Thursday, October 31, 2013


Calmness comes from within. It is the peace and restfulness of the depths of our nature. The fury of storm and of wind agitate only the surface of the sea; they penetrate only two or three hundred feet; below that is the calm, unruffled deep. To be ready for the great crises of life we must learn serenity in our daily living. Calmness is the crown of self-control.
William Jordan
Source: The Majesty of Calmness, p. 8-9


It is a rare person who can pierce the veil between ordinarly life, consumed with matters of physical survival, and pursuit of the empowered path of purpose and meaning unless he or she is motivated by a crisis. Most often we require the failure of some system of power that we rely on before we take action.

Caroline Myss
Source: Defy Gravity: Healing Beyond the Bounds of Reason, Pages: 74
This weeks sugya on the parsha here.

Purim In Cheshvan - Hurricane Shaindy - Don't Like Begging - Thank Hashem! - My Neat Costume

This time last year I was in the States trying to recruit boys and raise money for a yeshiva I wanted to start. Bad idea. No boys, no money, Hurricane Shaindy. I learned some very important life lessons which I will not share at the present time. I also learned a lot about a lot of people. So that is what put me in my present Edenic state of being a simple avreich who gets to sit all the time and LEARN [including Yeshivas Skype Hakdosha]! MUCH BETTER than begging boys to come learn with me and begging people for money. AHHHHHHHHH!!!! Also, I get to subsist on a very unique type of support - it's called "Bitachon!!" AHHHHHHHHHH! BARUCH HASHEM!!!

Now that you know my life story, I reshare with you a post from that trip.....

 Early Purim?

The following is based on a true story....:-)
I walked into the elevator tonight and I saw children in Purim costumes. I thought "This is strange. Purim in the middle of Cheshvan!"

Then it occurred to me why the costumes. "Is it haloweeeenn?" I inquired in a loud and dramatic voice.

"Yesssss" the kids answered me.

So I first looked at the little 6 year old or so girl. "What are YOU dressed up as?"

"A fairy".

"A FAIRY!!" I cried out. "Of course!" I then slapped my forehead as if my thick brain was at fault for not figuring out something so obvious.

I then turned to the bigger girl. "What are YOU dressed up as?" Truth be told, I didn't like her costume and she didn't seem the congenial sort.

"A vampire."


Then I turned to the cute two year old or so boy being held by his mother and asked "What are YOU?"

His mother answered as if I had just come down from Mars and asked the most klutz kasha, "He's an astronaut".


Everyone in the elevator laughed. They certainly were not expecting this whole production when I entered the elevator holding my pocket shev shmatsa.

"You know what IIIII am dressed up as?" I asked everyone and no one in particular.

I, wearing my hat, dark suit, beard and dark coat, continued. "A RAAAAABBBIIIII!!".

This was met with laughter. They obviously felt that I am not worthy of being a Rabbi. That requires vast knowledge, sterling qualities, fear of Heaven and behavior that constitutes an example for all. What a funny costume for a guy like me.

I couldn't agree more.....:-)

Ask Mechila

Related Orli Yisrael of Yerushalayim: I had been married for 5 years and hadn't yet been blessed with a child. I went to doctors and received various treatments, none of which helped. My husband went to see Rav Ben Tov who examined our mezuzot. The Rav told my husband about all of the treatments I had undergone. He then said "One of you broke off an engagement and didn't ask mechila" [it was me]. My husband said "Yes, he lives in Tel Aviv".

"No, he is in America. Tell your wife to ask him for mechila".

Less than a week later he returned from America and I asked him for mechila. The Rav also told me to do hatarat nedarim, keep taharat hamishpacha, hear havdala, place my bed on a north-south axis and to light Shabbat candles and promised "Within 3 months you will be pregnant".

I had done a treatment for a test-tube baby and I prayed that it would fail. It did and soon afterwards I became pregnant. I went to tell the Rav the good news. He told me "You bought a book on pregnancy - burn it" [it was probably filled with immodest content]. "Separate challah every month and bake challot".   

Nine months later I gave birth to a healthy baby boy.

My husband used to attend the Rosh Chodesh seudot of the Rav. One time he called out - "Rav, give my wife a bracha that she should get pregnant". The Rav answered "She already is".

The next day I did a test and I was! Then my daughter was born. I am so glad that I knew the Rav.

[צדיק המזוזות עמוד 181]

Zchus hatzadikim yaazor vi-yagein vi-yoshea!!

New Shiur

I copied out a fabulous drasha given by Maran Harav Kook ztz"l here about the principals of Jewish education and hoped that people would read it. Then I feared that some people may not read it and then what....

So I decided to make it an audio shiur here. A must for anybody who has children, who would like to have children or who was once him/herself a child [that sorta covers everyone....].


שמעו ותחי נפשכם!!!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Todays BOMBBBBB Kushya Yomis here.

Getting Dressed

Rav Mordechai Greenberg Shabbat Bi-shabbatto Toldos

"Derech Eretz – proper behavior – came before the Torah" [Avot 2:2]. And that is why in the Torah the book of Bereishit comes before the giving of the Torah, because without Derech Eretz there is no Torah (Avot 3:17). The Rambam also wrote Hilchot Dei'ot on general practices and philosophy before the laws of Torah study.
One of the elements of Derech Eretz is the issue of clothing. Some people think that since the most important element for mankind is the internal essence and the actions and that the external appearance has very little importance. Their conclusion is that there is no problem in wearing sloppy and old clothing and that there is no need to make sure the clothing is clean. However, the Torah does not accept this approach.
"And Rivka took the precious clothing of her older son Eisav" [Bereishit 27:15]. It is written in the Zohar: "'A son honors his father' [Malachi 1:6] – this is referring to Eisav. No other man in the world honored his father more than Eisav. Rabban Shimon Ben Gamliel said, All my life I have served my father, but I did not reach a level one-hundredth of how Eisav served his father. I would serve him wearing dirty clothing, but when I went traveling I would put on clean clothing. However, Eisav would only serve his father while he wore royal clothing.
In last week's Haftara we read, "King David was very old, and they covered him with garments but he did not get warm" [Melachim I 1:1]. The sages explained this phenomenon in depth. "'David rose up and cut off a corner of Shaul's robe in stealth' [Shmuel I 24:5]. Rabbi Yossi Ben Rabbi Chanina said: Anybody who humiliates clothing will not derive pleasure from them in the end, as is written, 'David rose up...'" [Berachot 60b]. Rav A.Y. Kook explained the link between the shaming of the clothing and the fact that they would not warm David. After their sin, the Holy One, Blessed be He, dressed Adam and Chavah in garments. The main feature of the clothing is not to keep warm, which is something that happens to the other creatures naturally, using their fur and their skin. Why is man's situation worse than theirs? For man, who was created in the image of G-d, the purpose of the clothing is to enhance the respect for him and to cover his nakedness. This is the main purpose of clothing, and incidentally the garments also provide warmth. A man who disparages the ethical value of clothing is mocking the main factor, and then the secondary purpose of the clothing also does not take effect, and the clothing will not protect him against the cold.
The following was written by the Shelah: "'Cleanse yourselves and change your clothing' [Bereishit 35:2]. Clothing is meant for the body, and keeping the clothing clean will lead to a cleaner body. And a clean body will awaken purity of the soul." [Chapter on letters of the alphabet, Purity].
The Rambam rules, "The clothing of a Torah scholar should be clean, and he must not have a stain or any oil on it" [Hilchot Dei'ot 5]. And Tiferet Yisrael writes at the end of the Mishna of Sotta that the cleaner a person's body and his clothing are the purer will be his innermost thoughts.
In Moreh Nevuchim, the Rambam writes, "you know that the Torah insisted on removing filth even in a camp in the desert, and this is certainly true even in the city... One of the goals of the Torah... is purity and keeping away from dirt and filth, so that man should not be like a beast. Keeping the clothing in good condition and washing the body to remove dirt are also part of the goals of the Torah." [Volume 3, 41).
It goes without saying that we must be very careful with our clothing on Shabbat, "and that your garments on Shabbat should not be the same as the garments during the week." [Shabbat 113a].

