Friday, May 31, 2013

Big Ni$ayon

From this weeks parsha email with a response from a beloved friend...

Two people robbed a bank. One robber said to his friend "Let's count
the money". His friend answered "We don't have to. We can read about
in tomorrows newspaper".

A beggar knocks on a rich man's door and asks for a pair of pants. The
rich man fulfilled his request and gave him the pants. He continued
standing there. The rich man said "What are you waiting for?"
"I am waiting for you to buy the pants."

In this weeks parsha we read of the sin of the spies. OOYYYYY
VEEEYYY!! So much to talk about and if I start I fear that I won't
end... So instead we skip to the end of the parsha and talk about the
mitzva of wearing tzitzis. Someone told me about a Jewish kid named
Yoel who would take off his tzitizis when he played basketball in the
park. One of the black gentlemen who played with him said "Yo, Yo.
Where is your Jew Strings?" Yoel explained that it bothers him to play
with them on him. The man answered. "Yo man, if God said you gotta
wear dose Jew Strings you betta darn well be wearing 'em even if dey
aint so comftibal."

Mussar from a worthy source. The meraglim didn't take mussar and
failed to learn from the lashon hara of Miriam that speaking evil is
NOT A GOOD IDEA. They also didn't appreciate the uniqueness of Israel
just as Miriam didn't appreciate the unique level of prophecy of Moshe
Rabbeinu. I am so inspired I am considering living in Israel next year
for at least a year. They also didn't realize that yes, Israel might
not be so "comftibal" but if G-d gave it then it must be the place to
live. Wait! I thought I said I'd talk about tzitzis and not the

It says in the pasuk ולא תתורו אחרי לבבכם ואחרי עיניכם - don't follow
your eyes and hearts. Two great leaders, The Chasam Sofer and Rav
Simcha Bunim of Pshischa both note that the pasuk is alluding to a
deeper lesson. אחרי after, the letters עין are the letters pey, kuf
and samech, spelling kesef -  MONEY. After the letters לב are the
letters mem and gimmel spelling gam. GAM KESEF - ALSO MONEY. Not only
should we not follow our eyes and our hearts in the realm of
male-female relationships and improper beliefs [as the gemara says at
the end of the first perek of brachos] but also in financial matters.

Money is a good thing to have. It can buy sfarim! And FOOD!!! I bless
you all with lots and lots!! Poverty is positively yichee!!:) But it
shouldn't be blown out of proportion. As Dovid Hamelech said in
tehillim "הצילני מדמים אלקים" - save me from making money my god. I
should run not after the almighty dollar but the Almighty. The Beis
Hamikdash was destroyed according to the Talmud Yerushalmi, because
they loved money too much. How many families have been broken up over
money fights? How many shidduchim have been soured? How often do we
read of otherwise pious Jews who sell their souls for money? Yeshivos,
shuls, Jewish organizations - we see corruption all over the place. I
yiiiiii yiiiiiii!!!

So my bracha [again!]. You should all have more money than you will
ever need for yourselves and families. But it should only be a source
of goodness to the world and bring more Light, Joy and ruchniyus to

Love, blessings and a Shabbat shalom!!!

This is the response...

I take issue with one part - we live in an area of TREMENDOUS wealth. The ads in the dinner journal for the local yeshiva start at 100,000 dollars and there are DOZENS of them.

 Many frum families moved into new building where the apartments start at 10 million! And then have them gut renovated.

I literally would not be able to sleep at night if I were them.

Can you imagine after 120 Hashem is going to say 'I gave you all that money and THIS is what you did with it?!'

For sure they give generously to yeshivos etc. but its an awesome responsibility in the true sense of awesome.

 Money is a brocha but it can also be a curse.

End of letter.

I try to fundraise for good causes and find the going rough. I spend a lot of time in this person's neighborhood and often hear of how tough things are...... I often ponder this as I attend lavish six figure weddings or watch people drop 30k [more?] for a one week vacation in Israel. [When I was teaching in a certain yeshiva it took me about THREE YEARS to make that:):)]. I mamesh mamesh have an ayin tova and wish them more of the same. But,  I THANK HASHEM that I don't have the nisayon these people have. After 120 Hashem will NOT ask me how come I spent so much money on a house or a car when so many other people didn't have. [I also hope that I can get hold of the names and addresses of people in this dinner journal and help them build me a kollel of 500 guys shteigin'!]

On the other hand He might ask me why I didn't learn enough or have kavana when I daven so I REALLY have to reapply myself:).

Love and blessings!

Too Many Jokes

A Jew, a Muslim and a Christian get on an airplane. The steward approaches them and says "Aren't you tired of being in all these jokes?"

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Special Announcement

Baruch Hashem, after successfully completing the first zman of our "skype-yeshiva" we move into the summer. There are only few spots left. There are also a few spots open for next Elul. The concept is very simple: Any man from the age of 13 until 113 on any level can choose a topic of interest and learn with me via skype at a mutually convenient time. Gemara bi-iyun, gemara bikiyus, Tanach, halacha, chassidus, mussar, anything.  

This is great for college boys not in a yeshiva program or those who are in a yeshiva program but want to supplement their regular learning. It is also wonderful for working men who want to learn at a time and place that is convenient such as during their lunch break or before or after work. It can also be done with more than one person at once [at a reduced rate].

Act now because there are very few spots left. To quote our Sages "If not now - when".

For those under 13 there is also an option for Bar-Mitzvah lessons given by a staff member of mine who is well trained in expertly teaching krias hatorah.

There is also an option for writing bar mitzvah speeches specially customed to the needs of the Bar-Mitzvah boy.  

If you or anyone you know would benefit from such a program [who wouldn't...] you can contact us at or at 646 350 8419.

With Torah blessings:)

Elchanan Ehrman


When a person is born he is a תינוק - a baby. Then his whole life he has to make a תיקון - rectification. Lots of rough times.  Then he dies ניתוק - detachment. All three words have the same letters.

May we all make our תיקון with simcha:).

Please daven for Madlin Miriam bat Momir, a grandmother with cancer who is having surgery.

Learning Secular Wisdom 'Lishmah'

שאלת איך למוד שאר חכמות לשמה עוקר את המאור

לומד תורה שלא לשמה הכונה היא בלומד תורה לשם כבוד או לשם קרדום לחפור בה וכדומה, גם הכבוד וגם הקרדום אינם משתייכים ל ד ע ת. הקרדום והכבוד אינם אלא צרכי חיים או תשוקות חיים, ודוקא על כגון זה אמרו שמתוך שלא לשמה בא לשמה וממילא גם לומד תורה שלא לשמה ב א ו פ ן  ז ה משתייך להמאור שבתורה המחזיר למוטב. אבל בחינת התורה שלא לשמה הגנוזה בלימוד שאר חכמות לשמה הרי הוא ענין של ד ע ת, כלומר כפי ציור הענינים  ב ד ע ת נמצא בעולמו שלימות אחרת מבלעדי שלימות התורה ועל בחינת השלא לשמה הנובעת ממקור הדעת וההכרה לא נאמר כי מתוכה הוא בא לשמה. וממילא הענין הוא להפך כי עוקר הוא על ידי השלא לשמה הזה את צורת התכליתיות בתורה ומפקיע את עצמו מן המאור שבתורה
המחזיר למוטב
[אגרות פחד יצחק]

You asked how learning other wisdoms לשמה uproots the Light Of Torah?
Learning Torah שלא לשמה is when one learns kavod or to make a living. In such instances the kavod and the parnassa aren't in the realm of דעת. The kavod and parnassa are only desires or needs of life. This is what Chazal referred to when they said מתוך שלא לשמה בא לשמה. As long as we are outside of the realm of דעת the שלא לשמה will eventually reach לשמה. The Light of Torah will bring him back. 
When one studies other wisdoms לשמה he is using his כח הדעת - his powers of intellect, when engaging in this study. By doing this he uproots with his דעת the power Torah will have over him. He takes the energetic force of לשמה and uses it in foreign territories. When he then learns Torah שלא לשמה he will lack the capacity to transform that eventually to לשמה.

Bed Time Shema

Kushya Yomis, four shtark kashas on this topic here.

4 for the price of 1!:)

The Success Of Failure

A portion of the commencement address of J.K. Rowling [author of the Harry Potter series] at Harvard in 2008:

What I feared most for myself at your age was not poverty, but failure.
At your age, in spite of a distinct lack of motivation at university, where I had spent far too long in the coffee bar writing stories, and far too little time at lectures, I had a knack for passing examinations, and that, for years, had been the measure of success in my life and that of my peers.

I am not dull enough to suppose that because you are young, gifted and well-educated, you have never known hardship or heartbreak. Talent and intelligence never yet inoculated anyone against the caprice of the Fates, and I do not for a moment suppose that everyone here has enjoyed an existence of unruffled privilege and contentment.

