Monday, December 31, 2012

Shabbos 75b - Shochet

The gemara quotes Rav says that one who slaughters an animal is חייב for צובע - coloring the flesh around the incision [see previous post].

Rav explains that if later generations come to ridicule me and say "What pleases the Shochet about the dyed flesh?" I therefore explain that it is pleasing to him so that people will see the throat soaked with blood and come to buy from him [seeing that the meat is freshly slaughtered].

So what does a lamdan do? He thinks about what the gemara DIDN'T say and asks what the halacha might be in such an instance.

F'rinstence, what about Kodshim? Nobody buys Kodshim to eat [because it belongs to the Beis Hamikdash] and therefore maybe there would be no צובע with respect to Kodshim. [Rav Meir Shapiro]

Shabbos 75a - When An Aveira Looks Like A Mitzva

The gemara asks שוחט משום מאי מחייב? Why is one חייב on Shabbos if he slaughters an animal?

The gemara answers "משום צובע" - Because of coloring [the gushing blood colors the flesh around the incision. Because of צובע it is also forbidden to apply makeup on Shabbos. So it emerges that according to this opinion in the gemara, putting on makeup and shechting are the same aveira on Shabbos. How interesting:)].

The Heilige Besht [בעל שם טוב עה"ת עמ' צד] understood this gemara as alluding to something deeper: The שוחט is the yetzer hara who shechts the whole world when causing them to sin [see Tosfos who explains שוחט דעלמא -  if you understand the poshut pshat in Tosfos you will appreciate that the Besht has a very original understanding of the words שוחט דעלמא]. Why is he חייב? Why is he punished at the end of days? He was just doing his job??

The gemara answers.... משום צובע. For coloring. Brits? Colouring. Same thing!

He colored the aveiros to make them look so appealing. He colored the aveiros to make them look like mitzvos!!!!! That was beyond the call of duty and hence his punishment.

Noira noiraos!!

Sefarim I Recommend

Books of the month club!!

My beloved friend Rav Herschel Berkin just published a book in English based on the Ramchal on sefer Breishis. Please read it.

Today I was at Manny's and saw that the Rogochover's annotated chiddushim on the Rambam Hilchos Shabbos has been published by Mossad HaRav Kook and written expertly and brilliantly by a chashuv Rosh Kollel from Montreal. A must if you are learning daf yomi or keep Shabbos.

Reb Tzvi Meir's Sichos Hischazkus on Shvovevim which has just begun.

More for Shovevim: I received a file of a kuntres [in Lashon Hakodesh]  that is very important for married men to read and share with their wives called "Tzniyus Ha-isha" all about matters relating to zivug with one's wife etc. I can't go into details as this is a family blog. If you are willing to send a minimum of a 25 cent donation to the Salvation Army and email me, I will gladly send you the file.

Last but never ever least they recently published a new Pachad Yitzchak on Pesach which is great for the upcoming Parshiyos.

Goyim And Kiddush Hashem

Must a goy die "al kiddush Hashem"??


A סתירה גלויה in Rashi, a יסוד נפלא from Maran and yet the gentleman who wrote it barely scratched the surface. So vast is our Torah....

Read and taste the Divine.

Shabbos 75b - A Mistake

We know that there is a melacha of mocheik - erasing. The Rosh explains that this was found in the mishkan when they would accidentally write the wrong letters on a beam and had to cross them out and write them again.

Asked Rav Eliyahu Fischer Shlita, the Gerrer Rosh Kollel: Normally, all melachos in the mishkan were CREATIVE. Even סותר was when they purposefully dismantled in order to rebuild. This whole melacha seems to be built on a mistake.

He answered that writing is fundamentally different than all melachos. Every pencil comes with an eraser [well, most of them]. The reason people like using pencils is so that they can erase. When we write we assume that we will make mistakes. In modern technology it is called "backspace". Writing assumes error and thus the melacha is in fact predicated on error.

Personal Growth And Texting

"When I was in college, I wouldn't "text" a girl to ask her out on a date. I would ask her, in person. One human being to another. And when she said "No," which she always did, I would suffer the humiliation and self-loathing that a young man needs for his, or her, personal growth.
A text does nothing more than protect us. It protexts us ... if you will. It keeps us safe. It is like a warm blanket that insulates us from the truth."

Steve Carrill

Commencement speech at Princeton 2012

Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Torah Of Avraham

A shtickel Torah li-chvod New Years:-)

עבודה זרה יד עמוד ב

Rav Chisda said to Avimi - We have a tradition that the tractate of Avoda Zara of Avraham our forefather was four hundred chapters. We, however have been taught a mere 5 chapters [in maseches avoda zara] and even so we don't fully understand what we are saying.

Avimi asked - What law do you find difficult?

Rav Chisda answered - Rebbe Meir says "Even a fine date palm ... it is forbidden to sell to idolaters" implying that a fine date palm one may not sell them but an inferior date palm we may sell them. Yet the mishna taught that we may not sell idolaters anything connected to the ground [which would include even inferior date palms]. The reason one is not allowed to sell idolaters anything connected to the ground is because of the prohibition of לא תחנם which forbids a Jew to sell land to a idolater in Israel [Rashi].

Avimi answered that the meaning of a fine date palm is the fruits [because they were usually offered to idols. But in regard to the tree, any sale is forbidden].

There are two questions on this gemara.

1] Why did this particular question about the prohibition against selling date palms make Rav Chisda sad that we are missing out on the 400 chapter book on idolatry of Avraham. This question is no different than the countless questions in Shas where we contrast two mishnayos?

2] The gemara asked how the mishna can imply that it is only forbidden to sell a fine date palm tree from the law that one must not sell any land in Israel to idol worshipers. This is a wonder, if you think about it. The law of not selling a fine date palm is in the category of avodah zara [because the gentile offers the fruits up to his god] which is super extreme-יהרג ואל יעבור-you have to give up you life rather than transgress, whereas the law of not selling land to an idol worshiper is a plain old לא תעשה so we are talking about 2 completely different categories?? It's "apples and oranges", so what's the gemara's question??

To understand we must go to the Rambam at the beginning of hilchos avoda zara. He tells how Avraham Avinu found G-d and spread the faith etc. etc. and then -
כיון שנתנבא משה רבינו ובחר ד' ישראל לנחלה
הכתירן במצות והודיעם דרך עבודתו ומה יהיה משפט עבודת כוכבים וכל הטועים אחריה עכ"ל
"When Moshe prophesied and Hashem chose the Jewish people He crowned them with mitzvos and informed them of the way of His service and the law of idol worship and all those who mistakenly follow idols."

From this Rambam we learn two huge chiddushim. 1] Besides the giving of the Torah in general there was a special giving of מה יהיה משפט עבודת כוכבים - what is the law of idolatry. 2] The laws of all those who mistakenly follow avoda zara [the people and not just the act] are included in this special giving.

It is likely that the Rambam's source is the gemara in Makkos [23a] that teaches that Moshe gave us 611 mitzvos [the gematria of "Torah" is 611 and we know תורה צוה לנו משה] and two mitzvos we heard directly from Hashem. Those two mitzvos are אנכי and לא יהיה לך the mitzva to believe in Hashem and the mitzva not to serve idols. We see that the mitzva of not serving idols is a unique category unto itself, distinct from the other 611 mitzvos, as it was heard directly from Hashem.

When the Rambam prefaced the halachos of avoda zara with the story of Avraham Avinu, he wanted to teach us the lesson that there is a special category of the "Torah of Avraham Avinu" which was then transposed into the "Torah of Moshe". That is also what our gemara is teaching us - that there is a relationship between our understanding [or lack thereof] of these halachos and Avraham Avinu's understanding.

The second chiddush of the Rambam is that all of the halachos relating to idolators is subsumed under the general category of "Hilchos Avodas Kochavim". The very fact that a nation serves idols requires that we relate to them as if they are idols themselves [see Rambam in the 12th perek of hilchos issurei biah and Pachad Yitzchak Shavuos maamar 14 - והדברים נפלאים פלאי פלאות]. It emerges then that all of the ways we distance ourselves from idol worshipers are included in the category of hilchos avoda zara. That is the reason why these laws are found in maseches avoda zara and the Rambam codified them in hilchos avodas kochavim.

According to our present analysis it emerges that the prohibition against selling land to an idol worshiper is linked to the laws of avoda zara [the Chazon Ish also felt that לא תחנם is a din in avoda zara - this would then prohibit one from selling land to idol worshipers but exclude monotheists such as Arabs from this prohibition]. Now we can understand Rav Chisda's question [why does Rebbe Meir only forbid a fine date palm when an inferior one is also forbidden to be sold to an idol worshiper because of לא תחנם]. Not as we originally thought that there are two distinct categories at work here [avoda zara and לא תחנם] but in fact there is only one operative law and that is avoda zara.

