Sunday, June 30, 2013

How To Beat The Yetzer

I have this really effective strategy for how to save money. It NEVER fails!:-)

I leave the house with little or no money in my pocket. If I don't have it - I don't spend it.... [If you use this method and carry a credit card, it won't work, so leave the credit card at home also]. Today I have to go to town and there are all these things I want to buy but I am planning on using this strategy once again. I trust that it will be effective once again.

Why am I telling you this???

Because it is a metaphor for many areas of life. We ALL have a yetzer hara that brings us down. The way to beat it is to make sure that it is not within arms reach.

Example: You like to watch TV but realize that it is a waste of perfectly valuable brain cells that can be used for much more useful endeavors. But it is hard to have a TV in front of your face and not to turn it on. If you don't have a TV around then it will be much easier to avoid watching.

Another example: You like ice cream but realize that you are getting fatter  slowly increasing your midsection's dominance over your delicate bodily balance. So DON'T BUY ICE CREAM. If you don't have it in the house - you are much less likely to eat it. But, if you open up the freezer and a delicious tub of vanilla swirl is seductively looking at you, the odds of you containing yourself are slim [at least something is slim. Hehehehehe:)].

Last example: You are constantly checking your blackberry and phone for emails, texts and the like. You need some peace of mind. OK - this is going to be tough. Hold on.

Leave your devices at home when you have to go somewhere. No, chas vi-shalom! Not every time. Once in a while. You will find out something remarkable: Nothing will happen. No harm done. Just more menuchas hanefesh for you:-).

Try it and tell me what happens.

Love and blessings!
An audio shiur on the topic of shiur prutah with respect to kiddushin here [based on a simman in Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz's Shaarei Chaim].

Do Chazal Give Advice On How To Do An Aviera?

Kushya Yomis here.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Kushya Yomis here.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Rabbi Zweig from

Body Language

"...Hashem declared to them 'You cried needlessly. Therefore, I will affix this night as a night of crying throughout history.'" (Ta'anis 29a) The verse states that after the spies brought back their evil tidings regarding the Land of Israel, the nation cried the entire night, the night of the ninth of Av.[1] The Talmud states that Hashem declared that since Bnei Yisroel cried needlessly, this night would be affixed as a night of crying throughout history; this is attested to by the many tragedies that befell the Jewish nation on this night, including the destruction of both Batei Mikdash.[2] Rashi cites the Talmud which graphically depicts the punishment suffered by the spies.[3] The Talmud states that their tongues became elongated, reaching their navels, and worms crawled out of their tongues, entering their stomachs.[4] Rashi states that this demise was fitting for them, "mida keneged mida" - "measure for measure" for their sin was performed with the use of their tongues.[5] How does the fact that their tongues reached their navels reflect the nature of their transgression?  A mourner is typified as being "dom" - "silent"; it is prohibited to engage a mourner in conversation until he acknowledges you.[6] Speech plays a prominent role in defining the sin of the spies and consequently the destruction of both Temples. It is therefore appropriate that Tisha B'Av be commemorated as a day of communal mourning, which requires silence to rectify the sin which involved speech. The Mishna extols the virtue of silence: "kol yom'i gadalti bein hachachamim velo matzasi laguf tov ela shesika" - "all my days I was raised amongst scholars and found nothing better for my body than silence".[7] Why is silence described as beneficial specifically for the body? The Talmud relates the following adage: "mila b'sela mashtuka b'trin" - "a word is valued at one sela and silence is worth two (sela'im)"[8]. What additional insight is the Talmud adding to the message of the Mishna? Furthermore, upon what basis does the Talmud conclude that there is a two to one ratio concerning the superiority of silence over speech? One could argue that from the Mishna' s statement declaring that nothing exceeds the benefits of silence, it would appear that silence far outweighs the benefits of speech.The Targum identifies man's power of speech as the quality which deems him unique amongst all creatures.[9]However, the Talmud records that humans beings capable of speaking the language of lower life-forms existed, clearly indicating that other forms of life posses the capacity to communicate.[10] Therefore, what is unique about man's power of speech? There are two sources within a human being from which speech originates. Speech can be either the verbalization of intellectual thought or a visceral reaction which reflects our physical desires and emotions. All life-forms have the capacity to communicate their needs and express their physical desires through sound. Man,however, is the only creature that is able to conceive ideas and articulate these thoughts.  These two forms of speech are quite often in conflict with one another, creating the question "Does man's mind or man's body control his speech?" Tension is created when man has the impulse to react verbally but his mind tells him that he should first consider the ramifications of his words. Silence is a sign of control, specifically over the form of speech which is reactionary and reflective of a physical impulse. It is this silence which is extolled by the Mishna with the words "velo matzasi laguf tov ela shesika" - "I found nothing better for my 'guf' - 'body' than silence". The Mishna is referring to the silence that indicates the harnessing of physical impulses.  Very often speech is the vehicle through which we react in lieu of a physical action. A prime example of this is "loshon harah" - "defamatory speech". The Torah refers to loshon harah as a "makah b'seiser" - "a blow struck surreptitiously"; loshon harah, although verbal in nature, is the defamer's sophisticated outlet for physically striking his victim.[11] Since loshon harah reflects a person's lack of control over his body, the punishment for loshon harah is tzora'as, a malady which attacks a person's body.[12] Similarly, the fate suffered by the spies corresponds exactly to the nature of their sin. The term "visceral", which defines a thought that is reactionary and emotional rather than intellectually formulated, literally means "from the gut", viscera being the soft internal organs of the body, especially those contained within the abdominal cavity. The spies' tongues reaching their navels alludes to the form of speech for which they were culpable, speech emanating from the stomach, not the mind.  The Talmud describes a human being as an amalgamation of two entities, the mind and the body.[13] A person whose body reacts in an unconstrained manner is considered to possess only one entity, for under such circumstances the mind is of no benefit to him. If however, a person's mind is able to subjugate his body, then that individual is comprised of both entities, for his mind is able to harness the energies of his body. It is this insight that the Talmud is offering into the Mishna which extols the virtue of silence; "speech is one", i.e. a person whose body controls his speech possesses only one entity. Silence, which reflects a mastery of the mind over the body is "two", i.e. a person who benefits from both the mind and body possesses both entities.  1.Bamidbar 14:1
2.Taanis 29a, Rashi to Tehillim 106:27
3.Bamidbar 14:37
4.Sotah 35a
6.Moed Katan 28b, Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deah 286:1
7.Avos 1:17
8.Megilla 18a
9.Bereishis 2:7
10.Bava Basra 134a
11.Devarim 27:14
12.Vayikra 14:4 See Rashi
13. See Sanhedrin 39a See Juggler and the King, Feldman 1990 p.6
"Enlightenment means rising above thought, not falling back to a level below thought, the level of an animal or a plant. In the enlightened state, you still use your thinking mind when needed, but in a much more focused and effective way than before."


"And when you try too hard, it doesn't work. Try grabbing something quickly and precisely with a tensed-up arm; then relax and try it again. Try doing something with a tense mind. The surest way to become tense, awkward, and confused is to develop a mind that tries too hard--one that thinks too much."

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Jewish Anti-Semitism - Am I A Kangaroo?- Formerly Religious Bloggers - Who Can I Touch - Hashem Is Here - From Bitter To Sweet

There are two types of Anti-Semitism. One comes from the goyim. We have more or less gotten used to this over the last 5000 years. It isn't pleasant, but hey, it comes with the territory.

There is another type of Anti-Semitism which is in some ways more insidious [assuming that I am using the word "insidious" correctly]. It comes from Jews. Jews hate Jews. They rant against large groups of Jews [Chasidim, Charedim, Tziyonim etc.] with vitriol and [wait, looking for a good synonym] intense hostility. Also, they display tremendous animosity towards the Torah and its laws [negiya gets hit the hardest. People don't like to be told who not to touch].

Tonight, I was at a website that defines itself as "Modern Orthodox". This website is Orthodox like I am a kangaroo at the zoo who reads the Wall Street Journal and sings Pavarotti. The writers, all young products of Jewish day schools and the like, seem to despise almost everything Jewish [except chicken soup. How does one not like chicken soup?].

So my message to them and to the many bloggers who are no longer religious and spew their venom for the world to hear: You had negative experiences. That is sad. But not all people are bad. Not all rabbis are bad. It is special not to touch members of the opposite gender because by doing so you display "self-control" which officially places you in the highest category of creation possible on this earth: "Human being". Not exercising self-control places one in the same category as animals who are not known for excelling at this quality. Who wants to be like an animal?? Try to fill your hearts with love. Maybe get a good therapist to help you overcome all of your bitterness. Learn Torah from books that appeal to you. More importantly, connect to holy people. Leave the cynicism behind. Not every rabbi just cares about money or is a pedophile. MOST rabbis are really fine wonderful people who also have human failings like the rest of us. Many of them are quite poor but happy because they are living spiritual lives. If you connect to them in a healthy way, you will be rewarded. Most importantly, develop a relationship with Hashem. Hashem exists whether we are conscious of Him or not. No scientist or philosopher has come up with ONE SINGLE PROOF that G-d doesn't exist. At best they can say that they don't have ample proof that He does. We have many proofs that He exists. The best one is that He told us. Even Bill Gates, not exactly a Rebbe from Yerushalayim, says that just to behold the human mind is to get a glimpse of G-d. It is untenable that everything we see was just an accident. So try to start connecting. If you are a boy - buy an artscroll gemara and do 15 lines a day. It might not make you more religious but it will certainly make you deeper and smarter. Even our greatest enemies admit that. If you are a girl, find something that you connect to. It could be a story book, ideas on the parsha, listening to an audio shiur once a week, something about the holocaust, or maybe just helping a religious women who is happily married with a family with her shabbos preparations. It is good for the soul. Learning Torah is sweet and keeping Torah is sweet. You can also email me with your complaints. I will be happy to respond.

