Tuesday, January 31, 2012

How To Be True To Thine Own Self

To thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.

William Shakespeare

Being A Frummy

A student of Rav Volbe related that the first time he ate at his house the boy asked his Rebbe to say thank you for him to his wife because he felt it wasn't sufficiently tzanua for him to do it himself. Rav Volbe answered "She's here" and pointed to the kitchen [meaning - thank her yourself].

[Avnei Shlomo page 66]

There is a concept in Jewish thought called a Chossid - an exceptionally pious person. There is another concept called a Chossid Shoteh - a foolish chossid. I have little patience for such people. I see that I'm in good company.

לא חטאתי

And oftentimes excusing of a fault doth make the fault the worse by the excuse.

William Shakespeare

David Rosenberg is a 51 year old partner in a major Manhattan based law firm. He wife Miriam is a 47 year old housewife. They have 3 children, Danny, 19 years old and a sophomore at YU, Chaviva, 16 and a junior in a yeshiva high school in Long Island [where the family lives] and Mikey, 14, a cute, precocious ninth grader. They have come to the study of Rabbi Moshovitz to discuss issues affecting the family.

Miriam begins by tearfully relating how she has suffered years of emotional abuse from her husband. He was either busy at work or tormenting her and the children.

Danny then relates how he got into drugs in high school as an escape from the emotional pain of his absentee/abusive father. He is now clean and doing well in school but the pain he is feeling is clearly evident.

Chaviva talks about how she is in the throes of a serious depression that she attributes to her father's abusive behavior. The entire time she speaks she nervously bites her nails and is not able to make eye contact with the therapist. She is an A student at school, well liked by her friends and very pretty. But she hates herself.

Mikey starts to talk. At first he talks about how much he admires his father and how much he wants to be like him. To be a hot-shot lawyer, well read, the gabbai of the shul, a maggid shiur for daf yomi -and drive a sleek Lancer. This calms the tension in the room. Then he lets out a heart rending cry and says "Why do you always tell me I'm not good enough. Why am I afraid every time you walk into the room that you are going to shoot me down. Why can't you come to my basketball games like all the other dads. You tell me that you are busy. Why are your stupid season tickets to the Giants more important than me!" It takes 10 minutes until he stops crying hysterically. Watching him his mother Miriam similarly loses control.

Now it is David's turn to talk. "I'm shocked! What a bunch of ingrates you all are! Who am I working for if not for you?! Who pays your tuitions? Who sends you to summer camp? Who pays for your designer clothing?? And look at you kids - you are all good students in school and respected by your peers. That is only because of my discipline. Your mother is a pushover so someone needs to discipline. And Miriam - who bought you a four story house? Who takes you away on vacation with the family every yontiff? Instead of complaining you should all just appreciate everything I do for you. I only mean well and you HAVE to understand that. Tell 'em Rabbi!"

Now it is Rabbi Moshovitz's turn. "David, you feel that your wife and children don't appreciate all you do for them. You feel that you have sacrificed so much for your family and all they do is complain. That must be very hard for you." David nods. "But I have some very difficult news to share with you. If one person causes another person pain - we don't attack the victim and say that he should understand that our intentions were noble. We look inside ourselves and try to discover what made us act in ways that caused pain to other people. There are four people in the room who are suffering and placing the blame on them is not going to help them and frankly is not going to help you either. In your heart of hearts you know the truth.

You are a learned man David. You know that when Nosson HaNavi confronted Dovid with the sin he committed with Bas-sheva his immediate reaction was "I sinned". He could have excused himself but he didn't. The pasuk says that Hashem forgave him. In contrast Shaul sinned by not completely destroying Amalek when he had the chance but when confronted by Shmuel he started making excuses. He lost his kingship for a person who doesn't take responsibility for his actions cannot be king. When the wife of Potiphar was trying to seduce Yosef he told her that he can't do it because it would be a sin against him boss Potiphar who trusted Yosef and against G-d as well. In other words, he took responsibility for his actions.

Human nature is to shirk responsibility. As a Jew we are required to assume responsibility as difficult as it may be. Yirmiyahu HaNavi tells the Jews that G-d's main gripe against them is NOT that they sinned but that they denied ever having sinned. הנני נשפט אותך על אמרך לא חטאתי. David - you have caused tremendous harm to the four people whom you love the most but it's never too late. You can make amends now by changing your behavior. It is very rare that a person your age changes but with strong will and guidance it can be done."

[See Sichos Mussar of Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz טו תשל"א for more.]

Sweet friends I wish it were that easy - one session with the Rabbi and the father does complete teshuva and they live happily ever after. But how many people I know who refuse to take responsibility and the negative consequences of their attitude are perpetuated.

What do you think??

Looking For Friends - On Being A Nerd

In the bracha we say on the Haftora on Shabbos morning we say ורצה בדבריהם הנאמרים באמת - Hashem desires the words of the neviim that are said with truth. Why would we think they are lying???

Rav Shlomo Volbe: The "truth" means that the words they said emanated from their פנימיות. They lived what they spoke. Rav Volbe said that since the Mashgiach Rav Chatzkel Levenstein passed away they are all "drashos" but to b'emes live what you say is non-existent. He was the "Last of the Mohicans".

I am looking for real people. If you're a real person - can you be my friend???

Is it really nerdy to ask someone to be your friend? If it is, I'm a nerd.

I'd rather be a nerd than a cactus.


שמעו ותחי נפשכם

Today's offering on Shabbos, tefillin and how to serve Hashem from Rav Kook - here.

The Status Of Bein Hashmashos

The Shev Shmatsa [ש"א פ"ג] quotes the Ran in his teshuvos [סימן נא] who brings the following case: A man made a neder that he will not eat meat on Pesach. Now he wants to be released from this vow. We know that one can only be released from a vow after it takes effect. The question is - Can he go to the חכם for hataras nedarim at בין השמשות. Is it considered night yet or not? בין השמשות is considered ספק לילה - is that enough??

I will tell you a secret though and promise not to tell. The Ran doesn't say what the shmatsa said he said. Look there and see. This a wonder of wonders which will disturb my sleep enough for the next few weeks that you can feel free to call or email at 3:00am and I will answer.

If any scholar reading this can help me you will be amply rewarded. Here is a detailed discussion of the sugya.

Another question - Why is Bein Hashmashos called that? "Between the suns". An odd name for the period between sunset and dark.

A Real Person

I thank D.R. for sharing a comment she saw on a blog [pursuant to this]

"Of course I would be less rude to you if I saw you as a person instead of a collection of words on a screen".

The Power Of Tehillim With Tears

Just the other day I was pondering the role of women in Judaism [about which I posted] and then my eyes alighted upon the following story which was told by Rabbi Naftali Weinberg, the head of the Ahavas Emes Institute in Yerushalayim.

This week I received the following email: My name is Rina [a pseudonym] and I live in Gush Etzion. A few months ago I was riding home in my car on a busy road. There was a lot of traffic and it became apparent after a few minutes that the traffic was caused by an accident on the road. Out of curiosity I peeked ahead to see what had happened. I was shocked to see a car that had been crushed and a body was lying next to the car covered with a blanket.

"I wonder who the dead person is," I thought to myself. "Is the person married or single? Does the person have a family or not? Who is going to be orphaned and doesn't know about it yet. Or which parents just lost a child? They will definitely be shattered when they hear the terrible news."

Since there was no movement on the road I got out of the car and with TREMENDOUS KAVANA I said tehillim to ask Hashem to have mercy on the person lying there and I even cried.

A few minutes later the cars started moving again so I drove home with the horrible sight still in my memory.

Two weeks later the phone rings in my home. On the other end of the line is a young lady whom I didn't recognize. "Was that you who stopped on the road 2 weeks ago on Tuesday and said tehillim?"

"Yes" I answered.

