Thursday, November 28, 2013

If you happened not to have been on the bronx bound 5 train recently - you can enjoy the ride here.
Some sweet Torah for Chanuka and Parshas Mikeitz, here.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

A Special Day

How come I can't find any sfarim that talk about the spiritual and halachic significance of "Thanksgiving she-chol li-hiyot bi-chanuka"?

Like the bracha on a turkey stuffed with an oil donut. Or if there is an inyan to light the chanukiyah dressed like a pilgrim.

Gobble, gobble...:-)

Ah freilchin!

Eating Before Lighting

I was asked about going to a wedding and partaking of the seuda before lighting Chanuka candles. It is generally forbidden to eat before lighting.

I found a very interesting pask of HaRav Vosner Shlita who said that the decree not to eat before lighting is only if one is at home and we fear that he might get so into the meal that he will forget to light. But if one is away from home and will be returning, we do not fear that he will forget.

I thank the asker for facilitating the learning of this halacha....

לרפואת אלטר יואל בן פריידל בתוך שח"י


The first day of Chanukah is the 15th yahrtzeit of the helige Tolna Rebbe ztz"l Rebbe Yochanan Twerski. He often repeated the story of the Antoniner Rebbe who would ask why we don't make שהחיינו upon dying. The time of death is a magical moment for which we prepare our whole lives and we should be rejoicing in the fact that we finally meet HKB"H.

After lighting the Chanukah candle on the first night and making שהחיינו the Antoniner passed away.

Wonder of wonders.

More wonders.

The Rebbe ztz"l was very ill on the first night of Chanuka תשנ"ט and after he made the brachos - including שהחיינו - he refused to talk. His family members came to say goodbye and he made bodily motions but would not utter a word. It was STRANGE. That night he passed away and the family understood that he didn't want to speak after שהחיינו creating a הפסק between שהחיינו and his demise. So he too was זוכה to say שהחיינו before death like the Antoniner Rebbe in the story he was fond of repeating.

There is also a famous question, why chosson and kallah don't make she-hechiyanu on the occasion of their wedding. Those who are getting married the first night of Chanukah [mazel tov Yoni and Aviva!!!:-)], and those who have in the past [happy anniversary Y.Y. and B.D!!:-)] have a way around the problem. They say the bracha on the candle and can also have their holy union in mind.

May all of our lives be filled with occasions for she-hechiyanu!!

Love, blessings and simchas for all!

Monday, November 25, 2013

My Autobiography Chapters 4 and 5

I walk down the same street
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk
I walk around it

I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk - The gemara says סחור סחור אמרינן לנזירא לכרמך לא תקרב  - Go around we say to a Nazir, don't go neeeaarrrrr a vineyard [a Nazir is not permitted to drink wine]. It is better not to go near a danger zone. In daily life as well, if there are areas where we fall, we should stay far away. I am [more than] a bit stubborn and insist on going down the same street where I previously fell into a pit.

I walk around it - Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!! This time I was careful. I shouldn't have been on the street at all but at least I walked around the pit [or in Talmudic language - the bor birishus harabbim]. I am improving. Growth is a process.

Chapter 5

I walk down another street - GEVALLLLDDDIIIIKKKKK!!!!! Finally! I learned my lesson. I didn't fall in the pit because I walked a different path. That is the secret of change. If what you are doing is not working - DO SOMETHING DIFFERENT. Forget what they taught you that "If you don't succeed, try and try again". That makes people do the same stupid things repeatedly.

If I had the power, I would go out into the world and make a revolution. I would teach people to see what their negative, destructive, ineffective patterns are and find new, positive, constructive, effective patterns.

Their relationships would be transformed, they would succeed more at work and most importantly - they would be happier.

Please consider my words and apply them to yourself.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

A daf yomi bi-iyun shiur is summarized here.

Super geshmak for those who "chap".

My Autobiography Part 3

I walk down the same street
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
I still fall in...It's a habit.
My eyes are open, I know where I am
I get out immediately

I walk down the same street - There I go again, insisting on taking the same path that got me into trouble in the past.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. Of course there is. Why should things change [unless I change them myself]?

I see it is there. At least I notice it this time. I am becoming cognizant of my pitfalls.

I still fall in...It's a habit. I am now becoming aware that I have destructive habits.

My eyes are open, I know where I am. I make mistakes but I am not blind to them.

I get out immediately. Knowing that I habitually make the same mistakes make them easier to fix.

My Autobiography Chapter 2

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don't see it.
I fall in again.
I can't believe I am in the same place
But it isn't my fault
It still takes a long time to get out.

I insist on going down the same street. Why on earth don't I learn from my mistakes? Probably because I didn't admit my mistakes [see part 1].

I pretend I don't see it. I really do see it. But let myself not be confused by the facts.

I fall in again. Of course.

I can't believe I am in the same place. Because I am in denial.

But it isn't my fault. It's never my fault.

It still takes a long time to get out. Am I going to learn from my mistakes?

To be continued....

אלטר יואל בן פריידל

Alter Yoel ben Fradel 
Father of five little children.

New Shiur

A recent daf yomi bi-iyun shiur from the Rebbe Shlita, summarized here.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Mind Reading?

I will tell you two stories as they happened and you can decide what you want to believe....

Story 1]

Last motzaei shabbos I went to the Tolna Rebbe's tisch as I do every week Baruch Hashem. However, I was particularly troubled with parnassa issues [should I invest my millions in the stock market or in real estate? Should I buy out my partner in a certain business we own jointly for 80 million or should I try to get him down to 75 million even though it will be a hassle. Should I buy an vacation home in Manhattan for a cool 9 mil.? It faces the park and is beautiful but not all of my neighbors will be such bnei Toirah. You know - such problems...]. So I sat there quietly both listening to his sweet Torah and also pondering less ethereal matters that consume many of us. At the end of the tisch, the custom is that everybody approaches the Rebbe Shlita and receives "shiraim" [such as a fruit or a challah]. When it was my turn he smiled and welcomed me. Then he handed me a challah and said "This is a sgula for parnassa".

Story 2]

Last night I went to the weekly parsha shiur and since there were no empty seats, I found myself standing. This happens sometimes and doesn't bother me so much. People always complain about married men who "sit and learn" so I don't mind countering that I "stand and learn". But yesterday I had a very stressful day [following a stressful week/ month:-):-)] and starting thinking somewhat depressive thoughts about other things which were triggered by the fact that in the whole beis medrash there wasn't even one little seat for me]. Suddenly the Rebbe interrupts himself and turns to me [there were many others who were standing] and says "Reb Elchonon, zitz [sit down]. Iz do platz [there is room]!" I waved my hand as to say "No I am fiiiineeeeeeee". He insisted and pointed to a bench were I could fit myself in [I don't take up much space...]. I sat down and the shiur continued [it was recorded and will be in my email box soon for those who want to hear..]. This has never happened to me before in the parsha shiur.

You do what you want with the stories. I am just telling you what happened.

What he said in the shiur is also worth mentioning but maybe another time....

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Connecting To The Details

Li-rfuas Mordechai Avinoam ben Leah bisoch she-ar cholei yisrael

When a boy loves a girl, he enjoys her laugh, the way she speaks, her idiosyncracies, even the silliest things about her. Why? Because he loves HER, everything she does and says becomes attractive. He can talk to her for hours, even though truth be told, she isn't saying anything all that interesting.

Li-havdil - when a person loves Hashem and his soul connects to the supernal light of Torah, everything about the Torah, every minor detail, becomes so exciting, interesting and riveting.