However, the fact that you are graduating from Harvard suggests that you are not very well-acquainted with failure. You might be driven by a fear of failure quite as much as a desire for success. Indeed, your conception of failure might not be too far from the average person’s idea of success, so high have you already flown.

Ultimately, we all have to decide for ourselves what constitutes failure, but the world is quite eager to give you a set of criteria if you let it. So I think it fair to say that by any conventional measure, a mere seven years after my graduation day, I had failed on an epic scale. An exceptionally short-lived marriage had imploded, and I was jobless, a lone parent, and as poor as it is possible to be in modern Britain, without being homeless. The fears that my parents had had for me, and that I had had for myself, had both come to pass, and by every usual standard, I was the biggest failure I knew.
Now, I am not going to stand here and tell you that failure is fun. That period of my life was a dark one, and I had no idea that there was going to be what the press has since represented as a kind of fairy tale resolution. I had no idea then how far the tunnel extended, and for a long time, any light at the end of it was a hope rather than a reality.

So why do I talk about the benefits of failure? Simply because failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena I believed I truly belonged. I was set free, because my greatest fear had been realised, and I was still alive, and I still had a daughter whom I adored, and I had an old typewriter and a big idea. And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.

You might never fail on the scale I did, but some failure in life is inevitable. It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default.
Failure gave me an inner security that I had never attained by passing examinations. Failure taught me things about myself that I could have learned no other way. I discovered that I had a strong will, and more discipline than I had suspected; I also found out that I had friends whose value was truly above the price of rubies.
The knowledge that you have emerged wiser and stronger from setbacks means that you are, ever after, secure in your ability to survive. You will never truly know yourself, or the strength of your relationships, until both have been tested by adversity. Such knowledge is a true gift, for all that it is painfully won, and it has been worth more than any qualification I ever earned.

So given a Time Turner, I would tell my 21-year-old self that personal happiness lies in knowing that life is not a check-list of acquisition or achievement. Your qualifications, your CV, are not your life, though you will meet many people of my age and older who confuse the two. Life is difficult, and complicated, and beyond anyone’s total control, and the humility to know that will enable you to survive its vicissitudes.

Now you might think that I chose my second theme, the importance of imagination, because of the part it played in rebuilding my life, but that is not wholly so. Though I personally will defend the value of bedtime stories to my last gasp, I have learned to value imagination in a much broader sense. Imagination is not only the uniquely human capacity to envision that which is not, and therefore the fount of all invention and innovation. In its arguably most transformative and revelatory capacity, it is the power that enables us to empathise with humans whose experiences we have never shared.

One of the greatest formative experiences of my life preceded Harry Potter, though it informed much of what I subsequently wrote in those books. This revelation came in the form of one of my earliest day jobs. Though I was sloping off to write stories during my lunch hours, I paid the rent in my early 20s by working at the African research department at Amnesty International’s headquarters in London.
There in my little office I read hastily scribbled letters smuggled out of totalitarian regimes by men and women who were risking imprisonment to inform the outside world of what was happening to them. I saw photographs of those who had disappeared without trace, sent to Amnesty by their desperate families and friends. I read the testimony of torture victims and saw pictures of their injuries. I opened handwritten, eye-witness accounts of summary trials and executions, of kidnappings and rapes.

Many of my co-workers were ex-political prisoners, people who had been displaced from their homes, or fled into exile, because they had the temerity to speak against their governments. Visitors to our offices included those who had come to give information, or to try and find out what had happened to those they had left behind.

I shall never forget the African torture victim, a young man no older than I was at the time, who had become mentally ill after all he had endured in his homeland. He trembled uncontrollably as he spoke into a video camera about the brutality inflicted upon him. He was a foot taller than I was, and seemed as fragile as a child. I was given the job of escorting him back to the Underground Station afterwards, and this man whose life had been shattered by cruelty took my hand with exquisite courtesy, and wished me future happiness.

And as long as I live I shall remember walking along an empty corridor and suddenly hearing, from behind a closed door, a scream of pain and horror such as I have never heard since. The door opened, and the researcher poked out her head and told me to run and make a hot drink for the young man sitting with her. She had just had to give him the news that in retaliation for his own outspokenness against his country’s regime, his mother had been seized and executed.

Every day of my working week in my early 20s I was reminded how incredibly fortunate I was, to live in a country with a democratically elected government, where legal representation and a public trial were the rights of everyone.

Every day, I saw more evidence about the evils humankind will inflict on their fellow humans, to gain or maintain power. I began to have nightmares, literal nightmares, about some of the things I saw, heard, and read.

... The power of human empathy, leading to collective action, saves lives, and frees prisoners. Ordinary people, whose personal well-being and security are assured, join together in huge numbers to save people they do not know, and will never meet. My small participation in that process was one of the most humbling and inspiring experiences of my life.

Unlike any other creature on this planet, humans can learn and understand, without having experienced. They can think themselves into other people’s places.

Of course, this is a power, like my brand of fictional magic, that is morally neutral. One might use such an ability to manipulate, or control, just as much as to understand or sympathise.

And many prefer not to exercise their imaginations at all. They choose to remain comfortably within the bounds of their own experience, never troubling to wonder how it would feel to have been born other than they are. They can refuse to hear screams or to peer inside cages; they can close their minds and hearts to any suffering that does not touch them personally; they can refuse to know.
I might be tempted to envy people who can live that way, except that I do not think they have any fewer nightmares than I do. Choosing to live in narrow spaces leads to a form of mental agoraphobia, and that brings its own terrors. I think the wilfully unimaginative see more monsters. They are often more afraid.

What is more, those who choose not to empathise enable real monsters. For without ever committing an act of outright evil ourselves, we collude with it, through our own apathy.

One of the many things I learned at the end of that Classics corridor down which I ventured at the age of 18, in search of something I could not then define, was this, written by the Greek author Plutarch: What we achieve inwardly will change outer reality.

That is an astonishing statement and yet proven a thousand times every day of our lives. It expresses, in part, our inescapable connection with the outside world, the fact that we touch other people’s lives simply by existing.

But how much more are you, Harvard graduates of 2008, likely to touch other people’s lives? Your intelligence, your capacity for hard work, the education you have earned and received, give you unique status, and unique responsibilities. Even your nationality sets you apart. The great majority of you belong to the world’s only remaining superpower. The way you vote, the way you live, the way you protest, the pressure you bring to bear on your government, has an impact way beyond your borders. That is your privilege, and your burden.

If you choose to use your status and influence to raise your voice on behalf of those who have no voice; if you choose to identify not only with the powerful, but with the powerless; if you retain the ability to imagine yourself into the lives of those who do not have your advantages, then it will not only be your proud families who celebrate your existence, but thousands and millions of people whose reality you have helped change. We do not need magic to change the world, we carry all the power we need inside ourselves already: we have the power to imagine better.

I am nearly finished. I have one last hope for you, which is something that I already had at 21. The friends with whom I sat on graduation day have been my friends for life. They are my children’s godparents, the people to whom I’ve been able to turn in times of trouble, people who have been kind enough not to sue me when I took their names for Death Eaters. At our graduation we were bound by enormous affection, by our shared experience of a time that could never come again.

So today, I wish you nothing better than similar friendships. And tomorrow, I hope that even if you remember not a single word of mine, you remember those of Seneca, another of those old Romans I met when I fled down the Classics corridor, in retreat from career ladders, in search of ancient wisdom:

As is a tale, so is life: not how long it is, but how good it is, is what matters.

I wish you all very good lives. Thank you very much.

The Limits Of Love

Rav Kook was known for his boundless love for all Jews, even the evil ones. However, he was a balanced individual and understood that JUST loving is dangerous as it could lead to the adoption of the ways of the evildoers. I often hear people who will justify the ways of the sinners and discern that the talker himself is not so distant from their ways. Yes indeed, it is important to use our capacity for HATRED against reshaim. Of course there should also be an element of love and chesed that shine their great light on the souls of even the wicked, however the primary feeling should be one of hostility. This will ensure that we don't follow in their ways. The laissez faire attitude of "hey, everyone has free choice and that is the path they chose" it mortally dangerous for the soul. What guarantees the purity of the soul is a feeling of repulsion for evil people and their erring ways.
Please try to read and understand the following passage written by Rav Kook in Shmone Kvatzim, kovetz 1/473.
מי שחסר לו החוש של שנאת הרשעים יוכלו התכונות המעשים והדעות הרעות להדבק בו ולפגמו, ואף על פי שעל ידי גודל מיתוק של חסד הולך האור ונזרח גם על הרשעים, מכל מקום ראוי לאחוז במדה ידועה של גבורה, שהיא מכרת בשנאה פנימית לרשעים הגדולים, מרימי יד בתורה. ומדה זו היא כמו סנדל לנשמה, שלא תטנף רגליה ביון מצולות הקליפות, והיא משומרת ע"י תכונה זו בטהרתה

Special Announcement!

