, Esav, by informing him that all the time he was in beit Lavan he did not rise to an envious position but he remained a stranger (ger) there.

Rashi also offers a second explanation of the words, im Lavan garti – quoting the Midrash, Rashi notes that the word garti contains the same numerical value of 613 (as in taryag mitzvot) – thus indicating to Esav that all the time that Yaakov spent with Lavan, he kept the 613 mitzvot.

If we determined that Yaakov was so concerned about his spiritual status to the point that he fears he is not worthy of Hashem's protection (and we said that this is an appropriate, admirable mindset to have), then how do we understand the second explanation that Rashi that suggests that Yaakov was indeed confident in his Torah observance? If Yaakov was aware and felt assured that he had maintained his spiritual piety and purity over the years, then why does he seem so concerned that he lacks the merit of Hashem’s protection?

The two explanations that Rashi offers illuminate the paradoxical perception of self that Yaakov Avinu had. One the one hand, Yaakov sees and presents himself as a mere stranger of no notable status, someone who is lowly in the eyes of others and unsure where he stands in the eyes of Hashem. On the other hand, there is a sense of pride that he expresses in that he was able to maintain his spiritual wholesomeness despite the negative influences of beit Lavan.

Although on the surface these two attitudes seem contradictory, the Netivot Shalom explains that in fact, they are complimentary to one another. He explains further that both the humility and confidence that Yaakov models were necessary mindsets to have in order to overcome the evil forces that tried (unsuccessfully) to diminish Yaakov’s spiritual level.

The Netivot Shalom explains further that the yetzer hara attacks us from many different fronts. Perhaps the more obvious way the yetzer hara strikes is in attempt to persuade us to give in to physical desires and in so doing neglect Torah and mitzvot. Often times the evil inclination attempts to accomplish this task by causing us to ruminate over our past sins and thereby convincing us that one more sin won’t really make matters any worse, or one more merit won’t be enough to salvage our prior mistakes. In order to overcome this, we must have a sense of confidence about the good we have already accomplished and a recognition that our actions are meaningful and significant, and therefore we, as individuals, are important.

At the same time, there is another force with which the yetzer hara attacks – and that is after we have already performed the mitzvah. Often times after we have done a good deed, our ego becomes inflated and we become overly confident in ourselves - when this happens, it is if our good deeds are handed over to the influence of the yetzer hara. In order to overcome this front of the evil inclination, we must maintain a sense of modesty and humility - rather than becoming overly proud about our past that we feel complacent in our spiritual accomplishments and lose our motivation to keep moving forward and upwards on this path.

And so, explains the Netivot Shalom, Yaakov needed both aspects – the self-confidence in regards to the mitzvot he did keep, coupled with a humble spirit that ensured that he did not become overly-confident or content with his spiritual gains. How did Yaakov strike this healthy balance between self-worth and genuine humility about his spiritual status?

It seems that Yaakov’s sense of self came from the confidence, even pride, that he had in his past actions and choices, while his sense of humility stemmed from an insecurity about what would be in the future (as seem in the first Rashi quoted above), as he was unsure whether he would continue to find strength and have the foresight to make the right decisions and continue to find favor in the eyes of Hashem. Thus, in spite of all the good that Yaakov did, he maintained his unpretentious and unassuming nature. Essentially, it is the combination of satisfaction in the good that we have accomplished, along with an apprehension about our future that inspires and propels us to act with utmost piety and righteousness as we moves forward in our lives.

The notion that his balance between self-worth and humility is a necessary means to protect our inner goodliness and our spiritual accomplishments from the workings of the evil inclination is reflected in the following statement:

G-d tells man, "My candle [the mitzvos] are in your hands; your candle [the soul] is in My hands. If you guard My candle, I will guard yours" 
(Devarim Rabbah 4:4).

A great challenge many of us face is to be able to recognize that Hashem puts the Torah into our hands in order that we live by it and constantly seize opportunities to perform mitzvot and observe Torah laws. But, there is a second challenge, and that is to hold on to these merits - after we have performed the good deeds, we must feel a sense of elation and be uplifted by the ecstasy of performing a mitzvah – and let that excitement inspire us to continue on that path. At the same time, to truly guard the mitzvot is to not give in to the yetzer hara even after the fact – to not become haughty or self-righteous.

