Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Guard Thy Tongue

One of the many reasons I LOVE being Jewish is the emphasis our Torah places on the importance of guarding one's speech. As a recovering youthful sports addict, I refer to five "foot-the-mouth-stories" from the world of Greek conquest...

1] The late Howard Cosell, famed Monday Night Football commentator, attracted a firestorm of criticism for calling a Washington Redskins wide receiver a "little monkey" during a 1983 telecast. Cosell left the MNF booth at the end of that season.

2] Aging Los Angeles Dodgers executive Al Campanis, who came up under general manager Branch Rickey, the man who integrated baseball with Jackie Robinson in 1947, saw his long career come to an immediate end in 1987 when he appeared on ABC's "Nightline" and confusedly compared black players' inability to acquire baseball managerial jobs with an inability to swim.

3] A clearly inebriated Jimmy "the Greek" Snyder saw his 12-year run on the hugely popular CBS football pregame show "The NFL Today" disintegrate when he gave an interview to a local Washington, D.C., television station in 1988 in which he said black athletes were dominating pro sports because of superior athletic genes developed from decades of breeding by white slave owners.

4] Atlanta Braves pitcher John Rocker was haunted for the rest of his career by an interview he gave to Sports Illustrated in 1999 in which he was quoted as criticizing foreigners, homosexuals, and New York City.

5] And just last season, Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Riley Cooper was nationally lambasted for using the "N-word" ["Narishkeit"? "Neveileh"?] during a drunken tirade at a Kenny Chesney concert that was caught on film. For weeks there was speculation that Cooper's NFL career was over.

[Though he apologized repeatedly, many players and sports commentators felt Cooper could no longer go on playing in the league. However, he went on to have his most successful year as a pro and signed a new five-year deal with the Eagles in February.]

As King Solomon said it best - שומר פיו ולשונו, שומר מצרות נפשו.

תינוק בן יטא עליזה

Tinok ben Yita Aliza - please daven!

The Right Wrong Person

A good quote:

“We’re all seeking that special person who is right for us. But if you’ve been through enough relationships, you begin to suspect there’s no right person, just different flavors of wrong. Why is this? Because you yourself are wrong in some way, and you seek out partners who are wrong in some complementary way. But it takes a lot of living to grow fully into your own wrongness. And it isn’t until you finally run up against your deepest demons, your unsolvable problems—the ones that make you truly who you are—that we’re ready to find a lifelong mate. Only then do you finally know what you’re looking for. You’re looking for the wrong person. But not just any wrong person: the right wrong person—someone you lovingly gaze upon and think, 'This is the problem I want to have.'
I will find that special person who is wrong for me in just the right way.
Let our scars fall in love.”

The Mitzvos Of Kofrim

Recently we posted about people who keep mitzvos but don't really believe in them. Does such a person even get credit if he does a mitzva sans belief??

How do you pronounce "sans"? Did I use it correctly??

Anyway, the heilige Reb Elchonon ztz"l in his Kovetz Shiurim [vol. 2 simman 47/14] discusses this matter and says "No way!" How can one be considered doing a mitzva if he doesn't believe in the metzave [i.e. G-d]? The action is in the category of מתעסק - a completely unintentional action. He doesn't MEAN to do a mitzva so it is like a mistake. Rav Hutner ztz"l in the Pachad on Pesach [maamar 10] echoes this thought. R' Naftali Bar-Ilan treats this issue at length in the Ohr Hamizrach journal [37 page 224 and on]. עיין שם!

Rav Shlomo Zalman ztz"l [in Halichos Shlomo] had a different approach. He posited that when a person does a mitzva, even if he is a kofer, he ALSO has a "tzad" [sneaking suspicion] that there IS a G-d and that what he is doing has transcendental meaning. Thus, it WOULD count as a mitzva.

This is a topic that requires more discussion.....:-)

A gut choidesh!

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Vat Vould YOU Say?

Shmuel had a bad car accident involving a large truck.

Weeks later, in court, the trucking company's high priced lawyer was questioning Shmuel. "Didn't you say, at the scene of the accident, 'I'm fine,'?" asked the lawyer.

Shmuel responded, "Vell, I'll tell you vat happened. I just put my dog Moishele, into the..."
"I didn't ask for any details," the lawyer interrupted. Just answer the question. "Did you not say, at the scene of the accident, 'I'm fine'?"

Shmuel said, "Vell, I just got Moishele into the car and vas driving down..."

The lawyer interrupted again and said, "Judge, I am trying to establish the fact that, at the scene of the accident, this man told the Highway Patrolman on the scene that he was just fine. Now several weeks after the accident he is trying to sue my client. I believe he is a fraud. Please, your honor, tell this man to simply answer the question."

The judge said, "I'd like to hear what he has to say about his dog Moishele."

Shmuel thanked the judge and proceeded. "Vell, like I vas saying, I just loaded Moishele, my lovely dog, into the car and vas driving him down the highway when this huge semi-truck and trailer ran the stop sign and smacked my truck right in the side. I vas thrown into one ditch and Moishele vas thrown into the other. I vas hurting, real bad and didn't want to move. But then I heard Moishele moaning and groaning. I knew he vas in terrible shape just by his groans.

"Den a Highway Patrolman came along. He could hear Moishele moaning and groaning so he vent over to him. After he looked at him, and saw vat terrible condition Moishele was in, he took out his gun and shoots him between the eyes. Den the Patrolman comes across the road, gun still in hand, looks at me and says, 'How you feeling?'

"Nu, Judge, vat vould you say?"

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Practice Without Belief

I have long argued that for many, Orthodoxy is essentially Judaism without G-d. It is just a convenient social context for members of the tribe. Here is an article where a practitioner admits it.

What bothers me more than the fact that he and so many others are living a lie [i.e. they practice but they don't believe in what they are doing] but that it doesn't even seem to bother them. If someone has doubts we have a vast corpus of literature dealing with matters of faith that guide, enlighten and remove the fog created by our physically dominated existence. But all too often people aren't willing to expend the effort to learn. People spend far more time researching a vacation spot they are considering than the purpose of their existence.

They are missing out on so much.


Friday, April 25, 2014

Waxing Ancient

A new kallah, graduate of a good American Beis Yaakov, eager to buy chicken for Shabbos, walks into a makolet in Ramat Eshkol, and says to the man behind the counter כמה ממון עולה השכוי?

New Shiurim

A shiur on the Eidus in the Shtar here. There is also a Part 2 here - listen and be enlightened:-).

On being yotzei megilla from someone who wasn't yotzei because he missed a word but the listener filled in the missing word here.

On being mevatel Torah to attend a bris here.

And more that I didn't link.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

If I Really Cared

If I Really Cared . . .

• Who you are would be more important to me than who I am. • Where you hurt would be more important than that I'm well. • What you feel would be more important than what I know. • I'd look you in the eyes when you talk to me; • I'd think about what you're saying rather than what I'm going to say next- • I'd hear your feelings as well as your words. • I'd listen without defending. • I'd hear without deciding whether you are right or wrong. • I'd ask you why and how, not just when and where. • I'd laugh with you but not at you. • I'd talk with you and not to you, and I'd know when it's time to do neither. • I wouldn't climb over your walls. • I'd wait until you let me in the gate. • I wouldn't unlock your secrets; • The performances would end. If I really cared about you, • I'd be myself with you • And give you the right to be the same.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Our Finest Moments

The truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeplyunco​mfortable, unhappy, or unfulfille​d. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort​,that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers.

M. Scott Peck

[Thanks to E.B.]

Many New Shiurim

Recently I have posted many new audio shiurim bs"d. Here and here  is a Pachad Yitzchak on tshuva with is beyond amazing.

How To Convince

Somebody sent me this old piece of mine and it gave me a good laugh so I thought I would pass it on... You may print and save:-).