We also understand why specifically at this point Rav Chisda emphasized that we are poorer because we no longer have the 400 chapter book of Avraham Avinu on idol worship. All laws of avoda zara that we have today are all extensions of the "Torah of Avraham" and Rav Chisda felt he didn't properly understand these laws.

This principle will help solve numerous difficulties in Maseches Avoda Zara.

[Based on the Hakdama to the sefer מרבה אמונה]


The medrash says that after Yaakov died, Yosef didn't invite his brothers to eat with him anymore because he would sit at the head of the table and they might be offended seeing their little brother being the leader of the meal as if now that their father is not here anymore [ויעקב אבינו לא מת] he considers himself the authority. However, the brothers misinterpreted and assumed that Yosef stopped inviting them because hates them and wants to kill them.


From here, a groise yesoid for life: Explain yourself. We often assume that people will understand our intentions when the truth is that they misunderstand and that results in countless quarrels. Yosef only meant well, but still...

Be Careful

Eliyahu HaNavi in Tanna D'bei Eliyahu praises Moshe Rabbeinu that he was a נקי כפיים - an honest person [literally "clean hands"]. Seems like no big deal - who would think otherwise?! But the truth is that it is a HUGE deal. It is very hard to find people who are completely honest in financial matters.

Rav Shlomo Zalman Aurbach once counseled a wealthy businessman never to trust a person based on his external appearance or status in society. Ganovim wear frocks, too. The man said that this eitza saved him a ton of money [and heartache].

האדמו"ר שליט"א מלוה מלכה פרשת ויחי תשס"ב

I myself am not a businessman by any stretch of the imagination but have had dealings with dishonest people who word is not a word and whose כפים were anything but נקי.....:) Hashem Yishmor!
A man can no more diminish God's glory by refusing to worship Him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word, 'darkness' on the walls of his cell.
C.S. Lewis

Friday, December 28, 2012

Two Articles For Vayechi

An new article on כבוד המלכות for parsha vayechi, here.

A recent article on Malchus Beis David and the famous Ramban in this weeks parsha, here.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Acknowledge where you are and who you are working with. If you’re not content, rethink your priorities and ambitions.

Mitch Thrower
Source: "The Attention Deficit Workplace" by Mitch Thrower


I mentioned in this post that the learning in seminary is "watered down" with other worthwhile activities such as chesed.

I received an email from a seminary graduate who asserted that she and her fellow students learned a TON and had a very rigorous, taxing daily schedule of learning.

So I stand corrected. Not watered down at all. I salute the females who follow the path of Rebbetzin Schneirer, ensuring the future of our nation!:)

Shabbos 69 - Tefillin On Shabbos

The דובב מישרים [The Chebiner Rov] is one of those sfarim that m'darf lernen - we must learn.

He was asked [ח"א סי' יח] about the gemara that says that if a person is stuck in the desert and doesn't know when shabbos is, he should keep six days and commemorate the seventh by making kiddush and havdala עיי"ש. The question is - Should he lay tefillin with a bracha on the seventh day as well? Apparently - he shouldn't because it would be תרתי דסתרי - an inherent contradiction. First he wears tefillin with a bracha and then he makes kiddush? Modna [strange]. [For an interesting article on תרתי דסתרי by someone who is unfortunately in the papers for yichee things, see the קול התורה journal נב page קנה and on.

Strange or not strange, the Chebiner says the we see that we make a bracha in the case of a sfeik sfeika and here we have a רוב [because most days are weekdays] that would mandate a bracha. [Those who follow my Shev Shamtsa articles know that according to many - ספק ספיקא is מטעם רוב].

The Maharam Mintz proves that we make a bracha on a רוב from the gemara in Yevamos [121] that says that one can take a שבועה based on a רוב so הוא הדין to make a bracha. [Rav Genechovski has a nice discussion of this topic in his בני ראם. Please learn it:)].

Another svara to make a bracha would be that don't wear tfillin because shabbos is itself an אות so we don't need another אות of tfillin. But this fellow stuck in the desert IS doing melacha [כדי פרנסתו] and ממילא he should make a bracha on his tfillin.

See the sefer זרע ברך עמ' רלו רלח and דף על דף for more...

Shabbos 70a: הבערה ללאו יצאת או לחלק יצאת

לרפואת האדמו"ר ר' יצחק מנחם בן גיטל מירל בריינדל לאה בתוך שח"י
ולע"נ ר' מרדכי גימפל בן אברהם משה

Alright. Enough of this lovey-dovey stuff. LET'S LEARN!!

Why did the Torah single out the melacha of הבערה? We know the two opinions in the gemara: One opinion says to teach that it is a לאו and not a full fledged melacha and another opinion holds that it teaches that one is obligated a separate korban for each melacha.

The Sfas Emes [shabbos 34a] is מחדש that according to the opinion ללאו יצאת there is no mitza of tosefes shabbos for הבערה because tosefes shabbos applies only to melachos.

This חידוש of the heilige Sfas Emes can be compared to a Pri Megadim who says that there is no mitzva of tosefes shabbos for the איסור of resting your animals on shabbos למען ינוח שורך because it's not a melacha and one must refrain from melacha during tosefes shabbos.

However it's not so pashut that just because ללאו יצאת it is not considered a melacha. Tosfos in Pesachim [5b] says that if הבערה ללאו יצאת it wouldn't be assur on yom tov because only melachos are assur on yom tov. So Tosfos holds that if ללאו יצאת it's not a melacha [see Kehillos Yaakov Beitza 15]. However, from other rishonim it seems that even if ללאו יצאת nevertheless it's still a melacha [עיין בר"ח וברש"י שם בפסחים]. The Shaagas Aryeh roars to explain the latter approach by saying that essentially it remains a melacha but there is a גזירת הכתוב that there is only מלקות and not סקילה  so on yom tov it would still be אסור under the rubric of איסור מלאכה.  The Sfas Emes would shtim only with Tosfos [even though Tosfos doesn't necessarily agree to the Sfas Emes' חידוש].


The Chasam Sofer is מחדש that one wouldn't have to prevent his animal from doing the melacha of הבערה because the Torah commands us to prevent our animals from doing "melacha" while according to Rav Yosi הבערה is but a לאו. This חידוש would also be תלוי in the machlokes rishonim we just mentioned as to the understanding of the opinion that הבערה ללאו יצאת.


I thought possibly that גרמא would be אסור מדאורייתא with respect to הבערה. The gemara [Shabbos 120] says that גרמא is מותר מדאורייתא because the pasuk says לא תעשה מלאכה  - הא גרמא שרי, the DOING of melacha is אסור but not the CAUSING. Since this applies only to MELACHA and הבערה may not be a melacha - גרמא would be אסור. I saw that the Chasam Sofer says punkt farkert! Namely, the even though there is debate as to whether גרמא is אסור on shabbos - with respect to הבערה it is מותר. There went that idea....

Not so fast. The Gaon, the Rav of Broid the Machaze Avraham says as I did. Or better - I say as he did. הבערה בגרמא אסורה.

The helige Avnei Neizer wanted to say that the תנאי of meleches machsheves is not operative ["operative" is NOT a yeshivishe word] with respect to הבערה and the upshot is that it is not necessary to permit גרמא because גרמא would only be forbidden because it is a meleches machsheves. If it is a לאו and not a melacha then it reverts back to the regular rule of the rest of Torah that גרמא is מותר. That is Chasam Sofer-esque. PLEASE see the Kli Chemdah on Vayakhel and tell me if ya liked it...

Whether גרמא is מותר on shabbos seems to be a machlokes between the sugyos [Bava Kamma 60a and Shabbos 120a].

FOR CRYING OUT LOUD we barely scratched the surface of this topic. Mamesh gives me the חשק to write a whole kuntres on the machlokes of הבערה ללאו או לחלק יצאת. But we will leave it here for now...:)

[Based on דף על דף עמ' שלג - עיי"ש עוד]

LOVE and blessings!:)

New Post

What you do when you really care, here.

Male Teachers - Female Students: The Conundrum

A topic that has troubled me for many years....

Men teaching women. The starting point is the Shulchan Aruch who says that one should stay "very very" far away from people of the opposite gender. When we go to shul we are so suspicious of human nature that halacha mandates a physical wall between men and women. Suddenly, after davening the man goes into class and spends the next 50 minutes looking at, talking to and laughing with [if he is funny - most teachers of women are to a certain extent] women.

היתכן - Can it be??

It is. But the question is - What does Hashem think of this? I understand that the practice is widespread [even in my daughter's super farfrumpt Beis Yaakov, while the teachers are female, the administrators are male] and people don't like to question accepted practices but nevertheless....