Maran HaRav ztz"l said it best - כשהנשמה מתקשרת באורה העליון של תורה, נעשים כל הפרטים הקטנים חביבים חבת נשמה, וחשק התורה מתפשט על כל
אות ואות מדקדוקי תורה ודקדוקי סופרים וכל הרחבותיהם והסתעפיותיהם

Taking Responsibility

I expand on the recent post about the autobiography in five short chapters. This is a therapy session. If you don't think you need it then you probably need it more than you think... If you think you need it, then, by golly, you are on the right road. Either way, it's free, so "chap a rein"!

Chapter 1:

I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don't see it.
I fall in again.
I can't believe that I am in the same place.
But it isn't my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.

I pretend I don't see it. Many mistakes we make, we saw coming but we were careless. That's OK. We are only human.

But it isn't my fault. Ahhhhhhhhhhhh, here is the real problem. It is not my fault. It's my mother's fault, my father's fault, my teacher's fault, my bosses fault, Obama's fault. Hey, I know. It's my wife's fault. Anyone but me. Thank you Nechi [the aforementioned "wife"] for being around all the time to blame. Makes it so much easier for me to retain my facade of infallibility. [She rarely reads the blog. Busy with things like preparing dinner and taking care of my children so I can sit and play 'computer games' as I am doing now. I will ask her to read this. She should know that I feel gratitude....]

It will certainly take a long time to get out. Throwing off the yoke of responsibility creates complications and prevents solutions.

Stay tuned....:-)

Be A Tziyoni:-)

From Shabbat Bi-shabbato Parshas Vayeishev, R' Yitzchak Levi:

One of the names of Jerusalem is Zion. This name first appears when we are told of the capture of the city by David, in direct relation to the kingdom of David and as the capital of Israel, as is written, "And David captured the fortress of Zion, which is the City of David" [Shmuel II 5:7]. The meaning of the name is not clear.
Tzion – Metzuyan
There are some who explain that the root of Tzion – Zion – is related to a notable mark or excellence. For example, the Talmud interprets the verse, "G-d loves the gates of Zion more than all the dwelling places of Yaacov" [Tehillim 87:2] as "G-d loves the outstanding gates of halacha, more than the synagogues and halls of study" [Berachot 8a]. This would mean that the name Zion for Jerusalem denotes its unique traits, and that the sages consider it to be unique.
Tzion – Tziya
Others have claimed that the word Tzion is related to tziya – being dry. It is written, "Like great heat in the wilderness, You decreased the noise of the foreigners, like a scorching heat is shaded by a cloud, the mighty will be humbled" [Yeshayahu 25:5]. Perhaps this is related to "tziya," referring to the hot eastern winds of the desert, in view of how close Jerusalem is to the desert. To the east of the Mount of Olives lies the edge of the desert and the desert itself, close to the city, as opposed to the situation to the north and to the south. There the meeting point with the desert is much further to the east.
This close proximity has two important results. On one hand, the closer you are to the desert the more you are dependent on the conditions there. The level of dependence on rain increases. In times of drought, the shepherds go to the west and abandon Jerusalem, allowing it to take on some features of the desert. On the other hand, the prophets describe a future era when a stream of water will come from Jerusalem and from the Temple and bring water to the desert. Thus, the place that is closest in essence to being a desert will get its sustenance from Jerusalem and from the Temple.
Here is the significance of these two elements of a proximity to the desert: On one hand, there is a link to geographic and topographic factors, which is in essence a direct connection to the Holy One, Blessed be He. On the other hand there is the effect of the city and the Temple in fixing the problems of the desert by providing an abundance of water. Perhaps, then, this concept is related to the link between Zion and Jerusalem.
Tzion – a Name that Includes Many Things
Prof. Dinur has pointed out a fascinating fact about the word tzion – it has many different meanings.
Sometimes it refers to the site of the Temple. "To the place where the G-d of Hosts is, Mount Zion" [Yeshayahu 18:7]. But it can also refer to the entire city of Jerusalem: "Sing for us from the songs of Zion. How can we sing the song of G-d on foreign land?" [Tehillim 137:3-4]. There are also instances when it refers to the people of Yisrael: "I will awaken your sons, Zion, against your sons, Greece" [Zecharia 9:13]. In this verse the word "Zion" can be interpreted to refer to the nation as a whole.
This phenomenon can be explained by the deep internal links between the Temple, Jerusalem, the entire land of Yisrael, and the entire nation of Yisrael.
This can be viewed in terms of concentric circles with respect to sanctity, going from the innermost outwards: The Temple is the innermost element, surrounded by the courtyard, the Temple Mount, Jerusalem, and the Land. However, this can also be viewed as relevance, as an internal affinity between the nation, the land, Jerusalem, and the Temple – such that the heart of the land and the nation are Jerusalem and the Temple, and they are all called by the name Zion. Zion is the heart and at the same time also the larger circle which encompasses the broadest area. The sources of the land and the people are Zion and the site of the Temple.
Tzion and Jerusalem
What is the relationship between Zion and Jerusalem? Do both names refer to the same place or to separate parts or elements of the essence of the city?
Rav Kook explains that the name Zion is an expression of royalty, while the name Jerusalem is related to sanctity. These two factors characterize the essence of the city. The link between royalty and sanctity corresponds to the unique affinity of the city to the tribe of Yehuda, which represents earthly royalty ("The scepter will not be removed from Yehuda, nor will the law from between his feet" [Bereishit 49:10]), together with the tribe of Binyamin, which represents the appearance of the Shechina ("To Binyamin he said, Loved by G-d, let him live with faith in Him; He stays close to him all day, and remains between his shoulders" [Devarim 33:12]).
Thus, Zion and Jerusalem together form a complete image of the capital city, combining royalty and holiness.
According to Rav Charlap, Zion refers to the material aspect of the city, while Jerusalem involves the spiritual side. He therefore explains that "two separate messages are necessary, one to Zion and the other to Jerusalem. 'Go up on a high mountain, messenger of Zion, lift up your voice, messenger of Jerusalem. Lift it high, have no fear. Tell the cities of Yehuda: Behold, your G-d' [Yeshayahu 40:9]. For Zion, the material side, it is enough to rise up to a high mountain – 'Go up on a high mountain, messenger of Zion.' For the spiritual aspect, more difficult labor is needed – 'Lift up your voice, messenger of Jerusalem.'"
The essence of the city, the combination of the material and the spiritual sides, the joining of royalty and sanctity, is expressed in the two names of the city – Zion and Jerusalem.

A Silly Little Dot

A beloved friend forwarded this to me, so I forward to you, my beloved friends......
Dear Rabbi ,
Why does the Jewish religion seem to obsess over insignificant details? How much matzo do we have to eat, which spoon did I use for milk and which for meat, what is the right way to tie my shoelaces? It seems to me that this misses the bigger picture by focusing on minutiae. Is this nitpicking what Jews call spirituality?
(I actually already sent you this question over a week ago and didn't receive a reply. Could it be that you have finally been asked a question that you can't answer?!)
I never claimed to have all the answers. There are many questions that are beyond me. But it happens to be that I did answer your question, and you did get the answer. I sent a reply immediately. The fact that you didn't receive it is itself the answer to your question.
You see, I sent you a reply, but I wrote your email address leaving out the "dot" before the "com." I figured that you should still receive the email, because after all, it is only one little dot missing. I mean come on, it's not as if I wrote the wrong name or something drastic like that! Would anyone be so nitpicky as to differentiate between "yahoocom" and ""? Isn't it a bit ridiculous that you didn't get my email just because of a little dot?
No, it's not ridiculous. Because the dot is not just a dot. It represents something. That dot has meaning far beyond the pixels on the screen that form it. To me it may seem insignificant, but that is simply due to my ignorance of the ways of the internet. All I know is that with the dot, the message gets to the right destination; without it, the message is lost to oblivion.
Jewish practices have infinite depth. Each nuance and detail contains a world of symbolism. And every dot counts. When they are performed with precision, a spiritual vibration is emailed throughout the universe, all the way to G-d's inbox.
If you want to understand the symbolism of the dot, study I.T.
If you want to understand the symbolism of Judaism, study it.