As Pesach comes close and people are SOOOO busy with so many different things, work, school, cleaning, packing for Arizona, that it is HARRRDD to find time to make the necessary spiritual preparations for the seder. So I thought it would be helpful to share some insights into the Hagada that could be conveniently used at the seder. Chazal say that we must make a special effort to keep the kids awake which is the EXACT opposite of the rest of the year when we try to get them to go to sleep. Hopefully these Divrei Torah will keep them awake.
My favorite son is the Rasha. In the picture books, he is wearing shorts, a t-shirt that has a picture of Jimi Hendrix, wrap around sunglasses and a backwards baseball cap. In short, my type of guy. Our goal is to bring this Rasha back into the fold. As the Lubavitcher Rebbe pointed out - at least he came to the seder - the fifth son didn't even show up to the seder. So let's focus on him.  
The Rasha asks מה העבודה הזאת לכם -  "What is all of this "work" that Hashem commanded YOU". We blunt his teeth and answer by telling him that since he excluded himself from the community, he had been in Egypt, he would not have been redeemed.
How does this help educate the Rasha? Sounds counterproductive to me. Only the dentist will benefit from the added parnassa.  
I will answer. But first, a story I recently saw.....:)
I have a friend, we'll call him Elkanah, a resident of Neve Yaakov, where the nightly howling of a band of dogs from a nearby valley disturbed his sleep and that of his family. Elkanah was appointed by his neighbors, who also suffered from fatigue due to the nightly "concert", to put an end to it. Among his neighbors was a gentleman named "Grisha", an immigrant from the former Soviet Union, whose nickname was "The Fridge", due to his very large dimensions.
Elkanah called the city hot line who passed him on to health services and from there to the head veterinarian and the local doctor who claimed that the neighborhood counsel is responsible and so on and so forth, and in the background - the howling dogs.
Elkana generously distributed compliments to everyone to whom he spoke, but the desired results were not forthcoming. The nightly symphony turned peoples lives into a living hell.
One night, the sound of the howling dogs ceased and it was a wonder. Nobody knew whom to thank. At a tenant meeting one Saturday night, Grisha entered and boomed: "Do you know who put an end to the trouble?"
"Who?" Everybody asked. 
Grisha laughed "Me!! You have to learn from me how to convince someone!"
Before being asked, he continued: "I called the hot line and spoke to the person responsible on Thursday and told him that he doesn't know me and that it's not worth his while to know me. I am called Grisha, and I am telling you that if the story with the dogs doesn't end today, I am going to slaughter them and put their corpses next to your front door.
Grisha took a sip from his black coffee and continued: "He tried to play tough guy and said 'Are you threatening me?' I told him 'I am not threatening you. I am threatening the dogs. But I know where you live.....'"
Learn, concluded Grisha, how to convince someone.  
The Rasha is asking, according to the gemara "What good are all of these mitzvos? They are just a big pain! I am religious at heart and that is enough." We answer him by blunting his teeth which means that we try to neutralize his arrogance [Ohr Hachaim]. Then we say "Look at what happened in Egypt. Because the Jews kept the mitzva of Korban Pesach that Hashem gave them and put the blood on the doorpost, their lives were saved. Had you been there and not kept the laws - you would not have been saved." Thereby, we try to illustrate to him the importance and practical benefit of keeping the mitzvos. We hope that this convinces him.
[Based on the preface to the sefer Shu"t Tuv Taam V'daas of Rav Shlomo Kluger ztz"l] 

New Article

The inyan of עשה דוחה תעשה - What is דוחה - the kiyum aseh or the chiyuv aseh? Here.

See especially the chiddush at the very end. Geshmack!!


The Rebbe Shlita on ameilus bi-torah in Hebrew here.
Nifla pilei plaos!:-)

One highlight...:-).

Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz learned Meseches Yevamos SEVENTY TIMES. Not just seventy superficial-daf-yomi-let's-get-it-over-with-no-time-for-meforshim-shachris-is-starting-soon but seventy times Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz-dik. With all of the depth, inside outside and upside down. He doesn't leave the page until he thinks himself of all of the Maharsha's on the page.

After these seventy times he said to his friend and colleague Reb Nachum Partzovitz "Let's START learning Yevamos". After 70 times he developed an appetite for Yevamos. "Let's start."

That is what it means when it says אם בחקותי תלכו - He always wants to keep going for more.


Please Daven

Sarah bat Toltsa - baby in intensive care unit.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

אורי בן רינה

From an email:

This Wednesday one of my grandchildren will be undergoing crucial surgery to remove a cancerous tumor from his leg. I ask all of you to please recite tehillim for him during the surgery, which is scheduled for 9 AM EDT/4 PM Israel time. His name is Uri ben Rina.

In the merit of Kriat Yam Suf, Shirat HaYam, and all of your prayers he should have a Refuah Shleima B'toch Sh'ar Kol Cholei Yisrael.    
Aharon Bina

Thursday, April 17, 2014

What Do We Shake On Pesach

Today I was saying Hallel and it just wasn't right. How could I say Hallel without shaking my arba minim?? The ikker mitzva of the נענעועים is during Hallel. EVERYBODY knows that!

So I saw an adorable 5 year old boy and picked him up. Hooooo-ooodooooo Laaaaaa-sheeeemmmm kiiii-iiiiiii toooo-oo-oooov ...... and shook him up, down and in the four directions.

That actually happened - but only in my imagination....

There is actually more than just humor here [very meek humor, if you ask me...]. The ikker of Sukkos is the arba minim. The ikker of Pesach is the kids. למען תספר באזני בנך. והגדת לבנך. כנגד ארבע בנים דברה תורה.

New Article

Great Torah on inyanei chatzi shiur and geshmak Torah on Shir Hashirim here.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

An Angel Among Men

Rav Kook famously permitted the selling of land in the seventh year to goyim [היתר מכירה]. One of his critics asked him "How can you [give such a heter] and enjoy food??"

Rav Kook replied "Do you think I enjoy food?? I don't".

[Igros 2 Page 154]

Monday, April 14, 2014


Stuff people say at the seder, here.

And here for more entertainment.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

New Shiur!!

A special shiur in English given by the Rebbe Shlita here [I already sent it to my email list so you might have already heard it].

שמעו ותחי נפשכם!!

A must-listen BEFORE the seder.
This is sooommeee havdala!

New Shiur

Here I gave a summary of last year's Shabbos Hagadol drasha of the Rebbe Shlita. Niflaos Mi-Toras Hashem!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Concern For All

To Save A Soul
by Elchonon Lesches
I remember the seventh day of Passover that year as a stormy day, an ideal day to stay indoors. But the seventh day of Passover is when Lubavitcher Chasidim the world over walk to nearby synagogues to share words of Torah and the joy of the holiday. So, despite the weather, a friend and I set off to one of the synagogues in the [North American] city where our yeshiva was located.
After a half-hour walk we reached the shul. We received a gracious welcome from the rabbi, who greeted us with a warm smile. "The Lubavitchers!" he said. "You came, just like every Yom Tov."

We sat down and as we waited for the rest of the minyan to arrive, the rabbi began to reminisce. "I knew the Rebbe even before he became Rebbe. I worked near Eastern Parkway, and sometimes I would see him on his way to the Merkos office. I noticed that the Rebbe respected everyone.

"Even after I moved here, I maintained contact with the Rebbe through letters. It was clear that he always understood the situation.

"In one particular instance, I was privileged to be part of an incredible series of events where the Rebbe brought back a soul to its heritage, almost against its very own will.

"When I first moved here, I was the rabbi in the main shul downtown. My position brought me in contact with various dignitaries and city officials.

"One day, a woman arrived on urgent business, 'something to do with the Grand Rabbi of Lubavitch,' the secretary told me. The woman sat quietly in my office for a while. Then finally she said, 'The Lubavitcher Rebbe sent me to you.'

" 'Why don't you tell me what this is all about?' I encouraged her.

"She recounted the story with obvious pain and guilt. Her teenage daughter had gotten involved with a bad crowd. She and her husband had not realized the extent until she found a note from her daughter saying that she was running way from home, escaping with her 'friend,' a man who was obviously up to no good. In desperation, the parents had turned to the Rebbe, who had told them to contact me. She had boarded the first flight to my city and was now waiting for me to help her reclaim her daughter.

"I sat there stunned, wondering what the Rebbe wanted from me. True, I had connections with many powerful people, but no one who would likely have information relevant to this case. Nonetheless, I knew I must be able to help her in some way. 'Madam,' I said, 'if the Rebbe sent you to me then everything will work out well.' She gave me the name of the man who her daughter had mentioned in the note. We arranged to meet again in a couple of days.

"As soon as she left my office, I called the Chief of Police. When I mentioned the name she had given me, he recognized it instantly. 'We know him,' he said. 'He's the new mobster in town. He's definitely been involved in many recent crimes, but we have nothing concrete on him.'

"My next call was to another contact, someone who worked at a city investigative organization. He said they were watching him closely and knew he was a seasoned criminal, but there was no hard evidence to convict him. A few more calls followed and soon I was out of leads. I was getting nowhere.

"It was around this time that something else occurred to me. I am not a Lubavitcher but there are plenty of Lubavitchers in our city. Some of them even have better contacts than I do. Why had this woman been sent to me? What was it that the Rebbe had perceived with his G-dly vision, something I had that the others had no access to?