The pros -  

1] The reality is that men know more Torah [by and large] than women. This is not because men are smarter but because they spend many, many more hours, days and years studying. Every yeshivish boy in the world has full time learning from his teenage years at least until marriage. No girl does. Maybe her year in Israel and even that is watered down with chesed and tiyulim and chagim and ... and... lots of stuff. This is a good thing. It is clearly not a woman's job to be a Talmidah Chachama. A woman's job is to do chesed and daven and learn and be a mommy and lots of other things but certainly not learning to the exclusion of all else. Since men know more they should be the ones passing their knowledge on to the women who will then bring that knowledge and inspiration into their homes.

2] In order to properly receive Torah there must be a feeling of respect towards the teacher. Rav Hutner in a letter explains that the deeper the feeling of awe and reverence for the teacher, the more the Torah will penetrate the depths of the student's soul. It seems that woman by and large have more respect for Rabbonim than they do for Rebbetzins. That is the way it SEEMS to me. Women reading this can confirm or deny because they know better than I. IF my presumption is true then men are definitely necessary teachers so that the tradition is effectively transmitted forward.

3] Parnassa. People need money and the man is usually the primary supporter. For many men, if they don't teach women they will not have enough money to live. That is a serious consideration.

The cons -

1] By golly - it is really not holy for a man to be around women. קדושים תהיו means פרושים מן העריות. To be holy means to be separate. But he is teaching Torah - what is unholy about that??? Well, if the man is a neshma without a body then everything is fine. But he is not. Can male teachers attest to the fact that they have never been attracted to a female student. In order not to be, he must perform the most difficult task known to man - to overcome his most basic and innate nature. In order to do this he must work very, very hard on himself. You will forgive my skepticism but I am not certain every single seminary teacher is on this exalted madreiga. It is such a fundamental and basic part of the male nature to be attracted to females that to be otherwise is virtually angelic. EVEN if one has a GREAT marriage [and not everybody does. Most people don't] it is still a challenge and a fortiori [kal va-chomer] if he doesn't have a solid marriage. In class the girls can be sweet, pretty and undemanding in ways that his wife isn't. When he talks in class, the girls enthusiastically write everything down in their notebooks [I think some girls were born with their notebooks:)] while at home when he talks his wife listens with a half an ear, interrupting him to tell Moishe to stop climbing on the table and to tell Ruchi to eat with her fork. Who is more attractive to him? Rhetorical question.

2] It is not so holy for the women. Can every female student attest to the fact that she never had a crush on a male teacher? I mean he is witty, spiritual, bright, knowledgeable, dresses well and is so respectful to her. Isn't that EXACTLY what she is looking for in a husband? So why shouldn't she be attracted to him. That is nature. She doesn't know that he has a short temper, is messy, demands dinner on time and is awfully forgetful. Only his wife knows that. So the wife is annoyed by his troublesome traits and the girls in his class see only the good side. Isn't that a problem??

3] In order to be a really good Rebbi one has to be close to the student. How close can one get to a girl? This is VERY thorny. IF he views her as his daughter then problem solved. He mamesh loves her but with no physical dimension. Like a father his daughter. But NATURE is that one is not attracted to one's daughter so it is a cinch to have pure love for her. The moment it is someone else's daughter, things become more problematic. So he should be close but always stepping back to make sure that he is not too close. Uncomfortable and awkward. If he is not close to his students and just gives a lecture and leaves without ever learning their names or where they are from and what their favorite flavor of ice cream is, I doubt that he will have much of an effect on their lives. It then sorta defeats the purpose.

4] Until know we have been talking about the level of purifying feeling; That it is a problem even to FEEL attraction to someone other than a spouse or at least potential spouse. But a more serious problem is that concrete things do happen. That is the worst. אין אפוטרופוס לעריות. No one can stop two people who are attracted to each other - even payos, a beard, a huge kippah, a long skirt and lots of chuckling during shmone esrei. People remain people.

What is the solution? Rav Tzvi Yehuda Kook said that IDEALLY only women should teach women. The model is that Sarah taught the women while Avraham taught the men.

But we don't live in an ideal world.

So what I recommend is as follows. If you are a girl/women and have a close student/relationship with a Rebbi - try to determine to the best of your ability that he is a serious Oved Hashem. You can ask other people about him to find out. Somebody who is constantly working on himself and trying to become holier and holier. This way you can be assured that his interactions with you will bring only to more kedusha in the world and not otherwise, G-d forbid.

Also, be suspicious if things get too close but be sure your suspicions are well founded. Sometimes girls think that a man is interested in them [in the male-female sense] when he is just being nice and that is his personality. In the previous post we discussed Rabbeim kissing their male students. A kiss can mean that the Rebbi loves the talmid in a pure way or it can mean, chas vi-shalom... The difference is literally the difference between Heaven and Hell.

If you are a man - Before you teach girls, ask a shyla. After you start - ask yourself if you are going up or down. In high school you were never lucky enough to have thirty girls giving you their full attention and respect and finding you irresistably funny and asking you all their questions as if you are Moses himself. Your newfound popularity might cause a yerida in your ruchniyos. והמבין יבין. If it is not working for you then you can find a different job. I would go into renovations. Lots of houses in our communities post-sandy need serious renovations.

These are just just random thoughts I jotted down to stimulate further discussion. I am surprised that I have never seen anything written about this topic.

People will only start talking about it AFTER a story hits the media. Why not prevent it in advance??!

Being Gentle

באמת היסוד הכל המקיף היותר גדול, הוא העדינות, להיות עדין לכל ועם הכל, להיות עדין עם ה' ועם כל ברואיו גם עם עצמו
In truth, the foundation of all, the most encompassing [trait] is GENTLENESS, to be gentle to all and with all, to be gentle with Hashem and with His creations and with himself.
Rav Yaakov Moshe Charlap  

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Shabbos Candles In A Hotel

Rabbi Re'em Cohen from Shabbat Bi-Shabbato Vayechi 5773 Trans. by R' Moshe Goldberg
Question: How should a guest in a hotel or a public facility light Shabbat candles?
The Reasons for Lighting Shabbat Candles
The first thing that is necessary is to define the limits of the mitzva of lighting candles on Shabbat. Rav and Rava feel that there is an obligation to light the candles (Shabbat 25b), and all the later rabbis accept this ruling (Rambam, Hilchot Shabbat 5:1; and others).
Three reasons have been given for lighting Shabbat candles:
(1) Peace in the home: This is the approach of Rabbi Abahu in the Talmud. Rashi notes, "If there is no lamp, there is no peace, since one who moves around in the dark will bump into things." In the interests of peace in the home, Rava rules that a Shabbat candle takes precedence over Chanukah lamps (Shabbat 23b). The Rambam accepts this ruling (Hilchot Chanukah 4:14).
(2) Rashi explains that the obligation is because of the need to show respect for Shabbat. "A meal is not significant unless there is as much light as during the day." This also appears in the Rambam, Hilchot Shabbat 30:5.
(3) Based on the requirement of having a joyous Shabbat. This appears in Midrash Tanchuma 58:1 and also in the Rambam, Hilchot Shabbat 5:1.
Where to Light the Candles
If the reason for the candles is peace in the home and bright light, the obligation will be to have light in all the occupied areas of the home. But if the reason is to be joyous or to show respect for Shabbat, it would seem that the main obligation for lighting is where the Shabbat meal takes place. This is indeed what the RAMA rules (263:10) – that the main place where candles should be lit is on the table.
It is reasonable to assume that the three reasons should not be viewed as completely separate factors, and that would explain why the Rambam brings all three reasons in different contexts (although it is not clear why he mentions peace in the home only as part of the laws of Chanukah). The "Mordechai" rules with respect to Shabbat that men who are studying outside their homes should light in their own rooms (294, quoted by the Beit Yosef and the Shulchan Aruch). This implies that candle lighting should not be confined only to the area where food is eaten.
Can all the Guests Light together in the Place where they Eat?
One common solution to this dilemma is that the guests light candles in the dining room. In his responsa, the Maharil discusses women who light Shabbat candles in a synagogue, and he notes that this is similar to a case where several families eat in one place and each one lights for itself. He tries to justify this practice because it is important to have a large source of light:
"The more light is added the greater is the peace in the home, and the most happiness occurs when each and every corner of the room is well lit. This corresponds to the holidays when the candles are lit in the synagogue even though they do not have any real effect because of other strong light."
The Beit Yosef quotes these words of the Maharil, including his approval of the existing custom. But the author hesitates about the halacha in the Shulchan Aruch: "It is best to be wary of reciting an unnecessary blessing and to have only one woman to recite the blessing." The RAMA disagrees and accepts the ruling of the Maharil. Most of the Sephardi rabbis accept the approach of the Shulchan Aruch but some follow the opinion of the Maharil (Yafeh Lalev 263:10; Gedolot Elisha 18; Kaf Hachaim 56, in the name of various rabbis, noting that in the face of an existing custom it is not right to be lenient with respect to reciting a blessing; Shemesh Umagen 2:38, who writes that this is the custom in Morocco). On the other hand, some Ashkenazi rabbis do not allow the recital of the blessing (Olat Shabbat, SHELAH).
Electric Lights
Since in places where people stay as guests lighting in individual rooms might be a safety problem, it is relevant to ask if electric lights can be used instead of wax candles.
Many rabbis permit reciting a blessing after lighting incandescent bulbs, since the hot filament serves the purpose of a wick, and the electricity can be considered the equivalent of the oil that serves as fuel. For example, this is what is written in Beit Yitzchak (Yoreh Dei'ah 120). This principle is also the basis for the ruling by many rabbis that lighting an electric bulb is a violation of the Torah prohibition of lighting a fire on Shabbat. These include Responsa Achiezer (3:60) and the Chazon Ish (50:9). It has also been reported that Rabbi Chaim of Brisk and Rabbi Chaim Ozer recited the Havdalah at the end of Shabbat using electric lights, in order to show that electric lights are indeed considered a flame.
Based on this reasoning, it is clear that one can fulfill the obligation of lighting Shabbat candles with an electric light. This is indeed the ruling given by Responsa Har Tzvi (Orach Chaim 143) and Rabbi Ovadia Yosef (Yechaveh Dei'ah 5:24). (With respect to fluorescent and LED lights, one must wonder if the discussion above about a wick is an important aspect of the halacha, such that it might be possible to use these lights as Shabbat candles too. On the other hand, since incandescent bulbs are available one should avoid lighting with a bulb that may involve a very novel approach.)
Summary in Practice
In view of the above discussion, there is no doubt that the best place to light in guest facilities is in the bedroom. However, there are two problems with this: (1) The lights must be on when the guests return to the room; and (2) In most public places, such as hotels, it is prohibited to light a flame in the rooms because of safety considerations. Lighting in a collective dining room is problematic because of the opinion of the Shulchan Aruch quoted above – that only one person should recite the blessing – and also because lighting candles in a place that is well lit by electric lights does not add substantially to the joy of Shabbat, and it is not certain that a blessing can be recited even according to the Maharil and the RAMA.
Therefore, in my humble opinion, the best alternative is to bring an electric lamp with incandescent bulbs, and to connect it to a timer such that it will be on when the guests return to the room, so that they can recite the blessing. In my humble opinion, every self-respecting hotel should provide an electric lamp with a timer for all the guests.

