Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Ask A Rabbi From Cleveland

A chassid of the Sadigora Rebbe joined the line to receive a dollar from the Rebbe one Sunday. He had been given an attractive offer to purchase a bakery, but was not sure what to do. He had difficulty contacting his own Rebbe and the owner of the bakery was pressing for an answer. When the chassid asked the Rebbe about the proposition, the Rebbe replied: "Why ask me? Ask a Rabbi from Cleveland."  The Sadigora chassid was bewildered at this strange reply, and left "770" puzzled and unsure of the course of action he should take. As it happened, he met an elderly couple on the way to his car and offered to give them a lift. In the course of conversation, the man introduced himself as a Rabbi from Cleveland.  The chassid immediately asked their advice regarding the purchase of the bakery. If this unusual turn of events seemed incredible, the chassid was further shocked to learn that the couple was related to the owners of the bakery.  "Since you asked," said the Rabbi's wife, "I'll tell you. The owner of the bakery is a decent fellow, but his business faltered because the workers are not trustworthy."
The Sadigora chassid had his answer. The contract of sale had included a clause requiring the purchaser to continue to employ the present staff. Needless to say, he did not purchase the bakery.

[From sichos in english reprinted with permission]

Why The Storm?

Tonight it suddenly occurred to me למה עשה השם ככה - Why Hashem brought this fierce storm named "Sandy".

An epiphany of sorts.

Then I quickly took hold of myself and was reminded of an eternal, inestimable, axiomatic truth.

I understand NOTHING of the Divine plan.


So all of my speculation is baal tashchis on the thoughts and I should use this advanced, incomprehensibly complex device we call "the mind" to figure out things I can understand.

The Missing Ice Cream

A story about the recently departed gadol she-bigdolim Rav Avraham Genechovski ztz"l: His mind was a little bit in the clouds. He was constantly immersed in Torah and Avodas Hashem so simple earthly matters were sometimes neglected.

He used to buy ice cream for the boys who would help him. One time the boy wasn't there so he placed the ice cream he had bought in the closet.

When he returned some time later all that was left was a puddle. He looked at it and said: "I have 2 questions. One, where is the ice cream I bought? Two, how did this puddle get here?"

He clearly knew the answer to both questions but by asking he amused the boys who were there, so why not...:-)

Pork Or Wine? [Updated and Revised]

לזכות שמואל אלכסנדר בן נעכא גיטל שהשם ישמור צאתו ובואו מעתה ועד עולם ויהיה כאחד הגדולים אשר בארץ

[I thank A.F. who brought it to my attention that I goofed in the previous version. I corrected my mistake. שגיאות מי יבין].

An interesting quetion that was הלכה למעשה. A soldier in a foreign army was told that he must either eat pork or drink wine that was handled by a goy - or die. A big Rov ruled that he should eat the pork. This is a puzzling psak. Pork is an issur mi-dioraisa while wine that was handled by a goy is merely mi-dirabanan. Logic would dictate that he should drink the wine.

A possible explanation I saw: Rav Elchanan [קובץ הערות יבמות תכח]says that the Torah only permits one to transgress aveiros when the aveira will directly save one's life. However, if doing a certain aveira to save his life will lead to other aveiros not at all connected to saving his life it is forbidden to do the aveira. With this principle he explained why Rav Zecharia ben Avkulos [gittin 56a] refused to sacrifice a blemished korban explaining that people might say that it is permitted to sacrifice a blemished korban. Since the physical survival of the Jewish people was at stake why should we care what people will say? The answer is that since bringing a blemished animal now to save lives might lead to the sacrifice of korbanos with a blemish even in the absence of pikuach nefesh, we can't allow it initially [even for pikuach nefesh].  

In our case, if we allow him to drink the wine he might come to treat the prohibition lightly and drink even when not necessary. If we allow him to eat pork then we can safely assume that he will never do it again if not absolutely necessary, so we tell him to eat the pork.

עפ"י חשוקי חמד עמ"ס שבת עמ' קיז  

Early Purim?

The following is based on a true story....:-)

I walked into the elevator tonight and I saw children in Purim costumes. I thought "This is strange. Purim in the middle of Cheshvan!"

Then it occurred to me why the costumes. "Is it haloweeeenn?" I inquired in a loud and dramatic voice.

"Yesssss" the kids answered me.

So I first looked at the little 6 year old or so girl. "What are YOU dressed up as?"

"A fairy".

"A FAIRY!!" I cried out. "Of course!" I then slapped my forehead as if my thick brain was at fault for not figuring out something so obvious.

I then turned to the bigger girl. "What are YOU dressed up as?" Truth be told, I didn't like her costume and she didn't seem the congenial sort.

"A vampire."


Then I turned to the cute two year old or so boy being held by his mother and asked "What are YOU?"

His mother answered as if I had just come down from Mars and asked the most klutz kasha, "He's an astronaut".


Everyone in the elevator laughed. They certainly were not expecting this whole production when I entered the elevator holding my pocket shev shmatsa.

"You know what IIIII am dressed up as?" I asked everyone and no one in particular.

I, wearing my hat, dark suit, beard and dark coat, continued. "A RAAAAABBBIIIII!!".

This was met with laughter. They obviously felt that I am not worthy of being a Rabbi. That requires vast knowledge, sterling qualities, fear of Heaven and behavior that constitutes an example for all. What a funny costume for a guy like me.

I couldn't agree more.....:-)

Another Type Of Flooding

"When the heart is flooded with love there is no room in it for fear, for doubt, for hesitation. When each partner loves so completely that he has forgotten to ask himself whether or not he is loved in return; when he only knows that he loves and is moving to its music, then, and then only, are two people able to dance perfectly in tune to the same rhythm."

Keep Your Yarmulke On

Headline of article that appeared on top of my gmail page:

Skullcap for Sports-Related Head Injuries

The goyim finally realized the wearing a yarmulke is the safest way to go...

Changing Minds

This Shabbos I was waiting for mincha to start with my son Shmuli and we learned a shtikel from Rav Tzvi Pesach Frank  הפלא ופלא. Sharing the Torah we learned together should be a huge zchus for him that he should grow up to be אחד מן הגדולים אשר בארץ.

There is a famous tshuvos harashba [about to become more famous:-)] that says that we don't make a bracha on tzedaka lest the עני change his mind and decide not to take the money and the bracha will be לבטלה G-d forbid.

There is a famous [ditto] Raavad that we don't make a bracha before marriage lest the girl change her mind and the bracha will be לבטלה G-d forbid.

The question is, how come a shaliach can make a bracha? For example, if I appoint someone to check my house for chametz he makes a bracha. But maybe I changed my mind in the interim and I don't want him to be my shaliach after all?! Here we are not worried that I changed my mind. Odd.
This brings us to a more basic question: We know that we always follows chazakos. Chazaka is the principle of remaining the same [עקרון אי ההשתנות" כלשונו של הגר"א וייס שליט"א"]. Unless we have reason to believe otherwise we assume that nothing changed from the way we knew it was in the past. That is why I can wear my tefillin every day without checking them. If it was kosher yesterday there is a chazaka that it is kosher today. So in the tzedaka and marriage cases why don't we trust the chazaka that nothing changed since they expressed an interest in receiving the money and getting married respectively?

Here Rav Tzvi Pesach says a beautiful svara. In order to have a chazaka there first has to be a חלות .חלות  is a really yeshivish word which means "halachic status". There must be some sort of halachic status in order to employ the concept of chazaka.