We have enough enemies from without, we need no more enemies from within.

Love and blessings:-)

Big Simcha!

A HAPPPPPPY anniversary to my beloved parents. Thanks for getting married. I was a direct beneficiary. Many, many more healthy happy years together. May you be zoche to see the marriages of all your grandchildren in good health!!!

Who Is Rich?

לרפואת צפורה בת חנה ענת בתוך שח"י

We have a weekly Thursday night shiur in Ramot that has been going on for a few months now. Since chances are that you weren't there and it is the only live "performance" of my week, I will summarize what we learned [one hour in a short post - I skip the jokes and stories:-)].

Who is a truly rich man?

Numerous opinions:

1]  Someone who has nachas ruach from his wealth. Money is a means not an end. If one doesn't enjoy his money, if it doesn't give him a sense of satisfaction and serenity then he is not really rich because his money is not accomplishing its purpose.

2] Someone with 100 fields, 100 vineyards and servants working in these fields and vineyards. One should use one's money to help others. The greatest way to help a poor person is to give him steady employment.

3] Someone with a good wife. A true kinyan is a good wife. Money is external. A wife is part of you.
Romantic. [Rebbe Akiva said that and he was really rich with Rochel].

4] If one has a bathroom near his table. Odd? When one overeats he needs to remove the waste products, otherwise it will be very harmful for him. Similarly, if one is really rich he must get rid of the "waste products" that come along with wealth, such as arrogance and other bad middos. If he has money but it is to his detriment then he is really not rich.

I wish you all true wealth.

עפ"י עין איה שבת לב

We Are Back

After a long hiatus, I have started posting audio shiurim again on YUTORAH. We have four shiurim on the sugya of hamekadesh bi-shirai [Kiddushin 7b] which talks about women, marriage and clothing, so that should interest quite a few people. There are also a few on Pachad Yitzchak. Scary. They are linked on the side of the blog thanks to D.R.

Thanks D.R.:-)
Another [I'm behind:-)] Kushya Yomis here 
Kushya Yomis - here.

צפורה בת חנה ענת

Please daven for Tzipora bat Chana Anat. 10 year old girl with leukemia, she is still in the hospital and not doing well. She's in urgent need for our tfilos!!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Chiddushim on Pinchas - The Korban Tomid - Tomid Bi-simcha - Divine Grace - Ehrman Considers Tshuva

Our weekly talmudic tour de force on the parsha - here.

[The topic is the Tomid. I add - Tomid tomid tomid bi-simcha!]

Like, the siyata di-shmaya I have is crrraaazzzyyyy:):)!!!

ברוך הוא וברוך שמו!!

How can I EVER thank Hashem for all of His gifts??

Maybe I will become a baal tshuva and start keeping mitzvos properly.

Hmmmmmmmmm - an idea:-).

An Open Letter To The Out-Going Chief Rabbi

From the "Times of Israel" -

Retiring British Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks has launched an attack on ultra-Orthodox Judaism, which “segregates itself from the world and from its fellow Jews.”  Speaking at his own retirement dinner Monday night, Sacks drew an equivalence between assimilated Jews “who embrace the world and reject Judaism, and those who embrace Judaism and reject the world.”

Gee whiz!!! Why do such intelligent people sometimes say the SILLIEST things. Let me rephrase what  he said: "Men learning in the Mir, Ponevitch and Lakewood are as distant from true Judaism as an assimilated Jew in Texas who feasts on Yom Kippur and is married to a non-Jewish woman." [In a sense you can say that intermarried people "embrace" the "world"].

I quote: That the center is shrinking is “worse than dangerous,” said Sacks. “It is an abdication of the role of Jews and Judaism in the world. We are here to engage with the world, to be true to our faith and a blessing to others regardless of their faith.”

What does that MEAN??

I quote again: Lord Sacks himself recalled the time he went to an Arsenal game with the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey, only to see their team lose 6:2 to Manchester United. Asked by a newspaper whether this proved that God did not exist, he responded, “No, it proves he’s a supporter of Manchester United.”

Now - exclusive to readers of Mevakesh, a letter I didn't send to him.

Dear Rabbi, Dr. and Lord Sacks!!!:-) [Is that the right order??] 

First of all I love your dry English wit. You are also very articulate, passionate about what you believe in and [if I may say] a handsome man. With apologies I must take issue [pronounce that like an Englishman: "Isss yewwwwww"] with your speech as reported in the press.

We aren't interested in English football. We want to be separate! הן עם לבדד ישכון ובגוים לא יתחשב - We are a separate unique nation. We aren't interested in all of the emptiness that pervades the world. You, as someone who is an ardent admirer of Rav Kook and the Lubavitcher Rebbe would admit that they wouldn't be proponenets of engaging our hedonistic-overly-sexed-materialistic-narcissictic-self-indulgent-sports-obssessed-Facebook-engrossed-externally-focused-world.

We are a light unto the nations when we are faithful to our ancient heritage, when we are pleasant to all, when we are filled with love, light and Torah and ruchniyus. Would the Chofetz Chaim be in favor of being immersed in secular society?? Was the Chofetz Chaim a danger to Judaism?? Is a 19 year old kid in university who spends his evenings drinking with goyim [and then...] but who puts on tefillin in the morning a better Jew because he is not separtist and isolationist?

Oh Lord!!! [Not sure to which Lord I refer:-)]

In any event, best of luck in the future. Now that you probably have a tidy sum to retire I bless you that you should be zoche to move to Yerushalayim and spend your days and nights immersed in the treasures of the Torah. And as for your darling wife Lady Elaine - she can attend shiurim at the Israel Center for all the Bubbes.



PS - I really enjoy your books. I don't always agree but you have a way with words, a broad vocabulary and GREAT quotes:-)!

Doing Personal Renovations

Some time back I read a review of an autobiography written by a well known contemporary rabbi. What struck me is that the reviewer noted that none of his failures are recorded in the book, only his many impressive successes. I have not been able to get this out of mind because I see it as a common malady that crosses all ideological and social borders. ALL OVER I observe people who don't admit to failure. They try to give off the impression that everything is just fine. A woman once confided in me that in 30 years of marriage her husband has never admitted being wrong. [Is it ironic that this gentleman is a follower of this rabbi. Rav Kook says that one should be aware of his rebbi's faults because those are the ones that one is most likely to follow].

Many people try to project an image of themselves to society that is really not them. Sometimes they are so successful that they actually start believing it themselves. It is remarkable. I know people for years and whenever I speak to them everything is perfect. Not perfect in the sense that everything Hashem does is for the best but that everything that they do is for the best. I ask myself - do they realize where they are really holding and are just embarrassed to admit it or are they blind?

You ask me - I am riddled with failings. I make mistakes with my kids, in my marriage, and in life in general. Now the truth is that many of my failures in life were not my fault because I was completely dependent upon others, so I am not sure that they could be defined as failures. That being said, Hashem has showed me time and again that I am not in control. I would rather say it like this: Hashem has showed me time and again that I am nothing. I am not embarrassed to say it on the blog and broadcast it to the world. That is the stark existential reality of the mortal human existence in this world. If someone would sit with me and learn mussar, shtark, for a little while I can convince him that he too is nothing. It is soooooo self evident from all of our sources.

This brings us to the best and holiest state a person can be in: A state of Humility. AHHHHHHH - The middah of Moshe Rabbeinnu the greatest of all men.

Humility is a recognition of the truth of who we really are. Humility is also a prerequisite for happiness because a humble person is saved from constantly having to defend himself and prove to himself and to the world how right he is.

The truth is that each middah tova requires so much of us and we are light years away. The truth is that our tefilla is often a self indulgent exercise in telling Hashem what He must give us - if we are davening at all and I assert that most people [myself included] don't really daven and don't even understand what davening is. To do so once must learn maseches brachos really really well bi-iyun. Almost nobody does that. [For women they must learn from a rov who learned maseches brachos really well and who himself properly davens]. In Torah - talk in learning for 10 minutes with Rav Shlomo Fischer Shlita and anybody with a shred of honesty will admit that he is an ignoramous [in Yiddish it sounds better "ah grubbe am ha-aretz"]. Chesed - how much do we do compared with how much we can do? What are our motivations? Do we do chasodim we don't like doing? Do we really care about the people we are doing chesed for? I can organize a meeting with real baalei chesed and one will immediately realize how far one is from shleimus.

What is my point? To rip you?

Chas Vi-shalom! I love you:-).

So what is my point???

A mashal: I buy a new apartment in Manhattan. It costs me a cool 10 million. Small money for groise gvirim [excessively rich men] like me [you know - I sit and learn by myself all day and have no income but Hashem made me rich. I will keep dreaming:-)]. The apartment is mamesh beautiful. The view? Central Park. G-o-r-g-e-o-u-s! But it's an old apartment and not exactly my taste. So I decide to invest five more million, gut the whole place and renovate. It is a hassle, will take a long time, will cause me discomfort at times but it's worth it. At the end I will get an improved apartment which will be worth 25 million.