Deep Kabbala

A mekubal once came in to see the tzaddik Rav Yeshaya Karstirrer ztz"l [he is the holy man whose picture people hang as a sgula against mice. D. 1925] and reprimanded him for being busy all day helping people. Instead, he should spend more time learning kabbala. R' Yeshaya asked him what kaballa topic he had been learning recently. The mekubal answered "Shiur Komah" [something very deeeeeeep. It literally means "the amount of standing upright"].

Reb Yeshaya said "I am learning the same thing. When people fall, I pick them up to their "shiur komah".

זכות הצדיקים יעזור ויגן ויושיע!

Leaving The Psak As It Is

Somebody once asked Rav Genechovski what the halacha is if a person forgives his friend verbally but doesn't really mean it, does it count?

He answered that Rav Yosef Engel in his Gilyon Hashas [קידושין מט] says that it DOES help [because of דברים שבלב אינם דברים] and although he has questions on R' Engel's opinion he doesn't want to voice them because in shomayim the halacha has been paskened like Rav Engel and if he disproves him then they will change the halacha in shomayim. This will result in people receiving less mechila and he doesn't want that.

A Different Negiya Question

First 3 stories.

Story 1:When I was in America recently I went to visit a old Rebbi of mine from over 20 years ago. He was overjoyed to see me. He kissed me when I came in. Then he kissed me again. Then he kissed me a third time. He was very happy to see me. [He also gave a donation for continued harbotzos Torah. He is another name on my list of people with little or no money who give as opposed to those with lots of money who give ... an explanation "Times are rough":)]

Story 2: I recently took a child of mine to see a tzaddik somewhere is this Holy Land of ours. After talking with him warmly for about a half an hour to forty five minutes, he brought my child close, kissed him and told him that he loves him. I detected great satisfaction on my child's face. If you would have asked me if I would be willing to pay for this tzadik to kiss my child, I think a thousand dollars would be around where the bidding would start [and not because I have extra cash ה' ישפיע עלי שפע פרנסה בתוך שאר בית ישראל:-)]. He will hopefully remember the meeting for the rest of his life and it will make him feel connected to holiness.

Story 3: [From Reform Judaism Magazine - forgive me...:)] 
One of my earliest lessons as a child was to esteem and emulate individuals who demonstrated knowledge, care, and concern for Judaism. My father instructed me over and over again to show our Rabbi Nathan Bulman--an Orthodox rabbi he revered--the utmost kavod.

One day, as Rabbi Bulman and I were studying the first paragraph of the Amidah prayer, we came across the phrase, "God of Abraham, God of Isaac, and God of Jacob." Rabbi Bulman commented, as Jewish teachers have for hundreds of years, that each of us, no less than the fathers of our people, must strive for a personal relationship with God. I imbibed his words and looked at the text. "There is something that troubles me," I said. I pointed out that the text said, "Abraham" and not "Abram," the name his father Terah had bestowed upon him. In contrast, the first name of the third patriarch appears as "Jacob," rather than his other name, "Israel," which he earned as he struggled with the angel.

When I asked the rabbi why this was so, he broke out in a tremendous smile and rushed over and kissed me on my forehead. His answer to the question--which was that Abraham was the name given Abram when he became a Jew, while Jacob was born a Jew--was almost beside the point. What I remember most was his kiss. Through this single act, he displayed the passion and joy involved in the study of Torah, and he embedded a love for Jewish learning and discovery in my neshamah  that burns at the core of my being to the present day.

I have thought of that kiss often. In every teaching and personal setting in which I have found myself over the years, I have attempted to display and transmit the same love of learning to my students that Rabbi Bulman did at that decisive moment in my own life. Sometimes I am successful, sometimes not--but always I attempt to recognize the awesome responsibility I possess as a teacher. For, in the words of the rabbis, "great leaders of the Jewish people (g'dolei Yisrael) may spring from among those who sit before me," and each encounter presents an opportunity to touch their very souls.

Storytime over.

The gemara teaches that a student should be as beloved as one's own child. Is there a father who never shows physical affection to a child?

Where am I going with this??

Some schools have a policy that the teachers are not allowed to touch the students. I just heard a shiur on line today and the honorable speaker understood as axiomatic that a Rebbi may never touch a talmid. Nobody challenged him. [I often hear shiurim where none of the lecturers assertions are challenged which shows that people are either polite or lack well developed critical faculties. But this writer is a yeshiva bachur and we are taught to challenge everything. Avraham Avinu [among others] challenged Hashem Himself. This issue requires separate treatment].

The explanation is understandable. There are people out there who are dangerous and allowing physical contact can lead to the terrible catastrophes with which the media is full.

In no way do I minimize the damage done by a person who abuses a child. He effectively causes almost irreparable psychological damage for many years and often for life.

You know - cars KILL. Objects of homicide. They also maim. Knives kill too. So does radiation.

I haven't heard anyone suggest that we stop driving, slicing watermelon or taking x-rays.

I am not sure that the 'no-negiya' [between the same gender] rule is the way to go. Maybe I am biased. When I see someone I haven't seen for a while with whom I learned Torah, I instinctively kiss him. I love him. What am I supposed to do? Give him a cold handshake like two football coaches after a bitter game? [You see them exchanging words on TV but we can never hear what they are saying. Probably something like "Great game. Hope you drown to death in the shower." "You too. Hope that as you are drowning the water turns freeezing cold so that you suffer as you die."] 

[Relationships between male teachers and female students are far more complex and require much more vigilance and boundries. Maybe a blog for another time...]

99 percent of the population are not abusers and the love of the average Rebbi for talmid [as in the three stories told above] is a pure feeling of G-dliness [please see Shir Hashirim 1/2].

The answer is that we should educate students to cry foul if they ever feel anything inappropriate is being done [and we teach them what is classified as inappropriate].

We also pray to Hashem that our children should be blessed with teachers who love them as a parent does a child.

Amen!@ [The @ was a typo but I like it so I kept it].

What do you think??

The Importance Of Belonging

Recently I read an interesting story. A Rabbi from Bnei Brak related how he had been in France and befriended a secular Jew who was beginning to return to his roots. He was a man of "class" and "style" who enjoyed the "better" things in life.

One day he saw this man in a grocery store in Bnei Brak. His hair was now cut very short in the Charedi style he was wearing an old black hat that had seen better days, his black jacket was also not the height of fashion and his whole look said "No more High-Society-Paris - Bnei Brak and Koillel all the way". This Rabbi was shocked to see his old friend in this context. They warmly greeted each other and after the man made his purchase [not before determining if the flour had been ground after Pesach] they walked out together to the Bnei Brak street with its huge unemptied garbage bins, cats running around, no street lights and general tumult etc. etc.