Now everything will become clear.

There is NO חלות when an עני asks for money or when a girl agrees to marry a boy. Therefore, we can't apply the concept of chazaka to their cases and there is no bracha because we are concerned that they will change their minds.

When I appoint a shaliach, there IS a חלות. He now adopts the halachic status of being my agent. Since there is a חלות we can apply the concept of chazaka and allow him to make a bracha without having to worry about the משלח retracting his appointment.

You hear aza svara you just want to go out and buy yourself a הר צבי to partake of more of his delights - no??


[מצוטט ע"י בעל הציץ אליעזר זצ"ל בהספדו עליו בחלק יח מספרו הגדול]

New Article On Teshuva

Given the state of affairs in my life and that of 800 million other New Yorkers, I am at home and had time to write this on the teshuva of Klal Yisrael after the חטא העגל. See how I signed off at the end.

How weird is THAT?!

Above Logic

Rabbi Moshe Shalit - Shabbat Bi-Shabbato Vayera 5773

"This passage is the ultimate in the essence of Yisrael and shows their merits before their Father in Heaven. We therefore repeat it in our prayers every day." [Abarbanel on the Binding of Yitzchak].
The Binding is Avraham's tenth trial, and it is the most important of all. The Talmud teaches us that the Holy One, Blessed be He, begged Avraham to pass this test. "'Please take' [Bereishit 22:2] – I put you through several trials and you passed them all, now pass this test too, so that nobody will be able to say that the first trials were unimportant." [Sanhedrin 89]. This seems quite problematic. Why, if Avraham fails the trial of the Binding, will it be said that the earlier trials had no significance, including the test of Ur Kasdim, when Avraham was thrown into a fiery furnace (even though he did not do this in response to a direct command)?
To find an answer to this question, we must first understand the essence of the trial of the Binding. It is commonly accepted that what made the Binding the most serious trial of all was the fact that Avraham was given an almost inhuman command to sacrifice his only son. This is clearly a most difficult task but it does not explain why this was so important to Avraham himself! We should not have any doubts that Avraham would have definitely fulfilled the command, and that it was not necessary for the Holy One, Blessed be He, to beg him to obey. After all, Avraham was given a direct command by the Almighty!
An Illogical Trial
The Rebbe of Lubavitch explains that the unique aspect of this trial was that it is not logical at all. In all the other trials Avraham stands up against tremendous difficulty, and he is willing to sacrifice himself for the exalted task of spreading the name of G-d. But in the case of the Binding of Yitzchak, G-d asks Avraham to sacrifice his only son for no apparent reason, and even without anybody else present to witness the event.
In addition, Yitzchak was known to be Avraham's heir, who would continue the tradition of spreading the word of G-d in the world. The new command is completely contrary to G-d's promise to Avraham, that Yitzchak would continue the traditions after his death, "for Yitzchak will carry on the name of your offspring" [21:12]. And it is an established principle that "a good prophesy will never be cancelled." But then what is happening here? In order to comply with G-d's earlier promise, Avraham should beg G-d not to do this, not to cross this boundary. This act would have destroyed all the faith that had been built up throughout the world! Avraham could have also told himself that G-d's revelation commanding him to do the sacrifice must surely be an act of his own imagination.
But in the end Avraham was able to pass this confusing trial, showing that "the first trials were also significant." He passed those tests too not because of logical and spiritual considerations, but only through his feeling of total insignificance in relation to G-d, without any further considerations or reckoning.
The main lesson that we can learn from the Binding of Yitzchak is not only the dedication and willingness to sacrifice a life but mainly the dedication of giving over the internal "I" to the Master of the World, to act without trying to understand. The link between us and the Holy One, Blessed be He, must not depend on how we understand Him.
Our link to Our Father in Heaven goes beyond our intellect! It goes without saying that there is strict logic in our service of G-d, but this does not "depend" on the logical approach of the creatures. Mainly, it is based on the exalted high position of G-d and the insignificance of any other consciousness in relation to Him.
The Link is in Response to a Divine Initiative
This approach can help us understand why the story of Avraham in the Torah begins with the command, "Lech Lecha – go for yourself" [Bereishit 12:1] from your land. There is no mention at all of his exalted status and his righteousness and of his struggle against all of humanity from the age of three until the age of seventy-five in order to publicize the name of G-d, including being thrown into the furnace at Ur Kasdim. Avraham appears in the Torah with the command to leave his family and his land and to move on to "the land I will show you" [12:1]. In this way the Torah emphasizes that Avraham's greatness did not stem from his choosing G-d and from his own initiative but solely because G-d chose him. The existence of a command by G-d created a much stronger link with the Almighty than Avraham would have been able to achieve himself by any Divine service or effort of his own.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Brachos 18b: Bring Me My Makeup

This gemara is מבהיל. Frightening.

The gemara is trying to determine if the dead know what is happening in our world and relates the following story:

Come and hear; for Ze'iri deposited some money with his landlady, and while he was away visiting Rav

she died. So he went after her to the cemetery and said to her, Where is my money? She replied to him: Go and take it from under the ground, in the hole of the doorpost, in such and
such a place, and tell my mother to send me my comb and my makeup by the hand of So-and-so who is coming here tomorrow. [From this episode the gemara proves that the dead are aware of what is going on here].
One is puzzled: Why does this woman need her comb and makeup? She is DEAD!! Finished. Out of commission for good. Geshtorben. פגר מת.  
There is a passage in Rabbeinu Yonah's Shaarei Tshuva [שער שני אות יח] that can answer this question. He seems to say that if someone is connected to physicality he takes it with him to the grave. The problem is that where he is he can never fulfill his physical desires because he is no longer physical. He is a soul that yearns for an ice cream cone.
This woman was very connected to her appearance. Now that she is dead it is STILL important to her but she is in a place where such things not only lack value but don't even exist. No hair to comb and no face to make up.
This world, teaches the gemara, is like a wedding, so grab as much food as you can while its still free and plentiful. The food is ruchniyus and the time is limited.....:-)  

Disturbing Questions

Some uncomfortable thoughts I have been having.....

Why don't I run around looking to do people favors? Does anyone?? Why when someone asks "Can you do me a favor?" do I tense up worrying what the favor will be? Why when I don't have to do anything for anyone do I feel free and relaxed? Why when I have to ask someone for a favor do I go through the 10 million people I know and try to think of a person who would actually be HAPPY to inconvenience himself for me and I have trouble finding such a person [I have a short list but you can't keep going to the same people:-)]? Why don't I enjoy inconveniencing myself for others and when I do a thought sneaks into my head "What am I going to get in return"? Why did I stand the other day in my very Charedi neighborhood waiting for a hitch to Yerushalayim and car after car with open seats passed by without stopping? It doesn't cost anything and they get to help a fellow Jew [I don't look like a security threat, plus people see me in shul]. [In the end someone did stop and took me].

These are difficult questions I ponder as I read Parshas Vayera and see the example of Avraham who had every excuse in the book NOT to do chesed but yet nothing would stop him.  

Do we read the Chumash and not really absorb the lessons??

I am feeling very ill at ease with these penetrating questions so I will close this post.



'Mevakesh' Owns A Bank??

An advertisement that is appearing in many places....

Ally Bank

Named 'Best Online Bank'

Money Magazine October 2012

Great Rates

No monthly maintenance fees

Your money needs an Ally

Lesson for life: Don't believe everything you read. I don't have a bank. If I did I would be in Israel right now plowing through a Tosfos with my own building and a yeshiva and not in Manhattan pondering the future of my existence:-).
Three years ago [seems like forever - so much has happened since then:-)] I heard a series of shiurim on Rav Kook's commentary on the Akeida.

