Sunday, August 31, 2014

Maran HaRav ztz"l

From an email that has been circulating....

These words should be a zchus for a refuah shleima for my beloved friends R' Tzvi Moshe ben Eitan Avraham Halevi and R' Moshe Tzvi ben Freida Simcha, all of the injured soldiers and kol cholei yisroel.
Also - the speedy zivug of R' Daniel Simcha ben Chava Reizel, Shmuel Refoel ben Menachem Mendel, Rivka Esther bas Eliyahu Peretz and Rachel bas Geula and anyone reading this and all those who are looking.
Friday, gimmel Elul, was the yahrtzeit of HaRav Kook ztz"l. He was one of the most influential rabbonim in the last 100 years and arguably the greatest and most unique. There is so much to say about him personally and about his thought that I would need to write a few full length books in order to scratch the surface. Since the daily demands of gemara-rashi -tosfos and shulchan aruch occupy my time [not to mention feeding my little Adina-le], the books will not be appearing from my pen anytime soon [although much has already been written].

When Rav Eliyashiv would say "The Rov" without a last name, he meant Rav Kook of whom he was a great admirer [and I believe that Rav Kook made the shidduch between Rav Eliyashiv and Rav Aryeh Levin's daughter]. Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach related that when he was little he would go to watch Rav Kook learn Tanach and was tremendously inspired just watching him. Later, Rav Kook was his mesader kiddushin when he was married.
I wanted to share a few highlights about his personality from which we can all learn and grow therefrom [is that a word? Now it is...:-)].
1] Diligence - He would learn fifty pages of gemara every morning after a "gezunte shluf" of 2 hours a night!
He wouldn't write with a pen but with a pencil because his thoughts flowed so quickly that he didn't have time to dip his pen in the ink quill. [What is a "ink quill"? What is a "pen"?]
Before he died from a painful skin cancer he was crying. His brother asked him if he was crying from the pain and he explained that he was crying because of all of the deep thoughts going through his head that he didn't have the strength to write down.
When he was a Rov in England during World War 1 and he needed to learn English, he was afraid of bittul Torah so he went through the Tanach with an English translation. [I learned yiddish by going through the Lubavitcher Rebbe's sichos in Yiddish and Hebrew translation:-). So now I understand Yiddish and have a nice background in the Sichos Kodesh of the Rebbe Ztz"l. BARUCH HASHEM!].
2] Tzidkus: He wore tfillin all day long. When he was learning in the Volozhiner Yeshiva some of the students didn't appreciate this behavior. The Rosh Yeshiva [the Netziv] told the boys to leave him alone. For other boys it might be haughty and arrogant but for this neshama it was completely natural without a trace of arrogance [gyveh]. He penned a sefer called חבש פאר about the kedusha of tfillin.
When he was a Rov in England and he would walk to shul on Shabbos, the goyim would stand outside in order to see the "holy man". Even the goyim appreciated his kedusha.
His house was constantly filled with people who came to ask for favors or to learn from him etc. No matter how busy he was, whenever his elderly father entered the room he would stand up until his father sat down or left the room.
Rav Kook's brother related that this holy neshama would make a bracha on his mother's milk BEFORE HIS FIRST BIRTHDAY!
From the age that he realized that a woman is a woman - he didn't look at one. His wife once covered her face and brought him a shyla in Taharas Hamishpacha. He paskened that she was permitted to her husband. She said "How come when I brought you this very same shyla, you were strict with me and said that we were assur?"
When he was a yeshiva bachur, he rented a room from a woman. He paid the first price she asked for and didn't bargain [so un-Jewish:-)]. When asked why he didn't try to lower the price, he explained that keeping the teaching of Chazal to minimize one's speech with women is worth the extra half-ruble.
3] Tefilla - Rav Isser Zalman Meltzer [father in law of Rav Aharon Kotler and one of the great roshei yeshiva of his generation] said "I wish that I would daven mincha on Yom Kippur like Rav Kook davens on a regular weekday."
In 1921, Rav Kook went to rest in a place called "Har-Tov". One day he was uncharacteristically late for davening and he was instead involved in a conversation with a simple Jew about plants and flowers. His talmid Rav Charlap asked his Rebbi what happened and he explained that he was so thirsty and yearning for a connection with Hashem that he felt that if he davened he would die from כלות הנפש [unrequited love]. In order to come down to earth, he spoke about mundane matters.
In 1914 Rav Kook went to the Galil with Rav Charlap zt"l. Rav Charlap related "I woke up in the middle of the night and found him on fire, pacing the room to and fro, with a stormy spirit. He grabbed me and his hands were cold like ice and his face was burning like a torch. He said 'Rav Yankev Moishe, I am burning up from Ahavas Hashem'.
4] Ahavas Yisrael - He once said about himself "I never refused a request to do a favor for a fellow Jew" [!!!!]. [I know of two such people out of the thousands upon thousands of people that I have known in my lifetime]. This was a person who due to his position a Chief Rabbi was asked thousands of favors, some by people who made his life miserable with their anti-zionistic zealotry for whom he particularly extended himself.
After the slaughter of the students of the Chevron Yeshiva in 1929, Rav Sarna, the Rosh Yeshiva related that he felt tremendous anguish. But Rav Kook felt it more. When he heard the news - he fainted....
A sick person once needed money and Rav Kook didn't have any handy, all he had was an expensive watch that he received from an American [which is a great story in and of itself] which he promptly handed over. Other times poor people would come and if he didn't have money he would tell them to choose any sefer on his shelf which they could sell and use the money.
5] Rav Kook taught that Eretz Yisrael is not merely a "Jewish Homeland" but the life and breath of Am Yisrael. He also repeatedly emphasized that Am Yisrael are more than just a people who have more laws than anyone else but the essence of holiness on earth from which all of the other nations receive their existence and spiritual sustenance.

