Thursday, August 30, 2012

Eye Contact

Studies say that approximately 85 percent of all communication is NON-VERBAL. Facial expression, body language, etc. all play an important role in conveying a persons true intentions, even more than the actual words he uses. That is the reason why email and even telephone are inferior ways of communicating. Always try to pick up on hints as to people's true intentions by listening to their intonation and watching them carefully.

When I speak with someone I try to stare them square in the eye. The eyes say SOOO much. It was Emerson who said "The eyes of men converse as much as their tongues, but with the advantage that the ocular dialect needs no dictionary, but is understood the world over." Beautifully put! When I was a child I used to religiously consume Robert Ludlum novels and he would always describe what the persons eyes were saying. Have you ever seen the Lubavitcher Rebbe's eyes? Powerful.

In Torah we also appreciate the power of the eye. Ayin hara is not only a mystical concept but has very practical halachic ramifications [as we see in the beginning of bava basra]. The sefarim are filled with exhortations to look at others with an ayin tova. The prohibition against looking at forbidden images is a biblical one. Moshe was allowed to "see" the Land which was his way of drawing into himself its kedusha. More examples of the centrality of the eyes abound.

Recently I was fortunate enough to meet with a gentleman who has the means to help me achieve my goals. We spoke at length and genuinely enjoyed each others company. He was looking at me a lot. When it came time for him to tell me the news that he was not going to fulfill my request he did something very interesting. He looked away. He didn't want to make eye contact. I feel badly for the poor [not financially though, if you catch my drift] guy. It was clearly uncomfortable for him and by avoiding eye contact he saved himself discomfort. This feeling of discomfort was a display of sensitivity which I appreciate. As far as the negative reply - im yirtze haShem his lucky day will come when he will agree to my offer:-).      

So look the person in the eye, be an active listener and really try to understand what the other person is saying. Rare are the people who effectively do this.

Mazel Tov!!!

Mazel tov to Reb Shmulie on the birth of his son. For those who couldn't make the bris here is what he said. ENJOY!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012


For those who enjoy the insights into the daf yomi I apologize for the dearth of recent posts. I have so much I want to write but as you know this is not my only task at the present time. Soon I return home and hopefully there I will have more time to write. It HURTS not to be able to share the great torah that abounds ON each and every daf of maseches brachos.

It is past 2am and I have to be up before 6 for "business", so this is not the time either.

May Hashem help me find the right $hlichim so I can rededicate myself to learning.

I have to remember - ELLLLLUUUULLLLLLLL!!!!!!!!!!!

Mussar And Ruach For Elul

Tonight for the guys at the Bernsteins - 495 West 186th Street. 10:30PM.
Thanks to Reb Moshe Gavriel and Rebbetzin Rochel Leah for opening up their door to us.


Preserving The Passion

Sometimes a person goes on a diet and he looks GREAT! He lost 80 pounds and looks slim and fit. Then some time passes and lo and behold he starts getting not-so-pleasantly-plump. Then he gets flat out fat. Again. Sometimes he gets heavier than he was before the diet.

Is this a dieting blog???

If you have ever seen me you know that dieting to lose weight is not something I can say much about. I was born skinny, have always been skinny and will die skinny. Well, I hope I won't die skinny.

I hope I won't die.

The dieting story was just a mashal. The nimshal is the "year in Israel". It's GREAT. People FLIP! The boys start davening three times daily with kavana, learn with excitement and are careful about every new halacha they learn. The girls? The skirts get longer, the tehillim gets used frequently and they dream of marrying a serious ben torah and bearing children who will be pure, holy tzadikim.

Until. Until they return home. Little by little things go DOWNHILL. The rule is a deterioration of religious passion and the exception is further, continued growth.

That is a problem.

Today I went to Queens College and I saw something remarkable. Well over hundred girls came to learn Torah in the middle of the day because they want to be close to Hashem.  I if had an extra million dollars I would LOVE to support such a program. What a zchus!! Without such a program so many neshamos would drown in the gashmiyus that floods our world.

The education is modern orthodox day schools and high school is very weak. Many kids don't know the basics and have minimal textual skills. Israel is great but then the kids lose it. The goal should be to continue the Israel experience after they leave. Even those boys who continue learning in a yeshiva need to feel a continued spiritual and emotional connection to Torah and ruchniyus.

I have to tell you something. The Jewish soul hungers for Hashem. We have to find a way to nourish that hunger.

Today I witnessed that hunger. I don't know if the girls got anything from what I said but I certainly did. I have to stay connected to ruchniyus also.   

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Trying To Grow Up

After I cracked my computer screen the other day I managed to lose my i-river on which I recorded over 1500 shiurim. And my earphones. They were in the carrying case that normally holds my computer so it was a package deal.

I unfortunately didn't mange to feel particularly badly. Firstly - It is a gift from haShem. Why be upset when you receive a gift??

Second - I couldn't help but think about the philosopher Diogenes. Diogenes, we are told, was a man who lived happily with the barest of necessities. He didn't lack because he didn't need. He lived in a pit in the ground.

One day as he sat in his pit one of his loving students said to his teacher "I will get you whatever you want!"

"Anything?" inquired Diogenes.

"Anything!" the student answered emphatically.

"Ok, can you move aside. You are standing in my sunlight..."

Another time all of his writings were burned in a fire. He exclaimed with derision, "Of what value can something be if it can be destroyed by a mere fire."

I love people. Torah. HaShem. Things? Shmings!! I see my connection to things as a remnant of my childhood that I must grow out of. [Ending a sentence with the word "of" is probably against the rules of grammar. Sadly, my high school grammar teacher is dead so nobody really cares anymore. May her neshama have an aliyah.]

Now I just have to convince my yetzer hara that he is being childish...

Not A Prophet

There is an old story of the man who asked his Rabbi what parsha will be read the coming week. The Rabbi replied, "I am a Rabbi, not a prophet."

I am sitting here on far too little sleep and just spent a great deal of time preparing a dvar torah to be said publicly on this weeks parsha. Everything was great until I realized that I got the parsha wrong.

Would I have felt STU-PID:-)!

Thank you Hashem for saving me....

Back to work. Ki Teitzi!!!

Keep Davening Please

Copy of email -

Thank you so much for all your tefillos!

B"H Yoel ben Aliza came out of surgery today and the doctors were happy with how the procedure went. IY"H now, the next step is to see if the mechanism that they implanted works to help him hear! Please continue to have him in your tefillos!

Thank you and Tizku Limitzvos!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Remembering The Borei Everywhere

Today I had to get to Williamsburg and I started on the B train. It is no coincidence that I took that train because I ended up covering the entire alphabet. From train to train I went wandering aimlessly wondering if I would ever arrive at my destination. Thank G-d, I didn't take all the numbers also. Just the letters. I had to leave something for my next excursion. If you are ever bored and are looking for an adventure - follow me around for a day:-).

Back to the B train. I am sitting amongst Goyim, many of whom have mutilated their skin with ugly pictures of whatever and they are just sitting there, ostensibly not pondering their existential emptiness. Another train ride, another day of day of work... They stared aimlessly into space or read stories of evil or dishonest people perpetrating acts of crime or play with hand held toys. I am blessed to have Torah - so I was pondering the question of the nature of tfila after four hours in the morning. Is it considered davening late or does it have the status of tashlumin. That OF COURSE is a machlokes rishonim [maybe for another post]. Then she caught my eye. She. I would rather not see but it is hard to keep ones eyes closed everywhere so one is bound to notice even the "shes" of society. The New York subway system is far removed from the standards of the 402 mehadrin bus line that goes between Bnei Brak and Yerushalayim. I wanted to announce that all women should move to a different car to allow for separate seating but didn't think that it would go over so well...

She was in her early twenties had long black hair and was wearing tight jeans, black nail polish and numerous bracelets. She mixed in well with the very unholy atmosphere in which I found myself. I had no choice though. I had to get to Williamsburg for a very chashuve wedding [MAZEL TOV MUTTI AND ALIZA!!!!] and I had to take 26 trains to get there [the A to the Z - not in that order]. She was reading from a small book that looked quite familiar. I had definitely seen it before. A tehilllim!! She was reading pirkei tehillim. Everyone else was staring into space or reading their filthy newspapers and this girl was reading the timeless prayers of Dovid Hamelech.

Mi ki-amcha yisrael goy echad ba-aretz. I almost cried. Do we judge people by their external appearance? I certainly do! How wrong I am. The ikker, the essence of a person is the neshama and not the klippos of darkness that surround us. Her neshma wants to be close with Hashem. That is a Jew.

I was trying to focus on my sugya with the shmone esrei and the tashlumin but I kept looking at her sefer tehillim. I wanted to say something like - "Good for you!!" but I didn't.

So now I say - "Good for you!!"  We at Mevakesh are not fans of girls wearing pants but this girl reaffirmed that despite the chitzoniyus, a yiddeshe neshma wants to be close to Hashem. There are few things in life that engender closeness like reading pirkei tehillim.

The B train. "B" is obviously a remez to the Borei Olam. A Jew always remembers the Borei Olam. Even on the filthy subway....

Dor Li-dor - The Sequel

With respect to the post "Dor Li-dor", I received an email from a friend who is a fundraiser and he told me that the woman was right in not opening up for me as she doesn't know who I am and there have been stories of terrible things happening when a woman opened the door for a stranger. So I should have been "dan li-kaf zchus". So ladies beware - don't open the door for strangers.

