Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Home To Our Beloved

Right now I happen to be learning maseches ksubos which is the most delicious gemara since the creation of the human mind [I willl tell you that about every masechta I am learning and I mean it!]. The gemara talks a lot about בתולות. A בתולה is considered by far the most desired entity in womanhood and thus it costs a LOT to marry her [in the olden days the husband used to support the wife and in some segments of the population this custom continues]. A 200 zuz financial obligation in case of death or divorce. [Good divorce line that I can't resist - "I am tired of this already. Instead of getting married again I am just going to find a woman I don't like and buy her a house":-) AHHHHH]. I mean for that price you can buy 100 kids [the 'goat' type (not the one that often defies authority and needs braces) that we sing about as our alimentary canal is pondering how it is going to digest all of that matza that is drowning in wine at the end of the seder].

A בתולה. Untouched. ['Where is he going with this', I can hear you thinking. "Hear you thinking"? How do you hear someone thinking??]

Elul. The mazel [spiritual constellation] of the month of Elul is בתולה. A fresh start. Untouched by sin or evil. Purity. A new beginning. After the destruction of Av we start afresh. Like an old broken down house that was gutted and renovated, making the house look brand new.

We all start again. Clean slate. Prepare yourselves. Shaarei Tshuva, Chovos Halevavos, Nesivos Shalom. Whatever is your pleasure. But we are returning home to our Source. To our dearly beloved. The ruptured relationship will be healed.

אני לדודי ודודי לי roshei teivos אלול.

Under Oath

מעשה שהיה.....

Two fathers watched their 3 year old son and daughter playing together SO NICELY!!  They decided that it would be a GREAT shidduch. So they took an oath that when the time came they will marry the two children to each other.
Well, the time came and neither the boy nor the girl were interested in marrying the other. What's good in the playground doesn't necessarily work for life.... Now the fathers were in a bind. On one hand they swore that there would be a shidduch and on the other hand the kids weren't interested.

Rav Elyashiv ztz"l was asked what to do and he replied that they don't have to get married and the fathers don't transgress the prohibition of swearing falsely. What the fathers really MEANT was that they would TRY  to ensure that their kids marry each other but not that they would DEFINITELY do so.

Moral of the story: Be careful with your words:-).

Monday, July 30, 2012

No Depression

        Not with depression, not with fearfulness, not with sentimental weakness must we turn to the divine light, but with a clear knowledge that what flows from the depths of our heart to approach God is a natural, complete and healthy faculty.  It is more than just a natural faculty—it is the basic, natural faculty of our soul.  It emerges in us from the soul of the Life of all worlds, from the soul of all existence, of all being.          The more we increase knowledge, increasing spiritual illumination and a healthy physicality, so will this wondrous light shine in us, a lamp on the path of our life.        Orot Ha’emunah, p. 80

[Translated by R' YD Shulman]

Out Of The Box

"There is no greater obstacle to knowledge than a formal education"
Mark Twain

An interesting historical insight....

Many of our gedolim didn't learn in yeshivos!! A list off the top of my head: Rav Elyashiv, Rav Soloveitchik, Lubavitcher Rebbe, Sfas Emes, Rav Yitzchak Isaac Herzog, Chazon Ish and many others. One then asks  - Did they become great DESPITE the fact that they didn't learn in Yeshiva or DUE to the fact that they didn't learn in Yeshiva? Rabbi Berel Wein suggests that the latter is the case. A formal structured, educational system often stifles great minds. These people became so great because they were allowed the freedom to "roam" in Torah with being bound to a specific system of learning.  I don't claim to have a great mind [partially because I don't:-)] but I can say that even though I was in Yeshiva for many, many years just about everything I learned was done outside the framework of the Yeshiva structure.

Practically speaking, this doesn't mean that we should close our Yeshivos. On the contrary, we should support the ones that exist and strengthen them. But it means that within our system we should try to allow all types of students to thrive and if a student needs more freedom it should be granted.  

אילה פמאלה בת לאה

Please daven and learn and do mitzvos as a zchus for Ayala Pamela bas Leah - a young mother of two who has been diagnosed with four different types of cancer.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

From The Mouths Of Babes

My daughter Chana Leiba is now at that delicious age where she is not yet able to pronounce certain words correctly so she improvises. Her brother Shmuli is called "Uli". Her brother Simcha is "Galey" [took us a while to figure that one out. I call Simcha "Simcha'le" so she picked up on the "a'le" part and added a "G" at the beginning and a "Y" at the end making it "Galey"].

This brought to mind the Chazal on the pasuk in Shir Hashirim "ודגלו עלי אהבה" which is interpreted as "ודילוגו עלי אהבה" - Your skipping is beloved to me. Even when we learn and don't exactly understand what we are learning or daven and the words don't come out exactly right Hashem still loves us and enjoys our words like parents take pleasure in a child's mispronunciation of words.

Have a gweat day! Hashem woves u!!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Thoughts To Make You Think...

My beloved friend Reb Mordechai Yehoshua Joszef from his Deficit Of Attention blog:


There are many factors which contribute to the ultra-awkwardness of Tisha B'Av.

We can’t say “hello" to each other, so we pull a strange
head-bow/half-wink type of move. As if to say: your presence has been
registered by my consciousness, but I am unable to confirm it verbally
because I am supposed to be very sad.

Which brings us to the next awkward factor of Tisha B'Av, that being
the fact that we are not really as sad as we ritually portray
ourselves. We read hysterical requests for redemption and salvation --
some of us read them from our iPhones, others from the pamphlets
scattered in the back of shul -- most of us would consider ourselves
lucky if we catch one or two lines that touch us even remotely
personally, if any at all. Let's call a spade a spade: there is
distance. Motions without matching emotions. Hence, awkwardness.

Indeed, we are not very frantic about our current exile.
We have Shidduch Crisis and a Tuition Crisis and an Internet Crisis -
but an Exile Crisis? Not exactly on the radar. Because it's a very
different type of crisis.

Exile is an existential crisis. It reminds us of how insecure we truly
are despite our presumed peace and prosperity - whether in Babylon,
Brooklyn, or Boca Raton. Exile means we're not at home, even though we
feel at home. When I'm in Israel I feel like it's my home. But then I
go home. To America.

America has been a gracious host to our Tribe. We’ve nestled nicely in
her cozy suburbs, and we've done relatively well for ourselves
considering the mass genocide from which we barely escaped. We are
settled now. Comfortable. In a new land, with a kinder ideology and
sounder policies regarding the use of gas chambers on its own
citizens. We are safe, at last.

So it’s not that we’re against the concept of redemption. We just feel
like it already arrived. What more could we hope for?  Do we want a
temple? Better yet, do we need a temple? Would we benefit from it?
Would it have a Kosher Starbucks in the courtyard?

Perhaps the most awkward element of the Tisha B'Av experience is our
sense of powerlessness. It can feel like crying over spilled milk.
What’s done has been done. Let’s move on. What exactly are we supposed
to do about this situation? Do I look like I'm in any position to
rebuild a temple?

Interestingly, I am. We all are. Within our own minds.
Yes, that's right, mindful temple reconstruction. Sounds very abstract
and new-agey, I know.
But let’s see what the talmud has to say…
אמר ר' אלעזר כל אדם שיש בו דעה
כאילו נבנה בית המקדש בימיו
שזה ניתן בין שתי אותיות וזה ניתן בין שתי אותיות
[סנהדרין צב.]
Rebbe Elazar says:
Any person who has higher intelligence (דעה)
is as one who rebuilt the temple in his own days.
[Why so?] Because both [דעה (knowledge) + מקדש (temple)]
were written between two names [of God].
[Sanhedrin 92a]

Now, there are some obscurities to be reckoned with in this talmudic passage.

1] What does this higher intelligence called "דעה" have to do with
rebuilding the temple? The temple is generally associated with emotion
more than it is cognition. It is a place of עבודה, worship. There is
no library or classroom; it is an experiential service, not an
intellectual one. So what kind of consciousness does this sort of דעה
entail that it merits the reconstruction of a temple?

2] The only clue of a link that the talmud offers is the fact that
both דעה and מקדש are scripturally sandwiched between two different
names of God. In other words, both דעה and מקדש serve as bridges
between two separate realities. But what exactly are these bridges
serving to connect, and how exactly do they provide such a connection?


Both דעת and מקדש are interesting in that they each come in pairs,
with one heavenly copy hovering vertically above its earthly
counterpart. The intention of both is to elevate our focus from
horizontal thinking to vertical thinking.
Allow me to explain...

