Monday, September 30, 2013


From an email I sent to a couple of hundred people. If you know anyone interested, please tell me....
Shalloommm Swweeetest friends!!!!!
I have the OFFER OF A LIFETIME for you:-)! Due to the success of our "Skype-Yeshiva", we are expanding....
Back in my youth, I was a student in Yeshivas Ohr Sameach in Yerushalayim. I learned there under a Rebbi named HaRav Yaakov Homnick Shlita. He had a unique approach towards understanding the gemara which was completely original and tremendously exciting. The insights which he discovered hidden within the text were breathtaking. 
Rav Homnick was a prodigy in Mesivta D'rabbeinu Chaim Berlin who studied under HaRav Hutner ztz"l and in his 20's was already a Rosh Kollel both in Chicago and Yerushalayim. He has published over a dozen sefarim with many more in manuscript form. When in Eretz Yisrael he was close to HaRav Shach ztz"l who told his aides to let him right in whenever he came. If you have never heard of him it is only because of his modesty and desire to remain a private person.
What an UNBELIEVABLE HONOR AND PRIVILEGE it is to add this huge talmid chochom and gadol bi-torah to our staff.
Here is where is gets exciting. Every Sunday morning at 11am [EST], Rav Homnick will be giving a shiur on general topic [Chumash, Navi, Gemara, Machshava etc.] from his home in North Miami Beach on Skype. It is a chance of a lifetime open to everyone reading this and I wouldn't miss it. You will see the beauty and grandeur of the Torah in ways you have never before seen it.
The first four shiurim are completely free [with no obligations] and after that there will be a minimal fee. If you would like to sign up, please contact me soon as space is limited. The first shiur is on Sunday, October 13th.
Sweetest friends!! I have been learning and teaching his Torah for some time now [I have all of his sfarim on my computer] and find him an endless resource of insight and wisdom. I believe that you will, too.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

What was and is no longer... here.
Baruch Hashem, Rivka Chana bas Sarah Leah had a successful transplant and is now in recovery

First Things First

This is an essay written by HaRav Yaakov Homnick Shlita reprinted with permission:

These pages have lately been the preferred venue for hashing out questions concerning the biblical and Talmudic view of Creation. A great deal of confusion tends to attend such discussions. The most menacing pitfall of all is when people begin mentioning particular figures, such as Darwin and Dawkins, and sparring with their contention that the processes of natural development could have occurred without being set in motion and/or guided by a supreme Creator.

Really, there is no more profound waste of time for a serious Jew than to engage such "theorists." It is just as absurd to suppose that the world existed on its own and developed through random evolution as it was when the Greeks maintained that it always existed in its present form without being created.

An honest, healthy mind, fearless of consequences, cannot look at this spectacularly complex world, made up of spectacularly complex subatomic particles, interacting in spectacularly complex couplings, without concluding it was designed to be just what it is. End of conversation.

What is interesting, not in any defensive, threatened or apologetic way, is to determine how closely the scientific information, gleaned through experimentation, mirrors the Torah concepts we have received through revelation.

First we need to establish perspective by seeing how the Oral Law processed the Bible’s presentation. One Mishna encapsulates the entire subject. It begins the 5th chapter of Avot: "The world was created by ten Divine statements. Why was this necessary? Couldn’t everything have been created in one statement? It must be to punish the wicked who destroy a ten-part world and reward the righteous who maintain a ten-part world."

In other words, the surprising part of the Bible’s Creation story is that it has phases. In purely religious terms, we would presume that the world was created at once, since an omnipotent Creator has no need for steps. Had Creation not been mentioned in Genesis, the natural assumption would be that it was done simultaneously. The purpose of the Bible story is to introduce a staged process. This somehow raises the stakes on the table of existence, making the righteous maintenance of the enterprise a more profound achievement.

We can extrapolate from this Mishna to the arena of time as well. The intuitive sense would lead us to think that all of Creation would be accomplished at once. Instead there is a span of development described as seven distinct days, with new components added each day until the full architectural vision is realized at the very end of this schedule. Not only are there stages within the development of matter, there are periods of time that chart signposts of progress.

Again, in the intellectual sense this version of events can be fairly termed more scientific than religious. The faith system not only did not "need" this information, it is to a significant degree undermined by it. As a thought experiment, imagine a Jew in a roundtable debate, about two thousand years ago, against a monotheist who denies the Bible and a Greek atheist who denies Creation. The monotheist will accuse the Jew of selling out to the Greek science. Why impose artificial limits on the Almighty and say He used stages and time periods? It is just a weird and uncomfortable idea to posit an omnipotent Creator who chose to limit the pace of His creating.

Even more mystifying is the insistence in the biblical text that a point existed at which no observer could glean an inkling of where all this was heading. By the eleventh word of Genesis, we have already been plunged into a dark world of chaotic images that defy any decoding.

"A man seeing this vista would be utterly confused by the havoc," Rashi (1035-1105) explains. (The Midrash says it would have been heresy to say this had it not been written.) Try explaining this to the monotheist who has reasoned that the Creator is all powerful and all knowing. What possible purpose would there be in forcing existence to pass through an amorphous state?