Here is part 1.

A search on YUTORAH will reveal the rest of the shiurim.

Wonder of wonders.
A hesped for the Lubavitcher Rebbe ztz"l from Rav Aharon Lichtenstein Shlita here.

I thank my beloved friend R' Y.A. for sending.

Two Types Of Chesed

לזכות שמואל אלכסנדר בן נעכא גיטל שיאיר את כל העולם כולו בצדקותו ובתורתו

Let's learn a shtikel gemara and we will see wonders from Toras Hashem.

Rav Chiya bar Abba was the Chumash or Mishna teacher of the son of Resh Lakish. Rav Chiya's son passed away and Resh Lakish came to console him. Resh Lakish told R' Yehuda bar Nachmani to rise and say something. We pick up from there....

He [then] said to him: Rise [and] say something with regard to the comforters of the mourners.

 He spoke and said: Our brethren, bestowers of lovingkindnesses, sons of bestowers of lovingkindnesses, who hold fast to the covenant of Avraham our father  [for it is said, כי ידעתיו למען אשר יצוה את בניו וכו' ושמרו דרך השם לעשות צדקה ומשפט - For I have known him, to the end that he may command his children, to guard the path of Hashem to perform acts of kindness etc.], our brethren, may the Lord of recompense pay you your reward.
On the words "covenant of Avraham our father" Rashi writes that the bris is גמילות חסדים that Avraham Avinu performed when he hosted guests as it says ויטע אשל בבאר שבע - he planted an eshel in Be'er Sheva and eshel is an acronym for א'כילה ש'תיה ל'וויה eating, drinking and accompanying the guests. Why does Rashi not quote the pasuk we have in our text of the gemara  כי ידעתיו למען אשר יצוה וכו' ושמרו דרך השם לעשות צדקה ומשפט "For I have known him, to the end that he may command his children, to guard the path of Hashem and perform acts of kindness". In our text it is in parentheses which means that maybe it shouldn't be there but it also appears in the gemara Yevamos [עט] proving that we are people of chesed. So why does Rashi use a different pasuk?
We need to travel over to Bava Metzia Land [ל]:

For R. Joseph learnt: "And you shall show them" this
refers to their house of life; "the way" — that means the practice of loving deeds;" they must walk" — to visiting the sick; 
The Master said: ‘they must walk — this refers to visiting the sick.’ But that is the practice of loving deeds [which the Braisa already mentioned]! — That is necessary only in respect of בן גילו one's affinity [that even in such an instance he must visit him].  For a Master said: A man's affinity takes away a sixtieth of his illness: yet even so, he must visit him. ‘Therein to burial.’ But that [too] is identical with the practice of loving deeds? — That is necessary only in respect of an old man for whom it is undignified.
I have an idea!!:-) Why does the gemara not just answer the first question [we already know that one must visit the sick because it is subsumed under the category of loving deeds] with the same answer it gave to the second question, namely that the chiddush is that there is still an obligation even if the visitor is an old man and it is undignified for him to visit someone younger than him?  In fact, the gemara in Nedarim teaches that an older person must visit a younger person. 

The Rambam writes in Hilchos Avel [14/1] that the mitzva of visiting the sick and consoling mourners are both subsumed under the general biblical category of ואהבת לרעך כמוך and are also specific rabbinic mitzvos.
His source is probably the sugya we learned in Bava Metzia. The gemara is teaching that even in an instance where the general biblical mitzva is not strong enough to obligate one, the rabbinic mitzva does have that power. So the gemara first asks that we already know biblically that one must the sick because of ואהבת so why do we need a special drasha and answers that if one is בן גילו he would not be obligated biblically but rabbinically. Then the gemara asks the same question about burial. It too, is included on the mitzva of ואהבת, so why do we need a special drasha? The gemara answers that we need a special drasha for the rabbinic mitzva of burying the dead if it is concerning an old man for whom it is undignified to perform such an act.
Now we understand why the gemara didn't answer the first question as it did the second. Only after the gemara first answered that we need a special drasha to teach that even בן גילו is obligated, we see that what would normally absolve a person of his general biblical obligation to perform acts of loving kindness is not strong enough to absolve him of his specific rabbinic obligation. Once the gemara gives that answer we know that in a case of an old man visiting a young man there is still a rabbinic mitzva. However, before the answer of בן גילו we didn't know that in a case where he is not biblically obligated he would still be obligated rabbinically.
We must now ask why the Rambam chose the pasuk of ואהבת when talking about visiting the sick and burying the dead and not the mitzva of והלכת בדרכיו - walking in the path of Hashem, which includes acts of kindness?  
The answer is that there is a fundamental difference between the two psukim. ואהבת לרעך כמוך is a מצוה בין אדם לחבירו while והלכת בדרכיו is a mitzva בין אדם למקום. The Rambam was talking about the בין אדם לחבירו aspect so he chose the pasuk of ואהבת. [See the Rambam in the next halacha which clearly bears out this thesis].
The Rambam in the first perek of hilchos deyos says that from the pasuk ושמרו דרך השם  - they will guard the path of Hashem, that one must walk in the ways of Hashem and adopt his middos, meaning והלכת בדרכיו.
Now we understand beautifully why Rashi didn't choose to quote the pasuk of ושמרו דרך השם in Ksubos [ח] as the gemara in Yevamos [עט] did. The gemara in Ksubos is talking about the בין אדם לחבירו aspect of chesed. As such, it is appropriate to employ the pasuk of ויטע אשל as Rashi does. This pasuk refers to the great acts of בין אדם לחבירו performed by Avraham. He fed and accompanied his guests. The gemara in Yevamos says that a sign of a Jew is that he is a גומל חסד. This is learned from the pasuk of כי ידעתיו וכו' ושמרו דרך השם which refers the בין אדם למקום aspect of being a kind person.
We conclude with a medrash that teaches that Avraham Avinu ran to do chesed as the blood was dripping from his milah. This explains Rashi who calls the חסד of Avraham a "bris". Where is the bris of chesed? Here the bris of milah is combined with the bris of chesed. Chazal say that the cakes baked for the visitors were matzos. So just as yetzias mitzrayim is connected to bris mila - בדמייך חיי, in the merit of the blood of milah we were redeemed, so it is connected to the bris of chesed as we see by the bringing of matzos to the guests. Indeed only people with a bris milah may eat the korban pesach - כל ערל לא יאכל בו. Pesach night when we invite guests [כל דכפין ייתי וייכול] to eat matza as Avraham did and eat the korban pesach only by merit of our bris milah, the two brisos of chesed and milah come together as one.
Pil-ei Pil-ei Pla-ot!!  
עפ"י פחד יצחק פסח מאמר יח

PS - אשר יצוה [part of the pasuk that we have been discussing as referring to the bris of chesed] is bi-gmatria ברית! [Baal Haturim]
For those who want MORE I send you to the following addresses for more sweets....
עיין עוד בענין נשגב זה בספר וזאת ליעקב [הגרש"י בורנשטיין שליט"א] פרשת וירא עמ' קלד, ואתה ברחמיך הרבים על הלכות תשובה [הג"ר גינזבורג שליט"א] עמ' לז, לקט שיחות מוסר  [הגרי"א שר זצ"ל] עמ' סד, מי זהב [הרה"ג ר' פנחס גולדווסר שליט"א] עמ' צד, מרבה ישיבה [הרה"ג ר' י"ד המניק שליט"א] עמ' צה, משאת כפי [הג"ר דוד קאהן שליט"א] עמ' קב
וראיתי הקושיא שהעמדנו בפתח דברינו בספר של אחד מגדולי דורנו שליט"א שנשאר בקושיא ולא העיר בכל הנ"ל. אשרינו מה טוב חלקינו שהוספנו אורות אלו לעולם בשפה המדוברת.  