From The Heart

Words that emanate from the heart, penetrate the heart. דברים היוצאים מן הלב נכנסים ללב. There is no actual source in Chazal for this statement but there is an allusion in the pasuk.והיו הדברים  האלה אשר אנכי מצוך היום על לבבך - The words that I command you should be on your heart. Then the pasuk continues ושננתם לבניך - teach them to your children. If they are on your heart, you can properly teach them to your children.

The Power Of Torah

Rav Kook Shaleshudes Parshas Noach 1929 - here. Noira noiraos!!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013


The Zohar [Tikkunei Zohar 6/26] says that people are like dogs. They cry out "הב הב" - Gimme-Gimme!!

What is wrong with asking Hashem for things?? We are supposed to ask. That is called "davening"....

There are people who ask for what they NEED and there are others who never have enough and always want more. One car - they want two. Two houses - they want three. It's never enough. Such people have no menuchas hanefesh. They always want more and more luxuries. Even after they have, they scream "hav" - Gimme more, G-d!

Yaakov Avinu said "יש לי כל" - I have EVERYTHING I need. That is the right approach. Don't go for the unnecessary, excessive pleasures. Enjoy what you have. Yaakov said to Hashem "Give me a garment to wear and bread to eat". He didn't even ask for jelly to put on his bread. 

[אך פרי תבואה דרוש לר"ה קע"ג]

Lirifuas R' Shlomo Feige ben Dina

Chutzpah Yasgei

It says that before moshiach comes there will be a lot of chutzpah. Chutzpah yasgei is the Aramaic terminology. This seems really bad. Chutzpah is not something we encourage in our children.

BUT..... there is also a good side. Chutzpah allows someone who is not on a high spiritual level to try to get close to Hashem despite his distance. It means that people will try to daven and learn like tzadikim even though they are not worthy. They will strive to reach great heights.

[Imrei Emes - Mikeitz in his father's name] 

Be Wary Of Bad Friends

When you do hachnosos orchim and invite guests into your house - you should invite anyone. But when it comes to having friends - you should only have friends who are good spiritual people. We see this about Avraham. When it came to inviting guests - even idolators were welcome, but when it came to Lot, he distanced himself. A guest is only temporary while a friend is constant. One must be wary of bad friends.

It says about Avraham and Avimelech ויכרתו שניהם ברית - The two forged a covenant. Even though they made a bris they remained "two" [i.e. separate].

[The Heilige Beis Yisrael of Gur]

Li'ilui nishmas Sheindel Feige bas Akiva

Monday, October 28, 2013

"Seek the wisdom of the ages, but look at the world through the eyes of a child."

Sunday, October 27, 2013

The Inside Of Man - Always Davening - Sarah Rivka bas Breindel Leah

Rav Kook has an essay where he talks about how the neshama of a person is always davening - הנשמה תמיד מתפללת. The pnimiyus of a person is that he/she is a mispallel.

Let us see niflaos lashon hakodesh: אדם is man. Aleph Dalet Mem. What is the pnimiyus of an Adam. Inside of the letter aleph אלפ is a לפ. Inside of the letter dalet דלת is a לת. Inside of the letter Mem מ"ם is a מ. If you take all of the "internal organs" of the word Adam you get ..... מתפלל.

Wonder of wonders.

Lirfuas Sarah Rivka bas Breindel Leah bi-toch shear cholei yisrael. Let your pnimiyus bring her a refuah shleima!

Friday, October 25, 2013

Chiddushim on the parsha here.

Cover Someone Else

Harold Schultz CEO of Starbucks [excerpted from Hermes magazine from a speech at Columbia]
I grew up in federally subsidized housing in Brooklyn. I was part of a generation of families that dreamed about the American dream. My dad had a series of blue-collar jobs. An uneducated man, he was kind of beaten by the system. He was a World War II veteran who had great aspirations about America, but his dream was not coming true.
At the age of seven, I came home one day to find my dad sprawled on the couch in our two-bedroom apartment in a full-leg cast; he had fallen on the job and broken his leg. This was way before the invention of Pampers, and he worked as a delivery driver for cloth diapers. He hated this job bitterly, but on this one day, he wished he had it back. In 1960 in America, most companies had no workers' compensation and no hospitalization for a blue-collar worker who had an accident. I saw firsthand the plight of the working class.
That experience had a significant effect on how I see the world. When I got into a position of responsibility at Starbucks, what I wanted to try to do was build a kind of company that my father never got a chance to work for.
Think about all our experiences every day. How often does anybody honor us as a consumer? Rarely. But when it does happen, the power of the human spirit really does come through. At the end of the day, when business is really good, it's not about building a brand or making money. That's a means to an end. It's about honoring the human spirit, honoring the people who work in the business and honoring the customer.
When I was in Israel, I went to Mea Shearim, the ultra-Orthodox area within Jerusalem. Along with a group of businessmen I was with, I had the opportunity to have an audience with Rabbi Noson Tzvi Finkel, the head of a yeshiva there [Mir Yeshiva]. I had never heard of him and didn't know anything about him. We went into his study and waited 10 to 15 minutes for him. Finally, the doors opened.
What we did not know was that Rabbi Finkel was severely afflicted with Parkinson's disease. He sat down at the head of the table, and, naturally, our inclination was to look away. We didn't want to embarrass him.
We were all looking away, and we heard this big bang on the table: "Gentlemen, look at me, and look at me right now." Now his speech affliction was worse than his physical shaking. It was really hard to listen to him and watch him. He said, "I have only a few minutes for you because I know you're all busy American businessmen." You know, just a little dig there.
Then he asked, "Who can tell me what the lesson of the Holocaust is?" He called on one guy, who didn't know what to do -- it was like being called on in the fifth grade without the answer. And the guy says something benign like, "We will never, ever forget?" And the rabbi completely dismisses him. I felt terrible for the guy until I realized the rabbi was getting ready to call on someone else. All of us were sort of under the table, looking away -- you know, please, not me. He did not call me. I was sweating. He called on another guy, who had such a fantastic answer: "We will never, ever again be a victim or bystander."
The rabbi said, "You guys just don't get it. Okay, gentlemen, let me tell you the essence of the human spirit.
"As you know, during the Holocaust, the people were transported in the worst possible, inhumane way by railcar. They thought they were going to a work camp. We all know they were going to a death camp.
"After hours and hours in this inhumane corral with no light, no bathroom, cold, they arrived at the camps. The doors were swung wide open, and they were blinded by the light. Men were separated from women, mothers from daughters, fathers from sons. They went off to the bunkers to sleep.
"As they went into the area to sleep, only one person was given a blanket for every six. The person who received the blanket, when he went to bed, had to decide, 'Am I going to push the blanket to the five other people who did not get one, or am I going to pull it toward myself to stay warm?'"
And Rabbi Finkel says, "It was during this defining moment that we learned the power of the human spirit, because they pushed the blanket to five others."
And with that, he stood up and said, "Take your blanket. Take it back to America and push it to five other people."

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Rabbi Shlomo Aviner

[Be-Ahavah U-Be-Emunah – translated by R. Blumberg]
The Internet really is a serpent. It’s the evil impulse. That serpent in Eden looked friendly. It promised things that were very fine: “You will be like G-d” (Bereshit 3:5). Yet all of that is the counsel of the evil impulse. Just so, the Internet looks friendly, but it is the evil impulse.

The Internet makes for a lot of problems. Yet the worst problem is the plethora of filthy videos which have gotten so bad that the paper is ashamed to bear their description. A study done a year ago at Tel-Chai College revealed that 90% of youth watch those videos, in other words, high school age boys between fourteen and eighteen. True, it says on the side that viewing is permissible only above age eighteen, but in actual fact nobody is checking and many boys start watching at age ten. True, girls watch it less, but they watch it as well, and religious youth are no exception.

All this involves a two-fold evil. First, the very watching involves a severe prohibition, as is explained in Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 307:16, which states that it is forbidden to read books that provoke the evil impulse. This applies all the more so to those vile videos, whose prohibition does not just constitute a stricture but an outright law to which every upright Jew and every upright non-Jew will agree. Second, those videos truly do arouse the evil impulse and corrupt the thoughts of youth, creating a distorted image of women. These videos encourage men to view women as sexual objects, entitled to offer themselves sexually to many men. They likewise encourage men to mistreat women sexually. Instead of learning what the pure and moral relationship between a man and a woman is from their parents or their school, the youth learn it from these deviant videos.