"Then it dawned on me. I was the only Jewish prison chaplain in the city. Two weeks earlier, one of the guards had taken me to a high-security zone that I had never visited. 'We got a big one,' the guard had revealed to me. 'Controls a major organized crime ring around here. Jewish too.'

"He led me to a prisoner in solitary confinement, and we spent some time talking about G-d and Judaism.

This criminal must be my contact, I thought, the link that the Rebbe had known about.

"On my next visit to the jail a few days later, I met with the Jewish prisoner and brought up the name of the man I was investigating. The prisoner made a face. 'What business do you have with him?' he asked. 'And who does he think he is anyway, stepping all over our territory! We should have finished him off a while ago!' Seeing that the prisoner might be willing to help me, I explained that the man in question had abducted a Jewish girl and that I was trying to find her whereabouts. No doubt due to the Rebbe's blessing, he promised to help me. 'Don't worry, Rabbi,' he assured me, 'I'll take care of it.' I knew better than to ask how this was feasible from behind prison bars.

"A day later the police received a call that a man was being beaten on the street. They rushed to the scene to find the very same man who had run away with the girl lying unconscious on the pavement, with a bag of drugs by his side.

"The man was arrested. As he was not a U.S. citizen, he was scheduled for deportation. The girl's mother wanted me to ensure that her daughter would not follow this man out of the country. Here again the Rebbe's blessing assisted us. The judge overseeing the case was another of my 'contacts!' We spoke about what arrangements we could provide for the girl, who would be asked to testify later and might therefore be in danger. He issued an order placing the girl under the supervision of a local Orthodox family. With time, her outlook changed completely and today she is a fine woman with nice Jewish children.
"The Rebbe was concerned even about those who were not concerned about themselves!" the rabbi summed up.

Reprinted from the N'Shei Chabad Newsletter

Advance And Retreat

Today is the birthday of the Lubavitcher Rebbe ztz"l. Some Torah from him [from " w/ permission].  

The Torah portion of Acharei begins with the words:G-d spoke to Moshe after the death of Aharon’s two sons, [Nadav and Avihu] upon drawing close to G-d and they died.”

Why does the verse conclude “and they died” when it had already stated “after the death of Aharon’s two sons”?

According to the Midrash, the deaths of Nadav and Avihu came about for a number of reasons: they entered the Holy of Holies; they were lacking the proper number of priestly vestments while performing the service; they had no children; they did not marry.

Where are the above reasons hinted at in the Torah?

Our Sages tell us that after their passing, Moshe told his brother Aharon that he had known the Mishkan would be sanctified by those who are beloved by G-d, and close to Him. Now he realizes that Nadav and Avihu were even greater than he and his brother Aharon.

This being so, how was it possible for them to sin so grievously that they died?

Chassidus explains that the sin of Nadav and Avihu is not to be understood as a sin in the simple sense; it consisted in letting their intense closeness to G-d actually draw their souls out of their bodies; they drew so close to G-d that they died.

Nevertheless, their action was still considered a sin. Although a Jew should strive to attain a level of service that enables him to break free of the physical, he is at the same time commanded to “return” and perform the service of a living Jew — the service of a soul within a body.

The Divine intent is not that the soul flee the body and the physical world, but rather that it transform the world itself into a dwelling fit for G-d.

Since Nadav and Avihu merely fled the world and corporeality but did not “return” to it, they are considered to have sinned.

This is why the verse concludes “and they died.” The seeming redundancy comes to explain that it was their intense cleaving to G-d that caused their souls to leave their bodies.

Accordingly, we can now understand how the verse hints at the various reasons mentioned in the Midrash as to why Nadav and Avihu were punished; their passion for G-d was not accompanied by a return to this world:

“They entered the Holy of Holies” indicates that they kept reaching for ever higher levels, without giving thought to “returning” to the physical world. The term “garments” alludes to the Jews’ garments of mitzvos, which are clothed in physical matters. “Lacking garments” thus means that they lacked the proper devotion to mitzvos and sought to escape this world rather than purify it.

“They had no children; they did not marry” means they did not fulfill the commandment to “be fruitful and multiply,” bringing souls into physical bodies; their approach was to separate the soul from the body.
Every story in the Torah carries a lesson for all Jews, as “Torah” means “lesson.” But how does the story of Nadav and Avihu apply to all Jews, when the lesson derived from this tale seems to apply to only the very few who reach such an exalted spiritual state that their souls are in danger of leaving their bodies?

There are times when all Jews are in a state of spiritual arousal — when their souls flee their bodies, as it were. This is especially so during the more spiritual days of the year, such as Shabbos, the Yomim Tovim, the Days of Awe, and particularly on Yom Kippur. During those times, Jews rise above their everyday routines and attain new spiritual heights.

The lesson here is that we should not divorce our spiritual “highs” from our regular activities; we should endeavor to “return” this spiritual exaltation, making it part of our daily lives, so that all our days and all our physical activities become imbued with holiness.
Based on Likkutei Sichos Vol. III, pp. 987-992

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Question For Questioning People

The mishna at the beginning of Beitza cites a machlokes between Beis Shammai and Beis Hillel as to what the amount of chametz and se-or one is not allowed to own.

What is the nafka minah what the shiur is?? A chatzi shiur is ALSO assur min ha-torah so you are not allowed to own any chametz??

[The Rebbe Shlita in his weekly daf yomi bi-iyun shiur]

The Songs Of Dovid

In the Hagada [and in shachris on Shabbos morning] we talk about the greatness of the songs of Dovid and then go into Yishtabach where we say הבוחר בשירי זמרה - He chooses the songs [of Dovid]. Tehillim is a very special sefer. It begins with the words אשרי מי שלא הלך בעצת רשעים  - Fortunate is he who didn't go in the path of the reshaim. Chazal say that this refers to Avraham who didn't follow in the path of the Dor Haflaga [the generation of the "Tower of Babylon". Take the train to Babylon and switch at Jamaica!].

Why does Tehillim start with a reference to such a vague unknown event in history? It is very nice that Avraham didn't follow those who rebelled against Hashem but why does that appear at the beginning of tehillim?

HaRav Homnick Shlita explains [in Hagadas Marbeh Li-sappeir] that the punishment of the Dor Haflaga was the mixing up of their languages. Avraham, who refused to join them, was rewarded with a very special and uniquely powerful lashon. Dovid begins tehillim and tells us that his כח הלשון is drawn from Avraham Avinu! הבוחר בשירי זמרה - Hashem chooses these special songs.

In that first perek it says ועלהו לא יבול which chazal understand to mean that even the mundane speech of talmidei chachomim requires limmud because it contains depth. This pasuk appears here because this is the perek which glorifies the power of speech of those who don't go בעצת רשעים and all of their interest is in בתורת השם חפצו ובתורתו יהגה יומם ולילה.

We may add that Chazal say that Avraham Avinu had a gem on his neck and every sick person who saw it was healed. Rabbeinu Bechaye [hakdama to Yisro] says that this "gem" was his כח הדיבור. He could heal people with his powerful speech.

Many times we have discussed the two covenants Hashem makes with us - ברית הלשון and ברית המעור. The second bris, מעור, meaning bris milah, is famous. Now we have an expression of the first bris - the ברית הלשון Hashem made with Avraham Avinu.

It is also fascinating to add what we wrote in a post yesterday - that Dovid was both the father of Moshiach and the author of tehillim. The poetry in tehillim is a harbinger of the end of days. The vision of the future is expressed by the navi כי אז אהפוך אל עמים שפה ברורה לקרוא כולם בשם השם - All of the nations will have a "clear speech" to call in the name of Hashem. There will be a tikkun of the power of speech. The source is the positive, healing speech of Avraham Avinu.

The process of tikkun ha-dibbur begins with Avraham Avinu and will conclude at the end of days. It is obvious from here that Dovid, the antecedent of Moshiach, felt compelled to begin his sefer of eschatological [end of days] poetry with a reference to כח הדיבור of Avraham Avinu.