The point here is that the Torah is spending all its initial effort on teaching you science rather than religion. The first sentence would have been quite enough. "In the beginning the Lord created the heavens and the earth." Straightforward. Now tell me how to live my life.

Instead, the Jew is being forced to train his mind to relinquish simplistic constructs of how divinity meets humanity. The world was cobbled together, emerging in fits and starts, passing through realms beyond our ken.

To review, the concept of creation taking time was introduced by the Bible, only later – much, much later – to be echoed by scientists. The idea of creation having distinct "ages" along the track to completion was taught here first as well. None of these premises benefited the religious model; if anything, they imported new complications.

The next shock comes when the Bible teaches that all living creatures were somehow fashioned out of the preexisting stuff of inorganic matter.

Creatures of the sea are said (Genesis 1:20) to be spawned from the water. Animals emerge from the instruction (1:24) "Let the earth bring forth…" (The Talmud in Chullin 27b adds that birds combine both water and earth sources.) Then man was fashioned from "dust of the earth" (2:7). This point is important enough to review afterward (2:19): "And God shaped from the earth all the living animals of the field and all that flies in the heavens…"

Once again the basic religious impulse is stood on its head. Every time we are told that God made a new creature, the biblical text hastens to clarify that He used available matter as his clay. No new material is added to make the fish, the birds, the animals or even man. The introduction of life is somehow accomplished without the addition of a single new element. All the ingredients were built into the earth in its initial structure (as Rashi repeatedly reminds us in his commentary).

There is no question that without these verses it would be sacrilege to suggest such a scenario. How dare we suggest that God did not deliver these creatures fully formed out of nothingness?

Compounding this tendency, the Talmudic and midrashic tradition teaches that those instructions were issued by God to mediating forces granted a mind-boggling degree of autonomy in implementation. The Talmud (Rosh Hashanah 11a, Chullin 60a) says each creature was created "willingly." Rashi explains in Rosh Hashanah: "They were asked if they wished to be created and they said yes."

The Midrash Rabba even posits the notion that the trees (or the earth producing the trees) deviated from the original plan in some detail. Rashi (Genesis 1:11) quotes this, explaining that the bark was supposed to have some of the taste of the fruit. The Midrash’s text implies the bark would have been somewhat edible. This language is carried as far as suggesting that the earth was later punished for this misjudgment.

The Talmud (Chullin ibid.) says the grasses derived some information about their own layout from the language delivered to the trees. Grasses were not told directly to divide into separate patches for each type, and could have grown on top of each other in unruly entanglements. When they heard the trees being told to grow in distinct areas for each species, the grasses decided that strategy worked for them too; perhaps even better, since trees had less potential for converging on each other.

Not only is the grass described as an intelligent force, an active force and an autonomous force, it is even presumed to have the right to implement a rule gleaned by deduction. Amazing concept: it can overhear an instruction to another, theorize an application to its own situation, then actually put its conclusion into practice.

Whatever all these things might mean literally, their message to us is clear. We are being taught that the creatures we see above the earth and below the sea are the result of some internal engine, some pre-programmed pulse, that somehow generated the inhabitants of the earth from the matter of the earth itself.

As startling as this approach must have been to the assumed orthodoxies in other religions and secular systems, nothing can compare in bombshell status to the biblically hinted, and Talmudically expounded, notion of prehistoric man.

The Talmud in Shabbos (88b) indicates there were 974 generations of prehistoric man. In Chagiga (13b) the Talmud sounds more like those generations were never actualized. The Midrash Rabba (Genesis 28) says they were wiped out.

While it remains somewhat unclear exactly what these 974 generations represent, this seems to be a matter of prime importance that is stressed in two verses (Psalms 105:8, Chronicles I 16:15). These verses point out that the Torah was given to the thousandth generation, which is explained by the Midrash to mean the 974 prehistoric generations plus the 26 from Adam until Moses.

Apparently, this highlights the high level of Torah – that it took a thousand stages in the creation of man, stages designated as "generations," before man could receive such exalted wisdom.

The Jews traveled through history for millennia studying the Talmud and Midrash, comfortable with a unique concept of prehistoric man, a concept that gave that creature (or idea) a 974:26 edge in pre-biblical generations.

If geology and archaeology have indeed yielded specimens that are indisputably prehistoric men (I am not expert enough to be certain of this), they are substantiating one of the most mysterious parts of the Jewish intellectual tradition. (The late David Brown makes this point in a work that received the imprimatur of Rabbi Yaakov Yitzchak Ruderman, zt"l, considered one of the supreme scholars of the last generation.)

Even many Jews are not aware that the dating system existed before the seven days of Creation. The tradition (Midrash Pesikta) is that the first day of Creation was the twenty-fifth day of the sixth month, so that man emerged on the first day of the seventh month: hence Rosh Hashanah is the anniversary of mankind’s birth. What this suggests in terms of what existed before is left unclear.

Another point relating to time is in the area of compression. Sometimes time seems to accommodate much more than we would expect, as in the Talmudic tradition (Sanhedrin 38b) that Adam was created on the sixth day, Eve two hours later, and their two children were born an hour after that. On the other hand, we find early man living eight or nine hundred years. However these things are explained, the overriding message comes through: do not expect to compute the early time frames for events with great retrospective accuracy.