New Shiur

A brilliant mehalech about the nature of the 30 days of aveilus based on the the sefer Marbeh Chosem [as of yet unpublished and waiting for a holy sponsor] of HaRav Yaakov Dovid Homnick Shlita here.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

New Articles

My summary of a shiur on Maseches Shkalim recently given by the Rebbe Shlita, here.
An article on Chukos Akum including a brief discussion of Thanksgiving הבא עלינו ועל כל ישראל לטובה here.

Anyone Listening??

Today I had a shiur playing on my computer. At some point I turned off the sound. Many-many-hours-later, long after I forgot about it, I turned the sound back on [in order to hear some yiddeshe niggunim:-)] the shiur was still playing. So here it was. Hours and hours of Torah were playing but I was oblivious.

A moshol for life. Every day a bas kol emanates from Sinai and says "Woe for the insult of Torah" [Pirkei Avos]. The problemmmm issssss....

Nobody hears it......:-)

I Fall In

There is so much depth in this. I really believe that this is the life story of just about everyone I know. I thank my beloved friend R' Shmulie for the "mareh makom".

Autobiography in Five Short Chapters
By Portia Nelson
I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk
I fall in.
I am lost ... I am helpless.
It isn't my fault.
It takes me forever to find a way out.
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don't see it.
I fall in again.
I can't believe I am in the same place
but, it isn't my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
I still fall in ... it's a habit.
my eyes are open
I know where I am.
It is my fault.
I get out immediately.
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.
I walk down another street. 
SWEETEST FRIENDS!!! We are ALL stuck in patterns, some of them not beneficial, others harmful [be it physically, emotionally or spiritually]. What are YOUR patterns?? How are you going to break out of them? I have soooooooooooo much to say but alas, so many other things are demanding my attention [most of them in Aramaic:-)]. Please think about it and hopefully we will continue the conversation. Think about your relationships, your work/school habits etc. etc. 

Monday, November 18, 2013

New Sefer On-Line

This is a link to the Sefer כוסי רוויה which is a collection of great vorts on the parsha, many of them by the Rebbe Shlita. The sefer was written by the Rebbe Shlita's brother.

מרדכי אבינועם בן לאה

MORDECHAI AVINOAM BEN LEAH bisoch shear cholei yisrael.
Please daven, say tehillim, learn etc.
Thank you!

Misunderstanding The Text

A beloved friend forwarded me this article by R' Dr. Sacks. I believe that it is a miscarriage of biblical commentary.... My comments are in bold print.

I have argued in previous years of Covenant and Conversation that the episode in which the Jewish people acquired its name – when Jacob wrestled with an unnamed adversary at night and received the name Israel – is essential to an understanding of what it is to be a Jew. I argue here that it is equally critical to understanding what it is to lead.

 There are several theories as to the identity of “the man” who wrestled with the patriarch that night. The Torah calls him a man. The prophet Hosea called him an angel (Hosea 12:4, 5). The sages said it was Samael, guardian angel of Esau and a force for evil (Bereshith Rabbah 77; Rashi; Zohar). Jacob himself was convinced it was God. “Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared” (Gen. 32: 31). Dr. Sacks translates אלהים as God while the simple meaning of the text is that אלהים means an angel. So understands Unkelos and other classical commentaries. Why would I think that Yaakov wrestled with Hashem Himself?? Sounds blasphemous. The sources he mentioned don't present 'various' theories as to the identity of this "man".

 My argument is that we can only understand the passage against the entire background of Jacob’s life. Jacob was born holding on to Esau’s heel. He bought Esau’s birthright. He stole Esau’s blessing. When his blind father asked him who he was, he replied, “I am Esau your firstborn.” Jacob was the child who wanted to be Esau. Jacob didn't want to be Eisav. Rivka compelled him to present himself as Eisav [according to Unkelos she received a Divine communication to do so].

 Why? Because Esau was the elder. Because Esau was strong, physically mature, a hunter. Above all because Esau was his father’s favourite: “Isaac, who had a taste for wild game, loved Esau, but Rebecca loved Jacob” (Gen. 25: 28). Jacob is the paradigm case of what the French literary theorist and anthropologist Rene Girard called mimetic desire, meaning, we want what someone else wants, because we want to be that someone else. Yaakov wanted to be a hunter?? A specious, unfounded theory. Yaakov himself was strong [as Chazal point out when he removed the extremely heavy rock from the well] and didn't want to be Eisav because of this quality. Physically mature? Who says he wasn't - or cared...

 The result is tension between Jacob and Esau which rises to an unbearable intensity when Esau discovers that Jacob has taken the blessing Isaac had reserved for him, and vows to kill him when Isaac is no longer alive. The source of the tension is that Yaakov wanted to be Eisav???

 Jacob flees to Laban where he encounters more conflict and is on his way home when he hears that Esau is coming to meet him with a force of 400 men. In an unusually strong description of emotion the Torah tells us that Jacob was “very frightened and distressed,” frightened, no doubt, that Esau would try to kill him, and perhaps distressed that his brother’s animosity was not without cause. "and perhaps distressed that his brother’s animosity was not without cause". What indication is there for that in the text??

Jacob had indeed wronged him. Isaac says to Esau, “Your brother came deceitfully and took your blessing.”  The correct translation according to Rashi is "Your brother came with wisdom" not "with deceit", and so renders Unkelos. If it means deceit, why would Yitzchak say after he realizes the ruse, גם ברוך יהיה and award Yaakov the brachos?! 

Centuries later the prophet Hosea said, “The Lord has a charge to bring against Judah; he will punish Jacob according to his ways and repay him according to his deeds. In the womb he grasped his brother’s heel; as a man he struggled with God” (Hos. 12: 3-4). Rashi and the Radak say that holding on to Eisav's heel was a sign from Heaven that Yaakov would one day rule over him. He didn't struggle with God but with an angel [as we said]. He didn't do anything wrong.

 As long as Jacob sought to be Esau there was tension, conflict, rivalry. Esau felt cheated; Jacob felt fear. That night, about to meet Esau again after an absence of twenty two years Jacob wrestles with himself and finally throws off the image of Esau that he has carried with him all these years as the person he wants to be. This is the critical moment in Jacob’s life. From now on he is content to be himself. And it is only when we stop wanting to be someone else (in Shakespeare’s words, “desiring this man's art, and that man's scope, With what I most enjoy contented least”) that we can be at peace with ourselves and with the world. So the whole battle is that Yaakov will stop wanting to be Eisav?? I still find no basis for such a claim.

 This is one of the great challenges of leadership. It is all too easy for a leader to pursue popularity by being what people want him or her to be, a liberal to liberals, a conservative to conservatives, taking decisions that win temporary acclaim rather than flowing from principle and conviction. Presidential adviser David Gergen wrote about Bill Clinton that he “isn’t exactly sure who he is yet and tries to define himself by how well others like him. That leads him into all sorts of contradictions, and the view by others that he seems a constant mixture of strengths and weaknesses.”

Leaders sometimes try to “hold the team together” by saying different things to different people, but eventually these contradictions become clear – especially in the total transparency that modern media impose – and the result is that the leader will seem to lack integrity. People will no longer trust his or her remarks. There will be a loss of confidence and authority that may take a long time to restore. The leader may find that his or her position has become untenable and may be forced to resign. Few things make a leader more unpopular than the pursuit of popularity.

