Monday, December 30, 2013


"People who fail to achieve their goals usually get stopped by frustration. They allow frustration to keep them from taking the necessary actions that would support them in achieving their desire. You get through this roadblock by plowing through frustration, taking each setback as feedback you can learn from, and pushing ahead. I doubt you'll find many successful people who have not experienced this. All successful people learn that success is buried on the other side of frustration."

New Shiur

New Shovevim shiur, here.
NOT normal:-).

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Nonacceptance And Pain

"The pain that you create now is always some form of nonacceptance, some form of unconscious resistance to what is. On the level of thought, the resistance is some form of judgment. On the emotional level, it is some form of negativity. The intensity of the pain depends on the degree of resistance to the present moment, and this in turn depends on how strongly you are identified with your mind."

When you feel pain over a certain reality or circumstance it is mostly because you don't accept this reality or circumstance as being to your benefit. Accept it as the absolutely BEST thing for yourself [as we believe it is and כל מה דעביד רחמנא לטב עביד] and the pain will disappear.

We also resist because we judge. We decide "This is NOT the right thing for me". Who am I to judge what is right and what is wrong??

We are also negative. We tell ourselves  "This is bad". That is negativity rearing its ugly head.  

Accept your reality as PERFECT for the present time and find yourself experiencing momentary bliss.

Jews call it "Emunah".

A Niggun

A Jew went the horrors of the holocaust and lost EVERYTHING. His parents, his siblings, his aunts, uncles and cousins.... and his faith. He came to Israel on a boat and the EVIL BRITISH EMPIRE who was ruling our land [and had streets in the center of town named after their kings] acted with great cruelty and did not allow these poor, downtrodden, dejected, tortured survivors of the worst gehenom known to mankind, to disembark. They sent the ship away and it went to Cyprus, Greece.

One Saturday night this Jew related that he was hungry, thirsty, tired and miserable. He then heard a niggun coming from a nearby tent. He moved in the direction of the niggun and saw a group of Jews sitting and singing at an impromptu melave malka they had made. The niggun was one that our protagonist remembered from his youth in Europe and made a tremendous impression upon him.

He stood outside the tent listening and said that it put him on such a high that he felt that wanted stand there forever and enjoy the bliss. He didn't care about his hunger, thirst or fatigue. He stopped feeling the pain of losing his family.

The niggun elevated him to a place of such spiritual heights it was like being in Gan Eden right here on our callous earth.

The power of a niggun - even in times of extreme distress.

So if you are down or know anybody who is, before calling the shrink, play a holy tune. It is cheaper and often more effective.

[Heard  from the Rebbe Shlita at the Melave Malka Va-era 5774]

Thursday, December 26, 2013

New Articles

This weeks sugya on selling chametz from a different country and a deeeeep exposition of galus and geulah based on the Sfas Emes, here.

While you are there you can read last weeks sugya on raising a hand to strike a fellow Jew and how to raise children here.

Pilei Plaot Biseeyata Dishamya:-).

שלום שכנא בן רבקה

Please be mispallel for 1 yr old  child who has yena machla all over his body r"l and needs our tefillos desperately :

 Sholom Shachne b-n Rivka

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.

Elizabeth Kubler Ross

It's My Life

Myse Shehaya:

It was Tuesday, the middle of the winter of 5756 (1996). There was a huge snowstorm. The roads were half closed and half open, only crazy people were out driving. My Rebbi, Rav .... was scheduled to give us a shiur. Would he come or not?
At their home, the rabbi's wife explained to him that there was nothing to discuss. "With all due respect for your work, your life is more important. I will not allow you to put yourself in danger because of your work." The rabbi heard her and went back to his room. For an hour he paced in the room like a caged lion, crossing back and forth, over and over again. After an hour, the rabbi left his room and quickly went to the table in the living room. "It's not my work," he said, "It's my life." He took the keys of the car and left. Rav .... arrived to give his shiur.

Monday, December 23, 2013

When We Change

The truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers.

M. Scott Peck

The Merit Of An Act Of Chesed

L'zchus R' Moshe Gavriel ben Yehudis l'bracha vihatzlacha bichol maaseh yadav, hu vi-chol ha'nilvim eilav!

The great gadol and tzadik, Rav Chaim Kreiswirth, the Chief Rabbi of Belgium, whose yahrtzeit was last Thursday, related that an act of chesed saved his life.

One time the Jews were rounded up by the gestapo and each person was asked if he was a Jew. One person denied it [Rav Chaim said that he doesn't know if this person survived the war]. Rav Chaim affirmed that he was. So the Nazis told him to pray his last prayer because he is about to be killed.

Rav Chaim asked Hashem to save him in the merit of his helping Yeshaya'le Mishna. A Nazi was told to take him to the forest and kill him there. On the way there, Rav Chaim asked the Nazi if it was right to kill young people. The Nazi said that it wasn't. He added that he himself has 3 children. He shot in the air and told Rav Chaim to run away.

Who was Rav Yeshayale Mishna? When Rav Chaim was 17 years old, he was giving shiurim in Warsaw and had a room with one bed. One time, the Grodzisker Rebbe sent to him a blind man named Reb Yeshay'le Mishna and asked to set him up with a place to stay so that he can undergo treatments for his eyes. Rav Chaim couldn't find him a place to stay so he gave up his own bed and slept on the cold floor for a few weeks until Reb Yeshaya received his treatment and was healed.

Rav Chaim said that it was very difficult but he believes that in the zchus of this mitzva he was saved.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

New Shiur [Fixed]

Parshas Shmos - Shovevim idea at the end - here.

Nuances In Speech

It is so important to carefully weigh the words we say. It will greatly improve all relationships, particularly your marriage.


I once spoke to a very busy and sought out Rov and tzaddik and asked him a BIG LIFE question. He replied in a relaxed tone "I have a detailed answer to give you and will do so when I have more time".

This made me feel that A] I will receive a good answer to my question which will eliminate the stress and anxiety that the question is causing. B] He will make time for me. C] He doesn't disrespect the gravity of the question to give a על רגל אחת two second answer.

I walked away satisfied.

Contrast this with the following scene. You see someone after shul and start to talk to him about something. He hurriedly says "I have no time. I am in a rush" Then he walks away in a huff and a puff and takes out his IPhone to make his 37th call that day.

How do you feel?

That he doesn't want to talk you you? Your feelings are accurate.

But according to the Jewish rules of derech eretz one should NEVER make someone else feel that way. We are supposed to make other people feel like he is the most important person on the planet. [REMEMBER: Every person IS the most important person on the planet. To himself and ...his mother:-)].  

In a certain Rav's house things were very busy on Erev Shabbos. Suddenly, someone cried out to the ladies of the house "TWO MINUTES UNTIL CANDLE LIGHTING".

The Rav said in a soft voice. "Better say - Candle lighting in two minutes".


"Two minutes until" makes one nervous and pressured. They have only two minutes until they have to light.