All this being said, there is one other Mishna which holds another very important key. That is in Chagiga (11b), where it states that the story of Creation should only be taught to one student at a time, not in the classroom. Creation is a matter that must be conveyed with great accuracy and subtlety.

The Talmud and Midrash explain that this is an area in which God hides more than He reveals. We are only getting chapter headings and general categories, not detailed descriptions. Anyone can see that the vast majority of the Bible deals with the life of the Jews after the Exodus from Egypt. Even Genesis itself devotes a great deal more space to the conflict between Joseph and his brothers than it does to the rudimentary sketch of Creation.

Furthermore, we encounter a phenomenon in the Creation story that is inconceivable in other biblical tales. There are entire sections of the presentation that are understood to be conceptual rather than actual.

The Talmud in Brachot (61a), Eruvin (18a) and Ketubot (8a) says the verse (Genesis 5:2) "He created them male and female" refers to a "prior concept" of Creation rather than to what happened in the end, where man appeared without immediately having a companion. Rashi (ibid 1:1) seems to go much further, understanding a Midrash to say that the entire first chapter of Genesis is communicating a conceptual model.

Once again, this type of interpretation is never applied to any other part of the Torah. It is clear that Creation is being transmitted in a unique system, where the principle – not the medium – is the message.

In summation, the Bible does not claim to be presenting a complete version of Creation. No one could possibly tell you for certain what exactly happened to the dust of the earth in the course of its becoming man. What we can derive from the first chapters of Genesis is a broad outline with a few critical high points. Those keystones tend to be supported by the clearer conclusions of science.

Long before modern science, we Jews said it took time to create the world. Long before modern science, we said it was created in stages. Long before modern science, we said living things were developed from preexisting matter.

Long before modern science, we said there was something encoded into the evolving planet to drive it toward perfection. Long before modern science, we said the most sophisticated creatures came last, with man as the climax.

The indications that these claims are accurate serve as a dazzling testimony that our revelation, counterintuitive though it was, was indeed the truth.

To get pulled into haggling over the small change of how long each segment of time was exactly, or how many stages intervened between the dust being dust and its becoming a living creature, is to miss the point by a wide margin, to miss seeing the forest for the trees. We are the ones splitting the atoms; the skeptics are splitting the hairs.

A scientific theory, to be confirmed, must be able to predict outcomes. In applying science to past events, it makes sense to require predictions of what the evidence will show when it is found. Our tradition, more scientific than reflexively religious as we have shown, has been borne out in a very big way, thousands of years after we publicized our assertions.

Those primitive religionists who mocked us have been upstaged. Those secular cynics who challenged us have been undermined. Our oil is still burning, long after it was predicted to go out.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Sugya on Bereishis here.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

רבקה חנה בת שרה לאה

Please keep davening. She is a young sweet girl and really needs tefillos.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

רבקה חנה בת שרה לאה

 URGENT tehillim needed for

rivka chana bas sarah leah

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Rebbe Nachman On Telephones And Cell Phones

כי המחשבה גבוה מאד, ומי שרוצה לכנס אל עולם המחשבה צריך לשתוק, ואפילו אם ידבר אז דבור הגון, הוא מפסיד המחשבה, כי המחשבה הוא דבר גבוה מאד, שאפילו דבור הגון מפסידה. וזה בחינת: שתוק, כך עלה במחשבה - שלעלות אל המחשבה צריך לשתוק
לקוטי מוהר"ן רל"ד

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

New Shiurim

Two new audio shiurim based on the Pachad Yitzchak on Sukkos linked on the side of this page. Not normal!!:-)

Hey - Business Is Business

A story about my arba minnim shopping...

I brought the lulav I was considering buying to the Rov to be checked. He showed my how the middle leaf was split wide open. It was probably completely pasul. I go back to the seller to return it and get another one and he is unfazed: He puts it right back in the box with all the other lulavim and will sell it to someone else.


Monday, September 16, 2013

Kushya yomis here.
New article on a huuuuuge kashya here.


Four Israeli soldiers who all happened to be different types of engineers were riding in their Jeep doing a patrol. There was a mechanical engineer, a chemical engineer, an electrical engineer and a computer engineer.

Suddenly, their Jeep broke down.

The mechanical engineer said: "Sounds to me like the pistons have seized. We'll have to strip down the engine before we can get the car working again."

The chemical engineer begged to differ. "It sounds to me as if the fuel might be contaminated. I think we should clear out the fuel system."

"Well, I think it might be a grounding problem," said the electrical engineer, or maybe a faulty plug lead."

Having offered their opinions, the three turned to the computer engineer who was strangely silent on the matter. "What do you think?" they asked.

"Hmmm," said the computer engineer. "Perhaps we should all get out of the Jeep and get back in again?"

Be A Leader:-)


At the end of his second year in law school, Baruch Cohen was invited to interview for a job with a Wall Street law firm. This was a total surprise, as he had not applied for a position with the “white shoe” firm, which normally courted straight-A, Ivy League waspy students. Baruch, in contrast, attended a mid-level law school, was obviously Jewish, and didn’t have a perfect GPA. The dean told him, “I have no idea why you got this opportunity but I suggest you not wear your yarmulke to the interview. And make sure those white strings aren’t coming out of your belt.”
Coming from a long line of orthodox rabbis and committed to his Judaism, Baruch was torn. “I grew up in a tough Far Rockaway neighborhood,” he recalls. “Where I come from, anyone telling me to take off my kippah was usually angling for a fight.” He asked advice from rabbis and orthodox attorneys he knew: wear the kippah for the interview or not? Everyone advised he remove it for this potentially career-making opportunity.

