Saturday, August 31, 2013

Davening To Angels

I was asked to write about selichos by a holy friend, so here goes [with more to come I hope bl"n]:

One of the most famous debates in Jewish history was over the issue of saying the poem מכניסי רחמים where we supplicate the angels and ask them to bring our prayers before Hashem [and other similar prayers where we turn to the angels for help]. The problem is that the Rambam [Hakdama to Chelek in the fifth of the 13 foundations of our faith] rules that one may not daven to anyone other than Hashem, so what business do we have turning to the angels as intermediaries. If you need to speak to a big politician, or li-havdil a famous rabbi, sometimes you have to go through intermediaries but Hashem is accessible to all and it is FORBIDDEN to turn to anyone else.

In fact, the Maharal [Nesivos Olam chapter 12] changed the language of the tfilla so it won't sound like we are asking the angels for help [יכניסו רחמינו instead of הכניסו רחמינו]. The Chasam Sofer would say a long tachanun while everybody else was saying the poem so he wouldn't have to join. Many others as well avoided saying it. However the custom in most communities is to say it and it is printed in all of the slichos books. There is a mabul of literature on the topic and I will not quote all of the sources I know about that discuss it. That would make me seem very scholarly and knowledgeable when all it really means is that I have the Otzar Hachochma program with it's 60,000 books and rapid search engine. The one source I will note is the Yeshurun Journal in Volume 3 where there is an excellent, thorough treatment of the topic.

I will add something interesting which I didn't see anyone bring up: In some editions of the Rambam he writes  וכן אין ראוי לעבדם כדי להיותם אמצעים לקרבם אליו אלא אליו בלבד יכוונו המחשבות ויניחו כל מה שזולתו
Meaning that one is not allowed to SERVE anyone in order that he should be an intermediary between us and Hashem, rather all of our thoughts should be directed at Hashem Himself. This would indicate that if one is not actually SERVING the angels then just asking them for help would be fine and thus מכניסי רחמים would be permitted. [This was pointed out by Rav Asher Weiss Shlita in Minchas Asher on the Moadim סימן א].

However, in the Rav Kapich edition of the Rambam and so in the Rav Shilat edition the Rambam's words are rendered [from the original Arabic] as ואין עושין אותם אמצעים להגיע בהם אליו אלא כלפיו יתעלה יכוונו המחשבות ויניחו כל מה שזולתו. Meaning that one is not allowed to use the angels as intermediaries to get to Hashem. According to this the Rambam omits any mention of serving the angels and simply forbids turning to them at all as a means of getting closer to Hashem. This would effectively forbid us from saying מכניסי רחמים because that is exactly what we do.

So whether it is permitted or not would be dependent on what is the more accurate translation of the Rambam's words.

Interesting, no??

What is also interesting is that in our generation very few seem troubled by this issue. I believe that in our Internet/fast food/cellphone/sports obsessed/money pursuing/blackberry generation people are rarely troubled by theological issues. Ask the average guy in shul what was the machlokes between the Gra and the Baal Shem Tov over the concept of Divine Immanence and he will give you a blank look, probably not understanding the question. Ask him if the Yankees should trade for a relief pitcher or who won last year's Super Bowl or what his favorite restaurant is and you will receive a precise answer....

Ahhhhh, the galus.

We want Moshaich now!

לרפואת יוסף בן עליזה בתוך שח"י

Friday, August 30, 2013

Stop Hitting! - Non-Jewish Girlfriend

There was once a gathering in the memory of a late tzadik ["hilula"] attended by Rav Moshe Ben Tov, the famous "Mezuza Rabbi". A very religious man walked in and when Rav Ben Tov saw him, he screamed out "Stop hitting your wife!".

The man was embarrassed and said "Yes, I have to come to you".

Rav Ben Tov replied "You don't have to come to me. You have to fix your deeds."

[Tzadik Hamezuzos, Page 52]

At the same hilula the Rav pointed to a young man and said "You aren't embarrassed for dating a goya?"

His girlfriend was sitting next to him and said "I am not a goya!" and left the hall in anger.

The boy's mother was also there and said "She is a kosher Jewess and they are getting married soon." The boy went up to Rav Ben Tov and they exchanged a few words after which Rav Ben Tov told them to call the girl back into the hall and said that they can get married with simcha and bracha.

It turned out that this girl was Jewish but the boy had another girlfriend on the side who was NOT Jewish......  

[Page 53]

If Rav Ben Tov knew hidden things - Hashem certainly knows....

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Kushya Yomis here

Have a Jew Daven For You

I am gathering a list of names to daven for this coming Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur and throughout the year. If you would like to add to that list it would be a zchus to receive the names and you may email me with them. It could be anything - refuah, parnassa, children, a shidduch or 'plain old' bracha and hatzlacha. [I can't say that I am a great davener but I do live in a place where tfilla is only a local call.]

No strings attached.....:-)

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Today's Kushya Yomis here and frankly dear friends - I have no terutz. If you do - please inform me!:-)

The Day Of Coronation

Rabbi Moshe Shilat - Shabbat Bishabbato Parshas Nitzavim
The labor of the day on Rosh Hashanah is to crown G-d – "And you shall make Me your King!" All year round we are very busy. We are occupied with our weekday burdens, a livelihood and our bodily needs, and we are also occupied with serving G-d and with our prayers, Torah study, observing the mitzvot, and improving our deeds. On Rosh Hashanah, for forty-eight hours, we do not take care of any day-to-day matters, neither physical nor spiritual, but rather we pay attention to the very basic foundation: to renew the royal authority of the King of the Universe.
We wake up to establish G-d's kingship over us and over creation as a whole. "Rule over the entire world." By crowning the King we are showing our lack of worth compared to Him. Our acceptance of the yoke of heaven is deeper at this time than at any other time during the year.
Chassidism describes an event of "siluk" - removal – that takes place on the eve of Rosh Hashanah. The Holy One, Blessed be He, disappears from the world and "folds up inside," and withdraws "within Himself." Our attempt to crown the Holy One, Blessed be He, on Rosh Hashanah and our prayers to Him are a request for renewed contact, such that He will want to have us back and return to here.
Just Accept the Yoke
The labor of the day consists of prayer and having a broken heart, like a slave who begs for his life. Chassidism issues a special warning on Rosh Hashanah to refrain from vain actions and from any speaking at all (!), to sleep little, and to recite Tehillim. Even great and prominent people spend the day in the "simple labor" of accepting the yoke of heaven.
We do not concentrate on actions or study but rather on withdrawing into ourselves and full dedication to observing the will of G-d. This acceptance of the yoke gives us strength for our labor for the rest of the year, for action that is full of happiness and that flourishes. The statement by the sages that "a year which is poor in the beginning will bring wealth at its end" is explained by Chassidism to mean that standing before G-d with a feeling of poverty and emptiness when we accept the true yoke of heaven will lead to a year that is full of wealth and a favorable life. We all want life, we all aspire to live in a Divine space. But this comes as a result of our being "in a constrained place, a meitzar." Crowding our entire being into Rosh Hashanah is what leads G-d to reply to us in a great expanse.
A Day of a Shofar Blast
This holiday does not have many special rituals but rather a great many prayers. It has a need for many proper intentions and one specific action, blowing a shofar. "Let it be a day of blasting" [Bamidbar 29:1]. The crowning is achieved through the use of a shofar blast. "Recite the passage of royalty before me, so that you will crown me... And how is this done? With a shofar."
The "tekiyah" of the shofar, the long simple blast, is the primary and simplest sound that a shofar makes. It is not especially interesting and it is not a symphony of various sounds, rather it is an act of crying out!
The shofar is the natural horn of an animal which is at a lower spiritual level than we are. This is a living creature which is much less complex than we are.
The blast of the shofar is described in the Torah as a "teru'ah." There are two explanations for this word. (1) Chopping up and shattering. (As in "And the land of Ashur will be chopped up by the sword" [Micha 5:5]. (2) An expression of love and appreciation, "He has the love of a king for him" [Bamidbar 23:21].
The shattering of our personality and the reality around us when a shofar is blown awakens and reveals the independent love between us and G-d.
The Most Absolute Experience!
The words of Rabbi J.B. Soloveitchik about the Chassidic approach to the blowing of the shofar are very interesting.
"The blast of the shofar, according to the approach of the Tanya, is an expression of the tremendous desire of the one who wants to leave behind the limits of the trait of constriction – the trait of gevurah, power – to the broad range of expansion – the trait of chessed, kindness.
"The weeping of a man on Rosh Hashanah is the weeping of a soul which misses the source of its creation, with a desire to cling to its lover, not in hiding but in an exposed way. The blast of the shofar protests against reality and denies the universe. When a person takes hold of a shofar and sounds a blast, he is protesting the reality which separates him from infinity. He sighs deeply and weeps about his inability to cross the mountains of existence which separate between his soul and his Creator.
"The blast of a shofar represents the yearning for the absolute unknown, which cannot be captured in any thought, which is separate and set aside, awesome and holy. The shofar cries and weeps about the infinite distance which separates between our reality and the infinite. And therefore it serves to negate the world and to raise mankind to absolute existence."
[Ish Hahalacha Chapter 8].