She continued with a voice choked with tears: "Listen I'm the girl who was lying on the road. Everybody was sure that I was dead, that is why they covered me with a blanket and waited for an ambulance. I experienced what they call "clinical death". My soul floated outside of my body and I witnessed everything happening around me. I saw my crushed car, everybody running around, the long row of cars behind. I even saw my body under the blanket. A the moment you said tehillim all of the letters flew around my eyes and almost drew me back down to earth.The ambulance came and they tried to resuscitate me. The whole time I felt the letters of tehillim surrounding me with a pleasant light and restoring my spirit. In the merit of your tehillim my life was saved and I am calling you to say thank you."

Rina continued: I didn't know what to say. I never imagined the power of tefilla - of my saying tehillim. What I couldn't understand was how this young lady knew who I am. After a few minutes more of conversation I learned that before the accident she was irreligious but because of her experience she was chozeret bitshuva and is now religious. She doesn't stop telling people to say tehillim.

It makes sense that after the accident she located people who were there and asked who the woman was who said tehillim. One person identified me and then she found out my telephone number.

Sweet friends - that power of tefilla is a special gift that Hashem gave to women. They are more emotional than men [usually] and tefilla is about emotion. In fact the gemara learns how to daven not from a Rabbi but from Chana - a woman. The Jewish people desperately need the power of women's tefilla. What can I say - from my side of the mechitza it's just not the same.

Zchus hatzidkaniyot yaazor vi'yagen vi'yoshea!!

Mitzva to share the story with another Jew:-)!

אזנים כרית לי

Dovid Hamelech said in tehillim "Oznaim koreesa lee" - you opened my ears.

I see so many people who have ears but can't hear. We pray to Hashem that we should be able to really hear what is being said.

I can take this in many directions but I will leave it to the intelligent reader....

Monday, January 30, 2012

Split Personalities

Sweet friends!

I am relatively new to the world of computers. Only about six years ago I received my first computer from my parents. I insisted that I am not interested but they insisted I take it and my wife can use it. Well - as you can see, not only my wife uses it... When I got the computer I didn't even know how to turn it on. My point is that I didn't grow up with this.

What I find fascinating is the sides of people that come out on email. Some people are really nice in person but rude and angry in emails. Others will act like my best friend when they see me but when I email them they will totally ignore me. So I wonder - is this how to treat your best friend?? Some people are friendly in emails but in real life not so. It makes me feel that the email friendliness is somewhat artificial. When people sign off their emails "regards" or something to that effect -do they really mean it? And to whom should I send the regards?

My point of course is a gemara:-).

The gemara says that a talmid chochom should be תוכו כברו - the same on the inside as he is on the outside. So if I am wearing a black hat and gartel, have a beard and flying tzitzis, I am expected to act according to religious values. If I do not then I am misrepresenting myself and the Torah. If a girl is wearing a long skirt on a hot day she is also expected to act and talk with tzniyus.

So I extend the gemara to emails. As in real life so in emails. Not to hide behind the screen and think that just because people can't see you means that you can speak and act as you wish. If someone is blind and asks for help you can walk by and pretend you are not there - but we'd both agree that it's not so nice. I am looking for emesdike people.

Another point.

Some people are really quiet in real life but in email the floodgates open up [I like emailing those people because I wonder what they are thinking and on email I find out]. The medium of the computer is effective because some people just feel more comfortable opening up on email than in person to person confrontations. I know that there are some things I feel more comfortable saying over the computer, so I like it. Openness is the key to developing genuine relationships.

Any thoughts?

[I know you can't post them in the comments section which I disabled in part because I don't like how people hide behind the veil of anonymity and say silly or rude or vulgar or stupid or cynical etc. etc. things. But you can always email me.]

The First Day Of Tefillin Followed By Mixed Dancing

This morning we celebrated Avi's first day of wearing tefillin. We started at about 5:30am when the EhrMEN arose and took a swim in the Old City mikva. One can only put tefillin on a pure body as we will see soon. It is the only mitzva object that literally binds us and our bodies must be worthy. We then proceeded to the kotel for shachris where the EhrWOMEN joined us. [Behind the mechitza of course. We try to be a close family but not that close...]

After davening we climbed up the approximately 200 stairs to our home and I remarked that a few months ago I attended a hanachas tefillin of a boy whose entire family made the trip from Los Angeles to put tefillin on at the kotel and what a ZCHUS that we live locally. Then we had a festive breakfast where my wife served a special cheese cake for the occasion. She normally bakes a mean "tefillin cake" where chocolate tefillin boxes adorn the cake but my son requested a cheese cake [plus I paskened that it's אסור to eat tefillin so the cheese cake was a better choice]. His deeper intention was that the gemara in kiddushin says that the entire Torah is equated to tefillin, so the the day of putting on tefillin is like shavuos where the custom is to eat cheese cake. Today was kabbalas hatorah. As the pasuk says about tefillin למען תהיה תורת השם בפיך tefillin is designed to put Torah in your mouth.

Another reason he chose cheese cake is because he likes it more.... [I didn't eat because I don't like cavities, fat and the yichy feeling sugar gives me.]

Then came speech time. Avi's father [I am referring to myself. I am my wife's first and hopefully last husband] told some stories about Rav Ben Tov who died a few years ago and performed many miracles based on his readings of peoples mezuzas and tefillin.

Then we learned a shtickel Sfas Emes [בא תרנ"ו]: The pasuk says כי שם השם נקרא עליך "The name of G-d is called upon you" and the gemara says that this refers to the tefillin shel rosh. We see from this that the tefillin emplaces [this is really a word. I looked it up] the name of Hashem upon a person.

Then the Sfas Emes rocks the velt with a chiddush. Just like the tefillin need parchment and ink and boxes, so too tefillin need to be placed on a Jewish body. This is alluded to by the saying of our Sages תפילין צריכין גוף נקי - Tefillin require a clean pure body. It doesn't say that your body must be clean when wearing tefillin but that tefillin REQUIRES a clean body. We don't just need tefillin - tefillin needs us! [I was zocheh to say a chiddush based on this chiddush, here.] Hashem knows that His people are capable of having a גוף נקי so he gave us tefillin.

[The Holy Books say that just as a woman gets the merit of the Torah of her husband and children, so she receives the merit of their tefillin. So Rebbetzin Ehrman [as some people call her. I call her when I'm hungry:-)] gets the merit of her son's tefillin.]

We then rose and started mixed dancing. The chosson hatfillin, his brother, his friend, his father and his sister Libi [she's one year old and LOVES to tantz]. Ay ny ny ny ny ny ny ny ny, I I I I I I, ay ny ny ny ny I I I I ain old milvado, ay ay yay yay yay......

A good time was had by all. Avi liked it so much he is putting his tefillin on again today!

Then my kids went off to school and I went to a government office where I met a Sefardi tzadekes working behind the desk, a savta named Miriam who is really into Hashem, doesn't like jewelry, took a long time till she figured out her husband, loves davening at the kotel, was weak until she started taking iron pills and r-31 so her body absorbed the iron, loves to help people, gave nutrition tips, and... and .... I could tell that her job doesn't terribly interest her but she is very open with her feelings and enjoys sharing. Israel.....

May we always share simchas:-)

Love and blessings!

A True Jewish Educator - Part 5

Another pillar of educational theory emerges from a speech R. Hutner delivered at the Yeshiva of Eastern Parkway [Igros Pachad Yitzchak Page 134]. He begins by apologizing to the students for his inability to speak to each student individually due to time constraints. As the talk progresses, it becomes clear that this apology reflects not mere politeness but a profound idea.

R. Hutner states that R. Chaim of Volozhin insisted that his students be referred to as “bnei ha-yeshiva” rather than as “talmidei ha-yeshiva.” What accounts for this terminological distinction? To answer this question, R. Hutner reports a clever response that he received from a young yeshiva student. He asked the student if he relates to his secular studies teachers in the way he relates to rabbeim, and if not, to describe the difference. The student replied that a teacher of secular studies resembles a cook dispensing food, whereas the rebbe resembles a nursing mother. A mother gives of her essence to the child, while the cook provides food fully external to the provider. R. Hutner praises this answer, declaring that this child has a glorious learning future.