Your neshama is gevaldik. You are wonderful, filled with good middos and maasim tovim. There are so many laudable traits that you possess. There is nobody like you on earth and you are indispensable. But you need to renovate. You can take all the good you have and make it so much better. In order to do that one needs to engage in [to use a kabbalistic term] שבירת הכלים. To break yourself down a bit in order to build. Not with עצבות. If one is sad he loses everything. With simcha gdola. You are growing! How rewarding:-).

There is so much more to say but I must end here. I will let you complete the thought:-).


"Inner peace is impossible without patience. Wisdom requires patience. Spiritual growth implies the mastery of patience. Patience allows the unfolding of destiny to proceed at its own unhurried pace."
Kushya Yomis here. Germane to the daf yomi.

The Worst Aveira

I always try to focus on the Good, the Light, the Holy, the Sublime and the Transcendent. For darkness and evil we have sooooo many blogs, websites, newspapers and other forms of media. I want Mevakesh to be an island of purity.

But there is something which is really bothering me so I must get it off my chest. I will not relate to specific people or events [there is a custom to talk about secular matter on shabbos after saying "nicht shabbos geredt" - not shabbos talk. So too, one can think it is permitted to speak lashon hara after saying "nicht Chofetz Chaim geredt" - not Chafetz Chaim talk. The REALITY is that neither phrase permits forbidden speech] because there is no reason to name names and besides, to paraphrase what we say in our hataras nedarim "there are too many names to mention...."

There are many aveiros in the Torah. But there is one aveira that is in a sense worse than them all. All aveiros have some tikkun in this world but there is one aveira that doesn't get fixed until the person dies. An aveira worse than marrying a non-Jewish woman on Yom Kippur that falls out on Shabbos while eating a cheeseburger in a Church and bowing down to an idol while wearing a shatnez garment and shaving with a razor dressed like a woman. [WOW! BAD ONE!!]

What is this aveira??

It is called "Chilul Hashem". Yom Kippur alone doesn't help for Chilul Hashem. Neither does tshuva. Not even wearing a frock and round hat will help. Nor will cancer in 12 different places in the body while at the same time having a really annoying splinter in one's nose constitute a kappara. Only death atones together with tshuva, Yom Kippur and suffering. [Rambam Hil. Teshuva 1/4. See also pnmiyus ha-inyan in Pachad Yitzchak Rosh Hashana Maamar 12]]

A Chilul Hashem is caused whenever one acts in a way not befitting their status. So if a public Rabbinic figure is involved in wrongdoing that is a classic Chilul Hashem. EVEN if he is shogeg it doesn't matter as Hashem's Name was violated and he was the cause. אחד שוגג ואחד מזיד בחילול השם says the Mishna in Avos.

I cannot tell you how sickened I am by people who make Chilulei Hashem. Their greed or tyvos or both get the better of them and they cast a dark shadow over everything holy and over every religious person.

Why do kids go off the derech? Why are there so many irreligious Jews living empty lives? It is to a great extent our fault. If we were pure and clean then everybody would want to be part of us. Frankly, if a person approaches me for a loan and is dressed very frum it doesn't convince me in the slightest that the money will be returned. [I am owed a significant amount of money by two men who both wear frocks and are accustomed to seeing the word "HaGaon" before their names. I don't know if I will ever see the money as the dates for return passed many moons ago].

So sweetest friends - we must do something radical to counter the constant Chilulei Hashem that we hear about. What should we do??

We have to make a Kiddush Hashem. That is all. In the way we speak and act and most importantly in monetary and tzniyus matters because that is where we get hit the hardest in the Chilul Hashem category.    

Kissing Children

"I want you to know, we have no problem kissing children, but, the older we get, the harder it is to kiss a person because, you know, when we kiss our children’s little heads, we are kissing the Shechina [Divine Presence]. This is so beautiful. The older we get, the further away we are from the Shechina, G-d forbid, and so the harder it is to kiss a person. So I want to bless all the children, and all the future children, and grandchildren, and everyone, that your whole life, people should want to kiss you day and night. Because when they kiss you, you know, it’s not so simple…."

R' Shlomo Carlebach

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Be A Dreamer

Big dreams are the foundation of the world. The Prophets dream as it says בחלום אדבר בו. Poets dream while awake. Ba-alei Machshava dream big dreams to fix the world. We all dream היינו כחולמים  בשוב השם שיבת ציון  - We dream of the return to Tziyon. The crudeness of our daily life which is completely immersed in materialism, takes the light of the dream from the world, the shine of its expansiveness, the lofty elevation of the dark, dingy reality, until the world suffers in its pain because of the poisonous bites of the reality that lack the radiance of a dream. However, the pains are sufferings of love, they will purify the world, clarify how great is the mistake of those who glorify in our faulty existence, while free dreaming, which rebels against the limits of our existence, is the greatest truth of existence, and then the dream will turn into a clear vision. That is what is says about Moshe פה אל פה אדבר בו ומראה ולא בחידות, ותמונת השם יביט - Mouth to mouth I [Hashem] will speak, a vision and not with riddles, and the "picture" of Hashem he will see.   

Wonder of wonders - my translation does this Torah no justice. I will keep my "day job". Here is the original...

החלומות הגדולים יסוד העולם הם. המדרגות שונות הן. חולמים הם הנביאים, בחלום אדבר בו. חולמים הם המשוררים בהקיץ, חולמים בעלי המחשבה הגדולים לתקון העולם. חולמים אנו כולנו בשוב ד' את שיבת ציון. הגסות של החיים החברותיים, בהיותם שקועים רק בצדם החמרי, נוטלת את אור החלום מן העולם, את זהר ההרחבה שלו, את עליתו העליונה, מהמציאות הקודרת, עד שהעולם מפרפר במכאובים מתוך עקיצותיה הארסיות של המציאות, חסרת זהר החלום. רק המכאובים הם יסורי אהבה, הם ימרקו את העולם, יבררו לו, כמה גדולה היא הטעות של המתפארים במציאות הלקויה, בעת אשר רק החלום החפשי, המורד במציאות וגבוליה, הוא הוא באמת האמת היותר הויתית של המציאות. ואז שב חזון החלום והיה למחזה ברור. פה אל פה אדבר בו ומראה ולא בחידות, ותמונת ד' יביט
קובץ ג אות רכו

Rav Shlomo - "JB" - Black Man - Kumzitz - Kindness - Venice Beach - Back Home

This story was sent to me by a graduate of Yeshivat Hakotel from over 10 years ago with the disclaimer that he might be off on one or two of the details but the basic story is true. He asked not to be identified, so I will honor his request. His initials though are S.F. [Sweetest Friend].

Towards the end of my Shana Bet in Yeshiva, my parents (who live in Israel) offered to host a shiur shabbaton for our shiur of about 25 guys. The only "rule" was that each guy had to give a d'var Torah at some point over shabbos. Came Shalosh Seudos time as the sun was setting, and one last guy took his turn to address the group. He was a little bit older than the rest of us and he had joined the yeshiva and our shiur just a few weeks before that. No one really knew that much about his story. We just knew he was bright, a little older and seemed to have a background in learning. the following is more or less what he said:

Instead of saying a d'var Torah, I want to take the opportunity to share my story with you. 

I grew up in a "yeshivish" community and was really into my learning. Towards the end of high school some friends and I decided that after graduation we would enroll in the most intense yeshiva in America we could find. We ended up in a particularly "yeshivish" place in the middle of nowhere and the learning was great. At the time, I was pretty naive and oblivious to a lot of the politics that plague the frum community and so it was news to me when a rebbe of mine started telling us about this rasha by the name of "JB"... Being curious to learn more about this character, it didn't take me long to find out that "JB" was not only a rabbi, but actually a prominent Rosh Yeshiva and the grandson of Rav Chaim Brisker - none other than the Rav z"l! 

I was very disturbed and upset by the way my rebbe spoke about this great talmid chacham. These feelings began a gradual, downward spiral that caused me to question everything and become increasingly critical and cynical. I eventually got so fed-up that I left yeshiva and gave up my yarmulke and my religious observance. I was confused and upset and headed out on an aimless road trip to try and find true meaning in life.

My long road trip took me cross-country and landed me in Venice Beach California - a far cry from the insular community of my youth or any yeshiva I had attended. There was certainly no trace of yiddishkeit to be found and I tried to convince myself that I was just fine with that. I took jobs working in some of the local bars and clubs and made enough money to get by. Suffice it to say that in the ensuing months my lifestyle became farther away from anything I had ever envisioned for myself.

Late one Friday night after my shift I was wandering aimlessly on the beach when a tune in the distance caught my ear... It sounded like someone was singing farther down the beach. It was coming from pretty far away but the tune sounded strangely familiar to me... I began to walk in the direction of the music and as I got closer, it was unmistakable - someone was actually singing a niggun!

 "Dovid melech, melech yisroel.......siman siman tov..... mazal mazal tov...". 

You can imagine my shock when I discovered that the mystery singer was a non-Jewish, homeless, black man sitting on the beach. I asked him how he knew that tune and he explained that years earlier, he had met a Rabbi by the name of Shlomo Carlbach, This rabbi was so kind to him and had taught him some Jewish tunes to help cheer his soul. The homeless man was so grateful for Rav Shlomo's kindness that he decided that every Friday night he would take some time to sing these tunes. I didn't know much about Rav Shlomo at the time, but I did recognize the niggunim and was touched by this man's story.