Please Daven

Yosef ben Aliza - diagnosed with cancer רח"ל.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Kushya Yomis here.
Kushya Yomis here.

This is worth two and a half minutes of your time...:)

Bringing The Geula - [Updated]

At the end of parshas bechokosai we read about the laws of someone who donates the value [ערך] of a person, a house, an animal and a field to the Beis Hamikdash. The section of the laws of the value of man has exactly 109 words which is the gematria of דין אדם and exactly 409 letters which is the gemtria of דין ערכי אדם [the laws of the value of man].


The parsha is a continuation of the rebuke, to teach that the mesirus nefesh of איש כי יפלא נדר בערכך נפשת לי-ה-ו-ה [when a man expresses a neder concerning the value of souls to Hashem] is a tikkun for the sins that caused this rebuke. When the reason for the galus is rectified the geula comes. The parsha of the value of people opens איש כי יפלא נדר which is double the gematria of משיח. It concludes תשיג יד הנדר יעריכנו הכהן which is four times the gematria of moshiach.

The main segula of the value of people is expressed most in the value assigned to women [as we see that as a woman gets older her value increases proportionally more than a man's], as the pasuk says נקבה תסובב גבר - a woman will surround a man. Of course נקבה תסובב גבר is gematria ארץ ישראל. A woman's value is גילי. From a month until 5 years 3 shekels [ג], from the age of 5 until 20, 10 shekels [י], from 20 until 60, 30 shekels [ל], from 60 and on, 10 shekels [י]. This alludes to a feminine-messianic pasuk גילי מאד בת ציון הריעי בת ירושלים הנה מלכך יבוא לך צדיק ונושע הוא עני ורוכב על חמור ועל עיר בן אתנות - Rejoice greatly O daughter of tzion! Shout for joy O daughter of Jerusalem. For see, your king will come to you, he is righteous and victorious, a humble man riding on a donkey, upon a foal, the foal of she-donkeys [Zecharia 9/9].    

There is yet more but we will leave it here......

[Based on the words of Rav Yitzchak Ginsburg Shlita]

לזכות רבי משה גבריאל בן יהודית לברכה והצלחה בכל הענינים

Monday, August 26, 2013

Kushya Yomis here.

The Dead Know

A myseh she-haya:

When Rav Avraham Genechovski's mother, Gita, passed away, his father asked him to write a sefer in her memory. [Incidentally, she earned FOUR doctorates]. He agreed and published a sefer on Maseches Horiyos called חדר הורתי.

One day Rabbi Shmuel Baruch Werner called Rav Genechovski and told him that he had the most amazing dream. The late Mrs. Genechovski appeared to him, repeated a question he asked in his sefer משפטי שמואל סימן ד ענף יא and told him that the same question also appears in the sefer her son put out in her memory and that he should look there. When he woke up he looked in the sefer and there it was, just as he was told. [The question was on the gemara in Kidushin that says that if one's parents are divorced he can choose to serve either one first. This is difficult based on the mishna in Horiyos 13a that implies that the father should come first ע"ש].

Rav Genechovski said that you see that neshamos in the world of truth are told not only of the Torah thoughts written in their memory but are even told of other sefarim that deal with the same issues.

[Agan Hasahar page 63]

לזכות שמואל אלכסנדר בן נעכא גיטל

Top Secret:)

You know sweetest friends - like everyone else I have my shares of trials and tribulations Baruch Hashem [they only make me a better person and add dignity as my white hairs multiply:)] and I find that one of the most effective ways to deal with them is through humor. Fortunately, I often receive emails like the following to provide comic relief.

Dear Friend,
I know that this mail will come to you as a surprise as we have never met before, but need not to worry as I am using the only secured and confidential medium available to seek for your foreign assistance in a business. I am contacting you independently of my investigation and no one is informed of this communication. I need your urgent assistance in transferring the sum of ($11.3 million united state dollar.) immediately to your private account. The money has been here in our Bank lying dormant for nine good years now without anybody coming for the claim of it. I want to release the money to you as the nearest person to our deceased customer (the account owner) who died along with his supposed NEXT OF KIN since August 1997. The Banking ethics here does not allow such money to stay more than 16 years, because the money will be recalled to the Bank treasury as unclaimed fund. Upon receipt of your reply indicating your interest in this transaction, I will send you full details on how the business will be executed. Please keep this proposal as a top secret and delete if you are not interested. Regards,Mr. MOHAMMAD OUATTARA.Bank of Africa, Burkina Faso-West Africa.

People like Mohammad mamesh mamesh solve all of my financial worries. I am so honored he chose me as the lucky one to give the 11.3 million dollars. He probably knows that I sit and learn and wants a zchus...

What Is Elul?

Someone sent me to this which describes exactly what Elul is supposed to be. He talks about it from a secular perspective but we can convert his idea to Judaism....

If Elul passes and you are the same person - then what was it worth??

[Men should turn away for the first 5 seconds or so. Nothing assur but always better not to look if you don't have to...]

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Please Help

Todays kushya yomis here.

I hope somebody has an answer because I don't......

Be The Best You Can Be!

Those who would like to learn on Skype with yours truly - time is running out as numerous spots are taken. So if you would like to be part of this intercontinental Torah project where a person can learn Toras Eretz Yisrael and ALMOST be back in Yeshiva - this is your chance.

What do you have to lose?
What do you have to gain?
Will you become smarter and more knowledgeable?
Of course.
Will you enjoy?
The one thing I see as a barrier that stops people is that "IT REQUIRES EFFORT AND COMMITMENT." It is hard for people to commit to something that will reap them no direct financial or other concrete rewards. I see again and again how people start chavrusas or other learning projects BUT DON'T KEEP TO THEM.

But then again - the ONLY WAY to reach your potential and get to the world of truth with the spiritual accomplishments that are expected of you is to overcome all obstacles in the way.

So if it's not going to be with me - then get a different chavrusa. Keep to the program. CHAZER LOTS! You will see how much it adds to your life.

Daf Yomi [if you learn it] is nice but there is something really special about having a learning seder that revolves less on covering ground and more on understanding and knowing. 25 plus years in Yeshiva and I have not yet experienced a student knowing the material and not feeling accomplished.

PLEASE try it.

All Or Nothing?

Recently a very well known rabbinic figure in the religious zionist world was accused and found guilty by the court of inappropriate behavior with a student/s.

This is a mammoth chilul Hashem and places a stain on all good upstanding rabbis all over the world. Now a rabbi can't hug a student without fearing that he will be accused of inappropriate behavior. 99.9 percent of all rabbis and educators are completely clean of any of the accusations leveled against this person. It is always the 0.01 percent that gets all the press and makes people suspicious of anyone like him. This is a tragedy and as chazal say אחד שוגג ואחד מזיד בחילול השם - Even if he is completely innocent of any wrongdoing, a chilul Hashem came about through him and for that we must all mourn and he will have a lot of work to do over Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur asking the "Big Guy" for mechila. The gemara [Yoma 86a] says that for chilul Hashem there is no tshuva in this world. Tshuva, suffering, Yom Kippur and then death. Not an easy one. [Please see the Pachad Yitzchak on Yom Kippur Maamar 15 and 16].

But wait! He also has helped and taught many thousands of people. Does this incrimination mean that he is all bad??? Does this erase all of his mitzvos. On one hand there IS a concept that an aveira erases a mitzva [but can't erase Torah - see Sotah 21a]. The Rambam says in Hilchos Tshuva that when one is a sinner Hashem "rips up" his mitzvos until he does tshuva. On the other hand we have a rule אין הקב"ה מקפח שכר כל בריה - Everybody gets what they deserve for their good deeds even if they are sinners as well. Why must people view him as being all bad? Maybe a mixture of good and less good.

 May be we ALL mixtures of good and less good?? I know I am. Baruch Hashem I have my aveiros and I suspect that you have yours too:-).