As a post script I emailed her husband twice and received no reply. I will similarly judge him favorably that he wants to give but is inundated with requests.

The point of the post was not to be critical of this woman [or her husband] but to reveal the feelings of the person on the other side of the door and to create heightened sensitivities within us all. In Parshas Mishpatim [22/24] the pasuk says "Im kesef talveh es ani es ha-ani imach" - Which may be translated as "If you lend money to the poor person who is WITH YOU". We have to feel that we are WITH the collecter. Pretend you are him and ask yourself how you would like to be treated and treat him accordingly.

Brachos 21-22 - Tvilas Keri

The gemara discusses at length the issue of a baal keri going to mikva before learning and davening ["tvilas ezra"]. What is the practical halacha? Must one go to mikva after being with his wife or otherwise experiencing a seminal emission?

Strictly speaking - no. As one opinion in the gemara says, the tvila of ezra was nullified.

Howevahhhhhhh ......... some rishinom hold that only with respect to learning there is no longer a need to immerse in a mikva but before davening one must immerse.

Others hold that only with respect to davening one need not go mikva but for learning one must go.

What is almost undeniable is that it is definitely praiseworthy to go to mikva when in a state of keri  as it adds purity to the body and soul.

Being intimate with ones wife is a mitzva of "onah" [imagine how much Hashem loves us - He created such a pleasurable act and actually gives eternal reward for performing it] and one goes from "chayil lichayil" when going to mikva afterwards. In the Vorehand mikva on 91st and West End Ave. they have a rubber ducky. Wearing sunglasses.


PS - For the next while I will not have a Hebrew font as some guy cracked my computer screen and I am using a different computer that speaks only English. I would sue him for damages but whatever I make I will have to pay. I am the guy who cracked it....:-). I forgive me and still love me. May I be zoche to forgive and love others as well.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Yoel Ben Aliza

A 1 year old baby  is having brain surgery tomorrow morning. It's a complicated procedure that up until now has never been done on children..ever.

He was born deaf and this surgery may help him to be able to hear! Please Daven that the surgery go smoothly and successfully and that IY"H if we are zoche for nisim, his transition into the hearing and speaking world should be an easy one!

His name is Yoel ben Aliza. The surgery is scheduled for tomorrow morning.

Tizku Limitzvos!

Going Dor Li'dor

Today was a great day. Every day is a great day:-).

Until this point all of the donations for the Kollel and Yeshiva  have either been given voluntarily or I emailed people and asked for help. I realize that although it is definitely not what I would rather be doing it is the only way to fund a Yeshiva. Baruch Hu Uvaruch Shemo.

Today I decided that since I need an enormous amount of money and most of the people I know who really want to help have very little - I must start knocking on random doors.

It is worse to have pancreatic cancer but it IS quite a shot to my pride. People are generally not happy when someone comes to their door asking for a donation especially given the amount of people who do so. On any given Sunday a dozen people can easily come to someone's door asking for tzedaka. When I come to see someone I want to feel that they are happy to see me. Isn't our task in this world to bring happiness to others?? But a mans gotta do what a mans gotta do. Want Yeshiva - Need Knock!

So I found out that nearby to where I was staying lives a CEO of a huge corporation. HUGE. "Heavy money" as they say in the business. He is a frum man and can use the mitzva gedola of helping fund my Yeshiva before the big Yom HaDin. I nervously approached his door and rang the doorbell. His wife answers on the intercom.

"Who is it?"

"Elchonon Ehrman".

I know that means nothing to her. I might as well have said "Chatzkel Kneidlach".

I then explained that I am collecting for a Yeshiva in Israel and asked if  her husband is home.

No, he isn't and which Yeshiva, was the response.

Herein lies the problem. Nobody heard of Nefesh Yochanan because it does not yet exist. I explained this and that it's going to be a great Yeshiva and that I've taught in other Yeshivos. She was less than enthralled.

She wished me hatzlacha and turned off the intercom and went on with her day.

First knock on a door and I couldn't even get them to open for me.


Interesting: I have had hundreds if not thousands of people come to my front door asking for tzedaka. I have never ever sent any of them away without giving them SOMETHING and trying to make them feel good. I have this WEIRD notion that the person is a human being and would much rather be at comfortably at home like I am and not going door to door asking for handouts. I also feel that it is a ZCHUS to give. With one dollar I earn eternal life and more importantly I become a little bit more like the one whose name is invoked on the dollar bill. Hashem.

So I will keep trying to collect and knock on many more doors because I want to start a Yeshiva where the graduates always feel the pleasure of being able to give and try to make every person feel important.  

I am not angry at this woman. I am actually thrilled. Most of my time I spend doing things I love and enjoy. Learning, talking to people, singing are all FUN-FUN-FUN. However, feeling rejection and disrespected are CRUCIAL for my emotional and spiritual growth. If you are reading this and are wondering if I am being in any way sarcastic - I assure you that I am not. This is great and I look forward to more. Growing is FUN!

I also look forward to meeting people who write fat checks and with a smile assure me that more is to come. This way I will have the Yeshiva for which I dream.

I share this not only for its theraputic value but to encourage others to gladly accept all that life has to offer, both the sweet and primarily the bitter.

Eating maror, we all know is nothing less than a mitzva from the Torah.

And mitzvos - we do with simcha.

Hashem compensated me by setting up a shiur that I delivered later in a beautiful home which was attended by about fifteen pure neshamos who wanted to hear Dvar Hashem. Hashem is the BEST!:-) [The girl who hosted the shiur is great, too].

With much love to all - especially the unseen wife of the CEO with whom had I had that intercom conversation that CERTAINLY served as a kappara and erased some sins from my record.

I remain faithfully yours:-)

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Brachos 21a - Did Tosfos Miss An Explicit Gemara?

R. Huna said: If a man goes into a synagogue and finds the congregation saying the Tfillah, if he can commence and finish before the reader 

reaches Modim, he may say the Tefillah,  but otherwise he should not say it. R. Joshua b. Levi says: If he can commence and finish before the reader reaches the Kedusha,  he should say the Tefillah, but otherwise he should not say it.

What is the ground of their difference? One authority [Rav Huna] held that a man praying by himself does say the Kedusha, while the other [Rav Yehoshua ben Levi] holds that he does not.
Rashi [ד"ה רב הונא] explains that according to Rav Huna a man davening by himself can say Kedusha so it doesn't matter if he doesn't finish in time to say kedusha with everyone else. However [here Rashi surprises] if he doesn't finish in time for Modim he still may say it on his own. The problem is that if he is still saying shmone esrei when everyone else says Modim he will not bow with everyone else and it appears as if he is denying haShem his due honor.
So we see that the issue is not the "Modim Dirabbanan" [the Modim that the tzibbur says when the chazan says his Modim] but the bowing.
Tosfos [ד"ה עד] agrees with Rashi and adds that the problem can't be that he will miss Modim Dirabanan because there is no real source for this tfilla in the gemara.
The Maharsha can simply not believe his eyes. He points to an explicit gemara in Sotah [40a] that mandates that we must say Modim Dirabanan, so how can Tosfos say that there is no source for it in the gemara??
[The Tzlach answers that the gemara means that the people said Modim Dirababan but it wasn't instituted by chazal as is borne out by the language of the gemara העם מה הם אומרים]. 
My teacher Rabbi Yaakov Homnick Shlita [Marbeh Bracha Simman 48] posits that Rashi and Tosfos learn that there are two separate reasons why we bow at modim. 1] We bow as part of the tfilla as we do for the bracha of avos. There we don't find that the tzibbur bows with the chazan. 2] A SPECIAL bowing that obligates the tzibbur which is not merely a detail of hilchos tfilla [as the bowing during avos is]. The bowing we do during Aleinu in Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur is an extension of and under the same rubric as this special halacha.
Now we can answer the Maharsha's question on Tosfos [how can they say that Modim Dirabanan has no source in the gemara when we have an explicit one in Sotah]. Tosfos waas well aware of the gemara in Sotah. What Tosfos means is that we have no source in Shas that there is a SPECIAL, STRINGENT law from Chazal that one must say Modim together with bowing that would obligate one to finish shmone esrei before the chazan reaches that point. The gemara in Sotah implies that Modim Dirabanan was said as a regular tfilla but not a special obligation to bow and say the tfilla at the same time which would classify it together with Kedusha in its level of stringency. [It seems that  this answer is along the same lines as the Tzlach we mentioned in brackets, namely that it was the people who were strict about this tfilla and bowing but not chazal. Or maybe he means that Chazal decreed the bowing as a detail in hilchos tfilla and it was the people who elevated the bowing to its special status. See there for more].   

How To Be like Moshe Rabbeinu

Someone once asked the Mashgiach of Lakewood, Rav Nosson Wachtfogel ztz"l how to merit yiras shomayim. He started reading the famous letter of the Ramban תתנהג תמיד לדבר כל דבריך בנחת לכל אדם ובכל עת ובזה תנצל מן הכעס - Speak softly to all people at all times and you will be saved from anger, then תעלה על לבך מדת הענוה - you will have the middah of humility. The pasuk in Mishlei promises that humility will lead to yiras shomayim - עקב ענוה יראת השם.