Great leaders have the courage to live with unpopularity. Lincoln was reviled and ridiculed during his lifetime. In 1864 the New York Times wrote of him: “He has been denounced without end as a perjurer, a usurper, a tyrant, a subverter of the Constitution, a destroyer of the liberties of his country, a reckless desperado, a heartless trifler over the last agonies of an expiring nation.” Churchill, until he became prime minister during the Second World War, had been written off as a failure. After the war he was defeated in the 1945 General Election. He himself said that “Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.” John F Kennedy and Martin Luther King were assassinated. When Margaret Thatcher died, some people celebrated in the streets.

Jacob was not a leader; there was as yet no nation for him to lead. Yet the Torah goes to great lengths to give us an insight into his struggle for identity, because it was not his alone. It happens to most of us (the word avot used to describe Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, means not only “fathers, patriarchs” but also “archetypes”). It is not easy to overcome the desire to be someone else, to want what they have, to be what they are. Most of us have such feelings from time to time. Girard argues that this has been the main source of conflict throughout history. It can take a lifetime of wrestling before we know who we are and relinquish the desire to be who we aren’t.

More than anyone else in Genesis Jacob is surrounded by conflict: not just between himself and Esau, but between himself and Laban, between Rachel and Leah, and between his children, Joseph and his brothers. It is as if the Torah were telling us that so long as there is a conflict within us, there will be a conflict around us. We have to resolve the tension in ourselves before we can do so for others. We have to be at peace with ourself before we can be at peace with the world.

That is what happens in this week’s parsha. After his wrestling match with the stranger, Jacob undergoes a change of personality. He gives back to Esau the blessing he took from him. The previous day he had given him back the material blessing by sending him hundreds of goats, ewes, rams, camels, cows, bulls and donkeys. Now he gives him back the blessing that said, “Be lord over your brothers, and may the sons of your mother bow down to you.” Jacob bows down seven times to Esau. He calls Esau “My lord,” and himself “your servant.” He actually uses the word “blessing,” though this fact is often obscured in translation. Chazal say that he was punished for this for he should not have done so.

 He says “Please take my blessing that has been brought to you” (Gen. 33: 11). The result is that the two brothers meet and part in peace. Rashi says the opposite - Eisav acknowledged that the blessings belonged to Yaakov [33/9].

People conflict. They have different interests, passions, desires, temperaments. Even if they didn’t, they would still conflict, as every parent knows. Children – and not just children – seek attention, and you can’t attend to everyone equally all the time. Managing the conflicts that affect every human group is the work of the leader; and if the leader is not sure of and confident in his or her identity, the conflicts will persist. Even if the leader sees him- or herself as a peacemaker, the conflicts will still persist.

The only answer is to “know thyself,” to wrestle with yourself as Jacob did on that fateful night, throwing off the person you might like to be but are not, accepting that some people will like you and what you stand for while others will not, and that it is better to seek the respect of some than the popularity of all. This may involve a lifetime of struggle, but the outcome is an immense strength. No one is stronger than one who knows who and what he is.

Lesson - when you read something, read with a critical eye. I often notice how people want to prove a point and so they find a text to twist to meet their tendentious purposes.

I will say that one should definitely find his personal identity. I just ask that we don't superimpose our ideas onto the Biblical text.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Gid Hanoshe Until This Very Day

[From the parsha sheet מעדני אשר from the section written and sponsored by my beloved friend and chavrusa, Banan Shel Kdoshim, R' Mordechai Ziskind Hager Shlita]

It says in the pasuk in this weeks parsha על כן לא יאכלו בני ישראל את גיד הנשה עד היום הזה - Therefore the Jewish people may not eat the gid hanoshe ["sciatic nerve" in Latin] UNTIL THIS DAY.

1] All mitzvos and aveiros are until this day. Why does the Torah single this one out??

2] Will this aveirah be in force לעתיד לבוא?

The Secret Of Success

My beloved friend and chavrusa, ohev Torah amiti and great baal middos, Bnan Shel Kdoshim, R' Mordechai Ziskind Hager Shlita, told me that he was chatting with a very prominent psychologist who charges $1000 a session for his services [great job for a kollel man. He works one afternoon a month and he is SET!! I envy his wife and children. When they sit and have a Shabbos meal with him, it is a $2,500 value]. R' Mordechai asked him what is the entire "Torah" on one leg. What makes a person successful in interpersonal relationships?

The psychologist answered [you may read and I won't charge you:-)]: One compliment a day.

R' Mordechai spoke at shaleshudes in the shul next to the Great Synagogue [in Heichal Shlomo] and mentioned this idea. Some time later an ooolllddd man in his eighties or even nineties approached him and told him that he has had a great relationship with his wife. He wishes his great shalom bayis on all yidden. But after he heard about the importance of giving a compliment he took it to heart and started doing it. He had been lax because he had taken much of what his wife did for him for granted. He said that since then things have improved considerably.

Try it......:-) It works on a roommate, a chavrusa, a neighbor, a Rav, a parent, etc. etc.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

We Are All Brothers

From Shabbat Bi-shabbato Parshas Vayishlach:

Menachem Begin began his historic address: "I want to confess to you that until this morning I had never heard the word 'tzchachtzchachim' (a derogatory term used against some Sephardim) and I had no idea what it meant... In the underground, during the era of the revolution, Galili asked me, 'How can we solve the problem of the Sephardim in the Eitzel?' I looked at him in shock, and I said to him, 'Yisrael, what are you saying? What is the problem?' And he said, 'What, haven't you heard? The problem of the Sephardi sector.'
"So I still say to him: What is the problem? There is no problem! We are all brothers, we are all Jews, we are all equal – All of us! ... Gidi, who was involved in the historic action in the King David Hotel, was a Sephardi, the one in charge of all the prisoners in Latrun was a Yemenite, and all of our boys stood at attention in front of him! What problem? There is no problem! We are all Jews! We are all brothers! We all fight together!
"The sons of the Mizrachi sector were courageous fighters, heroes. In the underground, some of them were hanged by the British, and until their last breath they continued to sing Hatikvah. They startled an entire world with their outstanding bravery. They went to prison, to concentration camps, they fought and did not crack, they shouted at the British judges the words: We do not recognize your authority. You must leave here, go away from Eretz Yisrael!
"Feinstein was of a European origin. How do you say it – Ashkenazi. Moshe Barezani was a Sephardi, from Iraq. The night after they were sentenced to die, and the next morning their bodies would have to be taken down from the gallows, the rabbi was an old man. He said he would come to take them down, but they didn't want to cause disrespect for the rabbi, so they blew themselves up with hand grenades. They fought! Ashkenazim? Iraqis? They were Jews! Brothers! Warriors!"
[Menachem Begin, the Tzchachtzchachim Speech, 1981]
     * * * * * *
A child stood at the entrance of the kindergarten and loudly declared: "No Ashkenazim allowed!" A sweet-looking little girl approached the entrance. The young "guard" asked her: "Are you Ashkenazi or Sehpardi?"
I will never forget the innocent reply of that sweet young girl. "What does that mean, Ashkenazi or Sephardi? What am I, a synagogue?" And she went right on, into the kindergarten.
     * * * * * *
The only valid answer to racism and deprivation is what was said by Menachem Begin and by the young girl in the kindergarten. The cultural differences between us are a matter for the synagogue. Outside of this, we are all brothers. We are all Jews

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Believe In Your Greatness

It is incumbent upon us to understand our greatness and believe in it so that we do not cheapen and profane ourselves.
R' Meir Kahane

How To Make The World A Better Place

Many years ago at Shabbos chanuka seuda, the Rebbe Shlita offered an original insight into the cconcept of "kinas sofrim tarbe chochma". The simple meaning is that when one scholar is jealous of another, the jealous one will learn with more diligence and increase his knowledge.