A number of years ago a man who was mekarev thousands of Jews all over the world died. He made a tremendous kiddush Hashem wherever he went. He brought ruchniyus to beggars, prostitutes, professors and college students. Everyone. His message was one of love and acceptance. His probably gave more hugs than any person alive. The heilige Amshinover Rebbe said about him to his chassidim "Not only is he going to get a bigger portion in gan eden than I am going to get - he is going to get a bigger portion in gan eden than you guys think I am going to get." I personally wish to be more like him. His generosity was almost unparalleled. He was so dedicated to helping and loving people that he seemed to have almost completely nullified his ego. Our world is one where everything is the ego and he was above that. Nobody was beneath him. Not prison inmates or little children or anyone. He was filled with love. I simply have met almost nobody like him in my life [maybe one person]. He continues long after his death to inspire people.

On the other hand he was accused of doing some questionable stuff. He was also witnessed doing some very problematic things. [I too, would like to hug everybody who comes into shul but I would put a limit from EXACTLY where the mechitza stands and beyond...:-) To touch an ervah is יהרג ואל יעבור].

So what does this mean about him? It means that he is both a tzadik and ALSO afflicted with personality defects [or so it would appear]. It is not all or nothing.

The message: We have to find the holy part of ourselves, accentuate that and thereby drown away that less solid parts of who we are. In the terminology of Chazal - to enable the yetzer hatov to overpower the yetzer hara.

Make sense?    

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Making Millions On Saturdays - A Modern Halachic Possibility?

An interesting question that was the subject of discussion over Shabbos: We all know that ideally one shouldn't have Internet. But if you are reading this you probably do... What is the halacha regarding one who has an Internet business? Must he close the site on Shabbos? Think about it - a frum Jew can make a million dollars on Shabbos if his site is open for business.

I could give you a one line answer but that is the style of blogs and the mass media in general that I try to avoid. The rule of the thumb is 'the more superficial the better'. The real answer would require a full length article which I may or may not write......:-)

The issues involved Shvisas Keilim [must my "utensils" rest on Shabbos], deriving benefit from chilul shabbos, doing business on shabbos, schar shabbos [earning money on shabbos], zilusa d'shabbos [disgracing shabbos], lifnei eveir [causing someone to sin] and more:-)!

In the latest edition of the journal אליבא דהלכתא there is a thorough discussion with many sources, עיין שם.
All see the sefer רץ כצבי of Rabbi Zvi Ryzman Shlita of L.A. 
סימן כד

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Who Is Going The Wrong Way?

Herman and Betty Epstein were driving down the freeway on the way to their retirement community. Suddenly, Herman’s cell phone rang and after 8 rings he managed to pick it up. It was his daughter Sarah.

"Dad, I just heard on the news that there's a car going the wrong way on the I-75. Please be careful!"
"Sarah," said Mr. Epstein, "It's not just one car. It's hundreds of them!"

In life we often like to accuse the world of being at fault and we don't realize that the true culprit is staring at us in the mirror..........

Eulogize Your Living Friends!

From Tuesdays With Morrie:

"The New Year came and went. Although he never said it to anyone, Morrie knew this would be the last year of his life. He was using a wheelchair now, and he was fighting to say all the things he wanted to say to all the people he loved. When a colleague at Brandeis University died suddenly of a heart attack, Morrie went to his funeral. He came home depressed.

"What a waste," he said. "All those people saying all those wonderful things, and Irv never got to hear any of it." [According to the gemara the meis does hear it but it's still not the same..]

Morrie had a better idea. He made some calls. He chose a date. And on a cold Sunday afternoon, he was joined in his home by a small group of friends and family for a 'living funeral.' Each of them spoke and paid tribute to the old professor. Some cried. Some laughed. . . . Morrie cried and laughed with them. And all the heartfelt things we never get to say to those we love, Morrie said that day. His 'living funeral' was a rousing success."

Sweetest friends!!! Don't wait till it's too late. Tell people NOW how you feel about them. [Unless how you feel is that you hate their guts:-)].

Practical Mitzvos

What is the main problem with Islam and Christianity? Theology? No. We definitely have our theological differences with these religions [which, if we remember, are just mutant outgrowths of Judaism] but that is not the central issue. The critical difference is the fact that they jettisoned the emphasis on practical mitzvos. For them abstract belief is most of what a person needs.

We have a Shas and innumerable practical halachos which emanate from there. It is our joy and "pride" [pride usually isn't a good quality]. Those who disregard many halachos are really missing out. Learning and knowing mishna brura and similar works gives one a structure that allows him to fulfill the will of Hashem at every moment of every day in a real concrete way and builds our nation.

In the words of Maran HaRav ztz"l
 באמונות הנוטות מכלל התורה, כמו האמונה הנוצרית והמחמדנית, אין עיקר הארס מונח במושג האלהות שלהם, שהוא שונה ממה שהוא נכון להיות ע"פ יסוד אורה של תורה, כ"א במה שיוצא מזה הריסת המצות המעשיות, וביטול תקות האומה ביחש לתחייתה השלמה.

New Article

This is the weekly parsha sugya for Ki Savo. It is sweeter than honey and more exciting than the World Series. People tell me they don't read it whether because it is too hard for them to understand or because they are not interested. My response is - learn more and you will find that you CAN understand it and suddenly it will become interesting to you. Why wouldn't someone be interested in what Hashem thinks???


"The fact is, there is no foundation, no secure ground, upon which people may stand today if it isn’t the family. It’s become quite clear to me as I’ve been sick. If you don’t have the support and love and caring and concern that you get from a family, you don’t have much at all.
Love is so supremely important. As our great poet Auden said, 'Love each other or perish'. . .(If I had no family) this disease, what I’m going through, would be so much harder. I’m not sure I could do it. Sure, people would come visit, friends, associates, but it’s not the same as having someone who will not leave. It’s not the same as having someone whom you know has an eye on you, is watching you the whole time. This is part of what family is about, not just love, but letting others know there's someone who is watching out for them. . .what I call, your spiritual security. . .Nothing else will give you that. Not money. Not fame. . . Not work." (Tuesdays with Morrie)


"Without children, what would we do for aggravation"

Old Jewish aphorism

Think Then Act - Chossons Watch For Black Senator - Admit When You Are Wrong

WASHINGTON (AP) - Former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. was sentenced to two and a half years in prison Wednesday after pleading guilty to scheming to spend $750,000 in campaign funds on restaurant dinners, an expensive watch and other costly personal items. His wife received a sentence of one year.

Jackson, the 48-year-old son of civil rights leader Jesse Jackson, had been a Democratic congressman from Illinois from 1995 until he resigned last November. In an emotional speech to the judge during which he became choked up, he apologized and said he wanted to “take responsibility for my actions.”

“I misled the American people. I misled the House of Representatives. I misled the Federal Election Commission,” he said. “I was wrong.”

According to court papers in the case, Jackson used campaign money to buy items including a $43,350 gold-plated men’s Rolex watch.

You know, Reb Jes, had you thought of the consequences of your actions before you bought your gorgeous chosson's watch, you'd have been much better off:-).

We too, sweetest friends should ponder the consequences of OUR actions before we pay prices that we don't want to pay....
Kushya Yomis here.
Rabbi Yosef Zvi Rimon [Shabbat Bi-shabbato Ki Tavo]
Question: Is the chazzan who leads the services or the one who blows shofar allowed to accept payment for doing this job on the High Holidays?
Answer: The Rashba was asked as follows: "Which is to be preferred – a hired chazzan or one who volunteers to lead the prayers?" [volume 1, 450]. He replied that the chazzan who is being paid should be preferred. He explains that a volunteer might cause a controversy in the community, while when a chazzan is hired for pay there is less of a chance of a dispute. Later rabbis added that a man who has received a salary for the job will be more careful to be precise in his prayers and will make a greater effort to please the congregation, in order to be worthy of his salary. (See Magen Abraham 53:25).
The opinion of the Rashba is quoted in the halacha in the laws of prayer (Orach Chaim 53:22) with respect to the prayers every day of the week. However, in the laws of Rosh Hashana it is written in the Shulchan Aruch that one who accepts payment for blowing shofar or reading the Torah on Rosh Hashana will not see a blessing from the money that he receives. The reason for this is that the pay is for work that was performed on Shabbat and on a holiday.
In spite of the desire to avoid paying for work done on Shabbat and on a holiday, many of the early and later commentators have written that the prevailing custom is to pay a salary to a chazzan and to the one who blows shofar. The responsa of the Rashba, which served as the basis for the ruling in the Shulchan Aruch, addresses this issue too. The Rashba writes that the accepted custom is to pay for somebody to blow the shofar. In the laws of Shabbat, the author of the Shulchan Aruch mentions that some rabbis are lenient and feel that since leading the prayers and reading the Torah are mitzvot one can be paid a salary for doing them on Shabbat (Orach Chaim 306:5).
In addition to the above, some rabbis permit "swallowing" the pay for Shabbat in other payments. Thus, the money would be paid as a higher than usual price for work that was done during the week, so that the amount would also cover the work done on Shabbat. The chazzan and the shofar blower must prepare themselves and practice for their work, and they can therefore take pay for these preparations and not for the work done on the holiday itself.
We can add to these considerations the preference stated above for hiring a chazzan, since he will then be more careful to do his job in a professional and satisfactory way. (Of course in places where the custom has been not to pay a chazzan, this custom should not be changed.)
We note that even though a chazzan and a shofar blower have been given permission to take a salary, they must make a strong effort during the prayers to concentrate on the essence of the prayers and not to pay attention to the monetary aspects of their job!
"Eiruv Tavshilin" for One who will not Cook on Rosh Hashana [Also from the Star K website]
Question: This year the second day of Rosh Hashana is right before Shabbat. Is somebody who does not plan to cook on the holiday for Shabbat required to perform the ritual of "Eiruv Tavshilin," which allows him or her to cook for Shabbat?
A fundamental difference between Yom Tov observance and Shabbos observance is the allowance of ochel nefesh, food preparation on Yom Tov. "Ach Asher Yei'achel L'Chol Nefesh Hu Levado Yei'aseh Lachem..."  The Torah permits us to cook, bake, and prepare food on Yom Tov proper, in order to eat the prepared food on that day of Yom Tov. One is not permitted to prepare from one day of Yom Tov for the second day of Yom Tov or for after Yom Tov. This prohibition of hachana, of preparing from one day of Yom Tov to the next, presents a problem when the second day of Yom Tov falls out on Shabbos or when Shabbos follows a two day sequence of Yomim Tovim. Can one halachically prepare food on Yom Tov for the Shabbos Yom Tov or for Shabbos?