I decided to return each Friday night for then next several weeks to enjoy a "kumzitz" with my new homeless friend, and eventually I began thinking to myself that I had given up on yiddishkeit a little too quickly.

I slowly started getting my life back in order and eventually headed back east with a kippa on my head and a desire to give my frum lifestyle a second chance. A few weeks ago I made a decision to come to Israel and learn in a Yeshiva in Yerushalayim... so here I am...."

Needless to say - everyone in the room was SHOCKED... and inspired by how far a simple act of kindness can go....

Monday, June 24, 2013

When Will Moshiach Come?

We mourn for the next three weeks the destruction of Yerushalayim and subsequently the Beis Hamikdash.

When will Moshiach come? My thoughts.....

There is one person who loves you more than anyone else in the world, who would do anything for you, feels all of your pain together with the joy of your successes, someone who always has time for you. Someone who would never look at his phone if you would call and not answer because you weren't important enough for him. Someone who dreams for you what you dream for yourself. Someone who you can trust will never abandon you and will remain faithful until the very end.

Who IS this special person??

You. [BUM-MER!]

The question is - is there anybody else like that?

A disturbing observation I have made: There are very few people who can be what I described for someone else. Let's take parents for instance: When one is a child so many parents are just not there for their children, be it emotionally, or that they are too busy, or that they super impose their own preconceived notions on their children or so many other parental failings which all amount to the fact that the child feels distant, abandoned, unloved or misunderstood by his mother/father or both. I have observed this countless times in the innumerable youngsters I have met over the years. When the kids get older they often live their own lives so distant from their parents both geographically and emotionally. There is an old expression: One mother can take care of ten children but ten children can't take care of one mother. People are self absorbed. "Go to Florida, Mom". They don't want to be bothered. [Of course there are many exceptions but I describe a common reality].

What about siblings? When they are young they often quarrel, when they get older they move apart [again] both geographically and emotionally. So many family politics and personal hurts and scars.

Spouses: I know so many couples that live together in the same structure we call a "house" but the hearts are not one. Big topic that requires expansion.

Friends: What can I tell you sweetest friends, it is hard to find friends who you are assured love you and will always be there for you and vice versa. A friend who you can call at 2am because you need to talk and s/he will groggily pick up the phone and say "I am so happy you called". Someone who you can borrow 20k [if you need it] and you know that he is sooooo happy to help and he knows that you will pay him back because your friendship is an eternal covenant based on mutual trust. A person who will come to your simcha and stay from beginning to end because your simcha is his simcha - and you to his. Somebody whom you could tell that you are offended and you don't have to worry about it turning into a fight because he loves you and getting defensive is never an expression of love.

My point - there are so many barriers between people. Not only strangers but even people close to us. Parents and children. Siblings. Other relatives. Friends. Talmid and Rebbi. So many barriers. Does it sound like this pains me??

One of the deficiencies [how on earth do you say chesronos in English??] of the written word is that it cannot adequately express feelings as well as one can do so orally, or at least I lack that skill. So I can't express how much it pains me.

An anecdote I have repeated many times: When Neil Armstrong reached the moon, a journalist asked Rav Kahaneman, the Ponevitcher Rosh Yeshiva, what he thought. He answered that man can get all the way to the moon but לב אל לב לא נגעו - peoples hearts are so far from each other.

What is Eliyahu Hanavi going to do when he finally comes to tell us about the geula? Give a shiur klali on the topic of מיגו נגד עדים or classify different categories of רוב? No. Those are lovely endeavors but Eliyahu has a much more important job.

והשיב לב אבות על בנים ולב בנים על אבותם - to bring parents and children together and to make peace in the world [please see the Mishna in Edyos 8/7 and the Maharal in Netzach Yisrael Ch. 43].

Maybe he is waiting for us to take the first step.......

הכנסת אורחים

For hachnasas orchim we are promised reward in both this and the next world [as we say in our daily prayers]. Why?

If one host a person who has no place to stay he performs a tremendous act of kindness on this person's behalf. He hosts him and makes him feel at home. This mandates a reward in this world.

Also, when a person does this chesed with love and brotherhood a certain light shines on his neshama
which gives his soul eternal life. [My note: I don't understand this "light" and it is clearly from the world of Kabbala but if Maran HaRav says that it is - it is. He was a master of Kabbala.]

Please read the original....

והכנסת אורחים. נפלאה היא מצוה זו, מצד חסדה הזמני להמציא להאורח, הנודד ממקומו, את משאליו החסרים לו, כאילו היה נמצא בביתו. עוד יש בה משום הארה נצחית, שהנקודה היותר טהורה ויותר טובה שבאדם מתגלה היא בשעה שהפגישה עמו היא חדשה, וביחוד כשהיא פוגשת את המבט של האהבה של חן ושל הידידות של אחים, והאור הזה קורא את המקוריות הנצחית של הנשמה להתלהט ולהאיר באור תפארה, הנותנת חיים נצחיים להאישיות, הפועלת לחשוף את האורה האצילית הזאת הקימת עדי עד. הרי יש כאן פירות בעוה"ז, מצד החסד הארעי, והקרן קימת לעוה"ב, מצד הארת הנשמה, האצורה תמיד בצרור חיי עד.

Three Aspects Of Galut

In order to appreciate black you need to see white. In order to appreciate the geulah for which we pine, we need to first understand galus.

The Maharal in the first chapter of the Sefer Netzach Yisrael explains that there are three reasons why the galus is unnatural for us and an unnatural reality cannot continue indefinitely.

1] Eretz Yisrael is the natural habitat of the Jewish people. Leaving Eretz Yisrael was an unnatural event that necessitates the tikun of return.

2] Being scattered [פיזור]. The natural state of the Jewish people is to be together and not spread out all over the earth [or mostly in Long Island, Manhattan and certain parts of New Jersey]. We must be reassembled together.

3] Being under foreign rule. Every nation deserves to be free in their land. The galus created a situation where we where subservient to other nations. The modern state of Israel did not solve this problem. We are still subordinate to America, the U.N. and, frankly, the entire world. Also, the Israeli government is not exactly comprised of lovers of Hashem who cry out shema yisrael every day with mesirus nefesh and attend the tischen of Rav Tzvi Meir Zilberberg Shlita.

So, b'kitzur, we are in galus and need a geula....

Rav Moshe Schapiro added: This is expressed in the bracha: Ti-ka bi-shofar gadol licheiruseinu [blow the shofar to free us from the shackles of the Gentiles], vi-sa neis likabeitz galuyoseinu [raise a banner to gather in the scattered], vi-kabtzeinu yachad mey-arba kanfos ha-aretz [bring us back to Israel].

Bimheira Biyameinu!!:-)

An easy fast that should end with a trip to Yerushalayim where we will tantz with Moshiach!

A Hitch To Yerushalayim

His eyes were arched hopefully in the vague general direction of Chicago, but his eyes were clouded with pessimism and defeat. The young hitchhiker standing on that dusty road in 1984 had lost his faith not only in his chances of catching a ride but had also lost his faith in life itself.

A man in a battered Chevy waved warmly and offered him a ride. "Where ya headed" the hitchhiker asked. "Boulder, Colorado to a New Age conference. Wanna come??"

"Why not?" the young man shrugged. He was so exhausted from standing in the sun, he was willing to go anywhere.

At the New Age conference he thought he heard someone singing in Hebrew. He had picked up a little bit of Hebrew during Bar Mitzvah lessons six years before so he recognized the language when he heard it. But Hebrew at a New Age conference in Boulder?? Impossible!

"Hey", he grabbed a man's shoulder. "Do you know... Are there any Jews on this retreat??"

The man laughed "Jews at a New Age retreat? This place is crawling with Jews. I'm Jewish myself. Why do you ask??"

"I thought I heard a Jewish melody a few minutes ago and it made me so happy but I must be imagining."

"No, you are right. Somebody is singing Jewish songs and I think you should meet him."

He went to a grassy knoll where Rav Shlomo Carlebach was playing guitar. As he stood listening to him telling stories, teach Torah and singing, he knew that his trip had been preordained.

He spent the entire week at Shlomo's side, basking in his life, spiritually uplifted, in love with life. But many of his most rapturous moments were pierced by self doubts and gloom as he wondered where he would go when the conference was over.

On the last day of the conference, Shlomo called him aside and handed him a plane ticket to Israel. "The next stop", he murmured, "the final destination".

Overcome by gratitude and relief, the young man turned to embrace Shlomo with tears in his eyes.

Shlomo kissed him tenderly on the cheek and said: "Sometimes, my sweetest friend, God's plan isn't immediately apparent. You didn't hitch a ride to Boulder. You hitched a ride to ... Yerushalayim".

[Holy Brother P. 56-57]

בקור חולים

This is scandalous!