Monday, October 29, 2012

Raising Good Children

There is a video that is being circulated about Israeli Religious Zionist Rabbis whose daughters are no longer religious. I couldn't watch the video because the young ladies weren't dressed and the Shulchan Aruch forbids me from looking but it made me think....

These Rabbis are good people. They tried their best. Their wives were role models of tzniyus and purity. Yet, their daughters rebelled and live contrary to their parents value system despite the pain it surely causes the parents. It would be easy to just blame the parents and say that if they would have been better then they would not have such children but I don't think that it is so simple.

I know kids who grew up in homes where they had terrible role models such as unmonitored Internet viewing, DVD's of all types, derelict friends and parents who were vehemently opposed to the heightened religious sensitivities personified by their children. Yet, these kids grew up to be spiritual giants. I know other kids who grew up in homes where it was כולו תורה, the father was involved in full time learning, the mother wore a tichel down to her knees, the child was sent to the most religious schools and yet they fell far short of expectations.

My conclusion is NOT that it doesn't matter how you raise your child. Of course one should try to spiritually nourish the child as much as he can. But at the end of the day we cannot choose for our children.

We can only daven hard that they choose the right path. When we are finished davening hard there is only one thing left to do.    

Daven harder.

Wintry Days

Somebody once said that everybody talks about the weather but nobody ever does anything about it. So let's do something. Learn:-).

In the gemara when a Rabbi makes reference to his youth he says בימי חורפי - In the days of my winter. Why is youth called "winter"?

I once heard [from Rav Yeshayahu Shteinberger of Yeshivat HaKotel, I believe in the name of Maran HaRav Hutner ztz"l] that winter is a time when one must remain indoors due to the inclement weather. What is there to do indoors [before computers and television etc.]? LEARN.

בימי חורפי. In my youth, the days of my winter before I had to run around pursuing a livelihood and I could just stay inside and learn.

Nu, in the New York area we all have a day or two of staying indoors to reconnect to eternity.

אשרינו מה טוב חלקנו וכמה נפלאים ועמוקים דברי חכמים.  

My Trip To America

The cab driver who took me to the airport was a very talkative gentleman. 45 minutes straight.

The highlight: His friend was completely irreligious. He had a mashgiach who worked in his restaurant who was a paragon of honesty. He refused to have even a drink of water so as not to be biased [see Ksubos 105]. He was so inspired by this mashgiach that he was chozer bi-tshuvah. He never misses a davening, he learns etc. etc.

Sweetest friends!! We don't live on an island. Our actions affect others.

On my flight I didn't have any interesting conversations with anybody because there was nobody sitting next to me. Empty. I put my Eiruvin down and it was very comfortable. It even got a SKML [special kosher meal].  

The fellow sitting two seats away from me was watching Seinfeld on DVD. I must admit that I was wondering what Seinfeld was saying that was so funny. I, too, wish I were funny. I couldn't hear anyway so instead I was busy writing this on the middah of hakarat hatov. I hope that you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I also hope that this great undertaking that occupies so much time still allows me the opportunity to learn and write.

 כי הם חיינו.

Vi-sein Tal For A Traveller

An interesting halachic anamoly.

I am fortunate enough to live in Israel. Yayyyy!!! However, a decree went out from shomayim sending me to galus. So on the seventh of cheshvan I started saying ותן טל ומטר. Here in the Diaspora we don't start saying ותן טל ומטר until the fourth of September. There is a big disscusion about what someone should do if he travels from Israel to the Diaspora or vice versa.

I follow the opinion that one should continue what he was doing previously, so in my present circumstances I will say ותן טל ומטר. However if I am chazan [if you have heard me sing that may not be an attractive possibility] I will NOT say ותן טל ומטר in my חזרת הש"ץ. So in the silent shmone esrei I say ותן טל and in the repetiton ותן ברכה.


If you know of anyone traveling from Israel to the US in the next week please tell me. I left something very important at home:-).

Here For A "Stormy" Visit


I have arrived in America. The purpose of my trip is multi-fold. Whenever I come here Hashem always presents me with numerous unexpected opportunities [which I often blog about] and I clearly see His Hand. It is just plain fun watching how things happen. However, of course I came with a number of predefined purposes [such as a number of E-X-C-I-T-I-N-G SMACHOT] and not just to enjoy being a puppet in the Divine plan. 

There is fundraising for the kollel that is presently learning. That is a great cause. Torah.

In addition, next year I would like to add a post high school yeshiva. In order to do this I need to recruit students. What is going to be special and unique about the yeshiva?

1] Middos: We strive to educate boys to be men of the noblest character. This will be accomplished by gaining a proper understanding of what the mussar sefarim teach. We will also learn how to implement their teachings. Emphasizing self growth and introspection is critical and I am not aware of a yeshiva [despite the fact that every yeshiva that teaches Torah is hallowed] that puts this issue at the forefront as we will.

2] Chassidus: Many people keep mitzvos but they do so without passion and joy. By learning and teaching sifrei chassidut we want to inject more excitement into Avodas Hashem.

3] Gemara: Many boys CAN'T READ A GEMARA. This is a tragedy. They are really missing out. We are going to make sure that the boys learn how to read so that they are more comfortable and at ease with a daf gemara. If the boy already knows how to read then we will show him the infinite layers of meaning that underlie the deep teachings of Chazal. The goal is that the boys should fall in love with gemara and appreciate the numerous approaches to learning [דרכי הלימוד] and ultimately become talmidei chachomim. Gemara, as life, is not a spectator sport. We want the boys to become active participants in thousands of years of halachic analysis.

There is a lot more but that is in a nutshell.

Our staff presently consists of myself who is at the helm with Hashem's grace. In case you don't know who I am [and even if you do know who I am] my name is Elchanan Ehrman [I can be contacted at and 212-799-1124] and I have been zoche to teach in various yeshivos and seminaries for twenty years; Rabbi Ari Klapper, an outstanding talmid chochom and mechanech who will give the top shiur and Rabbi Simcha Sussman who was a beloved Rebbe in DRS and Ohr Yerushalayim among other places who will serve as mashgiach ruchani. I believe that the three of us [with more people coming] will create a fresh, new, exciting, vibrant yeshiva. I am beyond excited about the yeshiva and our staff. It has been a pleasure working with my two aforementioned friends. We have already put a great deal of time and effort into planning.

Our website is It goes without saying that this is a costly venture. I hope the next few weeks bear fruit.

IF you know twelfth grade boys who would be a fit for the yeshiva please tell them and me. Since we are new it has been challenging trying to attract students. I am certain that after a year we will have developed a great reputation and this will no longer be an issue.

I thank everyone for their help.

This last year-plus has taught me who my real friends are [and aren't :-)] and I can't express my appreciation for everything. But I will still try - both personally and publicly.

In addition, if anyone wants to organize a shiur I am generally happy to go anywhere and consider it a zchus.


Love always,


PS - Please forward this to interested parties.     