Baruch Hashem, after successfully completing the first zman of our "skype-yeshiva" we move into the summer. There are only few spots left. There are also a few spots open for next Elul. The concept is very simple: Any man from the age of 13 until 113 on any level can choose a topic of interest and learn with me via skype at a mutually convenient time. Gemara bi-iyun, gemara bikiyus, Tanach, halacha, chassidus, mussar, anything.  

This is great for college boys not in a yeshiva program or those who are in a yeshiva program but want to supplement their regular learning. It is also wonderful for working men who want to learn at a time and place that is convenient such as during their lunch break or before or after work. It can also be done with more than one person at once [at a reduced rate].

Act now because there are very few spots left. To quote our Sages "If not now - when".

For those under 13 there is also an option for Bar-Mitzvah lessons given by a staff member of mine who is well trained in expertly teaching krias hatorah.

There is also an option for writing bar mitzvah speeches specially customed to the needs of the Bar-Mitzvah boy.  

If you or anyone you know would benefit from such a program [who wouldn't...] you can contact us at or at 646 350 8419.

With Torah blessings:)

Elchanan Ehrman
This weeks chidush on Parshas Shlach - Tzitzis and bitul bi-rov. So exciting!:)


Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Problem Of Tcheiles

Kushya Yomis here.

New Post

A very important article for MARRIED MEN only [in lashon hakodesh] here. It is remarkable how utterly NORMAL and humanistic [in the sense of taking into account basic human nature and needs] our Torah is. If you can't read it yourself you should have someone help you.  

Passionately Thoughtful

"From its abstractionist posture, intellectualism typically conveys the impression that it is chiefly or only from passion that rationality can suffer; the folk-wisdom among rationalists is that emotion is the primary pollutant obstructing rational processes. But it is also, and far more pertinently in our age, from apathy that rationality suffers: when people do not care enough to think about received opinions, when they have no inherent drive to dissociate themselves from the dogmas and biases of their age, when their own freedom and the transcendence of the truth mean so little to them that they will not endure the painful task of self-reflection, when the very scale or profundity of problems the modern age has generated invite a defeatist attitude, then indeed it is truer than ever what Kierkegaard wrote a century and a half ago: "What the age needs is passion," not barbaric but sublimated energy. Hegel's truism about history--that "nothing great is ever accomplished without passion"--explains a great deal about our effete culture, our sterile education and stagnant politics. Like Marx and Nietzsche, Kierkegaard and Hegel wrote out of a prodigious reservoir of passion that did not in the least prevent them from being critical and rational. In our present era--wracked by a morbid boredom and an unshakeable conviction that there is nothing worth learning and preserving--I believe the lesson is clear. Difficult and risky as it may be, heat as well as light is called for."

I already posted this quote but now I'd like to add a word of commentary. The Heilige Ba'al Shem Tov came to the world to cure the malady this quote describes. Namely, excessive rationalism. Passion breaks down the walls of  intellectual stagnancy and paves the way for a renaissance in thinking and behavior. Of course we use our brains but we are not cold dispassionate robots.

Eating For Hashem

Sometimes when you are not sure what bracha to make you eat other foods in order to cover the doubtful food. For example - Corn Flakes. If it is made out of ground corn flour then it gets a shehakol. If it is made out of pieces of corn then it gets a ha-adama. If you don't know how it is made then you take a piece of melon [or any ha-adama] make a bracha and then eat it. Then you take a she-hakol such as cheese, make a bracha and then eat it. Now you may have your corn flakes [provided that it isn't a fast day which means that you shouldn't have made the first two brachos either:)]. Or take granola bars as an example. The question as to what bracha to make on a granola bar is more hotly contested than many important gemara questions. So many possiblities. [GIRLS! Ask boys on a date what bracha to make on granola bars. If he honestly says that he doesn't know you may marry him. Honesty is a tremendous virute!] Someone may soon publish a book entitled "Birkas Granola Bars Ki-hilchaso". So take a mezonos, ha-adama and shehakol, make brachos on those and then granola-cise.

One time the Heilige Beis Yisrael gave someone something to eat to cover a doubtful bracha situation [known in the beis medrash as a "safek bracha"]. He noted that it is very special to eat in order to make a bracha instead of what we usually do which is make a bracha in order to eat. The Rebbe suggested that a pasuk in this weeks parsha reflects this idea. והיה באכלכם מלחם הארץ תרימו תרומה לשם - When you eat from the bread of the land separate a portion for Hashem. Meaning, whenever you eat it should be a gift to Hashem.
Love means to commit oneself without guarantee, to give oneself completely in the hope that our love will produce love in the loved person. Love is an act of faith, and whoever is of little faith is also of little love.
Erich Fromm (1900 - 1980)
"There is a wonderful, mystical law of nature that the three things we crave most in life, happiness, freedom and peace of mind, are always attained by giving them to someone else."
It is almost 2am and I am busy worrying about something. I really want to be doing something more productive but so is my internal state at this moment. I came across this doozer that, together with the knowledge that Hashem runs the show and everything will be JUST FINE, will help eradicate my worry:). Listen...

Worry is running a horror movie about the future - without a stop button.

Herman van Staden
Source: Herman v Staden – Auxanõ - Emotional Health & Fitness © 2008
Kushya yomis on the most difficult gemara in gantz shas, here!

בפגישה שהיתה להרה"ק ר' ישראל מטשורטקוב זי"ע עם הרה"ק בעל האמרי אמת מגור זי"ע, שאלו הטשורטקובר: איתא בתהלים [קו כו] 'וישא ידו להם להפיל אותם במדבר ולהפיל זרעם בגוים ולזרותם בארצות'. שאלו הרבי, דברים אלו נאמרו לאחר חטא המרגלים, בשלמא להפיל אותם במדבר מצינו, שהרי נענשו שלא יכנסו לארץ וימותו במדבר אבל לזרותם בארצות היכן מצינו בתורה?

השיב הרבי מגור ואמר, כשביקש משה עליהם אמרה התורה 'ויאמר ה' סלחתי כדבריך, ואולם חי אני וימלא כבוד ה' את כל הארץ' [במדבר יד כא כב]. היאך יתכן שימלא כבוד ה' את כל הארץ אם לא יהיה ולזרותם בגויים, כששמע הרה"ק מטשורטקוב את הדברים, הגיב מיד ואמר 'ווארט כזה, יכול לאמר רק מנהיג הדור'.

The Holy Chortkover Rebbe met the Imrei Emes and asked him: The pasuk says in Tehillim [relating to the sin of the meraglim], "Hashem raised his hand to cause them to fall in the desert ... and to scatter them on the earth". I understand, said the Chorkover, that they fell in the desert, but where does it say that they were scattered on the earth?

Answered the Imrei Emes: After Moshe asked Hashem to forgive the Jews it says "I forgive them as you asked. However I swear that the honor of Hashem will fill the earth." THAT is a fulfillment of scattering the Jews.

The Chortkover exclaimed that only the leader of the generation can say such a vort!

מדברנא דאומתיה עמ' רעב

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Mazel Tov!

An email I received from a beloved friend....

Makes you just want to dance and tantz and dance and tantz and dance and tantz some more. [CLICK!]

Mi ki-amcha Yisrael.

End of email.

I must admit, sometimes I am learning and having trouble. I then think of this video and am inspired to shtieg and shteig!!:):) Hope it works for you too.

The Power Of The Eye

ועיני ישראל כבדו מזוקן לא יוכל לראות ויגש אותם אליו ויחבק וינשק להם - "The eyes of Yisrael were heavy with age, he couldn't see, and he brought them [Yosef's sons] close and he hugged and kissed them."

What is the connection between Yisrael's poor vision and the hug and kiss at the end of the pasuk?

Explains the Sforno: In order to receive a bracha there must be a deep emotional connection between the one blessing and the one being blessed. This is created by LOOKING at the one being blessed. However, since Yaakov couldn't see, the closeness and connection was created by the hug and kiss.

This means that by merely  LOOKING we connect deeply. The windows are the eyes of the soul and looking allows the object viewed to penetrate the soul.

There is a concept in the gemara called "hezek ri-iyah", that by looking at someones property one can actually damage it. How does this work? Explains the Ralbag that looking at something is like taking it into your own possession.

This expains the hava amina [notion] of the gemara that by merely LOOKING at an object one can acquire it [הבטה קונה in Spanish].

If you can merely SEE a city that was walled in the time of Yehoshua Bin Nun, you read the Megilla on the 15th as the walled city does. Being able to see is like being there.

Where am I going with this??

IT ISSSSSS SUMMMMMERRRRTIIIMMEEEE!!! We men MUST watch what we see. It is DANGEROUS to see things that shouldn't be seen. Our society is SCREAMING AT US to view inappropriate things. It may seem harmless to look but it really corrupts our very tender souls. How do we know? Because the Torah teaches us this. It is actually a pasuk in this weeks parsha - ולא תתורו אחרי לבבכם ואחרי עיניכם - don't follow your eyes and see what you shouldn't.