At one time people knew that one’s home is a shelter and the street is dangerous. Now, the Internet has brought the street and its filth right into the home.

Moreover, social networks such as Facebook have also taken the home outside, spilling

the trash from one’s home into the living room of another. The book Mesillat Yesharim warns us that the greatest moral danger is corrupt society (Chapter 5.  See also The Vilna Gaon in his Igeret).

Our conclusion must be that we take the Internet and throw it out of our homes.

True, it has some good things in it, but it also has evil, and what we gain is worth far less than what we lose.

We managed throughout the generations without it, didn’t we? True, it’s got Torah lectures as well, but it’s a source of sin, and you don’t do a Mitzvah at the cost of committing a sin. Sexual license is not the only sin involved. There is also forbidden gossip, violence, insult and falsehood, not to mention the awful waste of time. True, theoretically speaking the Internet can bring a blessing. After all, G-d’s ways are upright, the righteous follow those pathways and the wicked stumble on them. Here, however, we’re not dealing with theory, but with the sad reality.

So, the best thing is to cut oneself off from this modern device. This is the ideal. Many people, however, need to use it for work, for study, etc. In that case, one has an outright obligation to use one of the filter programs, and, obviously, without the possibility of going around it.

There are various programs, each with its pluses and minuses.

-- Moreshet (with five levels).

-- Rimon, with its five levels: 1) Protected 2) Protected Plus 3) Protected Squared 4)

Guarded and 5) Hermetically Sealed. Besides these options of Rimon, there is also Etrog, the most sealed of all.

-- Incognito.

-- Webchaver, in which every unconventional site visited is reported to a friend. That recalls the Talmud in Berachot: “Who sees me?”

-- There is also a simple solution: a password, half of which is known to one spouse and half to the other. Only with your spouse's knowledge can you thus access the internet.

Yet even all of this is not enough. All this is only a ruse. Amidst all of this, you need inner fortitude as well.

When the Vilna Gaon was going to set out onto street, he prepared himself psychologically by learning the four chapters of Mesillat Yesharim dealing with Zehirut - Caution, Chapter 2-5.

So everyone should write a summary appropriate to himself, and read it before he goes on the Internet - just like the officer who recites the same instructions each day before battle.

And indeed, this is a battle. It’s war.

One should write himself a prayer before entering that battle: “G-d and G-d of our fathers, help me to remain pure.”

Be Happy

R' Moshe Shilat - Shabbat Bishabbato Chaye Sarah 5774

We are taught about Sarah that her entire life was good. She was happy in the service of G-d in all circumstances. Life events and divine trials did not harm her joy in the service of G-d, which was the center of her life.
This gives us an opportunity to discuss the verse which tells us to maintain our joy. It appears in the passage of rebuke in the Torah, "Because you did not serve your G-d in joy and with a good heart, due to the great abundance, you will serve your enemies..." [Devarim 28:47-48].
We might have interpreted this verse as discussing somebody who did not serve G-d at all, even though he could have served G-d with joy. This would imply that the verse does not demand serving G-d in general with happiness but refers to serving G-d in general. But the Rambam makes it clear that the verse specifically mentions joy, and that the punishment mentioned is also relevant for one who served G-d but not in a joyful way! "Joy refers to the fact that a person should be happy when performing the mitzvot and in the love of G-d, which G-d commanded as an important way of service. And anybody who refrains from being happy deserves to be punished, as is written, 'because you did not serve your G-d in joy...'" [Hilchot Lulav].
Due to the Great Abundance
However, even based on the commentary by the Rambam, we might say that there is no obligation to be happy under all circumstances but only as is written in the verse, "in joy and with a good heart, due to the great abundance" – that is, "as long as you had everything good" [Rashi].
To counter this, the ARI explains in a novel commentary that the "abundance" in the verse does not mean "due to" the abundance but rather "more than" the abundance (Introduction to the Chapter on Mitzvot). The joy that one must feel on performing the mitzvot is infinitely greater than the joy of worldly matters, and even greater than being close to G-d in the world to come! According to this interpretation of the ARI, the verse obligates us to be happy in our service of G-d under all circumstances and without any conditions, even if the person does not feel that things are good. Joy is critical, as can be seen from the harsh punishment for a lack of joy.
This is very hard to understand. Is it reasonable that a Jew who overcomes his evil inclination and serves G-d in thought, speech, and actions, will be punished severely only because he lacked the proper level of happiness? The answer is that joy is not a good addition to the service of G-d, rather it is something that lies at the very basis of the way we view the world.
When a Jew is happy in his service of G-d it shows that he understands the concept of Divine service. If one treats the labors of G-d as a relationship between a worker and an employer, he will have no patience for the fact that the "employer" does not accept full obedience and loyalty but also demands happiness! Doesn't He at least leave me to take charge of my own mood?
However, a person who sees himself as the son of the Holy One, Blessed be He, sent here to fulfill a wonderful and exalted mission by serving G-d in this world – "to provide a dwelling place for Him down below" – has a heart filled with joy because of his vital goal. He understands that he must overcome any difficulties. Our Matriarch Sarah set an example of just this phenomenon – a "sign for her offspring." She lived through many difficulties that were all based on her Divine mission, with a desire to fulfill His will, and it was therefore unthinkable that she would do anything without being happy.
Happiness brings Greater Happiness
The Tanya has a remarkable insight based on this concept in his book Likutai Torah. The punishment that is due to everybody for a lack of joy results from various acts of sin by way of a lack in his holy service. One is not punished for a lack of joy but rather for the fact that if he had shown real joy he would have been able to block the punishment and cancel it! A person who is sad is punished for his sins and his lack, without any leniency, as would have happened if the person had acted out of joy.
The Baal Shem Tov used to interpret the words of Tehillim, "G-d is your shadow" [121:6], that just as a shadow takes on the form of a human being, so – as it were – the Holy One, Blessed be He, copies what mankind does. When a man is happy, the Holy One, Blessed be He, is correspondingly happy, and "views him with a pleasant face," such that there are no thoughts of punishment and suffering. And then the Holy One, Blessed be He, finds other ways to solve the problem of human sin.

The Power Of A Niggun

Zeev Kitzis - Shabbat Bi-shabbato Chaye Sarah 5774
As is well known, Chassidim believe that a story has the power to "provide salvation," to enhance life and redemption in the world, and to create a spiritual movement that would not be possible with speech and explanations alone. The Chassidic tune works in a very similar way, in that it can strum on the cords of the soul and engrave on it in a way that would not have been possible in any other way.
In Chassidut many lessons can be learned about the power of a tune, about which it can be said that "its high level is beyond the imagination" (Rabbi Nachman of Breslev, Sichot Haran, 273). The earliest testimony about the sanctity of a melody in Chassidut seems to be that of Rabbi Moshe Chaim Efraim, the grandson of the Baal Shem Tov. He taught that his grandfather would say, "When the other nations sing songs, they are all filled with fear and love, wearing a garment from down below" [Degel Machaneh Efraim, Torah portion of Vayeira]. We will occupy ourselves today with a story about a melody, and specifically one that is sung by other nations.
Such a story that shows the power of a tune is to be found in a small and inexpensive book of stories published at the end of the nineteenth century, called "Tales and Talks of Tzadikim."
     * * * * * *
A wealthy man once asked the Baal Shem Tov to raise his son in his house for a fee for three years, on condition that the Baal Shem Tov would take the son along on all of his trips. During that time, the Baal Shem Tov did not go on any trips, but a short time before the end of the three years, at the end of one Shabbat, the Baal Shem Tov decided to take a trip to an unknown place, taking the boy with him. Before midnight, the wagon stopped at a wayside inn. The Baal Shem Tov went to his room to sleep, and the young boy, left alone, started to sing a melody in a pleasant and quiet voice.
A Gentile who was in the inn that night heard the singing. He asked the boy to sing louder, and he said that he would dance and pay for the drinks of the other Gentiles who were there. The boy agreed on condition that the Baal Shem Tov would give him permission. When he received the permission the owner of the inn would put him on a table to sing.
The Baal Shem Tov agreed, and the innkeeper stood the boy up on a table. The Gentile asked the boy, "What is your name?" The boy answered, "Moshke." He began to sing a pleasant song, and the man danced and shouted, "You are Moshke, and I am Ivan!" He bought a large amount of beverage and gave it to all the other Gentiles who were there. The dance and the song continued for a long time. Afterwards, the Baal Shem Tov returned home, and the young boy went back to his father's house.
Many years later, when the young boy had become a wealthy merchant himself, he was captured by murderous robbers who brought him to their leader, the robber chief. When he saw the merchant, the chief recognized him, and he asked, "Is your name Moshke?" The man said, "Yes." And the chief asked, "Do you recognize me?" And the man replied, "No." So the chief said, "Have you forgotten? You sang and I danced!" And the man replied, "That's right! You danced, and you shouted, You are Moshke, I am Ivan. Now I remember!"
Moshke's life was saved, and he was even given all of his money back, and a generous gift too.
     * * * * * *
This story was told in order to show the power of the Baal Shem Tov, a Tzadik who knew mystic secrets, who acted taking the future into account and who did something to save Moshke years before he was actually in danger. But it is also a story about the power of a Chassidic melody, the tune that the young boy sang, which in the end saved his life.
Not only did the melody save Moshke's life, it also linked together two complete opposites in a remarkable way – Moshke and Ivan sing together. The tune links an innocent boy to a coarse adult. It links a Gentile and a Jew, an evil person and a Tzadik. It also links the past with the future.
Just as in the story of Moshke and Ivan, the Chassidic melody is not always a creation that appears in a Beit Midrash, and Gentiles often participate in it too. The ability of the melody to combine the coarse and the pure, the physical and the sublime, is what led the Chassidim to see the movements connected to a song as a way of mending the material world. This is also the reason that the sources of some well-known Chassidic melodies come from saloons, and they sometimes even include the irritating words of the Russian drunkards, such as "Don't worry, comrades... We will get to the saloon, we will fill our glasses..." Because of such words the melodies bear testimony to the fact that a melody has a power which is pure, unifying, and clean, and that it can combine the lowliest places in the world and in the soul to perfection, purity, and holiness. In the above story, it is Ivan, a lowly and dirty "uncircumcised" Gentile, who reminds Moshke of the melody which he himself has forgotten. By their joint action the tune is redeemed. The miraculous combination rescues Moshke from death and brings redemption to the world.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