Saturday, October 27, 2012

A Gadol Is Niftar

Rav Avraham Genachovsky ztz"l, a Rosh Yeshiva of the Chebiner Yeshiva was unfortunately niftar recently. He far surpassed just about any living Rav. He was a master of the entire Torah and stories of his genius abound. He had thousands and thousands of pages of his chiddushim that could fill many volumes but refused to publish because he was afraid that they weren't worthy [except for a small sefer his father asked him to publish in his mother's memory]. But a few words not about his Torah knowledge but about about his sparkling middos...

He was once learning and heard a neighbor's baby crying. The parents were out and the baby sitter was irresponsible [she either fell asleep or left]. He took a ladder and with all of his 70 years climbed into the apartment to calm the baby down.

He never said "That's not correct" or "Just the opposite" or "What are you talking about?" during the course of a talmudic discussion. Anyone who has ever heard the rhetoric bandied about during arguments knows how amazing that is. Also, someone of his intelligence should have been very annoyed by the brainless things boys would sometime say.

He accustomed himself to say איזה יופי - "How lovely!!", when something happened that people would usually say "Oh darn" or other words of frustration.

His mother was more "modern" and had FOUR doctorates [now you see where he got his genius]. She insisted that he receive certification to be a judge on a beis din. So for kibbud aim he went to Heichal Shlomo and was tested by Rav Eliyashav who was the head judge on the court. After speaking in learning for a little while, Rav Eliyashiv was convinced that he had a giant standing before him and certified him as judge. That was the first and last time they met. Rav Genachovsky didn't like to spend time with other gedolim because he didn't want to trouble them with the need to give him kavod.

When he was first married there was a large creepy crawly in his apartment and his wife wanted him to kill it. He said that he would prefer not to kill a creation of Hashem. He took a dustpan and removed it from the house.

He never called a woman by name [for tzniyus purposes].

He would sit in the shiur of the head Rosh Yeshiva and afterwards would bring proofs before the boys to butress the Rosh Yeshiva's thesis in the shiur.

He would travel long distances to attend weddings of students so that the boy's in-laws would see how much he valued the student.

Just a few of the countless stories that are being told... Maybe more to come:-)

Friday, October 26, 2012

To answer a lot of people at once..

Please G-d I will be in the US from this coming Sunday afternoon. The duration of my visit is as of yet known only to the Creator of the world.

Thinking Outside The Box

Rabbi Amichai Gordin in Shabbat Bi-shabbato - Lech Lecha 5773

The Machpelah Cave – the year 2000 B.C. – Eisav stubbornly blocked the entrance of the cave. "Nobody else will be buried here," he said. "Half the cave is yours, half of it is mine. You already used your half when you buried Leah. The second grave is waiting for me."

Yosef replied, "You sold your birthright to our father. You are very well aware of that." But Eisav made believe he was innocent. "What does that mean, I sold it? Bring me some proof." And everybody looked at Naftali, who was the fastest runner of them all. Fast as a deer. There was no doubt that he would be the one sent to Egypt to bring the written contract.

One of Yaacov's grandsons, Chushim, sat on the sidelines. He was deaf and could not hear the discussion. He asked one of the others, "Why don't we bury our grandfather?" And he was told, "We are waiting for Naftali to return from Egypt with the contract."

Chushim screamed. "Are we going to leave our grandfather lying in the sun until Naftali comes back from Egypt? Here he lies before us, and we are waiting for a piece of paper?" Without waiting for any answer, Chushim chopped off Eisav's head. The head rolled down and came to rest near Yaacov. (See Midrash Agadda Bereishit 49.)

* * * * * *

The Golan Heights – The Yom Kippur War – "A battalion quartermaster blocked the entrance to the armory with his body. Nobody would get any weapons from him without the proper forms, filled out in duplicate. He would not allow any weapons to be given out without the forms.

No matter what happens. He has had some bad experiences. Nobody will tell him what to do – not a sergeant, not an officer. In the armory he is the one who is in charge. Nobody else. If there will be any problems, they will come to him, and then no explanations will be accepted. War or no war, nobody will cover for him. He knows the ropes, this is not his first day in the army.

Many soldiers crowded around the open window of the armory. Everybody was under great stress, and the quartermaster was asking the next one in line for his personal ID number. He was trying to write on a small piece of paper with a pen, using the light of a small flashlight. The pen doesn't write, why do they give such bad pens to a quartermaster? Does anybody here have a pen? Nobody replied. In his anger, the man threw away the pen, closed the window, locked the armory, and went looking for a pen.

An officer on patrol arrived at the warehouse, he needed a scope to put on his jeep. He saw us all and started yelling: What is holding you up? We told him that the quartermaster went looking for a pen. He shouted: Are you nuts? Don't you understand what is happening? People out there are dying, and you are looking for a pen?

Without waiting for an answer, the officer kicked the box holding the weapons, and it fell apart. Dozens of well oiled Uzi rifles fell onto the floor, and the soldiers grabbed them and ran to their tanks.

(Source: Rabbi Chaim Sabato, Te'um Kavanot (Adjusting Sights), pages 89-90).

* * * * * *

Archimedes, the Greek philosopher, made great improvements to the principle of the lever. By the proper use of the lengths of a lever, he was able to pull on a rope and lift an entire warship out of the water. Without any visible emotion, he told the amazed onlookers that he could also move the entire earth.

The people said to him, "Okay, go ahead!" And Archimedes replied, "No problem. Just get me a fulcrum outside of the globe..."

* * * * * *

It is very hard to decide what is a major issue and what is a minor matter. Our daily routine inundates us with the mundane. It leads us to forget why we came here. In order to return to the proper proportions, we must find a balance point that is external to us.

Chushim the son of Dan managed to extract the sons of Yaacov from their dizzy spin. The fact that he was deaf and therefore did not take part in the discussion helped him see matters from a different perspecitve, an angle that was purer in nature. Thousands of years later an anonymous officer on the Golan Heights acted in the same way.

People who come from the outside are able to see things that we cannot see.

* * * * * *

"In the Talmud Yerushalmi it is written that only with great difficulty was permission given to greet other people on Shabbat." [Tosafot Shabbat 113b].

* * * * * *

The Talmud Yerushalmi felt that on Shabbat we must avoid any unnecessary talk. They found it very difficult even to allow people to greet each other on Shabbat. Even though this approach was not accepted halachically, we can still learn a lesson from it about an important gift that Shabbat offers us – the concept of maintaining our silence.

Shabbat can allow us not only physical rest but also a unique viewpoint of our lives. On Shabbat we can rest from the powerful flow of life and - as it were - view ourselves from the sidelines. Shabbat allows us to be Chushim, son of Dan, for one day.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

True Listening

One of my major areas of interest in this world is the art of listening. So rare that I meet someone who actually does. I lament the absence of this critical faculty. I saw a quote that puts it so well that if you read it ten times you will be rewarded. I hope to talk more about this in future posts.

True listening is a rare skill. Usually, the greater part of a person’s attention is taken up by their thinking. At best, they may be evaluating your words or preparing the next thing to say. Or they may not be listening at all, lost in their own thoughts.

True listening goes far beyond auditory perception. It is the arising of alert attention, a space of presence in which the words are being received. The words now become secondary. They may be meaningful or they may not make sense. Far more important than what you are listening to is the act of listening itself, the space of conscious presence that arises as you listen. That space is a unifying field of awareness in which you meet the other person without the separative barriers created by conceptual thinking. And now the other person is no longer “other.” In that space, you are joined together as one awareness, one consciousness.