With his kippah in his pocket, Baruch walked into the interview feeling almost as if he were shirtless. He was stunned to see that the attorney sitting there wore a huge velvet yarmulke and tzitzit. His first question to Baruch was, “Where’s your yarmulke?”

Too shocked to speak, Baruch learned that this attorney had seen him clerking in court, noticed his kippah and decided to offer him an interview. As the young law student stood there defenseless, the elder man laced into him. “You’re a sellout,” he said. “This is a firm of leaders, not followers.” The interview ended before it began.

This event, which took place more than 25 years ago, was a defining moment, sharpening Baruch Cohen’s commitment to never apologize for who he was. “Ever since that day, I have worn my kippah everywhere, at bench trials and any other professional venue. If someone has a problem with my kippah, it’s their problem, not mine. Orthodox Jewish attorneys should not feel like second-class citizens in the American judicial system. Our Torah pioneered all the core concepts of law.”

Sunday, September 15, 2013


"Tension is who you think you should be. Relaxation is who you are."

Parallel Realities

The spiritual world is reflected in the physical world. An example of this is the halacha that if one is writing tefillin or mezuzos, he is not allowed to interrupt when he gets to the name of Hashem - even if a king comes by [Yerushalmi Brachos 5/1]. The reason, explains the Rogochover, is that דהוה מציאות אחת ואי אפשר לחלק  - Hashem's name is one reality and cannot be split up into two parts. Just as Hashem is one so must be the writing of His name. That also explains why one who writes Hashem's name on Shabbos is not chayav until he writes the whole thing [Yerushalmi Shabbos 13/1]. Even though one is normally obligated for writing two letters, Hashem's name is different. You need the whole thing. The gemara [38 with Rashi] in Yoma relates that Ben Kamtzer would write the name of Hashem by putting four pens in between his fingers and he would write the name of Hashem at once. Why the acrobatics? The Imrei Emes explains based on our principle. Ideally, Hashem's one-ness should be expressed in the writing of His name.  

Public confession. I am NUTS about the Rogochover Gaon. If I can get other people hooked, then this blog will have been a success....:-)

לע"נ זקנתי מרת חנה בת ר' מאיר זאב

Removing The Preventative Force - Two 'Rogorchovian' Proofs

There is a basic questions that has faaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrr reaching ramifications in different areas of halacha. Is הסרת מונע - the removal of something preventative, considered a positive action. One example would be the question of removing water from a full hot water tank which will result in cold water entering and the subsequent "cooking" of the water. If הסרת מונע is considered an action then the removal of the water which prevented more water from entering would be considered a melacha even if he didn't directly pour the water in.

Another example would be raising the shades on Shabbos to allow sunlight in which would enhance the growth of the plants [called "zorea" in the beis medrash]. The shades are מונע - preventing the sun from shining on the plants and by lifting them one is removing this preventative force. If one is connected to a life support system and one "pulls the plug" one can argue that this is הסרת מונע - he is not actively killing but removing the force preventing death. There are many, many more examples.

The Heilege Rogochover Gaoooiiinnnnn cites two gemaras to prove that הסרת מונע is deemed an action.

1] If one removes a stone from the fence of a field allowing it to be filled with water it is considered a chazaka on the field even though he was just מסיר the מונע [i.e. the stone which prevented the water from watering the field]. [Bava Basra 53a]

2] The gemara says that if one shechts an animal with a water powered wheel [which was also quite sharp] it is a kosher shchita. The gemara contrasts with a source that says that the shchita is invalid. The gemara reconciles [that is the gemara's expertise:-)] that when one originally removes the wooden board that prevents the water from powering the wheel for the first spin, the shchita is valid. This is called כח ראשון - the first source of energy. When the wheel turns the second time the shchita is invalid. This is called by our Holy Talmud - כח שני. כח שני is not considered an act powered by a human being and thus the act is invalidated. But כח ראשון of הסרת מונע is considered a valid action [Chullin 16a].

I have not words to describe how much has been said about this topic. If you want to read a breathtaking tshuva on the topic, see Rav Ovadia Yosef Shlita in Yabia Omer 4/35 and the dozens or hundreds of sources quoted.      

I hope to revisit this topic in the future, if not on these pages then elsewhere Im Yirtzeh Hashem.

לע"נ מרת אסתר בת שמואל
ולרפואת יוסף בן עליזה
Kushya yomis here

Thursday, September 12, 2013


I have this weird thing about wanting to wish people a "happy yom kippur". Four years ago the Rebbe Shlita spoke about the inyan of dancing on Yom Kippur. Tonight when everybody went up after the shiur [if you got my email you know what he said] to get shiraim [holy cake], I told him the following story:

Rebbe Akiva Eiger had a grandson who, rachmana litzlan, became a Kotzker chossid [against his family tradition] and later a Rebbe himself. His name was R' Leibel'e Eiger [died 1888]. Legend has it that his father, the great gaon and gvir Rav Shlomo Eiger was so broken up about it that he sat shiva [that part of the story the Rebbe Shlita knew and I am just writing it here to give you the background].