When the temple sits on earth, a higher temple mirrors it in heaven.
It is a vertical reflection, from below stretching upward. In fact,
everything about the temple was designed vertically. From the
elevation of sacrificial offerings, to the rising menorah flames. The
ramp, the steps - there was constant elevation. In a sense you can say
that the temple elevators were always going "up" and never descending.

Similarly, there are two layers of דעת. There is something called
higher intelligence (דעת עליון) and then there is lower intelligence
(דעת תחתון). I am not a Kabbalist by any stretch of the imagination,
so I will use these terms with caution. But on a most basic level,
"lower intelligence" refers to horizontal thinking. It is how we
perceive our surroundings and integrate with our environments. When
disconnected entirely from vertical contact, it can be called an "ego
state" that functions autonomously (ie. without directly including
God, or some "higher power" in its cognitive processing) and thereby
requires surroundings and social structures (horizontal figures) off
which to create an identity. This is presumably the source of those
ego states analyzed by Freud and his cohorts. Neurosis thrives in
horizontal consciousness.

But then there's a higher level of intelligence - דעת עליון - which
entails vertical thinking. It is when we acknowledge God as our
ultimate GPS satellite. This, in turn, elevates our horizontal
encounters and infuses them with higher purpose. We feel emotionally
and psychologically enriched by grander guidance (see Chovos
Halevavos, Shaar Habitachon for an extensive and enlightening
elaboration on how God attentively assists those who place their hope
in Him [and only in Him]).
Such is the benefit of "דעה."
It is more than knowledge, it is even more than wisdom.
It can be best described as divine intuition. A sense of deeper
guidance. Vertical thinking is found in those rare moments when we
invite God to help navigate our horizontal terrain, and feel secured
by His constant companionship. This is how we rebuild the temple,
because this was the entire function of a temple - to realign our
minds from horizontal consciousness to vertical consciousness. To a
place where life makes sense. That place has long since been vacated.
Exile is, by its very nature, a sort of jail sentence, locking us, not
in prison cells, but in horizontal consciousness.

God has many names, because we meet Him in many dimensions. Humans
tend to meet up with God on two opposite ends of the emotional
spectrum: during times of immense gratitude and, conversely, during
times of deep despair. Horizontal thinking is comparative, and so it
distinguishes between what appears to be different gods. We
compartmentalize our perception. We thank one, and blame the other. We
are beneficiaries of the first, and victims of the latter.
Consciousness in exile encounters constant conflict, as it is trapped
in the confines of horizontal perception. There is very little relief
for the horizontal thinker, because there is no uniformity. God is
confusing more than He is consoling. Religion seems more of a
contradiction than it does a constructive system. This is exile
consciousness, and it is very confusing, let alone spiritually

Vertical thinking - דעת עליון - is when we bridge our different
encounters, unite them, and integrate them into a more holistic view
of the world, seeing the overall forest rather than getting lost in
the nitty gritty details of the horizontal trees. The more vertical
minded the psyche, the better perspective it has when engaged in
everyday, horizontal reality.

Nowadays we are rarely able (and rarely interested) to access this
system of intelligence, because we are so super sucked into the vacuum
of horizontal thinking. In my view, our pervasive and perpetual
attachment to social media are merely technological symptoms of this
psychological phenomenon wherein we get lost in the maze of horizontal
social enmeshment. As such, vertical thinking has never been so

The tragedy of exile is a psychological one.
We are trapped in horizontal consciousness, and it is driving our
community mad. Spiritually mad, and clinically mad.
Judgement, jealousy, controversy, corruption, insecurity,
competitiveness, shame -- it's all a function of horizontal overload
with minimal access to vertical roots. Simply put, we have become too
busy for God. And so we have lost touch with our source of security,
our source of sanity.
Society has long since locked God out of its collective consciousness.
Since then, we have gradually become comfortably numb in our
horizontal habits of competition, judgment, and blame. It is a
difficult maze to escape. Because the mind that tries to escape is the
same mind that holds it captive.

Welcome to exile.
It's not always as comfortable on the inside as we make it look on the
outside. Enjoy your stay.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Peace Among Brothers

A few months ago I blogged about someone who spoke to me very angrily and wasn't willing to listen [the mussar lesson was the importance of listening]. Today on Erev Tisha B'av he overcame the discomfort he must have felt and called me to ask mechila [which, of course, I happily granted].

מי כעמך ישראל גוי אחד בארץ!

May we uproot all of the hostility from within our midst....

Thursday, July 26, 2012

לעילוי נשמת

People do a mitzva and/or learn some Torah today for R' Yaakov Shlomo ben Dov Ber whose yahrtzeit is today and has no descendants.


תשעה באב שחל להיות בשבת

Here is a brilliant "Shtickel Torah" from Rav Hutner ztz"l that he wrote in 1938 and was published in the Moriah Torah journal and reprinted in a sefer they published on the Moadim page 589. If you don't understand I apologize and you can find another Jew to explain it to you. 

תענית דף כ"ט ע"ב: תשעה באב שחל להיות בשבת אוכל ושותה כל צרכו ומעלה על
שלחנו אפילו כסעודת שלמה בשעתו. וראיתי לאחד מגדולי האחרונים שהעיר מסוגית
הגמרא על מתניתין דריש פרק השוכר את הפועלים דמבואר שם ממימרא דר' יוחנן בן
מתיא דסעודתו של אברהם אבינו עדיפא מסעודתו של שלמה המלך, ואם כן טפי הוה ליה למינקט בברייתא דתענית אפילו כסעודת אברהם אבינו.

ונראה בזה על פי מה דאיתא שם בתענית דף ל ע"א מבואר שם דבערב ת"ב יש דין
דישנה מרגילותו ואם היה רגיל לסעוד בעשרה יסעוד בחמשה, ופירשו בתוספות דהיינו
משום דצריך למעט בכבודו ובודאי דתשעה באב ממש לא גרע מערב ת"ב, ומלבד דין
התענית יש דין של מיעוט בכבודו. ולזה ברור בעיני כי פירוש הברייתא דמעלה על שלחנו
כסעודת שלמה בשעתו אין הכונה על ריבוי האכילה עצמה אלא דתרתי מילי קתני. רישא
קמ"ל דאין דין תענית נוהג כשחל בשבת כל עיקר וזו היא הכונה באמרו דאוכל ושותה כל
צרכו, ובזה נכלל כל דין ביטול התענית בשבת ומצד ריבוי האכילה אין כאן שום רבותא
בסיפא דסעודת שלמה בשעתו. אלא דבסיפא קא משמע לן דכשם דדין התענית אינו נוהג
בשבת כך הדין של מיעוט בכבודו אינו נוהג בשבת, ולזה קאמר דמעלה על שלחנו
כסעודת שלמה בשעתו דזהו ריבוי בכבודו כדרך שאמרו דסעודה בעשרה הוה ריבוי

ומעתה א"ש דלא קאמר כסעודת אברהם אבינו דהא בסוגיא דהשוכר את הפועלים
מבואר דסעודת אברהם עדיפא משל שלמה היינו לענין ריבוי הסעורה שהיה כל אחד ואחר
מן המסובין אוכל אבל לענין העלאה על השלחן בכלל בודאי דסעודתו של שלמה
עדיפא ומכיון דהכא בברייתא קאי לענין ריבוי בעבורו נקט סעודת שלמה ולא סעודת אברהם אבינו

Cursing Harms Not Only Your Neshama But Your Career As Well

Many of the tzadikim I know who go out into the work force are bothered by the volume of nivul peh to which they are exposed. I came across this gem on businessweek.com [for the record I have never seen this publication or website before. I think you believe me:-)].

Next time you want to curse in front of your boss at work, maybe you should consider refraining
In a new CareerBuilder survey, 64 percent of employers think less of an employee who repeatedly uses curse words, and 57 percent are less likely to promote someone who swears in the office. Employers cite questions about the worker’s professionalism, lack of control, lack of maturity, and seeming lack of intelligence.

“There’s a general sense that the workplace is more casual, like what people are wearing. There are so many other ways that’s coming into play, so [we thought] maybe conversation is less buttoned up,” says Rosemary Haefner, vice president for human resources at CareerBuilder. The survey found that perception to be false. “People want [language] to be professional.”