You work a little bit on your anger and you have "shychus" to Moshe Rabbeinu's trait of humility and yiras shomayim which is so huge that the Torah was given for its sake, as it says with respect to maamad  har sinai - למען תהיה יראתי על פניכם. All for fear of heaven.

Brachos 21a - Birkas Hatorah And Birkas Hamazon

The gemara seeks a source for the mitzva to bentch after eating and finds one. The gemara then seeks a source for the mitzva of making a bracha before learning Torah and finds one in the pasuk כי שם השם אקרא הבו גודל לאלהנו. The gemara then attempts to prove with a kal vachomer that a bracha should be made BEFORE eating and AFTER learning which the gemara then rejects.

What requires understanding is why is it axiomatic that a bracha should be made AFTER eating and BEFORE learning and it is a question whether a bracha should be made BEFORE eating and AFTER learning.

There are two reasons why we eat. 1] The momentary pleasure of eating. 2] The energy it gives us to fulfill our tasks in this world. Making a bracha AFTER eating is an appreciation of the benefit we will receive AFTER we finish eating. Making a bracha before we eat would be on the pleasure we derive from the food. The primary reason we eat is for the benefit we receive after eating while the momentary pleasure we enjoy is only peripheral. Thus a bracha is mandated AFTER we eat and the bracha before we eat is a question.

There are two reasons we learn. 1] In order to know what to do. גדול תלמוד שמביא לידי מעשה.
2] To know Hashem as we learn and not necessarily for any future benefit. Making a bracha prior to learning shows that the main reason we learn is to get to know Hashem as we learn and not for any future benefit. That is the primary reason we learn. The source of the derivation is כי שם השם אקרא - When we learn we are calling out the name of Hashem, we are finding out what He is all about כביכול. If we would make a bracha only after learning that would show that the main reason we learn is in order to know what to do and that is not the reality.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Brachos 21b

The gemara says that if a person goes to shul and finds them davening, the rule is that if he can start and finish before the chazan gets to kedushah, he should do so.

What about a person who davens a long shmone esrei or in a shul where they daven very quickly and even if he starts at the same time as everyone else he will not be finished by the time they chazan reaches kedusha - should he start before everyone else so that he can say kedusha? Normally one is not allowed to start before everyone else but maybe here it is different because he is doing it in order to say kedusha.

See Piskei Tshuvos Page 822 for a discussion and sources.

Brachos 20 - How To Avoid The עין הרע

R. Yochanan was accustomed to go and sit at the gates of the bathing place. He said: When the daughters of Israel come up from bathing they look at me and they have children as handsome as I am. The   Rabbis said to him: Is not the Master afraid of the evil eye? — He replied: I come from the seed of Joseph, over whom the evil eye has no power, as it is written, Joseph is a fruitful vine, a fruitful vine above the eye,  and R. Abbahu said with regard to this, do not read 'ale 'ayin, but 'ole 'ayin'.
R. Judah son of R. Hanina derived it from this text: And let them multiply like fishes [veyidgu] in the midst of the earth.  Just as the fishes [dagim] in the sea are covered by water and the evil eye has no power over them, so the evil eye has no power over the seed of Joseph.
This gemara teaches us how to avoid the damage of the ayin hara. The way the ayin hara works is that people have an affect on each other. We are all influenced by our surroundings. So if someone has negative feelings towards his fellow it can cause harm. There are two ways to avoid this.
One way is to have such elevated desires, to have such lofty ambitions, that nobody can affect you. That is what the gemara means by עולי עין - a person can be ABOVE the עין הרע.
The second way is to be hidden from your surroundings. To be deep. To be a "nistar". That is the what the gemara means when it says that we should be hidden like fish.
עין איה

[Note: Right after I wrote this post I went to daven mincha at the Young Israel of West Hempstead. After mincha they honored me and invited me to say a dvar torah before maariv. I was completely unprepared but I had this on my mind so I said over this piece [with about 14 jokes interspersed. My favorite was when I said that in order to avoid the ayin hara, ashkenazim say "knain a hara". Something about a dog. People didn't get it, so I said "Canine" - get it?] Good thing I read the blog....:-)]

Get A Job

Rav Meir Shapiro was going to Berlin to raise money for his Yeshiva, Yeshivas Chachmei Lublin. Before he left, the Gerrer Rebbe the Imrei Emes told him the following: The Mishna says טוב תורה עם דרך ארץ it is important to learn AND work. However, the halacha is that if two brothers die because of bris milah, the third brother is not given a bris because of pikuach nefesh. So we are מבטל a mitzva from the Torah that involves a chiyuv kares in order to save a life. In the same way, so many people "die" [spiritually] when they go to work that we are מבטל the mishna and don't send our children to work. It wasn't clear to Rav Shapiro why the Imrei Emes was telling him this.

When Rav Shapiro arrived in Berlin someone asked him two questions: 1] Why do the boys in Poland sit in Yeshiva and learn and don't go to work. 2] Why do you Eastern European Jews believe that your Rabbis have ruach hakodesh?

Rav Shapiro happily replied that he has one answer for both questions and told him what the Imrei Emes had clairvoyantly told him before he left.

זכות הצדיקים יעזור ויגן ויושיע!!

Brachos 21a

Rav Moshe Soloveitchik once came late to davening and when he reached גאל ישראל before the shmona esrei of shachris the tzibbur started mussaf. He debated with himself as to whether he should daven shachris by himself or mussaf with the tzibbur. There are two issues. 1] Does the ענין of being    מסמיך גאולה לתפילה apply to mussaf as well [in which case maybe he should say mussaf with the tzibbur] or only to shachris and maariv. 2] Does one fulfill the mitzva of tfilla bi-tzibbur if davening at the same time that the tzibbur davens a different tfilla [in which case even if he davens shachris it would be considered tfilla bi-tzibbur].

He decided to daven ....... mussaf! [Shocker]

He felt that it is important to be מסמיך גאולה לתפילה in one tfilla - regardless of whether it is shachris or mussaf.

His father Rav Chaim agreed with him but added that even if he would have davened shachris it would still have been considered tfilla bi-tzibbur. He proved this from the gemara [21a] that says that if  one already davened and found the tzibbur davening, if he can be מחדש דבר he should daven and if not, he shouldn't. Said Reb Chaim: We are talking about a person who already davened his tfillas chova [obligatory tfilla] and now he wants to daven a tfillas nedava [voluntary tfilla] with the tzibbur that is davening a tfillas chova. So we see that it is considered tfilla bi-tzibbur even if he is davening a different tfilla than everyone else.

ספר זכרון אש תמיד תקמב

We must note that the Magen Avraham [סי' צ] writes that it's NOT considered tfilla bi-tzibbur. See the sefer Piskei Tshuvos ח"א עמ' תשא for more sources on this interesting shyla.

Love and blessings:-)  


I thank all those who came last night and particularly to A.A. who graciously hosted. I hope we are all a little bit more ruchani today than we were yesterday:-).


Sweetest brothers!!

Some very good friends organized a shabbaton this shabbos in West Hempstead. Please come and add to the ruach! We will be able to find accomodations for those who need. Please spread the word.

Brachos 20a

Pursuant to the two previous posts...

"Said R. Papa to Abaye: How is it that for the former generations miracles were performed
and for us miracles are not performed?

He replied: The former generations used to be ready to sacrifice their lives for the sanctity of [God's] name [קידוש השם]; we do not sacrifice our lives for the sanctity of [God's] name. There was the case of R. Adda b. Ahaba who saw a heathen woman wearing a red head-dress in the street [considered immodest garb worn by prostitutes], and thinking that she was an Israelite woman, he rose and tore it from her. It turned out that she was a heathen woman, and they fined him four hundred zuz. He said to her: What is your name. She replied: Mathun. Mathun, he said to her: that makes four hundred zuz."

[The Aramaic for two hundred is mathan. Mathun also means 'deliberate'; had he been less rash he would have saved himself 400 zuz, there is here a double play on words.] (Soncino Trans.)

Asked Rav Soloveitchik: On the surface, this is NOT a Kiddush Hashem but a Chilul Hashem. People are going to say that Jews are NUTS! Zealots!
He explained that this gemara helps us redefine Kiddush Hashem. Kiddush Hashem is NOT necessarily doing what finds favor in the eyes of the Gentiles but what finds favor in the eyes of Hashem. So even an act which the Gentiles will interpret negatively is a Kiddush Hashem if consistent with the will of Hashem.

There is more to say but we will leave off with that for now:-).


Regarding the previous post I received the following email:

Regarding your post regarding modes of women's dress in the religious community- you wrote as follows:

"I don't blame the husbands for being attracted - they are doing what comes naturally. But despite the fact that I don't blame them, their relationship with their own wives is compromised. "
While I agree that there is a natural tendency towards such actions, I don't think that it is proper to not place blame on the husband (nor do I think that is what you meant to say).

It might pay to clarify this point.

Clarify I will.

Men should NOT be looking if possible and when absolutely necessary their focus should not be on what their eyes shouldn't see. Our eyes naturally alight upon what interests us. Whenever I walk into a house my eyes automtically gravitate to the bookshelf because that is what interests me. A person can control his focus and actually see something but not notice it because he isn't interested. Another woman's externalities should interest nobody. IF a man does notice he should then try to immediately distract himself with other more pure thoughts such as "do we say מגו להוציא" or start humming "IM LOOOOOO AAAA-AAAAALEEEEEHHHHHHH, IM LO AAAAA-AAAALEEEEHHHH ESSSSS YERUSHALA-AAAYIIIIM, AAAA-AAAALLLL ROOOOOOSSSHHHH SIMCHASIIIII-IIIIII, AL A-ROSH AL RO-OOOSH SIMCHASIIIIII" or anything else that distracts him.