Yaakov was fully aware of the good deeds and righteous acts that he had done in the past. Still, he knew that to hold on to those merits, he must not become overly prideful and assume that Hashem will perform miracles for him if he did not continue to demonstrate his faith and continue to act in a righteous manner. Yaakov knew that if he "guarded" his mitzvot by not becoming overly prideful - and then Hashem would indeed guard him in his upcoming battle. And so, Yaakov's panic does not reflect a lack of faith in Hashem that He would protect him - but rather it shows that Yaakov understood that he could not depend on his past deeds but must continue on his path of righteousness to merit Divine protection.

It is no surprise that Yaakov Avinu is associated with the quality of tiferet (harmony) as we see how he was able to strike this harmonious balance self-worth and self respect with a humble spirit and mindset. May we learn from Yaakov's was to find this balance - to be able to recognize that as much as he had done, there was so much more to do. May we feel satisfaction in the good we have done and use that healthy dose of pride propel us forward, without becoming too sure of ourselves that we become complacent in our spiritual standings. May we always and always to follow the righteous and honorable path and may Hashem always guide us and guard as as we move forward and upward on this endless journey!

Shabbat Shalom, Taly

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Kid's Kwotes

"We worry about what a child will become tomorrow, yet we forget that he is someone today."

"In a dark moment I ask, "How can anyone bring a child into this world?" And the answer rings clear, "Because there is no other world, and because the child has no other way into it."

"Every child comes with the message that G-d is not yet discouraged of man."

"Children need love, especially when they do not deserve it."

Boy, n.: a noise with dirt on it. ~Not Your Average Dictionary

"While we try to teach our children all about life. Our children teach us what life is all about."

Seize The Moment

A French partisan fighting against the Nazis was caught and was brought in a train to meet his cruel death. He was calmy looking outside enjoying the beautiful scenery. Uopn being asked how he could enjoy the view at a time like this, he answered - "Why should the fact that I will be buried alive in 15 minutes prevent me from enjoying myself at this moment."

Sweetest friends!! Enjoy what you have while you have it. As for the future - deal with it... in the future.

Love and blessings!

This weeks parsha shiur.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

“Those who lack the courage will always find a philosophy to justify it.”

Albert Camus


Rav Aviner in Be'ahava U'bemunah Parshas Vayeitzei - Translated by R. Blumberg

Question: I eat without end although I am not hungry. I tried a diet and it didn’t help, because I eat obsessively. I want to stop but I don’t succeed, and my weight increases from day to day.

Answer: You’re not alone. It’s a pervasive plague. There are a billion people on earth who weigh too much (by the way, a similar number of people are undernourished, and each day 25,000 die of hunger). 350 million overeaters are classed as having an eating disorder. Money spent on abnormal overeating in the U.S. each day equals 250 million dollars. Daily expenditures in the U.S. on various weight-lowering programs equal 110 million dollars. Overeating really is a plague. In Israel, 39% of people are overweight. Of these, 60% are adults, 20% are boys and 19% are girls.Obesity can cause heart problems and many other illnesses, and the reason is simple: The body is taking in more calories than it is burning off. The cure is thus simple: Don’t eat fattening foods. Don’t eat sweet foods like chocolate, cake or sweets, or fatty milk products. Break out of the cycle of overeating: Taking in calories creates a need. It’s not real hungerbut artificial hunger.

And what is the ultimate cause of that uncontrollable desire to eat? There are various causes: psychological factors, loneliness, sadness, or depression, as well as hormonal irregularities and imprecise functioning of the brain, indicating, only after a delay, that a person is already sated, thus leaving an inaccurate feeling of hunger. In any event, the solution is not crash diets that require strong discipline and a great effort, but which generally fail. Rather, a different approach is needed.

Various Strategies

1. Eat a good breakfast, which our sages called “Pat Shacharit” -- one’s “morning bread”.

2. Eat a meal once every three hours, so that one will not be hungry and will not attack the food. Such was the custom of Jews from Germany, and it is linked to their custom of waiting three hours between meat and milk. Then, that three-hour habit will become second nature.

3. Prepare yourself something healthy in your bag in case you feel hungry during the day, like a piece of fruit, a vegetable, or a healthy cracker.

4. Prepare yourself healthy, tasty food at home with which to start your meal, like salad or vegetable soup.

5. Avoid fast food. Usually it’s not healthy

.6. Don’t drink sweet drinks.

