Sunday, July 31, 2011

ביטול היש

Tefilla is "bitul ha-yesh" - a complete nullification of myself and my own needs and a connection to the Divine will. A person is supposed to come to a recognition of the fact the we can't acheive anything in life without Hashem's help. The gemara says [bk 92] that if you need something and you daven that your friend should get the same thing - you will be answered first. The reason is that you were successfully mevatel your "yesh" - your own personal needs and instead focused on your friend. This serves as a merit to have your own needs satisfied first.

[Sefer Zikaron for Rav Dessler page 33]

Friday, July 29, 2011

Ahava Elyona

יש אהבה עליונה בכל נפש מישראל והיא אהבה מסותרת, בכל נשמה יש בחינת אהבה טבעית מסותרת הטבועה בנפש האלהית, שלא להיות נפרד מייחודו ואחדותו יתברך, כמו נר דולק, שהשלהבת עולה בו מאליה, האהבה המסותרת נמשכת מהאהבה העליונה, שהיא למעלה מטעם ודעת והיא בחינת אינסוף ממש. לכן, אף שלמטה האהבה קטנה מ"מ יכול הוא לעוררה בשרשה ושם האהבה הגדולה

צמח צדק

ובתרגום חופשי -

There is a lofty, hidden, innate love in every Jewish soul, that causes a person to desire not to be separated from the Oneness of Hashem, like a candle that when kindled slightly burns strongly. This innate love is drawn from Divine love which is infinite. Therefore, even if one only feels a small amount of love, he can arouse it by connecting to the source of this love and it will burn fiercely.


Thursday, July 28, 2011

Destined for a Destination

There is an oft-quoted principle that we try to live by, which is: mitzvah gedolah le’hiyot besimcha tamidit is a mitzvah to be joyous always. And yet, during the three-week period we find ourselves in - between the 17th of Tammuz and the 9th of Av - we commanded to be in a state of mourning and to increase the magnitude of our mourning at the start of Chodesh Av (which falls out this coming Monday). How can we be commanded to be happy and mournful in the very same moment in time? Hopefully a better understanding of Parshat Maasai - which we read each year on the Shabbat that precedes Rosh Chodesh Av - will provide insight into this fundamental question. The parsha begins:

These are the journeys of Bnei Yisroel who went out of Egypt...Moshe recorded their departures for their journeys (motza'ei'hem lemas'ei'hem)...these were the journeys for their departures (mas'ei'hem lemotza'ei'hem.

Among the commentaries that try to explain the meaning behind the double, but reversed language in the above verse, the Netziv suggests that the first time we see the phrase, the Torah is making reference to the journeys immediately following the exodus from Egypt; during these journeys, or encampments, the Jews were on a straight path (a “direct flight”) to Israel. The second phrase refers to the journeys that came after the sin of the spies and the subsequent decree that the Jews would wander the desert for 40 years before entry into the land; these encampments did not take them on a direct path, but instead each journey seemed to be unnecessary pit-stop that only delayed their arrival at their destination.

Still, how does this explain why the language is reversed? We can explain as follows: the first departures were for the sake of journeying forward—they left one place in order to get to the next. After the sin, however, when the Jews were taken from place to place in no clear or logical sequence, each journey was for the sake of departure. In other words, the people had to encamp in each of these places in order that they overcome a challenge, develop themselves, and thereby make themselves ready to depart to the next level. Though they could not feel it at the time, each of these journeys – even when they felt pointless and even backwards - brought them one step closer to entering the land of Israel.

There are times in our lives that we "depart" from a stage in our life journey in order to enter the next phase – and it is clear to us that we are embarking on the next “logical” phase of our lives. It is at these junctures that we might feel apprehensive as we enter an unknown phase – but we feel excited and proud of where we have come and where we are going.

There are, however, other times that we feel unsure of the direction we are in and feel confused as to why we have to go through the stage or the struggle we are in. But, perhaps one lesson we learn from our parsha is that at those times we must realize that we are on the path – and we must still confident that we are taking steps in the right direction. It is important at those times to realize that sometimes we have to go through these moments in order to overcome them – to grow from them and to then be ready to get to our next phase.

The Sfat Emet notes that although all of the encampments between the time the Jews left Egypt and the moment they entered the land of Israel was part of one, albeit long, journey, the word masaeihem (their travels) is written in plural. This reminds us that the transition from slaves in a foreign land to Jews of the Promised Land could not happen in one giant step, but had to be a gradual process. And so it is with all life journeys – we can take great strides forward but we cannot accomplish anything worth accomplishing in one giant step, and rarely can we do so without overcoming a few obstacles along the way.

From this perspective we can answer the question many commentaries ask of why is it necessary at all to look back on the many stops and remember the obstacles the Jews faced along this long path? And, why now?

Now that the Jews were entering the land, dividing up the land and readying themselves to settle in the land – it is crucial to look back at the long and winding road that got them to their final destination. All too often we feel discouraged as we go along the path of life – striving for a goal but feeling so far away. It is in those moments we must think about the challenging paths we have taken in the past and remember the satisfaction and pride that we felt when we finally succeeded.

In fact, Rabbi Akiva Tatz explains that the joy of life is not merely in the achievement itself, but in looking back at the process and feeling pride and joy in what we have been able to achieve. He explains that with this approach towards life, we can feel a sense of happiness even in the midst of the journey, or the struggle, itself – with the understanding that we are on a journey and we are getting closer to our destination.

With this insight we can answer our original question of how we can feel mournful at the same time as we are be’simcha (joyous) during this time of the year? We can feel a sense of joy in understanding that this time of mourning and the exile from our land is a temporary one – like the Jews of the desert who arrived in their final destination even though it seemed at times that they were get further and further away – we can feel a sense of joy in knowing that as far away as it may seem, each day and each struggle brings us closer to the redemption – both national and personal - that we yearn for.

Simcha (“happiness”) is not defined by the smile on our face, but by the internal state of being that is felt when our soul feels that it is doing what is right, when we feel that we are moving along the path we want to be on. On another level then, we can understand how to feel an internal joy at the same time as we feel a communal sadness – by realizing that by mourning we are doing what we are meant to be doing – and by allowing us to feel the sadness of the destruction of the Temples that were the center of our spiritual existence – we are bringing ourselves closer to meriting the rebuilding of those structures and rebuilding our lives around them.

The month of Av is often referred to as Menachem Av (The Consoling Month of Av) –perhaps the comfort of the consolation of this month is the understanding and acceptance that the journey is necessary to reach the destination, the struggle is part of the process, and the exile is a phase that will end in redemption. May we be able to feel the internal joy of the journey – no matter where we find ourselves on our personal paths. And though the destination may seem very distanced from us, hopefully we can trust that it will come -and our faith can give us the strength to hope and pray that we merit the geula bimheira uveyamenu. Shabbat Shalom, Taly

New Innovation

Is this coooool!!!!!!

But you should still leave early enough so you don't need it.

Limitless Shefa

A poor farmer asks a rich man for a donation of some food and hands him a plastic bag to fill up. The rich man says "I will give you a whole TRUCKFUL of food! You don't need this bag."

The poor man has never seen a truck, doesn't know what a truck is and asks that the rich man just fill up the bag.

We are the poor man. Hashem has limitless shefa [bounty] to shower upon us but our keilim are so deficient. He wants to bestow upon us such bracha but we are all too often satisfied with some crumbs.