The Rabbi asked his friend how he was managing in his new lifestyle.  The man said "Great! My days are filled with Gemara, Rashi, Tosfos, Reb Elchonon [that's what he said referring not to the 21st century former Rebbe in Modern Orthodox school but to a 20th century Talmudic Titan Hashem yinkom damo]. It's amazing."

"Yes, but isn't it hard to adapt to life in Bnei Brak after living as you did for so many years?"

The man thought and then offered a powerful insight into life. Yes, he answered. It is EXTREMELY difficult. Every day I have to break a thousand habits to which I had become accustomed. But it's worth it. Now I am associated [אני משתייך] with the community I feel gives me the most meaning in life.

From here we see, explained the Rabbi writing the article, how important it is to have שייכות to a community. It is a basic human need to BELONG. Everybody needs to feel that they belong somewhere. Brings to mind the lyrics to the theme song of the sitcom Cheers. A person wants to go to a place "where everybody knows your name, where they're always glad you came". Every society has their rules for belonging. A person might not always like the rules but it is the price he must pay in order to belong and it is well worth the price.

I know people who aren't married because they don't feel comfortable with girls from any group. The frum girls are too frummie and the modern girls are too modern. Such people just want to go with whatever they happen to feel and thus fit in nowhere. That is NOT a recipe for success in life.

That doesn't mean that one has to be a robot and mindlessly follow the dictates of society. It just means that once one decides where he wants to belong he must externally follow their [often unstated] rules.

If a person wants to be a tzaddik who spends his days and nights ensconced in the tent of Torah but insists on wearing shorts in the Beis Medrash on hot days or growing his hair long he will be an outcast. If a boy from Williamsburg wants to marry a good Stern girl and move to Teaneck he should change his garb [and accent, if possible]. If a girl wants to marry a boy who is serious about learning and halacha but insists that they spend their winter vacation in places where it is permitted only for blind men to go, she will have a problem.

This is critical for raising children. A child needs to feel like he belongs. To a family, to a society, to a  culture. The job of the parents is to give him this sense of belonging.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

The Odd Couple

First Felix went. Now Oscar.

The Odd Couple is dead.

I am so sorry. I grew up watching the sitcom. Their real names were Tony Randall and Jack Klugman. Felix was a very proper, intelligent, neat freak. Oscar was a messy, cigar smoking, sports lover. They were so odd together [hence the name of the show] and made millions laugh. I remember the show being clean, like most of the shows of the 70's.

I once met Tony Randall outside his building, the San Remo on 74th and Central Park West [he died in 2004]. I often think about that meeting when I walk by there. I was a little kid eating an ice cream cone and turned around when I heard a familiar voice and said "Hey, are you Tony Randall?" He didn't say yes. He said in a warm, friendly voice something like "How are you?" I never met Jack Klugman and never will.  

Why am I sad? Maybe because since the show was part of my childhood and the stars of the show died, some of my childhood died along with them.... I am not sure that I am willing to part with my childhood. But maybe I have to.

I will end with the narrative with which every episode began.

"On November 13, Felix Unger was asked to remove himself from his place of residence. (Unger's unseen wife slams door, only to reopen it and angrily hand Felix his saucepan) That request came from his wife. Deep down, he knew she was right, but he also knew that someday, he would return to her. With nowhere else to go, he appeared at the home of his childhood friend, Oscar Madison. Sometime earlier, Madison's wife had thrown him out, requesting that he never return. Can two divorced men share an apartment without driving each other crazy?"

New Post

A post on marrying the right person, here.

Objects - The Trilogy

I decided to repost this recent piece because it shtims [if you don't know what that word means, find a fellow with a white shirt, black pants and peyos behind his ears. He will know:)] beautifully with the previous two posts on the side of עשה טוב.

A sense of his or her own worth is no doubt the greatest gift we can offer another, the greatest contribution we can make to any life. We can give this gift and make this contribution only through love. However, it is essential that our love be liberating, not possessive. We must at all times give those we love the freedom to be themselves. Love affirms the other as "other". It does not possess and manipulate another as "mine". 

To love is to liberate. Love and friendship must empower those we love to become their best selves according to their own lights and visions. This means that wanting what is best for you and trying to be what you need me to be can be done only in a way that preserves your freedom to have your own feelings, think your own thoughts and make your own decisions . If your personhood is as dear to me as my own, which is the implication of love, I must respect it carefully and sensitively. When I affirm you, my affirmation is based on your unconditional value as a unique, unrepeatable and even sacred mystery of humanity.

In evaluating my love for you, I must then address myself to the question of whether my love is in fact possessive or manipulative or really affirming and freeing. It will help, in this evaluation, to ask myself these questions; Is it more important to me that you be pleased with yourself or that I be pleased with you? Is it more important that you attain the goals you have set for yourself, or that you attain the goals I want for you?
John Powell (1645 - 1713)
Source: Through Seasons of the Heart

Objects - The Sequel

Part 1 resonated with many people and I continue....

This Chanukah I attended the tisch of the Tolna Rebbe Shlita on the last day. The custom is that during the tisch the people write kvittlach [notes] with their requests and pass them up to the Rebbe Shlita who reads them and then they are all thrown into the fire and burned with the used wicks from Chanukah. It is QUITE a event:-). Lots of spirited singing and laughing and primarily - chizuk in Avodas Hashem.

I happened to have been sitting right behind the Rebbe Shlita and watched as he went from kvittel to kvittel and read the tzaros of Yidden. From time to time he would read out loud [without mentioning names, of course], sometimes for comic relief ["I urgently need a million dollars from America. When I get it, I will give ten thousand dollars to Tolna's new Beis Medrash." I, for one, felt that giving one percent was a bit too little, but that's just my opinion...:)].

One kvittel [now we will translate "complaint"] he read out loud said as follows: Since I have come to the Rebbe nothing has changed in my life....

Meaning, "What good are you, Rebbe. You are an object whose job it is to make sure that things in my life turn around for the better. If they remain the same, then I have no use for you."

That is the EXACT same way many people relate to Hashem. His job is to make sure everything goes well with me and if He is not doing His job then I don't want to have anything to do with Him. I mean, doesn't He know that I have been looking for a husband for ten years? Doesn't He know that I have no money in the bank and a family to support? Doesn't He know that my grandmother is sick and needs a refuah shleima?? Every davening is another opportunity to complain...

The CORRECT attitude is that we are NOT davening in order to inform Him of our problems. He is well aware of them:). We daven because we have a mitzva to daven in order to connect to the Source of all being. Our davening is that IF we receive what we ask for we will use it not to enhance our personal status but to bring kavod shomayim. So it is NOT an exercise in narcissism "gimme, gimme, gimme" [the Zohar Hakadosh compares it to dogs who say הב הב - give, give] but a plea to the Divine to help us bring a greater awareness of His presence in the world.

This is a much longer and deeper topic but beyond the scope of this post at this time.

But definitely food for thought. 

Monday, December 24, 2012

How We View Others

This has been on my mind the last while. I share....

The way we, OK, I, relate to most people is as an object. As an "it".

For example, I spend a lot of time on buses. As far as I am concerned the driver is just a pair of hands and feet whose job is to come on time and help me arrive at my destination as swiftly and safely as possible. Do I ever think about the driver as a PERSON? Someone with hopes, fears and aspirations. Have I ever asked myself if he enjoys being a bus driver and what he would rather do instead? Have I ever wondered what he does when he is in the middle of his route and he REALLY has to go somewhere private.


And I don't care. [Someone was once asked what the difference is between indifference and apathy. He answered "I don't know and I don't care".] Don't get me wrong. NOW that I think about it I start caring but on the average day I am far too immersed in myself and what I am doing to be concerned with the fact that the bus driver dreams of being a professional singer...

Next example: The waiter. When I go to a restaurant to eat [I'm not a big restuarant guy but you catch my drift] do I think "Boy - this waiter has been on his feet for hours. He must be exhausted."


I think "Where is my baked salmon already." He is just a pair of hands whose job is to make sure that I have the finest dining experience possible.

Third example: The pretty girl walking down the street. The basic nature of man is to enjoy looking at attractive women but what does this "look" say? It says "I care nothing about you and who you really are. Only about my own personal pleasure." That is the secret of woman on billboards. Men can just enjoy looking for as long as they wish without having to get involved in the messy aspects of relationships such a respecting the fact the she is a different human being than I with equally important needs, wants and desires.

When dating a girl she is also an object. If he is a frum boy the "object" may be someone with really good middos who loves taking care of children and says 100 chapters of tehillim a day but still an object. The girl will similarly see a boy as an object. Maybe a talmid chochom or someone who will responsibly provide for her but still an object. Even after marriage he/she may well continue to be an object. He is not having kids without her so he may view her as a baby machine. Or a cook. Or a cleaning lady. Or a babysitter. [Women do LOTS of things...]