A Moment Of Silence

Last night was a HUUUUUGE soccer game between Beitar Yerushalayim and Hapeol. Before the game they had a moment of silence in memory of Rav Ovadiah ztz"l.

How ironic. A "moment of silence" is a non-Jewish way of commemorating someone's passing. Rav Ovadiah wouldn't have approved.

He also wouldn't have approved of 30,000 people screaming like vilde chayes over the movement of a ball and men running after it in their underwear. He would have said "Spend the 3 hours learning and doing chesed or saying tehillim. Take the money you would have spent on the game and give it to tzdaka."

But they like Rav Ovadiah enough to be quiet for a moment but not enough to actually listen to him. Or to Him.

AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH do we need a geula.

Reb Mordechai Amshiner

There was a greeattt talmid chochom and baal mofeis who lived in Vilna a hundred years ago named Rov Mordechai Vitzel [also known as Reb Mordechai Amshiner] who wrote a sefer called "Hadras Mordechai", a collection of extremely deep and complex pilpulim for various siyumim.

There was a lady named Rebbetzin Yogel ע"ה [whose husband was a well known Rov] who related that she saw the following with her own eyes. A woman came to the Rov with her blind son. He gave him a "bracha" that he should "break his head". On their way out he fell down the stairs and broke his head. She took him to the doctor who said that he broke his head. The mother said "His head is already broken. Why don't you check what is doing with his eyes." The doctor looked and saw something moving and he fixed it and the boy was able to see! [Agan Hasahar P. 77]

זכות הצדיקים יעזור יגן ויושיע!

A girl once approached him on the train and asked for a bracha that she should marry a talmid chochom. He said "What? You want kavod? I am not going to give you a bracha that you receive kavod". Later on he called her back and said "Maybe you want kavod, but if you understand that to be married to a talmid chochom is a kavod then that is also something" and he gave her a bracha.

She in fact ended up marrying one of the gedolim of the previous century [I will not publicize who she was - I don't think it brings her kavod,....].

[Related by Rav Shach ztz"l whose yahrtzeit is this week]

May we all be zoche to either marry a talmid chochom or be married to a woman whose husband is a talmid chochom:-).

לרפואת שיינדל פייגע בת חיה צביה ור' יוסף בן עליזה ור' שלמה בן פייגע דינה בתוך שח"י

Monday, October 21, 2013

Kushya yomis here. Rav Kook ztz"l on Rebbe Nachman ztz"l here
Kushya yomis here.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

The Psyche And Physical Well-Being

From the Rambam [!!] in his medical book "The Regimen of Health":

  • If emotional stress is maintained for a long period, one will definitely become ill.
  • Constant anxiety damages the body.
  • Emotional experiences produce distinct changes in the body… Emotions also have an effect on the circulation of the blood and the functioning of one’s organs…They affect the body and they in turn are affected by the constitution of the body.
  • The physician should think that every sick person has a constricted heart while every healthy person has a broad state of consciousness. Therefore the physician should remove [from the patient] all emotional activities that lead to anxiety. This way the health of the patient is preserved. This principle takes precedence in the cure of any patient, especially if his illness is specific to this area like depression…
  • The physicians have instructed that one must pay attention and constantly consider ones emotional activities. Maintaining them in equilibrium, during health and illness, must take precedence over any other regimen.
Maimonides has a beautiful piece in his Regimen of Health regarding emotional health where he suggests to Saladin’s son how to perceive life’s challenges:

“The physician should not think that medical knowledge (alone) can set aside emotional instabilities. Psychology and ethical philosophy are necessary… 
Contemplation alone reduces bad thoughts, anxiety and distress. Most thoughts that cause distress, sorrow, sadness or grief, occurs from one of two things: 
1.   Either one thinks of the past like the loss of money or a beloved one
2.   Or one thinks of something that may occur in the future like a possible loss or injury and one fears their coming. 

Yet it is known through rational observation that thinking about the past is of no benefit at all. Sorrow and grief over the past are activities of those who lack the influence of the intellect. There is no difference between a person who grieves over lost money and the like, and someone who grieves because he is human and not an angel, or a star, or similar thoughts which are impossibilities.
Similarly, any anxiety that results from thoughts about what may happen in the future are pointless because every possible thing lies in the realm of possibility: maybe it will happen and maybe it will not. Let a person replace anxiety with hope [in G-d] and with this hope it is possible that in fact the opposite of what one fears will actually happen, because both what one fears and its opposite are (equally) in the realm of possibility.”

[Excerpted from a Jewish Action article by David Zulberg]
Kushya yomis here [special for daf-yomi learners and MAZEL TOOV on the siyum of Psachim!]

What Is Real?

"What is REAL?" asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room.  "Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?"
"Real isn't how you are made," said the Skin Horse.  "It's a thing that happens to you.  When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real."

"Does it hurt?" asked the Rabbit.

"Sometimes," said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful.  "When you are Real you don't mind being hurt."

"Does it happen all at once, like being wound up," he asked, "or bit by bit?"

"It doesn't happen all at once," said the Skin Horse.  "You become.  It takes a long time.  That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept.  Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has fallen out, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in your joints and very shabby.  But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand."

Source: The Velveteen Rabbit

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Dangerous Multi-tasking

A beloved friend sent this to me:

I almost killed my daughter.