To deal with this issue our Rabbis instituted a procedure known as eruv tavshilin.  The process of eruv tavshilin works in the following manner. On Erev Yom Tov, the head of the household, or his designee, should set aside a baked item such as bread or matzoh, and a cooked item such as meat, fish, or eggs (i.e. a food that is eaten along with bread). Each item should be at least the size of one kezayis, preferably the size of one beitzah. He or she should then recite the blessing of "Baruch...Al Mitzvas Eruv" and the proclamation, both found in the Siddur. This proclamation states that the cooked and baked items should permit us to continue baking, cooking, lighting a flame from an existing fire and do all the necessary preparations from Yom Tov proper to Shabbos. It is now viewed as though meal preparations for Shabbos have already begun before Yom Tov and Shabbos meal preparations may continue on Friday Yom Tov, Erev Shabbos.

Once done, the eruv covers all household members and guests.

The foods set aside for the eruv should be saved and may be eaten on Shabbos.

If one forgot to make an eruv tavshilin one should consult a competent Rabbinical authority for further instructions.
 As the name implies, the purpose of an eiruv tavshilin is to mix together the Shabbat and holiday meals, and to change them conceptually into one long meal. We are therefore allowed to cook food for Shabbat during the holiday. Thus, since the eiruv is made as a way to enhance the honor of Shabbat, it would seem that somebody who will not need to cook on the holiday does not need an eiruv tavshilin.
However, the rabbis have instructed us to make an eiruv tavshilin in every home, for several reasons. First of all, there is a dispute by the early commentators whether one who has not made an eiruv is allowed to light the Shabbat candles. The Shulchan Aruch rules that we can be lenient (Orach Chaim 527:19) and that the candles can be lit even if an eiruv was not made, since we derive a benefit from them on the holiday itself (the candles are of course lit before Shabbat, when the holiday is still in effect). But the Shulchan Aruch mentions the more stringent ruling, and Mishna Berura writes that many people take this opinion into account. Thus, even one who does not plan on cooking during the holiday will certainly light Shabbat candles, and an eiruv tavshilin is still necessary. (See also Responsa Mishneh Halachot volume 7, 74.)
In addition, Rabbi Moshe Sternbuch writes that an eiruv should be considered as a rabbinical mitzva (Moadim U'Zemanim, volume 7, 122). In an innovative opinion, he writes that the sages ruled that one should perform an action to remember the honor of Shabbat which comes right after a holiday, and this is what is done by one who makes an eiruv.
Rabbi Sternbuch writes that since making an eiruv is fulfillment of a mitzva a blessing should be recited when it is made. However, most of the rabbis do not agree, and they feel that one who does not intend to cook on the holiday should make an eiruv but without reciting a blessing. While the eiruv might be needed in order to light Shabbat candles, we noted above that according to the main ruling of the Shulchan Aruch the candles can be lit without an eiruv tavshilin, and therefore a blessing should not be recited if this is the only reason for making the eiruv.
Some people have commented that a person who wants to recite a blessing for an eiruv should plan on cooking something for Shabbat during the holiday. But in my humble opinion it is not reasonable to instruct people to do so. Many people prefer to spend Rosh Hashana in prayers and festive meals, and they therefore make an effort to prepare all of their food before the holiday. The idea that they should go into the kitchen and cook something on the second day just to be able to recite a blessing seems to me as too harsh a demand. Therefore one who does not plan on cooking the second day of the holiday should act as outlined above: Make an eiruv tavshilin in order to be able to light candles Friday night, but do not recite a blessing. Of course, one who does plan to cook on the holiday, including even warming up soup or another liquid for Shabbat, should make an eiruv and recite the blessing.
Note that one who makes an eiruv should only cook for Shabbat on the second day of the holiday, the day before Shabbat, and not on the first day.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Review The Halachos

After my ninth son Neriah was born, I felt so weak that I couldn't even stand on my feet. I had to take medicine and needed lot of help. So I went to Rav Ben Tov with my mezuzos and asked him for a bracha for a refuah shleima.

The Rav looked at the mezuzos and said "You kept the halachot of taharat hamishpacha for a long time but recently you have been lax. You have to learn the halachot again until you remember them clearly."

He also told me to do a few different segulos. I carefully did whatever he told me and today I am Baruch Hashem completely healthy.  

When The Husband Isn't Willing

Mrs. Chamutal related:

"I once made an appointment with Rav Ben Tov for a couple that I knew. They were not religious and came to the Rav due to a problem they were having with the development of one of their children. The Rav asked them to keep taharas hamishpacha. The woman was willing but the man wasn't.

I really wanted to help this couple, so I gave this woman advice on how to keep the mitzva despite her husband's objections. She listened to everything I said and a short time later her childs problem disappeared.


Tzadik Hamezuzos Page 139
Kushya yomis here, heard at last night's weekly "daf-yomi bi-iyun" shiur by the Rebbe Shlita.

Monday, August 19, 2013

The Power Of Good Chinuch

Today I learned a lesson about the power of chinuch. I have a friend who is a very special person. He is a regular guy on the outside but I think that in all of Yerushalayim there may not be another avrech who is as big a baal chesed as he is. He selflessly devotes himself to helping and giving to others and opens his home to those who have none. People don't just visit him and have a meal - they live with him, free of charge. He also sits and learns and has no money. If I had money and could support an avrech - he would probably be my first address.

Today we were talking and the topic of smoking came up. I expressed my 'radical opinion' that smoking is terribly bad for you. He differed. Smoking, he explained, is a matter of personal preference. If you want, then you smoke and if you don't want to then you don't have to. The health risks are overstated. Maybe it will kill a person at the age of 90 or 100 but not before. His father has been smoking since he was very young and he is fine. So did his grandfather. He doesn't smoke but almost everyone around him does and they are fine. The overwhelming evidence against his position doesn't faze him in the slightest. "Look at Rav X", he told me. "He smoked and made it past 100." Besides, he reminded me, smoking also has benefits. It calms a person.

I heard what he said and decided that if someone could be so crum [crooked] and maintain such a twisted, unconscionable, untenable perspective on an issue which is universally agreed upon by all doctors in all fields and every smoker can also testify to the negative effects, then it is not worth my time to try to convince him otherwise. So I didn't. I also didn't try the old argument that many rabbonim hold that it is assur min hatorah to smoke and all the other ones hold that it's a bad idea and would he eat a piece of meat that many rabbis held was treif and those who held it was strictly kosher still felt it was better not to eat it.

But I learned an important lesson. He told me that the way he was raised was that smoking is a matter of choice and both choices [i.e. to smoke or not] have equal merit. The power of education.

So if one can raise a child to think that smoking is really not that bad for you and even as an adult he continues to believe that utter nonsense, imagine how powerful the long term effects of teaching one's child positive values??!  

Location Location

Recently we had a post on raising good children which Baruch Hashem resonated with quite a few people, so I continue the thought.....