When I need a minyan and call out "ASIRI" what am I feeling? All I care about now is finding somebody who hasn't davened yet so he can join my minyan. If someone tells me he can't join because he already davened, I am disappointed. Why should it bother me to hear that a Jew davened? I should be ecstatic. But when I need a minyan everyone else is just a potential body to complete my minyan. [I was recently getting a minyan together at a wedding and a tall man with a kippah on his head said "I could join but you probably want Jews for your minyan..." Turns out that he was an Episcopalian business associate of the chosson.]

A higher level is to start viewing the other person as a distinct individual whose purpose in this world is not just to fulfill my needs. To look at a person and try to FEEL what it is like to be them. How does a child feel living in the land of the giants? How would you feel if most people around you  were a foot or two taller and at least a hundred pounds heavier?? Children are NOT [contrary to the way I view them] merely potential sources of nachas or cute. They are real people.

How does your wife feel when she is pregnant? I can tell you how I feel when my wife isn't feeling well when she is pregnant but how does she - independent of me - feel?? I am just giving examples but there are limitless people, situations and personalities so the wise reader will extract from here to every life situation.

The highest level is to UNITE into a deep relationship with the other which is even deeper than experiencing him. It borders on the mystical....

New Project

If this looks familiar - it is. A reprint of an earlier post which thus far has received an enthusiastic response but no funding. Maybe people are afraid to cause me the revulsion felt by the Kotzker when seeing money. Since this is for a Torah project I am willing to risk it..... My less than sweet experience has taught me that it is very difficult to raise money - even for the best of causes.
Everybody heard of the "Artscroll Revolution". The elucidated gemara that was so well done has enabled thousands to learn and comprehend gemara.

However, there is always more to learn and understand. The commentary of Tosfos which has been part and parcel of gemara study for hundreds of years and brings a completely new dimension to the learning is unfortunately out of reach for so many.

Therefore, I have decided to, bli neder, attempt to elucidate and translate it into English for the benefit of the larger population. In order to expedite the work it would be much better if I can gather a staff of scholars.

Sounds great - right?


One "minor" challenge - I need a sponsor/s in order to move this project forward. Everyone reading this knows wealthy people who appreciate Torah. If you would like to be my partner in spreading the Light - please forward this post to any parties that may be interested in helping. Help me change the world!:-)


PS - I have other ideas as well be would like to start with this one..

The Jewish Perspective On Santa Claus

Written by my beloved friend Rabbi Aryeh Freidner.

 As most Coke bottles will proudly display,

There is one main theme of Christmas day.

His original green suit didn't go with the red,

So they decided to go with that color instead.

Children are told, "Be a nice boy,

And be a nice girl, and he'll bring you a toy!"

It's not until later when they're older and grown,

That the true essence of Christmas and Santa is shown.

You see, Adam HaRishon, the first man around,

Let out a loud cry to Hashem from the ground-

"I can't believe I made such a mark,

Since that first sin the world's gotten dark!"

For on Rosh HaShana, Adam was made,

In his first fall season he saw daytime fade.

He thought that the nights would continue to grow,

And the light of the sun would soon cease to show. [See Avodah Zara 8a]

But then, at this very time of year,

The name "Winter Solstice" rang in his ear,

For then the trend turned the opposite way,

And the long nights began to give into day.

He saw that this was a natural thing,

As he turned to Hashem and started to sing,

The songs of praise that we joyfully say,

Around Chanukah time, OUR Holiday.

This moment surely never lost fame,

As pagan religions soon did the same.

The most important god to serve, they surmised,

Should be the sun, which reigned alone in the skies.

The Egyptians had Ra and the Romans had Sol,

Others put Gabal in their godly bowl.

Some celebrated "Yule" in the honor of Thor.

(That's why some Christians burn a log on the floor.)

And then came along one, that's the point of this tale,

Who adopted a religion that was more or less pale.

All the other ones threw a big bash for their boss,

And all this one had was a big wooden cross.

So Constantine (the first), the Emperor of Rome,

Stole all their ideas, brought them into his home.

Not having fun was beginning to hurt,

And how else would he convince the whole world to convert?

For the real truth is of little debate,

Jesus was simply not born on this date.

Some scholars say in Apr. and some say in Mar.,

But it's generally accepted that Dec. 25 is a farce.

When the facts are studied, the truth comes out clean,

And the reason for Santa Claus is easily seen.

What better choice is there for them to insist,

Than a big jolly man that doesn't exist.

So remember the true reason why Christmas is here,

Not to spread joy, not gladness, not cheer.

But because our society doesn't care for what's real,

What's truth and what's fact, they don't generally feel.

Thank G-d we have Torah to show us the way,

To give us real meaning for every part of our day.

Now, why on Chanukah do we light candles at night?

I wish the truth to all, we should all see the light

Hashiveynu Hashem Eilecha

New issue of Klal Perspectives on the topic of kiruv, here.

My two cents [it could be that one or more of the writers already made this point - I didn't read the journal]: Many "Modern Orthodox" could use some kiruv too and it is much easier to get a person who keeps "half-shabbos" to keep "whole shabbos" than it is to get someone who keeps "no-shabbos" to keep "whole-shabbos" - especially given the fact that he is surrounded by people who are already keeping shabbos. Many [NOT ALL] MO shuls are spiritually dry and it seems sometimes that even the Rabbi could use a bit of kiruv. Our resources would be more effectively utilized this way.

Point two: A lot of Charedim need kiruv, too. Really. Just because a person wears a black hat or a sheitel [usually not on the same head] doesn't mean that he/she is so holy. Lots of people need chizuk in Emunah and Tefilla and learning etc. Once people feel strengthened in their own religiosity they will be sufficiently enthused to want to be mekarev others. A grass roots kiruv campaign will bring much greater results than when just "kiruv professionals" do it.

Point three: This writer needs someone to be mekarev him, too. My number is 646 350 8419. It's a local call [even though I live in Israel]. Give me a ring and bring me back to Hashem.

השיבנו השם אליך ונשובה!!!  

Sunday, December 23, 2012

New Article - Older Song

Some insight into the million billion dollar sugya of מגו במקום עדים here.

Indeed - אשרי מי שעמלו בתורה - Fortunate is the one who learns:-)

Shabbos 69: Stuck In The Wilderness

לזכות שמחה בן נעכא גיטל שיהיה כאחד הגדולים אשר בארץ
R. Huna said: If one is travelling on a road or in the wilderness and doesn't know when it is Shabbos he must count six days and observe one..
Raba said: Every day he does sufficient for his requirements [only].
Asks the gemara - And on that day he is to die?
The gemara answers that on Friday he prepares for two days of work.
This gemara is a wonder. The gemara asks how we can forbid a person from preparing food for one lest he die. If a person refrains from eating for one day he will die? If so, today on Asara Biteves we are all in big trouble...
Many answer that since the person is eating very skimpily for six, fasting on the seventh will in fact be a danger for him.
We see from this gemara that despite the fact that when he prepares a double portion on Friday he will be possibly desecrating Shabbos [because right now he doesn't need the second portion] not for the sake of pikuach nefesh [if it turns out that it is really Shabbos that day] while if he prepares one portion all seven days he will desecrate Shabbos for the sake pikuach nefesh, we nevertheless tell him to do the latter. It emerges from this gemara that we prefer that he avoid definitely desecrating Shabbos [even for pikuach nefesh] and instead risk possibly desecrating Shabbos not for pikuach nefesh. This is because we always prefer that he transgress a ספק איסור and not a ודאי איסור. [See אהליך יעקב עמ' קפח מש"כ בזה]
 There is a lot more to learn from this gemara and maybe for another time.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

An article on Asara Bi-teves - here.

An article on Asara Bi-teves as Yom Hashoah as established by Rabbis Herzog and Uziel here.

See also the sefer Ishei Yovel by Mo"V Rav Yeshayahu Shteinberger Shlita.

Friday, December 21, 2012


The Chasm Sofer explains the tefilla ונפשי כעפר לכל תהיה [My soul should be as dust to all] to mean that even though everyone treads on dust nevertheless it makes fruits for the whole world. So, too, we daven that the world should receive sustenance in our merit.

When a student showed this Chasam Sofer to Rav Avraham Genechovski it was clear from his reaction that he didn't understand the problem with the tfilla that required such an ingenious explanation. He understood it in it's most simple meaning. My soul should be dust to all. I should have ZERO arrogance.

The Rebbe Shlita told the following story at my son's bar mitzva:

When Reb Mottel of Chernobol passed away he left 8 sons, all of whom became Chassidishe Rebbes [including Reb Dovid'l Mi-Tolna]. The brothers split up the inheritance before their brother Reb Yochanan of Rachemstrivka arrived. He said that at least he would like to inherit his father's "gornisht" [being nothing]. But then he was apprised of the fact that his brother, Reb Moshe'le Mi-Koroschev, already took their father's "gornisht".

Now there was "nothing" left. Not even "nothing".