Every day, we mumble the saaaaammmme woooordssssss and they mean the saaammmmeeeee thiiiinngggg. Doesn't that get booooorrrinnggg??? That is why people are visibly bored during davening. In order to spice things up people need a Carlebach Kabbolos Shabbos from time to time but that doesn't help with our daily prayers. So what to do?? I have been asked this question on innumerable occasions possibly because I give off the impression that I enjoy davening. So truth be told, I do enjoy davening but only when I am actually davening. When I am just mumbling words from a book with no feeling, emotion or understanding then I get little from the experience and the Ribbono Shel Oilam doesn't get much from it either [although it does serve to keep me out of trouble:-)]. So one answer I give myself and others is that one must learn the siddur. There is much theology, philosophy, mussar and general life guidance in our siddurim. The Heilige Gerrer Rebbe, the Imrei Emes used to learn siddur with his grandchildren. If I would try to teach the siddur today at many important yeshivas at best I would be ignored, at worst, thrown out on my head.... But alas, just because something isn't socially acceptable doesn't make it any less emes'dik and we at Mevakesh strive to be emes'dik.

The Gerrer Rebbe once asked his grandson to go around and ask people, talmidei chachomim, what the words פנות צבאיו קדושים means. He entered the beis medrash and asked men in their 40', 50's, 60's and 70's what the words mean. It is something they said every day for decades. Nobody knew....

I still harbor dreams of being able to teach tfilla in a yeshiva. One day I will meet a very rich man and he will say "I like your ideas". Then he will write a large check to pay for their dissemination. In the meantime, I will use this forum to spread them. I will also mourn the fact that people go 70-80 years without ever having davened. That is cool because now it is the 17th of tammuz which is a time for mourning.   

We say אלו דברים שאדם אוכל פירותיהם בעולם הזה והקרן קיימת לעולם הבא - These are the mitzvos for which one eats the fruits on this world and the principle will remain in the world to come [which we proceed to list]. This means that these mitzvos have a profound effect on us in this world and the next. So our avoida is to understand each mitzva. For this post we will focus on bikkur cholim - visiting the ill.

A person is so needy when he is ill. He requires help eating and walking and with his personal needs etc. etc. By helping him, your portion in this world is so much more meaningful. But there is also a tremendous reward in the world to come. A sick person becomes much less focused on his physical pleasures because he doesn't have them anymore. The goal is to make him a more spiritual creature. That is why the gemara says that the shechina is above the head of the choleh. A person who has divorced himself from his physicality and embraced a more spiritual existence is able to elevate those around him to greater spiritual heights and to help them connect to eternity.

Did you ever think of that???:-)

In the words of the Master in עולת ראיה:

החולה, שגופו נדכא, וחייו החמריים מדולדלים הם, כמה מן הטוב הזמני יש לכל הבא להיות לעזר לו בחומר וברוח. אבל יותר מזה עומד כאן לפנינו חזון נצחי. המחלה באנושיות היא מקלשת את החמריות הגסה והיא מקרבת את האדם לצד עילאה. "שכינה למעלה מראשותיו של חולה". כאן יש זיו הנצח החי וקים עדי עד, המתחבר בקרנו העליונה עם הפירות, הבאים מצד הערך הזמני של הישועה החמרית, אשר להחולה שנשבר גופו והגיע עד דכא, שמשם יושע לאור באור החיים

Kushya Yomis here.

Hashem's Tefillin

An old post worth repeating...

The gemara [ברכות ז] teaches that Hashem showed Moshe the knot of His tefillin shel rosh. This is a DEEP gemara, pregnant [bishaa tova!!] with mystical significance.

But I will leave that for the mystics....

More simply [but mamesh pilei plaos]: The Rambam in hilchos tefillin [3/13] states that it is not possible to explain how the knot of the tefillin looks unless one actually sees it [here, a picture says even more than a thousand words]. Maran HaRav Hutner [Maamarei Pachad Yitzchak 88]  explains that the source for the Rambam is our gemara where Hashem SHOWED Moshe the knot of His tefillin.


But there is more.

The Brisker Rov [known affectionately as the "Griz"] asked why the Rif quotes this gemara when all the Rif tries to do is teach practical halacha. This gemara is agadic and has no practical import so the Rif should not have mentioned it? Based on what we just learned we understand perfectly well what the Rif was trying to teach us. Namely, exactly what the Rambam taught, that one must SEE the knot in order to understand what it looks like.

More gevaldik.

But there is yet more:-).

The gemara [6a] says that when the goyim see the tefillin shel rosh of the Jewish people they will be instilled with fear of them ויראו כל עמי הארץ כי שם השם נקרא עליך ויראו ממך- אלו תפילין של ראש We see from this that tefillin shel rosh gives people greater insight into the essence of the person wearing them.

The [6a] asks what is written in the tefillin that Hashem wears. Apparently this is a difficult question. Wht can't we just assume that whatever is written in our tefillin is written in Hashem's tefillin? The gemara understands that it is axiomatic that Hashem's tefillin will have different parshiyos than ours do. The answer is that as we said, the tefillin give greater insight into the essence of the one wearing them. Thus, Hashem's tefillin are going to say something about Hashem while our tefillin will say something about us. We understand now that it is self evident that Hashem's tefillin will have a different message than ours.

The message of our tefillin is that שם השם נקרא עליך - We are a G-dly people. What is the message of Hashem's tefillin? מי כעמך ישראל. Who is like my Jewish people! That's what it's all about. Hashem loves us and [as the tefillin themselves] he is bound to us, just as we love him and are bound to him [as expressed by the parshiyos of shema in our tefillin].

Rashi in our sugya [7b] explains that when Moshe saw the tefillin of Hashem he was zoche to ותמונת השם יביט - Seeing the face of Hashem, kiviyachol. In that same section in the Torah [parshas ki tisa] he was given the 13 middos harachamim which also give us greater insight into Hashem.

We should be zoche to connect to the message of our tefillin  - and of Hashem's.


[Based on the sefer Marbeh Bracha simman chof from my teacher Rav Yaakov Dovid Homnick Shlita]

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Kushya yomis here.

Climbing The Mountain

לזכות רפואת נחמיה דב הכהן בן חי שרה בתוך שח"י

The 24th perek of tehillim requires one to pay close attention because therein is explicated the purpose and focus of our existence. That is why we say it on Rosh Hashana night with great kavana. It is also the שיר של יום on Yom Rishon [which English speakers call "Sunday" in honor of the sun god:)] when it all began....

Let us take one pasuk [for now]: מי יעלה בהר השם ומי יקום במקום קדשו - Who can ascend the mountain of Hashem and who can stand in His holy place.

Man is comprised of 2 components. He has a neshama that was taken from Hashem's Throne of Glory and he is also the dust of the earth. Therefore he is in constant flux. Either he is going up and connecting to his source which is Hashem and receiving life ואתם הדבקים בה' אלהיכם חיים כלכם היום - ONLY one who is connected to Hashem is truly alive. Everyone else just appears to be alive but it is an optical illusion. The other option is that he is immersed in his more animalistic, "dust of the earth" element. However [as the baalei mussar were quick to point out] there is no middle ground. That is man's existential reality, for better or for worse.

It doesn't say that we ascend על הר השם - on top of the mountain but בהר which means that we constantly ascend the mountain, higher and higher. The is no limit to our capacity to ascend and it never ends. One can never proclaim "I arrived at the top".

ומי יקום במקום קדשו - Who can stand in His holy place. The tip of the mountain is very sharp and narrow so there is a danger that one may fall. That being the case, one may never stop climbing higher and higher with the knowledge that he has not yet reached the top.

To be honest this is what gives life its excitement and spice. The knowledge that every day we have the capacity to grow and expand is a very life affirming message which can give one the strength to withstand the difficulties of life.

מי מרום י"ג עמ' קכח

The Snuff Box

A story told by R' Shlomo Carlebach:

"Everybody knows that holy beggars hold the world together. Never, never pass a holy beggar. Walk across the street, go out of your way. Many times it is Eliahu haNavi [Elijah, the prophet], and oh, if you only knew, if you only knew...

"Our holy teachers tell us--did you know this?--that we must give to a beggar according to his or her previous station. A person who was rich should be given more than someone who was poor. The secrets of the universe are hidden in that teaching. Think about it as I tell you the story of the snuff box.

"One day a beggar came to see the Baal Shem Tov. You should have heard him. He yelled, he moaned, he complained loudly to the Baal Shem, saying, 'What kind of a God is it anyway? I used to be rich, I helped many people, I never turned anyone away, and now, look at me. I am in rags. I have nothing. This is my reward?"

"The holy Besht [Baal Shem Tov] looked at this man closely. Everybody knows that the Besht could see into the future and into the past. He said to the beggar: 'Moshe (you see, he knew his name just by looking at him), Moshe, why do you rail at the Holy One? All you need do is look carefully at your life, and you will understand.'

"The Besht continued, 'Do you remember Yom Kippur two years ago?' He stopped and looked at Moshe now that he had his attention. How could the Baal Shem Tov know what Moshe did two years earlier? Do you believe this? But he knew, he knew. He said to Moshe, 'Two years ago, when you were the wealthiest man in town, you went to shul on Yom Kippur with your snuff box.'

"Many of you know," Shlomo said, "that although we must fast on Yom Kippur, we can nourish the soul by bringing a fragrance into the body. So, in the old country, they used to carry snuff into the shul, and every so often they would pass the snuff box around so that people could be revived, especially in the afternoon when the fast gets the hardest."

Shlomo continued with the story. "So the holy Baal Shem Tov, said to Moshe, 'You went around the shul that day giving snuff to everyone. Do you remember? And there was a shlepper [someone heavily burdened] in the back of the shul [synagogue], lying on a bench. You said to yourself, "Why should I walk back there for him when he could come to me for his snuff?" So he did not get any. Do you remember?'