But when one starts with the words "candle lighting" an image of the calm, spiritual, serene illumination of the Shabbos candles is triggered. Then the words "in two minutes" are heard. Grrreeeaat! No pressure. Two minutes until bliss descends upon us.

Same message but completely different emotions are evoked.

The examples are boundless. May I will discuss this more in the future because it is such a critical topic.  

For The Love Of Money

Last night at the weekly tisch the Rebbe Shlita repeated a humorous vertel he heard from Rav Aryeh Binosovsky [who later shortened his name and was the Rosh Yeshiva when the Rebbe Shlita studied at Netiv Meir] in the name of the great gaon known as Reb Eizel Chorif.

The pasuk says ואני בצדק אחזה פניך - I, with justice, see Your [Hashem's] face. The word בצדק is an acronym for Biz tze di keshene - Until the pocket. I will see your face Hashem - until it costs me money. One of the biggest tests of life is being faithful to Hashem even when it costs a lot of money [see Rashi at the beginning of parshas Tzav]. For some, their faithfulness to Torah stops at their pocket.

There is an ancient Yiddish aphorism "A freint bleibt a freint biz di kesheneh" - A friend remains a friend until the pocket. I know a lot of very wealthy Jews and I know a lot of very poor Jews. Often - they are friends with each other. I wonder why this is. There is enough money to go around that the poor don't have to be so poor while the rich can remain rich. The answer, it seems, is A freint bleibt a freint biz di kesheneh.

More remarkably - I know a lot of families where some family members have very little while others have more than they will ever need. Yet the poor remain poor and the rich get richer - in the same family. Flesh and blood. 

Wonder of wonders. 

Reminds me of the story of the Rebbe who wanted to visit a chossid of his in his Manhattan office. When the chossid heard this he said "No Rebbe, I will come to you". The Rebbe insisted on going to the chossid and the chossid saw that the Rebbe was determined so he relented. When he came to the office the chossid opened up his checkbook and said "To whom should I make out the check?"

The Rebbe answered "To your brother..."

Sweetest friends - this is not an appeal for Socialism. If someone earned money then they have a right to enjoy it. But what about others who aren't making it?? People who are trying hard but it's not going. Being financially successful doesn't mean that a person is smarter or more talented. I know some brilliant and very talented people who are poor. I know some pretty stupid [please forgive me:-)] people who are rich. Some people have the Siyata Dishmaya and are successful while others are not.  

This might sound obvious to some but I think the root of the problem is that people think that their money they have in their possession is theirs and forget that it really isn't.... It is Hashem's money and He gave it to them in order that they should have the pleasure and zchus of disbursing it.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe pointed out that in English we call tzdaka - charity. Charity denotes something that people don't have to give but give anyway. Tzdaka means justice - this is not a gift but what is required according to law. In Torah there is no such thing as charity.

How sad the statistics are - every single rich person eventually loses every last penny, every stock, the car, the home - even the shirt on their backs. [Nobody has yet managed to pay off the Angel of Death to leave him alone forever...] All they are left with is the money they gave to tzdaka. How  IRONIC! People think that by giving they are LOSING, while in fact by keeping and hording they are just increasing the amount that they will eventually and inevitably lose. What they are giving is what they will be able to keep in the end. 

I learned the bitter lesson of the powerful and inextricable connection people have with their money when I was trying to fund raise. I would talk to wealthy people, some with millions of dollars, and others with TENS OR HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS and all they would have for me is advice. I would be like "For advice I can go to my Rebbe. From you I need a check". No go:-).

One line I heard often was "I am unable to give anything now. But in the future I would like to give." At first I was excited as it gave me hope for the future, but then the same pattern repeated itself -  they never gave. Even once. Then I realized that this line was a catch phrase for "Don't want to offend you - but not a nickel." 

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh - Yidden:-). Sooooo polite!!:-):-) 

These same people would make six figure simchas and go on expensive vacations but when they spoke to me they would lament to me how "rough" things are.

I bless myself [and you]! Things should be so difficult that I should be able to spend two hundred thousand dollars on my children's weddings. Then I should be able to afford to go on a two week vacation to who-knows-where that costs 40K. Of course I wouldn't spend anything near that on a  wedding and I have no interest in going anywhere other than where I happen to be right now [Givat Zeev, Israel] but I would like to be able to afford it... The Mesilas Yesharim stresses that both poverty and wealth are tests. I bless you and me with the latter test. 

Truth be told, may Jews are very giving people, but לב יודע מרת נפשו and there is much improvement that is still required. The Rambam in Hilchos Matnos Aniim paskens that the geula will only come in the zchus of tzdaka.  

The reason I dropped out of active fund raising duty [besides the fact that I found out that I am a lousy fund raiser] is because the job is essentially to convince people to give even though they really don't want to. Or to give more than they want to. That is not pleasant for the giver or for the collector. We have all had that feeling many many times of giving because we felt bad for the person or because it was too unpleasant to say no. I learned that people were giving to my causes for the same reason. I prefer to sit with a Rashba and try to plumb the depths of his brilliance and   understand Dvar Hashem. So I do. Since I made that decision [and it was Divinely guided when He showed me how very little I was collecting] life has been all that much more rewarding and pleasant.  Baruch Hu Uvaruch Shmo! I bless every person who ever helped my causes and even more, those who didn't, with TREMENDOUS success, so that they can both enjoy their own prosperity and share with others.

Sweetest friends!! Remember: The money  - is not yours. You have it to provide for your needs and beyond that to give out, with simcha. Start with family. Then friends. Ask yourself if you really need everything you are spending money on and when you realize that you don't - give the leftover money to tzdaka. Don't resent the many tzdaka requests you receive, they are meant to remind you how fortunate you are. When you give thank the receiver for the honor of being able to give. Tzdaka is a sgula for wealth and guarantees life and this world and the next. You don't lose by giving. 

To conclude with a story. As background information I will tell you that the Rebbe Shlita tells many stories of his grandfathers generosity. He had nothing and found a way to give so much. This story  has dependable eyewitnesses [if I am not mistaken the Rebbe Shlita himself was present].

A man saw the Tolna Rebbe ztz"l at the Kotel. This man had been a member of the Rebbe's Kehilla in Montreal and as a sign of gratitude and appreciation he took out his checkbook and wrote a check for TWENTY FIVE THOUSAND DOLLARS and handed it to the Rebbe. The Rebbe was so excited. He started looking around and spotted the gabbai tzdaka of the Gerrer Chasidim and promptly handed him the check. 

זכות הצדיקים יעזור ויגן ויושיע!


Shiur On Tahara

Another audio shiur on tahara - cutting nails by a goya prior to tvila on Shabbos, here.

Anybody who listens is guaranteed a portion in Olam Haba [ANY TIME you learn Torah you guarantee yourself more Olam Haba - and some Olam Hazeh as well:-)].
An article on the army and yeshiva students [what is called in Israel "שוויון בנטל"] here.