WHERE should we raise our children? The top three words in the real estate business are "location, location and location". In a city called Emanuel you can buy a nice house for 40-50 thousand dollars. In Yerushalayim for that money you can buy a parking spot... It is all about location.

It is also critical factor in raising children. The Rambam [Deyos 6/1] is clear that people are products of their environment, so it behooves us to make sure our kids grow up in a spiritually nurturing environment.

Nu - limyseh, where???

Let's start in Israel. Bnei Brak - that's frum!!:-) There are hundreds of kids off the derech there. Yerushalayim? The Old City? Loads of kids off the derech to varying degrees. Kibbutz Hazorea?? NOBODY is ON the derech there. So where? Tel Aviv?? Nahhhhhh. Raanana? The only American city bordered on all four sides by Israel. Well, not every kid there turns out so well either. Efrat? They have their mylos, but lots of problems too. Kiryat Sefer? Ditto.

Let's move to America!:-) Ahhhh - Lakewood, everybody in Lakewood has the purest best behaved children. Not really. Flatbush. Good and not so good. Passaic. Great community but far from ideal. What about places that start with "Wood" ["mere", "sburgh" "stock" etc.]? Well, if you are old enough you know that Woodstock is a great place for an "aliyah" but that would be through narcotics.
The other Woods are very comfortable and about 50 percent of my readers come from there but not all of those kids turn out so well either [others turn out grrreeeeeaaaaatttt:-)]. Manhattan? The "city that never sleeps", yes, but not because everybody is learning a mishmar....

So where yes? Alaska? Beijing? Moscow? Well, Chabad shlichim do it and their children usually come out great, but not for us.

Sweetest friends, of course it is important to find a place to live which will provide your kids with a nurturing environment, good friends, a solid education etc. etc. But, tachlis, there is no place without problems. Which of course brings us back to what we wrote in the previous post.

The answer is in tehillim. Say lots of tehillim:-).    

Bringing Bikkurim From Land That Probably Doesn't Belong To You

 Kushya Yomis here

Kavod HaTorah

There are many reasons I like being religious. As a matter of fact, I like just about everything:-). One of the reasons I am most proud of our world is when I see who our heroes are as opposed to the heroes of the outside world. We don't revere people who are richer, funnier, better looking, more powerful etc. etc. Our leaders aren't elected in politically motivated elections.

We respect those who are smarter, holier, more spiritual and most connected to Hashem, regardless of how much money, connections or political power he has. Here is a short clip of Kavod Hatorah shown to HaGaon Rav Michel Yehuda Lefkovitz ztz"l.

Sensitivity To All

The Torah says that one is not permitted to plow with an ox and donkey together  - לא תחרוש בשור וחמור יחדיו. What is the reason for this prohibition. A number of commentaries say that the reason is that we don't want to cause the donkey pain. The ox is a מעלה גרה - he regurgitates his food, while a donkey does not. When the donkey hears that the ox is eating a second breakfast and he is not, he will feel pained. In order to prevent this the Torah forbade us from plowing with the two animals together.

To whom are we showing sensitivity? A DONKEY! The lowest of animals. When you want to insult someone in Modern Hebrew, the custom in these parts is to call him [affectionately] a חמור! Oyyyyy sweet friends, if we have to be careful about insulting a donkey - how much more so must we be careful not to insult or offend a person.

[The gemara in Bava Metzia 85a, relates that Rebbe Yehuda Hanasi accepted upon himself 13 years of suffering because he once insulted a calf. The calf was running away from the shochet and hid under Rebbe's kapote. Rebbe said "זיל לכך נוצרת" - Go, that is why you were created. For those words spoken to a calf [which were actually true] he suffered for 13 years. נורא נוראות].

Many years ago, Hagaon Rav Avraham Genechovski Ztz"l used to give a weekly shiur in Yeshivas Chebin. One week, the shiur was on the sugya of הנותן גט מתוך קטטה - One who gives a get to his wife as a result of a quarrel. The Rav arrives and out of the blue and to everyones surprise, he said, "Since Chanuka is coming up, I will give a shiur on inyanei Chanuka". He did but nobody could understand why he changed the topic of the shiur. After the shiur, the present Tolna Rebbe Shlita [who was a talmid at the time] was asked by HaRav Yehuda Rabinowitz ztz"l a maggid shiur in the yeshiva, what the shiur was about. He told him "Chanukah". Rav Rabinowitz said humorously "Maybe next week he will give a shiur on Pesach?!" The next week the Rav continued talking about Chanukah and the next week after as well, to everyone's surprise.

The Rebbe Shlita's chavrausa had a theory. There was a boy whose parents were going through an acrimonious divorce and Rav Genechovski didn't want to talk about the topic, even in the context of learning, in order not to cause the boy more pain than he was already experiencing. Some time later, the Rebbe Shlita asked Rav Genechovski if this was the reason and he confirmed that it was.

[Based on the words of the Rebbe Shlita, Motzaei Shabbos Parshas Ki Teitzi תשע"ג]  

לרפואת ולזכות כ"ק אדמו"ר שליט"א

Sunday, August 18, 2013

New Article

Today I was busy revising this article which hopefully will be published in a Torah journal. It's long but, by golly, so was Tolstoy's War And Peace [li-havdil 20 million havdalos] and people read that.... 

Friday, August 16, 2013

But where is G-d???? Check this out!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Please Daven!

Shaindel Feige bas Chaya Tzivia for a refuah shleima bi-toch shear cholei yisrael.

How To Raise Good Children

A summary of my thoughts as we approach the Shabbos when we read of the rebellious ben sorrer umoreh son.

There are 3 basic groups -

1] Some raise their kids "charedi" [or "chardal" in Israel which means either "mustard" or that you wear a kippa sruga and keep all the mitzvos] with lots of Torah and Mitzvos and yet not all of the children turn out well. Some this way and some that way.

2] Some raise their kids "modern" and not all of those kids turn out well either. Some rebel to the "right" [i.e. to Hashem] and some to the "left" [to the Satan].

3] Some raise their kids not frum at all and they aren't always successful. Many of these kids end up becoming baalei teshuva while others end up marrying goyim.

How do you raise kids to be like you want them to?

Here is the secret [I am VERY experienced:-)].


You don't because your children are unique and not necessarily your "type". You also don't because you have very-very limited control over what your children do. When they are toddlers you have a lot more control but as teenagers - almost none. Today I was talking to a mashgiach in a yeshiva and he was telling me how much he was against his children getting drivers licenses and then right under his nose his son when out and got his driver's license. A good boy. Charedi. Hat, jacket, everything. But at the end of the day - people are people and people are independent/egocentric/ideologically-driven etc. etc. which will make them do things their parents don't want them to.

I will use an example close to home. Me. I am closer than close. I am actually home. When was a kid I didn't listen to everything my parents said. Did you?

So here is my take: Love them, set a good example, have good shalom bayis, try to give each child time, understand their unique needs etc. etc. and them love them more, kiss them and hug them frequently and then get down to doing together with your spouse what is really the most powerful and effective parenting tool.

Say tehillim. Lots!!!!!

Li-zchus my holy beloved children who have taught me more about parenting than any book could ever possibly teach me.

New Shiur

Not a normal shiur on the topic of Kedushas Eretz Yisrael based on Gittin daf ches here , here and here. [It's not that long even though it is split up into three parts].

Why Can One Only Receive A Lost Object In Return After Giving Simanim

We received enough feedback to justify the continuation of the Kushya Yomis - so heeeereeee it is!

A doozer!

Every Item Of Torah Has Great Value

Excerpted from an article by R' Amichai Gordin Shabbat Bishabato Ki Teitzei:

Dozens of lecturers and students are demonstrating in the Hebrew University in Jerusalem against the decision to close a hundred courses in the faculty of humanities... The university announced the cancellation of the courses, which are taught by external faculty members, if less than ten students sign up for them... The courses which will be closed are in a number of subjects, such as archeology, history, and geography. The demonstrators are protesting to the university management about what they call 'a mortal blow to the faculty of humanities.'" [Galatz, IDF Radio Station, 9 Tammuz 5773].