One can view teaching as the giving over of resources of information, without that information impacting on the life of the instructor. Conversely, the ideas can be part of the teacher’s personal quest for a more moral and spiritual existence. R. Hutner indicates his preference for the latter model, which resembles a mother more than a cook. William Barrett writes that the ancient Greeks philosophized as part of a quest for the true and the good, while contemporary academic philosophers are often simply doing a job without any sense that it affects who they are. R. Hutner’s idea reminds us that the most important kind of education does more than transmit information.

The parable explains R. Chaim Volozhin’s insistence on the term “bnei ha-yeshiva.” He wanted students to receive food from nursing mothers giving of their essence. It also explains R. Hutner’s opening remark that he would prefer individual meetings. A cook gives out food to many recipients simultaneously, but the nursing mother nourishes only one child at a time.

[From VBM-torah.org]

That is why a Torah teacher must be filled with goodness. We want the students to eat a spiritually healthy meal.

פלאי פלאות

A True Jewish Educator - Part 4

A Rebbe has to be so filled with Torah that if you prick him with a needle, not blood but Torah will come spilling forth.

A myseh I heard from R' Berel Wein who an eyewitness.....

Rav Eliyahu Yosef Henkin had two major disputes in his lifetime. Rav Moshe Feinstein, his neighbor on the lower east side, held that a civil marriage was halachically meaningless and no get was needed to dissolve it. Rav Henkin strongly differed and held that a woman married by the secular authorities needs a get if she wants to marry someone else.

Rav Aharon Kotler held that one is allowed to eat before the blowing of the shofar on Rosh Hashana [hence the custom in the yeshiva world to have kiddush before the blowing]. Rav Henkin was convinced that this practice was forbidden and that one must hear the blowing before he eats,

Rabbi Wein came to visit him when he a very old man. He had already lost his sight and unfortunately his lucidity as well. He kept repeating two sentences in Yiddish again and again.

"Ze darft a get. Tor men nicht essen far tkiyos. Ze darft a get. Tor men nicht essen far tkiyos."[Hope I got the yiddish right:-)]

"She needs a get. It's forbidden to eat before shofar blowing. She needs a get. It's forbidden to eat before shofar blowing."

Rabbi Wein remarked that he had visited other Rabbanim in a similar state and some had other "gems" that were coming out of their mouths that were clearly not becoming of someone of their stature. They had been repressing it all these years but the mind went and it all came out. What Rav Henkin had in his kishkes was halacha and dvar Hashem.

זכות הצדיקים יעזור ויגן ויושיע!!

דרך ארץ קדמה לתורה

A young lady recently told me some things a boy said on a date and I was APPALLED. She has an exceptional ayin tova and assured me that he is really a nice boy. But if this is what nice boys say I can only imagine what the not nice ones say. So I link a shiur on derech eretz in dating. It was given a few years ago and I have almost no recollection as to what was said but knowing the person speaking I trust it is worthwhile to listen to...

If you didn't like it please send me a strongly worded email.

Would We Manage Without You?

A boy told me the following story. He went away for Shabbos and a lady approached him after shul and challenged him: Why is Judaism so male dominated? If tomorrow there would be no more women how would your religion change? You would still have minyanim, krias hatorah, learning etc. etc. [I would immediately reply that the kiddush after davening would be lousy so a lot of guys just wouldn't come to shul:-)] Why are we women relegated to second class citizenship??

AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH too bad I wasn't there! I know what I would have told her. I would have said something to the effect of "I am sorry to hear your pain and at the same time impressed with your desire to have a more active role in serving Hashem." I wouldn't have argued because she is in pain and pain requires VALIDATION and not rationality [REMEMBER THAT HUSBANDS!]. I enjoy validating people. Whenever you validate a person you help them feel better about themselves and their feelings and that's a great thing to do.

But what is the answer to her claims ["tynas" in yeshivish].

1] Who is the center of focus in our lives? If I am the center then I can hear what she [and 50,000 other feminists] are saying. "Hey - I am not feeling fulfilled. Let's do something about it." But the Torah is not about how things make me feel! Torah is about NULLIFYING YOUR WILL for the will of Hashem. So if G-d decreed that woman should play second fiddle to men - then that is their task in life and they must accept that. Some people in life are the CEO'S and others just serve them coffee. That how the world is and that's how religion is. Everybody has a job. The important thing is that everybody serve the Higher Power. The moment a person complains that means that it's about him and not about Him. This is all part of the narcissistic western culture where everything is about me.

2] But the TRUTH is that woman have a MORE central role in Judaism than men doץ


What do men do all day? Work. What do women do? Conceive, give birth to and raise the next generation of Jews. Not only is the child's identity as a Jew defined by the mother but what type of Jew he will be is also defined in a large part by the mother. A story to illustrate..

This story goes back to the beginning of the twentieth century when most Jews subsisted on an income slightly above the poverty level. While materialistic needs were not a high priority, every once in awhile a person would take some of his hard-earned money and use it for material goods that had a connection to a spiritual principle. A young boy by the name of Yitzchak learned the value of spirituality from his parents.

One year, shortly before Pesach, Yitzchak's father decided to buy his wife a new dress l'kavod Yom Tov, in honor of the approaching festival. His wife toiled throughout the year. She never asked for anything. The least he could do is give her the opportunity to honor the festival in a manner that would also engender personal enjoyment for her. Buying a dress in those days was not as simple a task as entering a store and picking one off the rack. It meant picking out material and paying a number of visits to the seamstress. Finally, the dress was finished. It was an expensive proposition, but well worth it. The whole family waited excitedly for the mother to don her new dress, but she said that she was waiting for Pesach. Disappointed, the children began to count the days until they would see their mother in her new dress.

Yitzchak was a precocious eleven year old. He studied diligently in the yeshivah where he was one of the most outstanding students. His humility matched his scholarship. Thus, he rarely called attention to himself. That year, a few days prior to Pesach, he came home and excitedly shared with his family that he was about to make a siyum on Meseches Bava Kama. His mother was so proud of him, but Yitzchak simply shrugged it off.

The next evening, Yitzchak went home and was greeted by an incredible sight. The table was set with the finest dishes, the candles were lit, and his mother was wearing her new dress! What was happening? he wondered. It was not yet Yom Tov. "Mama! Why are you wearing the new dress? It is not yet Yom Tov!" young Yitzchak blurted out.

His mother smiled at him and said, "Yes, I was saving the dress for Yom Tov, but you told me yesterday that you had completed a Mesechta and were about to make a siyum. This might be a simple feat for you, but, for me, this is the greatest Yom Tov. There is nothing more important to me than my son learning Torah!"

This was a mother's lesson to her young son. Torah study reigned supreme. A siyum was likened to Pesach. Gadlus ba'Torah, achieving greatness in Torah knowledge, was a major accomplishment that overshadowed and outshined everything else. Yitzchak remembered his mother's lesson well throughout his life, as he grew in Torah, as he achieved the pinnacle in Torah knowledge and leadership. As Yitzchak became the venerable Horav Yitzchak Hutner, zl, Rosh HaYeshivah of Mesivta Rabbeinu Chaim Berlin, legendary rebbe and mentor to thousands, his mother's lesson became his legacy. [From Rabbi Yechiel Spero "Touched By A Story"]

People mistakenly believe that Judaism is centered around the shul but it's NOT. The true epicenter of Torah life is in the HOME and the Torah has an interesting euphemism for a woman - "beiso" his home [Yoma 2]. A women's essence is that SHE is the home and the HOME is where it's at. So no - we are not going to give a woman shlishi or glila but raising our children and creating a holy atmosphere is infinitely more important than either of those. When I look at my wife I THANK G-d that such a person is raising my children because I might learn Torah but what the children absorb from their less scholarly parent is infinitely more important.

Furthermore, besides official religious "ceremonies" [for lack of a better word] women can be equal to or better than men. It says in the medrash תנא דבי אליהו that ANY HUMAN BEING depending on their actions can come close to Hashem. The gemara [brachos 17] says that women are promised MORE than men in the world to come.