A Little Water In Aushwitz

Rav Menachem Mendel Alter, the son of the Sfas Emes and Rav of a place called Pabience, was in Aushwitz and asked for someone to bring him water. He promised his portion in Olam Haba for anyone who brings the water to him. The people were sure that he was so thirsty that he felt he would die if he didn't get some water and was willing to offer his portion in Olam Haba in order to fulfill the mitzva of "Vi-nishmartem meod linafshoseichem".

We he received the water he used it to ...... wash netilas yadaim so that he could say vidui and die in purity.

[Related by HaGaon Rav Chaim Kreizwerth ztz"l Mayim Chaim Page 126. The Rav compared this spiritual heroism to that of Rebbe Akiva]. 

Saturday, December 21, 2013

New Audio Shiur - Not From The Baal Blog:-)

A shiur that was sent by a beloved-friend-skype-chavrusa on seeing the good in everything by Rov Binyamin Eisenberger of Brooklyn  - here.

This shiur was given on the West Side so if you are a West Sider then you have a special shayichus and should DEFINITELY listen....

Thursday, December 19, 2013

New Shiur

Third shiur on Shovevim - this time Hilchos Tahara [based on a tshuva of HaRav Ovadia ztz"l], here.

So enlightening.

A Great Truth

Life is difficult.

This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it.

Once we truly know that life is difficult - once we truly understand and accept it - then life is no longer difficult.

Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.
M. Scott Peck
Source: The Road Less Traveled, 25th Anniversary Edition : A New Psychology of Love, Traditional Values and Spiritual Growth

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

New Shiur

Shovevim Shiur #2 here.

Shovevim #4

Chazal teach that the sea split because of the bones of Yosef that passed through together with the Jewish people. The pasuk says that when Yosef escaped the seductions of the wife of Potiphar וינס ויצא החוצה and when the sea split it says הים ראה וינס. The same word וינס is used in order to teach us that there is a connection between Yosef's heroic act of not allowing himself to be seduced by this woman [which would have been of great personal benefit to him. Nothing like having the bosses wife on your side...] and the miracle of krias yam suf.

We see from that guarding one's bris generates miracles. If we overcome our nature for Hashem, he will change nature for us. That is the secret of the great powers of the tzadikim.

[Based on the Sfas Emes]


New Shiur

First audio shiur on Shovevim here.

Keep The Cow

There once was a 94-year-old rabbi in the 1890's in a small shtetle in Poland whose worn-out body began to surrender. The shtetle doctor prescribed for him a shot of whiskey three times a day, to relax him.

However, not to be lured into worldly pleasures, he declined. But the doctor heard that the rabbi loved milk. So he instructed the rabbi’s wife to spike his milk three times a day.

Eventually, the elderly rabbi approached his final hour. As several of the townsfolk gathered around him at his bedside, the townsfolk asked if there were any words of wisdom the rabbi wanted to leave to the people in the town.

"Oh, yes," he replied. "Never sell that cow!"

Pets On Shabbos

 Shabbat Bi-shabbato Shmos 5774 by Rabbi Yosef Tzvi Rimon
We have been asked if it is permissible for somebody to hold a pet cat near a switch so that it will turn on a light that was left off before Shabbat by mistake.
Is a Pet Muktzeh?
Before discussing the matter of having a pet perform labor on Shabbat we must discuss whether one is allowed to carry (or move) a pet animal at all. The accepted halacha is that an animal is "muktzeh" on Shabbat and should not be handled (Shabbat 128b; Shulchan Aruch 308:39). On the other hand, pets are meant to be enjoyed, and to be moved from place to place, and a pet owner does not set them aside as muktzeh before Shabbat begins.
Maharach Or Zarua wanted "to allow moving birds which sing in a pleasant way in their cages... Since people enjoy listening to their sounds, they are not muktzeh..." But the ROSH replied that he could not allow moving them, since "there is a severe prohibition not to handle living animals, which should not be put to use on Shabbat, and the sages did not dispute the matter of animals." [Responsa Maharach Or Zarua 81-82].
Indeed, some recent rabbis have mainly accepted the end of the words of the ROSH. They write that pets cannot be handled on Shabbat because they are muktzeh, since the sages did not differentiate among different types of animals (Orchot Shabbat 19:124; Yalkut Yosef 308:21). On the other hand, some do allow handling pets (Igrot Moshe Orach Chaim 5, 22, 21). They do differentiate between animals in general (including those that people enjoy looking at or listening to) and pets, because the main use of the pets "is to move them around from place to place," and that is their main purpose. (Shulchan Shlomo Shabbat volume 2 – 308:74,4).
Since muktzeh is a rabbinical decree, we can accept the lenient approach.
Having a Pet perform Prohibited Labor
We differentiate between different ways of accomplishing the goal of having the pet turn on a light.
(1) Pushing the pet against the light switch – In this case, the action is done by the human being, and this is forbidden. Even though this might be viewed as performing the labor "beshinui" – in a modified form – since it is being done in a way that is not usual behavior during the week, but in this case even labor performed beshinui is forbidden (Shabbat 92a).
(2) Holding the cat in the air in such a way that in a natural motion it will almost definitely move its feet and kick the switch. The question in this case is who is actually performing the action.
(a) If we say that the person is performing the action while making use of the natural habits of the cat, this might well be similar to "zoreh," one who separates the straw from the grain, with the help of a wind (Bava Kama 60a) or to one who puts a leech on a human being in order to suck out the blood (Magen Avraham 328:53; Even Ha'Ozer, ibid). Both of these actions are forbidden.
(b) If, on the other hand, we define that action is the result of both the cat and the person acting together, this would be a violation of the labor of "mechamer" – leading a donkey – which prohibits a person from doing something together with his animal (Shemot 20:9; Shabbat 153b-154a; Shulchan Aruch 266:2.)
(c) Even if we define that the cat performs the action alone in a way that corresponds with the will of the person, this is evidently included in the prohibition of giving work to an animal in your possession (Shemot 20:9; Avoda Aats 15b; Sulchan Aruch 246:3).
According to all three of the above definitions, this action is prohibited on Shabbat.
(3) However, if we hold the cat in a stable position a short distance from the switch in such a way that it is not forced by its nature to touch it, and the cat itself "decides" to stretch out its foot and play with the switch until the light is turned on – this might well be permitted in a case of great need. It would be similar to the case allowed in the Talmud of taking a small child "for a walk" near an item that has fallen down (where there is no "eiruv" to allow carrying), so that the child will pick the item up by himself and bring it home (Yevamot 113b-114a). The Rashba derives from this that one is permitted to put a young baby "near" a prohibited item that he needs "so that he will put out his hand and eat it" (in practice the use of a child is more complicated than indicated here, but we will not discuss this further).
Evidently the same principle applies to holding an animal close to a forbidden item so that it will perform labor, since the obligation for the animal to rest on Shabbat is derived from the same verse (Rashi, Ramban, ibid; Rashba Shabbat 153b; Chatam Sofer volume 1 (Orach Chaim), 83; Responsa Achiezer 3:83; Orchot Shabbat 24:7-8, note 2, and 31:6-10).
Muktzeh: Recent rabbis do not agree whether a pet can be moved on Shabbat or it must be considered muktzeh and therefore not be touched. One who acts in a lenient way has a valid opinion on which he can base his action.
Using a cat or other pets to turn on the light: If one physically pushes the pet onto the switch or if it is placed in such a way that by its nature it is almost certain that it will push the switch, this should evidently be prohibited. However, if the pet is held in a stable way a distance from the switch, such that there is no certainty that it will push the switch – this can evidently be permitted in a case of great need.