Why Our Children Aren't Religious


Thanks to Reb Chaim Yehoshua Austein for sending.

An obvious solution he missed was to send kids to my yeshiva.

That'll solve just about all the problems.....:-)

We just have to get off the ground. I have my work cut out for me.

בסייעתא דשמיא

My Endorsement

Since thousands of people have asked me whom I endorse as President, I will relent and publicize my endorsement.

Ronald Reagan.

Republican. Not Anti-Israel and although he won't DO much good he DEFINITELY can't DO any bad. Unlike our two candidates. One shares a name with a baseball glove and the other shares a name with thousands of Muslims [Mr. Obama's middle name is Hussein].

In Yiddish "Reagen" means rain. Rain is a blessing.

Plus, after he was shot in 1981, he remarked to his wife "Honey, I forgot to duck". I like people with a sense of humor.

Vote Reagan.

More ונשמרתם

From Newsmax Health
Women who drink just one fizzy drink each day dramatically raise their risk of suffering a deadly stroke, according to researchers at Osaka University, and the risk applies to both sweetened and low-calorie alternatives.
Japanese researchers followed almost 40,000 men and women between the ages of 40 and 59 for 18 years. Their eating habits were tracked, including how many soft drinks they consumed. During the study period almost 2,000 of the participants had a stroke.
At the end of the study, scientists analyzed the drinking habits of the volunteers and compared the soda consumption of the stroke victims to those who didn't have strokes. Although drinking soda raised men's risk of stroke slightly, the increase for women was dramatic.
The scientists discovered that women who drank soft drinks every day increased their risk of suffering an ischemic stroke — when a weakened blood vessel bursts and causes hemorrhaging inside the brain — by 83 percent when compared to women who never or only rarely drank soft drinks.
The Japanese study isn't the first one to link stroke and soft drinks. Last year, researchers from Cleveland Clinic's Wellness Institute and Harvard University found drinking a single soda every day raises the risk of having a stroke. Scientists found that sugary sodas increased the risk of ischemic stroke, caused when a blood vessel that supplies blood to the brain is blocked by a blood clot.
Diet sodas fared no better, increasing the risk of hemorrhagic stroke, triggered when a weakened blood vessel bursts and causes hemorrhaging inside the brain. The risk for both types of stroke was higher in women than men, but the new Japanese study shows just how high that risk is — more than 80 percent.
There are many ways to lower your risk of having a stroke in addition to cutting your consumption of soft drinks. They include:
1. Control blood pressure. According to the National Stroke Association, high blood pressure is a leading risk factor for stroke.
2. Reduce the use of painkillers. A study published in the medical journal Stroke suggested that painkillers raise the risk of stroke.
3. Eat more fish. A study published in the American Journal of Nutrition found that women who ate more than three servings of fish weekly cut their risk of having a stroke by 16 percent.
4. Eat less meat. A study of Swedish women found that eating only 3.6 ounces of red meat a day increases the risk of an ischemic stroke, in which a blood clot blocks flow to the brain, by 42 percent.
5. Walk more. A study at Harvard School of Public Health found that women who walked more than two hours a week reduced their risk of stroke by 30 percent when compared to women who didn't walk at all.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012


From Newsmax Health

After reviewing medical evidence, Italy’s Supreme Court has ruled that mobile phones can cause brain tumors. It’s a landmark legal decision that experts say could open the floodgates for personal-injury and class-action lawsuits against cellphone companies around the world.
The ruling is based on a case brought by a 60-year-old Italian businessman, Innocente Marcolini, who developed a non-malignant brain tumor that his lawyers argued was caused by long hours on his mobile phone – estimated at up to six hours a day for 12 years.
Italy's high court ruled that there was a “causal link” between Marcolini’s phone use and his tumor based, in part on expert testimony provided by oncologist Angelo Gino Levis and neurosurgeon Giuseppe Grasso.
“This is significant for very many people,” Marcolini said in an interview following the ruling. “I wanted this problem to become public, because many people still do not know the risks.
“I was on the phone, usually the mobile, for at least five or six hours every day at work. I wanted it recognized that there was a link between my illness and the use of mobile and cordless phones. Parents need to know their children are at risk of this illness.”
Dr. Levis added that the case provides precedent-setting legal grounds to support the argument that electromagnetic radiation emitted by mobile and cordless phones can damage cells, making tumors more likely.

A Mistaken Shehechiyanu

A person sat in the succah on shabbos chol hamoed and made a שהחיינו by mistake after kiddush before he drank the wine. Is this considered a הפסק?

Someone is davening shmone esrei and realizes that he forgot משיב הרוח. He starts again from the beginning but then realizes that he said משיב הרוח after all. Is his second start considered a הפסק and he should continue from where he is or should he start from where he already said [past where he is presently holding] in the first shmone esrei?

According to the the Shaarei Tshuva [סי' קיד] the answer to our second question would be that he should continue from where he said the FIRST time. Since he thought that he was obligated to repeat shmone esrei, it is not considered a הפסק and he may skip to where he was the first time.  

Now we return to our first question. In the same vein we can say that since he was under the assumption that he was obligated in שהחיינו it is not a הפסק.

By the force of the same logic we can learn another halacha: After המוציא one is allowed to say "pass the salt". Even if there is no salt on the table it would still not be a הפסק because he wasn't מסיח דעת and assumed [albeit wrongly] that there is salt on the table.

Another question: Someone made havdala and then right before he drank the wine he remembered that he had already heard havdala, may he go ahead and drink the wine? Perhaps the bracha of המבדיל בין קודש לחול is a הפסק between the בורא פרי הגפן and the drinking. Based on our logic it is not.

עי' בקובץ קול התורה מג עמוד קנד, ויש להאריך בזה מאד ואין כאן מקומו ומה שהלב חושק הפנאי עושק.

Shabbos 21: The Two Zkeinim From Tzidon

Ahhhhhhhhh sweet friends!!:-) We return to daf yoiiiimiiiii!!!

The gemara has a FAMOUS-FAMOUS-FAMOUS machlokes between Beis Shamai and Beis Hillel with respect to the question how we are to light Chanuka candles. Beis Shammai says to light them with an electric menorah in a storefront window to attract Jewish customers and to show the goyim the Christmas trees are NOT where it's at. Beis Hillel holds that you should light menorahs in public squares and on mitzva tanks because they were Lubavitch.

I of course made that up and am being silly.


As I write I keep singing the Purim niggun of "arurim kol hareshaim uvruchim kol hatzadikim" so I have a little Purim to permit me to be silly coupled with a little bit of Chanuka allowing me to buy ten thousand stocks in an oil company.

Back to business.

Beis Shammai really says that we light in descending order - 8 the first night, 7 the second etc. Beis Hillel says that we light in ascending order, 1 the first night, 2 the second etc.

The gemara relates that there were two elders in Tzidon [why does the gemara find it necessary to tell us where they lived?]. One followed Beis Shammai and the other followed Beis Hillel.

The Rif quotes this statement. That is odd because the Rif is a codifier of halacha and there is no halachic lesson that emerges from this story. The halacha is always like Beis Hillel. 

That triggers another question - Since the halacha is like Beis Hillel how can one elder follow Beis Shammai??

The Biur Halacha offers a huge chidush. Since here we are talking not about strict halacha [which is to light one candle] but hiddur mitzva, the opinion of Beis Shammai is valid. The practical difference is that if there are other compelling reasons under certain circumstances one would be allowed to follow Beis Shammai. [He didn't know that he was זוכה to say what the Ritva already said many hundreds of years ago, as we have now printed in the Mossad HaRav Kook edition]. 