An ooollllldddd chosid of his once met Rav Tzvi Yehuda Kook and told him that when everyone was waiting for Reb Leibel'e to appear for Kol Nidrei, they would dance. "What song" asked the chosid, "do you think we sang?"

Rav Tzvi Yehuda replied "Vitaheir leebeinu li-uvdicha be-emes and other tshuva songs".

"No", said the chosid with a smile, "we sang Shoshanas Yaakov. Yom Kippurim is Ki-purim so we sang a purim song...."

When the Rebbe Shlita heard that he gave me a huuuge smile and said Geeeelvaaaaallldddikkkkkk!!!" [and asked me where I saw the myseh. It appears in the book "Mashmia Yeshua" page 514].
I ask anyone and everyone for forgiveness for anything I might have done - or not done. If you have a complaint against me and want me to lower myself to ask for forgiveness - PLEASE TELL ME. I will gladly do so. I am not perfect and happy to admit it.


New Article

Inyanei tshuva here.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Excuses - Excuses

We say in our yom kippur vidui - על חטא שחטאנו לפניך באונס וברצון. We confess the sins done out of our free will and those done from אונס - extenuating circumstances. All of the commentaries cannot believe their eyes!! Why do we have to receive atonement for sins done out of אונס. We know that אונס רחמנא פטריה - Hashem forgives אונס. It is not our fault. Cut me some slack.


Rav Kook writes in Oiiiroissss Hatshuva that the foundation of tshuva is אחריות - personal responsibility. So much of our lives we make excuses. "I can't", "I am unable", "I'd love to but", "maybe a different time" etc. etc.


How many times I have heard "I would like to learn more, but....." RIBBONO SHEL OIIILLAAAMMM, I want to cry out, are you in a Siberian labor camp?? If you want to learn more, then LEARN MORE. Even if you DON'T want to learn more, learn more. I don't want to do a lot of things but responsibility requires that I do them anyway.  

We are sorry Hashem for making excuses......:-)

לע"נ מרת אסתר בת שמואל ולזכות אברהם מרדכי בן נעכא גיטל

Going Black - Smoking - Read The Box - Spread My Words Of Brilliance:-)

A note on "Charedi-ism". I wasn't raised "Charedi". I was raised to go to work, dress like a westerner [colored shirts!!:-)], and root for the Mets [I presently do none of the three. Although if I had a job, I could afford to buy tickets to Mets games and to buy new colored shirts]. I converted to the "black team" for various reasons. I don't regret my decision. All in all, I find them more committed to Jewish values than their more "modern" counterparts. That doesn't mean that they are perfect. Far from it. It also doesn't mean that people who are not wearing black and white are in any way inferior to people who do. Hashem judges on an individual basis and frankly - I will leave the judging to Him. I try to love everybody and if more people would let me hug them - I would, regardless of kippah color.....:-). But I decided to raise my family in this environment and try to see the benefits while not losing sight of the problems. One great benefit is that I never have to worry about having to choose what to wear or to match my clothing. Black and white go great together.

One huge problem - smoking. Not only is it assur according to many but it is absolutely forbidden to do so in public according to an explicit, uncontested gemara [Bava Basra 23b]. People either don't know or don't care. Many gedolim have come out against smoking and people either don't know or don't care [or are too hooked to stop - if that's an excuse]. Smoking is so prevalent and the worst part is seeing the young yeshiva boys smoking. Like, don't they read the cigarette box which has messages like "this will kill you"?!

So I wrote an article in Hebrew about the topic, discussing both smoking on Yom Tov and in general - here. Mitzva to spread it around.... I hope it helps.