On Pesach, the night of speech פה סח [speaking mouth], the gemara says that we must begin with the words מתחילה עובדי עבודה זרה היו אבותינו ועכשיו קרבנו המקום לעבודתו - At the beginning we were idolaters but now Hashem has brought us close to His avoda. Who was an idolater? Some say that we refer to Avraham [Terach is not "Avoseinu]. He started out as an idolater but afterwards he came close to the "avoda" of Hashem. "Avoda" [according to chazal] is a euphemism for tfilla [and less famously, but cited by the rambam in sefer hamitzvos] and Torah. Both are performed with SPEECH. We begin the hagada with an emphasis on the tikkun of speech and we conclude the hagada with חד גדיא which of course is a reference to the end of days when Hashem will slaughter the angel of death! When someone is shechted it is done on the place from where speech emanates [known in English as a "throat"]. Just as we find that the dor haflaga was punished with a mixing up of their speech and concomitantly Avraham was given a special speech, so at the end of days, the power of speech of evil [הוא שטן הוא יצר הרע הוא מלאך המוות - יורד ומשטין עולה ומקטרג נוטל רשות ונוטל נשמה - עי' בב"ב ט"ז] will be liquidated and we will be zoche to the tikkun ha-shalem of pure speech!

כימי צאתך מארץ מצרים אראנו נפלאות - Geulas Mitzraim was the root of the ultimate geula.

I am SORRY!! You hear Torah like this - you should get up and dance

לזכות מרת הענא מרים בת חנה לברכה והצלחה ובריאת איתנה ואברהם מרדכי בן נעכא גיטל לעלייה ברוחניות

No Short Term Solution

R' Amichai Gordin in Shabbat Bi-shabbato

Bernard Raskin said, "In the center of large cities the prices are always high. There are always more buyers than sellers. That is how it is in Manhattan and in Paris. It is also true of Tel Aviv. There is no way to fight this."

The interviewer asked, "So what do you propose? How can we reduce the cost of housing?" Raskin, who is the general manager of a very large real estate agency, did not try to evade the issue. "The solution to the housing problem will not be found in the Ministry of Housing or in the Ministry of Finance but rather in the Ministry of Transportation and in the Ministry of Education. What is needed is for the outlying areas such as Kiryat Gat and Ashkelon to be made closer to Gush Dan, the area of Tel Aviv, by making rapid means of transportation available. It is also necessary to make sure that the education in those places is the very best possible. And that will lead to affordable housing."

But the interviewer would not let Raskin off that easily. "These solutions are good for the distant future. What can we do in the short term?" Raskin's reply was precise and to the point. "In the short term, we must tell the public that there are no short term solutions."
["Nachon L'Haboker, Galei Tzahal, the seventeenth of Adar.]
     * * * * * *

Our culture is built up on a principle of immediate gratification. We demand solutions for problems right away. There must be an immediate solution to the problem of the high cost of living, the problems of education, and security. Here and now we demand a peace treaty, here and now we must have affordable housing. Here and now!

We are living in a "microwave" culture. Everything must be ready within two minutes. There is no such thing as a continuing process, no patience exists at all. Anything that doesn't come immediately is by definition faulty. We will never accept anything like that.

Our Torah is diametrically opposed to such an approach. One of the main principles of the Torah is that there are times when a problem has no immediate solution. Quite often we must show restraint and patience. Not everything will come to us on the spot.

One of the record instances of restraint appears in the remarkable Midrash about the "fence of roses."

     * * * * * *

"Your stomach is a pile of wheat, fenced in by roses" [Shir Hashirim 7:3]. Fenced in by roses? Who guards a field of wheat with a fence made of roses? The more normal thing is to guard a field with thorns, wire fences, even barbed wire. Who guards his field with roses?

The Midrash replies to these questions. The mitzvot can be compared to roses. The fence of roses is a boundary made up of mitzvot. This fence of mitzvot protects a person from himself. Its purpose is to protect us from our own selves. The fence of roses is based on our internal sense of self discipline.

The Midrash tells an allegory about a couple who were eager to participate in their own wedding ceremony, since there is no happier day in the world when they can show their joy of each other. At the end of the evening, they came to unite. She said to him that she saw "a drop of blood, red as a rose." He left her – he turned his head to one side and she turned to the other side.
Who caused them to separate? What serpent bit them, what scorpion stung them? What fence is there between them? That is the "fence of roses."
(See Midrash Tanchuma, Ki Tissa 2.)
     * * * * * *

Rabbi J.B. Soloveitchik adds the following: What forces the young groom to separate from his bride, to whom he was drawn at first. Is it an external force, some physical danger? No. Who could blame him if he would commit a sin? Who can criticize him if he would not be able to overcome his evil inclination? Who else would know what he had done? This entire drama enfolds in a closed room, in the middle of the night. He is not stopped by a steel boundary, rather by a hedge of roses. All he would have to do is to step on the hedge and crush the flowers.

However, the unique power that is found in every Jew prevents him from doing a wild act – to crush fresh and beautiful flowers which cannot defend themselves. This is quiet heroism, silent might about which no epic songs are written. The prowess of this young groom is greater than that of Alexander the Great and of Napoleon.

(Rabbi Soloveitchik, Five Sermons, page 65.)

     * * * * * *

The amazing power of the fence of roses is based on self-control and a dedication to the Torah, but it also includes an impressive measure of repressing gratification. You, the couple who are in love: you cannot consummate it now, it will come in the future. Don't worry, you will live together, but just not yet.

"But what about the short term? What solution is there for our problem in the short term?" That is what the couple asks. And the holy spirit replies, "In the short term you must tell yourselves that there is no short-term solution..."

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Poetry And The End Of Days

On the 8th day of Pesach there are various minhagim related to the end of days such as Seudas Moshiach. What is the connection?

One source is in the haftara of that day when we talk about the end of days. והיה ביום ההוא יוסיף השם שנית לקחת את שאר עמו. We actually find a source as well in our daily psukei d'zimra. We talk about Avraham Avinu being faithful to Hashem, that we go down to Egypt and experience kriyas yam suf and sing. At the end of the song we say "השם ימלך לעולם ועד" to which the Anshei Knesses Hagdola added in our tfilla the pasuk  ועלו מושיעים בהר ציון לשפוט את הר עשו והיתה לה' המלוכה which means we go right from shiras ha-yam to the end of days and the geula! So on the last day of Pesach when we sang shiras hayam we immediately go right into the end of days. That would be the source for Seudas Moshiach.

It is interesting that in the haftora of the last day we read a pasuk in Yeshaya that says that at the end of days people are going to sing to Hashem הודו לה' קראו בשמו הודיעו בעמים עלילותיו. That sounds so "Tehillim-dik"! The Pasuk was lifted right out of Tehillim 105. That means that at the end of days we will sing a song of Tehillim and it will not change. This is because Dovid Hamelech is both the forebearer of Moshiach and the author of Sefer Tehillim. Whatever Moshaich will do was already expressed linguistically in Tehillim. Dovid indeed wears those two hats - Tehillim and Moshaich.

Poetry and song express a more elevated and lofty existence. Prose describes the more concrete reality. When we sing Shiras Ha-yam we are elevated to the lofty plane of the end of days. Psukei D'zimra is a song that concludes with another song [shiras ha-yam] and psukim that describe the end of days. The poetry we find in Tehillim is rooted in shiras ha-yam: There is a string of words that begin with the same letter אמר איוב ארדוף אשיג אחלק. Pairs like ימינך ה' נאדרי בכח ימינך ה' תרעץ אויב, or מי כמוך באלים ה' מי עמוך נאדר בקודש and many other poetic flourishes.

Our השם ימלך לעולם ועד [in shiras ha-yam] - "Hashem will rule forever", laid the groundwork for ועלו מושיעים בהר ציון - the end of days. That is why on the last day of Pesach when we crossed the sea and sang, we remember the end both in our haftora and in our minhagim.  

We should be zoche this Pesach to see the fulfillment of the nevuos of acharis ha-yamim!!!

Based on Hagadas Marbeh Bracha P. 184-185 by HaRav Yaakov Dovid Homnick Shlita

Kinah And Kanaus - The Good, The Bad And The Ugly

Usually tyvos and bad middos are related in the Torah to the flesh, eyes and heart. We find one exception - Kinah. The pasuk says רקב עצמות קנאה - Jealousy rots the bones. Why the bones? The word for bone in hebrew is עצם. When one is jealous it penetrates to his very עצמיות - his essential self. He feels that this person has taken in his place in this world and that causes a "rotting" of his עצמות.

There is also קנאה on the positive side. קנאות - zealousness. This occurs when a person feels that someone else has wrongfully taken a place that doesn't belong to him. קנאות is aroused when a Jew has relations with a Gentile woman as we find in the story of Pinchas. He has no right to be with her.

The first קנאי was Yosef HaTzadik. He proclaimed that the place of a Jew is not with a Gentile and he thus withstood the seductions of the wife of Potiphar. The עצמות of Yosef asserts the separation between Jew and Gentile. When the angel claimed at sea that there is no difference between the Jews and Egyptians [הללו עובדי עבודה זרה והללו עובדי עבודה זרה] Yosef's coffin [which passed through the sea] carrying his עצמות was ample evidence that this wasn't true. There is a vast difference between Jew and Gentile.