When Rav Aharon Kotler was in Kletzk he used to go to the Beis Medrash the long way in order to avoid seeing what he shouldn't [you can imagine that in Kletzk women dressed far more modestly than they do today]. One time he was walking with two boys who were afraid to walk Rav Aharon's way because there were scary hungry dogs. Rav Aharon said "Don't worry. Hold on to my coattalis and you will be fine." They did and the hungry dogs didn't make a peep.

[Orah Vi-simcha page רכג]

And LADIES! Daughters of Israel!! Remember, men are most probably looking at you - even if you don't notice. By dressing modestly you are saving their souls. I give you not mussar! I just remind you that what his holy is hidden. The holy of holies was hidden from the eye and so is your soul. So is Hashem. What is holy is hidden. Make your body holy.

This is a topic I should revisit because our spiritual foundation is based on our level of shmiras einayim.

It Paid Off

In the Soloveitchik family, the custom was not to visit the cemetery. Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik said that he violated the custom but it paid off.

He used to visit his wife's grave after she passed away. One time as he was leaving, a man who saw him approached and asked him to say a tfilla next to the grave of a relative. This man didn't know who he was and thought that he was the shammes. Rav Soloveitchik agreed. He then said "My mother in law's grave is over there. Maybe you can say a prayer there, too?" Rav Soloveitchik agreed. He then asked Rav Soloveitchik to say a tfilla for another relative. After all this, he pulled out a twenty dollar bill and gave it to the Rav. He said it was not necessary and refused to accept it. The man thought that it wasn't enough so he gave him 100 dollars. The Rav politely refused that as well.

He then saw the Rav getting into a cab and thought that if he was really a poor shammes he wouldn't be taking  cab. So he entered the office there and asked who that man was. He was told "Oh, that was Rabbi Soloveitchik, the Chief Rabbi of America!!"

The man went to Maimonidies [the school headed by the Rav] and gave a thousand dollar donation. From the next year on he sent a thousand dollars every year.

So you see, related Rav Soloveitchik, I broke the family tradition of not going to cemeteries but it paid off:).

[Heard from Rav Schachter Shlita]

The Center Of The Universe

This is deep.

We only experience other people and the world as refracted through the prism of our own consciousness. So when we are at a wedding we only feel joy as ourselves for the couple but don't actually feel the feelings of the couple. At a funeral we will feel our OWN sense of loss but not that of the dearly departed. We can never step out of ourselves - even for one moment.

This is why our sense of joy or sadness at what goes on is directly proportional to the closeness we feel to the parties involved. So if a Jew gets married you are happier than if a non-jew does. If you know the person more than if you don't know the person. If are close to the person more than if you are not, etc. etc.

What's my point??? THE TORAH WANTS US TO STEP OUT OF OURSELVES AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE - DESPITE THE DIFFICULTY. We intuitively may feel that we are the center of the universe, but if I am then so is my friend! G-d loves my children but he loves the children down the block JUST AS MUCH. Yet, I don't even know the names of the children down the block! Why is that? Excessive immersion in the self.

Here is a passage that Hashem brought to my attention: Everything in my own immediate experience supports my deep belief that I am the absolute center of the universe; the realist, most vivid and important person in existence. We rarely think about this sort of natural, basic self-centeredness because it's so socially repulsive. But it's pretty much the same for all of us. It is our default setting, hard-wired into our boards at birth. Think about it: there is no experience you have had that you are not the absolute center of. The world as you experience it is there in front of YOU or behind YOU, to the left or right of YOU, on YOUR TV or YOUR monitor. And so on. Other people's thoughts and feelings have to be communicated to you somehow, but your own are so immediate, urgent, real.
If one starts stepping outside of him/herself, NEW WORLDS OF CHESED, AHAVA, CARE AND COMPASSION OPEN UP!
Think about it:):)
Love and blessings

A Loser??

"I've missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times, I've been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed."

Michael Jordan [!!]
A shiur explaining the Shabbos Mevarchim tfilla we say before Rosh Chodesh. GREAT life lessons. Here.

Can The Rationale Of "Af heyn hayu bi-oso ha-nes" Obligate Nashim In Mitzvos Min HaTorah

Kushya yomis here.
LEADERSHIP: "When trouble arises and things look bad, there is always one individual who perceives a solution and is willing to take command. Very often, that person is crazy."
Dave Barry

Monday, May 27, 2013

Commencement Speech At Butler University 2013


First I have to deliver terrible news, which is that you are all going to die. This is another time-honored tradition of American celebration, the Raining on the Parade. I remember when I got married, the priest devoted most of his homily to telling me how challenging and laborious marriage would be, and I kept thinking, “Well, sure, but can’t we talk about that, like, TOMORROW?”

But no, it simply cannot wait. You are going to die.

But I would argue that it’s good to be aware of temporariness when you are thinking about what you want to do with your life. The whole idea of this commencement speech is that I’m supposed to offer you some thoughts on how you might live a good life out there in the so-called Real World, which by the way I assure you is no more or less real than the one in which you have so far found yourselves.

But I can’t give any advice about how to live a good life unless and until we establish what constitutes a good life. Of course, that’s much of what you’ve been up to for the past four years, and I’m not going to swoop in here at the end with any interesting revelations. I would just note that the default assumption is that the point of human life is to be as successful as possible, to acquire lots of fame or glory or money as defined by quantifiable metrics: number of twitter followers, or facebook friends, or dollars in one’s 401k.

This is the hero’s journey, right? The hero starts out with no money and ends up with a lot of it, or starts out an ugly duckling and becomes a beautiful swan, or starts out an awwkard girl and becomes a vampire mother, or grows up an orphan living under the staircase and then becomes the wizard who saves the world. We are taught that the hero’s journey is the journey from weakness to strength. But I am here today to tell you that those stories are wrong. The real hero’s journey is the journey from strength to weakness.

And here is the good news nested inside the bad: Many of you, most of you, are about to make that journey. You will go from being the best-informed, most engaged students at one of the finest universities around to being the person who brings coffee to people, or a Steak n Shake waiter, as I once was. Whether you’re a basketball player or a pharmacist or a software designer, you’re about to be a rookie. Your parents’ long-asked questions—what exactly does one DO with a degree in anthropology—will become a matter of sudden and profound relevance. Your student loans will come due and you will need a very good answer for why exactly you went to college, which answer you will have a hard time coming by as you sit at your job, provided you are lucky enough to find a job, and suffer the indignity of people calling you by the wrong name or, if you are forced to wear a name tag, people calling you by the right name too often.

That is the true hero’s errand—strength to weakness. And because you went to college, you will be more alive to the experience, better able to contextualize it and maybe even find the joy and wonder hidden amid the dehumanizing drudgery. For example, when I was a data entry professional, I would often call to mind William Faulkner’s brilliant letter of resignation from the United States Postal Service, which went:

As long as I live under the capitalistic system, I expect to have my life influenced by the demands of moneyed people. But I will be damned if I propose to be at the beck and call of every itinerant scoundrel who has two cents to invest in a postage stamp. This, sir, is my resignation. William Faulkner.

Having read that letter in a Faulkner biography in college had nothing to do with my job typing numbers into a database, but it was still profoundly useful to me. Education provides context and comfort and access, no matter the relationship between your field of study and your post-collegiate life.

But still, you are probably going to be a nobody for a while. You are going to make that journey from strength to weakness, and while it won’t be an easy trip, it is a heroic one. For in learning how to be a nobody, you will learn how not to be a jerk. And for the rest of your life, if you are able to remember your hero’s journey from college grad to underling, you will be less of a jerk. You will tip well. You will empathize. You will be a mentor, and a generous one. In short, you will become like the people you imagined in silence a few minutes ago.

Let me submit to you that this is the actual definition of a good life. You want to be the kind of person who other people—people who may not even born yet—will think about in their own silences years from now at their own commencements.  We may be taught that the people to admire and emulate are actors and musicians and sports heroes and professionally famous people, but when we look at the people who have helped us, the people who actually change actual lives, relatively few of them are publicly celebrated. We do not think of the money they had, but of their generosity. We do not think of how beautiful or powerful they were, but how willing they were to sacrifice for us—so willing, at times, that we might not have even noticed that they were making sacrifices.

So with that in mind, I’d like to share a few pieces of what I believe to be rock solid advice about proper adulthood or whatever:

First, do not worry too much about your lawn. You will soon find if you haven’t already that almost every adult American devotes tremendous time and money to the maintenance of an invasive plant species called turf grass that we can’t eat. I encourage you to choose better obsessions.

Keep reading. Specifically, read my books, ideally in hardcover. But also keep reading other books. You have probably figured out by now that education is not really about grades or getting a job; it’s primarily about becoming a more aware and engaged observer of the universe. If that ends with college, you’re rather wasting your one and only known chance at consciousness.