7. If you slip, make amends quickly. Keep matters in hand. If someone makes a mistake and suffers for it, should he then make the same mistake and suffer more?

8. If there is healthy food on the table, wait ten minutes before eating so as overcome the strong desire to eat it. It’s like the Chinese saying: Who is brave? He who eats one peanut.” Rabbenu Yona of Gerundi wrote in his book, “Yesod HaTeshuva” in the name of Ra’avad, that in serving G-d one should harness one’s resolve and forego one delicious food every meal. I only said that one should wait.

9. Don’t store unhealthy food at home. We don’t house terrorists.

10. Sometimes a person thinks he is hungry when he is really only thirsty. Watch out for that.

11. Eat enough food to satisfy yourself and wait twenty minutes. That’s how long it takes for the brain to relay the message that you’re satisfied. It’s the time it takes to walk a kilometer.

12. Do a half hour of physical exercise each day. That, too, will take off a bit of weight, butthe main thing is that it’s very healthy.

13. Before participating in a large banquet, decide precisely what you are going to eat. It’slike the instructions a soldier receives before battle.

14. Enlist family support and the supervision of another human being.

Deriving Blessing from Eating Less

Here’s a rule of thumb. The Torah says, “Eat your fill” (Vayikra 25:19), and Rashi comments, quoting Torat Kohanim, that this refers to “eating little and finding blessing in it.” Eat daintily. “One shouldn’t eat voraciously, but the way one eats before a king, for a blessing only rests on one who does not eat voraciously… as when Esau said, ‘Pour that red, red stuff down my throat’ (Bereshit 25:30). Just as the ministering angels eat in holiness and purity, so should Israel” (Torat Kohanim 25).

Turn to Overeaters Anonymous

If all the above advice doesn’t help, turn to Overeaters Anonymous (O.A.). O.A. was founded 50 years ago (5720) to help people with an obsessive, uncontrollable urge to eat, by way of a twelve-stage program. (The same that was used by Alcoholics Anonymous, but with several differences). It includes a personalized program, and treats the various causes of overeating, such as emotional disappointment. They take no medical steps (In case of need, go to a dietician), but work on the person to change himself internally.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Another annoyance. People who conduct two conversations simultaneously, one on the phone and the other with a person in the presence the speaker. The person on the other end of the line never knows if you are talking to him or the other person. If you talking to someone - focus on him. Later on you can talk to the next guy. Sort of like davening, now you talking to Hashem, later you can talk to your friend.

Prepare for Chanukah.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Call Waiting

In the good ol' days, when a person made a phone call and the phone was busy, he called back later. Today, there is "call waiting". "Call waiting" corrupts a person's character. Why? Because if Reuven is talking to Shimon there is no reason he should interrupt and talk to Levi. Why is Levi more important than Shimon? And if he were talking to Levi he would interrupt and talk to Shimon. So it is not a matter of who is more important, rather people just feel they have to interrupt the conversation that they are having and speak to whomever else is calling.

This is rude. Putting a person on hold is [almost always] rude. Even the click in the middle of the conversation is not necessary. It is just an annoyance.

I wish there was no such thing as 'call waiting'.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

ונשמרתם מאד לנפשותיכם

From an article by Dr. Olson in theheathierlife.com. Please take it to heart:


To really see the harm that sugar does, all we have to do is look at people who have a ton of sugar running around in their veins. Diabetics cannot control their blood sugar and, as a result, have a high amount of blood sugar. This high amount of blood sugar causes harm.

The diseases that diabetics tend to have as a result of high sugar are these:
· Retinopathy: eye disease that may leads to blindness
· Peripheral vascular disease: clogged arteries in the legs and sometimes arms
· Nephropathy: kidney damage that may lead to kidney failure
· Cardiomyopathy: heart damage, that can lead to heart failure
· Neuropathy: loss of sensation in nerves, tingling and numbness
· Coronary Artery Disease: clogged arteries, can lead to heart attack
· Stroke

When you look at these diseases, they all seem very different and have nothing in common, but they all share a common means of destruction.

Blood vessel damage is what ties all these diseases together. Sugar harms blood vessels in the same way smoke harms lungs: slowly over time. Blood vessel damage is much more obvious in diabetics in the way damage from cigarettes would be more obvious in someone who smokes three packs a day compared to someone smoking one pack a day.