So if I were a woman I'd be thankful I don't have to spend my life worrying about zmanim and earning a living [according to the Torah a man MUST support his wife notwithstanding the fact that our contemporary frum world has discarded this basic halacha for reasons we won't get into here] and enjoy being a mommy, davening, learning subjects that interest me, doing chesed and focusing on spiritual growth while the men, nebach, have to work all day and only get an hour a day to learn when they are falling asleep over their gemaras.

Rav Kook explains the bracha she-asani kirtzono that a woman is a reflection of the deepest will [רצון] of Hakadosh Baruch Hu. If a girl is educated properly she values who she is - a Princess, a bas yisroel, and an honored member of the holiest nation on earth.

So although I not am not zocheh to be a woman [and I am thankful for that because I quite enjoy being a guy] I appreciate the indispensability of the female population and hope you do the same.

PS - If I offended anyone I apologize. I tried hard not to....


Sunday, January 29, 2012

Anything To Save A Fellow Jew

This Friday night the Rebbe Shlita related that he heard a new story about his grandfather from the person involved [the Rebbe is very careful to make sure that the stories he tells are accurate despite the tendency of some people to make up things. One may not educate with falsehood. I hope I remember the details correctly].

A number of years there was a boy who was thrown out of his Yeshiva. So he went to his Rebbe the Beis Yisrael of Ger who suggested that he go to the Amshinover yeshiva whose Rosh Yeishva was Rav Chaim Milikovsky ztz"l [who was a tremendous talmid chochom who had learned in the Mir in Europe], the son-in-law of the Amshinover Rebbe's Reb Meir'l ztz"l.

One day the Rosh Yeshiva called him in and told him he was expelled from the yeshiva because two trustworthy witnesses came forward and said that he had been out drinking on Saturday night. The boy protested that he actually been at the melave malka of the Tolna Rebbe in Beit HaKerem [where he lived at the time]. The Rosh Yeshiva didn't believe the boy. But the boy insisted he was telling the truth and suggested that the Rosh Yeshiva call the Tolna Rebbe to ask him if the boy was really there. The Rosh Yeshiva said that it won't help. The Tolna Rebbe would swear falsely on a sefer torah to save a Jew, so of course he'll defend the boy.

The boy ended up leaving and going to the army. Some time later the Amshinover Rebbe R' Meir'l was feeling really guilty about the whole thing. Maybe he had told the truth after all. So he contacted the Tolna Rebbe to ask him whereupon he said "Of course he was with me and I'm willing to swear on a sefer torah to prove it..."

Reb Meir'l actually believed him and in order to appease the boy he gave him a special chavrusa - his grandson and present Amshinover Rebbe Shlita. They learned together for two years.

זכות הצדיקים יעזור ויגן ויושיע!!!

Taking A Taxi On Motzei Shabbos

If you are in Israel after Shabbos you might take a bus or a cab and the driver has not yet made havdala. The question then is may one benefit from the melacha of the driver [we know that it is forbidden to derive benefit from chilul shabbos]?

Rav Yisrael Yaakov Fischer [אבן ישראל ח"ח סי' כ"ה] had an interesting rationale to permit it. When one makes havdala he is separating between kodesh and chol, but once a person already did melacha before havdala it is already chol for him and he is no longer obligated in havdala. Thus it would be permitted for a person to benefit from his melacha because it is not called chilul Shabbos anymore. The first chilul Shabbos took him out of Shabbos.

I was wondering, that according to his logic if one does melacha before havadala it would be FORBIDDEN to make havdala because it would be a bracha li'vatala. How can he say bein kodesh li'chol if it's no longer kodesh?

But I really don't understand what he means because EVERY TIME we make havdala it is no longer kodesh because we already made havdala in maariv when we said אתה חוננתנו.

Food for thought....

Tefillin In Bergen Belsen

Today we went to the Rebbe Shlita in honor of the hanochos tefillin of my son Avi tomorrow. We are going to mark this special day by going ALL THE WAY to the kotel to daven Shachris tomorrow morning!

This is what the Rebbe related to the soon to be Bar Mitzvah boy...

There was a Jew in Bayit Vegan who owned a grocery store. When the children would misbehave he would show them the numbers engraved on his forearm and tell them they must behave because he went through gehenom. He related that when he was in Bergen Belsen EVERY MORNING there was a lineup of 30-40 people standing in the freezing cold wearing threadbare pajamas who risked life and limb in order to put on the only pair of tefillin [shel yad was all they had] in the camp. There were two Jews from Budapest who put the tefillin on every day even though they weren't religious and hadn't put tefillin on before the war. They explained that they were suffering so much because they were Jewish so they wanted to put on the tefillin and feel Jewish.

He also related that there was a simple Jew who hid his tefillin and risked his life to put it on daily. After the war a Rav told him that the tefillin are pasul and he should get new ones. The man scoffed "He's going to tell me that my tefillin are no good? I risked my life for these tefillin!" So the Rebbe suggested that he wear two pairs every day. One because the Rav said he needs new ones and in addition the pair that went through the war with him. The man liked the advice and so he did.

The Rebbe Shlita also spoke about his grandfather, the previous Rebbe ztz"l. He had two special loves in life - Jews and the land of Israel. He would sometimes purposely let his tefillin strap drop to the floor even though most people are careful to make sure that the strap does not touch the floor. When somebody would comment to him that his strap is on the floor, he would say "The floor in Eretz Yisrael is holier than the sky in Chutz La'aretz! In Chutz La'aretz the strap is allowed to rest on the table? The land HERE is holier than a table there." The Rebbe clearly relished telling the story about his Holy Zeide.

A True Jewish Educator - The Trilogy

The gemara [bava basra 21] says that originally all children were home schooled but due to the fact that it wasn't working for certain children, Rebbe Yehoshua ben Gamla instituted mandatory schooling for all boys. This decree however was far from being the ideal. Ideally a father must teach his child as the Torah clearly delineates in the pasuk ושננתם לבניך. The reason it is so critical that a father teach his son is because the צורת נתינת התורה is באהבה, the Torah must be conveyed with love, and nobody can love a child like a father [see Maran HaRav Hutner's celebrated essay in the Pachad Yitzchak on Shvuos]. A Rebbe must aspire to emulate a father's love for his pupils.

Let's say a Rebbe is really mean but it WORKS! The talmidim are terrified of him and it is not out of love but out of fear that they learn. Of course there must be some element of fear in the relationship [just like a father-child relationship] but the fear should be yiras kavod, awe and reverence, and not fear of being slapped [physically or otherwise]. However the dominant element should be love. In an instance where the students are driven to learn by pure fear THAT IS NOT THE TORAH G-D GAVE US!

It works? In Aushwitz people worked so hard that after the war they displayed a tremendous work ethic that enabled them become rich. Did Aushwitz "work"? להבדיל. Does the end justify the means???

May the Jewish people always be blessed with loving Rabbeim.

A True Jewish Educator - The Sequel

A beloved friend asked the following question. How is a Rebbe supposed to maintain a strong kesher with his students if he has a large shiur. For example there is a shiur in the Mir Yeshiva with about 500 students [!].

I have 2 answers to this question. I gave him the first and I'll tell you the second.

Chazal say [and the Rambam ruled] that the number of students in a class should not exceed 25. So officially the question of how to keep a kesher with so many talmidim shouldn't start.

Chazal ALSO wanted a personal kesher between Rebbe and Talmid. Why then do yeshivos not abide by this halacha and have larger classes??