[The stories and much, more are cited and documented in the sefer Otzros HaRiiyah in the first chapter].
What can we learn from this angel?? This is a man-angel who said that he can "see" how sins seal one off from the Divine Light? He has many passages where he relates his semi-prophetic mystical visions of spiritual worlds. He is beyond us! I am a pashute yid and how can I strive to emulate this elevated neshama? [His handwriting was once brought to a handwriting expert ("graphologist") who wasn't told the identity of the author. He looked at the text and after analyzing the letters he said "This is a person who lived 350 years ago at least. Such people no longer exist in our world..." I would guess that being such a great ohev yisrael and also a kohen that he was a gilgul of Aharon Hakohen].
That is true. We are probably not going to reach his level. But still, what we CAN learn is to be a bit less materialistic, a bit more spiritual, less ego and self absorption, more love, care, sensitivity and devotion to others.
If Jews would truly care in both thought and practice about other Jews MOST of Klal Yisrael's problems would be solved instantaneously.
There is enough money among the Jewish people that NOBODY has to be poor, yet there are so many in need.
There are enough jobs to be had yet so many are unemployed.
All of the horrible "get" stories we hear would never happened if people internalized the ethic that one must NEVER EVER hurt another human being - even if we feel that this person pained us.
So many of the single people would be married if others were not able to sleep at night wracking their brains thinking about possible matches and doing everything they can to make it happen [as per the recent Mishpacha Magazine article about the tzadik Mr. Rechnitz from L.A. who is putting his considerable fortune to good use by offering incentives for people to make shiduchim].
All of the lashon hara and rechilus on the blogs, websites and newspapers would cease because people would think "How would I feel if people wrote that about me [even when true]?"
All of the horrible scandals involving breaches in tzniyus [you know to what I refer] and monetary indiscretions would stop because such behavior is simply unholy and impure. Some of the perpetrators are sick and need help. The community would make sure that offenders are duly punished, distanced .... but also helped.
Many of the kids off the derech would come back because they would see a religious world that is not filled with hypocrisy and criticism but with love and acceptance.
Beloved friends - it is in our hands!!!
To conclude with two great quotes from the Rav ztz"l:
 We are great and our faults are great and therefore our problems great and great are our consolations.
Oros Hatchiah 5
The pure tzadikim do not complain of the dark, but increase the light; they do not complain of evil, but increase justice; they do not complain of heresy, but increase faith; they do not complain of ignorance, but increase wisdom.
Arpilei Tohar page 2
Love and blessings to all:-)

Words Of "Bracha"

Today, someone showered a "blessing" on my head that I would more likely hear on the 1 train going from the West Side uptown to the Bronx or the C down to Penn station, spoken by one of the "bruthas" but not from the mouth of a yid-ben-yid in Eretz Yisrael.