The Million-Dollar Question

Here is the question that you and scientists should be asking: does sugar also harm people who have normal blood sugar? The answer is yes, but first consider how likely it is that you will become diabetic.

In the United States, your chances for getting diabetes are about one in three, or about thirty percent. If you don’t get diabetes, you may get a condition called metabolic syndrome, which is a pre-diabetic condition that also carries risk for blood vessel damage. Your combined risk for having either metabolic syndrome or diabetes is about 50 percent, so you chances that sugar will cause destruction to your blood vessels are high.

But let’s assume that you are lucky enough to avoid either of those conditions. Should you avoid sugar because sugar can cause you harm even if you have normal blood sugar? The answer is yes. New research shows that sugar also harms the blood vessels of people with so-called normal blood sugar.

In order to stay healthy, you need to learn to avoid sugar and foods that act like sugar in your body. While it is difficult to avoid sugar, your long-term health is dependent on it.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Looking Forward to Appreciate the Present

Hi all!!

In Parshat Vayeitzei, we read about the first member of Klal Yisrael who is forced into exile – as Yaakov Avinu is forced to flee his parents house to escape the wrath of his brother, Esav. By the end of the parsha, we find that Yaakov has returned to Eretz Yisrael, having overcome the various hurdles that he came by during this long journey. In studying the ways of Yaakov Avinu during these pivotal and often times painful points in his life, perhaps we can learn how to overcome the inevitable challenges we face as an exiled nation today.

The parsha begins with the beginning of Yaakov’s exilic voyage:

Vayeitzei Yaakov me’beer shava, vayelech Charana

Yaakov left Beer Sheva, and went towards Charan

Many commentaries ask why the Torah specifically mentions not only where Yaakov was heading, but also from where he departed – certainly by telling us that he was heading one place would know by simple logic that he has left another place!

Rashi suggests that the words, vayelech charana, come to teach us that when a righteous person leaves a city, an element of kedusha leaves that place. The Kedushat Halevi offers another explanation that might add a new dimension to Rashi’s commentary. He suggests that these seemingly superfluous words signify that when Yaakov left, he took an element of the kedusha of the land with him. Perhaps it was because Yaakov was able to keep this piece of kedushah with him that the loss was so profoundly felt when he departed.

But what does it mean to hold on to something that is not tangible in this world - what does it mean that Yaakov took with him the kedusha of Eretz Yisrael – and perhaps most importantly, how can we hope to emulate his ways? As we read about Yaakov’s journey, it is clear that what Yaakov held on to so dearly was the understanding that no matter where he went, his intentions should always be to return to Israel. In this way, no matter how great the distance from his homeland, a piece of Israel remained a part of him and a part of him remained in Israel. Not only did he yearn constantly for his return, but we see that he truly believed that he would return – it was this unwavering faith that the future would be bright that got him through the darker times.

We see this simple faith that his exile would be temporary in the beginning of the parsha when Yaakov first sets off on his journey. After Hashem appears to him and solidifies the covenant that Hashem made with Avraham, Yaakov declares: And if I return in peace (be’shalom) to my father’s house, and the Lord will be my God (28:21). Immediately thereafter, Yaakov builds a monument to Hashem as a means of acknowledging and thanking Hashem for what he is going to be blessed with. Yaakov has faith that Hashem is with him and that Hashem will continue to be with him – so much so that he thanks Hashem for what will be in the future.

As the story unfolds in the parsha, we see what was perhaps most remarkable about Yaakov was his ability to remember his greater spiritual mission to return to Israel even throughout his trying years in the house of Lavan. The words of Lavan himself reveal this quality of Yaakov Avinu: But now you have gone away, for you longed for your father’s house. Rabbi Yerachmiel Goldman points out that the meaning of these words tell us that throughout the years he spend with Lavan, Yaakov was not simply homesick for his family, but he was constantly yearning for the return to the spiritual environment of his home.

When and individual yearns for an object that does not exist or a reality that can never be, then the longing becomes depressing as he becomes hopeless and helpless. When one yearns for something that is possible, even probable, then the anticipation and the yearning makes each passing moment exciting – as the person knows that the moment he is waiting for getting closer and closer. Yaakov Avinu knew that redemption would come because he trusted the word of Hashem –and that anticipation armed him with the strength to overcome the challenges of his personal exile.