I would like to suggest that maybe there is an explanation על דרך הדרוש. We know that לעתיד לבוא the halacha will follow Beis Shammai. Chanuka is 8 days which is higher than the 7 days that so often characterizes this world. 8 is above nature and relates to the end of days. The gemara in Erchin [13] says that the violin in the Beis Hamikdash at the end of days will have EIGHT strings while in this world it only had 7. 8 is yemos hamoshiach. Maybe that is why specifically regarding Chanuka we find an amora who follows Beis Shammai. Maybe.  

There is a lot more to say so maybe in a future post.... 

Bye now:-)  

שמעו ותחי נפשכם

Recently we have posted numerous audio shiurim after a long hiatus. Here is one about my favorite topic. Shabbosssssssss!

The Power Of Tehillim

Since I have recently been in the parsha of saying a lot of tehillim I was reminded of the following story I once posted, as told by Rabbi Naftali Weinberg, head of the Ahavat Emet Institute in Yerushalayim. Tehillim is so powerful....
This week I received the following email: My name is Rina [a pseudonym] and I live in Gush Etzion. A few months ago I was riding home in my car on a busy road. There was a lot of traffic and it became apparent after a few minutes that the traffic was caused by an accident on the road. Out of curiosity I peeked ahead to see what had happened. I was shocked to see a car that had been crushed and a body was lying next to the car covered with a blanket.

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

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

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

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

"Yes" I answered.

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

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

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

A "Min"

In Tanach when discussing service of foreign gods the terms used are: elohim acheirim, el zar, el neichar. They all relate to the object of the service - the foreign gods. However in Chazal the usual term is avoda zara - foreign worship. Here we refer not to the object of the service but to the one who is serving. Not to the חפץ הנעבד but to the עובד. What is the reason for this change?

We find that a Jewish man can have the status of a goy. Either by serving idols or violating shabbos publicly or doing any aveira to get Hashem angry - להכעיס. Included is in this second category is one who is a kofer. The first way gives a person the status of a goy but NOT of a "min". The word "min" denotes a person who is in a category unto himself. The chidush is that a Jew can be considered a goy but not be in a category unto himself. The reason for this is that even one who violates shabbos has the opportunity to do tshuva and come back just as he left. He is thus not considered in his own distinct category. However one who is a kofer [the second category] IS considered a "min" because about him the pasuk says כל באיה לא ישובון - those who leave on the path of kfira cannot return [עי' ע"ז יז א ורמב"ם הל' ע"ז ב ה]. Not being able to return [in a conventional way] indeed classifies someone as a min - a separate, distinct category.     

During the time of the נביאים there was a tremendous desire and lust to follow strange gods. One who did so was thus not considered a "min". He was just following his base desires, which while being forbidden, still would not make him a min. This was BEFORE the yetzer hara to serve idols had been eliminated. [The gemara in Chullin discusses the shchita of Achav as a shchitas mumar but not a shchitas min]. After the yetzer hara had been eliminated, in the period of the mishna and gemara , a person who served idols was considered a min. His act was much worse than it had been before. Without a yetzer hara to serve idols he nevertheless did so.

Now we understand why in the time of Chazal a new term came into usage - avoda zara - foreign service. We no longer relate to the idols [elohim acheirim, el zar, el neichar] but to the one performing the forbidden service. This is to show the severity of his act.

 והדברים נפלאים למביני מדע!

עפ"י אגרות פחד יצחק עמ' לב
תיקנתי את הטעות בהערה 2 שם
Penetrating so many secrets, we cease to believe in the unknowable.
But there it sits nevertheless, calmly licking its chops.

H.L. Mencken

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Return To Family

If you tell a slave that he is being freed him primary joy is going to stem from the fact that he is no longer dependent on others. What is strange is that when the Torah describes the freeing of slaves in the year of Yovel [ויקרא פרק כה] it says ואיש אל משפחתו תשובו - A man will return to his family. Returning to his family is seemingly secondary to his main feeling of satisfaction that emanates from the fact that he is now a free man and not bound to the whims and desires of others. It MUST be that if the pasuk mentions it then the return of the עבד to his family is what defines his freedom.

The Hebrew word for freedom is דרור. The Rishonim explain that it connotes a sense of permanence. דרור means דור הולך ודור בא - a generation comes and a generation goes. דור - generation, connotes constant movement. The word דייר means tenant. A tenant and not a landlord. A ball is a כדור - which can also mean "like a generation". It rolls and rolls. [Talking about כדור I would like to express my sympathy to Yankee fans. There is always next year. אין שום יאוש בעולם כלל.] Constant flux and change. The word דרור is דור with the letter "reish" twice. A doubling of a letter means a strengthening of the concept. So if דור is constant flux then דרור is the stability and constancy that underlies all change.

That is why the Torah calls freedom דרור. The unchanging status of man is that he is free. We were created ישר to go straight with Hashem. כי לי ישראל עבדים - We are Hashem's עבדים and not anyone else's עבדים. Only because of man's wiles and crookedness [אני עשיתי את האדם ישר והם בקשו חשבונות רבים - קהלת] he stole, went off the straight path, and was sold as an עבד and thereby lost his freedom.

Yovel restores man to his pristine, unchanging state of freedom and is thus called שנת דרור - the year of complete freedom and stability. The fields are returned to their original owners and slaves are released from bondage. Since this is the time of restoration and return to the source, the Torah adds ואיש אל משפחתו תשובו - men return to their families.

עפ"י אגרות פחד יצחק עמ' כח

ואולי ניתן להוסיף על דברי מרן זצ"ל שגם לעתיד לבוא כאשר האדם יחזור לטהרתו המקורית ויצר הרע ישחט, הנביא מוצא לנכון לתאר שיבה למקור וחיבור שני אלמנטים שהופרדו עקב מרירות הגלות - כנאמר במקרא קודש "והשיב לב אבות על בנים ולב בנים על אבותם" ויה"ר שנזכה להתגשמות הנבואה בקרוב אמן כן יהי רצון 

The Magnitude Of Gratitude

Ideally,  one should give tzdaka anonymously in order to save the receiver from embarrassment. What is surprising is that it is only considered a preferred form of tzdaka but is not an obligation according to the strict letter of the law. We must understand why! If one can save someone from embarrassment then why is he not obligated to do so??

Not only is does this confound logic we also have a gemara that seems to contradict this rule. The gemara in Ksuvos [67b] relates that Mar Ukva jumped into a furnace in order to save a pauper from embarrassment:  Mar Ukva had a poor man in his neighborhood into whose door-socket he used to throw four zuz every day. Once [the poor man] thought: ‘I will go and see who does me this kindness’. On that day [it happened] that Mar Ukba was late at the house of study and his wife was coming home with him. As soon as [the poor man] saw them moving the door he went out after them, but they fled from him and ran into a furnace from which the fire had just been swept. [See there for the rest of the story].  If there isn't an obligation according to the strict letter of the law then why would he do such a thing? 

In order to answer this question we have to first understand that the obligation to feel gratitude is not just a matter of good character but is actually a halachic obligation. An example of this obligation can be found in the law of an עבד כנעני. The law is that one may not free such an עבד as the pasuk says לעולם בהם תעבודו. However, if one is indebted to him for an act of kindness [that the עבד was not obligated to perform] then it is permitted to free him [see the sefer דולה ומשקה page 273]. This is because the obligation to express gratitude is so fundamental and basic that it must be exhibited even to the point of freeing an עבד עברי.