The Day Of Spiritual Heights

Rabbi Moshe Shilat - Shabbat Bishabbato
It is wrong to define Yom Kippur as a day of suffering. Actually, just the opposite is true. In Chassidut, it is defined as a day of pleasure. After the basic cleansing of the days of Selichot, renewed acceptance of the yoke of heaven on Rosh Hashanah through labors of a slave, and the labors of the Days of Awe, the holiest day of all arrives, when we are all purified. We do not perform many specific acts, just "you will be purified before G-d" [Vayikra 16:30].
The purpose of the five types of discomfort on this day is not in order to make us suffer but rather in order to rise up to greater spiritual heights. This can be compared to a groom who fasts on the day of his wedding, not because he is depressed but because of how great a day it is. The heart trembles, heaven is open... every moment is exploited in an effort to absorb the great light that shines on this day.
The prohibition of eating on this day stems from the revelation of G-d and from the fact that He lifts us up to a one-time spiritual level, "once every year" [Vayikra 16:34]. That which on normal days is reserved only for great and righteous men who have unique traits – to literally have pleasure from contact with G-d – is available on this day to each and every individual.
On Yom Kippur nobody "remembers" to eat or drink. According to the approach of Chassidut, it is possible on this day to achieve a state of "giving life through hunger" [Tehillim 33:19]. That is, the fast itself is transformed into a source of vitality for body and soul.
In the Midst of the Day
In the Talmud, there is a dispute whether a person must repent on Yom Kippur in order to achieve atonement for his or her sins. According to the Rabanan, the wise men, "Yom Kippur only atones for those who repent." Rabi says, on the other hand, that whether the person repented or not, "the power of Yom Kippur provides atonement." It is sufficient that the person fasts on this day and does not commit any new sins for atonement to take place.
The Rebbe of Lubavitch explains that even according to the Rabanan, who insist on repentance, "the power of Yom Kippur atones" (as is seen in the Rambam, who quotes this phrase even though he accepts the opinion of the Rabanan in his halachic ruling).
Actually, both of the above approaches are valid: On one hand, we must act as "utensils" for the great light that is shining. This is accomplished by repentance, for without it we would not be exposed to any Divine light that could be revealed through us. On the other hand, the light itself that is revealed on this day shines with tremendous power, infinitely stronger than any of our possible actions. Our mitzvot create a great light in the world, and the shine of our repentance is stronger still, since it succeeds in transforming a sin from being bitter to being sweet. This shows that we are internally linked to G-d, and that we have the strength to clean out the faults. However, the light of Yom Kippur is even brighter. It is something else, not linked to our actions or dependent on them, but rather connected to the essence of the day – the "power of Yom Kippur." This light is linked to our own essence, to the "portion of G-d from above" inside us, which is revealed on this day. This light cannot be blemished, and we must cleanse ourselves for it, because filth will not allow any light to be revealed in our presence.
Ending the Day Together
In the end we reach the fifth prayer of the day, the "Ne'ilah." At this point the nation is at the highest possible state of holiness, there is no Jew in any place who does not have thoughts of teshuva. Chassidut explains that the five prayers of Yom Kippur are linked to the five elements of the soul (nefesh, ruach, neshamah, chaya, and yechida). The highest level – yechida – uniqueness, is revealed to us in this last prayer. When yechida is revealed, "hugged and clinging to you, yechida, in order to make You one" [from the Hoshanot recited on Succot], there is no room for anything else. "There is no other presence aside from Him" [from the Hoshanot], and the clinging to G-d is at its highest level.
The common explanation for the name of this prayer, Ne'ilah, is that it is recited just before the gates of heaven are closed, and we must make every effort to make sure we are not locked on the outside. However, the Rebbe of Lubatvitch interprets this in the opposite way. At this point, we are all locked inside! Now nothing is left in the world except for G-d and His nation Yisreal.
"The internal meaning of Ne'ielah is that during this prayer all of Bnei Yisrael are locked together with the Holy One, Blessed be He. All the gates are locked, and nobody is allowed in. Even such holy creatures as the angels are not allowed to enter, only Yisrael and the unique king."

Looking For A Sign

This may or may not have happened.....:-)

One day I was sitting on the train in Manhattan and I noticed a fellow who was intently staring out the window. I asked him what he was looking for.

He explained: "This is the first time I have been out in three years. I was a prisoner in jail until now and was just let free. It happened because I was very poor and one day decided that I have to steal. I was caught and sent to jail. My father was terribly embarrassed over my despicable deed. Everyone was talking about it. Before I was released I wrote him a letter and told him that I was really really sorry for what I did and that I hope he will let me back home. I told him that if he doesn't want me I sadly would not return. I made a sign - If he leaves a yellow scarf at the closest train stop to our house I know that he wants me back and will descend from the train. Otherwise, I will keep going and never come back. I am waiting to see if there is a yellow scarf hanging somewhere."

I asked him when his stop was. He said "Next one".

At the next stop I looked up and there was not one yellow scarf - there were dozens of them.....

Avinu Malkeinu - Hachzeereinu Bi-tshuva shleima lifanecha. Our Father wants us to return. We just have to want it too......

Lirfuas R' Shlomo Ben Feige Dina.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Fighting Darkness With Light

Some time ago I posted this, and wanted to write a follow up.

In this generation the world has changed dramatically. One of the greatest changes is the advent of the Internet. From a Jewish perspective, there are numerous problems with the Internet [we also know that the Internet spreads much Light; tens of thousands of shiurim, websites for zmanei tfilla, minyanim everywhere etc. etc. etc.]. The most publicized issue is that of tzniyus. It is virtually impossible to go anywhere on the web without being exposed to filth. That is why it is best to go nowhere.....

However there is in my opinion a more pernicious and insidious problem - heresy. The web is filled with atheism and blasphemy. Everything is subject to everybody's opinion. There are many blogs and websites devoted soley to mocking Torah and everything we deem holy. When people read this they don't know what to respond and even if they continue keeping mitzvos [sometimes they stop...], their enthusiasm is cooled considerably. That is why it is so critical to teach people Emunah and to make it a central part of one's daily life and learning. People need the weapons to defend their faith. Sometimes people even undermine the basis of our faith under the guise of protecting it. והמבין יבין.