     * * * * * *
"The study of the Mishna and the halachic rulings plays the same role for holy material as does the study of geography in secular matters, as a way of maintaining a logical approach and establishing a basis in reality" [Rav A.Y. Kook, Orot HaTorah 6:9].
     * * * * * *
"The study of Torah... adds the light of our lives as Yisrael to our souls, and awakens within them pleasant knowledge and good hidden feelings, along with the unique trait of Yisrael, just as general studies help to awaken within us the knowledge and the feelings of mankind in general." [Ibid 6:11].
     * * * * * *
General study... has a benefit in addition to the fact that it is worthy to know all we can from general knowledge... We broaden our intellect by adding general knowledge to it... There are some things that in themselves have no intrinsic value, but which are nonetheless worthwhile to know as a way of exercising our intellect and broadening it to strive for perfect knowledge.
The same is true for various subjects in the study of Torah... Every item of the Torah, even including a small insight... has great value... because of the importance of knowing real truth and understanding it. And what is true for the secular study of historical details and also the knowledge of ancient languages... is also true for every subject which is beneficial in general that the study of its details are a welcome addition to the glory of the intellect. Logically (by a "kal vachomer") this leads to the conclusion that every single detail of our entire Torah must be something that is very dear and well liked. [Ibid 8:6].
     * * * * * *
In the past, Amos Shapiro, the President of Haifa University, managed giant Israeli companies, including El Al and Cellcom. In an interview that he gave a few months ago, Shapiro strongly criticized the attitude of Israeli society towards the world of research.
"The universities are the yeshivot of the twenty-first century," he said, "I am surprised by the lack of understanding in Israel of how important research can be. The Jewish nation, which was so tolerant of those who studied in the 'cheider' and whose sole occupation is Torah study, does not show the same tolerance towards the universities."
Shapiro's starting point is mistaken. The universities are not the yeshivot of this century. The yeshivot are the yeshivot of the twenty-first century. But he is absolutely right about the attitude of our society with respect to general knowledge. Large sections of Israeli society despise knowledge as such. Every item of knowledge is analyzed in practical terms. "What can we get out of it?" Knowledge that does not teach a person practical skills is considered a waste of time and effort.
The controversy about the studies of yeshiva students is not only related to the understanding of the importance of the Torah. Rather, it concerns the very importance of studying and the value of knowledge in general.
    * * * * * *
Those who do understand the value of knowledge, who declare that the fate of the country depends not on the Arrow Missile or on a magic wand but rather on the education of this nation that resides in Zion – should do all they can to preserve the one place in our country where the study of humanities is being developed. This is the only place where the number of students of the humanities has grown from year to year – the yeshivot.
     * * * * * *
"Logically (by a "kal vachomer") this leads to the conclusion that every single detail of our entire Torah must be something that is very dear and well liked."
End of article.
I think the explanation is very simple. We live in a society where financial gain is the primary focus. Thus, studying the humanities and broadening one's knowledge for the sake of knowledge have no place.  The beauty of Torah [amongst other things] is that we study in order to study. Torah Li-shma is defined by some as "Torah for the sake of Torah".
That is why there is great opposition in many yeshivas to having "semicha programs". "Semicha program" means "degree" which means "money". So the equation is "Torah = Money". That equation of course triggers a great amount of nausea for those who love Torah.
The other side of the coin is that at the end of the day - people need a livelihood. That is why many of the great tzadikim in history studied for semicha at some point. And there were yet those who refused to earn a livelihood from Torah and found other ways to support their families. ואלו ואלו דברי אלוקים חיים.

לע"נ מרת אסתר בת שמואל

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Starting Again

R' Moshe Shilat Shabbat Bishabbato Ki Teitzei
The gates of teshuva – repentance – are wide open now, especially since it is the month of Elul.
Teshuva is usually explained as involving the past, which may not have been very good. But this is not so! Teshuva refers to making a new start, it is involved with the future and not with "digging" back into the past. We have been commanded to open up a new page which is clean. Regret for the past is not included in the mitzva of teshuva itself, rather it is an addition to the main concept. [Note: Many would argue with this assertion].
"The Torah mitzva of teshuva refers only to abandoning sin. That is, it is necessary to make a binding decision with a full heart never to repeat the foolishness again... And this is the main meaning of the word teshuva – for a person to return to G-d with all his heart and all his soul, to serve Him and to observe all of His mitzvot." [Tanya, Igeret Hateshuva Chapter 1].
The past that does concern us is not the time of the sin but rather the pure state before the sin, the past which is clean. Teshuva is a return to the status of the pure soul which G-d gave us, so that "the spirit will go back to G-d, who gave it." That is the focus, that is the main thing, and not a wallowing in the past failures.
Perfect Teshuva
This "lenient" approach of the Tanya, saying that teshuva involves "only" abandoning the sin and not thinking about the past and the sin itself, at the same time involves a great stringency. The lack of relevance of specific past events is related to the fact that the specific sin that we did does not matter. The very fact that every sin causes us to move further away from G-d, the fact that we turn our backs on Him by our own actions – is the main problem. With this insight, teshuva becomes very stringent and serious because even the lightest of sins is a very serious matter. The "new page" that we open after repenting must be completely clean and pure, since there is no room for any stain, no matter what size, shape or color.
In accepting the yoke of heaven to perform the act of teshuva we must accept everything anew, to decide to perform all the commandments, both positive and negative mitzvot. This means not only to resolve to keep mitzvot which we missed in the past and to observe prohibitions which we violated, for that does not address the main problem! Our real problem is the revolt against the Almighty which we expressed by committing a sin. Thus, the attempt to atone for a sin means that we must renew our acceptance of the yoke of G-d in all the details, without any connection to a specific sin. As the Tanya writes: "The mitzva of teshuva... requires a person to make a decision with all his heart never to return to foolishness and to revolt against the Divine kingdom, and never to violate any of the mitzvot of the King, G-d forbid – both positive and negative mitzvot" [ibid].
The Mikveh Purifies those Who Have been Defiled
In addition to the above, it is written in Chassidic literature that one who does not succeed in accepting the yoke of heaven completely should accept whatever he can, while praying to G-d for success – "Bring us back with complete teshuva before you." With G-d's compassion, even though our teshuva might not be perfect, the Holy One, Blessed be He, will bring us closer to Him. This closer approach itself can help us succeed in accepting the full yoke of heaven, leading to true teshuva.
And that is how the Rebbe of Lubavitch explains the words of Rabbi Akiva at the end of the tractate of Yoma: "Yisrael should be happy... Just as a mikveh purifies the defiled ones, so the Holy One, Blessed be He, purifies Yisrael." We can ask that this comparison of a mikveh to the Holy One, Blessed be He, seems faulty. Is the mikveh the allegory, which teaches us a lesson about the purification done by G-d? The mikveh itself would not be worth anything without the influence of G-d that operates through it!
The answer to this question is that Rabbi Akiva is teaching us a remarkable fact. Just as we have seen that a mikveh can provide partial purification (see Mishna Berachot 3:6 – a person can immerse himself in a mikveh to remove a light impurity even though a more serious one remains), in the same way the Holy One, Blessed be He, allows a person to remove light sins even though he has not yet succeeded in removing the more serious ones. And that is what Rabbi Akiva said – "a mikveh purifies the defiled ones," while they remain impure in certain aspects. This understanding can help a person get closer to G-d, so that in the end he will be absolutely pure and perfect.
"Yisrael should be happy."

Move On

Regarding the recent post about continuous tshuva: I received feedback from various people that sometimes a person just needs to put the sin behind him/her and move on.


Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Continuous Teshuva

This is a response to an email I received from a beloved friend who wishes to remain anonymous.

We all have done things we regret. The question you asked is, once we do teshuva, express remorse, say vidui and resolve never to do it again, can we then remove the sin from our consciousness or must we constantly revisit the sin and continuously repent.

There is a halachic side to this question which I dealt with in a recent article bs"d. Here, I will relate from a more hashkafic perspective.

A moshol: A child is disrespectful to his parents. He then reconsiders and thinks of how they brought him into this world and he only exists because of them. He feels awful so he goes up to them and asks forgiveness for his insolence.

The next day he recalls all of the times they took him to the doctor when he was sick. His new found appreciation makes him more remorseful.  He feels badly again so he asks them for forgiveness.

The next day he thinks of how they gave him full financial support for his whole life until that day. He says "WHOA! How could I disrespect my benefactors?!" So he asks for forgiveness again.

The next day he finds out that they put 15 million dollars in a trust fund for him. He says "Those tzadikim I disrespected???" So he asks them for forgiveness...... again.

The next day they give him the keys to the ten room apartment they secretly bought for him years back opposite the Inbal hotel [4 million dollar value]. He says "Oh me oh my!! How could I have disrespected them?? They are so wonderful!" So he begs them for forgiveness once again.

The nimshal: Every day we get a new appreciation of Hashem's kindness. So every day we intensify our teshuva on previous sins with the understanding that yesterday's teshuva was not enough. We do this not out of fear or guilt but out of LOVE!!



[PS - We should all have such parents and be such parents:-)]
Kushya Yomis here.