Yes, it is man's nature to be attracted but we are called upon to overcome our base instincts.

לא עשה כן לכל גוי ומשפטים בל ידעום!!

Love and blessings:-)

After writing this post I started learning the Sfas Emes on this weeks parsha and in the very first piece he explains the pasuk that says שופטים ושוטרים תתן לך בכל שעריך אשר השם אלקיך נותן לך - Judges and policemen you should place for yourself in all of your gates that Hashem gives you.

Says the Holy Rebbe: להיות שופט ושוטר משגיח על כל הרגשה מפתיחת הרצון והחשק שבלב. שזה נקרא שער ופתח בפנימיות האדם יהיה רק לה' בלבד ושלא להיות ברגילות תוך הטבע רק בישוב הדעת. והאמת כי כפי ישוב הדעת והידיעה שהוא רק ממנו יתברך כמו כן זוכה להיות נפתח לו השער

... to be a judge and policemen [not over others but over oneself] on every feeling of will and desire in the heart. This is called a "gate" and opening in the depths of a person that should be soley for Hashem and we should not follow our base nature rather we should be thoughful and at ease. The reality is that to the extent that we are conscious of the fact that everything is from Hashem - the more the gates [of holiness] are opened up.

Yes sweetest friends - we can be policemen over ourselves.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Looking For More Spirit And Less Flesh

Something that has been troubling me lately....

I don't like giving mussar, especially not to women. How can I admonish a person whom I don't [due to my incurable maleness] fully understand. Nevertheless, I will share with you what is so troubling to me and hope that nobody gets unnecessarily offended..

Apparently, there is a yetzer hara that some girls have to wear immodest clothing [I emphasize 'some' because others girls have no interest in wearing anything but the most modest clothing]. In shul on Shabbos, at simchas etc. one notices many revealed knees, tight outfits, very short sleeves and all around provocative outfits. [I refer everyone to a story from today's daf (brachos chof). Maybe more on that another time].

This is troubling for a number of reasons.

1] Married men become attracted to other people's wives. That is a breach of the most sacred bond we have on earth. I don't blame the husbands for being attracted - they are doing what comes naturally. But despite the fact that I don't blame them, their relationship with their own wives is compromised. So a women wears an eye-catching outfit to shul in order to DAVEN [how ironic] and she becomes responsible for adultery in the mind of a strange man and SHE WILL NEVER KNOW. That being the case she can't even do teshuva. This man will then return home and feel less connected to his own wife. How sad.

2] It is assur. The pasuk adjures ולא תתורו אחרי לבבכם ואחרי עיניכם which includes the prohibition against looking at such women. So a guy who would never eat pork because the Torah forbids it instead commits thousand and thousands of prohibitions of ולא תתורו.

3] It cheapens women. I work very hard on respecting people for their internal world and when they put their flesh on display they seem to be saying "Forget my soul - look at my body". This makes me want to cry.

4] I sometimes see men who are dressed completely like bnei torah and their wives are wearing tight mini-skirts. Do they approve??  How do they make brachos in their presence? One is not allowed to make a bracha in the presence of an immodestly clad woman. Sometimes I will see a Charedi man dressed in the garb of the Polish nobleman of yesteryear while the woman walking next to him [ostensibly his wife] will be dressed as if she just walked out of the fanciest boutique in Paris and while strictly speaking she is covering everything she must, the spirit of the laws of tzniyus is being violated. How odd and disturbing. Only men are supposed to wear "traditional garb" and a woman can wear whatever she wants??

Another related phenomenon is the public display of affection between couples. This takes something so beautiful and holy, namely the physical union of two people who love each other and strive to forge a complete unity, and turns it into a trivial show for the outside world. If they really can't keep their hands off each other then they have serious problems and should either seek therapy or realize that it is not becoming of human beings to act like animals. If they ARE capable of controlling themselves then why can't they wait to do the lovey-dovey stuff in private. It is so much more special when everybody else isn't watching.

I just wish there would be less show of flesh in this world and more spirit. It would really improve our quality of life. 

Would appreciate feedback as always. מכל מלמדי השכלתי

Brachos 15a

There is a machlokes in the gemara if one is yotzei if he didn't enunciate all the words of shma properly [קרא ולא דקדק באותיותיה]. The Rambam rules that ideally one should be מדקדק באותיותיה but if he didn't he is still yotzei.

The Rambam writes [hilchos krias shma 1/4] that one says the pasuk of shma and then says ברוך שם כבוד מלכותו quietly and then says the rest of shma  " כדרכו" - in its way. What is the Rambam telling us with the word כדרכו?? He would have been perfectly well understood had he just said that after ברוך שם you read the rest of shma!

The Brisker Rov wondered if ברוך שם which is not from the chumash is included in the exhortation to read with   דקדוק אותיות

MAYBE the Rambam is telling us that it is not necessary. Only the REST of shma must be read כדרכו  i.e. בדקדוק אותיות but not ברוך שם.

The Tur says that psukei d'zimra and shmona esrei must be read בדקדוק אותיות. The Beis Yosef cites the Radak who says that whenever reading Tanach it should be done with דקדוק אותיות.

It would seem to emerge that according to the Tur even ברוך שם must be read properly just as the rest of davening must. However according to the Radak the din of דקדוק אותיות applies specifically to Tanach and thus ברוך שם [which is not a pasuk] would not be included in the obligation to read בדקדוק אותיות.

גבורת יצחק עמוד רב

What do you think??

Monday, August 20, 2012

The latest issue of klal perspectives on pre-marriage and marriage, here. Should be of interest to many. Still not as interesting as brachos daf chof....

Ahhhhh Torah, how delightful you are!

A favorite paragraph from this edition -

 Parents-in-law: please stay away. Work on your own relationship instead of meddling in your child’s. Countless marriages get dissolved, or are at least soured, by in-laws who offer free advice. Parents need to stay away and children need to have the strength to tell their parents, “thanks, but no thanks.”

Brachos 15a

Tosfos [ד"ה ורבי יהודה מכשיר בקטן] ask why the רבנן rule that a קטן may not be מוציא a גדול in the reading of the megilla which is a חיוב דרבנן. With respect to ברכת המזון we know that a קטן may be מוציא a גדול who ate a shiur di-rabonon [i.e. he wasn't completely satisfied because he ate a smaller amount of food such as a כזית or a כביצה] because a קטן who is מחויב מדרבנן may be מוציא a גדול who is מחויב מדרבנן. Why then is the reading of the megilla different and the רבנן say that a קטן may NOT be מוציא a gadol?

Answer Tosfos - וי"ל שאני ברכת המזון שהיא חומרא יתירתא יותר מדאורייתא ובקל נפטרים ממנה כדאמרינן לקמן והם החמירו על עצמם עד כזית עד כביצה
Tosfos explain that ברכת המזון is fundamentally different than the reading of the megilla because מדאורייתא one is only obligated to bentch if he was fully satisfied and it is only a rabbinic stringency that requires one to bentch if he ate a כזית or כביצה. Thus, a קטן may be מוציא a gadol on a מדרבנן level.

BY GOLLY!!! Every מצוה מדרבנן is an extra stringency and מדורייתא one is not מחויב and yet a קטן may not be מוציא a גדול - so why is bentching different??

Meaning that after the answer - we are left with the question....

I would love to discuss this more but the responsibilities of life and Yeshivas Nefesh Yochanan beckon:-). I will let my intelligent, learned readers ponder the issue and reach their own conclusions.   

Be Happy

Do you want to be happy?

Really happy??

Really really happy???

Think about your present reality, with all of its blessings and challenges. Circumstances that create within you joy and circumstances that engender sadness or frustration. People whom you love and people whom you just can't stand.

Ok - that should take a little bit of time.



Do this exercise daily. When you are done, you may move on and try to improve your lot. Just because you embrace the reality of this second doesn't obligate you to remain there forever.

Now you should be happy....:-)




Others are invited as well to add spirit.


Please rsvp at


Please pass on!

Think Of Yourself Less

I thank R.Y.A. for sending me this article from the Boston Gloibe [sic] by Jeff Jacoby.


HUMILITY, IT IS SOMETIMES SAID, doesn't mean thinking less of yourself. It means thinking of yourself less.

For Carli Lloyd I'd guess that's a distinction without a difference. After Lloyd scored the goals that lifted the US Olympic women's soccer team to a 2-1 victory over Japan in the gold medal match at London's Wembley Stadium last week, thinking of herself less was decidedly not on her agenda.
"When someone tells me I can't do something, I'm going to always prove them wrong," Lloyd bragged to an NBC interviewer. "That's what a champion is all about and that's what I am -- a champion!"

Once upon a time it was considered low-class for athletes to be so smug and self-adoring. Winners of championships and gold medals were expected to be gracious, to show a little modesty -- to enjoy the acclaim their splendid achievements had earned, without becoming boastful jerks in the process. At times the taboo extended even to the impression of arrogance: For merely failing to tip his cap to fans at Fenway Park, Ted Williams was thought by many to be haughty and too full of himself.