Those who were tamei because they carried the coffin of Yosef were קנאים and felt that they shouldn't be excluded from the mitzva of Korban Pesach, so they asked for a Pesach Sheni. This power of קנאות and knowing and demanding your rightful place was bequeathed by Yosef.

Let us be a little more "kanaush" - but with a smile and a hug":-).

לזכות קנאי אמיתי - ר' אברהם יצחק בן אסתר וכל ב"ב

[Based on MaRan HaRav Hutner]

Do Believers Really Believe? Do Deniers Really Deny?

Some people seem to be believers but are really kofrim [heretics]. Some people seem to be kofrim but are really believers.

Some people believe but their G-d and Torah are a perversion of the real thing. Sometimes they purposely or mistakenly twist the Torahs true meaning in order to meet their selfish self-serving needs. Others live on a low spiritual level and bring the Torah down in order to meet their frame of reference. There are many other examples of believers who don't believe in the real thing. I compare it to a boy who is "redt" a shidduch with the most amazing girl. She has everything and a P.H.D. [Poppa Has Dough]. He gets really excited until he discovers that SHE DOESN'T EXIST. Some people has a distorted perception of Hashem and His Torah so they are believing in something that doesn't exist!:-) 

Others deny the Torah as it is presented to them because it seems small and irrelevant. Since the Torah is really huuuuuge and super-relevant, they are rejecting a false Torah and really believe deep down in something bigger. If they would comprehend the depth and breadth of Torah then they would start believing in practice. These kofrim are really believers.

They once asked Rav Tzvi Yehuda Kook what bracha he gives the believers and "chofshiim" [literally "free" and was used to connote secular people].
 He answered that he wishes the believers that they should really believe and the chofshiim that they should really be chofshi....

For this and more of such ideas I send my beloved readers to Maran HaRav's Oros Ha-emunah [known in Israel as Orot Ha-emunah]

לזכות הענא מרים בת חנה לברכה והצלחה ובריאות איתנה

The State

This Purim I was in Williamsburg for the reading of the megilla. It took longer than usual because not only did they bang at "Haman" but also every time the baal koreh said "medina"....

ba dam chhhhhhhh:-)

A Thought For The Parsha - And Life

From my archives.....

The founder of the Tolna chasidic dynasty, Rebbe Dovid ztz"l stressed simcha. One visitor to Tolna remarked "Whoever didn't see the simcha in Tolna during the 9 days, never saw simcha in his life. Whoever didn't see the fear in Skver during simchas torah, never saw fear in his life" [Skver was a SERIOUS place:)].
A true story about him: One day a non-jewish journalist was walking down the street in England when he saw a VERY OLD man RIDING A BIKE. He smelled a scoop so he approached the man and asked him "Excuse me, but how old are you?" "One hundred and eleven years" was the answer. "What do you eat?" The journalist wondered.

"My old age has nothing to do with my diet. When I was a little boy of about 3 I lived in a small town in the Ukraine called Tolna. I was in the synagogue and they were reading the Torah. Suddenly they came to a letter which was not clearly written. According to Jewish law when there is a doubt about a letter in a Torah scroll they ask a child to read the the questionable letter [because he doesn't know what the letter is supposed to be, he will innocently read it. An adult will automatically read the letter as it should be, not necessarily as it is]. If he reads the letter as it should be read, the Torah scroll is kosher. So they called me up and I read the word correctly rendering the Torah kosher. The Rabbi there was a Holy Man named R' Dovid'l. He was so happy that I made the Torah kosher that he put his two hands on my head and blessed me. "You should live and live and live and live!!!"

This man's story and accompanying photograph appeared in an English newspaper.
He writes [Magen Dovid Vayeilech] "The primary trait of tzadikim is to be connected to Hashem with love and joy."   
Elsewhere he write [Birkas Dovid Behar] "The main spiritual arousal is to be constantly strengthened in simcha and faith at all times and to speak a lot of Torah and to connect to Klal Yisrael. The most important thing is simcha in the heart as it says 'Raise your heart in the ways of Hashem' even if one is feeling down."
A story I heard fron his great great [double entendre] grandson, the present Rebbe Shlita:
Reb Dovid'l was once מקרב a fellow who had committed the horrible sin of having relations with a married woman [what made it worse was that she wasn't married to him]. A certain Rov noticed this and asked him why he is being so nice to this rasha. Reb Dovid'l answered that this person is a HAPPY PERSON. That being the case, one day his yetzer tov will grab him and he will do teshuva. He is better than an unhappy person who hasn't committed such a sin. An unhappy person thinks he is a frum person. He thinks that he is serving Hashem and he is really not.
The pasuk in tehilllim says עצביהם כסף וזהב מעשה ידי אדם. The simple meaning is that avoda zara of gold and silver is made by man. But Reb Dovid'l explained עצביהם - Do you know why people are sad [בעצבות]? Because כסף וזהב מעשה ידי אדם  people think that the money is theirs and they are NERVOUS! But it's not!! It's all Hashem's. So there is nothing to be sad about.

Don't worry about money!!!:-)
In another place [Kehilas Dovid Vayakhel] "Even though one is happy it should be with Hashem as it says 'Ivdu es Hashem bi-simcha'. But when one is happy and forgets G-d he falls into all sorts of filthy places and heresy."

The way to reach joy is to be humble. If one is arrogant then the whole world turns into his enemy whereas one who is humble sees the value in everybody else and doesn't worry about his own honor and what people think of him.
In this weeks parsha it say "בזאת יבוא אהרן אל הקודש"-  With "this" Aharon should go into the holy. What is "this"? Explained R' Dovid'l: The Rabbis say מאד מאד הוי שפל רוח" - One should be of a very very low spirit [i.e. humble]. מאד מאד is the gematria of מים water, and the Rabbis teach us [taanis 7] that water goes from a high place to a low place. בזאת is the gematria of שפל [humble]. Through humility one enters the holy.
We should ALL have a shabbos of Light and Joy.

[Li-zchus my beloved friend, Rebbe Yosef Ezra ben Esther and his whole family] 

There Is A Unifying Force Who Makes "Order"

What is the idea of calling what we do on Pesach night a "seder" [order]? A superficial reading of the hagada would seem to indicate that there is no order. Just a bunch of random ideas and historical events and miracles thrown together.

What is the idea behind all of the songs at the end of the hagada [כי לו נאה, חד גדיא, אדיר הוא, אחד מי יודע]? What are they doing there??

The Egyptians believed in many gods - "polytheism" in the vernacular. During the seder we relate the countless miracles as to show that there is a "seder" to the miracles. They all come from One Source and weren't random events. We say the "dayenu" to show that even though we appreciate the many miracles individually, we know where they all came from. There are four sons but they all have a spot around the table because there is a unifying force in their lives.

At the end of the seder we go through the many middos tovos of Hashem in a "seder" of the aleph beis [אדיר הוא], His many servants in the "seder" of the aleph beis [כי לו נאה כי לו יאה]. If there is a "seder" there is a "mesader". We demonstrate how all of the numbers relate to his one-ness [אחד מי יודע], and how all events, even seemingly meaningless ones such as the purchase of a kid for 2 zuz by an anonymous father, ultimately lead to the slaughtering of the angel of death at the end of days and the revelation of Hashem's sovereignty over the earth [חד גדיא].

In the words of HaRav Homnick at the end of his wonderful hagada Marbeh Li-saper  -
ביום מורכב, של עם מורכב, בעולם מורכב, הנברא ממחשבה מורכבת של הקב"ה. והכל חוזר להיות אחד. זהו סדר ליל הפסח יום ט"ו

[Based on Hagadas Marbeh Li-saper] 

Li-zchut my beloved friend, Rebbe David Shukrallah ben Rachel and his whole family for bracha and hatzlacha in everything!

New Shiur

Niflaos Bi-Toras Hashem! A comparative study of two parallel sugyos in Brachos and Psachim. Taste and see that Hashem is good! Here.

New Article

Parshas Acharei Mos and commentary on a maamar of the Sfas Emes related to the parsha and Pesach, here. Exciting!!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Live It And Believe

What is the secret of "feeling it"? How do we get close to Hashem even when we are not in the mood and are immersed in the 49 [million] levels of impurity that this world has to offer. The answer is in a pasuk in this weeks parsha - אשר יעשה אותם האדם וחי בהם, that a person DOES and lives by them. Do you want chiyus and vitality from the Torah - live it! Don't philosophize or analyze. Just DO IT! You want to be mekarev someone? Teach them the power of living the Torah lifestyle. Experience is the best proof there is of the potency and vibrancy of Torah.