Workers in Washington, D.C., report the highest rate of office swearing (62 percent), followed by Denver and Chicago. New York City, despite its reputation for lewdness, ranks ninth. “I don’t know how to explain that,” says Haefner. “The label in New York is that cursing is wrapped up as part of the day-to-day language, but perhaps in the workplace, maybe they are holding back more.” Or maybe New Yorkers don’t even hear the foul language anymore. [:-)]

About 54 percent of men nationwide report swearing, compared with 47 percent of women. Employees aged 35 to 44 swear the most (58 percent) and those aged 18 to 24 the least (42 percent). One explanation for the generation gap is that people in junior positions are less willing to swear in front of their bosses, while senior staffers may feel more entitled to mouth off.

Cursing in the abstract is different from cursing at people. A security guard in Australia was fired for cursing at his boss (Fair Work Australia, an industrial relations institution, later ordered his reinstatement). One high school basketball coach in New Hampshire was fired for calling one of his players a “lazy piece of [expletive]” during practice.

Haefner advises those with offensive vocabularies to check in with colleagues and ask if it bothers them. “Some people will say it’s fine. Others will say they don’t like it, never have,” she says.
CareerBuilder’s survey was conducted by Harris Interactive among 2,298 hiring managers and human resource professionals in the U.S. and 3,892 U.S. full-time, not self-employed, nongovernment workers aged 18 and over.

Still, employers themselves are not so innocent: 25 percent admit to swearing at their employees. You might want to tell them to shove it, but best to keep that thought to yourself.

A Blessing

Some people don't like to say "have an easy fast" because the point of the fast is that we should do tshuva and feel the sadness and destruction. Of course this is true but Rav Yisrael Salanter said that another Jews gashmiyus is my ruchniyus so I do wish people an easy fast [may Hashem forgive me].

Tonight I learned that in Persian they "Ghabul Bashe" which means "your fast should be accepted".

So to all of my sweetest friends I say "Have an easy, meaningful fast and Ghabul Bashe".

[PS - Next time I am REALLY mad at someone I think I am going to cry out "Ghabul Bashe" and they won't know what hit 'em....]

Learning On Tisha B'av

From the sefer אורחות רבינו on the hanhagos of the Steipler.

אמר לי הגרח"ק שליט"א בשם מו"ר שליט"א זצוק"ל שאמר בשם מרן החזו"א
זצוק"ל מה שכתוב בסי' תקנ"ד במג"א ובט"ז שמותר ללמוד גמ' אלו מגלחין אבל
לא בעיון לא יתכן דבר כזה שיתירו ללמוד גמ' אבל לא בעיון

Sent by my beloved friend R' Yaakov Dov. A revolutionary new website for those who want to go deeper into the daf.

More On Daf Yomi...

I received the following email regarding this post, from a friend, a talmid chacham who lives beyond the "green line" [I have never actually seen a green line] in our holy country [I also live beyond this imaginary line and invite you to come:-)]. It was entitled "Sorry, but I need to disagree".

Boy A: Huge masmid in yeshiva and about to leave for college.
Boy B: Mediocre hasmada in yeshiva and about to leave for college.

It is now almost August 3rd, perfect time for any person to begin the daf yomi cycle.

Boy A takes your approach and says daf yomi doesn’t do it for me.  It’s not the same thing as gemara be-iyun.  He then leaves for college.

Boy B decides “hey, this daf yomi thing is pretty cool.  That was such a great siyum hashas.  Look at all this achdut in Klal Yisrael.  And wouldn’t it be great if I can learn every day in the future and not have to figure out what to learn?  Daf yomi sets the pace and keeps me connected to learning.”

I’ve seen many type A and many type B.  Yehi chelki im Boy B.

Your point is well-taken, for people full-time in yeshiva.  But for the rest of Klal Yisrael who don’t choose full-time yeshiva as their life path, the people doing daf yomi stay learning.  I have seen Boy A fizzle out once he leaves yeshiva way too many times.

I worked a year in computers and was connected to daf yomi and a bit more (but not much more).  And I have been learning full-time in yeshiva for a number of years.  Believe me that I understand your sentiment about wanting to see the beautiful full lomdus of a daf (I’m proud of myself, but I salivated when I wrote that sentence – wow).  But, if my words could have the effect of keeping even ONE person from doing daf yomi… I’d be wary of saying it.

All of this is without even mentioning the bekiyut advantage learning daf yomi gave me.

First of all, nobody has to apologize for having a different opinion. We are Jews which is best defined as "Argumentative People".

Second, I agree. Daf Yomi is GREAT for many, many thousands. I was just presenting its disadvantages and reminding people of the importance of in depth study. In my smallness I was a maggid shiur for daf yomi for some time and found the experience rewarding.

EVERYTHING and EVERYBODY in this world has pros and cons, pluses and minuses, מעלות and חסרונות.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Siyum - Bring Meat

Thursday at 8:30pm there is a siyum for the yahrtzeit of Rabbi Jerry Robbins  [a man who left the world last year, sadly, with no descendants] at the home of Reb Uri Kari. We need a minyan so if you are around please come.

Do We Want Moshiach Now??

As a child I was raised on the song "We want Moshiach now". As an adult I am not so sure....


The Rambam rules that one who doesn't believe in the coming of Moshiach or doesn't anxiously anticipate his coming is in the category of a KOFER BI-TOIRAS MOISHE. In simple English - a denier of the Torah, a heretic, an oisvarff. [Why this is so is not our subject and would be a good topic for a future post]. So how can I, a believer in Torah, say that I am not so sure that I want Moshiah now. And what about "vi-aaaaaaaaaffffff alllllllllll piiiiiiiii, she-yisssssmaaaaaahhhhhmmmmeeeeyyyaaaaaaaa" etc. How can I say something that flies in the face of such a beautiful song??

Let me explain.

When my wife is expecting a baby, I always feel - why does it take so long?! Why can't the baby just come out already??! The answer is that if it would come out to early it would be .... let's say "not-so- alive". The fetus must first DEVELOP before it is viable.

When I look at the world I ask myself - did we make the tikkun and fix all of the spiritual cancers that caused the destruction of the beis mikdash? I am not so sure. The Yerushalmi says that their sin was that they LOVED MONEY excessively and hated each other. Have we fixed that??

Another gemara says that they didn't say a bracha before learning Torah which the Ran interprets as meaning that the Torah wasn't important enough in their eyes to warrant a bracha. Do all of the Jewish People appreciate the importance of Torah. Many boys are not allowed to return to Yeshiva for a second year to learn more Torah. I enjoy asking boys who finished their first year of graduate school "Are you allowed to do shana bet?" I haven't gotten a "no" yet. Graduate school is very this-worldly" [albeit important because Hashem wants us to support ourselves in this world and asking for tzedaka when not absolutely necessary is considered a sin by Chazal]. Torah is [in the eyes of many] not valuable in this world and a colossal waste of time when more "important" things can be accomplished.

So sweet friends - OF COURSE I want to see a perfected world with the coming of Moshiach and I daven for it daily but I wonder if we are ready.

Am I ready to greet the Moshiach??

Are you?

This is not meant to be a קטרוג against the Jews but maybe a wake up call...



With respect to this post - Rav Nevenzahl Shlita was asked directly by a friend of mine if it is true and he replied that he had no idea that they omitted his psak.

A tempest in a teapot.

Lesson: Don't believe everything you read....

The Schvitzy Nine Days

Maybe the most talked about halacha of the nine days is bathing and showering. As is well known the Rema writes that the "custom" [that is a very important word] is to refrain from bathing one's whole body even in cold water during the nine days. Apparently, the Rema is following his opinion in the laws of mourning [יו"ד שפ"א] where he writes that it is forbidden for a mourner to wash his body for thirty days and the laws of the nine days parallel the laws of a mourner in his first thirty days. It is noteworthy that the Shach there argues and maintains that a mourner may bathe his entire body in cold water during the shloshim [see the Aruch Hashulchan שפ"א].  According to this Shach it would be permitted during the nine days to bathe one's whole body in cold water [especially given the fact that אבלות ישנה - mourning over something that happened long ago, is subject to more leniencies than אבילות חדשה -  mourning over a recent event].

The Rema's opinion is also difficult because he is based upon the Trumas Ha-deshen who writes that that he has seen some who have a custom is to avoid washing in a river and one who is stringent should be blessed. That is usually done for pleasure while washing for cleanliness should be fine. In fact, numerous poskim have ruled that in our times where people are very sensitive to matters of hygiene it is permitted to shower in cold water during the nine days. There are other poskim who insist that even in our times there are no excuses and everyone must refrain from washing even in cold water. See Tshuvos Vi-hanhagos Vol. 4 page 120 and Chacham Ovadia Shlita in his sefer Chazon Ovadia ד' תעניות עמ' רלח who as always effectively and comprehensively covers the topic. For those who prefer English, see here. For those who prefer French - you can move to Bayit Ve-gan to Rechov HaRav Uziel where many Frenchman have moved. For Spanish - 186th and Overlook Terrace or Bennent Ave. is good.