Chassidishe Myse's

From Shabbat Bi-shabbato - Shmos 5774 - Ze'ev Kitzis
Don't ask me about truth and imagination in Chassidic stories. This is what I say whenever I discuss such stories with a group of people. The question of authenticity loses its meaning when you understand the power of the stories to have an effect, to awaken salvation, and to influence concrete reality. What is relevant to this is the statement by Rabbi Shlomo of Radomsk – that one who believes the stories at their simple level is a fool, but one who rejects them is an apostate. The first Rebbe of Gur, the author of Chidushei Harim, is quoted as making a similar statement – a person must at least believe that the story could have taken place.
What is absolutely clear is that the Chassidim felt that the stories had a serious role, and they saw them as truth, without bothering with the issue of physical facts. One of the most amusing Chassidic introductions printed in a book praising the Tzadikim (righteous men) is the introduction to Darchei Hachaim, by Rafael Segel Tzimetbaum (Cracow, 5683-1923). Tzimetbaum was the personal assistant of Rabbi Chaim of Tzanz, and the book is full of stories that begin with the emotional beginning, "I saw it with my own eyes." In spite of this, or perhaps because of it, Tzimetbaum in his introduction quotes his great rabbi: "If a Chassid says 'I saw it with my own eyes,' it is possible that he heard it, and if he says 'I heard it with my own ears,' it definitely never happened." [Darchei Hachaim, page 4]. This cynical comment does not prevent the author from immediately adding, "I have therefore decided to transcribe in this book things that I have seen with my own eyes."
In spite of all of this, I still believe in the stories. I "believe" them, because the story and the belief are one and the same thing. What is faith if not to follow the "story," to follow a truth that does not need any factual verification? Let us summarize as follows: Perhaps the "real story" did not take place, or at least not exactly as recorded. But even so – to follow the story influences reality and can dramatically change it. Here is a story about this phenomenon. If you want to, you can believe it...
     * * * * * *
Gittel, a woman in her seventies, visited friends who live in Efrat, in Gush Etzion. She told the story of how she was rescued in the Holocaust.
When she was seven years old, she and her family fled from their home and came to a village, where they hid in an attic, frightened and without any possessions. One day Gittel was sent to the market to try to sell their Shabbat candelabra in secret, in order to buy bread. While she was in the market she was caught by a local policeman who suspected that she was a Jew. She started to cry, and a tumult began. Suddenly, a Gentile boy appeared, and he made up a story that Gittel was his little sister and took her away. The girl trusted this young boy, and she told him where the family was hiding. Every day after that the boy brought some bread and potatoes to their hiding place, and saved them.
     * * * * * *
So much for a story from the dark times of the Holocaust. But what follows next is a Chassidic tale. Here is the remarkable story that the boy told them when they asked why he was willing to risk his life to help them.
     * * * * * *
Many years ago, a Rebbe passed by this place, and he went down to immerse himself in the frozen river nearby. The great-great-grandfather of the boy, a Gentile shepherd, saw that the Rebbe was hurt by the sharp ice and by the cold. He lit a fire for the Tzadik and cut a bolt of wool to cover his frozen feet. From then on – and Gittel repeated all of this, as it was told to her by the Gentile boy who helped them – the shepherd's family received many blessings. The place where the Rebbe immersed and the entire village also received great abundance and many blessings. And that is why the young Gentile boy felt it was his duty to help little Gittel and her family.
     * * * * * *
A Chassidic tale, from the mouth of a young Gentile, caused him to put his own life in danger and to bring salvation to a Jewish family. The story had a real effect. And surprisingly – but Gittel didn't know this – many versions of the story of the blessed site and the family of the Gentile shepherd who was blessed by the Rebbe, who was the Baal Shem Tov himself, were known in Chassidic circles for many years before the Holocaust. Here, for example, is the Chabad version of this story.
     * * * * * *
When the holy Tzadik of Rozhin fled from Russia, he came to a village and asked its name. He was told that the village was called "Sruleiba" (which is reminiscent of a Russian variation on the name Yisrael). He asked them if they knew the origin of the name. They said that they did not know, but that there was an old man at the edge of the village, more than a hundred years old, and perhaps he would know. They brought the old man to the Rebbe in a carriage, and he told the Rebbe of Rozhin the following story: When I was young I was a shepherd on the nearby mountains... And on the top of the mountain there was a man named "Sruleiba" (Yisrael)... At the bottom there was a spring and a well where this Jew would immerse himself. And since it was the winter, when he climbed out and stood on the frozen water, his feet would stick to the ground, and blood could be seen on the snow. We therefore took some rags and put them there, so that the Jew's feet would not stick to the ice... We called it the "Holy spring." It happened that the son of one of the men got sick, and when he drank from the spring he was cured... That is why the place was named "Sruleiba," and that is what the village was called.
[Rafael Nachman Hakohen, Shemuot V'Sipurim, pages 1-2].
     * * * * * *
Did this really happen? Is there really a village called Sruleiba, named for the Baal Shem Tov? Does any descendant of the shepherd still remember this story?
I believe in stories. I believe that the Baal Shem Tov himself, with his Holy Spirit, helped save a family hiding in an attic in a wondrous way, by doing something two hundred years before the event. However, the way that this miracle of salvation happened is related to the belief in the story. It depends on faith which is related to the Gentiles who lived in Sruleiba, to the Chassidim who remembered the story, and to me. And I believe.

Why Kids Go Off The Derech

There has been much talk [including on these pages] over the last few years about the question of why so many of our young people are going off the derech. My first rule is HUMILITY. Some people are afflicted with the great illness of arrogance and think that they have all of the answers and if people would only follow their instructions everything would be fine and all of our children would be tzadikim. This arrogance is cured when they themselves have a child who goes off the derech. Then they see that it is not so simple. There is a long list of great people who had problems with their children. We begin with Avraham Avinu, followed by Yitzchak. Yaakov also had quite a bit of distress himself. Throughout the generations there have been many gedolei yisrael who had children who went off. In our generation we see children from families of great talmidei chachomim who have wonderful siblings but are themselves on the streets.