Maybe that is the reason that we don't just TALK about Hashem's miracles but relive them. On Pesach we EAT the Maror and Matza. On Sukkos we SIT in the Sukka. On Chanuka we LIGHT the candles. [On Yom Ha-atzmaut we WAVE the flag.....:)] Etc. etc.

[See Sfas Emes אחרי מות  תרמ"ז]

לזכות מרת הענא מרים בת חנה לברכה והצלחה ואריכות ימים ושנים


"Freedom is not having a blackberry".

R' Dr. Jonathan Sacks

Monday, April 7, 2014


I was reading about this hotline for compulsive gamblers.

Every fifth caller is a winner and gets a prize....
Evolution of the chasidic dance, here.
Smile. Take it easy with the pesach cleaning....

Sunday, April 6, 2014

New Shiur

Learn a sugya like you have never learned before, here. Sweeter than sweet.

The Last Seder

The last pesach seder in the Warsaw ghetto, here. [Note: Not for the faint of heart]

A Spark Of Prophecy

In the previous post I mentioned Einstein so I decided that it is worth it retelling an "Einstein" story I once told on these pages.....

A young man who later went on to win a Nobel Prize in something like nuclear biology was much more interested in athletics than academics as a child. But his parents were survivors and they wanted their child to get ahead in life. So they sent him to the famous Stuyvesant High School in New York in the hope that he would excel in his studies. He probably did but he was also the starting center for the basketball team.

One time his team was playing against Power Memorial High who had a towering, black 7 foot center. The first time the Jewish boy got the ball, the opposing center put his LARGE hand in the boys face and snarled "What are you going to do now, EINSTEIN?"

Well, that night he didn't do much. He scored 2 points. Power Memorial's center scored 54 points and went on to a storied career at U.C.L.A and later with the L.A. Lakers. His name was Lew Alcindor and he later changed his name to Kareem Abdul Jabaar. Our friend who won the Nobel Prize really ended up being a little Einstein.

Moral: Always listen to what others say - even if their hand is in your face and their intentions are less than pure.:):)

Love and Blessings!!

Root Of Rishus

What is the opposite of a חכם? Well, if חכם is "wise" then the opposite would be a טיפש - fool. So why is the contrast in the hagada to a חכם a רשע and not a טיפש?
Herein lies the secret. At the root of all evil is stupidity and foolishness. To wit - A man wants money so he steals. Evil, right? At the root of the evil is foolishness because he will end up being caught, humiliated and sent to jail. A man is bored with his wife so he finds a "spare" wife. His wife finds out and as a present she serves him with divorce papers. He loses his wife, kids, house, loads of money and [as a bonus] has lots of hearthache. At the root of the evil is foolishness. That is what the author of the hagada is teaching us by contrasting the חכם and רשע.
Take Albert Einstein as a f'rinstance. He writes in his memoirs that had he not been so, uh let us say, "taken" with the opposite gender [והמבין יבין], he would have accomplished a great deal more in his lifetime. He admitted that at the root of the aveiros he committed was really foolishness. He would have done so much more but his yetzer hara owned him.
Let us be wise and not foolish.
Love and blessings:-).
[Heard from the Rebbe Shlita]

לזכות ר' דניאל שמחה בן חוה רייזל לברכה והצלחה בכל מעשה ידיו

Where Is The Ben Ha-tzadik??

There are four sons in the hagada. How come there is no son called "tzadik"?? Maybe the chochom should be instead called "tzaddik"? That would be the opposite of " ben ha-rasha"!

One answer may be that ALL of the children are tzadikim - "ועמך כולם צדיקים". Every Jew is a tzadik [even though he might not act like one]. Even the "ben ha-rasha" is a tzadik. He is a mixture of tzadik and rasha. If we would call one son "tzadik" that would imply that the other children are not tzadikim. We have to make all of our children feel that they are tzadikim.

Another possible answer - They are just children. How can a child be a tzadik? He has so much to work on. A tzadik in kabala is a "shomer bris". A child doesn't have tests with the bris like an adult has and thus cannot yet actualize his tzidkus. A tzadik is constantly waging war with his bad middos. A child has a looong way to go until he becomes a tzadik in practice.

לזכות ר' רפאל משה בן אסתר זיסל הוא וכל אשר לו לברכה והצלחה

With Alacrity We Left Egypt

The Rambam says that the hagada begins with the words בבהילו יצאנו ממצרים - With haste we left Egypt. Why is it so important to emphasize at the beginning of the hagda that we went out quickly?

One reads the hagada and says to himself "What is the point of all of this?? We are not really free! We are still mired deeeeep in the galus. So why this celebration of freedom?"

So we start the hagada and say "We left Mitzrayim quickly". So too, we can leave this galus quickly as well. It can all end in a second! We can be redeemed and allllll of our tzaros will disappear like smoke.

[Rav Nosson Geshtetner ztz"l]

לזכות רבי אפרים אבא בן מרים שושנה לברכה והצלחה לו לביתו ולכל משפחתו

New Shiur

Metzora and Hagada here.

So Much To Learn From A Tiny Piece Of Bread

There is a custom many have not to eat the end of the challa so they cut off a tiny piece and eat the rest. No source has been found for this minhag [of which I am aware also after a computer search. See Shu"t Minchas Yitzchak 8/9].

Why do I follow the custom anyway? I don't understand why I am doing it and it may not even have a source?! The answer is two fold: 1] I received a psak from my Rebbi not to eat it. Period. We don't have to understand everything. We don't have to understand everything every tzadik says in order to believe it. We certainly don't have to understand everything Hashem does in order to believe in Him. I see this as one of the greatest obstructions to Avodas Hashem in our day - everything is subject to MY judgement. There is no Vilna Gaon or Chofetz Chaim or Rav Moshe Feinstein. There is just ME and the way I view things. This undermines and erodes the foundations of our faith for all times. The opinion of or an op-ed piece in the "Times Of Israel" is just a legitimate as that of the Holy Steipler ztz"l or of Rav Chaim Brisker ztz"l. Authority has been jettisoned and that means that Moshiach is all that much closer! One of the signs is chutzpah and rejection of authority... Not eating that little piece of challah [Baruch Hashem I have enough challah to feed my family without that tiny piece...] is my protest against the prevailing attitudes, identification with tradition and show of solidarity with the Great One's of all times.

Another reason is the following passage by the Klausenberger Rebbe ztz"l:
זקני הקדוש מצאנז זיע"א בליל הסדר האחרון שערך עם בני ביתו כבר לא היה בקו הבריאות וכל מה שאכל היה מקיא מיד ולמרות זאת לא נמנע מלאכול את השני כזיתים מצה ולפני אכילת מצה צוה שיקראו לבנים ולנכדים ואמר שיראו כל הצאצאים איך שצריכים למסור את הנפש על קיום מצוה דאורייתא ונטל ידיו ואכל וכל לעיסה שבלע היה מקיאה. ואח"כ נטל חתיכת מרור וצוה שיקראו לבנים ולנכדים שיראו איך שצריכים למסור נפש בפועל ממש אפילו על מצוה דרבנן ואח"כ לקח כורך ואמר שיראו הצאצאים איך שלא רק על מצוה דאורייתא ודרבנן יש למסור נפש אלא אפילו על מנהג ישראל ע"כ
That being said with regard to this particular custom - there were many who eat the end of the challah without any issues, such as .... The Holy Steipler ztz"l [Orchos Rabbeinu Vol. 3 page 104]

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Who Says?!

The answer to the age-old question - Why is there is tzadik vi-ra lo???

Who says I am a tzadik and who says that it is ra li??

We are very limited in our scope.....:-)

Friday, April 4, 2014

New Article

This weeks article on a sugya in the parsha - here.

Pashut pashut NOT NORMAL [if I may say so myself....:-)]!

A true tzadik  - here.