When an עני receives צדקה the gemara says  פניו משתנות- his face turns colors out of shame. This color change in the face is because a person's honor is in his freedom and since the obligation he now has towards his benefactor subjugates him, his face changes colors to express the loss of his freedom. He is now indebted to someone else and is thus no longer a free man. Just as one would not tell a rich man that he doesn't have to pay for an item because it is unpleasant for him so we would not say to a poor man that he need not be ashamed because it is unpleasant. The shame is an expression of his new found obligation to his benefactor which cannot be overlooked.

This is all according to the strict letter of the law. However, if one wants to go above the letter of the law he should forgive this obligation of embarrassment. Once he forgives, any embarrassment caused is like every other case of embarrassing a fellow man, which is a very stringent sin. The case of Mar Ukva [Ksuvos 67b] was an instance where the man had already received the money and the embarrassment had been forgiven. Now he was about to find out who his benefactor HAD BEEN after mechila on the embarrassment had already been granted. That is why Mar Ukva felt compelled to jump in the furnace. 

[Igros Pachad Yitzchak page 24]

Wonder of Wonders:-)

The Radbaz On Looking At A Rebbi

Rabbi David ben Solomon ibn (Abi) Zimra דוד בן שלמה אבן אבי זמרא‎), also called Radbaz (רדב"ז) after the initials of his name, Rabbi David iBn Zimra, was an early Acharon of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries who was a leading posek, rosh yeshiva, chief rabbi, and author of more than 3,000 responsa  as well as several scholarly works.

The Radbaz was born in Spain around 1479. He was thirteen years of age when his parents, banished from Spain, settled in Safed, where he studied under the direction of Joseph Saragossi.

For unknown reasons, he left Erez Yisrael at the age of 31 or 32 and traveled to Fes, where he became a member of the beis din presided over by the nagid  Isaac Sholal.

In 1517, upon the abolition of the office of nagid by the Turkish government, the Radbaz moved to Cairo. There he was appointed Hakham Bashi, or Chief Rabbi of Egypt, a title he held for forty years. He was highly revered for his vast knowledge, integrity of character, and extensive philanthropy. Independently wealthy, the Radbaz was a successful merchant with business connections in other countries. The yeshiva which he founded and supported attracted many distinguished students, among them Rabbi Bezalel Ashkenazi and the Arizal.

Upon attaining the age of 90, the Radbaz resigned the chief rabbinate and divided the greater part of his fortune among the poor, making special provision for Torah scholars. He then moved to Jerusalem. But he did not stay there long, due to the burdensome taxes that the Turkish government had imposed upon Jews. He settled in Safed, where he became an active member of the rabbinical court presided over by Rabbi Yosef Karo, who held him in great esteem. He spent the last 20 years of his life in peace, continuing his learning and his writing.

The Radbaz died in Safed in 1573 at the age of 110 (some authorities say he was 94 years of age).
[From wikipedia]

The Radbaz writes as follows: עוד
אמרו בספרי החכמה כי בהיות האדם מתכוון אל רבו ונותן אליו לבו תתקשר נפשו
בנפשו ויחול עליו מהשפע אשר עליו ויהיה לו נפש יתירה וזהו שנאמר והיו
עיניך רואות את מוריך, וזהו והתיצבו שם עמך ואצלתי מן הרוח וכו' וכן התהלל
רבנו הקדוש שאם היה רואה את פני ר' מאיר היה מגיע למדרגה עליונה וזה
הטעם בעצמו בתפלה כי בהביט אדם אל אוהביו או לקרוביו או לרבו תתעורר
נפשו אל הכוונה השלימה וניתוסף עליו רוח ממרום

The books of kabbala teach us that when a person thinks of his Rebbi, his soul attaches itself to the Rebbi's soul and he thereby receives great spiritual bounty and he will have an added soul, as the pasuk says "Your eyes should see your Master" etc. Rebbi Yehuda HaNasi said that if he would see the face of Rebbi Meir he would reach a very high level of spirituality. That is why if when davening one looks at someone he loves or his Rebbi his soul will be aroused to complete devotion and a spirit will be added to him.

An additional two thoughts:

1] This is why there are siddurim [particularly Sefardi ones] with pictures of tzadikim on the cover [particularly Sefardi]. I used to think it odd because we don't daven to the tzaddik but this may be a source [אבל עיין במ"ב סי' צ' סקע"א].

2] If looking at something holy arouses a spirit of holines then the corollary is that looking at something unholy can be very damaging to the spirit. This is why we have a mechitza for davening. Looking at the ladies on the other side are liable to trigger in the male feelings not always connected to the realm of the sacrosanct מחשבות לא טובות מאד. Shuls in which the mechitza is up to the women's ankles will negatively impact the efficacy of the prayers there.  

Monday, October 22, 2012

Learning Shas - The Sefarim Or The Party?

So who is in? Deri? Yishai? Both of them? What does Rav Ovadiah say? What is he thinking??

Sweetest friends! If someone wants to know what he is thinking he is invited to open one of the dozens of volumes he has written. THAT is the real Rav Ovadiah Shlita. UNPARALLELED greatness in Torah. All of this politics is a waste of time [for us - not for him. He has to run this country:-)]. If someone would ask him - "Rabbeinu - should I follow politics or learn, what is better?" You could only imagine what he would answer.

Here is one of the many [and most recent] shiurim I have been zoche to give based on his breathtaking sefarim.

Can't Hide It From Avraham

Hashem says המכסה אני מאברהם אשר אני עושה. ואברהם היו יהיה לגוי גדול ועצום ונברכו בו כל גויי הארץ "Can I hide what I am going to do [destroy Sodom] from Avraham? He is going to be a great nation and all of the nations of the earth will be blessed through him." [Bereishis 18/17] 

What does the fact that Avraham is going to be a great nation have to do with the sense of obligation that Hashem felt to inform him of His plans?

It seems that the explanation is that it would fly in the face of the entire purpose of creation if Avraham Avinu wasn't told. He is going to be a great nation and all of the nations of the earth are going to be blessed through him. Such a central personality must be told. This needs further understanding. What does the purpose of creation have to do with Hashem revealing his plans?

When Hashem created the world it says again and again "ויאמר" - Hashem said. But when creating man it first says "נעשה אדם בצלמנו"  - Let us create man in our image. Thought preceded action. Only with respect to the creation of man thought preceded action. This is a model for man for the rest of world history that just as his creation was premeditated so too all of his actions should be preceded by thought.

Adam was created as the ideal man but after his sin his spiritual stature was diminished. Until Avraham came along nobody who personified the ideal man about whom Hashem said נעשה אדם - let us make man. He was called by Chazal האדם הגדול בענקים - A giant of a man [Adam is also described as a giant]. Meaning, Avraham was the premeditated man we read about in Bereishis.

In this light we can understand why Avraham must taste the sweetness of נתקיימה מחשבתו - Hashem's plans being fulfilled. Just as he was the paradigmatic מקיים מחשבתו - Executor of Hashem's grand plan, so too when Hashem has a plan he MUST be privy to it so that he can enjoy experiencing the נתקיימה מחשבתו.   

Pil'ei pil'ei plaot!

עפ"י הספר דולה ומשקה על סוכות עמ' רכג ועי' מאמרי פחד יצחק מאמר קה