[I love chassidishe myses!!!:-)]

So, said Reb Yochanan, I decided to take my father's "gornisht mit gornisht" [nothing from nothing]. He in fact was an extremely humble person.

We should all be zocheh to take a little "gornisht" for ourselves. It absolves us of the need to always be right, to know it all, etc. etc. It just makes for a better life. 

ונפשי כעפר לכל תהיה

Affirming Individuality

A sense of his or her own worth is no doubt the greatest gift we can offer another, the greatest contribution we can make to any life. We can give this gift and make this contribution only through love. However, it is essential that our love be liberating, not possessive. We must at all times give those we love the freedom to be themselves. Love affirms the other as "other". It does not possess and manipulate another as "mine".
To love is to liberate. Love and friendship must empower those we love to become their best selves according to their own lights and visions. This means that wanting what is best for you and trying to be what you need me to be can be done only in a way that preserves your freedom to have your own feelings, think your own thoughts and make your own decisions . If your personhood is as dear to me as my own, which is the implication of love, I must respect it carefully and sensitively. When I affirm you, my affirmation is based on your unconditional value as a unique, unrepeatable and even sacred mystery of humanity.
In evaluating my love for you, I must then address myself to the question of whether my love is in fact possessive or manipulative or really affirming and freeing. It will help, in this evaluation, to ask myself these questions; Is it more important to me that you be pleased with yourself or that I be pleased with you? Is it more important that you attain the goals you have set for yourself, or that you attain the goals I want for you?

John Powell (1645 - 1713)
Source: Through Seasons of the Heart

Thursday, December 20, 2012


There is a concept called a "Harry". This is a person who grew up modern and then moved to the "right". The only thing is - he has not yet fully integrated into Charedi society. That is why he is called "Harry" because he still holds on to his not very yeshivish name. For example, a Harry will carry a backpack [born and bred Charedim don't]. Or, he will have two pairs of sneakers, one for weekdays and one for Shabbos:).   

Emotionally, some people are also "Harrys". The remnants of their childhood stay with them well into adulthood. This can express itself in many, many, many ways. One example: Toys. Toddlers have their toys and millionaires have other toys. Both can be quite possessive of their toys and distraught if anything happens to them.

OK - I will reveal what I REALLY think. No holds barred [I don't worry about getting any angry emails right away because I am about to turn my computer off and don't own a blackberry or I-phone]: ALL PEOPLE are emotional Harrys. We are all underdeveloped in certain areas. I know in what areas [some but maybe not all] I am still a child. It is quite pathetic:). Do you know where you remain an emotional Harry?

One goal of life is to develop ourselves as stable and secure adults and grow out of our infantility [is that a word?]. It is a cross between amusing and tragic when I witness adults acting like three year olds. I often do...

Spiritually, we remain Harrys as well but that is [maybe] for another post..... 

New Post

Three categories of listening and in which one you should try to be placed...


The Kotzker And The Sfas Emes

When I was young I thought that money was the most important thing in life; now that I am old I know that it is.

Oscar Wilde

The Rebbe Shlita [btw - I must deny a rumor that I am a Meshichist. I really want Moshiach to come but I don't believe that a certain Rebbe from Brooklyn is still alive somewhere in Queens. When I write "The Rebbe Shlita" I refer to Mori Vi-Rabi the Tolna Rebbe Shlita who by all acounts is alive biz a hindrit un tsvontzik, git, gebentchta yoren] is fond of repeating the following story:

When the Sfas Emes was a young man he went to see the Kotzker. The Kotzer was a VERY fiery individual. When he was there somebody put money in front of the Kotzker. His reaction was one of complete disgust. "PHEEEEEWWWWWWW"!!

The Sfas Emes related that for months afterwards he couldn't look at money without feeling the repulsion expressed by the Kotzker.

Sweetest friends - I know very unhappy people with lots of money and very happy people with very little money. That is incontrovertible [GOOD WORD!] evidence that money doesn't necessarily make one happy. More comfortable maybe but not happy.  

Money is like a pair of shoes. They help you get to where you need to go but not more than that. NOBODY I know lives for their shoes. Lots of people live for their money. Sorry Oscar - you have it all wrong..

So please - if you have $ome [not everybody does and I wish them all that they should have. Being poor is no fun:)] - use it for good things and always remember what is most important.


"A successful man is one who makes more money than his wife can spend. A successful woman is one who can find such a man."

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Not Getting Results

In life people tend to look at results. "People", I say, but not Hashem.

To wit; You set up a couple. They decide to break up after the first date. As far as you were concerned they could have gotten married and if they had wanted to, you would have been delighted. So they might well not appreciate your efforts but as far as Hashem is concerned, you made a shidduch! The "lomdus" is that if you tried to do a mitzva and due to circumstances beyond your control you were unable to, you are nevertheless credited with the mitzva. In our example you tried to make a match but due to circumstances beyond your control [he wants a taller girl] you were not successful. Count it!

So I have three shadchanim to whom I must feel gratitude even though I have not been married three times: The nice lady who set me up with the first girl I met [nice girl, bad date:)]. The first girl who set me up with her friend [ditto:)] and ultimately the nice couple who set me up with my wife. Some people I know have HUNDREDS of shadchanim. That's a LOT of gratitude. 

Another example; You try to get someone a job. If they weren't hired that is not your fault - you tried. It is as if you were responsible for supporting this person's family for many years to come. Is that SOMETHING?!!

So sweetest friends - don't look at the results. That is in G-d's Hands. You do your part and let things happen according to whatever the mysterious Divine plan may be. Set up a couple. Help a Jew find a job, a house, a good life insurance policy, whatever. Just do GOOD.

But you knew that. Just giving a gentle reminder....

I now say my bedtime prayers and travel off to dream land but not before I wish you all a WONDERFUL night:-)! 

New Post

Why we forget, here

New Post

Resolving disputes here.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

There Is Enough For Everybody:)

Today I saw a VORT!!

The pasuk say ואהבת לרעך כמוך אני השם - Love your neighbor as yourself, I am Hashem. The famous question is, what is the "I am Hashem" teaching us [we know that He is Hashem...]?

When my friend needs money from me, I don't want to give him because I am worried that I won't have enough for myself.

When my friend needs to borrow something, I don't want to give it to him because I am concerned that I will need it for myself.

The pasuk therefore says אני השם.  Don't worry about it! I am Hashem and have enough for EVERYBODY. If you give your friend, you will not lack.

ואהבת לרעך כמוך אני השם.

The Greatest Compliment

To be trusted is a greater compliment than to be loved. Love is the sweetest thing in the world, but to be trusted throws upon him who receives that trust an obligation that he must not fail to discharge.
David McKay (1873 - 1970)
Source: Conference Report, October 1934, p. 91.
How to get rid of negative thoughts - linked by Reb Shmulie here

New Post


Always Torah

Three true stories from reliable sources on gedolei yisrael and their connection to Torah even while barely conscious.

Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz [the Mirrer Rosh Yeshiva] was towards his end in the hospital, lying semi-unconscious. A student came to visit him and on his way out he blessed the Rav in Yiddish "You should have a refuah shleima". Rav Chaim answered in his famous raspy voice "Breng ah ra-ayeeeeh". ["Bring a proof", which is what we say in the Beis Medrash when someone makes a claim or offers an answer to a question].


Rav Dovid Mann [the Rosh Yeshiva of Knesses Chizkiyahu who passed away last Yud Dalet Sivan, authored 18 unbelievable sefarim including די באר on the Torah. An unreal gadol bi-yisrael. Please learn his sefarim] was very sick in the hospital. He woke up from his sleep and was quite disoriented. He asked where he was. He said "I can't be in Gan Eden - I am not worthy". [A person whose whole existence was Avodas Hashem..] He was told that he is in "Rambam" [that is the name of the hospital]. He asked "Which Rambam?" [Meaning - which halacha in the Rambam?]


Rav Ben Tzion Abba Shaul [one of the two biggest Sefardi Rabbanim of our generation together with Rav Ovadiah Yosef] was very sick in the hospital and barely conscious. The talmidim read out from the gemara to the Rav. At one point he mumbled "Beer Sheva". They didn't know what he was talking about. So he mumbled it again. They still couldn't figure it out. What does Beer Sheva have to do with anything? Until someone realized that the sugya they were "learning" with him had a very important teshuva written about it in the sefer "Beer Sheva". 

זכות הצדיקים יעזור ויגן ויושיע!

Trust In Your Relationship

On building trust at Ahavat Netzach

A Tour De Force

Something I know the average Joe [or 'Joseph'] thinks about a lot. The Chezkas Gimmel Shonim according to the famous 'Holchei Usha' here.

See how seemingly unrelated topics are really intertwined. Amazing!


Monday, December 17, 2012

"It is not in the pursuit of happiness that we find fulfillment, it is in the happiness of pursuit."