It started off as really any other week ever does. My husband had been travelling pretty much non-stop for nearly the entire month. Whether we wanted to or not, we were all falling into a fairly regular rhythm without him, at least Monday-Friday. With school and activities and for better or worse, the days seemed to move rather quickly, but by evening, all three of us were stretched thin. Collectively, we all seemed to peak at maximum crabbiness somewhere around 6 p.m. It was shortly after this time last Wednesday night that I brought the kids upstairs to help them get washed up for bed.
My daughter had an upset stomach for most of the day, but I hadn't thought much of it. She was otherwise happy and playing and generally herself. I did know that she was very tired. Still, we were a good hour and a half from her usual bedtime of around 8 p.m. I put her in the bath and let it start to fill and left the room to go start the shower for my son. This is something I've taken to doing quite often with her. She is coming up on 4 and I am less concerned about leaving her alone in the tub. Plus, the need to get both baths and showers started at the same time feels like a multi-tasking necessity when it's the end of the day and I'm slogging through it on my own. I love them, but I'm just so tired. I don't want to rush through their bath and bedtime but I do. Because I just want to collapse on the couch at 8 p.m. and just be with my own thoughts and my own space. Bath time has increasingly become yet another thing to check off the list. And so, I'm more rushed and careless than I should be.
So, I left her for about two minutes while I went to go find my 5-year-old and get him in the shower. I heard the ping of the iPad and saw an email from my friend. There was zero urgency about responding but inexplicably, I felt the need to, right then and there.
And in doing so, I left her alone in the tub for two minutes.
On any other night this would've been fine. But this night was different. She was really tired and the water was warm and she just fell asleep; completely and totally asleep. I've never seen anything like it before in my life. I went back in two minutes later and by the grace of God, she had managed to fall asleep sitting up, slumped against the side of the tub. But it wouldn't have been much longer (how much longer, seconds?) before she would've slipped under the water. She would've drowned. It would have been entirely my fault.
I screamed. I slapped her face. She didn't wake up. But she seemed to be breathing and was otherwise all right, just asleep. I lifted her out of the water and carried her into her room where she took the world's weirdest, wettest, shortest power nap ever. And at 6:30 promptly woke up refreshed, soaking wet, and ready to play and with zero understanding of the gravity of what almost could've happened.
I felt like I couldn't breathe.
For a while now, I have felt that I have been losing the ability to single task; that is to say, the ability to do one thing well, at a time. I recognize that this hasn't happened in isolation. What I'm feeling is a larger reflection of a culture that has literally consumed us over the past five years or so. In particular, becoming a parent during the rapid rise of the era of tablets and smartphones, I have lost the ability to be present and do one thing at a time. It scares me. And on this night, my inability to focus could have cost me everything. It wouldn't have taken more than two minutes or two seconds to change our lives forever. I can't even begin to process how much I regularly try to squeeze into those same two minutes. About how much I could've lost in the same amount of time.
We live in an age where we are constantly fed messages that we should try to do as much as we can as fast as we can; to live at maximum efficiency. Except when we shouldn't. How many homework assignments and extracurricular activities and educational apps and appointments and meetings and spin classes and returned email messages and social media sites and DVRd shows and any number of things with varying degrees of importance do we try to cram into any one day? Sometimes I feel like we are multi-tasking ourselves right past the point of it all anyway.
If we begin to itemize our daily lives as a series of tasks to be checked off and juggled and done while doing other things, I'm not sure we're ever fully present in any of it. As if we're always straddling different dimensions. Our bodies exist in one place, our hearts and minds in another. Space and time feel disjointed. People write in shorthand largely because we are living that way. At least I have been living that way. But last week was my wake-up call. I will get less done. Everything might take longer, but with more time and attention to whatever that first thing is. This just might be OK.
People talk about distracted driving, but it's more than that. It's distracted living. And that doesn't just leave you feeling empty and dissatisfied. As I proved to myself and to my daughter, it can be downright dangerous.

Friday, October 18, 2013

What Are You Doing Shabbos Vayishlach?

From an email forwarded me:

Tolna Rebbe and Mir Rosh Yeshiva to Grace Agudas Yisroel Convention

 The 91st Annual Convention of Agudas Yisroel of America will be graced with the presence of two special guests from Eretz Yisroel, Rav Yitzchok Weinberg, Tolna Rebbe, and Rav Eliezer Yehuda Finkel, rosh yeshiva of Yeshivas Mir Yerushalayim.

“The presence of these two distinguished dignitaries will enhance the convention immeasurably,” said Hashi Herzka, convention chairman. “Particularly at a time when every caring Jew is consumed by the severe challenges facing our brothers in Eretz Yisroel, the rebbe and rosh yeshiva will create an atmosphere of palpable achdus and spur us to help the Torah community in Eretz Yisroel in a practical and meaningful way.”

The Tolna Rebbe is renowned throughout Eretz Yisroel for his penetrating Torah insights and his masterful ability to convey a powerful message to the tzibbur. He is also considered an expert in inyonei chinuch and shalom bayis, guiding and giving hadrachah to thousands of Yidden in need.

Rav Finkel is a son of the legendary Mir rosh yeshiva, Rav Nosson Tzvi Finkel zt”l, and has capably assumed the mantle of leadership following his father’s petirah. In just a short time, he has become beloved to his talmidim and devotes much energy to guiding them both in their growth in Torah and in their personal lives.

In addition to contributing to what is expected to be an especially uplifting Shabbos experience, the rebbe and the rosh yeshiva will join the Novominsker Rebbe and Rav Ephraim Wachsman at the Motzoei Shabbos keynote session in addressing the unprecedented assault against the Torah community and Torah values in Eretz Yisroel. They will give a deeper understanding of the many issues that face the community in Eretz Yisroel and provide guidance as to how the American Torah tzibbur should respond.

The other major convention plenary session will take place Thursday night and will focus on the convention theme, “Chanoch Lanaar: Nurturing Our Children, Ensuring Our Future.” It will deal with the challenges that parents face in raising their children in today’s complex world, while striving to pass on the eternal legacy of the mesorah.

“There is great anticipation for what promises to be a memorable convention,” says Rabbi Labish Becker, executive director of Agudas Yisroel of America, who noted that the hotel is filling up quickly and urged all who wish to attend to make their reservations as soon as possible. As always, all sessions are open to the public, free of charge.

The convention will take place at Hilton Woodcliff Lake in Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey, from Thursday, November 14, through Sunday, November 17, Shabbos Parshas Vayishlach.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

שרה בת לאה

Please keep davening for Sara bas Leah who is in very-very difficult shape.

A Worthwhile See

This was sent by a beloved friend. Please listen especially from the 32 minute point and on.

Tchiyas Hameisim

It is well known that there was a big split between Kotzker Chasidus and Ishbitzer Chasidus. One Chossid once returned to Kotzk after spending some time in Ishbitz.

When the Kotzker saw him, he roared "It says מורא רבך כמורא שמים - Your fear of your Rebbi should be like your fear of Shomayim. How many 'Shomayims' are there??" 

The Chossid ran out of the room with such terror that his kippah fell off.

Until now there was ONE authority in the Sefardi world to whom many [although not all] felt subordinate. Now that he is in the world that is koolo Torah, it is FRIGHTENING what will transpire. Now there are MANY different Rabbonim and of course many people feel that they have NO Rebbe, which is the most dangerous.

The tikkun is of course to bring Chacham Ovadiah back to life [and the Lubavitcher Rebbe and Rebbe Nachman for their Chasidim who are left bereft of a Rebbe].

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Cutting The Line

This story was told by R' Tzvi Rotenberg who heard it from the person himself.

In the olden days, the bus ride from Tel Aviv to Yerushalyim took a few hours and the buses came very infrequently. This man, a student of the Chazon Ish, saw a long lineup of people waiting to get on the bus. He feared that he would not get on, so he snuck his way up to the front of the line.

During the ride his conscience started bothering him. When he went to the Chazon Ish, he asked him what aveirah he committed. Gezel? Onaas Dvarim? Something else??

The Chazon Ish answered - None of those. But you were פורץ גדרי עולם - You breached the fences of the world.

A beautiful hesped for Rav Ovadiah by Rav Shmuel Tal [in Hebrew] here.

I have been walking around in a daze for over a week now trying to comprehend this larger than life figure. I am sure that I never will....

Pnimiyus Of The Akeidah

Insights into Akeidas Yitzchak - over here.
Pretty not-normal!

Rav Ovadiah ztz"l

From an email I sent around:

Shalom Sweetest friends!!!!
This Sunday we had our inaugural shiur [via "google groups"] with Rav Homnick where he brilliantly illuminated the first Rashi in Chumash, showing what compelled Rashi to say that the creation story was written to show the nations of the world that Eretz Yisroel belongs to Hashem and He gave it to the Jewish people. After hearing the shiur, I was convinced that Israel is truly the Land where I belong.... He revealed the internal connection between the words of Rashi and the Talmudic understanding of the purpose of creation [i.e. Torah]. It was a tremendously novel and exciting tour-de-force of Jewish thought.  Those who would like to hear the next shiur, Sunday 11:00AM EST, can contact me. I wouldn't miss it [and I will not:-)].
This is an article he wrote for a non-Jewish audience for the on-line publication "American Spectator" about Rav Ovadiah Yosef ztz"l.