Of course many gifted athletes are still models of grace and good manners. But as viewers of the recent Olympics were too often reminded, the egotists who aren't not only pay no penalty, they are showered with attention and air time.

"I'm now a legend," crowed Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt, who won gold medals in the men's 100- and 200-meter races at the London Games. "I'm also the greatest athlete to live." Humility? What's that? Well before the Olympics opened, Bolt was swaggering for the press, telling reporters in June that the London Games would make him a "living legend."

Michael Phelps steered clear of Bolt's spotlight-seeking antics, but he too reached for singularly immodest language after winning his 22nd Olympic swimming medal. "You know what, I've been able to become the best swimmer of all time," he said, describing his successful drive to become the Michael Jordan of swimming. "I did everything I wanted to." Team USA basketball star Kobe Bryan, meanwhile, publicly insisted not only that he was "the best post player on this team, period," but that there was nothing he could learn from his teammates.

In some quarters, this flood of self-worship is applauded as healthy and honest. "The most satisfying part of Bolt—even more than his brilliant runs—is how much he demolishes the myth that the world wants humble athletes," writes sports columnist Jason Gay in The Wall Street Journal. Those who object to Bolt's strutting braggadocio, Gay suggests, are "the kind of people who hate pizza and scream at dogs."

Heroism and humility: "It's not courage. I did what anyone would have done."

But even in a society fixated on fame and self-esteem, there is nothing admirable about anyone whose first instinct is to sing his own praises. To be sure, showboating narcissists can go far in the world. They may amass money or power or star in their own reality show. Yet an exaggerated sense of self-importance is not the same as greatness. No one can be great who can't be humble, and humility begins with the understanding that it's not all about you.

It is often remarked that recipients of the nation's highest military decoration invariably insist that they don't deserve any glory. Sergeant 1st Class Leroy Petry, a US Army Ranger, last summer became only the second living soldier since the Vietnam War to receive the Medal of Honor. During a harrowing firefight in Afghanistan, he had saved the lives of at least two men in his unit by lunging for a grenade before it could kill them. It exploded in his hand, catastrophically amputating it.

Yet Petry doesn't trumpet his heroism or brag about his courage. "It's not courage," he says. "It was love. I looked at the two men next to me that day and they were no different than my own children or my wife. I did what anyone would have done." Usain Bolt and Carli Lloyd flaunt their Olympic gold and tell the world how great they are. Sgt. Petry, humbly deflecting the spotlight, comes closer to greatness than they ever will.

An old Jewish tradition teaches that God chose to reveal the Ten Commandments on lowly Mount Sinai, not a soaring peak, in order to link greatness with humility. None of us is so amazing that he couldn't stand to be more humble. Self-esteem has its place, but it also has its limits. Even in the age of Facebook – even on the Olympic medal podium -- swelled heads aren't very attractive.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Chesed And Yirah

Chesed is seeing that there is someone out there besides yourself.

Yiras Hashem is similarly seeing that another reality exists besides yourself.

[Alei Shor Vol. 1 Page 95]

Shoes Back On

Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz said that for him the difference between "bein-hazmanim" [intersession] and during the zman was not in the amount he learned. He learned with tremendous hasmada and diligence [which is like the name Dov Ber or Aryeh Leib - sorta saying the same thing twice] regardless of the time period. The difference was that during bein hazmanim he learned with his slippers on for additional comfort. Once the zman began - shoes back on....

Those men who are fortunate enough to be in Yeshiva - SHOES BACK ON!!!:-)

AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!! ROSH CHODESH ELUL. How CRAZZZILY exciting. I personally am not in Yeshiva right now but we are opening up one year from today אם ירצה השם. In the meantime I will try to remain connected to what is real and not let this עלמא דשיקרא becloud my vision. [Just keeping myself busy practicing the line again and again - "Would you like to have the extreme good fortune of contributing ten million dollars to our fledgling institution." Hope it works...] If anybody ever sees me deviating from the path of truth even a hairsbreadth - please tell me!!:-)


אלול ראשי תיבות - אני לכם ואתם לי!!

Saturday, August 18, 2012


1] A person who has the time and talent to help me create a website for the yeshiva in a short amount of time.

2] Someone to host a meeting for 12th graders in the five towns sometime in the next two weeks, preferably someone with a 12th grader themselves.

3] Moshiach ben Dovid.

[If Mordechai ben Dovid would do a fundraising concert that would also be good but not as good as Moshiach. On that note - Is there SOME SOURCE that a wedding has to have his song "Someday we will all be together" played towards the end while all the boys lock arms [only the boys because most of the adults have left long ago - a subject for another post maybe ברצות השם]? There must be. Because every wedding has it. At mine they didn't. In retrospect, I don't really savor the memory of my wedding. I mean, I liked the girl and all, but the notion of everybody dancing around me and me dancing around myself as it were, is not gratifying. It is far more spiritually uplifting to try to bring joy to another human being than it is to try to bring joy to yourself. I am not planning to ever get married again. In about two years I will be making a wedding for my daughter ברצות השם. I hope you can all come. Then we hopefully experience a fulfillment of the unforgettable words -

"Someeeeeeedaaaaayyyy weeeee willll alllllllllll beeeeeeee togeeeeee---eeeeeeether.
Somedaaaaaaay we'll be sheeeeeeltered and waaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrm

Never will we have to -  expreeeess any feeeeeeear
Our scars and our wounds will, disappeeeeeeear

Avraham and Yitzchok will be there to greeeee----eeeeeeet uuuuus

Yaakov and his sons will stand by and smiiiiii-iiiiile

Moooooooshe Rabbeinuuuu, will lead us once agaaaaaaaaaiiiiiiiiiin
in Yerushalayim - B'Ezras Hasheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeem"]

Do you enjoy reading these as much as I enjoy writing them? I hope...

Love always,


Woman's Shiur

8:00pm Tuesday night  - 50 Overlook Terrace, Washington Heights. 2nd floor.

Topic: Emunah In Challenging Times

Admission Fee: A Smile [Two smiles for preferred seating]


Friday, August 17, 2012



Others are invited as well to add spirit.


Please rsvp at


Please pass on!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Quote Of The Day


Winston Churchill

Awakening The Holiness In All Languages

Rav Kook Kovetz Aleph - 887. Translated R' Chanan Morrison 
In an age when we witness a powerful attraction to the study of languages and science, it is impossible to fight against all who are drawn towards them. Indeed, the times and the signs of the day indicate the necessity [for these studies]. The inner righteous, with their mystical service, come to the rescue at this hour. With nobility of spirit, they open up the blocked conduits and establish the mystical secret of God in "His studies." These studies encompass all that is in the universe, especially that which advances the world's progress.
The righteous awaken the holiness hidden in each language. They utilize the power of Joseph, who incorporated all [of the physical world] with the Hebrew letter hey.1They apply the power of the Divine word from Sinai, which illuminates with an ever-increasing light. "Each Divine command split up into seventy languages" (Shabbat 88b).
Similarly, we find that Moses explained the Torah be'er heitev, "very clearly" (Deut. 27:8).2Moses uncovered the essence of good in every language, the inner force that introduced it from holy Majesty. The language itself is thus clarified and refined. Then we may present a "language of clarity" to all nations, so that "all will be able to call out in the name of God" (Zephania 3:9).

1In Psalms 81:6, Joseph's name is spelled with an extra letter, the letter hey. "As a testimony for Jehoseph... when he went forth over the land of Egypt; I understood a language that I had not known." According to the Midrash in Sotah 36b, the angel Gabriel gave Joseph the letter heyfrom God's Name so that Joseph would be able to learn all seventy languages.
The Sages in Menachot 29b wrote that God created this world with the letter hey.
2 The Talmud in Sotah 32a explains be'er heitevto mean that the Torah was translated to seventy languages.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Brachos 13a - ברוך שם כבוד מלכותו

The magen avraham [61] writes that if one doesn't say ברוך שם כבוד מלכותו after shma, he need not go back and say it. The Levush rules that he must go back [to the beginning of shma as is implicit from the chaye adam in klal 21 or at least to baruch shem]. The Biur Halacha there proves that baruch shem is not critical from the mishna that says היה קורא בתורה והגיע זמן המקרא אם כוון לבו יצא which implies that all he read was what is actually in the chumash [which excludes baruch shem].

However one can argue that baruch shem IS critical but it just need not be said in its proper place and may be said after completing shma [and the din that shma may not be read out of order is referring only to what is actually written in the psukim and not baruch shem]. According to this, there is no diyuk from the mishna that baruch shem isn't absolutely necessary.

[גבורת יצחק עמוד קסח] 

This is an interesting topic worth revisiting. Now I must go daven.....:-)

Love and blessings!

Brachos 13a - What Type Of Kavana?

The Mishna at the beginning of the second perek says that if one was reading the Torah and the time for shma arrived אם כוון לבו - if he has "kavana", he is yotzei.

The mishna doesn't tell us what type of kavana is necessary. That is what makes things fun....