When I raise enough money to start my own yeshiva I will try to keep to it if I can but in the meantime I can't answer that question for anybody else. I am sure they have an explanation. Probably economic. Not enough money to hire more Rabbeim.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

My Favorite Child

If you read this blog you know me on some level, either person to person or at least you get a sense of who I am based on what I write. But you don't know my family so I'd like to introduce you. [There is a message here. If there wasn't, I wouldn't waste my time and your time writing this. I once stumbled upon a blog which went something like this: "I was walking on King George Street and I ran into my friend Louisa and she was wearing a blue jumper I really liked. We chatted amicably for a few minutes then I caught the 18 bus and went home. Then I was hungry so I decided to fix myself some lunch and I was debating between spaghetti and meatballs or a shwarma I had in the fridge. So I decided on a cheese danish. I think I'm gaining weight. Will I ever get married?" And I'm thinking to myself - If you're that boring, probably not... AND I'd change my diet a little if I were you. Need some more nutrition. ]

I have been blessed with a wife and five children. I love all of my children but I can't help but have a favorite [they don't read this blog so I am not worried about them finding out. Please don't tell]. Her name is Gila and she is about to turn 16. She is beautiful inside and out. Her best trait is her purity. So pure that if I told you a story to illustrate it you wouldn't believe me so I'm not going to try. She gives me a lot of honor and we've NEVER had anything that could be described as a fight. "A pleasure to have" is an understatement. She's my oldest and favorite child.

But let me tell you about the child who is REALLY my favorite. His name is Shmuli and he will soon be 15. His best trait is his heart. He has a heart of gold. People don't know it because at times he covers it with a rough exterior [he has to pretend he's a teenager] but I know the truth. He really has a caring, sensitive and warm heart. He inherited it from my father [he should live and be well] who also has an extraordinarily good heart. It lay dormant in my dna and I passed it on to my son. He is my first son and favorite child.

Really, I must be honest. My FAVORITE child is Avi. He is about to turn 13 [you will be hearing more about his bar-mitzva imy"H] and I am crazy about him. He is a brilliant boy with broad intellectual interests [rare for his surroundings which seem quite monolithic at times]. He gets tremendous excitement out of learning gemara in depth. The deeper the better. He is also very sensitive [so don't tell him what I wrote - he might get embarrassed], physically affectionate and loves life. He resembles me more than any of my other children [except for the "brilliant" part. That he got from his mother and maternal grandfather]. He is anti-establishment just like I am. When I see him, I see myself, which makes me love him the most.

However I must tell you about the child I REALLY love the most. His name is Simcha'le, he's almost 9 and he is the most irresistibly, adorable child I have ever met [and I've met many]. He is just a teddy bear and I feel like crying sometimes I love him so much. When I took him for swimming lessons the guy in charge of the pool also sensed it and favored him over all the other kids. I think he may wonder why I give him a hug every two or three minutes but I can't help myself. He is so sweet. He couldn't be a meanie if he tried. He is definitely my favorite child.

But wait. The truth must come out. HANDS DOWN my favorite child is Chana Leiba [affectionately called Libi] who recently turned one. EVERYONE in the house loves her the most and we all just take turns playing with her and holding her. She has an extremely pleasant disposition, a perpetual smile seems to be on her delicious face and the dimpled cheeks only add. She LOVES to sing and dance so that's what I do with her most of the day... I waited almost 8 years for her and it wasn't easy but she was worth the wait. She is the light of our home and frankly - the light of my life. I love all my children but she is my favorite.

[So that nobody gives me an ayin hara I will assure you that my children are far from perfect and have their less polished sides as well. But that is not the issue.]

The truth is that my kids are great but nobody can compare to my wife Necha Gittel. Before I married her I took her to a graphologist to have her handwriting analyzed [I was scared to get married - who knows what the person is really like?! But a good graphologist sees it all.] He said that her maturity level is that of a 28 year old even though she was only 20 at the time. I thought - this is going to be a challenge because my maturity level is that of a nine year old. And lo and behold, being married HAS been a challenge. If you know my personality imagine the diametrical opposite and you got my wife. While I am spontaneous, she is premeditated. I am outgoing, she is reserved. I have a blog with over a thousand posts and over a thousand audio shiurim on line, she [despite my desire that she do so] is too shy and private to write even one blog post or give a public shiur. I habitually hug complete strangers upon being introduced and she would NEVER even consider doing such a thing. And that is why I love her so much. I wouldn't want to marry someone like me. I was looking for an opposite and that's what I got. Her best trait is her spirituality. She is a very ruchani person and that's what I wanted in a wife and the mother of my children. With her I have an eternal bond whereas my children are going to go off and marry and create an eternal bond with someone else. So I love her more than any of my children.

So whom do I really love the most?? Here is my point. [FINALLY.....:-)] I love ALL of them the most. I will tell each one that he or she is my favorite because it's true. I have a special relationship and unique feelings for each one that I have with nobody else in the world.

Now, I am lucky enough to have a personal kesher with quite a few people and I could name each person and tell you why THAT person is the most special person to me on earth. [I am going to spare you. This post is longer than I planned it to be as it is.] I learned long ago that the only way to truly love another individual [which the Torah commands us to do] is to get to know him well. I would say "intimately" but in our oversexed society, people associate that with something physical which is, of course, not at all what I mean. I am talking about the polar opposite, looking completely beyond their physical appearance, the veil that covers their true self and peering into their neshama. When I do [of course they have to let me, I am not a navi] I find myself feeling more and more fondly towards them.

The lesson I am trying to convey is that whenever you interact with a person try to forget for a moment about the other 7 billion people that inhabit this planet [particularly yourself which is the hardest] and focus on what makes THIS PERSON unique and special. Step two is to make them feel it. Most people walk around with feelings of inadequacy in some area or another and lose sight of their importance and their indispensable contribution to the world. Try to get to the deepest place in his or her soul [called יחידה שבנפש in kabbala terms] that separates them from every other person on earth. Everyone has it, but I think we are too busy with other things to see it.

If you can help somebody appreciate his or her special יחידה שבנפש you will help him or her fulfill their unique purpose on earth and will thus have fulfilled you own.


If You Like עדות - You'll Like This Link!

HUGE yesodos in eidus here

לכלב תשליכון אותו

A good friend [C.B.H.] asked me in an email if there is a mitzva to give unkosher meat to a dog [a non-jewish dog, of course]. GREAT QUESTION!

The Torah explicitly says [שמות כב ל] that if you have treif meat you should throw it to a dog. Open and shut case. MITZVA.

Nooooooooooot so simple. Oddly, our great Sages who enumerated the 613 mitzvos omitted it. Not there. Shulchan Aruch? Not there. So no mitzva.

But what about the pasuk that says to do it?

Good point.


[I made a point]

Well the Minchas Chinuch in מצוה עג says that according to תוספות in מסכת יומא there is a mitzva from the Torah to give your unkosher meat to a dog. עיין שם!

Bottom line - You can't lose if you do it. At worst a dog got a delicious lunch. ורחמיו על כל מעשיו.

Any thoughts sweet friends??

Thursday, January 26, 2012

An Idea For The Shabbos Table

This vort may or may not be written somewhere but it occurred to me this morning and it MUST be said at the Shabbos table [מחילה for being so insistent:-)]. When the מכה of חשך afflicted the Egyptians it says in the pasuk ולא ראו איש את אחיו -No man saw his brother [10/23]. Why does it have to say that? It could have just said "They couldn't see a thing".

The Zohar says that every מכה that afflicted the Egyptians was a healing for the Jews [נגף ורפא]. The pasuk intends to give us a bracha. They couldn't see their brothers, the bracha is that we SHOULD see our brothers. When a fellow Jew is experiencing darkness we must see and feel his pain and be there for him. ולא ראו איש את אחיו but for us ראו איש את אחיו we DO see our brothers!

פלאי פלאות!

This Shabbos "Bo" let's make the tikkun:-)!

Love and blessings

The Letter - The Sequel

The letter was very nice but what is the source?

On my way home from the Old City "pool" this morning I was stopped and asked to make a minyan. I couldn't daven with them because the do the whole thing in about 18 minutes and frankly - I can't talk that fast... If you go to that minyan and you actually think about what you are saying you will find yourself lagging faaaaar behind. If you sneeze at borchu they are done with shema. But I guess they are experienced daveners so they already know what they are saying and they don't really have to think about it anymore.

So I couldn't daven with them but I said that I'd come in and answer to kadish and kedusha and borchu. I took a chasidishe sefer off the shelf to keep myself busy and I saw a Zohar quoted that I wouldn't believe if I hadn't seen it. He gives the following moshol.

There was once a king who had a son. He wanted the son to display his powers of self-control so he hired a prostitute to seduce his son. The greatest will of the king is that the son withstand the temptation.