One show of humility is when educators and the like involve parents in the process of trying to help the child. Some people are so convinced that they know it all and/or everything is the parents fault that they try to help the child while completely ignoring the parents, even though it is the parents who know the child best and care for him the most. This is harmful to the child, indescribably painful to the parents and the people who act in such ways are being terribly irresponsible [I would say that they will be punished but I don't want to wish punishments upon anybody...]. Nothing can take the place of parents. Of course, some parents are not helpful and can even be barriers in the process of helping the child but this is often not the case.  

I recently read a piece where the author wrote that it is because parents don't have shalom bayis that kids go off. This is IT!:-) He knows. But then he also knows that many parents have shalom bayis and their kids go off anyway. His answer was that they don't have the ideal shalom bayis as the Torah maps out.

I will share with you sweet friends who has ideal shalom bayis as the Torah maps out.....


Or almost nobody. To understand this one has to deeply understand what the Torah is shooting for in marriage and in addition to understand what goes on in the marriages of people. Just by keenly observing most couples for a short while, I can already perceive problems in their relationship. Nobody is perfect in this area and I think it quite presumptuous to blame everything on the parents. Of course, it is critical for parents to have good shalom bayis but just because it is not perfect doesn't mean that they are at fault for their children abandoning Torah and mitzvos.

So sweetest friends - work on your middos, have good shalom bayis, give your kids a solid Torah education, don't give him/her unmonitored access to the internet, don't let him watch TV or movies, live in a good neighborhood and then DAVEN lots. Many of the so-called experts themselves have kids who went off [just as many marriage counselors are divorced] so you see that knowing-it-all is not the answer.

Sometimes, it is a decree from above that parents must accept bi-simcha. Sometimes, it is partially the fault of parents or other factors. But at the end of the day - when a child abandons the faith, he is making a conscious decision that is his and his alone and ultimately he/she will have to take responsibility. Blaming parents and teachers is great for an angry blog, but the reality is that [almost] everyone has free choice and must take responsiblity for their actions and decisions.

I have had hypocritical rabbeim but didn't go off the derech [at least I hope not], yet hypocritical rabbeim are often blamed for a child's veering from the path [this is not a defense of hypocritical rabbeim:-)]. I watched too much TV and movies and listened to goyishe music as a child but remained frum [I hope:-)] yet pop culture is often targeted for blame. A factor - yes, but ultimately it is up to the child. I was a poor student [in class not in money, today I am much better in class but much more poor with the money:-)] and didn't like learning, yet I remained with my kippah and tzitzis firmly in place - so another scapegoat is proven not to be a compelling factor. I wasn't given proper answers to hashkafah questions I asked [and was shouted down for even asking by a well known gadol] yet I persevered and found my answers. Yet another one of the targets of blame goes down. I am not a great person or particularly special [don't tell my wife - I want her to be happy she married me] because just about EVERYBODY I know had reasons to become irreligious. The best reason is the YETZER HARA which wants to be free of rules and act on human impulses and urges. Everyone reading this does that while many of those children who go off choose not to.   

So again, if you want good children, zera beirach Hashem - hug and kiss your kids all the time into their teenage and adult years, make yiddsihkeit exciting and joyful, have a Rav you consult with to give objective opinions, don't be overly strict while setting limits, set a good example, love your spouse boundlessly etc. etc. and then stain your tehillim with tears.

Love and blessings:-)

הרב משה בן רחל ור' צבי משה בן איתן אברהם הלוי

Please daven for HaRav Moshe ben Rochel [Rav Moshe Shapiro Shlita]


R' Tzvi Moshe ben Eitan Avraham HaLevi, a very chashuv avreich in Yerushalayim who needs a refuah!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Shovevim #3 - Getting Your Tefillos Answered

The books of Kabbala discuss the two parallel brisos that Hashem made with the Jewish people. There is the Bris Hamaor, the covenant of skin [the Bris Mila] and the Bris Halashon - the covenant of speech. The word מילה and פה have the same gematria of 85. How fascinating that the word for circumcision - "Milah", means "word", alluding to this dual bris .

Let us explore the connection of the brisos to Mitzrayim: The Zohar famously teaches that in Mitzrayim, "speech" was in galus. That is why we speak so much at the seder, for it is an expression of our new found freedom of speech. ברית הלשון. The galus was only able to begin after Yosef passed his test of the Bris Hamaor with the wife of Potiphar. That gave us the foundation to remain spiritually alive in the "land of nakedness". ברית המעור. [Incidentally, Yosef had the status of one of the Avos who paves the way for his descendants, in addition to being one of the bonim, as explained beautifully by the Pachad Yitzchak]. In order to be connected we must carefully and vigilantly guard both brisos.

Says the pasuk in Tehillim [45/ 2-3] יפיפית מבני אדם הוצק חן בשפתותיך וכו' חגור חרבך על ירך - You are more handsome than other men, charm is poured upon your lips etc. gird your sword upon your thigh. The lips refer of course to speech and the "sword upon your thigh" to the bris milah. One who guards his מילה will reach great spiritual heights מי יעלה לנו השמימה - who can climb up to heaven, is an acronym for Milah.

כל ארחות ה' חסד ואמת לנוצרי בריתו עדותיו - All of the paths of Hashem are kindness and truth to those who guard His bris and His testimonies [Tehillim 25/10]. Chesed goes in a straight path and not to the "dark side" [sitra achra] for those who guard Hashem's Bris [Milah] and His testimonies [testimony is given verbally, so this is referring to the bris halashon].

To return to the aforementioned pasuk: "A charm is poured upon your lips" this means that our tefillos will be answered positively, if we "gird your sword upon your thigh" - if we guard our bris kodesh. The Zohar teaches explicitly [Parshas Vayechi Page 240] that this pasuk refers to the Bris Milah.  

[Tiferes Shlomo - Shaar Hatfilla Page 52]

Shovevim #2

The Torah begins בראשית ברא אלקים את השמים ואת הארץ. The Torah is not a history or science book but a guide to the deeper meaning of life and creation. Beyond describing that the sky and land were created, the Torah is also teaching us about the source of their existence. את can also be read אות - sign. The world stands on the "sign" of the sky and land. The "sky" in Kabbala is the male while the "earth" is an allusion to the female [why this is so is beyond the scope of this post]. The whole creation stands on the merit of shmiras habris - that is the "sign" to which the Torah refers. This sign marks us [literally] as Jews. It is interesting that a goy cannot have a Bris Milah and even if he is circumcised it doesn't count and he is considered uncircumcised. [The halachic ramification of this is spelled out in Maseches Nedarim]. Only Jews have this special sign between them and Hashem. [The first letters of the words את השמים ואת הארץ are the same gematria  as the word  טוב. Shmiras Habris makes us "good"] 

Before being given the Torah, Hashem tells us ושמרתם את בריתי והייתם לי סגולה מכל העמים - Guard my Bris [Milah] and thereby, you will be my special nation.