Money And Seichel

I used to know an extremely wealthy man [he is still alive - just haven't spoken to him in close to 30 years], one of the biggest baalei tzedaka in the Jewish world. He has a gizzilion dollars which he shares freely.

He once said: "The greatest gift that Hashem ever gave me is...... the seichel to realize that my money is not mine."

What is weird is that he actually lives that way.

New Shiur

A simply eye opening shiur [number 1500 BS"D!!] on giving mechila to your friend from the holy Rav Hutner זצ"ל, here and here.
The Rambam teaches the same halacha in 3 different places with significant changes. See also how the Lubavitcher Rebbe deals with this in the sefer Shaarei Ahavas Yisrael [from page 307]. Also see Vi-atah Birachamecha Harabim [R' Ginzburg page 72], Dvir Kodsho [page 73].

Kappara On An Aveira Done באונס

Kushya Yomis here

Monday, August 12, 2013

Jewish Women Are Hooollyyyyyyy

Here is a cute little video. I really think think that the purest thing in the world is going to the holiest place we are allowed to be at and to submit to Hashem and His will through tefilla.

Hilchos Teshuva - Addictions - Before It's Too Late - Soda Water And Yom Hadin - Today's Kushya Yomis

I must confess - my favorite of the Rambam's books is hilchos teshuva for reasons I won't get into. I am sorta drunk with it. I stand up at a hilchos-teshuva-anonymous [HTA] meeting in the basement of some church and say "My name is Elchanan and I am a hilchos teshuva addict. It all started one Elul over ten years ago when I was learning Bava Kamma and a friend convinced me to take a break and have a chavrusa in hilchos teshuva. Since then I constantly find myself going for more and more. It affects my marriage. My wife will be like 'Did you take out the garbage' and I will not hear her because I am so involved in hilchos teshuva. Then she will ask me again and I will say 'It's a machlokes Rambam-Ryvid'". [How funny would that be?]

In any case, I beg/urge/encourage/advocate that all of my sweetest friends should similarly put time into this limmud over the next month. One month and it's alllll over.


The Rambam paskens [in hilchos teshiva...] that Yom Kippur is קץ למחילה וסליחה - the last chance for mechila.

More learning suggestions - Maran HaRav's "Oros Hatshuva". Not normal. Also the Pachad Yitzchak on Rosh Hashna and Yom Kippur. And can we forget the Maharal's "Nesiv Hatshuva"?? [On yutorah Hashem has been mezake me to have many shiurim on inyanei teshuva. You can listen and it will be a zchus for me.] And any sefer that wakes you up from your slumber. ELLLLLULLLLLLLLL!!! Even the fish in the sea are shaking. Even soda water is feeling it. Try this - pour some soda water into a cup and see how it SHAKES!!

Today's Kushya Yomis here on a shver Rambam in hilchos teshuva. 

What Do You Want? - It's Elul!

"In the olden days the government told people what to do. Today, society tells people what to want."

Erich Fromm

I have a lot to say about this topic but, by golly, it's either this or hilchos teshuva and for now I am going to choose the latter and let my intelligent reader think about it him/herself.

My goodness, it ELUL and I have to get my act together. The first mitzva in the Torah is Pru Urivu. From here we see, said the Lubavitcher Rebbe, that a Yid has to make another Yid. I will try to be mekarev myself and maybe in the process bring a few others along with me.....
If a person loves only one other person and is indifferent to all others, his love is not love but a symbiotic attachment, or an enlarged egotism.

Erich Fromm

Serving In The Army

The soldiers in King David's army would give their wives a divorce before going out to battle. Rav Kook explains that the reason was not only to avoid a woman becoming an aguna if he would be lost in battle. The goyim would bring their wives and children to the battlefield in order to give the soldiers greater courage, as if to say, look for whom you are fighting. But in David's army the men would divorce their wives in order to disassociate themselves from any personal interests and to fight for the good of the Jewish people as a whole. This is as the Rambam wrote, that a soldier must stop thinking about his own family and be aware that he is fighting in a Divine war. Anyone who is afraid only because of his own individual sins and does not think of the general public during the war is not worthy of fighting in the Army of G-d.

Extricating Oneself From His Ego

"A person must always extricate himself from the private interests which fill his entire being, such that all of his ideas are centered on his own fate. This brings a person down to the depths of being small, and there is no end to the physical and spiritual suffering that comes about as a result. Rather, his thoughts, desires, his will, and the foundation of his ideas must always take into account the general – the world, mankind, Yisrael as a whole, and the entire universe. And this will also establish his personal status in the proper way."

[Oros Hakodesh volume 3, page 147].

Money Part 4: Your Money Or Your Life?

A Jew related that he used to live on the Upper West Side of Manhattan and walk to the East Side on Shabbos in order to visit patients in Mount Sinai Hospital. One time he met a patient who related that he was an extremely successful businessman who was the president of numerous companies.  For his whole adult life he had been consumed by his work. He couldn't even find the time to marry. Money-money-money-money. Busy man. One day during a routine examination the doctor discovered that he had cancer and gave him only weeks to live. His parents live in California and don't know about the terrible news. He was all of 42 years old.

The man said he would give away ALL OF HIS MONEY in order to live for just one more year. He felt such regret over all of the time he invested pursuing more and more wealth while neglecting what is really important. He wasn't so fortunate to live much longer....

The mussar haskel: Life is a much greater gift than wealth. Enjoy it and appreciate it while you have it:-).

Sunday, August 11, 2013

One For All And All For One

Trying to make sense of a maamar chazal that doesn't seem to make sense, with today's kushua yomis, here.

The Essence Of Elul

[Based on a talk I was zocheh to give the past Leil Shabbos before maariv at a local yeshiva. I skip the jokes and one-liners. I guess ya had to be there:-)]

Is Elul a scary time or a happy time? Fear creates distance while joy engenders closeness.

It is axiomatic that Elul is a scarrrry time. Last week a fellow approached me in the Central Bus Station and stating singing in the famous yeshiva tune "Eluuuuuullllll, even the fish in the sea are shaking!" Rav Yisrael Slanter said that in the olden days people would be overcome by fear when they heard the holy call of Elul.

Fear! Elul is scary. We might be judged for death and we have one month to get our act together. Last year at this time there were millions of people who are doing just what you are doing now, looking at the computer, possibly drinking a coffee or soda and today they are pushing daisies. That was all decreed on Rosh Hashanah last year. We don't want to be included on the list of such people this year and we have NOOOOOO guarantees. Remember the ol' line about death and taxes....?

On the other hand we all know the Roshei Teivos of Elul stand for אני לדודי ודודי לי - I am to my Beloved [Hashem] and my Beloved is to me". There is romance in the air!! We and Hashem are involved in a "love affair". We are enamored with Him and vice versa. Sounds more like closeness and simcha than fear.

So which one is it??


A myseh she-haya [heard from the Rebbe Shlita to illustrate the point we are making]:

A young man heard about a certain investment that would reap HUUUUUGE dividends in a short time. So he emptied out all of his savings, his wife's savings, borrowed large amounts from parents and in-laws, friends and gemachs and put his money in this investment. After some time he called up to find out how it was going. No answer. He called again. No answer. Again. No answer. He made some more phone calls until he was apprised of the fact that the whole thing was a scam and all of his money is down the drain.

How does he feel at the second he finds out?? HORRRRRIIIIBBBLLLEEEEE!!

That is the feeling we should have when we sin. We have to know what tremendous harm we caused to ourselves, others and the whole world when we sinned. We must appreciate the severity of sin.

But let us say that afterwards this young man goes to Rav Chaim Kniyevsky, who tells him that if he learns all of Meseches Shkalim he will recover every penny [or shekel] that he invested, plus 20 percent, how would he feel? A-mazing!!!!!!!!!! Redemption!!

That is the process we must go through. First tremendous pain and fear over our aveiros. Then we transform that fear into tremendous joy because we know that we can fix everything - and turn all of our aveiros into mitzvos.

Av is the month of destruction, when we saw what happens when we sin. Elul is the month of renewal. The mazel of Elul is Besulah, symbolizing freshness and purity. A new start.

So Elul begins with fear but turns into great love and happiness. 

לרפואת זאב ישראל בן אסתר בתוך שאר ח"י

Did Rashi Misunderstand The Concept Of Vidui??

Kushya yomis here.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Does The Other Guy Have It Better?

"I want to be like him". If you have ever been jealous - watch this.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Understanding Emunah

Excerpted from [R' Betzalel Naor] on the yahrtzeit of Rav Kook ztz"l.