So too, Hashem sends us the yetzer hara to try to get us to do things we shouldn't but wants nothing more than that we control ourselves and not succumb.

The Satan is a malach and malachim have only good intentions. That is why the gemara says that the Satan is לשם שמים - he really has pure intentions. He wants us to be great. If we understand that we have the artillery to smash him.

רחל בת חנה גיטא - שרה בת רות

One is a young mother of four with cancer and the other an older woman also with cancer.
Please daven.
Then cry.

Assuming Responsibility

My beloved friends! Today I was thinking a lot about how important it is to assume responsibility for our actions and then the Divine hand sent me to Rabbi Pruzansky's blog where he conveyed the message beautifully using sports as his frame of reference. I must publicly confess - I am like a recovering drug addict. He might not do drugs anymore but he always has the desire. I might not follow sports anymore but I think I am an incurable sports junkie, so I revel [I think it's the first time I've ever used that word. שהחייייוווווניייייי] at the opportunity to convey a Torah message using sports as an example.

Kyle Williams, please meet Bill Buckner.

Kyle Williams, by all accounts, had a bad day. The wide receiver and punt returner for the San Francisco 49ers first had the football glance off his knee on a punt, enabling the New York Giants to recover the ball and soon after score. Even worse, in overtime, he fumbled another punt, the Giants again recovered, and a few minutes later, the Giants kicked the winning field goal that landed them in this year’s Super Bowl.

That is a bad day. Ironically, the misplayed balls were both recovered by the same Giant, Devin Thomas. Those, in a nutshell, are the vagaries of football and of life itself, where there are good days and bad days. (Of course, for most people, the good days and bad days are not played out in front of an audience of tens of millions of people.)

Williams was clearly distressed during and after the game, but later said that all his teammates had consoled him, telling him that the loss was not his fault. All the old clichés were trotted out – we win as a team, we lose as a team, no one person is at fault, there was dozens of times when each team could have won or lost (imagine if Lawrence Tynes had missed the winning field goal, like his kicker counterpart on the Ravens missed his game-tying field goal), no one play wins or loses, etc.

There is something quite modern about the reluctance of people to assume responsibility for their own failures, and failures that harm others, and even more modern about the willingness of the group to overlook – at least publicly – the miscues of the individual. But it is more admirable for the individual to stand up and take the blame, to place the onus of defeat or failure – in sports, business, relationships, politics, war, etc. – on himself. Usually, there is more courage in the acceptance of personal responsibility than its denial, and a lack of true dignity in hiding one’s own malfunctions under the cover of the group.

Did Williams lose the game for the 49ers? Is he to blame? Well, not entirely. It is fair to say that he ensured not that they lost, but that they lost the way they did. Every group effort relies on the contributions of many different individuals, and a breakdown at any point – whether in the backfield, the assembly line or the committee – will jeopardize the effort of the group. And every play presents the possibility of individual negligence – that is why repetition is the numbing, daily routine of the player, the soldier, the musician and others – so their particular role becomes second nature and is performed almost robotically. But whereas the musician does not have to deal with a bouncing trombone or a rolling violin, the athlete (and the soldier) encounters situations that are not easily anticipated, and thus demands immediate reaction in the face of potentially fateful consequences.

The “team effort” mantra is plausible, but not persuasive. As in any game, had San Francisco been more successful in other aspects of the game – third down conversions, for one – then the Williams’ failures would have become just a footnote to the game. But it was his particular blunders that caused the game to unfold the way it did, with the victory of our hometown Giants.

Are we a better society if we attempt to shield people from the logical consequences of their actions, or if we encourage individuals in a group setting not to own up to their personal failings? I think not. We have often been witnesses in recent decades to the almost-comical politician’s admission that “mistakes were made.” Note – not that he made them, would admit them, or even knew about them (even if they were his mistakes); rather than courageously say “I made a mistake,” the passive “mistakes were made” distances the wrongdoer from his own folly and brings innocent others into his orbit of failure. Or, in another example, we often hear these days of the common tripe of politicians grieving with homeowners “victimized” by “deceptive” banking practices that had them borrow money they could never afford to repay – as if the homeowners are not mostly to blame for their over-borrowing. That is where the votes are – the escapees from personal responsibility in their private lives run to vote for the politicians who pander to their immaturity – but neither benefits society.

Certainly, there is no shortage of adults in sports and elsewhere. Tom Brady, in victory but nonetheless, excoriated his poor play yesterday and thanked his defense for bailing him out; Lee Evans of the Ravens dropped the game-winning pass, and sat afterward in tears, clearly aware that his mistake had let down his teammates; and there are others. The aforementioned Bill Buckner was gracious in defeat. And the Talmud records several times that the great Rava lectured in different towns on different topics, and later sent word to his audience: “What I said to you was an error on my part” (Eruvin 104a, Bava Batra 127a, et al) – a complete retraction.

In a more perfect world, people would assume responsibility for misdeeds and misstatements immediately, forthrightly and unconditionally – politicians, parents, rabbis, teachers, athletes, bosses and workers. In fact, such integrity would immediately make our imperfect world a little less imperfect.

The best of all worlds would be an explicit assumption of responsibility on the part of the stumbler, followed by the graciousness of his teammates or co-workers who then assume their share of the outcome. These failures do not make Kyle Williams into a bad person or even into a bad athlete; it just means that he had a bad day. We need not be protected from our bad days – we only need to be protected from not being accountable for them.

To gloss over a bad day or blithely disregard its effects on others is to deprive oneself of the opportunity for redemption and the satisfaction of achievement and success. It transforms our lives into a constant “defensive” mode, always fending off attacks and trying to deflect blame from oneself. Too bad that today’s youthful “my bad!” is almost exclusively reserved for nonsense. There is majesty in the rise from failure to success, but just as much majesty in the admission of failure alone.

So let’s give the final word to President Nixon, who had his share of bad days, and said on the morning of his resignation of the presidency in 1974: “Only when you’ve been in the deepest valley, can you ever know how magnificent it is on top of the highest mountain.”

A True Jewish Educator

What does it mean to be a Rebbe to talmidim?

I have never had talmidim or talmidos and when people say "Is he a talmid of yours?" I always deny it. Not because I am humble, just honest with my feelings. I feel like it puts the other person in a position of inferiority to me, that HE needs to learn from ME. Who do I think I am??? [SUPERRRRR AL!] But maybe G-d will give me strength, I will learn a tremendous amount of Torah and merit having talmidim [you can daven for Elchonon ben Henna Miriam:-)]. Also, I think a good talmid has to try to learn as much Torah from his Rebbe as possible and to my indescribable anguish I have encountered very few people who consistently come to learn from me. Whenever I had shiurim in the yeshiva or elsewhere, it seemed a rarity that the same boy would come three consecutive times [making it quite difficult to build upon previous shiurim]. Most boys would go supermarket shopping, one day this Rebbe, the next day a different Rebbe, because people like new. How unfortunate.... It is impossible to really absorb someones personality unless one is consistent and learning from a Rebbe is mostly about absorbing a LIVING TORAH. If it were just about information, then every Rebbe should go home. The shiurim of Rav Aharon Kotler and Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz are much better than anything he is saying [and if he were honest he'd admit it]. So a student can open up their sefarim and learn from there. The reason that it is not enough to do so is because those Rabbeim are no longer among the living.

I DO, however, have ideas about what it means to be a Rebbe, a mechanech. The gemara [end of first perek of kiddushin] strongly implies that a Rebbe must relate to a student as his very own child. MaRan HaRav Hutner explains that the reason is that the Torah was given by Hashem with love. The bracha about the giving of the Torah [said before shma] is אהבה רבה - great love. So the צורת הנתינה - the form of giving over the Torah, must be with love.

Another gemara [in the same neighborhood in kiddushin ...] says that when a Rebbe and talmid learn it must start as a war but ends with AHAVA. Meaning that the PURPOSE of the learning is not merely to absorb information, to know what one must pay if an ox kicked some pebbles and did damage but to bring to a state of LOVE between Rebbe and talmid.