The pasuk says ושמרו בני ישראל את השבת - The term Shabbos, according to the Zohar Hakadosh, is a reference to the Bris. We are being commanded to guard our Bris Kodesh. The pasuk continues לעשות את השבת לדורותם  - We have to make sure that our kavana in the zivug is to continue the generations of holy Jews [and not just for pleasure, G-d forbid], ביני ובין בני ישראל אות היא לעולם - This Bris is an eternal sign of the connection between Hashem and His people.

Look at Bilaam. He knew the Divine secrets, as the pasuk says ויודע דעת עליון and his evil, insidious plan was to make the Jews fall in the area of Shmiras Habris [see the end of Parshas Balak]. So the way to remain connected to our Divine souce and to be His holy people is to guard our Bris.

ושמרתם את בריתי והייתם לי סגולה מכל העמים.

[Based on the sefer Tiferes Shlomo Breishis, Page 47]      
Interesting piece on Hollywood from someone who knows it well... here.


Every now and then, I'll meet an escapee, someone who has broken free of self-centeredness and lit out for the territory of compassion. You've met them, too, those people who seem to emit a steady stream of, for want of a better word, love-vibes. As soon as you come within range, you feel embraced, accepted for who you are. For those of us who suspect that you rarely get something for nothing, such geniality can be discomfiting. Yet it feels so good to be around them. They stand there, radiating photons of goodwill, and despite yourself you beam back, and the world, in a twinkling, changes.

Marc Barasch
Source: The Compassionate Life: Walking the Path of Kindness

Enjoy The Fruit You Have

What you have made me see," answered the Lady, "is as plain as the sky, but I never saw it before. Yet it has happened every day. One goes into the forest to pick food and already the thought of one fruit rather than another has grown up in one's mind. Then, it may be, one finds a different fruit and not the fruit one thought of. One joy was expected and another is given. But this I had never noticed before - that the very moment of the finding there is in the mind a kind of thrusting back, or setting aside. The picture of the fruit you have not found is still, for a moment, before you. And if you wished, if it were possible to wish - you could keep it there. You could send your soul after the good you had expected, instead of turning it to the good you had got. You could refuse the real good; you could make the real fruit taste insipid by thinking of the other."
C.S. Lewis
Source: Perelandra (Space Trilogy (Paperback)), Pages: 68,69

Shovevim #1

It is well known in Kabbala and Chassidus that Shmiras Habris, guarding ones purity, brings to הכנעה - holy submission. That is why Yosef, whose uniqueness was that he was the quintessential "Shomer Bris", was called the משביר of Mitzrayim. משביר in its simple meaning in this context means that he sustained Mitzrayim in their time of hunger but it also means that he was שובר - he was "broken and submissive". The primary tikkun is to have a לב נשבר - a broken heart and OF COURSE it must be with simcha.

When someone thinks that he is a "gantza yeish" - a supremely important personage, then he is setting himself up for frustration, disappointment and pain. People are often not going to see things the same way and will not show him the respect he thinks he deserves and he will be hurt. When a person has הכנעה - holy submission, he can't get offended because he has no delusions of grandeur.

Sometimes people treat me like garbage. It hurts and infuriates me. I think of my "many" fine qualities [real or imagined] and wonder how this person can treat me like that. But then I consider what Dovid Hamelech said - אנכי תולעת ולא איש חרפת אדם ובזוי עם - I am a worm and not a man, a disgrace of a human being. If the King Of Israel can say that, what about me?? This feeling of הכנעה brings to great simcha. I am no longer a servant to the way other people relate to me.

The pasuk in Tehillim says הרופא לשבורי לב ומחבש לעצבותם - The Yid Hakadosh interpreted that this means that Hashem heals our hearts so that they can be broken without sadness.


One important factor in this project of הכנעה בשמחה is Shmiras Habris.

[Based on the sefer Oros Yismach Yisrael (from the Rebbe of Alexander) Page 67]

Shovevim - Intro

Now we entered the period of the year called Shovevim which is an acronym for the parshiyos from Shmos until Mishpatim. The Sifrei Kabbala teach that at this time of year we are supposed to fix the area of life relating to tzniyus matters. Mitzrayim was the "Ervas Ha-aretz" [nakedness of the land] and we must fix that and leave our own little Mitzrayims. Some tzadikim fast either every day or at least Monday and Thursday during this period.

The truth is that the blog doesn't suffice to convey even a fraction of what has to be taught about this topic but that is all I have.... I have also been asked to post audio shiurim which I hope to do as well.

I have a friend who likes to tell me "I want to make you famous". I don't want to be famous [although I wouldn't mind being "rich and unfamous" as opposed to being "poor and infamous":-)] but he tells me that this way I can help change the world. Changing the world for the better is a constant obsession of mine so I can't argue with his sentiments. In the meantime I hope to enlighten and inspire myself and others through the medium of this blog to become holier and more pure.

I take these posts very seriously because every second I am writing them I am not learning another tosfos and since I am on earth on a limited visa [and I don't know when it will expire], I value my time...

The most important thing to keep in mind at all times is who is King....


Accepting, allowing and interacting with your life as though it is exactly as it should be, without making yourself wrong (or right) for what you discover is it the way to self-realization.

Source: A Book About Instantaneous Transformation, Page: 124

Monday, December 16, 2013

Live It

An Orthodox Rav once saw a Reform Rabbi carrying a gemara. He asked - what are you holding a gemara for? The Rabbi answered "I am going to read it". The Rav said "You don't read gemara - you LEARN gemara".

A wise Yid heard this story and added "You don't only learn gemara - you LIVE gemara."

I know loads of people who learn gemara. Far fewer people I know LIVE IT.
Hashkafa on cell phones here.
Check this out.
Sent by a beloved friend S.Y.G.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

EMERGENCY TEHILLIM---- 6 yr old boy w/ brain cancer in hospital & low on oxygen :

Refael Elisha Meir b-n Devorah

Thursday, December 12, 2013

"Holiday" Cheer

The Cohen family was on very good terms with their Roman Catholic
neighbors, the O'Briens. In fact, little Yaakov Cohen and Christopher
O'Brien from next door would play together from time to time. Or at
least they used to.

Well, one late December's day, Duncan O'Brien came storming in to the
Cohen's house holding poor Yaakov by the ear. "Your son is not going
near my Chris again; he just has no respect for us and our religion!"

"What's the matter; what did he do?" inquired Mr. Cohen. "I'll tell
you" said Duncan "he saw our Christmas tree and started making fun."

"Really, what did he say?" continued Mr. Cohen.

Duncan said, "He saw our tree and started asking all sorts of
ridiculous questions - which kinds of pine trees can be used for a
Christmas tree? What's the minimum required height? How close to the
window does it need to be? Do too many decorations render it unfit?
What if it's under a neighbor's balcony?!"