Better Bayit Ve-gan.


Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Brief Acquaintance

A boy meets a girl. A BEAUTIFUL girl. Also, spiritual and deep and interesting and fun. The first date was great but there was this feeling of "There is so much more here that I want to get to know better. A lot of intrigue." The boy hears back from the girl, "I'll go out with you again one time - in 7 and a half years...."

Daf Yomi has many, many mylos. Structure, breadth of knowledge, connection to other Jews studying the same daf, a feeling of accomplishment, kviyus, etc. etc. But there is an uncomfortable feeling I have about the whole project. Each page of gemara is soooo beautiful. Also, spiritual and deep and interesting and fun. I want to get to know the page better. To review the gemara 25 times. To master it. Then to look in tosfos and the rashba and the rambam and the pnei yehoshua. So intriguing she is. There is so much there. But the program requires that I move forward and only return 7 and a half years later. Of course one is ALLOWED to go deeper into the daily daf but how many people do?? It is no coincidence the the great bastions of Torah do not have daf yomi on their schedules and if they do it is only a minor part of the daily seder ha-limmud. This is because true Torah study requires depth that a superficial lets-get-it-over-with daf yomi can't satisfy.

So daf yomi is great but I don't think that it is ideal for one who tries to truly understand Toras Hashem is a deep, penetrating fashion.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Music During The Nine Days

There is a common misconception that it is forbidden to listen to music during the nine days. It's not true. The proof is that in talmudic times, at FUNERALS they used to play somber music [see the third perek of Moed Katan]. Come to think of it, at my funeral I would like some music. Come to think of it  - I'd rather not die...

It is forbidden to listen to HAPPY, UPLIFTING MUSIC while somber music is perfectly fine. Even on Tisha B'av many sing Eili Tzion [in camp this is done on a tennis court, probably to symbolize that we are sent from galus to galus just as the tennis ball is sent all over the court - sometimes very powerfully]. So "Hoib oif deine hentelech to Tatte in Himmel" - no. "Usid Hakadosh Baruch Hu laasos machol la-tzadikim, vi-hu yoshev beinehem bi-gan eden" - no. But a soft, lilting "Rachel mevaka al baneha" would be fine.

Pre-Planned Siyum During The Nine Days

Planning siyums for the nine days in order to enable everyone to eat meat.

Two approaches. One I will call the "non-chassidc approach" and the other I will call the "chassidic approach".

The non-chassidic approach: The nine days are a time for mourning and it is against the spirit of the law to try to bypass the custom of not eating meat by making siyums that are planned out for the nine days. In the earlier part of the last century the summer camps had siyums during the nine days because the kids were poor and malnourished but today our children are well fed and there is no longer an excuse.

The chassidic approach: The galus is happening because לא עבדת את השם אלקיך בשמחה ובטוב לבב - we didn't serve Hashem with joy. Rebbe Nachman didn't originate that - Moshe Rabbeinu did [although I am sure Rebbe Nachman endorsed Moshe's idea:-)]. The way to make a tikkun is to find and invent simcha during days of mourning so we should specifically ["דוקא " - it comes out much better in the Hebrew] make siyums during the nine days.


Common Mistake

Most parents make this mistake. I am among those parents and there is no better time to do teshuva than now.

Don't lecture to your children. They have heard it a thousand times before and it kills true communication. To be understood first understand. Listen. Absorb. Be receptive. Mirror back the child's feelings and thoughts. Then try gently to educate if appropriate at that time [sometimes it's not].

I am a "professional" lecturer. I enjoy it and have lots to say. I will try to confine my lectures to the beis medrash and the like and have mercy on my children.....:-)

Here is a lecture by Dr. Pelcowitz on the topic.   

Rabbi Aviner On Rav Elyashiv Ztz"l

The Ark of G-d, Ha-Gaon, Ha-Tzadik, Ha-Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv ztz"l, has ascended on high.

The True Gaon – because in our days, every rabbi and Torah scholar is called a "Gaon" for the honor of Torah. We therefore emphasize with great respect that he is a True Gaon.

The True Gaon on account of his virtuous characteristics, on account of his great modesty, since he did not pursue publicity and position, since he was secluded, did not give speeches or appear in public, and lived in an extremely simple apartment.

The True Gaon since he was a "Shakdan" (one who learns Torah with great diligence), just as the book about him is called [Ha-Shakdan], and the first of the 48 ways to acquire Torah is learning (Avot 6:5).  Already in his youth he was a great Shakdan and Torah scholar.  The Chief Rabbi of Israel, Ha-Rav Ha-Gaon Yitzchak Isaac Ha-Levi Herzog, therefore appointed him as a judge on the district Beit Din and then quickly to the Beit Din Ha-Gadol. He filled this  position for more than 20 years.

The True Gaon on account of his complete loyalty to Torah and standing with full strength like a wall against any innovation (Chiddush) that was not in accordance with the Torah.  This complete loyalty came through flawless adherence to our holy Rabbis throughout the generations.  If we were asked what was our Rabbi's unique method of learning Torah, we would respond: It is simple, he did not innovate anything. The words of our Rabbis are so great that they do not require innovation.  And so too, if we were asked what was our Rabbi's innovation in his Pesak Halachah? we would respond: He did not innovate anything. How great is the old. Maran Ha-Rav Kook in fact taught in his book "Olat Ha-Re'eiyah" (vol. 2, p. 152) that Moshe Rabbenu's greatness did not lay in the fact that he created anything new, but in the fact that he received the word of Hashem, "Moshe received the Torah from Sinai" (Avot 1:1). By doing so, he established the principle of adherence among the Nation and all the worlds.  The great innovation of our Rabbi is that he did not innovate, and this itself is a major innovation: the innovation of loyalty to tradition, the innovation of healthy and clear conservatism, the great self-sacrifice for every letter of the Torah. And when our Rabbi was forced to innovate, the new was entirely old, as Rashi says in the name of our Sages on the verse: "It will be if you surely hearken": "If you hearken to the old, you will hearken to the new" (i.e. if you truly learn the Torah as is, you will gain fresh insights into the Torah you already know.  Devarim 11:13 with Rashi).

The True Gaon, since he also knew how to be lenient when it was needed and required, and in this realm too he did not fear anyone.

The True Gaon since he respected every Torah scholar even if there were differences of opinion.

[For example, in his relationship to Maran Ha-Rav Kook.  His connection with Ha-Rav Kook already began with his grandfather, Ha-Gaon Ha-Gadol Ha-Mekubal, Ha-Rav Shlomo Eliyashuv, the author of "Leshem Shevo Ve-Achlama," from whom Rav Kook learned. And Rav Eliyashuv great respected his student.  He once said: There are different ways in Kabbalah: Ha-Ra'avad and Ha-Ramban, Ha-Ramak and Ha-Ari, Ha-Rama Mi-Pano and Ha-Ramchal, Ha-Gra and others, but Ha-Rav Kook includes all of them, no hidden teaching escapes him.

In the year 5682, Ha-Rav Kook attained permission for Ha-Rav Eliyashuv to make Aliyah, and his grandson, our Rabbi, made Aliyah with him.  Rav Eliyashuv and Rav Kook also learned many nights together in Yerushalayim.  When zealots spoke against Rav Kook. Ha-Rav Eliyashuv silenced them: You can't tell me who he is.  We have spent nights learning together.

R' Aryeh Levin once spoke with Rav Kook about his sorrow that there was a wonderful, righteous, young Torah scholar who would be a great match for his (R' Aryeh's) daughter, but the young man did not respond favorably to his suggestion (either because he thought he had better options or because he was not ready to marry). Rav Kook asked for the identity of the young man, and was told that is was our Rabbi. Maran Ha-Rav called for the young man and spoke to him. The younger Rav Elyashiv then accepted the proposal and the couple married. Rav Kook served as the Mesader Kiddushin.  Ha-Rabbanit Sheina Chaya ztz"l shared her husband's respect for Rav Kook, and when she once saw from the window how people were scorning him on the street and trying to knock off his hat, she was incapacitated for months.

It once happened that one of the editors of the "Otzar Mefarshei Ha-Talmud" (Treasury of Talmudic Commentators) refused to include Rav Kook's teaching on the Gemara, and was therefore fired by the chief editor.  The editor did not accept his decision, and they went to our Rabbi.  Ha-Rav Elyashiv was shocked and said to the editor: "Did you know Ha-Rav Kook?! You should know – he was holy. I would have fired you too."  And this happened with other books as well.]