Observers around the world were stunned last week to learn that the largest funeral in the history of the State of Israel — and quite possibly in the history of the Jewish People — was held for a scholar of Talmud and Jewish law who was born in Baghdad in 1913 to a poor grocer and emigrated to Jerusalem at four years of age. Approximately 800,000 people were in attendance, shutting down the capital city to all motor traffic. An additional 200,000 came on buses from around the country but never succeeded in gaining entry to the blockaded city.

Who was this man and how did he come to command such love and respect?

I had my first glimpse of his appeal back in 1991. I knew of his scholarship well before that time. His published legal opinions on every aspect of Jewish law, from contracts to divorce to ritual matters. I remember picking up one of his books, flipping it open at random, my admittedly unscientific method of assaying scholarly works. The piece I opened to discussed whether the Sabbath could be violated to treat a sick person with some remedy not recognized by the medical community. Seemed like a novel topic, given the devotion some patients have to chiropractors, acupuncturists and the like, despite the snickers of mainstream doctors. I was astonished to find an encyclopedic dissertation, quoting an endless stream of sources and walking a logical path through the various views. When it was all over, he had amassed about 23 lenient opinions and 21 strict ones, and he gave the win to the majority.

So I knew him as a man of massive erudition and clear thinking. I knew him by reputation as a former Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Israel. [Israel has two chief rabbis who serve in parallel capacities, one ministering to (Ashkenazic, lit. Germanic) Jews of European descent and the other to (Sephardic, lit. Hispanic) Jews of Arabic descent.] Still, I had little inkling of the cultural revolution he was about to lead.

In 1991, a middleman was trying to arrange a job for me to write public relations pieces for then-Minister of Interior Aryeh Deri. Deri had leapt to prominence as the head of the Shas party, newly formed to represent Sephardic Jews. He was a genius at his job, helping all the smaller municipalities and development towns to balance their budgets for the first time in forty years. But unlike every politician I knew, he did not want to talk about himself. He said it was impossible to understand what he and his party were accomplishing without seeing Rabbi Yosef in action.

We made up I would travel to Hadera, about three hours from Jerusalem, to attend an event the next night where he and the rabbi would be speaking. They had taken over a movie theater for the evening. I came early and sat observing the crowd. The people who showed up were first-generation Sephardic in Israel, mostly undereducated people working at manual and menial labor. They chatted volubly and loudly chewed sunflower seeds.

Suddenly the sound of a helicopter could be heard hovering and the assemblage all ran outside. It was quite a spectacle, seeing the helicopter land in the street, disgorging an ornately attired rabbi (in the Sephardic custom of wearing majestic garments) and a government minister in a suit. Minister Deri began the proceedings with his own life story as the son of poor Moroccan immigrants. He assured the crowd that if he could make it to the pinnacle so could they.

Then it was the rabbi’s turn. Here was this great legal mind, with a huge library inside his head, and I braced myself for genius. Genius it was, but not what I expected. It was a simple populist message: the Sephardic Jews were once prestigious thinkers and leaders, producing Maimonides and other greats. It was time to return to their former stature. It was time to think more of themselves and their potential. It was time to aim higher. And most importantly — of desperate importance — the children must receive a strong Jewish education. They were living in a free country, a land of opportunity. Merit could be achieved and it would be rewarded.

The crowd was inspired, animated, vitalized. They rushed forward afterwards to kiss his hand (another Sephardic custom) but he did not linger long to soak up the adulation. The religious minister and the political minister had done their ministry in this community tonight, and now they were off again in their helicopter.

That position never did work out for me, but I thank God for arranging that opportunity to witness a great man who could touch the simplest person and inflame the appetite for a more exalted life. I kept watching over the subsequent two decades as those ordinary folks heeded his call and produced a generation of high-quality young people, excelling in all walks of life. Rabbi Yosef was truly a transformative figure, a light unto our time.

The Talmud says that a great scholar should have as many as 600,000 people at his funeral, equal to the number of Jewish men who stood at Sinai. But if he not only studied, he also shared his knowledge with the world, then there is no limit….

You Should Still Help Her...

Don't know what to do with this one....

Divorce rates are far higher among “modern” couples who share the housework than in those where the woman does the lion’s share of the chores, a Norwegian study has found.

In what appears to be a slap in the face for gender equality, the report found the divorce rate among couples who shared housework equally was around 50 per cent higher than among those where the woman did most of the work.

“What we’ve seen is that sharing equal responsibility for work in the home doesn’t necessarily contribute to contentment,” said Thomas Hansen, co-author of the study entitled “Equality in the Home.”

The lack of correlation between equality at home and quality of life was surprising, the researcher said.

“One would think that break-ups would occur more often in families with less equality at home, but our statistics show the opposite,” he said.

The figures clearly show that “the more a man does in the home, the higher the divorce rate,” he went on.

The reasons, Mr Hansen said, lay only partially with the chores themselves.

“Maybe it’s sometimes seen as a good thing to have very clear roles with lots of clarity … where one person is not stepping on the other’s toes,” he suggested.

“There could be less quarrels, since you can easily get into squabbles if both have the same roles and one has the feeling that the other is not pulling his or her own weight.”

“Modern couples are just that, both in the way they divide up the chores and in their perception of marriage” as being less sacred, Mr Hansen said. “In these modern couples, women also have a high level of education and a well-paid job, which makes them less dependent on their spouse financially.
They can manage much easier if they divorce,” he said.  The study emphasized women who did most of the chores did so of their own volition and were found to be as “happy” those in “modern” couples.

Dr Frank Furedi, Sociology professor at the University of Canterbury, said the study made sense as chore sharing took place more among couples from middle class professional backgrounds, where divorce rates are known to be high.

“These people are extremely sensitive to making sure everything is formal, laid out and contractual. That does make for a fairly fraught relationship,” he told the Daily Telegraph.
A friend sent me this amazing story.

Monday, October 14, 2013

New Shiurim

A few new audio shiurim linked on the side of the page, including teachings of Chacham Ovadiah ztz"l.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Please Daven

Sara bas Leah - in intensive care.
Kushya Yomis here.

It's MY Makom Kavua!