In the hava amina  of the gemara the "kavana" to which the mishna is referring is to be yotzei the mitzva of krias shma and proves from here that one needs to have kavana to fulfill mitzvos in order to be yotzei - מצות צריכות כוונה. It could be that according to this understanding the mishna chose a case where the person is reading the Torah to teach that if one does a mitzva with an additional purpose [besides to fulfill the mitzva] he is still yotzei [as the mishna brura writes 60/9]. Thus, in an instance where he intended both to fulfill his obligation and to read the Torah he is yotzei.


The shulchan aruch [ס"ס ס"ה] writes that one who reads shma and doesn't have kavana for the pasuk of shma yisrael, isn't yotzei. The mishna brura explains that kavana here is NOT referring to kavana to fulfill his obligation but kavana to accept upon himself עול מלכות שמים שמים which is absolutely required for the first pasuk of shma yisrael. If this is true then what is the proof of the gemara from the words אם כוון לבו that מצות צריכות כוונה  - that one needs kavana to fulfill his obligation. Maybe when the mishna says אם כוון לבו it is referring to kavana to accept עול מלכות שמים??

וצריך עיון

[גבורת יצחק עמוד קסח]

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Contact Info.

My cell phone number here is 917 913 4416. Home is 212 799 1124.
If you think that I can help you or you can help me please call.

Brachos 13a: The Language Of Shma And What Is Language

There is a machlokes between Rebbi and the Chachomim. Rebbi holds that shma must be said as written in Hebrew. The Chachomim argue and say that ANY LANGUAGE is fine for shma.

The Chofetz Chaim in his Biur Halacha [62/2] is mechadesh that according to Chachomim "any language" doesn't mean any language! It means a language spoken by the locals. So English is great for shma in the US [or possibly in England - I heard that they speak Engish there as well....]  and French in France but not English in France [unless most Frenchman speak English] or French in the US. The difference is that Hebrew is inherently a language while other languages are not. This means that the SPIRITUAL ESSENCE of a chair is expressed by the word כסא and the spiritual essence of a table by the word שלחן. In other languages the words are just sounds that were agreed upon to represent any given object. If I want you to know that I am referring to a spherical object used in games I will say the word "ball" but there is no inherent connection between the word "ball" and the ball itself. In contrast, the word כדור expresses [to those who understand hidden wisdom] what a ball really is. [This is where the lines between halacha, kaballa and philosophy become blurred]. So if the locals don't speak the language then it cannot be called "language".

This is a huge chiddush [which is a yeshivishe way of saying that it is problematic to say such a thing]. A simple reading of the text indicates that shma can be read in any language and changing that to mean the local language would require strong proof which is not offered by the Biur Halacha.

Rav Hutner asked a couple of strong questions on the Chofetz Chaim. One was that if he is correct that means that the Kohens declaration to the Sotah woman and Vidui Maaser which can be done in any language [Rambam third perek of Sotah and eleventh perek of maaser sheni] in the Beis Hamikdash can really only be done in the local language. It seems that the gemara is telling us the exact opposite: Despite the fact that people come from all over the place to the Beis Hamikdash, ANY LANGUAGE is sufficient to properly say the declarations.

Rav Hutner asked his questions on the Biur Halacha to Rav Chaim Ozer who instructed him to ask the Chofetz Chaim himself when he passed through Radin. He followed Rav Chaim Ozer's instructions and the Chofetz Chaim replied "I wrote that halacha after I learned the sugya well."

See the Sefer Zikkaron in memory of Rav Hutner רח - רט and the Sefer Toras Hanazir [1/8] and where I delved deeply into this topic Bs"d here.


Stories from my journey...

When I checked in my luggage, I asked for an aisle seat. Now, usually I get either an aisle or a few open seats next to each other whether I ask or not. But this time something possessed me to ask. The lady answered הטיסה מפוצצת - אין מושב במעבר. Literally - The flight is "blown up" [idiomatically it means 'full'], there are no aisle seats. I am not sure that one should use the word מפוצצת when talking about a flight in our crazy times. I am glad I am not Amelia Bedelia, otherwise I would have taken it literally and dropped out of the flight [if I took THAT literally I'd also be in trouble:-)].

So she makes a phone call and says something about "Ellen Char-less" [ the way she pronounced the name on my passport - maybe checking if I have a criminal record or have been caught trying to jump out of an airplane] and hangs up and tells me that I have a special seat right next to the escape door which means as much leg room as I want. Only a sardine would be able to stretch out on an airplane [in economy - chashuve roshei yeshiva usually fly economy. That's what I was trying to convince myself anyway] but I was fortunate and got this special seat for which people normally pay a lot extra. AHHHHHHHHHHHHH!! GE-SHMAK!

I normally assume that secular Israelis don't like charedim. From a secular perspective, the charedim look funny, dress funny, talk a funny language and don't serve in the IDF or work. Well, I often see that it's not true. Many don't feel any enmity towards charedim at all. Case in point: I look pretty charedi [and arguably - pretty] yet she did me this huge chesed and got me [without my even asking] this very comfortable seat.

[I will skip the part about realizing that I had forgotten my hat in the airport after I started walking in the tunnel to the airplane. Next time a certain friend tells me I am absent-minded I must remember to agree. Happy ending [in modern Hebrew they say "heppyend"] - I retrieved it.]

When I sat down there was a family behind me that looked very 'settler'. The husband was a big tall man dressed very simply, with short hair, peyos, a huge knit yarmulke, tzitzis out etc. [you know the look]. The wife was also dressed simply, wearing a tichel, long skirt etc. [ditto]. They also had, I think, three very small children [ages three and under, with at least ten more on the way]. At the outset he apologized for any trouble his children may cause. I assured him that it's OK. Hitler killed a million and a half Jewish children. Every time we see a Jewish child we should kiss him or her and dance. עוצו עצה ותופר דברו דבר ולא יקום כי עמנו אל - They tried to destroy us and Hashem foiled their wicked plans. [I didn't tell him the Hitler part. Just that kids are great and that it's fine]. The kids did make a little noise but unfortunately I didn't get up to dance with them. Hard to dance on an airplane. Plus, sometimes stewardesses can be VERY uptight. [They have a tough job though so I should be more understanding]. I LOVE children and hope you all have lots. I hope I do, too. AMEN!

Before the flight a lady sitting in my close proximity started BAWLING. The stewardess tried to calm her down. She related that her father passed away a month ago and that it had nothing to do with the flight. The stewardess kept offering her water and tissues. I'm thinking "She doesn't want water or tissues. She wants her father." This lady brought a book she read during the flight written by a former atheist ["former" because he is dead and now a believer:-)]. I wanted to tell her that if she wants to feel better about her father, believing that there is no G-d won't do the trick. Maybe I should have...

During the flight I was overwhelmed with exhaustion so I put my head down and fell into a deep sleep, until... I was woken up by a stewardess who insisted on serving me breakfast. I guess she looked at my very thin frame and decided that I need food more than I need sleep. I beg to differ. But it was too late.

I have really changed. So many people around me were watching the Olympics and I could not have cared less. When I was a kid I was really into it. Now - the size of the nail clipper used by the Italian Foreign Minister wouldn't interest me less. Men in their undergarments having a race. SO WHAT! I KNEW what was going to happen. They were going to run around a track as fast as they could and one fellow was going to finish first followed by another who was going to finish second followed by another who was going to finish third. And that's EXACTLY what happened. All of the runners were very skinny men, perhaps because on the way to the competition the stewardess didn't wake them up to eat. That would explain how they ran so fast. They had energy because they were well rested. I wasn't so lucky. But at least I get dressed when I appear in public.

Instead of watching I read some material I took with me on the plane for my entertainment and edification. A lomdishe sefer on maseches brachos, a gemara zvachim and a טיפא [deep] 'mymer' of the Alter Rebbe on Parshas Ekev.

Riveting. Real page turners.

No cell phones, Internet, people knocking at my door etc. etc. Just Hashem's Torah.

ברוך אלקינו שבראנו לכבודו והבדילנו מן התועים ונתן לנו תורת אמת וחיי עולם נטע בתוכנו.

I was mamesh MAMESH in the clouds...


Love and blessings sweetest friends:-).

Hope to see EVERYONE! We have BIG PLANS.           

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Brachos 6b

This is dedicated to Necha Gittel bas Rochel Esther who 18 years ago TODAY dared to do what no woman in history had ever done.

She married me.

The gemara [Brachos 6a] says that כל המשמח חתן וכלה כאילו בנה אחת מחורבות ירושלים - Anyone who gladdens a chosson and kallah is as if he built up one of the destroyed places of Yerushalayim. The obvious question is that it is better to build a NEW building in Yerushalayim than to rebuild a destroyed one. New is always better than old and fixed. So why does the gemara compare bringing simcha to a chosson and kallah to rebuilding something old and not building something new? Also, what does this have to do with marriage?

A thought I had today: Yerushalyim is the source of existence. Chazal teach that the root of creation is Yerushalayim. Everything began in Yerushalayim. To this day, all of our tefillos are directed towards Yerushalayim. Yerushalayim is the focus of our hopes and aspirations for the future. All of the shefa [bounty] of the world flows through Yerushalayim. Yerushalayim is the happiest place on earth - משוש כל הארץ as tehillim has it.