However there can be another meaning. When you know that I am jealous of you, it increases YOUR knowledge. If people are jealous of you because of a quality you have, it helps you value it more.

He told the story of a very arrogant doctor with whom he had to deal when his grandfather ztz"l was ill. The doctor was completely full of himself and quite obnoxious about it as well [I know people who are full of them themselves but are more amiable, sometimes it is even a bit cute:-)]. When they accidentally entered his waiting room, he scolded and ejected them [an elderly Chasidic Rebbe and his grandson!].

Afterwards, the Rebbe ztz"l insisted on making the long and painful trek [for him with his illness] back to the doctors room in order to apologize. The doctor rudely received them, whereupon the Rebbe ztz"l told the doctor how special it is that he is a doctor, something that Rebbe himself was not able to be. The doctor could almost not believe his ears, softened ..... and started to cry. He said [if I remember correctly] that it was one of the only kind words he had heard about himself in his life.

Tell someone how much you envy a talent they have and help them appreciate themselves. It will make the world a better place.

I promise:-).

לזכות רפואת שרה רבקה בת בריינדל לאה בתוך שח"י


"Other-esteem is--quite simply--a word to describe the view you have of another person. Even more, the feeling that view brings out in you. The value you can find in that person. Other-esteem is high when you like what you see in the other, both in the present and the imaginable future. You find that person to be capable of improvement, worthy of it."

The First Mishna In Yoma

The first mishna in Yoma teaches that 7 days before Yom Kippur the Kohen Gadol is separated from his home and we appoint a substitute kohen gadol for him lest he become tamei. שבעת ימים קודם יום הכיפורים מפרישין הכהן גדול מביתו ללשכת הפרהדרין ומתקינין לו כהן אחר תחתיו שמא יארע בו פסול.

When one reads a holy text, every word has significance. So let us be "medayek":

1] Why שבעת and not שבעה. If I would have written the mishna I would have written שבעה because that is the regular way of writing 7.

2] Why does it say כהן אחר - it would have been enough to write מתקינין לו כהן and we know that it is another kohen.

3] Why does it say מתקינין לו we set aside for him. It is not for him but for all of the Jewish people, so the word לו is superfluous.

Woops - have a chavrusa on skype now. Hope to get to the answers later.... In the meantime you can ponder these points.

[From last nights weekly iyun daf yomi shiur from the Rebbe Shlita]

Monday, November 11, 2013

Dealing With Those Who Don't Appreciate You

This is in response to an email communication where I was asked by a dear friend how to deal with relatives who are less than religiously inspired.

Dearest Beloved Friend!

First - Kabbala....

There are billions of worlds. Souls descend from different worlds. Some souls descend from higher worlds and are therefore of a higher quality. Other souls descend from lower worlds and are of less spiritual quality. You can see it in people. Some people have this irresistible attraction to spirituality. Even from a young age you can often see it. Some people are solid religious Jews but are just not excited by spirituality. Some are spiritually tone-deaf. EVERYBODY has a purpose in this world and just because someone is not the Amshinover Rebbe doesn't mean that he doesn't have a job to do here. Everybody is obligated to maximize their potential.

That is nature. There is also nurture. A lot has to do with how a person is raised, who his influences are and what his experiences have been. The confluence of these two factors, nature and nurture, will determine what type of spiritual constitution a person has.

So we often have children in this generation who are very spiritual and their family members are not. The nature of many of those who themselves don't appreciate spirituality is to scoff at and mock those who are more passionate [including branding them fanatics or other 'terms of endearment']. There are numerous reasons for this which are not our topic.

So what is one to do about those who oppose his [or, possibly more often, her] religious growth and enthusiasm?

First of all: Rachmanus. Poor them. There is NO simcha and fulfillment in life like closeness to Hashem and His ways. People don't appreciate Torah but if they would taste the sweetness that thousands taste with every daf gemara and every tosfos they would change their attitude. So they deserve compassion that their pleasures in life are the externals such as restaurants and pro sports. Mamesh nebach. I have tasted tosphos and also delicious turkey and the depth and meaning that the former give are incomparable to the gastronomic pleasure afforded by the latter. The ideal is to be able to enjoy BOTH [while realizing what life is truly about]. וטוב לב משתה תמיד - Life should be a constant party, said the wisest of all men.

One must also realize that the air in America is spiritually contaminating [in the words of Rav Elchonon Wasserman who visited America to fund raise "Der lift is farsamt" - The air is tamei]. Most people there think that the primary purpose of life is economic i.e. MONEYYYYYY. אלהי כסף ואלהי זהב - gods of gold and silver. Even people who daven three times a day with a minyan and never miss a daf yomi also think this way. It is a disease that needs a serious refuah....

The truth is that money is just a means but not an end. It is very hard for people to accept this. Deep down they know that it's true, even goyim know that its true, but in daily life, people don't think that way, not in the U.S.A [at least not most people].

So if we understand that it is a national malady that afflicts all types from all circles, it is easier to accept.

So sweetest friends - don't take it personally! If you wear a long skirt and your mother tells you to be normal, give her an answer she won't be able to counter "I love you Mommy. You are the best". [If you are a guy - she might have a point though...:-)].

If you want to learn and your parents tell you that you are wasting your time, say "Mom and Dad, you are the most wonderful parents in the world. Thank you sooooo much for your care and concern." Then kiss them. And mean it! You are only Jewish because of them. You only exist because of them. You owe them everything. You don't have to listen to them but you have to respect and appreciate them.

You are not going to convince them that the purpose of the briyah is limmud hatorah and avodas Hashem. If you try that argument, you will be branded "nuts" or "out of touch with reality". Avoid argument [see the statement of Rav Yochanan in Sanhedrin 38b which is frightening in its harshness and profound truth].

One day, when moshiach comes and after 120, everyone will know the emes. In the meantime - YOU know the emes and that is what matters. Thank Hashem that you are connected to what is real and lasting and don't let the criticism affect you.

THIS is what it's all about. Sends chills up my spine.....:-)

Love and blessings,


Clinton's Rov

Excerpted from a news source....

In his autobiography, President Bill Clinton writes that during the Lewinsky scandal [that was when Big Bill was nichshal in issurei yichud..], he took refuge in a select group of spiritual writings. “On most of the nights when I was home in the White House, I spent two to three hours alone in my office,” he recounts, “reading the Bible and books on faith and forgiveness [wonder if Rebbetzin Hillary was mikabeles his tshuva...], and ..... a series of mini-sermons from Rabbi Menachem Genack of Englewood, New Jersey.”

So, who is Menachem Genack? He is the CEO of the Orthodox Union’s Kosher Division, the largest kosher certification service in the world. He is the rabbi of a synagogue in Englewood and teaches at Yeshiva University. He is also “Bill Clinton’s rabbi,” a title conferred upon him by the former president in his foreword to Genack’s new book, Letters to President Clinton: Biblical Lessons on Faith and Leadership. The two met while Clinton was still governor of Arkansas and have remained friends ever since. In Genack’s new book, the rabbi publicly chronicles this relationship for the first time.

“I think [the book] demonstrates certain qualities about the president,” Genack told me. “First of all, that he can maintain, over a 20-year period, this kind of relationship and interest in a tradition that’s not his own—after all, he’s a Southern Baptist—speaks very much to his intellectual curiosity and openness.”