Mesirus Nefesh!!:-)

Rabbi J.J. Hecht, of blessed memory, was legendary for his unremitting, selfless activity on behalf of Jews both near his Brooklyn headquarters and across the globe.  He related a story which occurred in 1987 when his son, Rabbi Sholom Ber Hecht of Forest Hills, New York was contacted by a congregant with a startling request.  This man had received a message from his nephew, who, together with three hundred other Jews had just escaped from Iran and was staying clandestinely in Karachi, Pakistan, a country known for its intolerance towards Jews. The man asked his uncle to please send them food for Passover, at least matzot for the Seder nights.  Rabbi J.J. Hecht had been deeply involved with the rescue of thousands of Iranian Jewish youth who fled after the Shah was deposed. But this was an entirely different matter, requiring the possibility of life-threatening personal risk to the one who would bring in the provisions.  Rabbi Hecht lost no time in communicating this request to the Rebbe, asking his advice and blessing.  The Rebbe replied that Rabbi Hecht should locate a person familiar with the customs of the Iranian community who would be willing to make the dangerous trip.  The Rebbe added that he, himself, would pay all the expenses associated with the trip, including the airfare for the emissary and the cost of the matzot.  The Rebbe's support gave the courage necessary to pursue the goal steadfastly.  Rabbi Hecht found an Iranian yeshiva student and arrangements began to solidify.  But at the last minute it was decided that it would be too dangerous for him to go, and so, an American student named Zalman Gerber agreed to undertake the mission.  With the help of Senator Alphonse D'Amato of New York, the Pakistani Consular officials were contacted.  They, however, refused to issue a visa, stating that it could be done only for those with business to conduct in Pakistan. That proved easy to circumvent, as friends within the Iranian Jewish community helped establish contacts with rug dealers who provided necessary documentation.  The visa was issued, but the student's safety was explicitly not guaranteed.  Once on the plane, Zalman nervously tried to think of how he would get together the necessary foods for the seder.  Since there were, of course, no kosher meals on the flight, he asked the stewardess for some fresh fruit. When she brought him an apple, he eyed it hungrily, but then stashed it away, thinking, "This will be for the charoset!"  Zalman arrived in Karachi with 20 pounds of hand-made shmura matzo and enough grape juice for the group (wine is prohibited in Pakistan, since it is a Moslem country). The first hurdle was getting past customs with such a quantity of strange "crackers."  He was, after all, a rug salesman, not a baker!  Miraculously, after tense minutes watching the customs officer inspect the Hebrew writing on the boxes, Zalman was waved through customs.  His contact had failed to meet him at the airport, and so, at 3 am, Zalman hailed a taxi and asked to be taken to a major hotel.  He checked in, but to his consternation, the room was on the eighth floor.  Using the stairwell was not permitted by the hotel and using the elevator on Shabbat and Yom Tov is not permitted by the Torah!  Fortunately, the hotel management agreed to give him a room on the first floor.  Zalman immediately phoned the Jewish doctor who was to serve as the liaison between him and the Iranian refugees. By Divine Providence, Zalman's hotel was right across from the doctor's hotel. Zalman quickly met him and they went together to the dilapidated outskirts of the city where the Jews were hiding.  It was with great emotion that the refugees greeted the young yeshiva student who had traveled so far to bring them not only Passover food, but hope, when theirs was all but gone. The first night of Passover, Zalman participated in a joyous, secret Seder for thirty of the refugees, all that could "safely" gather in one group.  The rest of the refugees gathered in smaller groups and also had sedarim.  As they read from their Hagada's, the refugees couldn't help but associate their own miraculous rescue with that of their Persian ancestors on Purim in Shushan so long ago, and they poured out their gratitude to G-d for the mercy He had shown them in this strange and hostile country.  The second Seder was celebrated in the same joyous spirit, and during the intermediate days of the festival, having succeeded so well in his mission, Zalman returned to the United States carrying the thanks of the refugees to the Rebbe and all the others who had made their Passover celebration a reality under such impossible conditions.  The moral courage and support of the Lubavitcher Rebbe and the willingness of a courageous young Chasid to put himself at risk for another Jew -- that is the epitome of the teachings of Chabad in action, and that, in itself, is the miracle.  Rabbi Zalman Gerber, and his wife, Miriam, are now emissaries for the Rebbe in Overbrook Park, Philadelphia.

[From L'chaim weekly]

Thursday, April 3, 2014


“Of all the preposterous assumptions of humanity over humanity, nothing exceeds most of the criticisms made on the habits of the poor by the well-housed, well- warmed, and well-fed.”

Herman Melville


Sholom ben Shoshana Chana is doing better. Thank you for the tfillos.

Borei Nefashos During A Meal

The Mishna Berura writes (174:25) that if before washing for a seuda a person takes a drink of something he does not intend on drinking during the meal, he must make a borei nefashos before washing for the seuda.  Furthermore, even if he has washed already, he must still make a borei nefashos during the seuda.  The reason for this is that drinking before a seuda has no connection to the seuda itself and therefore the birchas hamazon after the seuda will not cover this drink.
However, the Mishna Berura writes that just like with wine, if a person drinks whiskey before a seuda he need not make a borei nefashos since the whiskey is connected to the seuda by the fact that drinking things like whiskey and wine whets one's appetite for a seuda.
Therefore, if one arrives early at a restaurant and has a drink (other than wine and whiskey) before washing, he should first make a borei nefashos and then wash.  If he washed before making a borei nefashos, he is still required to make a borei nefashos during the meal.


Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Great Opportunity To Enhance Your Yuntiff

Can you afford matzos and wine for the seder? If you can - then you are very fortunate. BARUCH HASHEM!! There are many people - some of whom I know personally - who cannot. Really. People who have less than nothing in the bank. The only way they will be able to have a seder with their families is to borrow money that they have no way of returning. Being poor is according to our Sages like being dead. It's no fun being dead - and alive at the same time....

So if you would like to help the poor and indigent of Eretz Yisrael enjoy their Pesach, I will gladly facilitate that and pass it on. You may contact me of you are interested [we can make it tax deductible if you wish]. 

If you don't give through me then PLEASE make sure to give somewhere. The Rambam says that unless one hosts [or gives] the poor on Yom Tov, he does not fulfill his own mitzva of simchas Yom Tov.

I wonder how a father would feel if he would have one child who is spending Yuntiff in a five star hotel in a fancy resort with his whole family while another son doesn't have money to buy a few potatoes to feed his children. Wouldn't the father want his well-to-do son help his less fortunate son? Wouldn't it be painful to see one child having so much pleasure while insensitive to the plight of his own flesh and blood whom he could easily help? I think that is the way Hashem feels [kaviyachol] when he sees the tremendous monetary gap between His children....

Baruch Hashem, Yidden are generally rachmonim bnei rachmonim and give generously. מי כעמך ישראל!

Great Song - Important Message

It's up to you - here.

Appreciating Our Chayalim

Excerpted from R' Moshe Grylack in Mishpacha magazine. I thank my beloved friend N.M. for sending.

The mass rally several weeks ago in Jerusalem continues to be subject to distortion and misinterpretation.....

Let’s clarify the intent of our gedolim: The atzeres was not called as a protest against the army. Our criticism of the army is a separate issue.

Nor was it called as a demonstration of opposition to the new law passed in the Knesset, although we would be happier if it were more favorable toward yeshivah students.

The atzeres was called because of the malicious addendum to the law, which legislates that any Torah study not in conformance to the regulations laid down by the secular government will be considered a criminal act in the eyes of the law. Symbolically, the law is an official declaration by the State of Israel that from now on, Torah study in the homeland of the Jewish People will be subject to control by the secular authorities. In other words, HaKadosh Baruch Hu and His Torah are now to be regulated by a handful of nonobservant Knesset members, and anyone who contravenes their decisions in the matter will be subject to criminal sanctions.

This unacceptable clause was a chillul Hashem before the entire world, and it could not pass without an outcry. No one who holds Torah and the honor of Heaven dear could stand by silently in the face of such audacity. And so, 800,000 Jews felt the affront to the Torah and came out to stand up for her honor. They weren’t all Torah scholars: many were working people, many had served in the army and still serve in the reserves. But they all showed up, because of that impudent addendum to the law.
Statements by marginal elements did not represent the purpose of the atzeres, and in fact, these groups wrought spiritual damage to many good but undiscerning Jews by using the rally toward their own ends.

First, a disclaimer: the army in its present form is no place for a ben Torah. But this doesn’t warrant total condemnation of the army, like that expressed by the placard-bearers. As Torah Jews, we must guard ourselves against such shameful blunting of our feelings, lest we end up throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

Despite our criticism of the army, there is one attitude that we absolutely must preserve, and no one described that feeling better than Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz ztz”l, the rosh yeshivah of Mir. The following passage is from a sefer published in his memory:

“Regarding Chazal’s statement in Bava Basra 10 that no one could come close to the level of the Eser Harugei Malchus [the Ten Martyrs put to death al kiddush Hashem by the Roman rulers] because they died for the Jewish People: I say the same of the soldiers who give their lives to save us. No one else can come close to their spiritual reward. Our obligation to thank them is boundless.”