[Sefer Yichud Hahisbodedus]

Wednesday, July 27, 2011



Listen To Him Talk

When you are talking with somebody there are [at least] 3 possibilities. 1] He primarily wants to hear. 2] He primarily wants to talk. 3] He wants to both hear and talk - what we call a dialogue.

We are accustomed to thinking that tefilla is us talking and Hashem listening [we hope..]. The TRUTH is that tefilla is a dialogue and Hashem is also talking to us. We have to listen to the words of tefilla and hear what HE is saying to us.

Maybe that is what R' Nachman meant when he said that all of your tfillos should be Torah. Torah is Hashem speaking to us and so should tefilla be.

I am probably not allowed to end a sentence with "be". But be it. Or "it be".

[Based on the sefer "Yichud Vi'hisbodedus"]

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Practice What You Preach

At those times when the study of Torah is forbidden I enjoy very much reading books of secular wisdom. Sometimes I am so enthused by the books I go on to the computer to find out more about the author. What I often discover is quite troubling...

The person who wrote about child raising used to beat his own children from whom he was later estranged. The person who writes about faithfulness in marriage was a faithless philanderer. The person who writes about the importance of discipline and health was a chain smoking, lazy and overweight couch potato. I still can benefit from their wisdom but it gives me an appreciation of the fact that it is not always easy to practice what you preach.

Our Holy Sages throughout the generations are only held in high regard because they were men of exemplary character. If we would find a chink in their armor they would cease to be sources of reverance and adulation [barring a case where they later did tshuva].

As I embark on this new project of having a kollel [and hopefully one day much more..] devoted to matters of Avodas Hashem such as good middos and deep abiding faith in Hashem and prepare shiurim on those topics, I hope that I can live what I am learning.

Not an easy task but I believe I will be all the better for trying - and hopefully those around me will "get the fever" as well, making the world a brighter, happier, more spiritual place!
A letter from the Lubavitcher Rebbe ztz"l to someone who was disappointed that he wasn't going to make Aliyah. Note how he not only dispenses advice - but cash as well. Zchuso yagein aleinu.


Brooklyn, NY

Sholom u’Brocho:

I am in receipt of your letter, written on Purim, and in view of its contents I hasten to reply to it ahead of turn and via Special Delivery.

Following the order in your letter, I will refer to your problem of finding yourself and your wife in a depression “from the disappointment of not following through with our dreams of going to Israel.”

It is surely unnecessary to emphasize to you again that the only reason for my opinion that you ought to continue in the USA is that American Jewry, and especially the younger generation, have a priority claim on your services to help permeate them with Yiddishkeit, especially after you have had such considerable hatzlocho [success] in this area.

To be sure, the yishuv [community] in Eretz Yisroel would also benefit from your presence there, but it would not be of the same scope and quality as here. Furthermore, making aliyah [immigration] requires a certain period of adjustment and getting the proper feel of the new situation, etc., and in the present “Jet Age” every minute is of the essence, especially insofar as youth is concerned.

All the above is coupled with the consideration that doing the proper thing is the channel for contentment and inner peace and G-d’s blessings also in all personal affairs.Pursuant to the above, my advice was further predicated on the assumption that the activities can be carried out with joy and gladness of heart, which is essential if the objectives are to be attained in fullest measure, and certainly not in a state of depression or feeling of imposition. There is no need to belabor the point to an experienced communal worker like yourself.

In light of all that has been said above—if, for any reason, the disappointment of your unfulfilled dreams of going to Eretz Yisroel creates a different situation from that I have envisaged, then of course, my advice to stay would be pointless and out of place. To put it simply, if after several months of continuing with your work here, if you still find that you cannot “snap out” of the depression, and if the reason behind it is none other than the unfulfilled dream, then, of course, you have my blessing to go to Eretz Yisroel and do what you can there.

Should you, however, decide that the cause of the present depression is after all not really the above, and hence can be eliminated, restoring you back to your former state of good cheer and confidence to be able to carry on your hafatza [outreach] activities with joy and gladness of heart—then, the second problem mentioned in your letter—the question of a house—has to be tackled.

Inasmuch as our Sages declare that “a nice dwelling broadens a person’s mind” and is conducive to greater achievements both in personal and communal affairs, you should look for a suitable house in a suitable section. As for selling all your assets, this is not advisable, nor necessary. I have at my disposal a fund for such special situations, and a loan gladly would be made available to you for the full amount that you may require to enable you to purchase a nice dwelling, as above. You may set your own terms of repayment at your convenience. As I do not wish to be involved in a hetter iska, [leniency] the loan would have to be interest-free. It would create no hardship for anyone, and you need not hesitate about it, at all.

Since your letter was written on Purim and the reply is Erev Shabbos Mevorchim Nissan, both of which are occasions for simcha [joy], may there always be true joy in your home and, to quote the Megillah, “light, joy, gladness and honor” in every sense of these terms.

With blessing,[signature]

Bilivavi Mishkan Evneh

We all want the Beis Hamikdash but what we may not realize is that we already HAVE it.



The Nefesh Hachaim says that the human body parallels the Beis Hamikdash. Every part of the body corresponds to a different part of the Beis Hamikdash. The center of the Beis Hamikdash was the Kodesh Hakodshim. What is the central feature of the human body? The heart!! The heart is the holy of holies!!

So why don't we have a Beis Hamikdash? Due to hatred we felt in our heart [Yoma 9]. How will it be rebuilt? You got it...

So it all comes down to the heart. Hashem is indeed [ki'viyachol] a "Mevakesh Lev". He asks us to love each other in our hearts. When that is satisfactorily accomplished - we will see the Third Beis Hamikdash and the complete redemption!!

[Based on the sefer Siach Yisroel]


Monday, July 25, 2011

The Danger Of Excessive Fear

לפעמים ע"י העמסת יראה יתירה על נפשו יותר מכחותיו בא לידי שנאת התורה. וצריך כל אדם למדוד את כחו וגם כששטף המחשבות המוסריות מתגבר עליו, וגם הטוב שבו מתעלם ממנו, ומוצא הוא בעצמו כל הדופי וכל החסרונות שבעולם לא ירף ידו ולא יבהל , וידע שבכל זאת הרבה טוב צפון בו. וידע גם כן שבכל התוכחות הרבות שבספרים, שעל פיהם מוצא האדם עצמו אומלל מאד, בתוכם מוסתר אור חיים וישועה, חסד גדול ואומץ לבב. ודוקא מתוך עומק נפילה באים לעומק קימה, ומתוך ריקניות התורה יבוא לאהבתה, ולהתאמץ בגדלה ותפארתה. ונתיקת הרצון בכל דהו לצד המעלה, מרים הכל לטוב. וישכיל ויבין שמצב העולם ההרוס גם הוא לטובה ולברכה, ולמחיה עשהו ה', וסוף הכל לתיקון גמור. -שמונה קבצים קובץ ו אות פח

ובתרגום חפשי -

Sometimes, when a person overloads himself with excessive fear of Heaven beyond his powers and abilities, he comes to hatred of the Torah. Even when a person is flooded with self-critical thoughts and sees no good in himself he shouldn't lose his bearings and should remain calm and at peace with himself, knowing that there is much good that reposes within him.

He should also know that all of the stringent rebukes written in mussar sefarim that may make a person feel worthless, within them are hidden the light of life, salvation, great chesed and a courageous heart.

Specifically from the depths of failure one comes to the deepest success, from an empty feeling towards Torah one comes to love and to a feeling of it's glory and grandeur. Moving one's will in the right direction, elevates everything to the good. And he will understand that the world's present state of destruction is also for the best and everything is leading to the complete rectification.