Every human being is WOUNDED. We were sent into an imperfect world where we were hurt innumerable times from the moment of our conception. A fetus can sense any discomfort, tension, anger, pain etc. etc. in his mother and internalizes it. We will never know what a profound influence the months of gestation have on the child. Then as a baby he will often feel abandoned and uncared for despite his parents' best intentions. As he grows up he will be the subject of anger and criticism and hurtful words and an often apathetic, uncaring world. As we grow up we find many of our hopes and aspirations shattered. We are so used to our reality we don't realize the dimensions of the pain we experience. We repress it and move on. But the pain festers within us - whether we are aware or unaware.

In a metaphorical sense, the Yerushalayim within us - that point of existence, of vitality, of joy, is destroyed. We get married to heal our wounds. We want to marry that person who is going to "rebuild us". To show us that we matter, to display unconditional love, to be there for us in times of need. A relationship where we KNOW that REGARDLESS of anything that happens, this person will always remain by our side. A person who will restore our natural joy and zest for life. A person who will help us realize our hopes and aspirations. A person who will rebuild our destroyed Yerushalayim.

By gladdening an chosson and kallah and strengthening their bond it is as if you have built up a destroyed place in Yerushalayim.        

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Nefesh Yochanan Is Born!

An email that is circulating.  You can believe every word..... I vouch for it:-)


Sweetest friends amazing news!!


As many of you know last year I started a kollel here in the holy city of Yerushalayim. Baruch Hashem a lot of Torah was learned. We are going from strength to strength. After much deliberation and soul searching I decided to fulfill my long time dream and to open up a "centrist orthodox" [excuse the labeling]  post high school yeshiva. "Excited" is not the word to describe my feelings. "Euphoric" is probably better. An institution where I will be able to realize my educational goals and philosophy. A yeshiva where gemara is not only studied but also comprehended, absorbed and assimilated into the students' souls. A yeshiva where a heavy emphasis is placed on character improvement and personal introspection. A yeshiva where the spirit of the holy Baal Shem Tov permeates the atmosphere. The chasidic stress on simcha in Avodas Hashem, a constant strengthening of Emunah, a belief in tzadikim and a desire to come close to them, an understanding of tfillah and an EXPERIENCE of tfilla, will be the hallmarks of the yeshiva. The curriculum will consist primarily of gemara but with the understanding that we only learn in order to become holier more spiritual and more G-dly. Of course the gemara will be supplemented with other subjects as well such as mussar, chassidus and kitvei HaRav Kook. EVERY yeshiva is great but I believe that our yeshiva will fill a need in our community. As Rosh Yeshiva I hope to have a close personal connection with each and every boy whom I will treat as my son. I am not speaking with platitudes that are so common in our society of falsehood. I really mean it and those who have known me in my 20 teaching career can vouch for me that I really do care for the talmidim not only when they are in yeshiva but after they leave as well. Every boy who knows me is aware that he may call me 24/6 and that every single email is promptly answered. I want to spread the Light in a big way so I am taking upon myself this big project.

The Yeshiva's name is Nefesh Yochanan, after the saintly Tolna Rebbe Rav Yochanan Twersky ztz"l, whose sterling character should serve as a model for all of the students. My Senior Maggid Shiur is HaRav Ari Klapper Shlita who is not only an outstanding talmid chacham but a person of especially fine character and yiras shomayim. His complete dedication has already been evident in the incipient stages of our development.  We also have a CEO, Rabbi Yehoshua Looks Shlita, a graduate of Harvard Business School, who brings many years of experience both in the corporate world and the Jewish educational system to our fledgling institution. With the help of my two partners we already have a beautiful facility with a Beis Medrash and dining room in Ramat Beit Shemesh. A dorm is available as well to complete the picture.

The kollel is continuing but I have merged with another kollel in order to lessen the strain so that I can focus my energies on the new project. We hope to have a kollel together with the yeshiva so that the kollel fellows can develop the boys learning skills. Those who gave already to support Torah, your contributions are greatly appreciated. Your reward is eternal.

I will be in the States for the next 3 weeks [from Monday] in order to start recruiting. The yeshiva will open in 12 months and one week, please G-d. It is a very costly undertaking and of course I am starting with just about nothing but I am confident that those who have helped me until now will continue to do so. I am also confident that we will find new people who are excited about the project and will be the "Nachshons" and help us get off the ground. Those who do, will have the merit of ALL of the learning for many years to come [I am not planning to retire for at least another 30 years. Rav Klapper is much younger than I am so he will go even longer Iy"H]. I firmly believe that this is a worthwhile investment.

Anybody who wants to be part of this historic beginning and/or to contribute to the kollel can make tax deductible checks out to "Chasdei David" and send to me at [Ally Ehrman] 115 Central Park West NY NY 10023 apt. 9b. [In a few months we will have our own 501c3 tax deduction. Just waiting for the IRS to approve]

If you know any 12th graders who are motivated to learn and grow in a positive atmosphere of Limmud HaTorah with simcha and who want to fall in love with the gemara - please tell them about me and me about them. It will be a great "shidduch".             

We are working hard to get this off the ground. I REALLY REALLY appreciate everyones help until now and I ask for your partnership in the future. We are only as strong and effective as our donors allow us to be. וכל המרבה הרי זה משובח.

With much love
and great anticipation for the future,

Ally Ehrman

אלישבע בת הענא ראשע

Elisheva bas Hena Rashe [of the Machlis family] just had a baby but is in intensive care with a blood clot near her brain. Please daven.

Brachos 4a, 8b, 9a: The Prohibition Against Eating Before Shma

The Rambam [הלכות קריאת שמע א ט] writes that the time for shma is until chatzos. If the person was negligent and waited until after chaztos to say shma he may read until dawn and the Rabbis only said that one must read until chatzos to distance a person from negligence [to ensure that he reads on time].

The source of the Rambam is the gemara in brachos [9a] that quotes Rabban Gamliel as saying that the Rabbis essentially agree with him that one may read shma until dawn and they only said to read until chatzos כדי להרחיק אדם מן העבירה - to distance man from sin.

The Kesef Mishna says that the Rambam rules like the Rabbis and he holds that according to them one must only read until chatzos lichatchilah but bidieved we have until morning.

However the Shaagas Aryeh [compared by Rav Asher Weiss to a bulldozer - when he doesn't agree with a rishon he is fearless in his attacks] asked a question on the Kesef Mishna from an explicit gemara [8b] that says that the halacha follows Rabban Gamliel. So why did the Rambam rule like the Rabbis when the gemara says that the halacha is like Rabban Gamliel? We are thus compelled to say that the Rambam rules like Rabban Gamliel and that even R"G agrees that ideally one should read until chatzos. The argument between him and the Rabbis is whether it is a mitzva bidieved to read even after chatzos. According to the Rabbis, there is no longer a mitzva to read after chatzos. It was uprooted as a mitzva in order to ensure that people read on time. R"G disputes this and contends that even after chatzos there is a mitzva. That explains the position of the Rambam. There is a mitzva lichatchila to read until chatzos but if someone missed it he may still read until dawn.

However we must further understand the position of the Rambam. The gemara says [4b] In reality it is R. Gamaliel's view that they [the Rabbis] adopted, and their reason for saying, UNTIL MIDNIGHT is to keep a man far from transgression. For so it has been taught: The Sages made a fence for their words so that a man, on returning home from the field in the evening, should not say: I shall go home, eat a little, drink a little, sleep a little, and then I shall recite the Shema' and the Tefillah, and meanwhile, sleep may overpower him, and as a result he will sleep the whole night. Rather should a man, when returning home from the field in the evening, go to the synagogue. If he is used to read the Bible, let him read the Bible, and if he is used to repeat the Mishnah, let him repeat the Mishnah, and then let him recite the Shema' and say the Tefillah, [go home] and eat his meal and say the Grace. And whosoever transgresses the words of the Sages deserves to die. [Soncino Translation - if the Artscroll is available on line please tell me..]

From this gemara we see that the two decrees, the איסור of eating before shma and the decree not to read after chatzos stem from the same source כדי להרחיק אדם מן העבירה - to distance man from sin. The Shagas Aryeh roared [like a lion, in simman dalet]: It is clear that if one eats before shma he may still read shma while [according to the Rabbis] if chatzos passed he may no longer read shma. But if both the איסור of eating before shma and reading after chatzos stem from the principle of להרחיק אדם מן העבירה why do we say that if one ate he may still read but if chatzos passed he may no longer read. They come from the same place and yet one [איסור אכילה] is only lichatchila and the other is even bidieved [ קריאה אחר חצות]!!?  

Explains Rav Soloveitchik [שיעורי הרב סי' י]: Tosfos [ד: ד"ה וקורא] explains that the איסור אכילה before shma is NOT a din in the time and mitzva of reading shma but an איסור אכילה. The חלות איסור is the eating. If he transgressed this איסור there is no reason he shouldn't read shma. The decree not to read after chatzos is fundamentally different. That is a decree which pigeonholes the VERY TIME OF SHMA. Chazal uprooted the mitzva of shma from all night and established it as a mitzva that ends at chatzos. The MITZVA ITSELF was changed. So if the time of chatzos passed there is no longer a reason to read.

This answers the Shaagas Aryeh's question. Yes, the איסור אכילה and the decree not to read after chatzos are both כדי להרחיק אדם מן העבירה. But they are fundamentally different, thus the איסור אכילה is only lichatchila [because it's a "din" in אכילה not shma] while the decree not to read after chatzos is even bidieved [because chazal uprooted the mitzva].