The True Gaon, the great Gaon has ascended on high, but his strong spirit is spread throughout all parts of the entire Nation.  May we merit following his path and standing with great respect before his memory.

Fortunate am I, the humble one, to merit learning in the building of Yeshivat Torat Chaim (which today houses Yeshivat Ateret Yerushalayim) where our Rabbi learned in his youth. To stand on the same holy ground, and to learn his teachings.

May his soul be bound up with the bonds of the living with all of the Tzadikim.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Siyum On The Radio

There is a certain chasidic group which conducts siyumim on the radio during the nine days [as opposed to other chasidic groups who don't know what a radio is and יהא חלקי עמהם - my lot should be among them] after which many people eat meat. I have not seen any sefer that discusses whether listening to a siyum on the radio is enough to allow one to partake of meat but I can imagine that many would argue that if one is not present -  it doesn't count. 

If anyone sees anything about it please enlighten me....

PS - I am enlightened! I saw on the Yeshivat Beit El website that the former Sefardic Chief Rabbi, Harav Mordechai Eliyahu ztz"l, ruled that the radio siyum doesn't fly. Milchig it is....

Instead Of The Beis Hamikdash

The gemara says that from the time the beis hamikdash was destroyed all Hashem has in the world is the 4 amos of halacha. This means apparently that the SOLE SUBSTITUTE for the beis hamikdash is learning halacha [gemara, rishonim and achronim is also halacha - not always halacha lamyseh but halacha]. The beis hamikdahs is השראת השכינה - Hashem's presence dwelling among us and so too when one learns the שכינה descends.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

When Lying May Be Permitted

Recently I mentioned the topic of lying in order to surprise someone and quoted a contemporary authority that it is forbidden. I received two emails. One person said "that's crazzzzzyyyy" and asked if there are other opinions [knowing the person well I can assure you that no disrespect was meant..]. Another mentioned that white lies are permitted according to halacha.

So "by chance" ['מקרה אותיות רק מה] I was learning the sefer Yashiv Yitzchak [written by one of the most prolific authors of our generation, Rabbi Yitzchak Shechter a Dayan in Netanya, the end of chelek aleph - the first of maybe 35 volumes and he's still going!] and saw a lengthy discussion about the paramaters of the prohibition of lying and I direct you there. I then saw the Yalkut Yosef [kibbud av vi-eim page 487]. I direct you there even if you happen to be ashkenazi. Ashkenazim learn Talmud Bavli and Rambam so they may also learn Yalkut Yosef.

Bottom line: There are opinions that lying is only forbidden if it will cause harm to someone else but white lies are permitted [at least biblically]. According to this, lying in order to surprise someone should be permitted. I would compare it to telling the choson that his kalla is beautiful and righteous [כלה נאה וחסודה] despite the fact that she may not be so. Both achieve the goal of making people happy.

But I am not paskening - just presenting the sources.

See also שו"ת ציץ אליעזר חט"ו סי"ב and this article by a GOOOD friend.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Kinder And Gentler Killers

Rabbi Mordechai Kaminetzky from Torah.org

This week we read about the cities of refuge. A man who kills someone accidentally is exiled to an Ir Miklat, a city of refuge. In additions to killers, a very distinguished group of people, the Levites, lived in those cities. Their job was something similar to today's Rabbis.

They traveled throughout Israel, teaching and preaching. The Levites would return to their homes and neighbors, people who killed through carelessness. They played an integral role in the killer's rehabilitation.

The sentence imposed on the killers was also very unique. It was not defined by time, but rather by circumstance. The killers would go free only when the Kohen Gadol (High Priest) would die. The Talmud in Makos tells us that the Kohen Gadol's family members were quite worried. They were not concerned that there would be an assassination plot against the Kohen Gadol's life. They were worried that the convicts would pray that the Kohen Gadol would die before his due time, thus releasing them early. In order to dissuade them, the mother of the Kohen Gadol would distribute food and clothing to the inmates to deter them from praying that her son die.

It is hard to understand. Are there no loved ones waiting for these outcasts with food and clothing to be offered upon release? Were the Kohen Gadol's mom's cookies worth exile in the city of refuge? How did these gifts work as bribes?

Reb Aryeh Levine took it upon himself to visit Jewish inmates, mostly members of the Irgun, held under British rule prior to Israel's statehood. He became like a father to those prisoners, bringing them food, clothes and love. For years, despite sweltering heat and frigid rains, he never missed a Shabbos visit, save one.

Once, in the midst of a Shabbos service, a very excited messenger called him out of the prison. Reb Aryeh's daughter had become paralyzed and the doctors were helpless. He was needed for support at home, immediately. After the Shabbos, an Arab messenger was sent by the concerned inmates to inquire what tragedy interrupted the weekly visit.

The next Shabbos, despite the enduring tragedy at home, the Rabbi went to the prison as usual. Normally during the Torah reading, prisoners would pledge a few coins to charity. This week the donations were far different.

"I will give up a week of my life for the sake of Reb Aryeh's daughter," the first convict pledged. Another prisoner announced that he would give a month from his. Each one called to the Torah upped the previous pledge until the last prisoner cried out, "what is our life compared to Reb Aryeh's anguish? I will give all my remaining days for the sake of the Rabbi's daughter."

At this unbelievable display of love and affection, Reb Aryeh broke down and wept.
Miraculous as it may sound, that Saturday night Reb Aryeh's daughter began to move and within days was fully recovered.

The cities of refuge were not jails, nor were they mere detention camps. They were environments in which reckless people became aware that careless actions have serious ramifications. They were constantly under the influence of their neighbors, the Levites. They would observe them pray, learn, and teach others. They would see the epitome of awareness and care for fellow beings.

The mission of the Kohen Gadol's mother was not just to distribute food. It was to develop a bond with those people whose carelessness spurred a death. They saw the love a parent had for her son as she subconsciously plead with the inmates to spare her child. They saw how a total stranger, despite her great esteem, would make sure that their needs in the city of refuge were cared for. They may have even thought of the loved one they killed and his family.

After developing an awareness of life, they would never be able to pray for the death of anyone, even if it meant their own freedom. In fact, they, like Reb Aryeh's prisoners, may have offered their years for the merit of the Kohen Gadol.

The Torah can not punish without teaching and rehabilitating. It infuses a love for life and spirituality into former careless killers. Its goal is to mold a new person whose attitudes will cause him to be kinder, gentler, and a lot more careful.

The story was adapted from A Tzadik in Our Time, by Simcha Raz, (c) 1976 Feldheim Publishers.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

According To The Level Of Purity

אין אדם זוכה לתורה רק כפי הטהרה שנמצאת בו כי הגם
שכל אחד לומד אבל להיות לו דביקות בפנימיות התורה
שנקראת אמרות טהורות זאת תלוי בטהרה וכפי הטהרה
שבו כך זוכה לתורה

שפת אמת פ' אמור תרמ"א

You can only truly absorb Torah if you are pure....
Baruch Dayan Emes....

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

רפואה שלימה

Shneur Chaim Yitzchak Alexander ben Nechama Dina

Be Yourself

In order to truly connect to other people stop trying to be what you think other people want you to be and be YOURSELF. Sometimes I wonder if people like who I really am and think that in order to be liked I should try to be different. Then I remind myself that the only person I can possibly truly be is ME. If others don't like that, well, it's all I got. Anything else is fake and artificial. NOBODY likes fake and artificial. I sometimes detect fakeness [fakity?:-)] in people and I almost want to shake them and say "BE REAL JOSE!! Stop trying to impress me!!" I don't do that because I don't know anybody named Jose. [No way?! Waaaayyyyyy....]

The most likable person you can be is your true self. Remember that if you are dating, married, have friends, would like to have friends etc. etc. Anything else is קלא אילן which is fake tcheilis that the gemara so sharply decries. 

A mareh makom for the scholarly: במלכות היהדות of Rav Avraham Chen [hard "Ch" - he wasn't Chinese] in his chapter on עצמיות האדם. A true tour-de-force.

It's Good To Be Degraded!:-)

A letter of Rav Kook [Igros Ri'iyah 138]  I came across when I was looking for something else.

וע"ד מה שמזלזלים אותי ת"ל אני שמח בזה כי בוחן לבבות ב"ה יודע
כונתי לשמו הגדול והקדוש ית' בכל פרשת הענין ושברון לבי ודכאות נפשי גלויים
לפניו ית"ש ואת דכא ושפל רוח

About the issue of people who are disgracing me - Thank G-d I am HAPPY about this because Hashem Blessed Be He who examines all hearts knows that my intention is for the sake of His Great Name in this entire matter and my broken heart and downtrodden spirit are revealed before Him and He dwells with the lowly.