That is to say, we must differentiate between our attitude toward the entity known as the IDF and our attitude toward the soldiers who risk their lives for the security of the Jewish People in Eretz Yisrael. As Jews, we should be full of gratitude and recognize the supreme value of their mesirus nefesh, without bringing any consideration of their general conduct into the calculation. This is a complex subject that has been much discussed, but this is what I heard from my own rebbis. I heard it from Rav Yitzchak Ze’ev Soloveitchik, and from Rav Elazar Menachem Shach — who would weep upon hearing of soldiers killed in action. And I’ve heard these thoughts from the gedolei Torah who are still with us today, despite the background voices of the zealots who don’t comprehend the nuances. But we must comprehend; we must protect this sensitivity and not allow it to erode.

Permit me to share a letter from a friend. This is what he wrote to me after the rally:

“I must tell you about a talk I heard from the mashgiach of a large Sephardic yeshivah in Jerusalem, just before the talmidim went out to take part in the rally. This mashgiach is a person of extraordinary refinement. He began by speaking of the constant, dreadful angst felt by the parents of soldiers in combat units. Then the mashgiach burst into tears as he described the feelings of a mother whose son is returned home in a coffin — how the pain of bereavement will be lodged in her heart forever.

“‘There’s no doubt,’ the mashgiach cried, ‘that this rally, important as it is, will cause further pain to the crushed hearts of bereaved parents, especially if there will be placards with anti-army slogans [which there were]. Still, we are faithful to the order of our rabbis to take part in the rally. This, however, I ask of you, my dear talmidim. On your way to the rally, pass through the military cemetery on Har Herzl. See the thousands of gravestones. Look at the gravestones, and then look at yourselves, and ask yourselves if you really feel you are learning Torah at such a level that you could look those parents in the eyes and say to them with a clear conscience, “Yes, I learn Torah. I, too, sacrifice myself day and night for the holy Torah, just as your son sacrificed himself.” Then go to the rally, and shout with a clear conscience that the Torah is what upholds the Jewish nation, and bnei Torah engaged in its study must not be drafted. But if you feel yourselves lax in Torah learning — then, if you are men of integrity, go back to the yeshivah, for you have no right to cause pain to those bereaved parents.’”

I was studying in Ponevezh during the Sinai Campaign in 1956. I remember how the whole yeshivah, shtenders and all, moved down to the bomb shelter when war broke out. I’ll never forget the words of the Ponevezher Rav, Rav Yosef Shlomo Kahaneman, who — after describing Chazal’s picture of a truly Jewish army, divided into fighters and lomdei Torah — cried out, “Dear ones! The whole nation is now enlisting for battle. We must also enlist; we must devote all our strength to Torah learning as our task at this time. Anyone who can’t be more of a masmid than usual should know that he is endangering my yeshivah, and I ask any such person to leave the yeshivah immediately.”

Unfortunately, the distinction between justified criticism of the army and the obligation to be sensitive and recognize our debt to the soldiers in that army has been blurred. And as a result, the message of that mighty rally has not been conveyed, and the whole nation has lost out. —

Avdus Vs. Cheirus

"Morality as taught by way of rules is extremely powerful and valuable in the development of practice. It must be remembered that it is merely a tool to enable one to eventually get to that place of unselfishness where morality and wisdom flow naturally. In the West, there's a myth that freedom means free expression--that to follow all desires wherever they take one is true freedom. In fact, as one serves the mind, one sees that following desires, attractions, repulsions is not at all freedom, but is a kind of bondage. A mind filled with desires and grasping inevitably entails great suffering. Freedom is not to be gained through the ability to perform certain external actions. True freedom is an inward state of being. Once it is attained, no situation in the world can bind one or limit one's freedom. It is in this context that we must understand moral precepts and moral rules."

Passover cleaning - here.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The Gift Of Anti-Semitism

From an email.....

At the end of the hagada we say אז רוב ניסים הפלאת - Then [on the night of the 15th of nissan] you performed great miracles. The author of this poem goes on to enumerate the various miracles that happened on this night.

We can add another one... Rashi in Parshas Toldos [27/9] tells us that one of the two animals brought to Yitzchak Avinu by Yaakov in order to receive the brachos was a Korban Pesach. This means that the brachos were given to Yaakov on the night of the 15th. After the taking of the brachos it says that Eisav hated Yaakov and decided to kill him after Yitzchak's demise [27/41-42]. Rivka then went on to call Yaakov and tell him of Eisavs evil machinations [27/42]. Where did she call him from? Where was he?? The medrash teaches that he ran away to the beis medrash of Ever.

How illuminating! Yaakov had a task to perform. He was commanded by his mother to receive the brachos from his father. But immediately after his job was concluded he returned right to the beis medrash. From he we learn that although sometimes we are forced to close our gemaras, right after we accomplish whatever task was necessary to complete, we must return to the beis medrash. We can also speculate that Yaakov knew that Eisav was going to find out and be infuriated and he needed the merit of learning to protect him.

This was also the night that Esther called Haman and Achashveirosh to the seuda and was the beginning of the downfall of Haman [מגילה ט"ו. ד"ה ויעבר וט"ז. ד"ה לתעניתו ועיי"ש ברש"ש ובעוד אחרונים]. The downfall of the terrible "klipah" [impure spiritual husk] of Haman and his forbearers Eisav and Amalek was on this night. This was on the third day of the fast of the Jews which was an atonement for their participation in the feast of Achashveirosh [from "feast" to "fast"]. The root of the downfall of the Jews is when we feel a closeness and brotherhood with the goyim. We wanted to party with them and that resulted in the decree to wipe out all Jews [as the gemara says מפני שנהנו מסעדתו של אותו רשע] - men, women and children. The tikkun is to distance ourselves from them and their ways which was symbolized by Yaakov running [on that very night] to the Beis Medrash and the Jews fasting in atonement for their sin of proximity to the ways of the goyim and their levity. It was also the night that the Jews in Egypt ate their korban pesach - the lamb which was the god of the Egyptians. A night of separation. ליל שימורים הוא - a night we are guarded from our dangerous mimicry of gentile ways and customs. [See Harirei Kedem Vol 2 Page 126 and what I wrote at that the Korban Pesach almost has the status of a Korban Geirus].

That is what we mean when we say in the hagada והיא שעמדה לאבותינו ולנו שלא אחד בלבד עמד עלינו לכלותינו אלא שבכל דור ודור עומדים עלינו לכלותנו והקב"ה מצילנו מידם - "That" is what stood for the Jewish people that not one person alone tried to destroy us but in every generation they try to destroy us and Hashem saves us from their hand.

What is the amorphous and vague "that" [my high school English teacher got very angry when we used pronouns. She wasn't "pro-noun" but "anti-noun"..]. The simple meaning is that is refers to the promise mentioned earlier ברוך שומר הבטחתו לישראל. Blessed is He who keeps His promise to the Jews. But the Holy Books add that it is also alluding to what it says in the very same passage - that the goyim try to destroy us in every generation. Whoa! How utterly paradoxical!!:-) The very fact that the goyim try to destroy us brings to our salvation. It is when they smile at us and feign closeness and friendship that we have to worry [exhibit A - pre-war germany]. הצילני נא מיד אחי מיד עשיו - Save me from my brother, from the brotherhood and warmth of Eisav and מיד עשיו - From Eisav the murderer. If we are saved from אחי - his brotherhood and chumminess [sounds like the name of a chametz-dike cookie...] we will be saved from עשיו and the danger of his viciousness.

Pesach is a GREAT TIME to strengthen ourselves in our own Jewishness and to uproot all gentile-ness from our systems. Our self definition is strengthened every time we view ourselves and act in uniquely Jewish ways. We become less Jewish when we aspire to gain acceptance and assimilate into the greater [which is really "lesser"] world population.

A beautiful and simcha-dike chag to all:-).

[Based mostly on a sicha given by the Mori Vi-rabi The Tolna Rebbe Shlita Leil Pesach 5769] 

שלום בן שושנה חנה

Please daven for - Shalom ben Shoshana Chana. A YOUNG FATHER WHO NEEDS WHO IS DIRE NEED OF A REFUAH.

The Power Of Torah

כל הוספה בתורה בדביקות בהכרת היוצר ב"ה מעלה את בעליה מבחינת נפש בהמית לנפש משכלת מחמור לבן אדם מבן אדם למלאך

Any additional learning with the clinging to recognition of the Creator elevates one from his animal soul to a more spiritual soul, from a donkey to a person, from a person to an angel.  

Chazon Ish Collected Letters 1/11