It is interesting to note that Yaakov specifically says that he strives to be be’shalem at the end of his journey. The word shalem bares two familiar meanings: peace and completeness. Perhaps at the end of it all, what would Yaakov this sense shleimut (peace) is the realization and appreciation that all that happened in his lifetime somehow contributed to making him a complete person. He knew the hurdle he had to overcome was only a means to a greater end – each struggle he surpassed brought him closer to being ready for his eventual return to Eretz Yisrael.

It is worth noting that there is something quite unique that about this week’s parsha – unlike the other parshiot that are divided into sections demarcated by the letters pey and samech. As Shira Smiles points out that Parstha Vayeitzei has not one of these demarcations, indicating that although the parsha spans decades in the life of Yaakov Avinu, the story is to be read as one long episode. In other words, each element of the parsha – each moment of panic, tragedy, and exile that Yaakov Avinu experiences - must be seen and understood in the context of the larger picture that is painted in the parsha.

I think that the lesson we learn from this story of individual exile and redemption is the importance of seeing our lives – both on the individual and the national level – in the greater context – as part of the greater tapestry of life whose picture only becomes clear as we look back later in our lives. If we can trust - as Yaakov did - that redemption will come, then we can appreciate each moment as one step closer to that end goal and we can take comfort in our yearning for a brighter future. May we all be able to learn from the perspective of Yaakov Avinu, to arm ourselves with the faith that Yaakov had, and to dedicate ourselves to reaching greater spiritual heights not in spite of the struggles we face, but instead seeing each of our struggles as a necessary step towards a peaceful future!

Shabbat Shalom, Taly

Positive Models

Children need fewer critics and more positive models.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Wise Man

Sayings of the Chazon Ish:

A wise man demands of himself, a fool demands of others.

Life is the best teacher.

Just like there is no smoke without fire, so too there is no person without faults.

Sometimes a mistake for one second causes anguish for a lifetime.

When you want to take - you must give.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Why Our Soul Came To This World

עס קומט אראפ א נשמה אויף דער וועלט און לעבט אפ זיביציק אכציק יאר צוליב טאן א אידן א טובה בגשמיות ובפרט אין

A Soul descends to this world for 70 or 80 years to do a favor for a Jew in gashmiyus and even more so in ruchniyus.

The Holy Baal Shem Tov

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

My friend R.B.Y.F. sent me this.

Come to this rockin' fahrbrenghen.

And last but not least - Tzvi Moshe.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

More Precious Than Gold

Imagine a businessman. One day he tells the bank - "Seal off my account. I want no more money to come in."


THAT is what I think of people who are married and try to limit the number of children they have [barring extenuating circumstances].

Each child is worth NOT five billion dollars.

Each child is priceless.

Oh, and it is against halacha as well [see earlier brackets]. I wish that just the last sentence would be enough to convince people but all too often it isn't...

Friday, November 5, 2010

The Straight Path

In Parshat Toldot, we read about the next generation of the Jewish people as we read about the birth and development of Yaakov and Esav. There are several puzzling, perhaps even troubling situations that commentators grapple with in trying to understand the events that take place in this parsha – including Yitzchaks favoritism of the seemingly evil son, Esav, as well as the trickery of the supposedly righteous son, Yaakov. Hopefully in dealing with these questions we can gain a new understanding and appreciation of the episodes we read about this week.

In the first portion of the parsha, the Torah gives us insight into the nature of the boys before they are even born:

Veyitrotzetzu habanim be’kirbah

And the children struggled within her (Breishit 25:22)

Rashi, quoting a well-known Midrash, explains that the word veytotzetzu comes from the root word ratz, which means to run. Accordingly, the Midrash explains that when Rivkah walked by the beit Midrash, Yaakov would struggle to come out; when she would walk by the entrance to a house of idol worship, Esav would struggle to come out.

Rav Aron Tendler asks a fundamental question about this Midrash: if one had a natural tendency towards spirituality, as symbolized by his yearning for Torah, and the other towards fulfilling physical desires, as represented by his pull towards idolatry - to what degree did the two sons have free will when they entered this world? It would seem that Yaakov was destined to be a tzaddik (righteous) and Esav destined to be a rasha(wicked)?

Rav Tendler explains that indeed both Yaakov and Esav had equal opportunity to develop into righteous characters in spite of their very different tendencies - both had a challenge they had to face given their different natures. While Esav had the perhaps more obvious challenge to use the physical world around him as a means to satisfy his spiritual desires and obligations, Yaakov’s challenge was to leave his private domain of Torah study in order to be able to implement the Torah values and infuse the physical world with spirituality.