The book, Genack adds, is also a testament to one of Clinton’s lesser-known qualities: “his striking familiarity with the Bible.” As historian Jonathan Sarna writes in his introductory blurb, “Bill Clinton appreciated the Bible more than any American president since Abraham Lincoln.” The book offers many examples of this facet of the president’s personality. Genack recalls how in one of his letters, he included a reference to the biblical story of Judah and Tamar, but mistakenly cited it from Genesis 28. When Clinton wrote back, he gently pointed out to his rabbinic respondent that the account was actually found in Genesis 38.

Martin Marty, the noted Lutheran theologian, tells a similar story in Genack’s book about a meeting of Christian leaders at the White House in 1994. “Several people at the table said they were praying for the president. He asked what they prayed for. A prominent evangelist said he was praying from the following verse in 1 Chronicles: ‘If my people, which they are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.’ The president correctly said, ‘I believe that is in Second Chronicles.’” (And it was.)

Genack speaks very highly of Clinton, whom he calls an “extremely caring and gracious person, interested in people and interested in things beyond his own experience.” But the rabbi does not shirk from the elephant in the room: How can an Orthodox rabbi maintain such a close friendship with a politician infamous in many circles for his personal improprieties?

“I think the answer is that we as Jews believe that when God judges us on the days of judgment—Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur—he doesn’t just look at our weak points, our sins, he measures everything in context,” says Genack. “That’s true not only about Bill Clinton, that’s true about all of us, because we all have our sins and personal foibles that we are ashamed about, and you have to understand every person in context. If we would only view a person at his nadir, at his lowest point, that would be a terrible way to view people and the world.” An entire section of the book, “Sin and Repentance,” is devoted to this very subject.

But one of Genack’s favorite anecdotes in the book has nothing to do with Judaism. It’s the story of how his 5-year-old son asked Clinton to find his stolen bicycle. “Shortly after becoming president, he was trying to put his budget together, and he had a lot of difficulty getting it passed,” Genack recalled. So the White House summoned supporters to Washington, D.C., to help with the lobbying effort. Genack was one of them, which is how he found himself sitting around the table with Clinton and other federal officials, and called on by the president to speak.

“I told him that we had gotten my son, then 5 years old, a new bike, but he had left it on the baseball field and it was stolen. So the day before I left for the White House, my wife was tucking him into bed and told him, ‘Daddy’s going to the White House to meet the president.’ And he said to her, ‘Don’t forget to tell Daddy to tell the president about my bike.’”

“Of course,” Genack continues, “this was when Clinton was having such a difficult time initially and was being called a failed president. So when he called on me, I said, ‘Mr. President, I want you to know that there’s at least one person in this country who thinks you’re omnipotent, but he’s only 5 years old.’” He chuckles. “It elicited a laugh from the president, but not a bicycle.”

How To Be Happy

Excerpted from Mishpacha Magazine:

A recent article in the Atlantic by Emily Esfahani Smith entitled “Meaning Is Healthier Than Happiness” offers such evidence. The subject of happiness is all the rage. Esfahani Smith notes that Amazon listed 1,000 new titles on happiness in the preceding three months alone.
And among the claims made by celebrants of happiness is that it pays off all kinds of health benefits. A recent study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, however, suggests that all depends upon what you mean by happiness.
Steven Cole, a professor of medicine and psychiatry at UCLA, has researched the impact of chronic adversity — loneliness, financial stress, grief over the loss of a loved one — on a particular gene expression pattern. Such chronic adversity produces a stress-related pattern marked by an increase in activity of pro-inflammatory genes and a decrease in activity of genes involved in antiviral responses.
Cole and coresearcher, Barbara Frederickson ofUniversityofNorth Carolina, found to their great surprise that those who score high on what they call “hedonic wellbeing” — as measured by such questions as “How often do you feel happy?” “How often do you feel interested in life?” “How often do you feel satisfied?” — display the same gene expression patterns as people who are enduring chronic adversity.
What leads to a dramatic difference in gene expression is a state researchers term “eudaimonic predominance.” Here the crucial questions are: “How often do you feel that your life has a sense of direction or meaning to it?” “How often did you feel that you have something to contribute to society?” And “How often do you feel that you belong to a community/social group?”
Hedonic wellbeing and eudaimonic wellbeing are not mutually exclusive. Some people rank high on both scales. But where there is a strong predominance of hedonic wellbeing, then the gene expression is that of people suffering from chronic adversity. And where there is an eudaimonic predominance, even among those who express low levels of hedonic happiness, we find exactly the opposite.
Smith describes the essential difference between the two types of wellbeing as that between “giving” and “taking.” Hedonic happiness corresponds to selfish “taking” behavior. The happiness associated with meaning is associated with selfless “giving” behavior. The triggers for the former type of happiness tend to be self-centered and all about one feeling good — e.g., a good meal, the victory of one’s favorite sports team. “Happiness without meaning characterizes a relatively shallow, self-absorbed, or even selfish life, in which things go well, needs and desires are easily satisfied, and difficult or taxing entanglements are avoided,” write Cole and Frederickson. At the other end are those activities that involve helping others and contributing to their wellbeing. Such activities do not necessarily make a person happy, but they do make life meaningful.

New Shiur

A shiur on Surrogate Motherhood - who is the halachic mother, when an egg of one woman is implanted in another woman here. [Warning - somewhat complex shiur at various points].

Sunday, November 10, 2013

The Same But Different

לזכות רפואת שרה רבקה בת בריינדל לאה ואיתמר בן מירי- מרים בתוך שח"י

Rav says [Kiddushin 47a] that if a man approaches a woman and says that he wants to marry her with a loan that she owes him, they are not married. The language of the gemara is המקדש במלוה אינה מקודשת. The rationale is that a loan is given to be spent - מלוה להוצאה ניתנה. Therefore, after she receives the money he can't "give" it to her again because it is already considered spent and if a man doesn't "give" something to a woman he can't be married [after marraige he should keep giving but that is another topic...]. OK. All is well.

Then the gemara says that this principle of the amora Rav is disputed by tannaim. One tanna maintains that one who marries a woman with a loan is married and the other tanna holds that he is not.


Not fine.

If one started the masechta at daf מז everything is cool. But if one previously learned daf ו he begins to wonder. Their we have a statement by Abaye that ....המקדש במלוה אינה מקודשת. Same thing! Different Rabbi. But on daf ו it doesn't say that this statement is the source of a machlokes tannaim.

This is an important methodological point. When you have two parallel sugyos, it is worth your time and effort to compare and contrast and you will often see wonders of Toras Hashem.

Suggested HaGaon Rav Chaim Stein ztz"l, the Rosh Yeshiva of Telz [Ohel Chiya Page 998]: On daf ו Abaye is talking about someone who marries a woman with an absolute debt, in other words, money that is not בעין [the money is gone]. There we have no argument and the woman is not married. On daf מז we are talking about money that the man gave as a loan to the woman and she still has it. In such an instance, there is an argument whether she can be married with such a loan. Hence, the gemara says that the statement of Rav is a subject of a Tannaic dispute. [With this understanding in hand, he also resolves a difficult Rambam that has been the subject of much discussion over the centuries].

See also the Kuntres Orah Vi-simcha on Maseches Kiddushin by HaRav Yaakov Dovid Homnick Shlita for a very original proposal. [In Rav Homnicks sfarim, most called "Marbeh" something, he excels at comparing and contrasting parallel sugyos and showing what each one is teaching us].

For a few words on the sugya of Hamekadesh Bi-milveh you can see what was written recently, here.   

What A Chacham!

There was once a Yid who was an ascetic. He would eat and sleep very little, and subsisted on the bare minimum. Under his long jacket he would wear sackcloth as a sign of simplicity and lowliness. One time he came to the tzadik and felt that the tzadik should know what a high level he has reached. So he opened up his jacket a little to reveal the sackcloth that was his garb. The tzadik muttered "What a chacham, what a chacham!!"