Rabbi Yosef Tzvi Rimon - From Shabbat Bi-shabbato:
Question: Is one allowed to pray in front of his reflection in a window?
Answer: In a long responsa on the prohibition against making images in a synagogue (such as a lion, an eagle, and so on), the Radbaz notes one of the reasons that a person should not pray while standing behind his rabbi is "that people should not say he is bowing down to his rabbi" [4:107]. In addition, "for the same reason we prohibit praying in front of a mirror, so that people will not say that a person is bowing down to his reflection."
Another reason has been derived from the responsa of the Rambam (Freiman edition, 20). He writes that one should not pray opposite pictures, not because of idol worship but because "these things can cause confusion in the matter of concentration." This is also the conclusion of the Mordechai (Avoda Zara 840), and also the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 90:23) and the RAMA (ibid). Alya Rabba and Machatzit Hashekel write that this is also the reason for the prohibition of praying opposite a mirror. The Maharsham writes that this is the main reason for the ruling.
There is a practical difference between the two reasons if the person closes his eyes while praying. The Rambam explicitly notes that closing the eyes can solve the problem of paying attention, and the Maharsham writes the same. But according to the reason given by the Radbaz closing the eyes will not help, since the person still may appear to be praying to the image in the mirror. This reasoning appears in the Mishna Berura (71) and Kaf Hachaim (138).
Based on these considerations, it would seem that one should not pray opposite a window where his or her reflection can be seen, even with the eyes closed. However, if there is a need to do so in a specific case, this can be allowed, for several reasons.
(1) The Radbaz bases his ruling on the prohibition to pray standing behind a rabbi. The reason that he gives was proposed by the Tosafot (Berachot 27b), but other early commentators give different reasons – that the person is showing arrogance by equating himself with his rabbi (Rashi), or that he might interfere with his rabbi when he wants to step backwards at the end of the prayer (students of Rabeinu Yona, Berachot 18b). These reasons are not relevant to praying in front of a mirror.
(2) According to Mahari Abuhav (quoted by the Beit Yosef), if a person sits behind his rabbi because that is his permanent seat in the synagogue, "there is no suspicion that he looks upon him as a god." Beit Yosef notes that this limitation is valid only for the reasons given by Tosafot and Rashi and not for the reason given by Rabeinu Yona (and for a reason given by the GRA). Therefore, in practice the Beit Yosef ruled to be stringent (while the RAMA ruled that the custom is to be lenient). In our case, we can learn from this discussion that a person who normally sits near a window or a mirror is not violating any prohibition.
(3) According to Shevet Levi (9:21), the prohibition is specifically for a mirror, since it has a specific purpose of showing a person's reflection, and the main reason to look at it is to see the reflection. But praying opposite some other object, where the reflection is a byproduct and is not the goal of looking there, does not give the appearance of a person praying to himself, and it would not be prohibited.
In summary: Even though one should not pray opposite a mirror, it is permitted to pray opposite a window which shows a reflection, especially if this is the permanent seat of the one who is praying. However, in this case it is good for the one praying to close his eyes or to concentrate on looking at the siddur.
A Person Giving up his Regular Seat for Prayer
Question: Should a person give up his regular seat for prayer if a guest sits in it?
Answer: It is written in the Talmud, "Anybody who chooses a permanent place for his prayers will receive help from the G-d of Avraham" [Berachot 6b]. And the Talmud adds other praises for one who maintains a permanent place to pray. The Maharal explains that choosing a permanent seat shows that prayer is not a random event for this person but that it is rather something that is permanent, stable, and unique, taking place between the person and the Holy One, Blessed be He (see the Maharal for more details). The ROSH (Berachot 1:7), based on the Talmud Yerushalmi (Berachot 4:4), emphasizes that the need is not just to choose a specific synagogue for prayer but to have a permanent seat inside the synagogue. This is also accepted by the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 90:19).
However, there may be two limitations on this ruling. First, according to Rabeinu Yona (3:2) a specific place must be chosen only by a person who is praying in his home, but in a synagogue, which is defined as a place for prayer, it is not necessary to choose a specific seat. Even though his ruling was not accepted as the halacha, it can be taken into account in special circumstances. In addition, Magen Avraham emphasizes (134) that an area four Amot around the seat is still considered the permanent seat, and it is therefore possible to sit close to the seat while still maintaining a permanent position.
Thus, if a guest sits in a person's permanent seat and there is a fear that he will be insulted if he is told to move, a person should not ask him to move but can depend on the ideas of Rabeinu Yona and Magen Avraham. We can add that the Shulchan Aruch notes that it is problematic to change position only if "it is unnecessary." But there can be no greater "need" than to show respect for other people, as is written, "respect for other people is important, since it takes precedence over a negative Torah mitzva" [Berachot 19b]. In addition, Avraham, from whom we have learned the principal of having a permanent place to pray, also taught us the rules of precedence for such cases. After all, Avraham preferred to give up a chance to meet with the Shechina in order to greet guests. It goes without saying that in our case greeting visitors should take precedence over maintaining a permanent seat for prayer.
In summary: If a person's permanent seat in a synagogue is taken by a guest, he should not ask the guest to move but rather he should sit within four Amot of his own seat. In this way he is observing the requirement to always pray from the same place

I Am Nothing

From Shabbat Bi-shabbato Lech Lecha by Robi Weintraub:

The desirable definition of "I" is that my position in the world exists simply because I exist, based on the image of G-d within me. An erroneous definition of "I" has an element of "There shall be no strange god within you" [Tehillim 81:10]. We do not have exclusive rights to our ego. The holy Ramban wrote, "The primary failure of the Tree of Knowledge was an obsession with the concept of 'I'" [Bereishit 2:18].
In fact, it is good to assuage the ego now and then, so that it will give us confidence in ourselves and in the Creator. But when a person is obsessive with respect to his ego (and becomes narcissistic), the situation can become a case of a spiritual handicap.
It is written, "I have been created in order to serve my Master" [Kidushin 83b]. Everything was created for the praise of the Creator, including my own ego! When we observe the word of G-d, and especially when we do things that we find are difficult, we cancel out the effect of our ego with respect to G-d and transform it into something holy.
Here is a poem that I wrote:
The Nothingness within Me
Once again I, in the empty space
Move around, back and forth,
Within the world of the infinite.
I search for a way to navigate through the maze of the world of confusion,
Asking for a sign or a heavenly voice to bring joy to my soul.
And I will cry out, from the walls of my heart: My G-d, answer me!
And suddenly I will hear a voice from heaven: And it says, Here I am!
And this will be followed by a thin silent voice.
And the secret of the nothingness within me will be revealed
And my soul will be redeemed.
(Note that "ayin" (nothing) and "ani" (I) are both written using the same three letters: aleph-yud-nun.)

The Faith Of Hashem

Yoni Lavie from Shabbat Bi-shabbato Parshat Lech Lecha:

No teacher was willing to set foot in the class. It was called, "the class of the disturbed ones." It was the worst nightmare of anybody who had a goal of calling himself or herself an educator. During the past month the homeroom teacher was replaced six times, and the last one didn't even last through a single lesson. The principal was at a loss about what to do, and without any other alternative he sent in a new teacher, a replacement. He was sure that it was only a matter of time before she too would flee from the classroom in tears and come to tell him how horrible they were, and that she could not cope with them...
But what happened was a miracle. Time passed, and not a sound was heard outside the classroom. A week went by, and then another, and there were no loud noises, and neither flying objects nor shouts burst forth from the infamous room. The teacher came and went and the class learned! It was amazing! The shocked principal could not restrain himself, and he asked the magician who had tamed the students who had been feared by everybody else to come to see him. "How did you do it?" he asked the young woman, his eyes shining, and with admiration in his voice. The young teacher looked at him modestly, and she said, "The truth is that when I first went into the classroom they did not make a good impression on me. But then I found in my desk a list of the names of the students and their IQ scores. What can I say, I was quite impressed. They had really high marks – 125, 126, 127, 130! I thought, 'These kids must be very intelligent, all I have to do is help them achieve their potential.'"
The principal looked at her and didn't understand what she was saying. What did she mean? He had known these students for years. There was no way that they could have such high IQ's! He said, "Where is the list? I want to see it!" She opened her purse and gave him a piece of paper filled with names and numbers. It only took the principal a moment to see what he had in his hands. "This is not a list of IQ's," he said to her, with his head full of new and interesting ideas. "These are the lockers that were assigned to them!"
In Whom does G-d have Faith?
The first statement that a Jew makes when he or she wakes up in the morning includes a great truth. "I give thanks to You, a strong and existing king, who mercifully gave me back my soul; Your faith is great." It is very unfortunate that because these words are often said early in the morning, while we are still half asleep and not thinking straight, we miss the great treasure of words that has just left our lips. "Your faith is great." Whose faith? It is the Holy One, Blessed be He. And in whom does He have faith? He has faith in me! The fact that I have been given the gift of life for a new day, that I have been given the strength and the ability to act, is proof that the Master of the World trusts me and depends on me. This is the way that a Jew starts every new day. Without this approach, we cannot budge an inch. With it, we can change the entire world.
The Main Driving Force
If the above thought is true for adults, it is true many times over for children. In order to go out to life and to cope, in order to find his or her place in society and to have the guts to act and accomplish something (and sometimes to fail...), a child must have a source of energy. And the most important source is to have faith in himself. He or she must recognize his abilities and his talents. He or she must realize how much he is worth, and how loved he or she is. The greatest gift that parents can give their children is to teach them to have faith in themselves. This is built up slowly, starting from the very first moment that the child comes into the world and is greeted with love, dedication, and warmth. It becomes especially important from the moment that he begins to understand, absorb, and speak.
Every opportunity must be utilized for empowerment, to stress the good points and to center on the positive sides of every child. This does not mean that criticism should be stifled when it is needed. But it must be said wisely, at the right moment, and in the proper way. And the main thing is that it must be enveloped in a large measure of love and faith. All of this is especially vital in the modern world, which is so filled with public relations and facebook, which measures a person by external and shallow characteristics, which glorifies personal achievement and interests, and which tramples anybody who stands in its way without batting an eyelash. In order to remain a person with the power of values, ethics, and Judaism, one who acts and lives successfully in this world, the child must be provided with a stable backbone and taught to build up faith in himself.
Living Space
One of the most interesting creatures in the sea near Japan is a form of carp that is called "ku" in Japanese. What is unique about this fish is that if it is grown in an aquarium it can reach a size of 5-8 cm, and if it is placed in a swimming pool it will reach a size of 25-30 cm. But if it is put into a large lake, it can grow to as much as a full meter! The living space sets the final size of this fish. Is it possible that what is true of some fish is also true of human beings?