So I ask myself, if a son goes away from home does his father ignore him and focus only on his other children? Of [shouldn't that word be spelled "uv"?] course not! He keeps in touch and constantly makes sure that all of his sons needs are taken care of, both in the physical and spiritual realm.

Now I get to the point. Many Rabbeim think that their job is to give shiur and then they go home. This is SOOOOO mistaken I have no words. What father gives a speech to his kids 3 times a week and otherwise has nothing to do with them? What father doesn't know his kids names, as some Rabbeim don't even know their talmidim's names. The most difficult question - How many Rabbeim keep in touch with their talmidim after they left the shiur? THAT is the litmus test if the Rebbe really loves the student or he is just part of the job. When a student is in the shiur OF COURSE the Rebbe should be concerned, that's part of his job. But what about after he leaves? I have been through the system and I can give you the number of the Rabbeim who made any effort to keep in touch long after I left their class and I felt really cared.


What does that tell me? That I was part of their job. When I left - out of sight, out of mind. That is besides the teachers who made it clear to me that they didn't really care even when I was in their class. So of course this didn't push me off the derech, The Rambam writes in the Morech Nevuchim that a person who lives a completely physical life without a spiritual element is like a בהמה. Or worse. A בהמה doesn't know any better. Why would I want to be like a בהמה? Why would I want my life to be devoid of all meaning? Plus - it's emes. So I stayed frum and am trying to flip out more and more every day. [Just tonight I was screaming Aleinu when I left shul after maariv and that caused my son to go home crying out of embarrassment. I have to remember that I can be as crazy as I want but not at the expense of my kids feelings...] But it DID cause me distress.

As a young man I was very hurt. Now in my somewhat more mature state I take it with equanimity because I understand better. These well meaning people didn't fully grasp what it means to be a Rebbe. They thought it means only that you teach Torah. Unless of course you teach in a school for at risk kids [what school today doesn't have such kids...]. If the kids are "normal" and "emotionally stable" then they really don't need the Rebbe's love. The facts are that EVERYBODY needs love. The more he gets, the more the Torah will be absorbed. THAT is the צורת הנתינה.

Some Rabbeim, I came to understand, don't have the capacity to love talmidim. In simple English, THEY DON'T KNOW HOW. Getting smicha or a masters in education doesn't teach a person empathy, love, care, warmth and sensitivity. Getting smicha or a masters in education doesn't even mean that the person is a Talmid Chochom. It just means that he passed a few tests and wrote a few papers.

So what we need in ALL yeshivos are Rabbeim who are BOTH Talmidei Chachomim, live and breathe Torah and also are dedicated to loving their students for the duration of their lives, long after they left the shiur [see bava basra 8b about Reb Shmuel ben Shilas]. Are there such people out there? Probably but I don't think that it's the norm.

I have a few more things to say but I think I have been too חריף as it is [IF I get enough emails encouraging me to continue - I might]. My better [and smarter and many other things] half claims that my standards are too high. But I can only call the shots as I see it and I really believe that the TORAH has very high standards, as explicated in this thread [isn't a thread what we have in our clothing? Why did I write that?].

Sweet friends may we merit seeing and feeling that the Torah is about love. Love from Hashem, for Hashem and for one another.

Love and blessings:-)

A Letter

I thank the special person who emailed me this letter.

Remember sweet friends, anybody who sends me something worthy of being posted gets to spread holiness to a wider audience. With a tremendous amount of Siyata Di'shmaya, mevakesh has really taken off in the last few months. I thank you for coming and being my partner in spreading light.

L and B!

To my star pupil,

I am writing this letter to let you know what I think of you. Up here in heaven
things are not like they are down on Earth. Over there, people only know what they
can see. If they see a person is "successful", they think that he is the greatest
guy. When they see somebody struggling, they think he might be one of the weaker

Let me tell you something. Hashem gives every person certain abilities that nobody
knows about down where you live. Some people are capable of tremendous things, while
others were put there for much smaller purposes. Only Hashem in His infinite wisdom
is able to give every person exactly what he needs, to reach his potential.

I am very misunderstood. Most people hate me, and I don't really blame them. Most
people think that my job is to make sure that they fail in all aspects of Mitzvos,
and that I rejoice every time they sin. This is the furthest thing from the truth.
Did you ever watch a boxing coach train his student? It is really a funny sight.
The coach will put on gloves, and fight against his student. At first, he won't
hit him so hard, or throw his best punches. But, as the student gets better and
better, the coach will start to fight him harder and harder. He does this so that
the student will improve his skills, and become the best boxer he can be. This is
where it gets strange. Every time the coach knocks down the student, the student
gets yelled at!! But finally, when the coach threw everything he has at his student,
and not only does he withstand the beating, but he knocks the coach down, there
is nobody in the world happier then the coach himself!

This is exactly how I feel. If you fail right away, and don't even try to fight
back, I see that there is not much talent to work with, and so I take it easy on
you. But if you get back up swinging, I realize that I may have a real winner here,
and so I start to intensify the beating. With every level that you go up, I increase
the intensity of the fight. If you finally deal me a blow that knocks me out, I
will get up and embrace you and rejoice with your success.

Sometimes my job is very disappointing I see a person with a lot of potential and
I start right in on him. He fights back for a while, but when the fight gets too
tough, he quits and just remains on whatever level he was on. (And he usually ends
up going down!) I feel like yelling at him, "Get up you fool! Do you have any idea
how much more you could be accomplishing?!" But I am not allowed to do so. I just
leave him alone, and go try to find another promising candidate.

If I have chosen you to be the target of my more fierce battles, it was not for
no reason! You have tremendous ability! You were born into a very special family,
you have Rabbeim who really care about you, and parents who would help you grow
in Torah and Mitzvos. You are a very respectful and kind person.

I am writing to you now, because I have a very serious request to ask of you. Please
don't stop fighting! Don't give up! I have been beating too many people lately,
and I am losing patience, Believe in yourself, because I would not be involved with
you as much as I am if I didn't think you could beat me. Know what your strengths

A great Rabbi once said: "Woe is to he who doesn't know his weaknesses. But, 'Oy
Vavoy' to him who doesn't know his strengths - for he will not have anything with
which to fight."

Always remember one thing: you have a secret weapon at your disposal. I shouldn't
really be telling you - but I will anyway. Hashem himself is watching our "training"
sessions very closely. I'm pleased to inform you that He's rooting for you! If things
should ever get tough, almost too tough to bear, just callout to Him with a prayer,
and He will immediately come to your aid. I wish you the best of luck, and I hope
that after 120 years when your time is up in that world of falsehood, you will come
up here to the world of truth, where I will be waiting for you with open arms, to
congratulate you on your victory, and personally escort you to your place next to
the Kisey HaKavod.

Sincerely, and with great admiration I remain,

Your Yetzer Hara

Words Can Kill - The Sequel

Shifra Bloom was euphoric. She had met the boy of her dreams Chananel Grossfeld. He was not only one of the top boys in yeshivas Kol Hator who had already written sefarim but he also captured the hearts of everybody around him with his sweet disposition, kind heart and warmth. The first few dates had gone so smoothly and it looked liked they were going to start planning the wedding and after. She told nobody except her best friend Esther Kleinblick, who excitedly listened to Shifra as she related her good fortune. A really good friend.

One day the phone rang at the Bloom home and Rabbi Bloom, Shifra's father and a Rosh Yeshiva, picked up. It was the shadchan. "I'm REALLY sorry but Chananel decided that he doesn't want to continue. He feels really terrible and is very, very sorry for any pain he may cause. He was broken about the whole thing. He didn't say why but he said he couldn't go on."

Shifra was crushed. She sat in her room for 2 hours crying and crying. She asked Hashem why this had to happen. She was SURE that Chananel was her true zivug and now this... Finally she took the phone and called her best friend Esther and poured her heart out. Esther was very sympathetic to her friend's plight. She assured her that one day soon she would find her zivug and forget about Chananel but Shifra wasn't sure.