On that topic, there are many more jobs out there than you have ever heard of. Your dream job might not yet exist.

And lastly, be vigilant in the struggle toward empathy. A couple years after I graduated from college, I was living in an apartment in Chicago with four friends, one of whom was this Kuwaiti guy named Hassan, and when the U.S. invaded Iraq, Hassan lost touch with his family, who lived on the border, for six weeks. He responded to this stress by watching cable news coverage of the war 24 hours a day. So the only way to hang out with Hassan was to sit on the couch with him, and so one day we were watching the news and the anchor was like, “We’re getting new footage from the city of Baghdad,” and a camera panned across a house that had a huge hole in one wall covered by a piece of plywood. On the plywood was Arabic graffiti scrawled in black spraypaint, and as the news anchor talked about the anger on the Arab street or whatever, Hassan started laughing for the first time in several weeks.

“What’s so funny?” I asked him.

“The graffiti,” he said.

“What’s funny about it?”

“It says, Happy Birthday, Sir, Despite the Circumstances.”

For the rest of your life, you are going to have a choice about how to read graffiti in a language you do not know, and you will have a choice about how to read the actions and intonations of the people you meet. I would encourage you as often as possible to consider the Happy Birthday Sir Despite the Circumstances possibility, the possibility that the lives and experiences of others are as complex and unpredictable as your own, that other people—be they family or strangers, near or far—are not simply one thing or the other—not simply good or evil or wise or ignorant—but that they like you contain multitudes, to borrow a phrase from the great Walt Whitman.

This is difficult to do—it is difficult to remember that people with lives different and distant from your own even celebrate birthdays, let alone with gifts of graffitied plywood. You will always be stuck inside of your body, with your consciousness, seeing through the world through your own eyes, but the gift and challenge of your education is to see others as they see themselves, to grapple with this mean and crazy and beautiful world in all its baffling complexity. We haven’t left you with the easiest path, I know, but I have every confidence in you, and I wish you a very happy graduation, despite the circumstances.

Steve Jobs' Commencement Address At Stanford

When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: “If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right.” It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.

Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.

About a year ago I was diagnosed with cancer. I had a scan at 7:30 in the morning, and it clearly showed a tumor on my pancreas. I didn’t even know what a pancreas was. The doctors told me this was almost certainly a type of cancer that is incurable, and that I should expect to live no longer than three to six months. My doctor advised me to go home and get my affairs in order, which is doctor’s code for prepare to die. It means to try to tell your kids everything you thought you’d have the next 10 years to tell them in just a few months. It means to make sure everything is buttoned up so that it will be as easy as possible for your family. It means to say your goodbyes.

I lived with that diagnosis all day. Later that evening I had a biopsy, where they stuck an endoscope down my throat, through my stomach and into my intestines, put a needle into my pancreas and got a few cells from the tumor. I was sedated, but my wife, who was there, told me that when they viewed the cells under a microscope the doctors started crying because it turned out to be a very rare form of pancreatic cancer that is curable with surgery. I had the surgery and I’m fine now.

This was the closest I’ve been to facing death, and I hope it’s the closest I get for a few more decades. Having lived through it, I can now say this to you with a bit more certainty than when death was a useful but purely intellectual concept:

No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.
When I was young, there was an amazing publication called The Whole Earth Catalog, which was one of the bibles of my generation. It was created by a fellow named Stewart Brand not far from here in Menlo Park, and he brought it to life with his poetic touch. This was in the late 1960′s, before personal computers and desktop publishing, so it was all made with typewriters, scissors, and polaroid cameras. It was sort of like Google in paperback form, 35 years before Google came along: it was idealistic, and overflowing with neat tools and great notions.Stewart and his team put out several issues of The Whole Earth Catalog, and then when it had run its course, they put out a final issue. It was the mid-1970s, and I was your age. On the back cover of their final issue was a photograph of an early morning country road, the kind you might find yourself hitchhiking on if you were so adventurous. Beneath it were the words: “Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.” It was their farewell message as they signed off. Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish. And I have always wished that for myself. And now, as you graduate to begin anew, I wish that for you.

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

Thank you all very much.
"It must be those brief moments
when nothing has happened - nor is going to.
Tiny moments, like islands in the ocean
beyond the grey continent of our ordinary days.

There, sometimes, you meet your own heart
like someone you've never known."

How Can One Choose Between Beis Hillel And Beis Shamai?

Kushya Yomis here.


Two ladies are sitting on the boardwalk in Miami Beach. One woman says to her friend "Ida, did I tell you that my daughter got married?"

"Really? The daughter that was married to a doctor?"


"Then she married a lawyer?"


"Who did she marry now?"

"An investment banker".

"What nachas!!!!"


The mussar haskel is that in our crazy world someone is considered a success of he has money even if he failed in more important areas of life and as a failure if he doesn't have money even if he is a success in other, more important, areas.

A Lot To Work On

One guy, after his fifth marriage said "I'm beginning to think that it might be me".

Remarkable insight:).

Every couple could use therapy.

Every couple.

The more self aware one is, the more he/she realizes how much growth opportunity there is through one's marriage. Most people AREN'T that self aware and go through the motions and don't realize what they are missing out on. People who go to therapy are usually those who are having severe problems. Even if a couple doesn't go, they should still be aware of the issues and be working together on solidifying their union.

When people go to therapy there are a number of possibilities.

A] They both agree that HE is the problem.

B] They both agree that SHE is the problem.

C] They each claim that the other one is the problem.

All wrong.

The TRUTH is that BOTH of them are the source of the solution. In other words, in MOST instances, both contribute to the problems. We are all people, imperfect, fallible and have light years of work to do before we reach perfection. To appreciate and internalize that is to put yourself on the road to growth.   

EXCELLENT talk on nurturing self esteem in your children, here.

Holy And Yet Not Holy

Recently, I have been discussing the Internet. We continue. It is THE issue of our generation.

I lived in the Old City in the Jewish quarter, known as the Rova, for over 20 years. That is the HOLIEST place in the world. Hashem "lives" there:). I wanted to as well. I no longer live there. I must admit that to a certain extent it was a disappointment.

Case in point: There is a grocery store there that sells food. Fine. But they are open all night and the television is on. Most families in the Rova don't own television sets precisely because they don't want their kids watching. So their innocent little Moishe enters this store and is exposed to all of the lovely educational lessons that TV has to offer. Gilui Arayos, Shfichus Domim and Avoda Zara. All of the biggies:).

This establishment also has Internet. For only a few shekels, pure innocent children can have unlimited, unsupervised Internet access. All he has to do is type in three letters [the last one being "x"] and he will be instantaneously exposed to filth of such dimensions that it makes Times Square look like a Chasidishe Shteibel by comparison. The owner of this establishement was approached by the Rabbonim of the Rova and asked to cease and desist but he refused [so I am told by an inside source]. So parents invest years in order to educate their children and in minutes it can all go down the drain. Kids go to this place. In the Rova - kids go off the derech.

Everywhere kids go off the derech. Meah Shearim, Benei Brak, Monsey and Lakewood. But the Rova, for this and other reasons, is particularly scary.

I hope my kids never went into this place but I can never be sure. Where I live now there is Baruch Hashem no such thing. Of course, a kid can get on a bus and go anywhere and isn't under constant supervision as he gets older. One has to educate his children about the dangers of Internet. But still, if only seconds away from one's house dwells the Satan, it is frightening.

I love Hashem and I love His holy city. But I can no longer live there. It is really too bad.

Too Busy

I often assert that the phrase "I don't have time" is quite misleading. EVERYBODY has the same amount of time.

24 hours a day.

When someone says "I don't have the time to do X" what he is really saying is that X is just not important or pressing enough for him to do.

I am busy. Really busy. Can't be interrupted. Then I get a phone call. My wife tells me that she needs to go to the hospital to give birth to triplets. I suddenly have time. Tadaaaaa!!!:)

I saw this idea in a gemara that I recently learned [Ksubos 27]. The Mishna says that when an army captures a town, we must assume that the women of the town were violated. [So is the male animal at war]. The gemara cites a source that says that during war time the soldiers are TOO BUSY to take the wine and pour it to their idols [so the wine remains kosher]. But wait a second, asks the gemara, I thought that the soldiers DO HAVE time, as evidenced by the fact that we assume that they violated the women. Answers the gemara [say this in gemara niggun], for their yetzer hara, they have time. For the idols, they are too busy.   

When you want to do something - you do it....


Two Yidden meet at shul and want to daven with a minyan. One fellow says to his friend "OK - Me and you, you and me, the two of us together, that is six. Now you say it and we have twelve!"

His friend says "GREAT! We have two extra people so the two of us can go home".
Someone's boring me. I think it's me.
Dylan Thomas, in Rayner Heppenstall, Four Absentees (1960)
Welsh poet (1914 - 1953)

What You MUST Do Is ......