So one should certainly have Yiras Shomayim - but only within his abilities to maintain. He must also know that all of what seems bad and scary is ultimately destined to bring one to a state of goodness and joy.


Continuing the previous thought...

The HIGHEST level of spirituality one can achieve in this world is prophecy - nevuah. A navi is as close to Hashem as one can possibly get in this world.

Let us examine the word "navi". Where does it come from? The psauk says "niv sfasaim" - the fruits of one's lips. A Navi then is a SPEAKER of Divine messages. So we see that the highest plateau in this world is in the realm of SPEECH. This is well understood based on what we explained that the greatest expression of our Divine humanity is our power of speech.

Sunday, July 24, 2011


What part of man is the most Divine? His arms, ears, nose, biceps, knees, toenails?

The Torah tells us in Parshas Beraishis that Hashem blew into man a living spirit and he became a living soul ["nefesh chaya"]. Unkelos famously translated nefesh chaya as "ruach mimalila" - a speaking spirit.


So we can understand that the sins of lashon hara and other forms of inappropriate speech are not only bad because of the harm they cause but more fundamentally because by misusing our power of speech we are corrupting the most G-dly part of ourselves. It is also important not to speak idly ["dvarim bteilim"] for that is also misusing something holy for nonsensical matters.

This is a big avoda and there is no better day to start than today..

Love and blessings!



A tricky word. We know that we are obligated to love but what does that mean?

This question has been the subject of much discussion over the generations. We are not going to attempt a definition here because THERE IS NO ONE DEFINITION.

A parent loves his child, a man loves his wife, a boy loves the Yankees, a girl loves a specific dress, a child loves vanilla ice cream. These are all called love but each is a different variation of love. I hope that a parent doesn't love his child in the same way that a boy loves the Yankees. [By the way - the Yankees have a very important place in Judaism. When someone is speaking lashon hara one way to stop it is to say "So how 'bout them Yankees?!"] Romantic love is very different than love between friends. A Rebbe loves a student but in a different way than he loves his gemara, but of course he also loves his gemara.

It is extremely rewarding to be filled with love but it is very important to define to oneself what type of love is appropriate towards this person or object. Sometimes the lines get blurred between the various types of love and this causes many problems in our world.

I speak in hints and will not elaborate....

Friday, July 22, 2011

Hataras Nedarim

This weeks parsha is about nedarim -vows. Why do we say kol nidrei, releasing ourselves from our vows [hataras nedarim], on Yom Kippur eve? What does Yom Kippur have to do with nedarim??

Rav Soloveitchik [in an article in the Ohr Hamizrach Journal quoted by R' Besdin]: When we uproot our vows we are saying "I wish I never would have vowed in the first place!". This is the attitude we should have on Yom Kippur - "I wish I never would have sinned in the first place!"

Another idea: Keeping a vow is about keeping our word. On Yom Kippur we resolve never to sin again - we do hataras nedarim to remind ourselves that we often don't keep our word. This should serve as an impetus to make our Yom Kippur count.

Ayyyyyyyy Sweetest Friends!! Where were we at neilah last Yom Kippur and where are we Erev Shabbos Parshas Mattos.


Love and blessings!


Thursday, July 21, 2011

A Life Worth Living

At first glance, the first verses seem to be unrelated, even random in their juxtaposition to the rest of the prasha. Rabbi Avraham Gordimer suggests that the openings verses regarding nedarim come to set the tone for the remainder of the parsha. The underlying theme, he suggests, is the importance of honoring one’s commitments, being true to one’s words and loyal to their beliefs both to Hashem and to each other.

Following the very detailed laws of nedarim, vows, Hashem commands Moshe to lead to the Jewish people in the war against Midian: Take revenge for the children of Israel against the Midianites; afterwards you will be gathered to your people (31:2). Based on the enigmatic words in the second part of this verse, Chazal explain that Moshe’s death was contingent upon his leading the Jews to victory in this particular war.

Moshe’s behavior in response to this command displays his incredible commitment to dvar Hashem and to the Jewish people. Moshe knew that once the Jews were victorious against Midian, they would conquer the land and his death would follow shortly thereafter (this was the last battle before the Jews would then settle into the land and it had been decreed that Moshe would not enter with them). Nonetheless, being a man loyal to the will of Hashem and to the good of the people, Moshe quickly and valiantly led the nation to battle and ultimately to victory against Midian.

Moshe understood that each of us is given purpose and missions in our lives to strive for and to achieve. For Moshe, to live without reaching towards those goals is not to live at all. We can then understand and appreciate even more that Moshe was willing to give up his life in order to truly live.

Given that Moshe's perspective was to live life completely dedicated to following the Divine will and helping other members of Klal Yisrael, we can better understand his quick response to the famous request of Reuven and Gad to remain on the other end of the Jordan River: "Your brothers will go to war and you will remain here?" (32:6) Moshe could not fathom that these tribes would consider separating themselves from the nation and dislodging themselves from their responsibilities to the klal. Indeed Moshe grants the request only on the condition that the tribes first help the other tribes conquer the land.

Moshe’s perspective is reflected in his words to these tribes later one when he say: So build yourselves cities for your children and enclosures for your sheep, and what has proceeded from your mouth you shall do (32:24). Quite notably Moshe reversed the words of the request that first stated the shelters would be built for the cattle and then for the children. Moshe's subtle nuanced response reminded them that that their priority should be to protect their children before their cattle - life is not merely about strategizing the best ways to accumulate wealth (in those days dependent on the cattle that the tribes speak of) - our physical needs should never take precedence over our spiritual needs - and our neshamot (souls) thrive when we are committed to protecting and helping others.

As we read about the final mission of Moshe’s life, we learn a most important lesson about the value of our lives – as our greatest teacher and role model reminds us that we are truly living life to its fullest when we do so with a spiritual purpose - both in terms of our relationship with G-d and with others.

This week I was fortunate enough to be introduced to a program that dedicates itself to spreading this very notion that life with a purpose is a life worth living. The organization – Kids Kicking Cancer - run by Rabbi Elimelech Goldberg empowers children of all ages with chronic disease and illness by giving them a purpose. These kids are trained in marshal art techniques to deal with and live through their pain and provide them with the opportunity to help others by teaching to do the same. True stories of children fighting and surviving against the odds because they have a mission to help others teaches us so poignantly the same lesson that Moshe teaches in our parsha: living with a purpose is a life worth living.

To see more about these most inspiring kids (and I suggest you do – it is far more inspiring than any words I can put onto the page), visit the website:

I hope we can internalize this invaluable lesson and let it affect our own purposes, perspectives, and priorities as we continue to live our own lives. Shabbat Shalom, Taly

“Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind.”

Dr. Seuss


According to the Rambam, when we confess our sins we say "Chatasi etc. lifanecha" we sinned BEFORE YOU. In Shmone Esrei we say "Vihachazeereinu bi'tshuva shleima lifanecha" - return us in teshuva BEFORE YOU.

The root of sin is that we didn't feel we were before Hashem. Teshuva is realizing that we ARE before Hashem.

Read the first sentence of mitzva ayin gimmel in the Rambam's Sefer Hamitzvos and according to what we said the words will DANCE!

Love and blessings!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Chesed But From The Heart

As we mourn once again for the Beis Hamikdash and lament our physical and spiritual distress as individuals and as a nation, we wonder "why?".