"Moshe nodded his head. He did remember! The Besht continued, 'That shlepper had been fasting for three days. If you only knew how much he needed some snuff! He was so deep, so deep in his prayers that the heavens were wide open for him. When the heavenly angels saw that you did not walk over and give him a pinch of your snuff, they closed the judgment book on you. Do you know what they wrote into that book? They wrote that you should lose all of your money and that the shlepper should become wealthy in your stead.'

"Moshe jumped up, outraged, saying, 'You mean to tell me that that shlepper has all of my money! What chutzpah [audacity]! How do I get it back?'

"The Baal Shem Tov said to him, 'If you can find a time, any time at all, when you ask him and he refuses to give you a pinch of snuff, all of your wealth will be returned.'

"Can you imagine what went through Moshe's mind? He searched out the richest man in town and when he saw him he knew it was the shlepper. He began to follow him around. Moshe learned everything about the man, when he left in the morning and when he returned at night; when he went to the shul and where he bought flowers for his wife. Moshe sought to discover the times when the man would be most rushed, most harried and most irritable.

"He planned for the perfect time. It was just before Shabbos and the wealthy man was loaded with packages, hurrying home because his wife was anxious to finish her cooking. Moshe waited in the bushes and as the wealthy man came past, Moshe jumped in front of him, and asked, 'Could you spare a pinch of snuff?'

"The wealthy man stopped abruptly, hesitated a few seconds, and began to put down his packages one by one. It took a minute. Then he reached into his pocket and pulled out his snuff box. Moshe, terribly disappointed, took a pinch and walked off, not even helping to load the man up again with his packages.

"Moshe tried again a few times in the next couple of months. Once he caught the wealthy man in a downpour of rain, when everyone around was running for cover, but the wealthy man had stopped and, although his snuff was ruined by the rain, he still offered it. 

"Moshe caught the wealthy man on the way to an important business meeting, loaded with papers, but he offered his snuff nonetheless. Moshe caught him in shul, in the middle of prayers; he caught him in the bank, making a deposit; he caught him in a public building on his way to the bathroom and, of course, the snuff was always offered without delay.

"Finally Moshe thought of a foolproof idea. He waited one Friday morning in the mikveh,
 the community pool of living water--connected with a natural source--where men traditionally immerse themselves to prepare for Shabbat. After the wealthy man had removed all of his clothes and was dripping from the shower, as he was about to enter the mikveh for his submersion in the pool of water, Moshe approached him and asked for a pinch of snuff. Believe it or not, the most amazing thing happened. The wealthy man stopped what he was doing, towelled himself off, and went back to the dressing room to get his snuff box.

"Disheartened, Moshe almost gave up. But he had one more opportunity. In two weeks the wealthy man's daughter was going to be married and Moshe figured that he could trap him at his daughter's wedding.

"On the special day, Moshe walked to the wedding. You know, my friends," Shlomo added, "it is always important to bring poor people into a wedding. In those days, people would go out looking for a stranger they could invite. They knew it would bring the married couple good luck. We do not think about things like this these days, but maybe we should. Anyway, Moshe stood there in his dirty clothes waiting for an opportunity. When the music started, he saw the wealthy man begin to dance with his daughter, the new bride, and Moshe knew this was the perfect time to interrupt. So he walked onto the dance floor, tapped the wealthy man's shoulder, and asked him for a pinch of snuff.
"Yes, this was the perfect time. But it did not matter. The wealthy man stopped dancing with his beloved daughter, reached into his pocket, and offered Moshe a pinch of snuff. Moshe was overwhelmed. Awed by this man's incredible spirit of generosity, he got dizzier and dizzier; then he fainted right there on the dance floor.

"When he was revived, Moshe told the wealthy man the whole story. He told about the Baal Shem Tov, and how he had learned about his own failure to offer snuff on Yom Kippur. The man said to him, 'You know, Moshe, I never doubted for a minute that everything that happened to me, especially during the last few years, was a message from the Master of the Universe. But now I see that you have suffered so much, I must tell you I will equally share with you all of the wealth I have.' 
"It came to pass that this town became famous for its two wealthiest men who gave more and more tzeddakah (charity) throughout the years. The spirit of generosity grew to unknown heights in those days. And by the way, there was more snuff given away in that city than ever before or ever after." 

The Purity Of Childhood

הטבעיות הטהורה של נשמת האדם יכולים אנו להכיר בהבחנה עמוקה וחודרת בקטנותו של אדם, בתקופת הילדות - בעוד לא נזדהמה נשמתו בזוהמת השאור שבעיסה שבמהומת החיים. בהבנה מבוררות רואים אנו כמה נוח אז הוא האדם לקבל רגש אלקי וכמה הוא מוכשר להיות מושפע לחבת קדושה ויראת שמים, תיכף משבא לכלל דעה כל שהיא

המאמר קרבת אלהים בספר מאמרי הראיה עמ' 32-39

We can recognize the purity of the human soul during the period of childhood before the soul has been contaminated by the illicit desires and forbidden yearnings of life. With a clear penetrating perspective we can observe how easy it is to inculcate children with spiritual feelings, holiness and fear of G-d, from the time the child has reached the most basic level of intellectual comprehension.

Rav Tzvi Yehuda Kook used to show his students an article written by a Communist Russian psychologist in the 1920's. He observed that small children are more inclined to believe in G-d and not to accept Commnist ideas. After being continuously indoctrinted with atheistic ideals eventually the child moves away from religious belief. [The article can be found in the sefer Tzadik Be'emunaso Yichye page 433-434.]
Kushya yomis here.

A Goy Kadosh

In Tachanun we call ourselves a "goy kadosh" [holy nation]. There are two aspects to our kedusha. One is that we are like terumah [holy tithes]. The gemara says that in order to separate teruma there must be something left over. So too, we are the teruma and the nations are the remnants. As Dovid Hamelech said ידבר עמים תחתינו ולאומים תחת רגלינו - We spiritually rule over the nations [Tehillim 47/4]. We are happy to suffice with such a kedusha because we want to influence and inspire the nations.

But there is a second type of kedusha. We are holy above and beyond any relationship to other peoples. It is a natural, inherent kedusha that is beyond comparion to anything or anyone. קדושים תהיו כי קדוש אני השם אלהיכם - Your holiness should resemble My holiness. Just as My holiness is not dependant upon others, so is the holiness of the Jews. Just as in theory one can sanctify his entire crop to the Beis Hamikdash we can also be holy with no remnants [i.e. the nations]. Hashem in His great love for us wants us to reach this higher level of kedusha.

We can add that on a personal level there is the same dynamic. We want to influence our friends and surroundings. That is wonderful and something for which to strive. But there is a level of spirituality which surpasses anything that others can perceive. We should strive for that level even more.

In the words of the master MaRan HaRav Charlap ztz"l:

שתי דרגות בישראל, תרומה וקדושה. תרומה היא בחינת מה שישראל מקבלים על ידי הכנעתם של העמים אליהם. ידבר עמים תחתינו ולאומים תחת רגלינו [תהלים מז ד], כמו שחלות התרומה היא רק על ידי מציאות השירים הניכרים והאומר כל גרני תרומה וכו' לא אמר כלום עד שישייר מקצת [חלה א ט] כן בחינת התרומה בישראל היא על ידי השירים הניכרים של העמים אמנם הקדושה בישראל היא קדושה דלגרמיה שאיננה תלויה באחרים, כמי שעושה כל גורנו קודש שדבריו קיימים.
רצונם של ישראל שתתפשט ידיעתם על כל העמים רצון שיסודו בבחינת התרומה. אמנם השי"ת באהבתו לישראל אין רצונו אלא בהם ובקדושתם זהו שנאמר "קדושים תהיו כי קדוש אני ד' אלקיכם" קדושתכם כקדושתי, מה קדושתי איננה
זקוקה לאחרים כך לא תהיו אתם זקוקים לשירים הניכרים בבחינת התרומה אלא תהיו בבחינת קדושים
מי מרום י"ג קי"ח-קי"ט 

Crrrrazzzy Woooorldddd

In our world, if someone walks down the street and spits, nobody pays much attention and life goes on. But if you go up to someone on the street and give him a hug or a kiss, he calls the cops.

Is this the world Hashem envisioned??

[Based on R' Shlomo Carlebach]

Above The World

We say in davening ונתן לנו תורת אמת וחיי עולם נטע בתוכנו - He gave us the Torah of truth and implanted eternal life within us. We must know that when we properly toil in Torah we are creating existence and reality with all of its laws and boundaries. Truthfully, when we learn we are elevated above any limits because we CREATE those limitations but at the same time exceed them. That is the bracha וחיי עולם נטע בתוכנו which teaches us that eternal life is in our hands, we plant and create the eternal world and the effects are felt both here in this world and in the next world too.

We now have new insight into the famous statement of Chazal that אין בן חורין אלא מי שעוסק בתלמוד תורה - nobody is free like one who is involved in Torah. Torah elevates one above the narrow, constricting confines of this world.


Let us see the original....