A random example on how the study of Emunah would help: The Yomim Noraim. About 20 years ago someone astutely observed that in our shuls you may see a lot of "frumkeit" but we have lost the FEAR. Where I davened Rosh Hashana I heard one fellow [beard black, hat etc.] say "I told my wife this morning - negelvasser and put the cholent on the fire". He enjoyed his witticism so much he repeated it a second time to others. His continued existence and that of his family is being scrutinized and he is making cracks and worrying about food??? It is because the idea of "din" is so far off and distant that the cholent seems much more compelling... If one is filled with Emunah, he experiences Yom Hadin as something real.

Much more to say but we will leave it here for now:-).   

Monday, September 9, 2013

You Never Know

A fellow in my neighborhood died today. He was sick with cancer for the last two years and I didn't know.

Made me think - you can daven next to a guy in shul and have no idea that he has cancer or anything else going on in his life. As a matter of fact we DO daven next to people in shul and have no idea what is going on in their lives [unless we talk a lot and have some idea of general things they tell us as the chazan is repeating shmoneh esrei].

Moral: The idea of communal prayer is to daven for the community. Try to have special kavana that all of your tefillos should help all of the people in your minyan with whatever distress they might be experiencing.

Note: EVERYBODY has some things in life causing them distress.



Get To Work:-)

It says in the pasuk כי ביום הזה יכפר עליכם לטהר אתכם מכל חטאתיכם - Meaning, that on this day [Yom Kippur] Hashem will atone for you to forgive you for all your sins.

The Beis Avraham of Slonim read it differently - כי ביום הזה יכפר , on this day Hashem will atone. עליכם לטהר אתכם, [but] you have to purify yourselves!

Don't Take It All For Yourself

The Rebbe of Bohosh used to ask: What is the meaning of the vidui על חטא שחטאנו לפניך במאכל ובמשתה - For sinning before you with food and drink. Do we eat lobster of pork for which we have to confess??

The answer is that we are doing teshuva for eating without having guests at our table....

[A simple explanation is that we aren't always so careful about brachos with kavana and also tend to over eat at times which is possibly an aveira of לא תתורו as per the Sefer Hachinuch 387]

לזכות רבי אפרים אבא בן מרים שושנה לברכה והצלחה בכל עניניו

Make A Protest

Reb Dovid'l of Tolna once approached his chasidim who were sitting and talking during the aseres yemei tshuva and asked what they were discussing. They were too much in awe of their Rebbe to reply in detail so one of them just said that they were talking about the upcoming Yom Kippur.

Reb Dovid'l then asked: What is the idea of Tshuva and Vidui on Yom Kippur? Afterwards everyone goes back to the way they were anyway, so what is the benefit??

He explained: The gemara says that when somebody squats on your field, in order to get the field back you must protest [macht a micho-oh] and say "Ploni is a gazlan [thief]". Teshuva and Vidui on Yom Kippur is our protest when we say 'The yetzer hara is a gazlan". This insures that it will not become a permanent resident [eingezingt by unz] in our hearts.

[Kovetz Netzah Dovid Kislev תשנו]

לזכות רבי יהודה יעקב בן דינה חאשע להצלחה בכל עניניו  
Rocks - here

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

New article here.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Showering On The Long Hot Holiday