Well, we all know the gemara that the Beis Hamikdash was destroyed because of senseless hatred. But people miss a point in the gemara. What the gemara says first is that despite the fact that the Jews were involved in Torah and gemillus chesed, nevertheless they hated each other.

They performed chesed and hated each other??


That isn't how I treat MY enemies [hope I don't have any but if I did...]!

This is HUGE!

Hashem doesn't just want us to be "nice" to each other but to genuinely love each other deep in our hearts.



The moment a person forms a theory, his imagination sees in every object only the traits which favor that theory.

Thomas Jefferson

The Mussar Masters always stress how many negiyos [biases] we have. Unfortunately we are not "shomer negiyah" meaning we are not careful to guard ourselves from our preconceived and biased notions. To grow is to let go of our acquired habits of thought and action and forging a new path based on the principle of a complete dedication to living the truth.

See yesterday's post which was one of my favorite ever.

But then again I am biased. Anything that prods people to change is a favorite of mine.

I am also biased because I love you guys and am convinced you are all better than me. Or I. Grammarians?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Decentralization Of The Ego

A wonderful passage from the book To A Dancing God by Sam Keen:

"[A person must go beyond the] idiosyncratic and egocentric perception of immediate experience. Mature awareness is possible only when I have digested and compensated for the biases and prejudices that are the residue of my personal history. Awareness of what presents itself to me involves a double movement of attention: silencing the familiar and welcoming the strange. Each time I approach a strange object, person or event, I have a tendency to let my present needs, past experince or expectations for the future, determine what I see. If I am to appreciate the uniqueness of any datum, I must be sufficiently aware of my preconceived ideas and charateristic emotional distortions to bracket them long enough to welcome strangeness and novelty into my perceptual world. This discipline of bracketing, compensating or silencing requires sophisticated self knowledge and courageous honesty. Yet, withot this discipline each present moment is only the repitition of something already seen or experienced. In order for genuine novely to emerge, for the unique presence of things persons or events to take root in me, I must undergo a decentralization of the ego."

Many Gedolei Yisroel would learn a page of gemara as of they never saw it before - even if they had learned it five hundred times before and had brilliant insights that were clearly recorded in their notebooks. They were able to let go of their own preconceived notions about what the gemara was saying because their main concern was for truth - not ego-gratification.

Many, many people have a certain way of looking at the world, of dealing with people, of reacting to experiences, that makes their lives boring repetitions of the same things. We can learn from young children who get so excited about the seemingly most mundane experiences of life. We can start viewing other people NOT AS WE CHOOSE TO SEE THEM, BUT AS THEY REALLY ARE. This involves stepping outside of oneself and letting go of dearly held notions. We can start approaching issues with a renewed sense of dedication to the truth as painful as that may be.

M. Scott Peck [who also quoted the aforementioned book in his The Road Less Traveled]: "What does a life of total dedication to truth mean? It means ... a life of continuous and never ending stringent self examination. We know the world only through our relationship to it. Therefore to know the world we must not only examine it but we must simultaneously examine the examiner.... Examination of the world without is never as personally painful as examination of the world within, and it is certainly because of the pain involved in a life of genuine self examination that the majority steer clear from it."

Maybe I'm not the great parent that I like to think I am? Maybe my level of commitment to my heritage is sorely lacking? Maybe I am not being completely honest with myself or with others?

All change is painful because it involves letting go of what we hold dear.

But it's worth it... It will open up new glorious worlds of light.

Love and blessings!

PS - Any correlation between what I write and the Yeshiva I want to open is not coincidental at all.


To Daven

Baruch Hashem I have received a very positive response to the previous post about davening for the donors [minimum - 1 penny] and many names have been sent in. Keyn Yirbu!

The benefits:

1] Tefilla helps everyone - the one being davened for the davener and the whole world [although not always in ways we can see].

2] Davening for someone else is a fulfillment of vi'ahavta li'rayacha kamocha which Rebbe Akiva STILL maintains is the overarching principle of the whole Torah. It is also my favorite.

3] The first mishna in Bava Kamma calls man a "maveh" which the gemara defines as "human being" based on a pasuk in Navi where davening is referred to as "tivaayun baiyu" [see there]. To daven means to maximize one's innate humanity. That's cool....

4] Davening for someone else connects you to that person and Hashem wants us to be connected. That is why He mandated so many interpersonal mitzvos.

5] When we daven we realize Who is charge. The more we daven the more we realize.

6] One of the pillars of the world is Avoda - which is tefilla. I am glad the world is standing. MUCH better than the alternative.

So thank you all and may my tefillos for you and your tefillos for yourselves and others always be answered li'tova.


Last Entry Of My Diary From My Journey

I was one of only four Jews on the plane on the first leg of my flight home to Israel. The other three were the Tolna Rebbe Shlita, Rav Moshe Schapiro Shlita and Rav Asher Weiss Shlita.

I am referring, of course, to my mp3 player. Ahhhhhh modern technology. So it emerges that I am really a "modern" guy.

Everbody else seemed deeply immersed in the inappropriate pictures being screened before them or glossy magazines with similarly inappropriate pictures or eating, eating, eating.

Baruch Elokeinu shebra'anu lichvodo vi'hivdeelanu min ha'toim. May they all be zoche to see the light soon!! And may we be the ones to show them!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Iyun HaNefesh Update

I once again thank our donors. You have invested in something eternal which will certainly change peoples lives for the better, make them more spiritual, kind, holy, pure and HAPPY. It is YOUR merit which will certainly help you both in this world and the next.

There is something special about being the FOUNDING MEMBERS of a Torah institution. Just as we find in halacha that the first 10 people in a minyan receive their own personal reward and a bonus for all of the people that arrive later, so too ALL of the Torah learned in the many years to come will be attributed to the founding members as well. One day soon, with G-d's help, we will grow, expand and ultimately leave this world in a much better state than in the state in which we found it.

We are planning to build a website and to keep you updated as to what we are learning, where you can here shiurim on-line and other information. I am eager for this to be a PUBLIC project and therefore welcome all suggestions and urge people to come visit when in Israel. I am planning to return to the United States after the Kollel gets moving so if you know of any leads that could help us I would be extremely grateful. The many, many people with whom I spoke loved the ideas and philosophy of the Kollel but in order to implement them we need the necessary funds.

If anybody would like to send a tax-deductable donation the address is
Mr. Steven Stein Esq.
130 Oak Street
Woodmere New York
and can be made out to "American Friends of Netivot HaTorah"
[We are working on starting "American Friends of Iyun HaNefesh" but that takes time.]

Anybody who has already contributed or will do so before Rosh Chodesh Elul is urged to give me his/her name and the name of his/her mother and the members of the Kollel [myself included - I love davening at the kotel. You could call me a "walnut"....] will daven for your success daily for the whole year bl"n.

My telephone number is 972-26289148 and you can literally call 24/6 for anything. My email is The other blog "penned" [who uses pens anymore..] by me BS"D is

When I return to Israel [I land on tuesday bez"H] I will begin to interview applicants and will accept only those who are highly motivated, intelligent, mature people who are committed to personal growth. I see the seeds of a very positive spiritual revolution.

The shiurim will be given by me and I will also be in charge of day to day operations with Hashem's help, while the Guiding Light of the program will be the Tolna Rebbe Shlita, a world renowned tzaddik, whose advice and counsel is sought by thousands and with whom I enjoy a special relationship.