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Blessing The Children

From Shabbat Bi-shabato Vayechi Y. Roichman
Friday night after Kiddush, as in many other communities in our nation, our family has a custom of blessing the children. The boys are blessed with the verse, "Let G-d make you like Efraim and Menasheh." [Bereishit 48:20]. "Let G-d bless you and watch over you. Let G-d light up His face to you and favor you. Let G-d lift up His face to you and give you peace." [Bamidbar 6:24-26]. This is a combination of Yaacov's blessing to Yosef and his sons and of the blessing of the Kohanim.
The blessing for girls begins differently, with "Let G-d make you like Sarah, Rivka, Rachel, and Leah." It then continues as for the boys, with the blessings of the Kohanim.
Halachic Sources
What is the source for this custom? And why are Efraim and Menasheh a good model for our children?
The source is in this week's Torah portion. When Yaacov blesses his beloved grandsons, Menasheh and Efraim, he crisscrosses his hands on their heads and says, "Yisrael will bless using you, and say, let G-d make you like Efraim and Menasheh." Rashi notes, "One who comes to bless his children will use their blessing, and he will say, Let G-d make you like Efraim and Menasheh."
Rashi does not explicitly state that there is an obligation to bless the children. In fact, Rabbi Eliyahu Mizrahi notes, "'One who comes to bless his children' – Do not think that every person in Yisrael has an obligation to bless his children." However, in spite of this, the custom is widespread, mainly among the Sephardi communities and also among some Ashkenazim. In some cases, the blessing is performed specifically on Friday night. Is there a basis for this custom in halachic sources?
According to Rabbi Yaacovson in his book "Nativ Binah," the earliest mention of this custom is in the book "Maavar Yabok" (written by Rabbi Aharon Berchia of Modina, who passed away in 1639). He writes, "One should place his hand on the head of a child who is being blessed, especially on Friday night. Based on the secret of Shabbat the Queen and the extra soul that we have on Shabbat, the blessings will take effect on the one who is doing the blessing and the one who receives it, because Satan and evil do not have any influence on Shabbat... There is a holy need to bless the children on Shabbat."
Rabbi Yaacov Emden also mentions this in his siddur. "It is a custom of Yisrael to bless the children Friday night after the prayers or at the beginning of Shabbat, because this is the time when abundance comes. It is a worthy idea to pass this on especially to the small children who have not yet sinned, but even older children should receive a blessing from their fathers... Both hands are placed on their heads, like Moshe did... And the same is done by Kohanim who recite the blessing with two hands."
Yaavetz notes that two hands should be used, "Not like those who lack understanding and who think that they should specifically bless using only one hand." He explains that the reason Yaacov put only one hand on each grandson was so that he could bless both of them together in order to avoid any jealousy between them. On the other hand, Rabbi Yitzchak Chizkiya Lamportny edited an encyclopedia of Jewish customs by the name, "Pachad Yitzchak." He quotes an opinion that it is better to put only one hand on the child's head when reciting the blessing, based on Kabbalistic reasoning: "I have seen that it is not customary to bless children with two hands in order to avoid linking kindness and law." He also differentiates between the blessings for people who are married or single, or for yeshiva students. "My custom is to bless the married ones with two hands – for him and for his wife. But for single people I use one hand. And for those studying Torah I use two hands, because Torah can provide support when there is no wife." [Some say not to use two hands because only kohanim duchen with two hands].
Efraim and Menasheh
In "Igra D'Kalah," the question is asked, "Why should the people of Yisrael bless their children only with these two names instead of saying, Let G-d make you like Reuven, Shimon... and list all the sons?" He answers that this is related to their good character traits and the good relationships that they all had with each other. "When Yaacov put Efraim before Menasheh, he saw that Efraim did not show excess pride and he saw that Mehasheh did not show any jealousy. And that is why he blessed them: "Yisrael will bless  using you, and say, let G-d make you like Efraim and Menasheh" – Efraim without pride, and Menasheh without jealousy.
The Responsa Minchat Yitzchak quotes another explanation from the Ketav Sofer. Efraim and Menasheh had made a deal like Yissachar and Zevulun – Efraim would study Torah while Menasheh would be busy with worldly matters. The point of the blessing is that our children should be like both Efraim and Menasheh together, and that the child will succeed in both Torah and in good deeds. The author writes that "the main occupation should be Torah study, corresponding to the verse, 'And he put Efraim before Menasheh' [Bereishit 48:20].
I found another beautiful explanation in the insights of the GRIZ (Rabbi Yitzchak Zeev Soloveitchik). "All the other tribes were raised and educated by Yaacov in the Land of Canaan, and they were therefor privileged to be Divine tribes. But Menasheh and Efraim did not have this privilege, and in fact they grew up in Egypt, a place of impurity, idol worship, and illicit sex. But in spite of this they had the merit of achieving the status of tribes. And this is the blessing that is passed on to every person in Yisrael – not to be influenced by the surroundings, no matter what they are, just like Efraim and Menasheh in the Land of Egypt."

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

When It's Too Late

The following is my translation of an article in Olam Katan [a weekly Torah sheet distributed in shuls in Israel] written by a young man named Yehonatan who lost a friend named at the age of 17 in a car accident.

Last week I understood the value of life. I understood that life is a gift and one shouldn't treat it lightly. How much time of my life have I wasted on absolute nonsense.

Last week I understood sadness. I understood that one can submerge into sadness, but one can also channel the sadness and be elevated to the stars.

I understood the value of love. I understood that you have to hug the person you love, to say a nice word even when it is difficult for you. When was the last time I did that? When did I really love?

Last week I understood the value of tears and singing from the heart. I understood that there is no better way to express the stormy feelings of the soul than by singing. Or crying. Or both.

I also understood the value of giving. I understood that the greatest joy is to give, not to take. Simply give of yourself. When is the last time I gave of myself to someone with a big smile on my face?

Last week I understood the value of memory. I understood that sometimes the only things that remain with us from a complete lifetime are memories.

Last week I also understood what it means to lose a dear friend. Ribbono Shel Olam, why do we only learn to appreciate something after we lose it.


Getting a little of the Yomim Noraim back into this coooollld snowwwyyyy winter, here:-)

The Cohen family, of Houston, TX, is facing a battle none of us should have to go through - aggressive brain cancer in their 6-year old son Refael Elisha (Refael Elisha Meir ben Devorah). Having recently received the devastating news from their doctors that "there is nothing more we can do for him", the Cohens are turning to a last resort - Antineoplaston Therapy at the Burzyinski clinic. However, the FDA pulled their approval for this treatment in 2012 pending further clinical trials. They are told that the FDA is nearing approval to resume this treatment, but Refael Elisha does not have time to wait. 
The FDA has the power to approve a "compassionate use exemption" so Refael Elisha can undergo this therapy to try and save his life.
The family is asking the White House to urge the FDA to grant this exemption so they can continue to fight for his life.