You cannot teach a man anything; you can only help him discover it in himself.
Galileo Galilei (1564 - 1642)

Giving advice is a mitzva from the Torah! We LOVE mitzvos:).

BUT...... before you give someone advice make sure that you know all of the details. Otherwise, it is like a patient goes to a doctor who promptly writes a prescription WITHOUT EXAMINING the patient. Just because it is good medication, doesn't mean that it is good for this person.

Also, make sure he wants to hear it. Otherwise, he might take offense because giving somebody advice implies that YOU KNOW MORE WHAT IS GOOD FOR THE OTHER PERSON THAN HE DOES. THAT is offensive. It also generates resistance.

Parents often fall into this trap. Guiding one's child is a very sensitive issue. We want them to go on a certain path but have to be careful not to impose on them our preconceived notions of what is right.

My advice is often solicited. Probably - because it is free. Also possibly, because I make time for people and try not to give them the feeling that I am too busy. Maybe, because I am not:).

What I always try to determine is if people just want a listening ear [I have two Baruch Hashem. Funny shaped but they work GREAT!] or want advice. When I offer it I try to make it clear that only the person knows what is best for him/her and I am just an objective observer [an "observant Jew" as it were] offering possible solutions and approaches. I then ask how it sounds to the person - if he/she doesn't like it, then I shelve it.

Where this all leads us is to that blissful place of Mosaic purity: It is called "HUMILITY".

That is what one needs in all areas of life.

If this posts resonates with you then I encourage you to apply it to your life. If it does not then you can live as you choose:):).

Love and blessings.

Annulling Marriage And Bracha Li-Vatala

Kushya Yomis here.

A must see for all adults, here.


Re: My post on the baby sitter who was doing some very inappropriate surfing.

I received an email from a concerned therapist-in-training that this girl shouldn't just be written off but should be helped [the purpose of the email was to brainstorm as to how to appraoch the issue]. She of course is going to confront the problem and deal with it, with the help of whoever needs to get involved. I should have mentioned that part.....

Another email I received encouraged everyone to have a filter on their Internet. Point well taken. [I understand that kids learn how to bypass the filter but it is certainly better than nothing]. He added in the name of a well known rabbi in Riverdale Ir HaTorah, that one should not have yichud with the Internet. Great idea. One should also, I may add, not have yichud with a member of the opposite gender. Ignoring that prohibition is the cause of no small amount of tragedies in our communities. והמבין יבין.

I thank my two beloved friends for their insight and readership:).

This girl is all of our responsibility as כל ישראל ערבים זה בזה.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Just Wait

When I was first married, I would spend many a shabbos in Har Nof. The Rav of the shul where I davened [Rav Kitzis] would speak EVERY WEEK about מזמור שיר ליום השבת. For years he discussed this perek. I must admit that I don't remember much of what he said but there is one idea that sticks out in my mind. The perek concludes "להגיד כי ישר השם צורי ולא עולתה בו" - To say that Hashem is just, my Rock in whom there is no wrongdoing".

At the END we always see that Hashem is  ישר - just. When things are rough He sometimes seems unjust, but if we just have patience we will eventually see how perfect He is.

I hope it isn't irreverent to say [based on the pasuk] "Hashem Yisborach, you Rock!" צורי ולא עולתה בו.

Sweetest friends, have patience and wait for things to come together.
Amazing story in Hebrew from Rav Lau about the Gentile who saved his life, here.

What Color The Straps?

We all know that tefillin straps must be black - but is that necessarily true?

 The Mishna Brura says [סי' טז סקי"ט] writes that ideally they should be as black as a raven. The Biyur Halacha [same man - different font:)] adds that any black is good enough and even [dark] blue works. Rav Yisrael Gustman believed that even dark brown is good enough.

What is fascinating is that this leads to an interesting discussion of which colors make a woman a niddah. From tefillin straps directly into taharas hamishpacha....

See Sefer Halichos Yisrael [by Rabbi Yisrael Talin] page 80.


Today the world is a global village. Even as far away as Givat Zeev we find about about the good, bad and ugly [we prefer the first category and try to avoid the latter two]. This is an email I received from the greater New York- New Jersey area [don't try to figure out where exactly. New York and New Jersey are BIG places:)]. I am certain that this happens all over the place. Since people often associate anti-internet rhetoric with Charedim, I assure you that the writer of this email, a good friend, talmid chochom and yarei shomayim, doesn't wear a black hat and learned in Modern Orthodox yeshivas. This is not a Charedi vs. Modern issue but a "let's keep ourselves and children safe" issue.

There is a great family in our community - they are machshiv torah and chessed and they one teenage daughter who is very sought after as a babysitter in the neighborhood. The family is sort of yeshivish/chareidi and I believe she is in some bais-yaakov-ish high school. But the family is also seemingly "open" as far as internet access  is concerned (the kids have email accounts, cell phones etc). [She also has about six brothers who all learn in charedi chadorim and yeshivos].

When the girl comes over to babysit, she asks for access to our computer to help pass the quiet time (sometimes the kids are up when she is here so she can only use the computer when they are sleeping). We didn't think much of it since we trust her and we know her family well. I always made a point to check the internet history after the fact and thus far I have never seen anything alarming.. a lot of wasted time on some movies and other things [My note: If a Beis Yaakov girl is caught watching a movie that would be her last day in Beis Yaakov]... but nothing alarming or inappropriate....

...Until tonight.

When I looked tonight (when we got back from a family outing) I see that there are several searches on the internet for semi-inappropriate content (things that have to do with physicality between men and women). It seems that this led her to other more explicit content. This disturbing discovery possibly sheds light on some other incidents that we've had with her that have been a little suspicious.  We thought that in the past we've heard her on her cell phone with boys when we came into the house. She also locked the door with a chain so that we couldn't get in with our key and had to wait for her to open. 

There are other strange details to the story but I am not sure they are l'to'eles. The bottom line is - we have decided she will never babysit for us again. We clearly do not know her and do not trust her instincts after what we've seen. We also realize that we were waaayy to naive about letting them use the computer/internet...last time that will happen...(we hope).

Hashem Yirachem... It's really scary and chaval to see such a wonderful girl from such a great family involved in such schmutz... and be able to fake it so well!  
Sweetest friends!! Please remember this email. It could be anyone....  

The Risks Of Closeness

Continuing the thought from today's earlier post....

It is important to accept the sometimes sad realities of life because in accepting and embracing them we grow. One of the realities of life is that people are going to hurt you. The more sensitive and self aware you are - the deeper the pain. Good friends are going to let you down. Your parents, with all of their good intentions, are invariably going to hurt you. They are not perfect and in our childlike way we would like them to be. Our siblings will hurt us and so will our children. I sometimes wonder, when a child of mine is not exactly [or even close to] doing what I asked "But you only exist because of me??! I am the closest thing to Hashem Himself for you [not my words but those of Chazal]! And after all I have done for you?!!". They don't exactly see it that way.... It hurts.

And of course the person who will hurt you the deepest will probably be your spouse. The closer the relationship, the greater the likelihood for pain. There is nobody closer than one's spouse. The pain of a divorce is precisely because the couple was once in love and so close, so now the pain of the distance and vitriol is almost unbearable. Even when a couple is fortunate enough to remain married there are often deep feelings of pain. The expectations are so high and are invariably not met. Ouch:).

Our job is to try our best not to hurt others. We have no control over others but all of the control over ourselves.

Think about it beloved friends and tell me what you think. I don't need emails telling me how wonderful the blog is. I DO appreciate hearing what people think because I learn more that way.

"Listening is a magnetic and strange thing, a creative force...When we are listened to, it creates us, makes us unfold and expand. Ideas actually begin to grow within us and come to life...When we listen to people there is an alternating current, and this recharges us so that we never get tired of each other...and it is this little creative fountain inside us that begins to spring and cast up new thoughts and unexpected laughter and wisdom. ...Well, it is when people really listen to us, with quiet fascinated attention, that the little fountain begins to work again, to accelerate in the most surprising way."

This is the secret of good relationships and also good chavrusas. When we listen we expand and are expanded. Try it:).

My Erstwhile Good Friend

[Erstwhile means "former". I never want to read an essay when I don't even understand the title so I define for those who aren't familiar with the word:)].

When I was in High School, I suddenly disappeared from school. Nobody knew where I went [with the possible exception of myself]. My chemistry teacher [I am told] would call out my name when taking attendance, "Ehrman" and there would be no answer. "Where is that Ehrman? It's been three months!"

Where I went is not the topic of this post but I can ASSURE you that it wasn't to drug rehab. Despite its popularity in the general population and specifically in Modern Orthodox schools, I never tried drugs. My yetzer hara at that time was to watch many hours of college basketball and not to fry my delicate brain with foreign substances. I also didn't go to a Buddhist shrine in India. Worshipping idols just never managed to catch my fancy. BARUCH HASHEM!!