Rav Yosef Tzvi Rimon - Shabbat Bi-shabbato Haazinu
Question: Is one allowed to take a shower from water that was heated during the holiday in a solar heater?
Answer: In the Mishna there is a dispute between Beit Shamai and Beit Hillel whether one is allowed to heat up water on a holiday for the purposes of washing (Beitza 21b). The Shulchan Aruch follows Beit Hillel and rules that this is permitted. The accepted explanation for this is that the principle that some labors are permitted on a holiday for the purpose of providing "food for a person" is not limited strictly to food but includes other bodily pleasures, such as washing (Hilchot Yom Tov 1:16).
However, when washing the entire body is involved (as in a shower), there are two possible prohibitions:
(1) The prohibition to warm up water on a holiday. This appears explicitly in the Talmud (Shabbat 39b), and it is quoted in the Shulchan Aruch (511:1). The early commentators suggest two possible reasons for the prohibition. Tosafot explain that the permission to perform labor for "food for a person" (which is the basis for allowing water to be heated on a holiday) is only for a case which is equally available to everybody, and this corresponds only to washing separate parts of the body (Beitza 21b). They feel that heating up water in order to wash the entire body is a Torah violation. On the other hand, the Rambam (Hilchot Yom Tov 1:16) and the RIF (Beitza 11a) wrote that by Torah law the water can be heated, but that the prohibition to heat the water is a rabbinical decree.
(2) Washing using water that was heated before the holiday. This is the subject of a dispute of the early commentators. The Shulchan Aruch (511:2) rules following the RIF and the Rambam (quoted above), that this is not prohibited, while the RAMA prohibits it in the wake of the Tosafot (39b) and the ROSH (Mishna Shabbat 3:7).
In view of the above, there would seem to be a double problem in taking a shower on a holiday: a prohibition to heat up the water, and a prohibition to wash (for Ashkenazim).
In spite of this, in modern times we might still be able to allow taking a hot shower, for several reasons.
(1) Heating the water. Rabbi Akiva Eiger in a novel ruling writes that when the water is heated on Shabbat or on a holiday in a natural way, without any human action, it can be considered as having been heated up during the day, before the start of Shabbat or the holiday. This implies that it is possible to use water that was heated up in a solar heater during the holiday, as if it was heated the day before the holiday. This is also the opinion of Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Shemirat Shabbat K'Hilchata 14:3, and see note) and Rabbi Ovadia Yosef (Chazon Ovadia, Yom Tov, page 41). This then is a possible "solution" for the problem of heating the water.
(2) Using the water to wash. In light of what was quoted above from the Shulchan Aruch permitting the use of water that was warmed during the day before the holiday, the Sephardim have broad permission to take a shower using water from a solar heater. It would seem that this is forbidden for Ashkenazim, as indicated by the RAMA. This is indeed the ruling of prominent rabbis of the Ashkenazim, such as in Shemirat Shabbat K'Hilchata (14:7) and Rabbi Karlitz ("Chut Hashani," page 122), among others.
Evidently these rulings were correct in previous times, when it was quite rare for people to wash their entire bodies. But today when the norm (at least for our sector) is to take a shower every day, we can assume that the law has changed. There are two reasons for this.
1. In modern times, washing the entire body has the status of something that is "freely available to everybody"
The RAN (Beitza 11a in the RIF) explains that the prohibition of washing the entire body is not an independent law but is a rabbinical decree in order to avoid heating up the water on the holiday. This was copied from the laws of Shabbat, where there is a rabbinical decree not to wash the entire body in hot water even if the water was heated up before Shabbat, in order to avoid the prohibition of heating water. The RAN explains, based on this, that the prohibition of washing the entire body on a holiday is only relevant for those who feel that washing the entire body is a Torah violation (on a holiday as on Shabbat). In this way, he explains why the ROSH and the Tosafot prohibit washing, since they feel that heating enough water for the entire body is not freely available to everybody and is therefore a Torah violation, while the Rambam and the RIF, who feel that heating water is prohibited by a rabbinical decree, did not forbid washing.
According to the Tosafot and the ROSH, the prohibition of heating up water to wash the entire body stems from the fact that this act is not freely available to everybody. But today, when this has become a basic necessity for everybody, it is clear that they too would allow heating the water. If the reason that washing the entire body is forbidden is because of a fear of heating the water, then this prohibition is no longer valid. We can therefore state that Ashkenazim too are allowed to shower using water that was heated before the holiday (or using a solar heater on the holiday). This idea was brought as a suggestion in Shemirat Shabbat K'Hilchata (14, note 21), without a final ruling. However, according to Shulchan Shlomo (page 198) rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach allowed a student of his to shower based on this type of reasoning.
(2) One who is "suffering."
Today, after a full day without a shower many people will feel a high degree of discomfort, which is defined in the halacha as "mitzta'eir" – suffering. This is certainly true of Rosh Hashana, a two-day holiday. The rabbis agree that the decree against washing the entire body is not relevant for a person who is "suffering" (Rabbi Akiva Eiger 326:1; Biur Halacha 326:1), out of a feeling that the rabbis did not put their decrees into effect in such a case.
In practice: In principle, one is allowed on a holiday to take a shower in the usual way, using water from a solar heater. One who would like to be stringent can use lukewarm water. Only liquid soap should be used, and it is important to avoid wringing out water and combing the hair.
Kushya Yomis - here.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Ink And Netilas Yadaim

One of my children just asked me if ink is a חציצה [interposition] for netilas yadaim.

The Shulchan Aruch says that wet ink is not but dry ink is and must be removed. However, if the ink is not substantial then it is not a problem. That means that if one cannot peel the ink off with a nail then it has the status of חזותא בעלמא [mere appearance] and does not constitute a חציצה. Most of our inks are חזותא בעלמא and thus not a problem.

להצלחת גיטל פייגא בת ביילא בלומא בכל העניינים   

Work Your Body And Your Mind Together

A new study from Franfurt, Germany revealed that learning while exercising helps memory. They had one group study words in a foriegn language while exercising and another one without exercising and then they were tested on the material. The group that exercised did considerably better.

[The group that exercised also consisted of people with IQ's considerably higher than those who didn't exercise. I made that last sentence up......:-)]

It seems that the brain releases a hormone while exercising that contributes to good memory.

Lesson: Listen to a shiur while doing that workout. Or better - 'Sweat' over your Gemara:-).

Please Daven For The Gadol Hador

Please daven for Rebbe Ovadiah [Yosef] ben Gorgia for a refuah shleima.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

What We Really Want

המצא לנו בבקשתנו כמה שכתוב ובקשתם משם את השם אלהיך - Be found for us in our requests as it says "And you sought out Hashem from there" [from selichos]. Even though we are in this bitter galus and suffer so much materially and physically, our main request is that we find Hashem. All of our requests, even the material one's are really just in order to enable us to get close to Hashem. Therefore the pasuk continues "ומצאת כי תדרשנו בכל לבבך ובכל נפשך" - And you will find Him because you sought Him out with all of your heart and all of your soul. When you really want Hashem and for the right reasons - you will find Him.

[The Klausenberger Rebbe in Shefa Chaim]

להצלחת גיטל פייגא בת ביילא בלומא בכל העניינים   
Kushya yomis here.

New Article

Here is the weekly sugya from the parsha - this time the topic is teshuva. One of the ideas developed is that Hashem doesn't just judge based on what you did but also on who you are.