The ascetic couldn't control himself and asked "Who is a chacham?"

"The yetzer hara", replied the tzadik "that he could take a Yid like you and put him in sackcloth..."

What do you learn from this story?

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Avoiding Death

“The utilitarian behaves sensibly in all that is required for preservation but never takes account of the fact that he must die...His whole life is absorbed in avoiding death, which is inevitable, and therefore he might be thought to be the most irrational of men, if rationality has anything to do with understanding ends or comprehending the human situation as such. He gives way without reserve to his most powerful passion and the wishes it engenders.”  

Allan Bloom
The Closing of The American Mind

Weekly sugya on the parsha - here
It is a bit late and ironically the topic is the isser of not bringing korbanos too late [known in study halls around the globe as בל תאחר]
Kushya yomis here.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Being Saved From Lavan - בימים ההם בזמן הזה

Rochel and Leah say כי כל העושר אשר הציל אלקים מאבינו לנו הוא - All of the wealth that Hashem "saved" from our father is ours [31/16].

Rashi says that the word הציל means to separate. Funny that earlier [31/9] we had the same word and Rashi didn't say anything.

What was Lavan trying to do? Lavan was trying to mix his tumah into everything that Yaakov had. הבנות בנותי והבנים בני וכל אשר אתה רואה לי הוא. All that you have, is MINE, said Lavan. כל אשר לבן בו -  There was Lavan in EVERYTHING [30/35], says the Zohar. He wanted to contaminate Yaakov with his Lavan-ess.

The true הצלה is to separate from Lavan. Many Jews who went through the holocaust never recovered. Every time they heard a loud noise they screamed Heil Hitler and saluted, as they had in the camps. You can take a Jew out of Aushwitz but can't take Aushwitz out of the Jew. Even when they left Lavan it wasn't certain that they would really be separated. That is why the pasuk emphasizes that Hashem הציל he separated them from Lavan.

That is also the meaning of the second lashon of geula. והוצאתי והצלתי וגאלתי ולקחתי. What is the הצלתי after והוצאתי? After Hashem takes the Jews out of Egypt, he has to take Egypt out of the Jews.

[See also the pasuk in Shmos where Moshe says to Hashem והצל לא הצלת את עמך which takes on a new meaning...]

We can also understand the statement ארמי אובד אבי - The Arami was Lavan and he tried to destroy Yaakov by mixing his tumah into everything. [Imrei Emes]

In the Rambam Hilchos Chanuka he says that Hashem was מושיע [saved] the Jews from the Greeks and adds והציל אותם. What is the הצלה if we already had a ישועה? Yeshua is being saved, והציל is that he took the Greek-ness out of the Jews.

The Levush says that זדים ביד עוסקי תורתך we say in Al Hanissim is referring to those Jews who had been influenced by Greek attitudes. We had to be saved from them too.

That also explains  why Rashi only explained the word now and not when it was mentioned earlier [31/9]. Then it was Yaakov talking about himself. In the later pasuk it was Lavan's daughters talking. It is much more difficult to separate them from the horrible "klippah" that was Lavan for they grew up in his house.

That is also why Yaakov consulted with his wives about leaving even though he received a Divine command to go. He wanted to see if they were ready to separate themselves from the tumah of their home. They affirmed that they were. כל אשר הציל אלקים מאבינו לנו הוא - Everything Hashem separated from our father is OURS and no longer connected to him.

Let us separate ourselves from all impure external influences and have a great shabbos!

[Summary of the Rebbe Shlita's shiur last night]

Darkness - Reality - Demons - This Is An Interesting Blog!

Regarding the previous post, I received the following communication from a talmid chochom:

.....As for the obvious proof from Psachim 2a, the true conclusion of a mevakesh emes, in my opinion, is this:

Choshech is not a physical metzius but a he'edar ohr.  However...

Spiritual reality is determined not by the degree of matter or chemical content, but by perception.  Once a condition exists which can be 'nitfas' in re'iyah and/or daas, it has a metzius in the spiritual sense.  Consequently, choshech is a metzius in daas (or in "the machshavah of briah") and as such can have its own malach who can be summoned before H-m and given assignments...

It reminded me of the following passage in the Sefer Zikaron published in his memory. He deals with the seeming contradiction between Chazal who believed in the existence of demons and the Rambam who seemingly did not. This is what he wrote. [I will not translate, mainly because it is almost Shabbos and I have 50,000 things to do. But it is worth learning the original]:

במאמרי חז"ל מצינו כמה פעמים ענינים מורים על מציאותם של שדים. ומהלך הסברה בזה הוא דידוע מאמר אדר"נ פל"א שכל מה שיש בעולם יש באדם. והוא הדין לאידך גיסא. והנה באדם נמצא במוח כוח הדמיון, שבכוח זה האדם מצייר לעצמו מציאות שאינה מצויה בכלל העולם. וה"ז מציאות רק בכוח המדמה. ומכיון שישנו כוח כזה באדם, בודאי שנמצא דוגמתו בריה בעולם. הבריות הללו הם הם הנקראים שדים. כלומר, שהם מציאות-בלתי-מציאות. והנה באמרנו על איזה ענין שאין זה אלא דמיון, כונתנו שאין דבר כזה במציאות. אבל  מי שעסקו הוא בכוחות הנפש של האדם, בודאי שבשעה שהוא חוקר את הנעשה במוחו של אדם, בודאי שבשבילו הדמיון הזה הוא מציאות גמורה. ולהכי שפיר כתב הר"מ (פיה"מ ע"ז ד) דשדים אינם במציאות כלל. ואין זה סותר כלל וכלל לכל המאמרים המורים על מציאותם של שדים.
The writer of the communication is a talmid of Rav Hutner so it makes sense that Rebbe and Talmid think alike...

Thursday, November 7, 2013

What Is Darkness?

What is darkness?

Is darkness merely a lack of light or is darkness a significant and substantive reality? In the language of the Philosophers, is darkness העדר אור or a מציאות.

The Rambam in his "Moireh" cites the opinion of the school of the מדברים who maintain that darkness is not merely a lack of light but the Rambam differs and contends that it is.

The Heilige Rogochover discusses this question and brings numerous proofs from Chazal that darkness is a metzius.

1] The Yerushalmi [Brachos 6/8] offers a moshol of two servants of the king. One is given the daytime to serve, the other is given the night. In the same vein, light serves during the day while darkness serves at night. From here we see that darkness is a metzius, a substantive reality.

2] There is an argument in the Yerushalmi [Brachos 1/1] when the day starts and when the day ends. According to one opinion it starts at sunset while the other opinion maintains that it starts when the stars come out. One opinion holds that the night ends at dawn while the other opinion holds that it ends at sunrise.

They are arguing about our question. If darkness is a lack of light then as long as there is still light it is day. That is why night starts when three stars appear and it is completely dark but not before. But if darkness is a metzius, then the moment the sun sets and it gets a bit dark, it is already considered night.

The same logic applies to the argument about the end of the night. If darkness is a lack of light then the moment light appears at dawn the day starts and night ends. But if darkness is a metzius then as long as there is any darkness, its שלטון and reign has not ended and it is not yet the time of the "ruling" of the day. That only begins when all of the darkness disappears at sunrise. [I could see one arguing with this logic but I am certain that if the Rogochover would hear my question he would swallow me up alive, so I will keep my question to myself and ask him in the olam ha-emes where things are safe...:-)].

3] In davening we say וגולל אור מפני חושך - Hashem "rolls away" the light before the darkness. This implies that darkness is a metzuis. Hashem has to "bring" the darkness. If it weren't a metzius but just a lack of light, then we could say "וגולל אור" alone, he removes the light and automatically there is darkness.