Ours is an age of lack of self-esteem. we don’t trust ourselves. We want to be protected, for we feel small, afraid, far from the center of spirituality. In being humble, we think we are modest, but really we are weak. In being excessively cautious, we think we are being exceptionally frum, but really we just don’t trust ourselves. We see ourselves as vulnerable enclosures whose boundaries must be clearly demarcated, whose territory must be secured, whose way in the world must be defensive.

“Excessive fear of sin destroys the goodness in a person, and makes of him a lowly creature, who does nothing but lie there, shaking.” So writes Abraham Isaac Kook, in the opening paragraph of Orot Ha-emuna. “A person must believe in his life, in both his physical and moral powers.” The lack of emunah in oneself is the greatest of all the curses in the Torah, “Your life will be in the balance…and you will not believe in your life.” You will be plagued by self-doubt (Your life will be “in the balance”) and lack inner confidence. Because of this inner anxiety, “In the morning you will say, ‘Who will give evening?’ and in the evening ‘Who will give morning?’ “katnut ha-emunah,” “insufficient emunah,” is a lack of confidence in oneself, and “comes from the inability to raise one’s own self-worth to the point of understanding how he is deserving of the Divine Greatness.”
When we believe in ourselves we are not afraid-cautious, yes, but not afraid. And when we are not afraid we can look at the world again, and see in it the kaleidoscopic possibilities of existence. We can look outside, and see beneath the surface. And beneath that surface, we may even find something of ourselves.

 “When a person believes in himself he discovers great contentment in his spiritual endeavors, and ascends upward.’’ In this work Rav Kook explores emunah by comparing and contrasting it with kefirah (atheism, denial), avodah zarah (idol worship), and “minut,” which is the term favored by him to refer to Christianity, and by examining its relationship to the doing of mitzvot, and to general culture.

From these writings there emerges a profound teaching that belief in oneself is conceptually and existentially inseparable from emunah in God. For first and foremost, for Rav Kook, emunah is a state of being. As he writes elsewhere, “Emunah is the most basic self-revealing of the essence of the soul.” And this self-revealing is really the Divine within us made manifest: “Too much fear spoils emunah, because one doesn’t trust himself and his understanding, thereby diminishing his awareness of the Divine spark in his soul.” The essence of emunah is an awareness of the perfection of the Infinite and that “whatever experience of the infinite] enters the heart is but a minute spark of what can be imagined.” Emunah, then, is a self-affirmation in which one experiences one’s own self-revealment as the revealing of the Divine within. Emunah is a state of being.

It follows that emunah is not constituted by an act of “belief” or by a linguistic, cognitive affirmation. The latter are important both as external expressions of emunah, and as a means of bringing to emunah.

But even in their absence, emunah can be alive. And more, emunah can live even where there is no conscious awareness of one’s self divinity and even when one denies the Divine: “Sometimes you will find a kofer with an inner, shining strong emunah, flowing from the source of transcendent holiness, stronger than a thousand believers, who are “small of emunah.” How is this possible? Because “the inner spiritual basis of the holiness of emunah transcends all language.” A kofer can manifest the Divine power of his being even while denying faith with his mouth, and a believer can be lying, shaking with fright, all the while proclaiming his faith through chattering teeth.
Kefrah can itself even emanate from holiness. This can happen for example, when linguistic affirmations are rejected precisely because they are sensed to be inadequate, as but a weak shadow of the power of being. Thus, “there is denial (kefrah) that is like consent, and consent that is like denial.” Inadequate articulations of Judaism may force their own rejection, out of the depths of holiness. If we are to return the kofer to the practice of Torah, our elucidations of Torah contents must be adequate to the power of his being.

Rav Kook’s concept of emunah provides hope for our seemingly faithless world. For, “There are many apikorsim who are deniers, in accordance with the standards of Halacha. However, when we examine their soul we will discover in them a connection to the Divine content, in a hidden form. And that is why in our generation there is a tendency toward merit and kindness even toward absolute deniers.”

That does not at all mean that it does not matter for Rav Kook if you are atheist or believer, as long as the inner emunah manifests its power in you. Far from it. Linguistic affirmations of faith lead in the direction of transcendent truth, whereas protestations of atheism lead in the direction of falsehood and inauthenticity. He who is faithful to conceptual assertions of emunah has a covenant with God that he will merit that emunah which is beyond conceptualization and language. From that high vantage point he will apprehend the correspondence between the elements of the conceptualized emunah and its transcendent counterpart.

Yet sometimes, when we look outside, and beneath the surface, we do see something of ourselves.
Idol worship, too, in its deepest essence knows the power of being of emunah, but covers it over with corruption and evil: “In the filth of avodah zarah great is the spirit of emunah, in its wildness and coarseness, its frenzy and horselike power. Avodah zarah knows the visceral, immediate engagement with the Divine in the world, and total, passionate, self-actualization and self-affirmation.

... To believe that which can be practiced is the special genius of Jewish spirituality. This is the “balance of the Torah” which knows how to weigh the ideals against possibility of implementation.
Emunah is an ineffable state of being. How does it relate to the details of Torah practice? “Emunah is the highest poetry (shira) of the world, with its source in the Divine nature in the depths of the
soul. High poetry is unstructured, without meter and rhyme. It has total freedom of imagination without restrictions. It is a spontaneous outpouring of individual creativity. The Torah is the translation of the higher poetry into measure and beat, into conventions and rules. Torah is the poetry of emunah in its practical rhythm. “There are those filled with the glory of the poetry, who are pained by the restrictions of the practical life, but they accept the yoke of the kingdom of heaven.

But there are also impatient souls “who cannot bear the measure, and they are full of rebellion. But even in this rebellion the Divine pleasantness lives, albeit in an unclear way.”

Rav Kook once wrote  "Just as there are laws in poetry, there is poetry in laws.” When one loves a poem, he does not experience the restrictions of its form. The possibility exists to live a life of mitzvot as a form of poetry.

The poetry of emunah is not to be found exclusively in Torah. It informs every aspect of human endeavor that is “Divine creativity”: “The pure understanding sees the appearance of the Divine in every improvement of life … It is all included in Divine creativity.” The realization of our humanity is included in the power of emunah— “Everything is included in her, and everything exists in her.”
The bifurcation of reality into that which is the Lord’s, and that which is Caesar’s, originates in the anti-life of Christianity which severs the material world from its foundation of holiness. This poison has also infected the body of the Jewish people. For there are those amongst us who in their zealousness to fight evil believe we must suppress science, arts, and political activity because they are not part of the Divine aspect of the world. Hence, “They hate culture, the sciences, and statecraft, in Israel and in the world.” This is a lack of emunah.

The Jewish people excels at integrating opposing forces into a balanced whole, the power of Torah, the power of Tiferet. Therefore we must not stifle any talent, any human propensity, from developing to its fullest. It must first be allowed to exhaust the individuality buried within it. Once its full nature has been revealed and drawn out, then, and only then may the Jewish genius for integration and synthesis, including the rolling back of excessive development, be brought into play. If we impede the power of human creativity in the name of “faith” we sin against emunah.

“The enslavement of human reason and its silencing destroys the world. The holier the source of enslavement, the greater the damage.”

What are we to do? It is not enough for intellect and emunah to dwell side by side within our soul. For we must not allow emunah to settle in a corner of ourselves where our intellectual powers have not reached. Our emunah would then be weak, and not worthy of us. We must unite intellect with emunah, so that in proportion to our intellectual achievement, emunah will be raised up.
“This is true not only of the individual, but also of the nation in general, and of the whole world, in the generality of humankind.”

These are the teachings of Rav Kook in Orot Ha-emunah.

Ask the average modern orthodox person what emunah is and he will say "Belief in G-d". I once was present when a boy heard the word "emunah" and wasn't sure what it meant, so he said "Isn't that the soul" [I guess according to what I copied above he would be correct]. Ask the average charedi person and you would get the same answer. Once a person learn Rav Kook and the many other sefarim that discuss in emunah in detail and at great length, a entirely new world opens up. How sad that the most basic mitzva and the foundation of the entire Torah and all of our existence, remains with the most possible superficial [and misleading] understanding possible.

How tragic that we are not educating our children to live lives of depth and profundity. A person who plumbs the depths of spiritual concepts and internalizes them loses interest in Facebook, The New York Post and Mets and the other havolim of this world. In the charedi system, students achieve a sophisticated understanding and approach to the laws of a cow that gores an ox but when it comes to the bread and butter of his basic existence, he is mostly in the dark. One can only appreciate the darkness after he has seen light. In the modern orthodox system the student is generally in the dark about the cow and the ox as well, more busy with hockey and coed activities.

Am I wrong?? Is anybody going to try and change this reality? I tried [twice] and failed. I hope someone else is more successful....