The problem is that the Rambam [הלכות תפילה ו,ז] seems to say that the איסור of eating before shma ia "din" in shma.
We are concerned that the time will pass so it is forbidden to eat. It is NOT an איסור אכילה as much as it is an איסור for the sake of shma. [The נפקא מינה between Tosfos and Rambam is other activities. According to the Rambam EVERYTHING should be אסור since the concern is that the time will pass. But according to Tosfos only אכילה would be אסור because the decree was tagged איסור אכילה.]

If so the original question of the Shaagas Aryeh is restored - If both the איסור אכילה and the decree not to read after chatzos stem from the same source and have the same rationale, why is one only lichatchila and the other bidieved [according to the Rabbis]?

The answer given by Rav Soloveitchik [in condensed form - this is daf yomi after all..:-)] is to reformulate our understanding of the איסור אכילה. Yes, indeed, it is a "din" in shma but that doesn't mean that the time for shma is cancelled if one ate. It is a "din" on the "gavra" the gentleman! A person must say shma before he eats in order to ensure that shma is read. This being the case if one does eat an עבירה has been committed but he may still read shma. This is in contrast to reading after chatzos which was uprooted by the Rabbis as a mitzva.

This understanding of the איסור אכילה is borne out by the fact that the Rambam writes it NOT in the halachos of the zman krias shma but in the context of other forbidden activities that one must avoid before shma and davening.             

Got it???:-)

Having read this post based on the sefer שיעורי הרב you may honestly tell people that you were "in the Rov's shiur".

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

You Would Look Great In A New Suit!!:-)

The Chagim are COMING UP!!! That means that you need to buy a NEW SUIT OR THREE!!

So please support Torah and go to B AND F SUITS 68-68 Main Street Flushing New York 11367 or check them out on facebook@Bandf Suits. Email -
Telephone - 201 - 410 - 6500

Tell them you heard about them on Mevakesh.

Smile Yidden!!

Sent by my mother she-tichye

An Arab walks into a bar and is about to order a drink when he sees a guy close by with a kippah, beard and payos .         

So, he shouts over to the bartender so loudly that everyone can hear,  "Drinks for everyone in here, bartender, but not for that Jew over there."                  

Soon after the drinks have been handed out, the Jew gives him a big smile,  waves at him, then says, "Thank you!" in an equally loud  voice.    

This infuriates the Arab.  He once again loudly orders drinks for everyone except the Jew.   

As before, this does not seem to bother the Jewish guy.  He continues to  smile, and again yells, "Thank you."    

The Arab asks the bartender, "What the heck is the matter with that Jew?  I've ordered two rounds of drinks for everyone in the bar but him, and all the silly goof does is smile and thank me. Is he nuts?" 

"Oh him," replies the bartender. "He owns the place".

Moral of the story - At the end of the day we come out on top and everything they do works to our advantage. That will become exceedingly clear when moshiach comes. In the meantime see Megillas Esther.

Brachos 8a

גדול הנהנה מיגיע כפיו יותר מירא שמים

Greater is one who benefits from the labor of his hands more than a yarei shomayim.

Thought provoking: If the one who is benefiting from the labor of his hands is also a yarei shomayim then OF COURSE he is greater. If he is NOT a yarei shomayim then how can he possibly be greater?

Two answers:

A] The נהנה מיגיע כפיו is ALSO a yarei shomayim but the difference is that the yarei shomayim [in this context] spends all day in the beis medrash while the נהנה מיגיע כפיו is out in the fields or on Madison Avenue. If a person can be a true yarei shomayim while being involved in the world and making his own living he has a certain superiority over the yarei shomayim who doesn't have to face such challenges. [אמרי אברהם פרשת ויקהל]

B] The emphasis is that the נהנה מיגיע כפיו enjoys Hashem's world while the yarei shomayim [in this context] is more of an ascetic and fore swears the pleasures of chocolate and a cool watermelon on a hot day. If one can enjoy this world and still have yiras shomayim he is greater than one who abstains. This is borne out by the Yerushalmi that Hashem will take us to task for all the pleasure we could have derived from his beautiful world and didn't. [ברכת אהרן] 

I think that the amount of hashkafa we can learn from the first perek of Brachos could sustain us forever.

More On The El Al Tickets

Thanks to Rebbe Ephraim Abba for bringing this to my attention...

Rabbi Yair Hoffman

I was alerted yesterday to the fact that due to what was likely an error, one could purchase round-triptickets on El Al from JFK to Israel for under $400. This is perhaps 1/3 of what the price should be.

El Al has caught on to the error and fixed it, but in the meanwhile many people were able to take advantage of the error and purchase tickets.

El Al has acknowledged that this was an error, but is bound by law to honor the tickets.

Was it permitted to take advantage of this error?

Are those who purchased tickets obligated to offer to return them to El Al?

In general, once one knows that an item is obviously mispriced, is one allowed to take advantage of that error and purchase additional items, knowing that the vendor will either not know about it or will be compelled by law to honor the price?

If I see that a vending machine says that a can of soda is priced at $1.25 and dispenses a can after I put in $.25, am I allowed to put in more quarters so that I can buy more cans? (Even if we assume that I do not have to return the first can, where I had intended to pay full price, does that mean that now that I know that the machine is mis-programmed that I can buy as many more as I like?



We do find a concept in Halacha called Onaas Mamon. This concept, found in chapter 227 of the Choshain Mishpat section of the Shulchan Aruch, invalidates a sale when the price is either 16.7 % above or below the market value of the item. Although landed properties would be excluded from this law, it does apply both to movable properties as well intangibles, such as a ticket.


The halachic authorities debate as to whether the law is applicable when there exists a range of prices and no set market value (See Bais Yoseph CM 209 who says there is no Onaah in such cases while the Bach and Shach state that there is, nonetheless). At first glance, it may seem that even though secular law may dictate that the sale is valid (we will find out if this is true shortly), there may be an halachic obligation to undo the sale. Rav Vosner in Shaivet HaLevi Vol. V # 218 concludes that there is Onaah when there is no set price in the market, in accordance with the aforementioned Shach and Bach.

The way airlines price tickets though, deserves a bit of scrutiny. A certain percentage of tickets are set aside to sell at a certain price. Another percentage are sold at a higher price. The system is continued until the very last tickets are sold at a very high price. One could argue that this pricing structure in and of itself knocks out airline tickets from falling under the category of Onaah, and this, in fact, is the position of a number of Poskim.


There is also an important concept called “Kim Li k’hanee Poskim” which in essence states that,when holding on to the moneys or items already (Muchzak) a person has the right to say, “I know that the law is in accordance with the Poskim that hold X (See Beis Shmuel CM 68:19).” In this case, the purchasers of the Dan’s Deals can say that, in their view, the law is in accordance with the Beis Yoseph.” While one cannot utilize this principle before one has the bought ticket in hand in order to permit the purchase, after one has done so there is no obligation to undo the deal.


There is another argument, although perhaps not a strong one, that the laws of Onaah do not apply in this case. Rabbi Yoseph Shaul Nathanson, author of the Shoel UMaishiv (Edition IV 3:137) rules that something sold publicly in an auction is not subject to the laws of Onaah. A website would probably have the same status on account of the public nature of the sale (see his arguments in the responsa to understand the correlation).


While there may be great debate as to whether there is or there isn’t a notion of Onaah where there are no set prices and no official market price, some authorities are of the position that it doesn’t matter, and when there is a mistake in the pricing - it is to be considered Onaah -regardless (See, for example, Pischei Choshain Vol. IV p. 300 paragraph 4 “Uv’chol haOfanim.”) This last point would negate both of the above arguments.


There is a third factor, however, which may be very pertinent here. If one looks closely at this particular sale, the price of the ticket was not, in fact, below market. The reason why the total cost of the ticket was so much lower than usual was the fact that the fuel surcharges were not included in the pricing. When someone does not charge an additional fee that is not part of the sale, but rather is construed as an extraneous cost, not charging it would not negate the sale (See Responsa of the Rosh 13:20 for a similar issue).

The situation may be analogous to a store that charges an entrance fee and then makes sales. If the store owner appointed a person who did not collect the entrance fee and the person did not sneak in, there would be no obligation for the purchaser of the item to pay that entrance fee.

While some may argue that the fuel surcharge is an accounting device, the fact is that technically it appears to be legally construed as an extraneous fee.

Why do they charge these surcharges? Travel experts list a number of reasons:

1] So they can charge travelers for allegedly “free” frequent flier awards and companion tickets with part of the fare.

2] To make their fares appear much lower than they really are.

3] So they can lower the fare basis on which they pay commissions to travel agents.

4] So they can circumvent the law and raise the fares on routes where fare increases still need some sort of outside approval.

In the United States itself, domestic carriers are not allowed to have these two separate fees, but international carriers are allowed to do so It is this author’s view, the fact that it is technically not part of the sale itself, has implications both ways too - and one would not be forced to undo the deal from a halachic perspective.

The case of the vending machine would be very different because the moneys placed in the machine facilitate the sale of the item itself. It would be forbidden to take advantage of that situation, where the machine is giving drinks for 25 cents instead of the regular cost.


Is there an obligation of going beyond the letter of the law here and return it anyway?

It is this author’s opinion it is recommended that one go beyond the letter of the law when there are individuals who would undergo financial distress in such circumstances. Here, however, each individual should make the choice himself.