With unconditional love to all I remain truly yours,

[Rabbi] Elchanan [Ally] Ehrman
Rosh Kollel Iyun HaNefesh
Yerushalayim the City of Gold
And Joy of the Earth ["masos kol ha'aretz"]

The Power Of A Compliment

Imagine there was a machine where you spoke and the machine delivered [maybe there already is]. For example, you say "iced tea" and presto, the machine emits a refreshing iced tea. You say "burger and fries" and you got it!

That, beloved friends, is what a well placed, sincere, compliment accomplishes. You say something positive to someone else and that very quality will emerge. You tell a person "You are really diligent" his self-identity becomes that he is someone who is diligent, so whenever he feels like slacking off a voice inside of himself says "You can't do that! You're diligent".

If you tell a person that he is kind, he starts seeing himself that way and the next time a kindness presents itself he rushes to perform it because that is who he is.

The more a person hears the same compliment, the more he becomes convinced that that is who he is.

So of course the lesson is to try to be very free with SINCERE compliments [fake insincere compliments can often be very hurtful]. You can help someone transform himself.

The truth is, that deep down inside we know our positive qualities but we often doubt them and hearing about it from an unbiased source confirms our innate feelings.

Friday, July 15, 2011

PLEASE check out R' Tzvi Moshe's latest offering..... You won't regret it!:-)

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Mizmor Li'toda

As my stay in the US comes to a close I would like to say thank you. The very first word out of a Jew's mouth in the morning is "thank you". We are called "yehudim" which means "thankers".

Thank you to all who contributed to the cause of spreading Torah, Mussar, Chassidus, Middos Tovos, Ahavas Yisrael etc. Interestingly enough, almost everybody [everybody?] I asked to contribute turned me down. Every single contribution was initiated by the giver [!] and, I felt, came from the heart. When the mishkan was built the contributions had to be from the heart ["asher yidvenu libo"] because to build something holy, you need heart. [Rav Moshe Schapiro]
Strange as it sounds - I thank those who pledged and have not yet sent. Whenever I think of how much more we need and then I think of your pledges I feel better:-).

I also thank all those who have been in touch with me either via phone, email, or in person. You have no idea how much it means to me. Especially appreciated are those who come to my shiurim. You give me my chiyus.

I would also like to thank the many people who hosted me in their homes, cars, shuls and camp: Firstly to R' Shmuel Binyamin and Shira Malka Stein who were most instrumental in making the trip a success and hosted me for two Shabbosim. And of course thanks to Simcha, Tamara, Eli and Eitan.

To R' Mike and Debbie Schreiber who made their beautiful home available for an uplifting shiur [it was for me I hope it was for others as well] and made sure to get me back to where I needed to be afterwards, including a trip to the supermarket, ensuring my continued existence in this world!

To my old chavrusa R' Eytan and Aliza Feldman and family. It was like old times.

R' Aharon Yisrael and Suzanne Feit and family. Sweeter than sweet. Didn't want to leave.

R' Yehuda Yaakov Spindler. We had a deep conversation on about 78th between Broadway and Amsterdam I won't soon forget. Zivug hagoon bim'heyra.

R' Zevi Blumenfrucht - in his zchus I davened maariv at the Carlebach Shul although to my great dismay he [R' Shlomo] was not there. Then we met two Satmar Chasidim late at night who were looking for the Hudson River [to be toivel? Wouldn't advise it].

R' Moshe Gavriel Bernstein. Ahhh my beloved Moshe Gavriel!

R' Shmuel Eliezer Wechsler - one of my oldest friends [about 30 years] who took good care of me in Queens and may he find his zivoog bi'mheyra bi'yameinu!!

R' Ari Kolton. Found me lost in Penn Station and held my hand to the Five Towns and then drove me to my destination.

R' Chaim Yehoshua Austein. Came in big time.

R' Avraham Yitzchak Jaspan - who would do anything for me.

R' Yosef Ezra Jaspan - see seifa of previous sentence.

R' Dovid Akiva and Sharon Rauch. Such pillars of their community.

R' Shmuel Tzvi and Rivka Chaya Rauch. They are two people who literally make me happy to be alive [besides the many other reasons I have..].

Mr. and Mrs. Stern [Rivka Chaya's parents]. Had a uplifting shlashudis in their home.

R' Shmuli and Rachel Stern who most graciously gave about 6 hours of their time to take me to Hasc. It was flat out fun hanging out with them.

R' Ovadiah and Miriam Gold and Elana Simone. They not only hosted me for a delicious meal but also accompanied me back to my place of lodgings knowing that if left on my own I would have managed to make my way from Kew Gardens Hills somewhere to the middle of Harlem thanks to my wonderful sense of direction that gets me lost EVERYWHERE! May Elana Simone find a tzaddik worthy of her bi'karov.

R' Yonason Fruchter who is a ba'al chesed par excellence.

R' Binyamin Leibowitz. So good.

R' Daniel Simcha Bornstein. Always has a smile for me.

R' Yoni Leifer who gave me a lot of time in his home, great advice and a ride.

R' Yitsi and Lea Weinreb. And of course Adina Tova. The most gentle, easy going family I know.

R' Ezzie and Serach Goldish and Eliana and Kaila. Nothing like cousins.

R' Alex Yusopov who never met or heard of me yet warmly welcomed me into his home.

R' Simcha Yusopov who indeed gives me a lot of simcha.

R' Yitzi Kreinberg who drove me back from a wedding very late at night - with a smile.

R' Binyamin Yitzchak and Kelly Frenkel and Meir Simcha Chaim for a beautiful night in Queens of Torah and food.

Rabbis Fabian and Yoel Schonfeld and the Young Israel of Kew Gardens Hills who let me speak from the pulpit of their shul. I hope they didn't regret it although Rabbi Fabian remarked to me after I spoke that the gemara says to say one funny thing before the shiur - not the whole time. But I saw that he enjoyed the Torah, baruch Hashem.

Rabbi Judah Mischel and Rabbi Dovid'l Weinberg, two hartzige yidden who warmly welcomed me to HASC.

Rabbi Jonathan Rosenblatt and all the chevre at the Riverdale Jewish Center for an uplifting, stomach filling night.

Dr. and Mrs. Steven Levine and family, particularly Aliza Rachel who organized a shiur that added much simcha to my life.

Rabbi Shaul Robinson who kindly invited me to Lincoln Square Synoguage and encouraged me to pursue my goal.

Rabbi Shmuel Marcus and the Ishei Yisrael community who graciously allowed me to speak.

OF COURSE OF COURSE, to my parents who put me up in their home almost 17 years after thinking that, finally, I am off their backs and I have my own place... Rare is the hostess who not only cooks and does the laundry of her guest, but actually goes to department stores to make sure that if her guest is not the most knowledgable Rosh Kollel, he will certainly be the best dressed. Since words cannot express my thanks - I won't try.

Achrona Chaviva - my wife, whose strongest midda is her modesty, which precludes me from expressing my feelings publicly. She encouraged me to go and leave her alone with our children including our baby, knowing that this kollel is my dream and that I need to achieve it and spread the light of Hashem's Torah in ways that the world so deeply needs [in my humble opinion]. May Hashem continue making her an Isha Kedosha and may she forgive me for writing this...

And of course, the Ribbono Shel Olam. He kindly hosts me in His world despite my many failings and patiently waits for me to improve my ways while He continually bestows upon me limitless kindness. I could go on and on and on - but brevity is the order of the day. Eelu pinu malei shira ka'yom, u'lishonainu rina ki'hamon galav, vi'sifsoseinu shevach ki'merchavei rakea etc. , ein anu maspikim lihodos... I hope I am giving Him nachas ruach with my activities.