Anyway, I was in a large grade of maybe 100 or so students and was well known. I was not the quiet, introverted sort by any stretch of the imagination. Yet, of all of my friends, only one troubled himself to pick up the phone to find out what happened to me and where I was. None of my teachers inquired either. The fact that this one friend cared enough to call touched me for many years to come. SOMEBODY CARED!

Fast forward about 25 years. I decided to fulfill a dream of opening up a kollel. Kollels cost a great deal to sustain and I needed help. This one and only friend has done very well in life. According to his website, he is investing close to a BILLION dollars. He gives a lot of tzdaka. He appreciates and supports Torah. I asked him to help with the knowledge that he could easily support the holy project for a whole year. We have been in touch over the years. Still good buddies.

Sum of donation: Zero. Not even a quarter that one would give to a Mexican on the A train who is strumming his banjo.   

When he made a Bar-Mitzvah for his son I made a great effort to attend and sent a nice gift. When I made a Bar-Mitzvah for my son he didn't attend. When I told him about the upcoming simcha he made a face that said to me "Why would I care....." [I read faces and body language for a living....:)]

So much for that close friendship:). [I must add that he is a geshmake guy and thinking about him brings up positive feelings. Just because he didn't help my cause doesn't make him a bad person. But something tells me that our friendship won't be so strong in the coming years].

This experience [and many similar ones] drove home an important lesson for life: People usually don't care about you nearly as much as you care about yourself.

The explanation is as follows: Every person is at the center of his universe from his day of birth. We love and care for ourselves without end. For example, my neighbor is, nebach, heavily in debt. I Baruch Hashem am not. I shamefully admit that I lose no sleep over his problems. I feel badly for him but am still sleeping. In contrast, the VERY THOUGHT of the eventuality of myself being in debt is enough to rob me of sleep and much good cheer.

When I am having trouble with a child of mine, I have trouble sleeping and my waking hours aren't so pleasant either. The fact that so many other people I know are having trouble with their children may bother me a little but not enough to put a damper on my day. The reason for this is because I am at the center of existence and my children, as extensions of me, are as well.

The Rambam rules [Hil. Talmud Torah 5/12] that a teacher must love his students as much as he loves his own biological children. I can't say I have ever had such a teacher nor have I ever seen a teacher of any of my children whom I felt loved my child even a small fraction of the amount that I love him. People are just not connected to others as much as they are to themselves and to their own flesh and blood.

When I attend a wedding of a third cousin through marriage I am going to be a lot less happy than when I attend the wedding of my best friend. The reason is that I feel more connected to my friend and since I view the world through the prism of my existence, I naturally feel more joy when the simcha relates more to me.

If I would have had enough money to single handedly fund my project, I would have happily done so. In my universe, that would have been as basic as paying for my groceries. In my world, this project was of critical importance. In my friend's world - I was just another annoying schnorrer.

That is the dynamic whenever you have one person asking and another giving. For the asker - his success in life [and possibly food on the table] is on the balance scales. For the giver - it is another unjustified request for his hard earned funds. He might give but would be much happier if he hadn't been asked. The proof is that if he hears about it and is NOT directly asked he will usually not give. That is why every Rosh Yeshiva must close his gemara and go from door to door and from office to office. Every frum Jew knows that the Mir Yeshiva has a huge yearly budget but Rav Finkel Shlita must still make frequent trips to chutz la-aretz to ask them face to face. It is relatively easy to turn away a small man like me, much more difficult to do so to the Rosh Yeshiva of the Mir.

There is one relationship where it is imperative to place another person as much at the center as you are and that is marriage. Many people live their whole adult lives with their spouse and never quite manage to do so. This of course is the impetus for many conflicts. If my wife is at much at the center of my universe as I am then I will ALWAYS try to do what is best for her. If she is not then she will always take a backseat to me and feelings of tension will prevail. One has to work hard to make one's spouse feel that she is no less important than himself. [Ideally, one should have this attitude with everyone but this is such a high level that I won't even bother addressing it.]

Chazal said it in one sentence. אוהבה כגופו ומכבדה יותר מגופו - Love her as much as you love yourself and honor her even MORE than you would honor yourself.

When a spouse feels unloved, it is the beginning of the end. If you are not going to love her with the same intensity you love yourself - then who will??

Some food for thought....:)

Love and blessings! 

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Be Yourself

To be nobody but yourself--in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else--means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.
e.e. Cummings

When Things Were More Simple

In the early 70's,  a donor gave a large sum conditioned upon Rav Soloveitchik giving  a series of private  talks on a variety  of subjects. One talk was on the subject  of marriage.   He said,  "You choose your own mates today,   and look how you are.   You  have so many divorces.   My grandmother, [the wife of R' Elyahu Pruzhaner] was playing with some friends one day,   and her mother came and told her that she was engaged.   She was 12 years old,  Reb Elyahu was 15.   They  married a year later.

Ladies First

In 1979, at a  lecture in memory  of his wife , Rav Soloveitchik told the following story.  One cold, winter day in Brisk, Rav Chaim Zalman Lifshitz died.   A poor, old woman died the same day.   It says in Yoreh De'ah,  354:1, that if a man  and a woman die the same day, the woman  must be buried first.    The Chevra Kadisha  wanted to bury R' Lifshitz first,  since he  was held in great esteem,  and
they started  to prepare  R' Lifshitz' body.    Reb Chaim  and R' Simcha Zelig Rieger [the dayan of Brisk] heard about this,  and they went down and hit the  Chevra  Kadisha  members  with   canes  [!!] until  they  started preparing the old woman's body.  They kept the Chevra there until
late at night burying first the woman, and then the rabbi.

Raising Hands Above The Tefillin

Kushya Yomis here.

New Post

Two types of Talmud Torah here. [Excuse the flowery Hebrew, I was feeling poetic:)].

Betchya Never Thought Of This...

This might sound weird...

I read about a child who died because he was born withour nasal hair, rachmana litzlan.

Have you ever APPRECIATED the hair in your nose. I shamefully admit that I have not... Nasal hair creates a shield between your body's internal organs and the pollutants of the outside world. When you inhale, you can potentially take in small particles along with oxygen, but nose hairs filter away most debris.

So הודו לה' כי טוב for one of the billions of gifts of which our lives and organisms are comprised.

Don't Be Gullible

I often here people quoting gedolim and have learned NOT to believe the quotes [or stories for that matter] so quickly.

Cases in point: I have often heard the story of how Rav Moshe Feinstein was at a separate seating wedding and complained that he wants to sit next to his Rebbetzin.


Anyway - in the recently published Mesores Moshe written by Rav Moshe's grandson, he is quoted as saying that mixed seating at smachos is American nonsense [see there for the exact quote - I don't have it in front of me]. He was clearly not a proponent. Rav Moshe could sit next to his Rebbetzin at home if he so desired. I must note that in his Igros Moshe he explicitly permits mixed seating. There is, however, a big difference between being permitted and being the ideal. This is borne out by the Levush who famously writes: "They said in Sefer Chassidim that wherever men and women see each other, such as at a wedding meal, one should not say "shehasimcha bim'ono" in the blessing as there is no simchah before Hashem where there are licentious thoughts. But nowadays [people] are not careful about this, and perhaps the reason is that nowadays it is very common to have women amongst the men, and there are not as many indecent thoughts..."  Some would say that they don't believe Rav Moshe's grandson and he really WAS in favor of mixed seating. Maybe. Maybe not. But I am very skeptical... [PS - I would also question the assertion of the Levush that today people have fewer indecent thoughts].

I fished around a little and found this letter to the editor from the Jewish Press: From what I was told, two of the four weddings Reb Moshe made had completely separate seating. At Reb Reuven’s wedding, there were some mixed tables to accommodate those from his wife’s side who wouldn’t sit any other way. Reb Reuven has acknowledged making the same accommodation for mechutonim at several of his children’s weddings. At Rav Tendler’s wedding, I was told, the Feinstein side sat separately while the Tendler side sat mixed. 

Permitted but not ideal.

Case 2: I recently read that Rav Moshe said that one should say Hallel on Yom Ha-atzmaut. Interesting:). Humor, I am told, is one of my strong points. This makes me positively giddy. OF COURSE I can't prove that he DIDN'T say it but I also can't prove that he didn't say that monkeys are great violinists. It just doesn't seem probable. There is obviously no record of this in his Igros Moshe
 If he DID believe this to be the halacha then it would make sense that they said Hallel in his Yeshiva which I am 99.9 percent certain that they did not. Many of his students are still alive and this can be verified.

If someone WANTS to say Hallel they can read through Professor Rakover's book on the topic [as did I in my youthful journeys through the stacks of the legendary library of Yeshivat HaKotel] and find halachic justification. But please, not Rav Moshe.

Case 3: A well known Rabbi and lecturer quoted the Lubavitcher Rebbe as saying in a letter that one may take an entrance exam for medical school on Shabbos. He just neglected to cite a source. Because there is none:).