"I remember how the materialist interpretation of history, when I attempted in my youth to verify it by applying it to the destinies of peoples, broke down in the case of the Jews, where destiny seemed absolutely inexplicable from the materialistic standpoint . . . Its survival is a mysterious and wonderful phenomenon demonstrating that the life of this people is governed by a special predetermination, transcending the processes of adaptation expounded by the materialistic interpretation of history. The survival of the Jews, their resistance to destruction, their endurance under absolutely peculiar conditions and the fateful role played by them in history: all these point to the particular and mysterious foundations of their destiny."

Nicholas Berdyayev

Dark Depression

We see that the inclination to crass materialism, making it the PRIMARY goal of life, ensnares the individual in the net of inescapable dark depression. Why is this so? Because such an approach seals one off from the Divine lights, the source of true inner life and chokes the Soul with its crude air.

Rav Kook Ztz"l Shmoneh Kvatzim [1/359]


An important video about teaching your children about safety here.



Shabbos 70a: Chiluk Melachot

לרפואת האדמו"ר ר' יצחק מנחם בן גיטל מירל בריינדל לאה שליט"א בתוך שאר ח"י
ולזכות שמחה בן נעכא גיטל שיהיה כאחד הגדולים אשר בארץ

If a person knows that it is Shabbos and inadvertently performed numerous melachot he is liable for each and every one of them. This is affectionately called חילוק מלאכות. There is a geshmake chakira presented by the great Rav Menachem Zemba and many others in his footsteps: Must one warn a person not to do a melacha [התראה] by invoking that specific melacha or is it enough to warn him not to violate Shabbos.

The Achronim point to a Tosfos Rid [קלח] who is quite clear that one must invoke the specific melacha and a general warning is not enough. To quote [people tell me that they like the quotes on the blog although I am not sure that they mean these types of quotes:)]: פי' כיון דהבערה לחלק יוצאת כאילו
כתיב לאו אכל מלאכה ומלאכה דמי והו"ל כמו לענין דחלב
ודם שהן חלוקין זה מזה וצריך להתרות על החלב משום
חלב ועל הדם משום דם וכך על כל מלאכה ומלאכה
Peirush-Ally - The gemara derives from that fact that the Torah singled out the melacha of הבערה [kindling] on Shabbos that just as one is obligated for kindling individually, so one is obligated for every other melacha individually. So it is now as if the Torah had singled out each melacha and written "don't plant" "don't harvest" etc. and thus one must give התראה for each melacha specifically. This is just as one would give a separate התראה for the consumption of blood and forbidden fats which are are completely distinct prohibitions.

The question that one must ask on the Tosfos Rid is that the gemara offers another derivation of the rule of חילוק מלאכות and that is from the pasuk of אחת מהנה. It would seem that according to that pasuk one would NOT have to specify the melacha in his התראה. Why is that?

Rav Baruch Mordechai Ezrachi Shlita [ברכת מרדכי שבת כד] suggests that the limmud from הבערה teaches us not only חילוק מלאכות meaning that one is liable for each melacha separately but also that each melacha is in its own category as if it had been written explicitly in the Torah.

The limmud from אחת מהנה teaches חילוק מלאכות but not that each one is viewed as having been singled out by the Torah rather they are all subsumed under the general umbrella of "melachos Shabbos".  

In the sefer Minchas Aharon [ויקרא עמ' 586] he proves that Rashi and Tosfos argue with the Tosfos Rid and don't require an specified התראה

עיין עוד בתוצאות חיים סי' ה' סק"ב חידושי רבי שמואל בב"ק סי' ב' שו"ת הר צבי - טל הרים מבעיר סי' ב', שיעורי ר' דוד פוברסקי ב"ק ב:, חבצלת השרון ויקרא עמ' רכב מנחת חינוך מצוה לב סק"ב וזכורני שמו"ר דיבר על זה והובא בס' המה ינחמוני על שבת [ואיני יכול למצוא את הספר] ועוד ועוד


Please daven for the child Chananya Lev ben Keren Ronit who is having surgery tomorrow.


Maasei Tzaddikim

Ahhhhh!! I just received the file of part two of stories about Rav Avraham Genechovski ztz"l from my beloved friend R' JR. So much to tell!! But alas - time is of the essence and it doesn't permit me to tell all.

A sampling....

He once missed the bus that was going to take him directly to a wedding in Ramat Gan. This meant that he would have to take a number of buses [including waiting etc.]. His instinctive reaction was to exclaim איזה יופי!! [How beautiful] [This instead of what the average mortal says "Darn" or in modern Hebrew slang "Ooooffffff"]


When he was ill the doctor told him that they discovered a violent bacteria in his system which usually causes the entire system to shut down [קריסת מערכות] and imminent death. His reaction was "Nu-nu". Then they found out that they had erred. When he heard this his reaction was "Nu-nu". [If it's all from Hashem, there is never anything to get nervous about].


When he told his wife about his illness he said "We received two great gifts in our lives. One was the illness of Rafael Yona [his young son who passed away]. The other is my illness."


He used to give shiurim based on the notes on the side of his late son's gemara. Once his son had a comment on a Rebbi Akiva Eiger [on the sugya of מגו להוציא] and he remarked with wonder "Does someone make such brilliant comments on Rebbi Akiva Eiger because he greeted everyone with a bright, smiling countenance or does someone greet everyone with a bright, smiling countenance because he makes such brilliant comments on Rebbi Akiva Eiger?" [Meaning - you need both to learn shtark and to smile:-)]


He was once riding in a car and there was a man who needed a ride and the Rav wanted to stop for him. Someone in the car complained "I can't take being squished". The Rav said "What "I". There is no "I". There is only "you". What do "you" want? What do "you" need."

Lo Taamod Al Dam Reyecha

Another terrible chillul-Hashem-scandal has hit the media. This time I actually know the accused quite well. I can say that in all of my years of being a student [from age 3 until 22] there was never a teacher who was as devoted to my well being and helped me as much as he did. He never did or said anything inappropriate to me. That doesn't mean that he is necessarily innocent. Some people think that if an abuser has good points that somehow erases his sins. It doesn't work that way. If an educator helped a thousand students and abused one, he should be severely punished for his offense. [I am not saying that the accused is guilty or innocent - but if he IS found guilty then all of the good he did does not cancel out the bad]. So we have one lesson already.

Another lesson:

One pattern that I have noticed that is followed in just about every scandal that erupts in the media - more than a few people knew about the misbehavior for a long period of time and did nothing to stop it. That is called לא תעמוד על דם רעיך - Don't stand by idly when your brothers blood is being spilled. Then after the facts are presented and many accusers step forward - many of the accused's supporters step forward to defend him. WHAT ABOUT THE VICTIMS??

On Friday I received an email from an old friend who broke the horrible news to me. My reply was "Hey, how come when "X" was accused of abusing students you not only didn't try to stop him [this friend has a lot of clout and $ay] but continued to be one of his biggest supporters.

He probably wasn't expecting THAT.... So he answered "In my humble opinion, I disagree".

Disagree with WHAT? If not one and not two and not three and not four and not five and not six people but many more, come forward and say that they were physically/emotionally/sexually abused by someone else how can someone who wasn't there say "I disagree". People are suffering and others are busy defending the aggressor.

Wonder of wonders.

Of course my friend didn't want to continue the conversation with me and I believe that deep down he is not comfortable with it either. [I also don't think he wants to be my friend so much anymore:-)].

If someone comes to the police and says that so and so broke into his home and stole money and the cops say "We disagree with you" without carefully investigating, they don't deserve to be policemen.

Chinuch is a matter of life and death. If a person has a positive experience in Yeshiva he will be happier both in this world and the next. If he has a negative experience he will likely be unhappy in this world and lose his portion in the world to come. How many people there are who are no longer religious because they had a bad Rebbi and how many ARE religious because they had a good Rebbi.

If there is a Rabbi about whom there is a DOUBT as to whether he is hurting or abusing students, he should be treated the same as a person about whom we have a DOUBT if he is a murderer. We should help him find another way to earn a living such as computer programming where he can't hurt anybody until we can prove that he is innocent. Usually, when there is smoke, there is fire. Usually.

I have had teachers who POUNDED me badly and being the sensitive sort [who isn't] I took it quite hard and until this day feel traumatized. Some are still teaching. Others are dead.... May they have a lichtige gan eden.

Most of my teachers - and the vast majority of Jewish educators, are very fine people whose lives are devoted to serving Hashem and his people. The rotten apples shouldn't cast a pallor over the many, many wonderful melamdei Torah in Klal Yisrael. There are daily Kiddush Hashem's in Yeshivos all over that will never make it to the papers or the internet because as we have said here many times - the media is primarily interested in reporting evil. [See the next post]

May Hashem grant all of us and all of our children teachers who are similar [as the gemara in Chagiga says] to angels of Hashem. And may we weed out all of the evil from our midst.

במהרה בימינו!!