I have a special feeling in my heart for all those mentioned and will try to always hold on to it.

Love to all!

PS - If I forgot anybody - PLEASE REMIND ME!:-)

The Leader Within

This week as we read Parshat Pinchas, as we read about the passing of the torch from Moshe to Yeshoshu, we learn a few valuable lessons about what it means to be a true leader. I hope in understanding the different stories of the parsha together we can find the leader inside each of us…

Parshat Pinchas begins with the conclusion of the story that we began to read last week.

Hashem spoke to Moshe, saying: Phinehas the son of Eleazar the son of Aaron the kohen has turned My anger away from the children of Israel by his zealously avenging Me among them, so that I did not destroy the children of Israel because of My zeal (Bamidbar 25:10-11)

After what seems to be the conclusion of this strange episode with Pinchas, the Torah then tells us:

The name of the Israelite man who was killed, who was slain with the Midianite woman was Zimri the son of Salu, the prince of the Shimonites (25:15)

Upon reading these verses, we must ask why it is only now that the Torah fills us in on the details about the name of the perpetrators. Surely it would have been more fitting to include these facts when first describing the incident? It would seem from the opening lines of our parsha that in order to appreciate fully the importance of the story of Pinchas in the context of our parsha, we must be aware that the Israelite he killed was not an ordinary man, but a prince, a leader of the Jewish people at that time.

While the Torah goes out of its way to tell us that Zimri was a prince - a prominent member of the society, the Torah reminds us that Pinchas was not a man of great distinction within Klal Yisrael. In describing Pinchas’ actions, Hashem says that Pinchas was betocham - among them (Bamidbar 25:11). Although Pinchas was ultimately to become a Kohein and an important figure in Klal Yisrael, when we first meet him, he was just one among the many.

In fact, Rashi explains that the Torah tells us explicitly that Pinchas was a descendant of Aharon HaKohen, specifically because the other tribes scorned Pinchas for his actions, saying that it was unjust that he, the son of an idol worshiper (Yitro), killed a prince of the Israelites. Rashi’s understanding of the text only highlights further that Pinchas was not a man of great prominence at the time.

And yet, it was Pinchas, a seemingly undistinguished character that was able to remove the anger from Hashem and was given only then given the honor of the priesthood. Mrs. Shira Smiles points out that the fact that Pinchas was described as being among the people provides even greater insight into the man Pinchas was. He was acting from among them, he was acting on their behalf. He understood that if he did not act now, the plague would continue and hundreds more would be killed.

We learn here an important lesson about what it means to be a leader. A true leader is someone who acts on behalf of the people – not for the sake of earning a high status or reward. In the case of Pinchas, he was willing even to risk his status among the people, as he knew that he would face ridicule and criticism from the others for his zealous act.

The Mishnah in Pirkei Avot tells us: Who is honored? He that honors his fellow men as it is written, "For those who honor me I will honor (4:1) Indeed, we find when Pinchas honored others, Hashem granted him the honor of the kehuna.

And perhaps this is the reason that Pinchas had to be granted the kehuna, even though he was already in-line to inherit this honor as the grandson of Aharon HaKohen. It was only once he demonstrated the qualities of a Kohen, the ability to sacrifice oneself for others, that Pinchas was granted this great honor.

In Judaism, leadership is not determined by status or titles; it is only when that person lives up to potential he has inherited that determines whether he is a true leader. With this understanding of the story of Pinchas, we can better appreciate the story of the daughters of Tzelophchad. These five women approach Moshe and request that because their father had no sons, they should inherit their fathers’ portion of land.

They stood before Moshe and before Eleazar the Kohen and before the princes and the entire congregation of at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting ( 27:2).

The Torah goes out of its way to tell us that they stood before all of the leaders as well as the entire congregation to make this request. Like Pinchas, these women were not prominent members in the community. Like Pinchas, they knew that their request might be rejected and the rest of the nation may even scorn them for making such a request. And still, they were willing and able to stand up for what they believed.

Interestingly, like Pinchas who was both the descendent of an idol-worshiper and the grandson of the esteemed Aharon HaKohen, the daughters of Tzelophchad seem to have an ambiguous lineage. On the one hand, Tzelopchad is remembered as a sinner - as he was the infamous woodchopper that transgressed shabbat and was punished by death. On the other hand, Rabbi Akiva argues that he was a righteous man, who transgressed shabbat only in hopes to prove to the people the harsh consequences of violating Shabbat.

Perhaps the ambiguity of their lineage reminds us once more that leaders are not determined by their lineage but by who they are, how they act, and what their intentions are.

And so the daughters of Tzelopchad teach a similar, but slightly different lesson than Pinchas – and I think perhaps the Torah wants us to learn these lessons simultaneously. Though Pinchas’ zealous and violent act was appropriate and commendable given the circumstances he was in, the Torah teaches us that this is not the only way to be a leader - this is not the only way to stand up for what we believe in. The daughters of Tzelopchad approach their leaders in a most respectful and honorable way by posing their request to the leaders of the time. And for this reason, they are granted their request and have the honor of establishing this law of inheritance for the rest of eternity.

There may be times that call for the zealousness of Pinchas, or there may be times that require the modest and respectful questions modeled by the daughters of Tzelophchad. Whoever we are, wherever we come from, and whatever qualities we have inherited, each one of us has the potential to be a leader in our own way. We must remember always that those who chase honor do not achieve it - but those who honor others are the most honorable of all.

As we read about the transition of leadership from Moshe to Yehoshua, we learn what it means to be a leader – to utilize our own individual strengths and potentials in harmony with the lessons learned and qualities passed down to us from parents and mentors that have come before us. Let us learn the lesson of the hero and heroines of our parsha – reminding ourselves that some of the most influential leaders in our past have come from among the people - and let us be inspired to live up to the potential each on of us has inherited – shaping our own identities and thereby affecting our destiny and the destinies of those that will come after us. Shabbat Shalom, Taly


But friendship is precious, not only in the shade, but in the sunshine as life. And thanks to a benevolent arrangement, the greater part of life is sunshine.

Thomas Jefferson

I have had trouble coming back to myself since the heart rending news about Leiby Kletsky. Besides learning Torah which is my greatest nechama, it also helps to remember how much sunshine there is in life. To think of how many people went to search for him and davened for him and shed tears over him.

May we always show our achdus in times of simcha.

If you would like to send a letter of consolation to the Kletsky family the email is If you want to learn for him you can go to

Melave Malka!

As my long sojourn in the USA comes to a close, we are having a melave malka with ruach and food [what else]. Motzei Shabbos Parshas Pinchas in the city - 115 central park west 72nd street apt. 9b.

OBVIOUSLY no charge.

Just a smile.

If you'd like to come please rsvp at so we know how much food to order.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Thank You!

A tremendous thank you to everyone who came to learn Tuesday night and Wednesday!!

It gives me great chizuk and I am indebted to each and every one of you.

Hodaya bas Naama

Please say tehillim for Hodaya bas Naama, a young girl who was attacked viciously by a dog, Hashem Yerachem.

A Very Sad Day For Us All

Most Jews never met Leiby Kletzky or any members of his family, but since we are all one people it is shocking and heart rending to hear what happened. May his family be comforted among all the mourners of Tziyon and Yerushalayim and we should be zocheh to tchiyas hameisim speedily in our days.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Big Mitzva

Many of our readers know a blind tzaddik who lives in Queens. I am on the lookout for three things that can help make his life much more pleasant.

1] A chavrusa.

2] A shidduch.