Ten months later Shifra received a wedding invitation. She couldn't believe her eyes. Chananel was marrying .... her best friend Esther. She started to cry and the old wound opened up. She felt that Esther stabbed her in the back. How can she take the boy that Shifra had so yearned to marry.

Nevertheless she decided to attend the wedding. But is was so painful she didn't stay past the Chuppah. As she walked out of the wedding hall the lively dancing had started and she said "Ribbono Shel Olam! Please make sure that they never have children". A curse! Shifra knew in her heart of hearts that the curse would be fulfilled.


25 years later. Shifra Freidman [now married - hence the different last name. Some woman still take their husbands name...:-)] is in shul one Shabbos and in walks a woman with a familiar face. Her old friend Esther! She was surrounded by three sweet little girls holding their little "pekelach" [bags of candy].

"Hi, Shifra'le! How are you?! It's sooo nice to see you."

"It is nice to see you too Esther! Who are these adorable little girls?"

"My grandchildren. It is such a good thing that we got married early so that while we are still young we can enjoy our grandchildren."

Shifra walked out of shul that day and she said with tears in her eyes. "Ribbono Shel Olam, it is Erev Rosh Hashana and I ask for forgiveness for cursing my friend. I am so happy for her that she had childrern. Thank you for not listening to me and giving her children. Now I understand why I never had children. A curse is uttered and sometimes it must come true. My curse was fulfilled. On me."

Sweet friends - let us be careful what we say. We can effect reality.


"When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives means the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand."

AHHHHHHHH!!! [Spell check tells me I spelled "AHHHHHH" wrong. If anybody knows a better spelling PLEASE contact me:-)] Since I'm a guy [not to be confused with "goy"], whenever I hear a problem I instinctively try to find a solution. That's a guy thing to do. But then I remind myself that the solution to every person's problems resides in their soul, so unless I can be completely with them in a deep emotional and spiritual way the best thing to do is just to BE THERE for them.

"A warm and tender hand".

מעשה עבירה של קטן

A topic that has been on my mind for years is - can a child do an aveira? 5,477 words about it here but it causes me great anguish that we BARELY scratched the surface of this topic but it's a start....

Feel free to read it and to add any insights you can share with me.

Words Can Kill

I spent my morning at Har Hazeisim and as someone quoted to me "vihachai yeetain el leebo" - going to a funeral makes you take stock of your life. It's good to go to funerals. Fun - no. Spiritually enriching - yes. Plus it takes one out of his narcissistic obsessions and he realizes that yes, there are other people in this world [well, sadly one less but you get the idea].

This Torah should be a zchus for the neshama of my relative R' Mordechai Gimpel ben R' Avraham Moshe z"l.

מוות וחיים ביד הלשון

Words are more treacherous and powerful than we think.
Jean Paul Sartre

We know the story - there was a man named Elkanah who had 2 wives, Penina and Chana. Penina had children and Chana didn't have children. Penina would torment Chana. She would tell her about her cute children and the latest things they did. This made Chana feel even worse. Then something strange started happening. Hashem answered Chana's heartfelt tfillos and as she started having children, Penina's started dying. Finally when Penina was down to two children she asked Chana to intercede on her behalf and ask Hashem to save her remaining children which she did and the children remained alive.

We have to ask - Why would Penina torment her co-wife Chana. She was a good person! So Chazal took a penetrating look into Penina's soul and determined that her motivations were pure! לשם שמים נתכוונה. She wanted to get Chana to daven harder. So why, pray tell, was she so severely punished???

Comes Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz and SHAKES THE WORLD: Bein Adam la-chaveiro [interpersonal relationships] is FIRE and when you put your hand in fire you get burned - even if your motivations are pure. Yes, Penina meant well, but the road to ... is paved with good intentions. Her words hurt Chana enough that she davened really hard and merited children. But it didn't matter - she hurt another human being and she got burned. Rav Chaim proves this principle to be true from other gemaras but we will suffice with that example.

When a man gets married he must realize that he is walking in a minefield. If his wife is female she is SENSITIVE. Sometimes girls say "Maybe I'm being too sensitive". I say "No, you're being exactly what you were created to be - female." Sensitivity is wonderful - it makes for a great mother, nurturer, friend etc. etc. So if a husband says a half a word to hurt his wife he is sticking his hand in fire and fire burns regardless of his intentions. Any married guy reading has had experiences where he hurt his wife's feelings and he said "What did I say wrong?" But if her feelings are hurt there is a very heavy price to pay. In shomayim, the holy books teach, they primarily judge us based on the way we treated others. How careful must we be! הוי זהיר באונאת אשתו שמתוך שדמעתה קרובה אונאתה מצויה - Yevamos men - you have learned this gemara.

Children are also very sensitive. How easy it is to hurt their very delicate feelings. Just because they are children doesn't give us the right to mistreat them. On the contrary - it behooves us to be even more sensitive.

Some people say - "It's his fault, he shouldn't be offended by that." The Torah reasons differently. Responsibility that no feelings are hurt is in the hands of the speaker.

We also must keep what the Zohar says in mind. Just like a person is judged for every bad word he said, he is likewise taken to task for every good word he could have said but didn't.

Love and blessings!:-)

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Ayin Tova - A How-To Guide

Sweet friends, in the spirit of our upward growth surge I HIGHLY recommend the series "Chovas Ha'adam Bi'olamo" [written in easy hebrew] which is the most practical, most effective, how to guide in improving your middos out there.

Please tell me if you used it and benefited.

Never Said No

I once read a book written by the close attendants of the Lubavitcher Rebbe and one of them quoted him as having made the following statement "I have never in my life refused to do a favor for someone." Remarkable, when one takes into account how many favors he was asked to do in his lifetime.

Soon after I was reading a book about Rav Kook and he was quoted as saying "I have never in my life refused to do a favor for someone". Remarkable, when one takes into account how many favors he was asked to do in his lifetime.

I have heard stories of moifsim [supernatural wonders] performed by both Rav Kook and the Lubavitcher Rebbe but I think that the biggest moifes of all is their extraordinary ayin tova which enabled them to live with such an approach. It also explains HOW they had supernatural powers. When someone is SO Godly in his complete dedication to doing goodness, he receives special Divine gifts.

זכות הצדיקים יעזור ויגן ויושיע!!


Take divorce. Who gains from a divorce? The husband loses his wife. The wife loses her husband. The children lose a stable home and often suffer from great emotional anguish and have to go through therapy. Come to think of it - the husband and wife ALSO suffer great emotional anguish and require therapy. Who is bringing this anguish upon them?



Why would someone do that to themselves and their poor guiltless children?

But they are having trouble getting along? Well, instead of splitting up they can both change! They got married for a reason. There are obviously qualities in the other person that each side finds attractive. That is why they married. Now that not such great things have come out they can work through it. People, rational people, can change.

Some say "I am no longer in love". MY rational mind says that one has no right to harm other people because "he/she is no longer in love". So be married anyway. Really. You don't have to be infatuated with your spouse. Also, love comes and goes. Today she isn't in love with him, maybe tomorrow she will be. Feelings are fickle.

OF COURSE there are instances when divorces are justified. Sometimes a spouse is abusive or unfaithful etc. Definitely. The rational mind says that in extreme cases a couple should split up. Some people are just unbearable to live with. But I am talking about regular run of the mill cases. In such instances people often act irrationally and split up. If both partners would be rational and resolve to make it work - it will.

So as difficult as it was to make peace between two one year old's it is no less difficult to make peace between two educated intelligent adults.

Actually - it is often more difficult.

So sweet friends - this was just an example. There are many more. Our job is to make sure that our logic reigns supreme and we therefore live lives of virtue, goodness and love. The mind tells the heart what the proper path is and the heart goes along for the journey.


Well as Hashem always does He sent an angel to help me [this angel looks exactly like my 15 year old daughter Gila Shoshana] so I return with a thought...

Not only is it hard to make peace between irrational beings - it is also very difficult to make peace between rational beings. The reason is simple: Most rational beings live life irrationally.

This is really deep and I gotta go.


Love and Blessings!