100,000 signatures are needed in order for the White House to consider this. Sign the petition here:
Please pass on the message to all your contacts. Refael Elisha Meir needs your help!

Keeping Dry

In the mishna in Yoma it says that when the Kohen Gadol came out of the mikva on Yom Kippur, he would dry off and so paskened the Rambam [Hil. Yom HaKippurim]. This halacha spawned a great deal of literature trying to understand why it is important that the Kohen Gadol dry off. Some felt that the issue was that the water would constitute a chatzitza between the clothing of the Kohen Gadol and his body. We could talk about this all day... but we won't:-).

At last night's weekly daf yomi shiur bi-iyun asked the Rebbe Shlita: Why is there no halacha anywhere that a regular Kohen must dry off before putting on his bigdei kehuna?? Why only a Kohen Gadol on Yom Kippur??

רפאל אלישע מאיר בן דבורה
בתוך שח"י

רפאל אלישע מאיר בן דבורה

Please daven for Rafael Elisha Meir ben Devorah a young boy with cancer.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Meals Before And On Shabbos

Rabbi Yosef Tzvi Rimon - Shabbat Bi-shabbato Vayigash
Eating Before Shabbos
 "A person should not eat before Shabbat from the time of Mincha or later so that he will enter Shabbat with a desire for food – this is the opinion of Rabbi Yehuda. Rabbi Yossi says that a person can continue to eat up to the time that it gets dark." [Berachot 5b].
The Tosefta rules according to Rabbi Yossi, and the early commentators accept that one is allowed to set the time for a regular meal even after the time of Mincha (an obligatory meal, connected to a mitzva, is a different matter and will not be discussed here). However, the principle behind Rabbi Yehuda's opinion remains valid, and in order to begin Shabbat with a desire to eat it is considered a mitzva to refrain from setting a late time for a meal on Friday afternoon (Rambam, Hilchot Shabbat 30:4; Shulchan Aruch 249:2). In principle the time when a meal should not be started is after the ninth hour of the day. However, during the winter, when the day is very short, a longer time should be set aside for not eating, to make sure that the people will be hungry at the start of Shabbat (Mishna Berura, 17).
A Fast Day before Shabbat
At first glance, in view of the above considerations, the best thing to do would be to fast on Friday and thus to begin Shabbat very hungry. This in fact appears as an act worthy of praise: "The path of people who perform good acts is to fast every Friday" [Shulchan Aruch 249:3]. However, this may in fact not be the best path to follow. The reason for Rabbi Yehuda's ruling is given in the Tosefta – to enter Shabbat with a hungry feeling. However, there is a problem. In the Tosefta of Taanit (2:7) another dispute between Rabbi Yehuda and Rabbi Yossi appears, where Rabbi Yehuda gives the opposite opinion. In this case, the discussion is about breaking the fast before darkness on Tisha B'Av which occurs on Friday (this cannot happen with the permanent calendar which we now use). "If Tisha B'Av occurs on Friday, a person should eat an amount equivalent to a 'beitza' and drink in order not to begin Shabbat in a state of suffering, according to the opinion of Rabbi Yehuda. Rabbi Yossi says, one should fast the whole day."
Thus, according to Rabbi Yehuda a person must prepare properly for Shabbat and keep his desire for food in check. Eating very close to the time of Shabbat is forbidden in order to feel some degree of hunger, but one is not allowed to begin Shabbat in a state of suffering, since this too would harm the atmosphere of Shabbat. Because of this, commentators objected to the practice of those "who perform good acts," which might indeed cause people to enter Shabbat in a state of suffering (Mishna Berura 18).
When should a Fast Day End on Friday?
In the Tosefta quoted above, Rabbi Yossi and Rabbi Yehuda dispute the above topic. Here too the Talmud rules according to Rabbi Yossi, in this case that the Fast Day should be completed until the end (Eiruvin 41). However, the commentators disagree whether the Talmud rules that it is an obligation to complete the Fast Day because we do not accept the opinion of Rabbi Yehuda (Ravia; Rokeyach) or if one is permitted but required to do so without any fear of entering Shabbat while fasting (Tosafot). That is, while fasting at the start of Shabbat is allowed in principle, it is not good practice because it shows disrespect for Shabbat. The Mordechai writes that the R"I tasted some food before the end of the day when the Tenth of Tevet occurred on Friday. He also writes in the name of the Maharam of Rottenberg that if Shabbat was started early eating is permitted, and there is no need to wait until after the sun sets.
The RAMA follows the Maharil (157) but he differentiates between a fast by an individual and a public fast day. He writes that for an individual fast (which must be formally accepted beforehand) the ruling of the Maharam can be followed, but that a public fast day should be completed, until the sun has set.
Summary: On a regular Friday, one is permitted to eat a short time before Shabbat begins, but it is good practice to avoid doing this, in order to enter Shabbat with a desire for food. The Shulchan Aruch discusses a custom to fast every Friday, but recent rabbis object to entering Shabbat while suffering from a fast.
With respect to a fast day that occurs on Shabbat: The fast should be completed until the stars come out at the end of the day. The fast will be broken with the Kiddush. Therefore the prayers should be recited quickly to avoid unnecessary hardship for the people who are fasting.
Let us hope and pray that the Fast of the Tenth Month will become a day of happiness and joy for all of the House of Yehuda and as a time of a holiday, and that truth and peace will be achieved (see Zecharia 8:19).
What is the Proper Time for the Shabbat Meal?
Answer: It is written, "Declare Shabbat as a pleasure, holy for G-d, respect it, and refrain from engaging in your own affairs, seeking your needs, and speaking forbidden matters" [Yeshayahu 58:13]. The sages understood that special foods are an important facet of the pleasure and honor that we are required to show, and they went very far to emphasize the importance of these matters (Shabbat 118b; Shulchan Aruch 242).
However, there is a dispute in the Talmud about the best time for the morning meal, the meal during the day of Shabbat. "'Respect it' – Rav said, make it early, and Shmuel said, make it late" [Shabbat 119a]. Rashi explains that the basic argument between Rav and Shmuel is how to best show respect for Shabbat. Is it best to begin to eat early or to wait and thereby enhance the feeling of anticipation and hunger? Other commentators feel that there is no disagreement in this passage (see Tosafot). The Shulchan Aruch rules following the TUR that the matter is subjective and every person should act in a way that gives him or her most pleasure. "If eating early gives him pleasure, because for example he has digested the meal from the night, then he should eat early. But if he most enjoys being late, because he has not yet digested the first meal, let him eat later" (Shulchan Aruch 288:7).
However, one should take care not to fast on Shabbat. The Talmud Yerushalmi prohibits even fasting until noon (Taanit 3:11), and this is also the ruling of the Shulchan Aruch (288:1). This is especially important when daylight time is not in effect, since noontime is quite early (about 11:30). If the prayers and the sermon take too much time, the hour of noon can be reached without it being noticed.