זכות הצדיקים יעזור ויגן ויושיע!!

Definition Of The Day

Blame: A way to discharge pain and discomfort.

Think about that next time you blame or are blamed.

Partnership Minyanim

Sweetest friends!

Where I come from - women are very religious and seem to be very religiously fulfilled. They have many children whom they raise to be pious, faithful Jews, they are invoved in chesed, they go to shiurim, they daven [particularly at the kotel] they cover their bodies in the summer as an expression of purity and modesty and are fully engaged in the religious life. They REALLY don't want to get aliyos. "Ta'aaaaamooood Shira-Malka-Shprintza-bat-Raizel-Yenta-Bluma Shiiiiishiiiiiii". They often want to make aliya but to Israel and not to the Torah.

Other segments of the population feel that if women don't have an active role in shul they are somehow missing out. The question that must be asked is as follows: Is it G-d whom they are trying to please or is it their own unrequited religious yearnings that they want to fulfill [since I want to be kind I won't ascribe to them less sincere motivations]. If it is the latter then we must remember that it is G-d who is the focus of our service and not ourselves [I think that this point was made by Rabbi Emanuel Feldman in an article in Tradition many years back]. If it is the former then an honest look at the halachic sources is the order of the day.

Here is an article that will interest many....

A Painful Tikkun

Today I had to renew my US passport. HASSLE! But I did it. I went with a cab driver who opened up to me VERY quickly. He is embroiled in TWO major disputes. One with his ex-wife and another with a woman he was living with and who bore him a child. [He claims that his ex-wife doesn't want their child and his ex-girlfriend... I don't remember if she wants the child or not].

This bareheaded fellow kept praising Hashem and assured me that it's his tikkun in this world. He also told me that he doesn't want to live in sin and that he yearns for a solid fulfilling relationship. All I did for these women was good, he said with convincing sincerity, but both women had mental health issues. Now he suffers.

OF COURSE there are two sides to every story but I felt really badly for him [did I mention the legal costs?]. I gave him my phone number should he ever want to talk about it.

I liked his line about not wanting to live in sin. I agreed with him and said that nobody wants to live in sin.

Sin is never good.

May all of his suffering be a tikkun....

Is The Rebbe Alive?

Some boys with whom I have been zoche to learn call me "Rebbe".

Also I learn a lot of Lubavitch Chasidus, so I am a little bit of a Lubavitcher.

Does that make me the Lubavitcher Rebbe??

If so, that means that the Rebbe is ALIVE [and typing - as we speak:-)]!

Ehrman - you are not the Lubavitcher Rebbe - you are WEIRD!

רפואה שלימה



Someone emailed me an interesting question: Is it permitted to "lie" in order to surprise someone [e.g. surprise party, marriage proposal etc.]?

I got out my sefer תתן אמת ליעקב [or better I clicked it on..] and saw in the name of Rav Yisrael Yaakov Fischer ztz"l that this is PROHIBITED.


Monday, July 16, 2012

ברוך רופא חולים

See this and please daven for my friend Aryeh Dov ben Malka who also has ALS.


Sunday, July 15, 2012

The Dog Who Saved The Girls Life

When the Nazis came to a certain town in Poland they rounded up the Jews. All of the men went into one truck and all of the woman into another. One little girl of about 6 years old remained. She stood there frozen in fear. A Nazi sat in the truck with his beloved dog. The dogs sensed the girls fear and jumped out of the truck and sat next to her. The Nazi commanded his dog to come back. The dog didn't listen and remained by the girls side. The Nazi then sent another soldier to bring the dog back. When he came close the dog bared his teeth and made it clear that he shouldn't come any closer. The Nazi then sent a second soldier and once again the dog made it clear that coming any closer would result in the soldier being the dogs lunch. Then the Nazi himself decided to bring the dog back. When he got close the unbelievable happened: The dog once again bared its teeth and barked loudly at its owner.  

Since the Nazi didn't want to lose his beloved dog he told the girl to get into the truck together with the dog. He brought the girl home and told his maid that she should take care of the girl and would be in big trouble if anything happened to her. Amazingly, the girl spent the years of the war growing up in this Nazis house. She later came to Israel and moved to a kibbutz.

[Told by Avraham Ehrenreich, a holocaust survivor in Bisod Siach Parshas Matos]

Quote Of The Day

"If you can't sleep - then stay awake."

This quote is an original that occurred to me recently when I couldn't sleep:-).

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Censoring A Gadol

In the latest edition of the Torah journal המעיין I saw the following SHOCKING story, which if true is quite disturbing.

הרב נבנצל שליט"א שיתף אותנו בשיקול דעתו להכניס שינויים בהערותיו 'ביצחק ייקרא' לספר משנה ברורה. השינוי הוא בין המהדורה הראשונה לשניה: בין שאר השינויים שנעשו במהדורה החדשה השמיטו בה שתי פיסקאות בענייני שביעית, סעיף אחד העוסק בשימוש בכלים שבישלו בהם ירקות מהיתר מכירה, שם הובא בשם הגרשז"א זצ"ל שניתן להשתמש בכלים אלו גם למחמירים משום שהאדם שאכל בכלים אלו סמך על דעת גדולים ולכן הכלים לא נאסרו, ופיסקה שניה שבה היה כתוב שבגד מכותנה אין צורך לבער אותו בזמן הביעור משום שהכותנה גדלה אצל מי שסומך על היתר המכירה. הרב נבנצל שנשאל מדוע שתי הפיסקאות האלו הוסרו, ענה שעתה פוסק הדור הוא הגאון הרב אלישיב שליט"א, והוא מתנגד לפרסום פסקים שיכולים להחליש את ההתנגדות להיתר המכירה, והרב נבנצל קיבל את דעתו

In the footnote he correctly writes אולם הסבר זה קשה, הרי אין איש שמכחיש שזו אכן הייתה דעתו של הגרשז"א זצ"ל, והדברים נאמרים בשמו, ואין שום סברא לכאורה לצנזר את דעתו לאחר מותו מפני שדעת חברו גדול הדור שליט"א שונה! הרי אין לדבר סוף! וכי בכל דור העלימו והסתירו דעות של גדולים בנושאים שונים, מפני שגדול הדור עתה סבר אחרת? וצ"ע

If someone has a valid explanation I would love to hear it. [Maybe you can ask Rav Nevenzahl. I am afraid to speak to him as he is an angel of G-d...] 

Friday, July 13, 2012

Moshe's Last Stand

Rabbi M. Kaminetzky from Torah.org

This week the most illustrious career in Biblical history begins its final chapters. Moshe is officially informed that he will pass on and is told who his successor would be. But in informing Moshe of the transition, Hashem repeats both here in the Book of Bamidbar (27:12) and again in the Book of Devorim (32:51) the reason that Moshe will not lead the B'nai Yisrael into the Land of Israel. It is because he hit the water producing rock instead of speaking to it.

Why does Hashem seem to stress Moshe's sin? Rashi, the classic medieval commentator, explains that Moshe asked Hashem to publicly declare his sin in order to declare that this sin was his only flaw. He was afraid lest some would say that he, too, was amongst those who were destroyed for rebellion in the desert. He was afraid that he would be equated with the rebels and sinners. Thus, he asked Hashem to emphasize that the only flaw he committed was that of the rock.

It is very difficult to understand. How could Moshe even suspect that anyone would place him on that level? How could one even imagine that he was excluded from entering Israel for an act of treason that led to the demise of others? Why was it so important to Moshe that the Torah reiterates that the incident at the rock was his only transgression?

Radio commentator Paul Harvey once presented a piece of American history in the following manner:

George Armstrong was appointed to the United States Military Academy in 1857. After graduating and commissioned in the cavalry, he quickly established a reputation for daring and brilliance in battle. His reputation was so well acclaimed that at the age of twenty-three, he was made the youngest brigadier general in United States history. George's energy and cunning paralleled the other great Georges who left their mark on military history -- Generals George Washington and George S. Patton. In fact, George Armstrong was so successful, that by the end of the Civil War he became of the one of the most celebrated commanders.

His pursuit of Lee's army from Richmond in April 1865 destroyed the confederate lines of defense and captured prisoners, wagons, and guns - until, on the morning of April 9 he had totally defeated the enemy. It was to no one other than General George Armstrong that the Confederate flag of defeat was first presented.