3] A job.

Please contact me if you can help in any way at

Please Volunteer

Anybody who can should please go to the Command Center in Brooklyn at 57st. and 15th avenue in Brooklyn. They need more volunteers to help search for Yehuda ben Itta Esther.

Hashem yishmor tzaischa uvoecha may'atah vi'ad olam.

Looking For The Shepherd

Moshe Rabbeinu is told by Hashem that he is going to die, so he asks Hashem to appoint another leader so "that the congregation of Hashem should not be as a flock without a shepherd."

The Light of Holiness the Sfas Emes notes that the pasuk calls the Jews the congregation of Hashem. The purpose of the leader and tzaddik is to help the people prepare themselves for Hashem to reveal Himself. In the bitter exile He is not recognizable as the goyim say to the Jews "Ayay Elokecha" - where is your G-d?! But if we have a good leader the Jews will not be as a flock without a shepherd i.e. Hashem, because the leader will guide us to Him. That is why the Jews are called the congregation of Hashem even as Moshe is asking for a new leader because ultimately the job of this leader is to bring us to our true Leader.

It also makes sense that this request of Moshe was for all the generations. So Moshe gave smicha and his spirit to Yehoshua who then passed it on to the elders who passed it on to the prophets who passed it on to the men of the great assembly [anshei knesses hagdola] as we learn in pirkei avos. We see that Moshe's spirit is being transmitted from generation to generation. Pirkei Avos is meant to teach us the way of our forebearers whose task is to bring us to our true Guide and see His Divine providence.

That is the the meaning of what Yaakov says "Ha'avos asher hishalchoo etc. lifanav" - Our forefathers who walked before you [i.e. Hashem], and he further says "Ha'elokim haro'e osi mayodi" - Hashem who has fed me since I existed. We follow the ways of the Avos who bring us back to the true source of everything.

How the words of Dovid Hamelech shine - "Hashem ro'e lo echsar" - Hashem is my shepherd I shall not lack.

So we see that a tzaddik is not meant as a substitute for Hashem [chas vi'chalila] but a a guide to bring us close to Him.

May we all merit to cling to true tzaddikim upon whom the Infinite Light [Ohr Ein Sof] shines.

[Based on the Sfas Emes Pinchas 1888]

Love and blessings!!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Please Daven!!

Please say tehillim for Yehuda ben Ita Esther - a boy who didn't came home from day camp today.

The Shidduch Crisis

Is there a shidduch crisis?

The way I see it is that if there is ONE Jew out there who wants to be married and is not, there is a crisis. So the multitudes who fit into the aforementioned category make it into a quantitatively major crisis.

Some suggestions to improve the situation:

1] Bribes :-) : Communities could offer serious financial compensation for anyone who makes a shidduch between two people above a certain age or other "hard to set up" people. This will probably cost money but it is money well spent.

2] Education: Yeshivas and seminaries could have shiurim on how to develop and advance relationships. They can hire professionals to advise and guide the students.

3] Tefilla - Just as we have lists of cholim, we should also have lists of singles for whom everyone is davening. Tefilla REALLY helps.

4] Meetings: Communities can have weekly meetings where the ladies brainstorm and prepare in advance by emailing and calling people.

5] Rabbis: Rabbis can talk about the importance of setting people up in their drashos.

6] Weddings: Whenever a boy and girl get engaged they should be encouraged to set up their friends. Odds are that his and her friends would be good matches.

7] Mixed events: Just because people need to get married does not mean that all the barriers of purity and modesty should be breached. A tzaddik and talmid chochom should be consulted as to what is appropriate for bnei and bnos torah.

8] Follow up: AFTER couples get married they shouldn't be left completely alone. YOUNG COUPLES NEED GUIDANCE. Anyone who knows what is going on in our communities understands what I mean.

My heart bleeds for all those people who are suffering from a situation that Hashem Himself calls "Lo Tov". May they all find their zivug bim'heyra!!

Avoda Bi'simcha

"Ikkar ha'avoda bi'simcha. Ki be'emet ain kol atzev ba'olam li'me she-makir ohr haorot shel ha-emet."

The primary service of Hashem is with joy. Because in truth there is no sadness in the world for one who sees the lights of lights of truth.

Chazon Ish

The Chazon Ish [d. about 1954] had an extremely difficult life. Nevertheless, he testifies that there is NO sadness for one who see the light of truth.

We should all merit to see the light! :-)

Love and blessings!!
Don't go around saying that the world owes you a living. The world owes you nothing. It was here first.

Mark Twain

Ahhhhhhh Marky!

Rumors - Should You Lend Them Credence?



I heard that there is a rumor that I am starting a kollel with a gentleman whom I HAVE NEVER MET! I heard another one that I am starting with a Tzaddik with whom I am friendly - certainly an honor but also untrue.

Today I met a Rabbi who rumors say is slated to be the next Chief Rabbi of the UK. I asked him [for fun] if it's true.

Of course it isn't. He has no interest.

So please sweetest friends - don't believe rumors or the media unless you personally know it to be true.

Sunday, July 10, 2011


The mishna says that one should be as "zahir" [literally - careful] in a "lighter" mitzva as he is in a more stringent mitzva.

Ohr Shivas Yomim the Heilige Ba'al Shem Tov: Zahir also means to shine. The mishna is teaching that one's soul shines with a lighter mitzva just as it does with a more stringent mitzva.


We often only feel satisfied with ourselves when we do something extraordinary. The Avoda: FEEL GOOD WHEN YOU FULFILL AN EASY MITZVA. You ate 3 meals this shabbos? AMAZING!!! You took a nap in the afternoon? AWE-SOME! You brought your parent/spouse a drink? WOW-EE!!

Your neshama is on fire.


Diary Entry From My Journey #24


I am staying in the apartment in the city where I grew up and there are two large framed photographs outside my bedroom of my great grandparents. Maras "Nechi" [my wife's name - spooky] and R' Yosef.

They lost two children before the war. Then they were killed by the Nazis. My mother is the only surviving descendant. And of course myself, my siblings and our children [KEYN YIRBU!!].

So sad to think about how good, sweet, innocent people could be so senselessly killed. I would SOOO love to meet them!

Now I have one concern. They are sitting pretty in a perfect world basking in the Divine light to which no this worldly pleasure can compare. But they might well be looking at their great grandson [ba'al ha'blog shlita:)] and thinking - Why do you waste so much time? Why aren't you living a more spiritual life? You know that ain od milvado - so LIVE IT!

I hope that they aren't disappointed in me.....

It also gives me a sense of gratitude that I am here today. It wasn't easy. And to live in Yerushalayim! What a zchus!!

It also makes me anxious for tchiyas hameysim when we will be united.

Bimiheyra biyameinu!!
"You don't have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body."

C.S. Lewis

He Is Here!

"A man can no more diminish G-d's glory by refusing to worship Him, than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word darkness on the wall of his cell."

"When man abandons G-d, G-d is not alone. Man is."

SWEETEST FRIENDS!!!! Hashem is right here with us in all of His glory waiting for us to connect to Him. We all to often forget that our soul relentlessly yearns for its source while our body enjoys another fudge sundae.


Many people are in therapy and this is no secret, so I thought I'd share some thoughts on the topic. This is after spending a long time studying about it in depth. [If I closed my Gemara to study something else I obviously felt it is very important...]

1] NO THERAPIST, gifted as he may be, can solve your problems for you. He can only facilitate your growth by showing yourself that you possess the tools to heal yourself. If you don't work hard you won't see any significant changes.