עסק התורה המושלם הוא זה שבאה בו הרגשה מוחשית שעל ידי עסק זה מחוללים את ההויה על כל חוקיה גדריה וגבולותיה.  ובאמת על ידי עסק תורה שכזה מתעלים למעלה מכל גדר וגבול, אין הגבולים והגדרים שולטים על האדם אלא הוא זה שמחוללם וממילא שולט עליהם. זהו מטבע הברכה שמברכים אנו אשר נתן לנו תורת אמת וחיי עולם נטע בתוכנו לאמור שכל חיי העולם בידינו, אנו הנוטעים הזורעים והמחוללים את העולם. הוא גם ענין מה שאמרו "שאין לך בן חורין אלא מי שעוסק בתלמוד תורה" [אבות ו ב] שאם עוסק בתורה תדיר מתוך הרגשה של עסק בבחינת ההכרה של וחיי עולם
נטע בתוכנו שאנו נוטעים את חיי העולם ומחוללים אותם, ממילא מתעלה הוא באמת למדרגה זו שכל ההויה תלויה בו ואין
הגבול שולט עליו מפני שהוא מחולל את הנבולים וממילא שולט עליהם ונמצא שאכן בן חורין הוא
מי מרום עמ' קכ"ה
Ahhhhhhhhh Yerushalayiiiimmmm!!!!!!!! See R' Shlomo tantzin' with MBD here!

Two Types Of Chesed

לרפואת ר' בנימין בן חנה

There is an awfully strange medrash on the pasuk רבות בנות עשו חיל ואת עלית על כולנה - many daughters performed valiantly but you exceed them all. This is talking about Moshe and Avraham who had an argument who is the bigger baalei chesed. Avraham said that I am a bigger baal chesed and Moshe responded "No I am greater. You fed uncircumcised people and I fed circumcised people. You fed people who dwelt in settled territory [מקום ישוב] while I fed people in the desert." One wonders how these two titans can be having a seemingly infantile argument as to who is greater.

The answers is that their argument goes much deeper and isn't personal at all.

There are two typologies of chesed. There is a natural chesed that stems from ones internal desire to be kind. There is a higher chesed that derives from the Torah.

Avraham was the pillar of chesed "תתן אמת ליעקב חסד לאברהם". But his chesed was a natural self-motivated chesed. Moshe claimed that one who performs chesed by the force of the Torah is greater. The proof is that Moshe fed people who were on a higher level [circumcised] and under more difficult conditions [the desert].

It is significant that the pasuk from which we learn the greatness of Moshe in chesed is talking on the simple level about girls רבות בנות עשו חיל, maybe because of the special connection women have to chesed. [That would require a separate post..]  

See Mei Marom Vol. 13 P. 124 

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Why Does Hashem Have To Sit Down??

  לרפואת רפאל יוסף דב בן מרים דבורה

We say in tehillim ואתה קדוש יושב תהילות ישראל - You Holy, sit on the praises of Israel.

The reason we sit is because it is tiring to stand. Why does Hashem have to sit?? And why does he sit on our praises??

We also say [on Shabbos] לאל אשר שבת מכל המעשים ביום השביעי התעלה וישב על כסא כבודו - On Shabbos Hashem is elevated and "sits" on His throne of glory. What is this sitting all about??

Sitting implies arrival, reaching a goal, achieving destiny. It means that we "made it" and can sit down. On Shabbos, Hashem feels that the purpose of creation has been fulfilled so He can sit. So too, when we praise Him, He has arrived at his destination and can sit.

ואתה קדוש יושב תהילות ישראל

Mei Marom 13 P. 123
Kushya yomis here.

The Candy Wrapper And Kedushas Ha-aretz

Rabbi Aryeh Ginzberg from the 5 Towns Jewish Times:

More then 40 years ago, as a young teenager one month past my 16th birthday, I made my first trip to Eretz Yisroel to learn in Yeshiva Chofetz Chaim of Yerushalayim, and which turned into a prolonged visit of 16 months. The thing that I remember the most about that unforgettable experience that had shaped my love for Eretz Yisroel in both heart and soul, was one particular “shmuz” given by my Rebbe HaRav Moshe Chait ZT”L. He was a gifted and inspiring orator, but there is one shmuz that is forever etched in my soul, that I hear again and again in my head each time I step off the plane in Eretz Yisroel.
One day, a few boys from the Yeshiva were returning from the basketball court a few blocks away and hadn’t noticed that Rav Chait ZT”L happened to be walking to Yeshiva for Mincha about 10 feet behind them. One of the boys opened a chocolate bar that he had in his pocket and without giving much thought tossed the wrapper onto the sidewalk. As soon as Mincha concluded, the Mashgiach banged on the Shulchan and said that everyone should gather around and that Rav Chait ZT”L wanted to address the student body at that time. This was highly unusual, as Rav Chait’s talks were limited to twice a week and we wondered what is the emergency that warrants this special “shmuz.” Rav Chait stood up and with tears in his eyes and in a quivering voice speaking with such passion that I had never heard before or after, shared his pain that a Bochur from his Yeshiva threw a candy wrapper onto the street in Yerushalayim Ir Hakodesh in Artzeinu Hakodesha. He continued for an hour on a passionate explanation what Kedushas Haaretz is and how we have to feel the special Brocho of Eretz Yisroel in every waking moment of our day and how could a true Yiddishe Neshomo be so callous as to sully the streets of Yerushalayim. I have never forgotten that Drasha, it’s words, it’s passion and most importantly, it’s message.

The Tears Of Rav Shach ztz"l

From an article by Rabbi Aryeh Ginzberg in the 5 Towns Jewish Times:

More than 25 years ago, I was a guest for Shabbos at a particular community that was looking for a Rov, as the old Rov had recently retired, and as the shul was divided into various factions, there was difficulty in making a clear choice. After Shabbos was over and thankfully my shiurim passed the test and I was invited to meet with the shul’s board of directors.
Following a very enjoyable and informative interview, one young man asked that very “important question” as to what is my view of Hallel on Yom Hatzmut. I responded that though my heart never left Eretz Yisroel, on this issue, I am to small too make my own interpretation and so since I have been blessed with having two great Rabbeim in my life, my Rebbe in Torah was Rav Henoch Leibowitz ZT”L from Yeshiva Chofetz Chaim and in Halacha it was Rav Moshe Feinstien ZT”L, and since neither of them do so, I just follow my Mesorah.
At that point, the young man who raised the question jumped up and said, “I thought so, you are from the “’Shach school of thought” and that is not for us." To clarify, he was not referring to the great classic commentary on Shulchan Aruch referred to as the “Shach”; what he was disrespectfully referring to was the Gadol Hador, Rav Shach ZT”L. The realization that I follow my Mesorah and do not say Hallel on Yom Hatzmut, aligned me with that Gadol’s view of Zionism and therefore it was not the Hashkafa that he wanted in a Rov.
Immediately after his disrespectful comment, the entire board of directors present began to scold him for both his manner of speech and disrespect to me. I stood up and asked for the floor and said that I take no offence what so ever and appreciated him speaking his mind, however with the disrespect shown to the Gadol Hador by his remark ( something akin to the comments in the aforementioned article) that I would like to respond. I shared the following story.
In the years I was zoceh to learn in Eretz Yisroel, I made it my business to visit and become close to many of the Gedolim there, including HaRav Shach ZT”L. I would go to him very often on Friday afternoon which was a more quiet time for him, and I was able to spend a considerable amount of time in his company.
One Erev Shabbos, as the house was full of people, I was awaiting my turn to speak to him. All of the sudden, his grandson came in and asked everyone to leave, because the doctor had arrived and Rav Shach ZT”L had a serious infection on his foot that needed to be cut out. Everyone left, but with the insolence of youth, I decided to stay to observe, that maybe I could learn something by observing this great Gadol. I stood in the library behind the bookcase and watched as a serious discussion ensued between the doctor and the Rosh HaYeshiva. The doctor wanted to give the Gadol a shot of a pain killer to minimize the pain that he would feel with the knife cutting out the infection, but he refused. He was in the midst of preparing for his Shiur Klalli that he was to give the following week and he didn’t want to have the pain killer that would affect his ability to think clearly and deeply. And so reluctantly the doctor agreed. However there was a concern that due to the pain, he may suddenly jerk his leg, and could jeopardize something more serious happening. All of a sudden the grandson spotted me and called me over to help hold onto the Rosh HaYeshiva during the procedure so he doesn’t move.
My hand grasped the Rosh Yeshiva’s hand and he was to press my hand when in real pain. There was the doctor, one grandson, one attendant, the Rosh Yeshiva and myself. Throughout the approx. 15 minute procedure, I was amayzed (as I am still, so many decades later) that the Rosh Yeshiva sat there, eyes closed in deep concentration and he didn’t cry, didn’t scream, didn’t press my hand any harder before, during or after the procedure.
Now to Act II.
It was about 9 months later, again it was an Erev Shabbos and I was having a conversation with the Rosh Yeshiva as a long line was waiting their turn. A grandson walked in and whispered into his ear the terrible news that just came out that an army helicopter just crashed in a training mission and all 6 soldiers were killed. The Gadol Hador right in front of me burst into tears and into incredible sobbing, and we were all asked to leave. I remember leaving the house and standing outside for quite a while trying to absorb what I just witnessed. This same Gadol, who months earlier I personally witnessed a doctor cutting into his body with a knife and not even one tear was shed, now that same person, hears news about an accident and the loss of 6 soldiers, none who were Talmidim of his or any Yeshiva and yet he cries uncontrollably. How is that to be understood. And then I understood, that for this Gadol Hador, the pain of the suffering of another Jew, “Any Jew” is more painful to him than a knife cutting into his own body.
And so I said, to that young man in the room filled with the shul’s board of directors, that I have just been accused of belonging to the “Shach school of thought” ; to me that means I belong to the school of thought that we must love all Jews to the depth of our being, where their pain should hurt you more than your own physical pain. How proud I am to be part of such a “school of thought” and I truly hope and pray that one day I will truly merit to to share those types of feelings of Ahavas Yisroel. And having said that, I said my good-byes and I left the room.