The commentary of the Sfat Emet reflects the notion that both Yaakov and Esav had potential to be tzaddikim given their predetermined tendencies - he suggests that the intended plan for the development of Yaakov and Esav was that the two sons would be partners – each assisting and supporting the other until a balance of the physical and spiritual realms could be achieved. In this way, both of Yitzchak’s sons could have worked together to become the progenitors of the Jewish people.

It is with this insight that we can answer a question of how Yaakov Avinu found favor in his seemingly ill-natured son, Esav. Perhaps Yitzchak understood this fundamental tenet of Judaism - that no matter what a person’s inclinations are, every individual is given the means and circumstances to channel his tendencies to become righteous in the eyes of Hashem. Yitzchak saw this potential for good in Esav in spite of his seemingly negative nature.

As we read the parsha we learn that Esav did not overcome his challenge - as he let his desire for physicality overwhelm and overtake him. In comparing the character development of Yaakov and Esav in the parsha, we can learn an important lesson about how to achieve the righteous status that Yaakov did reach – no matter what our predispositions and inclinations might be.

When we closer at the text, we see that both Yaakov and Esav were born with a tendency for deception. In the case of Esav, Rashi explains that he knew how to trick his father into thinking that he was observing the Torah and its commandments (see Rashi, 25:27). Similarly, we know that Yaakov very blatantly tricked his father into giving him the blessing in this parsha. In fact, the name Yaakov stems from the root word that means to deceive (see 27:36).

We must ask then what the fundamental difference is between the two sons - why is one rewarded for his trickery and the other condemned for it? In contrast to Esav who deceived his father in order to avoid fulfilling Torah commandments and to fulfill his own desires instead, Yaakov Avinu used trickery in order to fulfill ratzon Hashem. Yaakov knew that he had to resort to these measures in order to receive the birthright and the blessing because he was the worthy progenitor of the Jewish nation; in this way, he knew that he was acting according to the will of Hashem.

With this understanding we can reexamine the verse quoted above – veyitrotzetzu habanim be’kirbah (And the children struggled within her). As noted, the word veyitrotzetzu comes from the root word ratz – which can also be translated as will ordesire. Perhaps the essential difference between the two sons was not that one was drawn to the physical world and the other to the spiritual, but that one acted to fulfill his own desires while the other acted with a higher purpose. Again, it was not as much what they did that deemed one righteous over the other, but it was the mindset and motivation that determined whether they were truly righteous or not.

Given the events of this parsha, it is a wonder that Chazal associate Yaakov with the quality of emet – truth. This is the paradox of the 3rd patriarch – he is on the one hand called Yaakov – from the root word eikev - to trick. On the other hand, he is called Yisrael – when written in Hebrew this name is formed from the words yashar k-el, straight to Hashem. As Rav Zeven notes, in contrast to his first name, the latter signifying that Yaakov Avinu represents the straight path of spiritual ascent. As we have seen, the two are not actually contradictory – because when you look beyond the surface to assess Yaakov's actions, it becomes clear all of his choices were in line with what he knew to be the ultimate truth - ratzon Hashem.

To follow the straight and true path towards spiritual elevation and growth, is not accomplished by negating the physical world. Instead, our challenge is to create a harmony between the physical and spiritual - following the model of Yaakov Avinu in letting our spiritual goals dictate and control our actions and interaction in this world.

When Rivkah questions Hashem about the struggle inside her womb, she is told: One nation will struggle against the other (25:23). Rashi explains that these words indicate that two sons will never be equal: when one rises, the other will fall. In a deeper understanding of this Rashi, we might say that when our physicality is on the rise and overwhelms us, then our spiritual level is diminished. At the very same time, when we let our spiritual goals subsume us to the point that we cannot relate to the world we live in, then we lose the ability to utilize the physical world to lift ourselves higher spiritually.

May we all follow this straight path that Yaakov Avinu set out for us and may we all strive to live up to our namesake as bnei Yisrael. Let us remember that no matter what circumstances we are find ourselves in or what tendencies we recognize in ourselves - we all have the potential to use our strengths, weaknesses and all that falls in between, to uplift ourselves and our surroundings when our actions are guided by the ultimate truths of Torah.