This same character quoted numerous gedolim as being very lenient about woman's hair covering. It was later discovered that it was a big hoax and almost certainly was the figment of his fertile imagination. [I neglect to link you to where this scandalous story is covered because I have no interest in bashing individuals - even liars - but in conveying lessons about life].

So before you believe someone, verify the source and rationale. My favorite book does this on every page. It is called "Gemara".


Friday, May 24, 2013

Elijah- Man Or Angel?

Kushya Yomis, here.


“Every time I go to Tel Aviv,” he says, “there is always an Israeli coming up to me saying, ‘Tel Aviv is New York.’ My response is, ‘I’ve been to New York; it’s very different. In New York you can find kosher food.’”


An observation I have made to myself 10 million times that I share: It is REMARKABLE to think how many people have NO CLUE as to what their personality defects, issues, problems and neuroses are. Complete darkness. They live their lives and think that their way is the right way and can't for a second, see how much harm they are doing to themselves and to those around them. [Please, no emails asking if I mean you....:).]

Hashem should send them a refuah shleima:).

How does one make sure that he/she is not in the aforementioned category?

Maybe for another post. If I forget - please remind me....

Thursday, May 23, 2013


In Israel, most shuls have parsha sheets that are available for taking. There are numerous halachic problems that arise. One is that most of them have advertisements which one is not allowed to read on Shabbos [that is also important to know for those who read newspapers. Even if one is lenient and reads newspapers on Shabbos - which in my humble opinion is quite problematic and I won't elaborate here - it is forbidden to read the advertisements. It is also virtually impossible NOT to read the advertisements which jump out at you on each page. Quite often, whatever they are advertising it seems that they are really advertising גילוי עריות. That is another problem...].

Another problem is that people read these sheets instead of davening. This is ALSO a problem when people learn regular seforim instead of davening. I think that this is due to the fact that learning has the element of being intellectually stimulating while davening is plain old boring. Same story each time. Monotonous and repetitious. That is why people get excited about a hallel or when we start saying לדוד השם אורי in Elul. Finally, some VARIETY in our diet. OF COURSE, it shouldn't be this way. When one is speaking to a beautiful girl that he wants to one day be his wife he enjoys every second of the conversation even though the actual content is quite dull. I often try to listen to these boy-girl chit chats to understand what the two of them are enjoying so much. It is invariably a very dry, superficial conversation [the more interesting one's they probably have out of earshot]. So, by golly, what are they so excited about?? The answer, of course, is each other. So when we daven, we should be in love and extremely interested in our Beloved. Also, tefilla is PREGNANT [bshaah tova] with meaning. PLEASE "learn up" the siddur and find out for yourself. My personal favorite? עולת ראיה. Davening SHOULD BE the most stimulating-growth-inducing-exciting-euphoric-semi-prophetic-surreal experience of the day. HALEVAI!

Another problem is sheimos. Some of the sheets end up in the garbage. There ARE poskim who are lenient and maintain that one may wrap them up in a plastic bag and place them NEXT to the garbage bin and let the gentile sanitation worker [isn't that SO MUCH MORE REFINED than "garbage man"] take it away. Rav Shternbuch bases this on an careful reading of the Rambam who says that kisvei hakodesh [actual Tanach] must be placed in sheimos while about other Torah materials the Rambam just says to make sure not to treat them with disrespect. Others say that one may recycle the paper. Others say that one should put them into sheimos. [See the sefer Ginzei Kodesh of Rav Feindlander Shlita].

What is good about these sheets is that they increase Torah in the world. My daughter explained the psychology to me. People are hesitant to pick up a 600 page book because it is just TOO MUCH and to read a page or two feels inadequate. But if the whole sheet is only a page or two and a person reads the WHOLE THING he feels a sense of accomplishment and completion. And I see that people really read these sheets a lot more than they read seforim [during official non-learning hours such as Shabbos]. My sheet, Baruch Hashem is quite well read and it is a ZCHUUUUS to spread Torah.

What about divrei torah in newspapers? It would be better if they didn't have it because these newspapers end up in the garbage. Some say that one should cut out the Torah material and put the rest of the paper in the garbage. This is quite time consuming for papers such as the Jewish press which has a lot of Torah content interspersed throughout the paper. Others say that one may put the whole thing in sheimos. Others yet argue that this is bad for the environment. They are RIGHT. But so are disposable dishes and plastic bags and diapers and .... and.... yet people don't hesitiate to use those. So I don't know. Ask your Rabbi:).

Scattered By The Wind

What happens if you see papers on the street with divrei torah written on them?

Pick them up and put them in sheimos.

What happens if there are a LOT of them?

It is NOT NECESSARY to pick them up but one may not step on them.

[Rav Eliyashiv sefer ginzei hakoesh perek 12]
Sippurei tzadikkim [in Hebrew] about Rav Aharon Lichtenstein, here.

Much mussar to be learned....

שי בן לאה

Please daven for Shai ben Leah who needs an emergency liver transplant. Father of young children, popular yeshiva rebbi and friend of mine.
This is the weekly Dvar Torah on Parshas Behaaloscha in Lashon Hakodesh. This week's is [if I may say so myself] GESHMAK. It's about, like, being happy all the time:).
I already got such a good response for my first "kushya yomis" - so I continue with my second, here.

How To Get Rich


I have 2 eyes. Each one is worth more than a billion dollars to me. So that is at least two billion right there. I have a nose with two LOVELY nostrils through which I breathe. In eighth grade a nice classmate arranged a vicious meeting between his fist and my nose and afterwards [when I got it fixed] my nostrils were blocked up for a day. Not pleasant. Price for my nose? More than 3 billion. I have 2 DELIGHTFUL kidneys which have been working splendidly for over 41 blissful years [with many many breaks in the bliss] cleaning my blood. Kidney price tag? Over 7 billion. Dialysis just DOESN'T fit into my schedule or things I want to do. I also have two parents on whom I can't put a price tag. I have a wife and five holy children. I have a roof over my head which I believe much more convenient than having a roof UNDER my head. I have wonderful grandparents, too [unfortunately they no longer inhabit our world but I am glad to have them in the World of Souls].  I also have a library of over 100,000 volumes! Digitalized of course. I also have - and this is HUGE - food to eat. Every day except for Yom Kippur, Tisha B'av and before blood tests [I love tests that you don't get graded on. Not even pass-fail] I can eat to my heart's desire. What do I lack in this world? BARUCH HASHEM!! HASHEM!! I have a G-d! Try putting a price tag on that one....

Money. I don't LACK money but without going into minute details and printing up my bank statement and posting it for all to see, I am not going to make it this year onto the Forbes list of the world's richest men [although I am one of the four richest men on Rechov Hatzvi 9 which consists of... four families] and not only because of my modesty.

So why am I not rich? Is it because I am not smart enough? You read this blog and can decide for yourself if I seem intelligent but one thing is clear to me - many people much wealthier than I don't seem much brighter:).    

How about connections? I either know directly or know someone who knows just about every single prominent Orthodox Jew alive. That is well-connected. So it isn't that.

Maybe it's education? I don't have a Harvard MBA. Yes, but I used to dream of playing in the NBA and my father in-law went to Harvard so I ain't so far off. Anyway - plenty of people got rich due to despite their minimal education.

So what is it??

I will tell you what I think. I am not motivated to do anything one must do to make large sums of money. One must work his tail off, day and night, with a burning desire to hit the jackpot. One must be ready to overcome all obstacles in seeking his goal. One must be DRIVEN! When I was recently in the States I was "driven". By my friend Yoni to Queens and back. By my friend Shmuel to Westchester and back. By my friend R' Aharon to Atlantic Beach. By my friend Jordan to the train. By my friend Eitan around Long Island. And by various other friends. Also by Muhammed the cab driver from "Palestine" to Riverdale [didn't want to tell Muhammed that Palestine got a new name...]. But not to that type of "driven" do I refer. I refer to a HUNGER for financial success. I just don't have it. Maybe I should get therapy for this malady but I don't think I can afford it. Meaning, I can't solve the problem of not having enough money because I don't have enough money:):). If you want to get rich you must first be highly motivated to so [or conveniently come from a family that owns 20 buildings or so on the Upper West Side].

Where am I taking this?

In the Mir Yeshiva in pre-war Europe some of the students could not avoid the draft and had to serve in the army. The Mashgiach Reb Yeruchem, would ask them about their experiences. Once a boy told him how he rode a horse. "How", asked the Mashgiach, "did you know how to ride a horse?"

"Well," replied the student, "they put me on a horse, pointed a gun at me and told me that if I don't ride, I will get shot. So I QUICKLY figured it out."  

From here I learned, Reb Yeruchem later explained, that with the right motivation one can do anything.

This is a broad topic which requires more discussion but I will leave here for now...:). I hope you can apply this lesson to your life.

Love and blessings.