After the Civil War, his career continued to flourish. He was assigned to the newly formed seventh Cavalry, Fort Riley, Kansas, and was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. In the fall of 1868 he won a brilliant victory over Black Kettle's band of Cheyenne Indians in the battle of the Washita and took part in many successful engagements over the next eight years.

But history has almost no recollection of the illustrious career of General George Armstrong. On June 22, 1876, General George Armstrong and his regiment, a force of about 655 men, set out for Little Bighorn. He encountered an overwhelming force of at least 4,000 well-armed Sioux warriors and was killed together with his entire regiment.

No longer were the Civil War successes the hallmark of General George Armstrong's career.

Only remembered is the great defeat at Little Bighorn led by General George Armstrong - did I mention his last name -- Custer - General George Armstrong Custer at his last stand.

People often tend to forget the illustrious careers of great people because of a flaw that ended it. Moshe was punished for an infraction that is difficult to comprehend in mortal terms. He hit a rock, and produced water -- one of history's greatest miracles -- for a thirsting nation. Yet something was wrong. He was supposed to speak to the rock and instead he hit it. And between him and his Creator, there was a price to pay. We however must realize that a mistake, as great as its consequences were, cannot mar the illustrious career of the man who led us out of Egypt and developed us into the nation that we are today. In no way can that punishment diminish any regard that we have for Moshe. At Moshe's departure, that point was to be reiterated repeatedly. It is only because of the rock that he did not enter.

How often does a man who works tirelessly for years and who errs in his last stand, go down in disgrace for the act that terminated his career? How many people's last stand becomes their most notorious if not their only stand? Perhaps Hashem's reiteration vis-a-vis Moshe are a lesson to all of us. There are no first stands and there are no last stands. If we stand for something worthy, then we stand forever!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

What Is Chesed?

In this post I discussed the notion that true relationship involves nullifying one's personal needs on behalf of another person. How delighted I was afterwards to come across this passage in the sefer אסופות מערכות of Rav C.Y. Goldvicht z"l:

אין חסיד אלא המתחסד עם קונו - [זוהר דברים רפא א] שסופה של מדה עמוקה זו היא התבטלות האני הפרטי כלפי הקב"ה. זוהי דרך היישום המלאה ביותר למידה זו התובעת בחדות : ביטול, התדבקות והתכללות במה שלמעלה ממנו

Chesed is nullifying the ego for Hashem and ..... everyone else.

May we be zoche:-)

Love and blessings!

Bringing Torah To Life

The main part of intellectual education is not the acquisition of facts but learning how to make facts live.

Oliver Wendell Holmes

Chazal put it this way "gadol talmud she-mavee ledei maaseh." - Learning is great because it brings to action. 

Someone once came to the Kotzker and said "I went through Shas". The Rebbe, with his famously sharp tongue retorted "Did Shas go through you?!"

Soon, many in klal yisrael are going to be making a siyum hashas. I applaud the dedication of everyone involved and my portion should be among them. But there is one penetrating question that everyone must ask himself - "Did Shas go through me?"

Quote Of The Day

Prejudice is a great time saver. You can form opinions without having to get the facts.

E.B. White


A Waste Of Time

One of the most time-consuming things is to have an enemy.

E.B. White

A Rabbi once spoke against the Lubavitcher Rebbe and later regretted his words. He came to the Rebbe to apologize.

"Believe me", said the Rebbe, "I don't have the time to hold a grudge."

זכות הצדיקים יעזור ויגן ויושיע!!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Quote Of The Day

Who, being loved, is poor? 

Oscar Wilde
Here is an interesting article on spirituality and scholarship from an very interesting volume. I don't say whether I agree or disagree but it is definitely food for thought. See especially pages 159-160.

[By the way - the author of the article was in my brother's high school class. I remember reading in their yearbook that he was so smart that he could play chess against six people simultaneously while blindfolded and win [or something to that effect]. That is smart:-)]. 
Pinchas acted in what seems to be a violent manner. However, the pasuk testifies in the name of Hashem - בקנא את קנאתי - He was zealous for G-d only. It had nothing to do with his own personal feelings. He was in fact the grandson of Aharon who was a lover and pursuer of peace. More light can be shed on this matter here. Unfortunately, recently [maybe due to my excursion the the US and other things occupying my mind] I have had a dry spell in writing articles in Lashon Hakodesh. May Hashem restore my lost glory and I be able once again to write holy divrei torah in His holy tongue on the holy earth of Eretz Yisrael... AMEN!!!:-)

As Long As The Soul Remains

If one hasn't made havdala he may do so until Tuesday. Why Tuesday??

The soul is composed of [at least] three parts, nefesh, ruach and neshama [this is not the forum to explain those terms. See, among many other sefarim, Nefesh Hachaim, who clearly defines the terms]. On Shabbos we receive a special neshama yeseira comprised of all three elements. On Sunday the neshama departs, on Monday the ruach departs and on Tuesday the nefesh departs, so on Tuesday the neshama yeseira is completely gone. This is similar to the halacha that one may bentch until the food has been digested. Similarly one may make havdala as long as the special Shabbos neshama is extant.

[Rav Avrohom of Sochochov based on the Arizal - Neos Deshe vol. 1 page 145]

Interested In Torah?

News Item [featured on the top of my gmail page]:

Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin has agreed to a five-year contract extension, a source with knowledge of the situation told ESPNLosAngeles.com.

Griffin could earn as much as $95 million over the course of the five-year extension if he is voted an All-Star starter again or named to a second All-NBA team next season under the so-called "Derrick Rose Rule" in the new collective bargaining agreement. 

I was wondering if he would be interested in supporting Torah? I have JUST the institution for him:-).

One thing I want to get straight though. He gets ALLLLL THAT DOUGH for putting a ball in a hoop??? And the ball doesn't even remain there. It just falls right through to the ground??!!

95 Mil.??? A seventh grade science teacher has to work approximately 24 thousand years to earn that kind of money. 

A reflection on our society and what we value.....

Love and blessings:-)

Monday, July 9, 2012

Toda Rabba!

I have returned as a bird returns to its ken [although I would never call my wife Barbie!]. When in the US I was the recepient of COUNTLESS acts of chesed. I thank anybody and everybody and fervently hope that I can repay the kindess shown to me. It was truly humbling seeing and  meeting so many people who are superior to me in so many ways. Despite the distance from my family, I enjoyed every second of the almost seven weeks I was there [well, almost every second. Those moments on the subway weren't always so appealing... and a few other moments I will not mention:-)].

BARUCH HASHEM I saw TREMENDOUS Siyata Dishmaya and hope that much, much more Torah will be brought to the world as a result of the support shown.

In thank everybody from the bottom of my heart:-).

Love and blessings from the עיר העתיקה!

בנימין זאב בן שרון רבקה

There is a 3 year old boy living in the 5 towns neighborhood, whom some of you might know, who is unfortunately suffering from cancer. Baruch Hashem they have a bone marrow match for him and the procedure is taking place tomorrow at 12 noon. If we could all PLEASE daven for him tomorrow throughout the day it would mean a tremendous amount to the family!
His name is Binyamin Zev HaKohen ben Sharrone Rivka.

[From an email I received]

Sunday, July 8, 2012

New Beginnings

Today we commemorate the shattering of the holy luchos that Hashem gave Moshe. Strangely enough the Torah ends with the words אשר עשה משה לעיני כל ישראל- That Moshe did in front of the eyes of all of the Jewish people. What did he do? The answer is that he shattered the luchos. What a strange way to end the Torah??? So depressing!

No sir-ee! Not depressing at all!!

The kabalistic sefer hayetzira teaches us about a concept called סופו נעוץ בתחילתו - the end is rooted in the beginning. How does the Torah begin?? With the word בראשית - In the beginning. The luchos were shattered but then we start again anew!! Nothing ever is so destroyed that it can't be fixed. There is ALWAYS a new beginning.

Look at the word for grave - קבר. OK - now scramble the letters and what do you get? בקר - Morning. Even after the grave there will be a new morning, a new start.

SWEEETEST FRIENDS!! PLEASE. NEVER GIVE UP HOPE. WE CAN FIX EVERYTHING. That is what the beginning and end of the Torah teaches us - and everything in between...

Love and blessings:-)   

שושנה מלכה בת מרים פריידה

Shoshana Malka has developed a fever and the chest x-ray of her lungs looked "wet." With the ventilator out, the x-ray indicated the degree of difficulty that Shoshana Malka's heart is having in functioning.

Please continue to storm the heavens with your tefillot.

[From an email]

Showering On A Fast Day

Permitted but בעל נפש יחמיר לעצמו - a person of advanced spiritual constitution should be stringent.