The Advantages Of Being Wheelchair Bound

Something that has been occupying my thoughts recently....

This applies to everybody so puh-lease listen up. Whatever happens in life has at least two components. 1] What actually happened. 2] Your interpretation of what happened.

Example: A person breaks his leg. Human nature is to automatically interpret this event as being negative. But that is not necessarily the truth. Let's say a 40 year old single man breaks his leg and the nurse in the hospital who takes care of him is a single woman of 33 who falls in love with him and the "falling" is reciprocated on his part. After close to 2 decades of dating he finally found his eishes chayil on the fourth floor of Mount Sinai Hospital. Now, was the broken leg positive or negative? In retrospect he will give it a positive interpretation and tell his kids and grand kids how he met Mommy. A tear jerker. The mesader kiddushin will be the hatzala guy who took him in the ambulance to meet his "date".

That is an instance where we actually SEE the positive outcome. But here is the kicker: A basic foundation of our faith is that everything really IS good. All that we lack is our own personal positive interpretation. We ALL do that. Something goes wrong and we naturally think about how terrible it is.

The Tolna Rebbe ztz"l Rav Yochanan Twersky once had surgery on his leg and the doctors realized during the surgery that they must amputate. When he woke up the doctor asked the Rebbe's grandson [the present Rebbe Shlita] if the doctor should tell the Rebbe that he lost a leg or if he [the grandson] wants this difficult job. The doctor emphasized that most people are traumatized by this depressing news. The Rebbe Shlita said that he would do it.

He entered the hospital room. "Zeide, they had to amputate your leg".

The Rebbe ztz"l replied "Does that mean I will get a veg'eleh  [wheelchair]?"


"Great!!! Now I will be able to get places faster."

That is CLASSIC interpreting things in a positive light.

Or take the meraglim as a f'rinstence. Their sin was not spying out the land or reporting back what they witnessed. Their sin was in offering a negative interpretation. They said we have no chance over there in Israel. That didn't HAVE to be their conclusion. Yehoshua and Calev saw the same things the other meraglim saw but nevertheless returned with a positive report.

So it seems that our job in life is just to get busy assigning positive life-affirming, optimistic interpretations to life events.

In the words of the famous Nachum Ish Gamzu "גם זו לטובה"!!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Spousal Differences

Crazzzy story I heard yesterday from an unimpeachable source. There was a huge gadol [I know who but don't think that his name should be broadcast to the world] who lost his wife in the Holocaust. He remarried after the war to another woman. Now this Rav was a spontaneous, outgoing, affectionate, fun-loving, free-spirited personality. He wife was the quiet, reserved, introverted type. It was NOT an easy shidduch. After a year of suffering the Rav decided that enough is enough and he is going to the beis din to end the marriage.

A friend of his, another well known Rav, convinced him to have patience and it will work out. He did and they never got divorced. He used to point to his friend and say "He saved me".

After he died his wife was despondent. She said "With the two of us, there was never a dull moment..."

Moral: If you are different from your spouse, there is hope. Have patience:-).

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Kushya yomis here from this weeks parsha. And our weekly article here בס"ד!!

I Recognize Your Handwriting

Curiosity, more than anything else, brought an Israeli journal­ist to a private audience with the Lubavitcher  Rebbe in 1971. He had been visiting the US, and some of his American acquaintances said that they could arrange an encounter between him and the Rebbe.

Though he lacked the reverence of the Rebbe's followers, he appreciated the opportunity to meet such a great man. When the arranged date came, he entered the Rebbe's study and handed him a note with his questions and requests, as he had been advised.

The Rebbe gazed intently at the piece of paper. "I recognize this handwriting. You have written to me in the past," he said.

The journalist was taken aback by this unexpected comment. "With all due respect," he replied, "I have never written you a letter."

The Rebbe sat in deep thought for a few moments. "There is no doubt that you have written to me in the past," the Rebbe main­tained. As he spoke, he opened the drawer of his desk, took out a piece of paper and handed it to the journalist.

The journalist stared at the paper, stunned. Here it was, a letter to the Rebbe written in his own handwriting. But what is this at the bottom? Someone else had signed the letter.

Then he remembered. A few years earlier, during the Six-Day War, one of his buddies had injured his hand. After the war, the friend had wanted to send a letter to the Rebbe. Unfortunately, because of his injury, he was unable to write. The journalist wrote as his friend dictated, and the injured man managed to sign his name.

The journalist's attitude changed abruptly. The meeting became far more than a curiosity, and he departed far less indifferent than when he had entered.

In the three years between the writing of that letter and that meeting, the Rebbe had responded to several hundred thousand other letters. Yet the Rebbe had this letter at hand.

And see this.

The Parents Of All Peoples

Is it good to be a proud Jew? Should one glorify in his or her Jewishness? Most of the people reading this are probably thinking "of course".

You're right.

But is that allll there is to it?? I mean, what about everybody else?? THAT is not my problem, right?

There is a very disturbing gemara in Brachos [13]. Avraham was originally Avram, meaning the father of Aram. Later he became the father of ALLLLLLL peoples, in the words of the gemara אב לכל העולם כולו [this is based on the pasuk אב המון גויים in Breishis 17].

Sarah, says the gemara, was originally the mother of her own nation ["Sarai"] but later became the mother of ALLLLLL peoples.

This is disturbing because I sorta wanted Avraham and Sarah for ourselves and didn't really want to share them with anyone else [like the Dominicans of Washington Heights]. What the gemara is saying is that they belong to everybody now. I'm disturbed. ["Hi Disturbed! My name is Josh, nice to meet you"].

Here is the secret. I love my family, right. I don't sleep at nights thinking about my children. What can I do to help Avi with .... And is Simcha ..... And what about Gila? I also think of my parents. This is wonderful, natural and classifies me in the category of "caring father and son". However, if I stop there then I am treading DANGEROUS territory. It is an obsession with myself because my family is naturally just an extension of me. We share the same genes [even though none of us wear jeans...] and have so much in common.

But what about my neighbors? Or the people down the block? Or in the next neighborhood? Do I worry about them? Do I care? When I see a child on the street, do I wish him well? Do I notice him at all? What about adults? Would I be happy if I heard that a new daf yomi shiur was starting in Boro Park from the beginning of Pesachim?? The problem is that most people are deeeeply absorbed in their own lives and the lives of those close to them that everybody else is merely a "footnote" in their lives. Everybody has their circle of family and friends and beyond that there is often little concern. Even people who do chesed will be concerned with the constituency of their "chesed circle" but not beyond. Rare is the person who is concerned with EVERYBODY.

Nationalism is WONDERFUL! But there is also an inherent danger of chauvinism, the feeling that all that matters is US. The gemara is saying something HUGE. Avraham and Sarah didn't constrict themselves to being the spiritual parents of the Jewish people alone but expanded themselves to serve as the parents of all peoples.

For me, on Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Balak, that is an idea that causes the earth to shake, 12.1 on the Richter scale. Yes we read in this weeks parsha הן עם לבדד ישכון ובגוים לא יתחשב [if I hear the song I will be compelled to get up and dance]. We must be separate from the other nations. We must also appreciate that our love for our fellow Jews  must be most intense [see Orot P. 33 and 169 and Mei Marom Balak]. But concomitantly, we yearn for a world where everybody lives spiritually and materially fulfilling lives. [PLEASE see the Ayn Ayah Brachos 1 Page 69 and Siddur Olas Ri-iyah on the Pasuk אתה הוא האלהים אשר בחרת באברם].

A story to illustrate??

A state senator from New York once asked for a private meet­ing with the Lubavitcher Rebbe. After spending over an hour with the Rebbe, he came out excited. "Until now, I never realized what a great man your Rebbe is," he told Rabbi Laibel Groner, the Rebbe's secretary.

The senator explained that he had sought the Rebbe's counsel concerning certain issues involving the Jewish community. After offering advice with regard to these matters, the Rebbe asked if he could request a favor.

"'Here it comes,' I thought to myself," he told Rabbi Groner. "Just like all the others. He's looking for the payoff. But what did the Rebbe ask of me?"

"He said: 'there is a growing community in
Chinatown. These people are quiet, reserved, hard working and law-abiding - the type of citizens most countries would treasure. But because Americans are so out-going and the Chinese are, by nature, so reserved, they are often overlooked by government programs. As a state senator from New York, I suggest that you concern yourself with their needs.'

"I was overwhelmed. The Rebbe has a community of thousands in

New York, and institutions all over the state that could benefit from government support. I was in a position to help secure fund­ing for them, but the Rebbe didn't ask about that. He was concerned with Chinatown. I don't think he has ever been there, and I'm certain that most people there don't know who he is, but he cares about them. Now that's a true leader!"
[Told by Rabbi Groner]

זכות הצדיקים יעזור ויגן ויושיע!!