Friday, October 11, 2013

Article On תולש

Article on the melacha of תולש on Shabbos when done with one's mouth - here.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

New Shiurim

A number of new audio shiurim including 3 on parshas Lech Lecha and one on Noach found on Yutorah. בס"ד.

The Kiruv Gadol

One of the AMZING things about Rav Ovadiah ztz"l was that despite the fact that he knew EVERYTHING by heart word for word and that he could have given the highest level shiurim to any group of scholars, he chose to focus on educating the masses and inspiring them to tshuva by telling stories and teaching simple halachos. It is honest to say that he was the most successful one man kiruv program in the world. [Another example of a gadol focusing on kiruv richokim was the Lubavitcher Rebbe]. He went from shul to shul and was mekarev countless numbers of people. It actually HURT him to have to close his beloved sfarim and to travel from place to place [he REALLY enjoyed learning], but he knew that it was the will of Hashem.

He once had a dream that the Ben Ish Chai was leafing through his Yabia Omer volume one and was impressed. But he told Rav Ovadiah in the dream that the shiurim he gives being mekarev people was more valuable in shomayim than his sefer. [Told by Rav Yitzchak Peretz, Sfardic Rav of Rechovot].

He was once at home and was visited by the legendary Rav Betzalel Zolty, the Rav of Yerushalayim [and author of the Mishnas Yaavetz]. Rav Zolty told Rav Ovadiah that the mikva in a certain neighborhood was about to be closed by the city because it had fallen into disuse. He put on his purple robe and went with Rav Zolty from DOOR TO DOOR in the neighborhood and spoke to the people about the importance of mikva. Weeks later the mikva was so packed the women had to wait on lines to go in.

זכות הצדיקים יעזור ויגן ויושיע!

[לזכות רבי אפרים אבא שליט"א בן מרים שושנה הוא וכל אשר לו לאורך ימים טובים וארוכים]

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

It's My Birthday - What A "Bummer"!!

The pasuk says ודברת בם - You should speak in THEM - בם, meaning Torah. This is alluding to the letters of בם. The ב stands for the word בראשית which starts with a ב and is the first letter of the Torah Shebichtav. The ם stands for מאימתי which is the first word of the Torah She-bial Peh [the first mishna in Brachos]. This means that a Jew should be a "Bum". He should strive to learn both the Written and Oral Law. 

Today I became a Bum!! It is my 42nd birthday and the numerical value of בם is EXACTLY 42. Elchanan Ehrman is a BUM!!!

So my bracha to me on my birthday is that I should have the capacity to START learning. It's about time. Enough wasted years, time to buckle down. I hope that Hashem gives me the material means to learn and learn and learn in order to become more and more of a Bum!! Or in the words of Dovid Hamelech - אחת שאלתי מאת השם אותה אבקש. שבתי בבית השם כל ימי חיי לחזות בנועם השם ולבקר בהיכלו.

And to you all my sweetest and most beloved friends - I bless you as well [I am sure you have a birthday this year as well] with many happy and healthy years and many blissful hours of involvement in the pursuit of Bumminess.

ודברת בם.

It mamesh mamesh doesn't get any better than that:-)!!!

[If this put a smile on your face may I be zocheh to put many more. You have such niiiice teeth.]

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Great minds discuss ideas. Average minds discuss events. Small minds discuss people.
Eleanor Roosevelt (1884 - 1962)
[Eulogy given in the yeshiva today by Ha-Rav Shlomo Aviner Shilt"a upon hearing of Ha-Rav Ovadiah Yosef ztz"l's passing]
 Ha-Gaon Ha-Rav Ovadiah Yosef ztz"l fulfilled what every true Torah scholar is obligated: Do not tremble before man.  He said what he thought, without fear, and without worrying about the potential criticism.  And he certainly did not fear losing public opinion points, and this is correct, since Torah scholars do not need to be guided by public opinion, on the contrary, public opinion needs to be guided by Torah scholars.

Obviously, the gates always remained open to disagree with him, but everyone knew that he was not ruling based on interests or out of fear, but he said what he thought, and stood firm against any pressure.

He therefore occasionally used harsh language, towards both Torah scholars and different communities, but anyone who knew him understood that he did so out of love, revealed rebuke and hidden love, the one he loves he rebukes (play on Mishlei 3:12).  They seemed as enemies in the war of Torah but they truly loved one another.  To what is this similar, when someone approached Ha-Rav Ovadiah, and Ha-Rav wanted to expressed love towards him, he would give him a slap…  

He utilized his great genius and incredible courage in order to save the Jewish People in two ways: Through leniency and through unity.

Ha-Rav saved through leniency.  In fact, Ha-Rav Ovadiah was courageous to rule leniently when possible, out of concern that being strict would lead to leniency, since an abundance of Chumrot causes one to be lenient in Torah Mitzvot, and certainly he would not make new decrees.  He obviously was not always lenient, and was occasionally strict against all the other authorities, when he felt it necessarily.  And when he saw it proper, he was lenient.  However, he did not do so on his own, since in his humility he did not make ruling based on Chidushim and Pilpulim, but based on the majority of Poskim.  He obviously knew well that sometimes there was a strict minority, which included a Posek equal to all of those who were lenient, but he took the responsibility upon his shoulders to permit.

And Ha-Rav saved through unity.  Ha-Rav Ovadiah courageously united all Sefardim, by giving up on local customs, and uniting around the Beit Yosef, "And Yosef was the leader over the land, he was the provider to all the people of the land" (Bereshit 42:6), both Ha-Rav Yosef Karo and Ha-Rav Ovadiah Yosef.  Ha-Rav Ovadiah was not scared to decide in a halachic dispute since doubts and differences of opinion confuse and weaken.  He therefore gave clear halachic rulings.  And at the same time, even when not everyone agreed with him, he was strong as a flint-stone.

And Ha-Rav Ovadiah was extremely successful in his mission.  He raised up the Sefardic community, which was lacking both in Torah and societal status.  He succeeded through his leadership, including unified halachic rulings, Divrei Torah, writing and establishing educational and political institutions.

He is therefore justifiably called "Maran" – our Master – by Sefardim.  

Maran always worked hard.  He already began to work at a young age, since he was from a poor family.  And he continued to work hard his entire life in the field of Torah.  His first work was writing comments on the margins of the book Reishit Chochma at the age of 9.  And his entire life, he worked hard to elevate and refine his character traits.

And here are three personal stories about Maran's character traits:

Forty years ago, Rav Ovadiah was attacked by ignoramuses in the press for a statement he made.  They acted in their Chutzpa as if he did not know Torah.  I wrote a short 10-line article to the newspaper pointing out a simple source for Maran's words.  The next day I was called to the Kibbutz's only telephone, and I heard his gentle and soft voice: "Yashar Koach to the honorable one."

Many years later, he called me, sat me close to him, and whispered to me in a fatherly tone: "Be careful, the honorable one, from those people, they worked against you."

And one day in our yeshiva, a student told me that he had gotten engaged. "Mazel Tov!  I am happy to hear!"  I said.  "There is one problem, however," he added.  "She is Ethiopian and I am a Cohain" (some authorities say that Ethiopians must go through a "Giyur Le-Chumrah – a conversion for stricture" since some are question their Judaism.  A Cohain may not marry a convert).  "Why did you get yourself involved in a complication like that?" I asked.  "I didn't think about it," he replied.  "I appreciate her and I love her. I didn't notice her color."  I sent him to a few different great Rabbis, whose opinions I knew, but they feared putting their rulings in writing.  I then turned to Maran.  The next say I received a letter permitting him to marry.  "Take it," I said to him, "it is a piece of paper worth a billion dollars."

He is truly a Rav who saved others.

This giant is silent but his mighty, clear, courageous and upright spirit hovers above us, in the mouths of the giant Torah scholars and the simple people.

This great saving hero testified about himself: I do not sleep at night bothered by how to have 10,000 other children recite Keriat Shema.  


May his soul be bound up with the bonds of the living with the souls of the greatest of Torah scholars.