Laundry On This Slow Fast Day

I received an email asking if it is permitted to do laundry on a fast day. I actually had this question myself for the first time because I wanted to wash my clothing before my return home [I am usually not the washer. May Hashem forgive me...]. So I did a search of the 50 thousand sfarim on my Otzar Hachochma program and found NOBODY who forbade it. The rule is that everything is permitted until proven forbidden. Nobody even discusses it. All that is discussed is doing laundry from Rosh Chodesh Av. This leads me to believe that it is permitted. I DID find in that the author of the sefer Piskei Tshuvos [Vol. 6 page 68] says that he ALSO hasn't found anyone who discusses it and it is difficult to forbid something when we find no source for such a psak.

The Navi compares sin to a dirty garment and teshuva to washing it. May we all do a "good wash" today.

Thanx to the questioner for triggering this post. It should be a zchus to get EXACTLY what you need for shleimus in this world:-).

עפר יעקב

Rav Kook said that the Sfas Emes is his Rebbe and always had a copy of the sefer on his table. He once explained which passage made him a chossid. In Parshas Balak [תרמ"ח] on the pasuk מי מנה עפר יעקב -Who counts the dust of Yaacov קxplains the Sfas Emes that every Jew has a grain of dust that reflects a his soul. One Jew has his grain in Tzfat, another Jew in Rishon Li-tzion and another in Chevron. Every Jew has his own personal  עפר ארץ ישראל.

One time Rav Kook was walking down the street with someone else and he saw a sign that said "Avraham Yitzchak Hakohen Kook עפרא לפומיה" - Dust in his mouth. That is a "lomdishe way" of saying "yemach shemo". Nice compliment... Rav Kook saw the sign and remarked that it doesn't bother him at all. To what type of עפר is the sign referring? Probably the עפר of ארץ ישראל. It doesn't bother me at all to have עפר ארץ ישראל in my mouth. Each one is another Jewish neshama!!:-)


זכות הצדיקים יעזור ויגן ויושיע:-)

[Heard from the Rebbe Shlita this Motzei Shabbos at the weekly melave malka. I wasn't there but the magic of email brought it to me right here on 72nd street and I continue to listen as I type. Fortunately I will see all of those neshamos once again tomorrow אי"ה!!!] 

Hashgacha Pratis

Two more signs from above.

1] On Friday I copied and pasted a dvar torah on the blog from Rabbi Mordechai Kaminetzky. I usually try to get permission before I do that [even with attribution] but I didn't know his email and assumed he wouldn't mind but still didn't feel great about it. After Shabbos as I leave shul I was introduced to  - you guessed it - Rabbi Mordechai Kaminetzky, and after a long talk about everything I remembered to tell him that I just posted his dvar torah and asked him permission to post future divrei torah, which he graciously granted. [He also said that when he sees a sefer in a bookstore and he reads a vort he likes, he asks himself "Is this vort worth 20 dollars? Of course". Then he buys the sefer. My type of guy.] Never met him before. What are the odds??

2] On Friday I decided that I needed to contact a boy about a certain matter but the erev shabbos rush got the better of me and I had to run in order to be in time for shabbos. So I went to Penn Station to catch the train and OF COURSE who was standing right near me learning a Ramban Al Hatorah waiting for the "scoreboard" to tell everyone which track their train is leaving from? That very boy whom I then sat next to for the next 47 or so minutes and talked A LOT about Hashem:-).[ Reminded me of this one.]

What are the odds?

Friday, July 6, 2012

Hot Day

Tomorrow is supposed to be about a thousand degrees in NYC. Generally, one should avoid taking showers on Shabbos. However Rav Moshe Feinstein paskened [Igros Moshe Orach Chaim vol. IV simon 74 page 145 and simon 75]  that if one suffers great discomfort it is permitted to take a cold shower on Shabbos. Of course, one must be careful not to squeeze the water off his hair with the towel and of course not to use hard soap.

Enjoy the schvitz tomorrow:-)
Rabbi M. Kaminetzkey from Torah.org

This week, we find the gentile world's greatest prophet, Bila'am, challenged by both his conscience, Hashem's will and of course, a formidable foe. Balak, the King of Moav asked him to cast a curse upon the Jewish nation. He sent a delegation of servants to implore him, but Bila'am refused. His hands were tied, or more accurately, his lips were sealed. After besseching the Almighty for permission to curse the Jewis nation, "Hashem said to Balaam, 'You shall not go with them! You shall not curse the people, for it is blessed!'" (Numbers 22:12)

Despite Bila'am's initial refusal, Balak was determined. He sent another delegation, this time, distinguished officers, "higher ranking than the previous" (ibid v.15) "They came to Balaam and said to him, "So said Balak son of Zippor, 'Do not refrain from going to me. for I shall honor you greatly, and everything that you say to me I shall do; so go now and curse this people for me.' Balaam answered and said to the servants of Balak, "If Balak will give me his houseful of silver and gold, I cannot transgress the word of Hashem, my G-d, to do anything small or great:But Bila'am does not leave it at that. He really wants to be a part of the plot. That night he resubmits his request to Hashem, and this time G-d acquiesces. Hashem came to Balaam at night and said to him, "If the men came to summon you, arise and go with them, but only the thing that I shall speak to you -- that shall you do" (ibid v. 20). And so, the Torah tells us, the next day, "Bila'am arose in the morning and personally saddled his she-donkey and went with the officers of Moab." " (ibid v. 21).
The next verse seems strange. Even though just a few p'sukim prior, Bila'am had attained permission, the Torah tells us, "Hashem's wrath flared because he was going, and an angel of Hashem stood on the road to impede him."

The question is straightforward. If Bila'am attained permission to accompany them, why was " Hashem's wrath flared"? After all if G-d said yes, what did he expect?

There is an old Jewish story about the shnorrer who goes collecting one Sunday in the prestigious community synagogue, pleading for funds. Though the prestigious synagogue had a "no solicitor" policy, the President of the congregation was somehow convinced of the beggars sincerity.

After the three morning minyanim, the man walks out of the synagogue with a smile.

A few hours later he parks himself in the town's most elegant restaurant and orders a rib-eye steak.

The President of the synagogue walks in and notices the schnorrer, cloth napkin tucked conspicuously under his chin, with a succulent steak resting on his plate nestled comfortably between a portion of fried potatoes and asparagus.

"Hands on his hips the flabbergasted president accosted the man.

"Is that what you do with the money you collected in our synagogue?"

The pauper shrugged his shoulders and shrugged. "I don't understand. When I don't have money I can't eat steak. When I do have money I shouldn't eat steak. So when, may I ask, can I eat steak?"

Billam, at first is refused permission to go with Balak's advisors. He seems to be reluctant to even consider the offer, claiming that even if he is offered a houseful of the gold and silver he can't go. Yet Balak perseveres, Bila'am re-requests and Hashem finally agrees, caveats attached.

But instead of Billam using his new-found permission to reluctantly trudge along, he develops a whole new attitude. He is up at the crack of dawn, he passionately saddles his own donkey, a chore normally delegated to his servants, Hashem sees that Billam is not being coerced, nor schlepped, rather, "He is going." Then His ire flares. Hashem's reluctant approval turned into Bila'ams enthusiastic accompaniment.

Life often presents us the opportunities, in which our ingrained convictions are challenged.

Sometimes we must bend the rules. Attend a meeting, in an unfamiliar atmosphere; sharing a drink with an unsavory client; spending an evening with a haughty politician. The question is simple; once we have the opportunity to drift, do we attach ourselves to the flotsam and ride the waves with zest.

Or is every step of the way met with the original emotions of reluctance and apprehension. Billam's originally refused to go along. He told Balak he just couldn't go. But when he received permission from Hashem, his attitude changed quickly. From a pronounced subservience to G-d's the reluctant prophet became the enthusiastic co-conspirator saddling his own donkey and excitingly joining the evil plotters. How quickly do his loyalties adjust! When given the opportunity, it is easy for a despondent pauper to turn into an indulging guzzler. Sometimes, it doesn't matter if our conscience is at stake, when a steak intrudes upon our conscience.
Good Shabbos!

Dedicated to a continued refuah shlaimah for Yehuda Boruch ben Sora Menucha

Get Off The Couch!!:-)

“If there were a drug known to reduce blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, depression, diabetes, self-reported pain of arthritis, increase longevity by five years and improve quality of life by every metric, a doctor who didn’t give it to every patient would be committing malpractice. We have this drug, and that drug is exercise.”

Dr. Jordan Metzl