Shabbat Shalom, Taly

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Rabbi Shlomo Aviner

[Be-Ahavah U-Be-Emunah – Chayei Sarah 5771 – translated by R. Blumberg]

Question: When a boy and girl go out many times, sometimes they are interested in going out with another couple to see how the prospective spouse interacts in company. Obviously, the aim is not to create a social gathering in which they “have a ball”, but to allow their relationship to develop and flow from a different direction. Is this permissible?

Answer: Absolutely not, for three reasons, any one of which would provide enough reason to reject it.
1. It’s going too far.
2. It won’t help.
3. It’s forbidden.

1. It’s going too far. What do you care how the girl functions in company? The main thing is how she functions with you. Is she in line to be a public relations man?! And if we say that she doesn’t behave properly to others, then that means she has a fault, but you’re not looking for an angel without shortcomings. And even if you look for that, you won’t find it. And even if you find it, she won’t marry you, because you, yourself, are no angel. After all, you’ve got a shortcoming that you’re examining her too closely.

This brings to mind Ha-Rav Moshe Feinstein’s response regarding a boy who wanted his prospective match to cook for him to make sure that she didn’t burn her food. Rav Feinstein rejected this (Shut Igrot Moshe). One has to hope that with G-d’s help the couple will come to an equitable agreement in the kitchen.Likewise, even if it becomes clear that she does not behave properly towards others, one must hope that with the help of your blessed influence she will improve. After all, couples continue to advance ethically through mutual assistance and mutual love.

2. It won’t help. You can’t put someone under a microscope using a chance, fleeting test. One has to keep an ongoing watch, and especially to check on his or her behavior in situations of tension and crisis. After all, in most situations we are all sweetness and light. The test comes in crisis. Will you initiate a crisis?!Yet there’s a much better, alternate solution. That is to ask others who know the candidate inside-out, like teachers or dormitory friends.That constitutes an immeasurably more objective gauge than what you will see in some joint activity. And anyway, one shouldn’t go out with a girl before first finding out all one can from those who know her. Will you go out with a girl, and after you start to like her, suddenly remember to check out several points and then decide that it’s out of the question? Why cause senseless pain? Why do something wicked?

3. It’s forbidden. True, the intent is not to have fun, but going out with a girl for fun is forbidden, even if that is not the intent. True, Rambam wrote that one should not marry a woman until he sees her, to ensure that he likes her. Yet one cannot go beyond that for the purpose of having pleasure. And even Rambam’s permitting one to see her did not make Ra’avad particularly happy. True, the couple have to talk together to get to know one another and to resolve disagreements, and sometimes long talks are necessary.But there’s a limit! Dating is not a halachic excuse for having fun.

Moreover, we’re talking here about one unmarried couple going out with another. What license is there to having fun with your friend’s wife or date? That’s already too much!As far as wanting things to “flow freely”, that’s part of a plague that began recently, i.e., 250-300 years ago, that people became slaves of “flowing freely”.

One is reminded of the story of the philosopher Schopenhauer about the man who went to a masked ball and met a very interesting woman with whom he talked until the middle of the night. Afterwards he said to himself, “Finally I’ve met a woman with whom I can flow freely, a woman with whom I can have deep, personal conversations – not like the morose sourpuss I’m married to.” Yet at midnight, when everyone took their masks off, he saw that it was his wife…

In other words, it’s easy to flow freely. Marriage is about something else.Responsibility, seriousness, morality, self-sacrifice.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

How Different Are We?

Everyone has heard about how the Jewish world was torn asunder at the end of the 1700's as a result of the quarrels between Chassidim and Misnagdim. The Vilna Gaon felt that Chassidus was a danger to Torah True Judaism. Until this day there are some who would like to continue the battle.

A May'seh....

Rav Soloveitchik once attended and greatly enjoyed a fahrbrengen of the Lubavitcher Rebbe. Afterwards the Rebbe was heard saying that he is sure that in shomayim the Vilna Gaon and the Ba'al Ha'Tanya have made peace. The proof is that a student of the students of the Vilna Gaon attended a gathering of a student of the students of the Ba'al HaTanya.

Rav Soloveitchik commented in return that he thinks that peace was made between the two warring parties when Hitler threw the followers of both into the gas chambers. He, yimach shmo, knew that there is really no difference. A Jew is a Jew.

[From the sefer Pninei HaRav]