2] If you are in therapy for an extended period of time [a few months maximum] and don't see growth - seriously consider switching therapists.

3] EVERYONE can benefit from therapy. The goal is to understand yourself better and has nothing to do with how many problems you have. I personally go to therapy just about every day. My therapists are Rav Yerucham Levovitz [died 1936] and Rav Kook [died 1935] and many others who are no longer amongst the living. But if this is not enough for you, a living, breathing therapist can very helpful.

4] Some therapists are overeducated and underqualified. Just because someone has a diploma doesn't NECESSARILY mean that he can help you. Others are highly educated and highly qualified. It could go both ways...

5] Look for someone who is empathetic, sensitive, accepting of who you are and doesn't try to put you into their own narrow box of how a functional person acts and feels. Make sure he [or she] respects you.

6] Rabbonim - To become a Rabbi one must answer a certain number of questions in a small number of areas of Halacha. The title Rabbi does NOT grant one special understanding of the human psyche. So be careful. Many Rabbis cause damage because they are out of their area of expertise when dealing with human emotion. That being said, it is also true that there are Rabbis who are excellent at dealing with and understanding emotion. The advantage of a Rabbi is that he has the benefit of the wisdom of Hashem [the creator of the human psyche] and an understanding that a human is more than just a complex physical organism but that beyond the chemicals lies a G-dly soul. So one should DEFINITELY have a Rav with whom he discusses his personal problems but make sure it is a Rav who knows what he is talking about [there are quite a few]. I know a Rav who could lecture to the worlds top psychologists because he understands better than they the inner workings of man and how to help him. [All he has is a high school diploma, see #4.]

7] Tefilla: Cry out to Hashem - he is cheaper and more helpful than any professional.

8] Emotional issues don't disappear magically. If you have an issue [who doesn't] you will continue to suffer from it until YOU do something about it.

9] Don't look for solutions in the people around you - family members and the like. Your problems and their solutions all reside within you.

10] Have a loving friend - often he can be more effective than a trained professional. He can also mess up your head, so be wary....

11] Life is a long journey towards knowledge of the self and the unique Divine qualities with which you have been endowed. ENJOY!

PS - I would appreciate email communication commenting on the list. I enjoy sharing my thoughts but very much value input which expands and sharpens my understanding.

Love to all:)!!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Don't Regret It

Looking back, I have this to regret, that too often when I loved, I didn't say so.

David Grayson

BY GOLLY!!! If you have something nice to say, SAY IT! The Zohar says that not only will Hashem take us to task for all the things we said and shouldn't have, he will also take us to task for all the NICE things we should have said and didn't.

It feels GOOD to hear that you are beloved. It might feel even BETTER to say that you love someone else.


Friday, July 8, 2011

Tzvi Moshe here!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Value of the Dwelling Place

In Parshat Balak, we read about Bilaam’s numerous attempts to curse the Jewish people and the remarkable transformation of his words into blessings. Many commentaries point out the surprising fact that the torah devotes so many verses to a story of a non-Jew. Perhaps even more surprising is that the rabbis have adapted the words of this wicked man into our own morning prayers that we say each morning upon entering the beit kenesset:

Ma tovu ohalecha Yaakov, mishkenotecha yisrael

How good are the tents of Yaakov, your dwelling places Yisrael (24:15)

There must be an important message embedded in the story of Bilaam, which we are meant to be reminded of as we recite these words at the start of each day. We can better understand this lesson when seen in the context of the parsha. Before Bilaam recites this last blessing, the Torah tell us:

Vayisa Bilaam et einav vayar et yisrael shochen le’shvatav

And Balaam raised his eyes and saw Israel dwelling according to its tribes (24:2)

Rashi explains that when Bilaam looked upon the dwelling places of the Jewish people, he saw that their tents were not facing one another, “so that they should not peer not each other’s tents.” Chazal explain that this was Bilaam’s unique and “prophetic” ability was in being able to detect when Hashem was angry with the Jewish people and were therefore susceptible to destruction when they had been sinful and were deserving of punishment by the will of Hashem. In witnessing this awesome sight, Bilaam quite literally saw the unique qualities of modesty and a respect for one another that the Jewish people possessed and then realized that these qualities would continue to provide Divine protection for the Jewish people.

But, how did Bilaam know that these qualities of modesty and respect would be everlasting? Perhaps the answer to this question is found in the words he remarks: How good are the tents of Yaakov, your dwelling places Yisrael. Bilaam did not simply see the Jewish people acting modestly and respectfully; he saw that their dwelling places were set-up according to this value system. So long as the foundation, the homes of the Jewish people reflected these values, the Jewish people would retain these values and live accordingly.

It is not surprising, then, that the next tactic the enemies of Israel employ is to seduce the Jewish people according to the advice of Bilaam. The Torah tells us: Vatikran le’am eloheihen - they (the Moabites) invited the Jews to sacrifice to their gods. The world used to describe their gods is written with the same letters as the Hebrew word that Bilaam uses to describe the tents (ohel) of the Jewish people. Perhaps the Torah is hinting to us that the Moabites did more than just invite the Jews to serve the Moabite gods – they invited the Jews into their homes - they removed the Jews from their stable foundation, from their homes in which they were surrounded by Torah ideals.

All too often it is easy to become distracted by the cultural “norms” in our surroundings that may blur our Torah derived definitions of right/wrong, good/bad, proper/improper. When we create a foundation for ourselves that embodies the value system we want to live by and reminds us who we are and who we want to be, it becomes easier to return to the path that we know is right and true.

This is the secret weapon, so to speak, that Bilaam discovers of the Jewish people, as he says: am levado yishkon - it is a nation that will dwell alone. The key to the survival of the Jewish people is not necessarily to isolate ourselves completely from our surroundings – but instead to be able to be part of the world and to make our mark on the world, but to realize that we must dwell on our own – we must uphold the values of the Jewish home that will enable us to be a thriving and surviving nation as foreseen by Bilaam in our parsha.

Rav Zeven explains that there is a difference between the two words that Bilaam uses to describe the Jewish buildings: The ohel is temporary, while the mishkan is a permanent structure. Perhaps this differentiation provides insight as to why we recite Bilaam's final words each morning – specifically as we enter the beit kenesset, the temporary replacement of the Beit Hamikdash, we are reminded of that although we do not have the Holy Temple to center us and ground us in the Jewish value system, we must create for ourselves structures in our lives that can provide this positive influence on us – in our homes and in our communities. To remind ourselves that the purpose of the ohel – the more temporary structures is to fulfill that same goal as the Miskhan – to be the constant force that reminds us of the values that are so central to our survival as a Jewish nation and so integral to our individual spiritual growth.

May we continue to be reminded each morning before we set out on our day that no matter where we go on our path, we must take with us the fundamental values of jewish modesty. And this is really highlighted in the haftorah we read this week in which Micah tells us: what is good, and what the Lord demands of you; but to do justice, to love loving-kindness, and to walk modestly with your God (6:8).It is not just about how we look, but how we take these values from our home and bring them into our daily lives and interactions with others. With this in mind, may we all continue to create and maintain structures, relationships, and environments that help us to sustain our Jewish ideals. May Hashem give us the will and the strength to overcome the challenge that every generation must face of dealing with surrounding pressures and rather than be brought astray from what we know to be true, may we be a positive influence on our surroundings—establishing, maintaining, and spreading the beauty of Torah truths and values that will continue define and refine the Jewish people for all generations. Shabbat Shalom, Taly