4] The gemara in Psachim [2a] says that Hashem called the dark and commanded it to appear at night. That implies that it is a metzius and not just a lack of light.

So we learned some philosophy, some Yerushalmi and tasted Torah from the Rogochover Gaon, the most brilliant Rav in a thousand years. Are you glad you came??

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Kushya yomis here.
A man can no more diminish God's glory by refusing to worship Him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word, 'darkness' on the walls of his cell.
C.S. Lewis

נופר הודיה בת נורית

Added name - PLEASE DAVEN!

4 Questions On The Parsha

Leah was SOOOOO happy that she had more than her portion of children [she was only supposed to have 3], so when number four was born, she called him Yehuda "הפעם אודה את השם" - This time I will thank Hashem. Then it says that she stopped having babies ותעמוד מלדת.

Four questions from the Rebbe Shlita:

1] Why didn't she call her son אודה. Why יהודה? I think that אודה is a really nice name. [I actually wanted to name one of my twin sons אודה. But I never had twins....]

2] Why does she only thank Hashem because she received MORE than her portion. Shouldn't she thank Hashem for EVERYTHING? Each child deserves special thanks, not just the extras.

3] Why does the Torah say ONLY ABOUT LEAH ותעמוד מלדת and not about any of the other imahos? Why? They also stopped giving birth at some point.

4] The gemara [Brachos 7] says that Leah was the first person to thank Hashem. Odd, as there are medrashim that Adam thanked Hashem, Noach thanked Hashem and Eliezer thanked Hashem. They were a bit before Leah? 

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

נופר בת אורית

A 17 year old girl was hit by an Arab driver on Sunday  She is from the Elazar community  She is hemorrhaging from her brain and they can't control it  Nofar Bat Orit  May she have a complete and speedy recovery and may she be the last and final victim in Klal Yisroel

What Might Happen When Someone Doesn't Have Torah

If the fetus does not have the same claim to life as a person, it appears that the newborn baby does not either, and the life of a newborn baby is of less value to it than the life of a pig, a dog, or a chimpanzee is to the nonhuman animal.
If we can put aside these emotionally moving but strictly irrelevant aspects of the killing of a baby we can see that the grounds for not killing persons do not apply to newborn infants. (Practical Ethics)

Who is the author of this statement? A Nazi perhaps??

No, actually a Jew, Ben Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov. A son of refugees from Vienna before the war and world renowned professor [and, in theory, murderer].

I wonder what I missed out on by not attending university. On a purely moral level, I believe that I missed out on nothing of value [even though universities have turned into vocational schools but that is besides the point].

A talmid chochom brought a pasuk in Hoshea [13/2] to my attention: זבחי אדם עגלים ישקון - Slaughterers of man, kissers of calves.

This same professor thinks there is nothing morally wrong with a human being having relations with an animal. And how about this zinger: "In fact, an intelligent adult ape has more conscious interests than a newborn human infant. Therefore, faced with the choice of rescuing from a fire either a severely retarded infant, who is unlikely to develop many preferences in the future, and an ape, we should rescue the ape. To think otherwise is simple bigotry, an example of speciesism. We should no more be speciesists than racists or sexists."

All one has to do is reject the concept of tzelem Elokim and all human beings are just over-developed animals. My ninth grade biology teacher enjoyed reminding us that we are all just animals. I should have told him to speak for himself....

A young boy approached his mother and asked "Where do I come from?". His mother answered "From me and daddy." The child didn't relent. "And where do you and daddy come from?" The mother answered "From our parents." "And where do they come from?" "From their parents". "Yes, but where did the first parents come from?" The mother answered "Adam and Eve were created by G-d".

The child was a seeker so he asked his father the same series of questions and received the same answers until he asked him where the first people came from. The father, a tenured Professor at Yale, answered "The first people descended from monkeys".

The child, ever curious, returned to his mother and asked her "Daddy says that the first people came from monkeys but you told me that the first people came from G-d?"
The mother answered "Ahhhhhhh, we are both right. My side of the family came from G-d and your father's side of the family came from monkeys...."

What To Do When Waiting For Hashem's Help

A Jew had a lot of tzaros and went to see Rav Yisrael of Rizhin for a bracha and advice. When he left, the Rebbe's 11 year old son, Dovid [who later became the Heilige Chortkover Rebbe] asked what his father had said. The man said that the Rebbe told him that Hashem will help. The boy told the man to go back in and ask what will be until Hashem helps. The man went back in and told Dovid that the Rebbe said that until Hashem helps ..... Hashem will help:-).

Little Dovid said that this is the meaning of the pasuk in Parshas Vayeitzei "כי לא אעזבך עד אשר עשיתי את אשר דיברתי לך" - I will not abandon you until I do as I promised. Meaning, that until Hashem helps, He will help.

לזכות גיטל פייגע בת ביילא בלומא להצלחה  בכל העניינים

Monday, November 4, 2013

Misplaced Tears

There is an interesting letter from Rav Kook to his son [also known, oddly enough, as Rav Kook]. There was a period when his son was a vegetarian and his father asked that he not let it affect his health. He also told him not to be swayed by animal rights activists, many of whom HATE people and care only about animals.

This past Motzei Shabbos, at the melave malka tisch, the Rebbe Shlita related that when he was young he read the memoirs of a certain Nazi. This Nazi would write in his diary daily with satisfaction how many people he had sent to their deaths. 500, 1000, 2000 - Kol hamarbeh harei zeh meshubash [in his twisted, evil mind]. He never shed a tear or expressed guilt.

Then a "tragedy" befell him. His beloved dog was "niftar". It was extremely difficult for him to deal with the loss. Then he did something he never did for the thousands upon thousand of Jews he tortured and killed.

He cried.

Zachor eis asher asah licha Amalek. Yimach shmom vi-zichrom li-olmei ad!!!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Go To The Source

What does the pasuk in tehillim [and Hallel] mean when it says "Hashem li bozroi, vi-ani er-eh bi-sonai. Tov lachasos baShem mibtoach b'adam" - Hashem is with me with my helpers and I will see my enemies. It is better to take refuge in Hashem than in people [translation from "Allyscroll siddur" as of yet unpublished].

Moshol: A person has a court case so he gets anyone he can to speak to the judge to convince him to give a favorable judgement. In Israel this is called " ויטימן P" [Protektzia, which means inside connections]. But then he realizes that, Hey, he can speak to the judge himself.

"Hashem is with me with my helpers" - I know that all of my helpers are just messengers of Hashem to help me and have no independent power. "And I will see my enemies" - All of my enemies are ALSO just agents carrying out the Divine will.

But "Hey" - the " ה" stands for "Hashem", why don't I just turn directly to the Source. "It is better to take refuge in Hashem than in nobles". Forget the vitamin P and turn to the King of Kings!


[From a letter of Rav Kook after the San Remo conference in 1920, printed in Igros Ri-iyah Vol.4 Page 56]

Lizchus Gittel Feiga bas Beila Bluma livracha vi-hatzlacha bichol ha-inyanim!

Friday, November 1, 2013

Makes You Wonder...

So weiiirrddd!

Rivka tells Yaakov 27/9] to take two goats for me. Rashi says that it was hers - קח לי - because her husband promised her in the ksuba two goats a day.

In the NEXT RASHI he asks does a person eat two goats a day [see there]? Of course not. So if people don't eat so much - why did Yitzchak promise it to Rivka?? Would I promise my wife six pizza pies a day?? A bit much. So why did Yitzchak promise Rivka so much more than she needed?

[Heard from the Rebbe Shlita]

Answers can be sent to me or my secretary.