What did I learn from the experience that you may want to use?

1] He is on a lot of pain. Happy people don't speak like that. Instead of being insulted - have mercy on his tortured soul.

2] I didn't take it personally. It had much more to do with him than it had to do with me. [It hurt a little I must admit, but not too much...]

3] If I was cursed - Hashem wanted me to be cursed. Shimi Ben Gera curses Dovid Hamelech and his reaction? השם אמר לו קלל. Hashem told him to curse. He has free choice but if he said it then I KNOW that it is from Hashem to me. If Dovid heard these words then this is what he had to hear.

4] The gemara [Shabbos 88b] says that one who is insulted and refrains from answering is zocheh to shine like the sun. Just like the moon complained that the sun and the moon can't share the throne and as a result the moon was made smaller and the sun shines brightly [Chullin 60], so the insulter becomes smaller and the insulted party becomes so much bigger.

5] Sweetest friends!! Don't take things to heart. Your job in this world is to do "tov" and not to worry what people are saying to you and about you.....


Saturday, August 30, 2014

Wise Rabbi

This was told by R' Saul Berman about his father R' Ephraim Berman who studied in Slabodka and later became a Rav in the U.S.:

...... One remarkable get stands out in my memory. From the start this one was unusual. I saw the dining room had been set up for a get so I asked my father whether I could sit in. He said I could not but that if I sat quietly in his study (which opened out into the dining room), he would not object; he admonished me, however, to remain completely silent. That was odd. Quite early, the young wife arrived, accompanied by her father. As the three of them sat there together, the father passed a piece of paper across the table (a check, perhaps?) to my father. That was doubly odd. The paper might well have been a payment but it was strange – usually the get was paid for at the end of the proceedings and not at the beginning; and typically it was the husband who paid the fee, not the wife. Soon my father’s favorite sofer arrived, accompanied by two edim, though I had never seen either of them before – they were both strapping young men who looked to me more like baseball players than like kosher edim. Eventually, the husband arrived. My father exchanged a few brief comments with him off on the side, and so the ritual began.

Everything started to move very rapidly: the final confirmation of the correctness of the parties’ names; the scripted exchanges to assure consent, the waiver of disclaimers; the designation of the sofer and the edim; the transfer of the writing materials. Even the sofer seemed to be writing more rapidly than was his pious style, albeit he retained his usual intense concentration so as to make sure the bill of divorcement would be error-free. The edim and the divorcing parties and the woman’s father sat silently; nor did my father call the parties aside, severally or together, as was his practice, to speak with them to comfort them or to urge reconciliation. Just silence, and the slight scratching of the quill until the writing was completed, the text reviewed, and the edim, somewhat clumsily, had signed the get. Rapid, pre-scripted, verbal exchanges were followed by the actual delivery by the husband to the wife of the get itself. Neither of them looked the other in the eye. The wife then handed the get back to my father for re-reading and for the official confirmation that she had received a get.

My father then wrote the petur for the wife, but instead of waiting for the husband’s petur likewise to be written, my father immediately delivered the petur to the now-divorced wife, whereupon she and her father, without a word, both scurried out of the house, in haste. My father then completed the petur for the husband and gave it to him while the sofer finished packing up his materials and walked out the front door. I thought it was all over and was about to get off my chair when I saw the husband, after slipping the petur into his inside jacket pocket, lean across the table and say something to my father. My father, nodding, pulled out the (check?) slip of paper the wife’s father had handed him earlier. As the edim deftly moved in on either of his sides, close to my father, my father took the piece of paper and tore it to shreds. In rapid succession, the husband lunged across the table at my father; the edim grabbed the husband by his arms and dragged him across the table and pinned him onto the floor as my father retreated to the rear of the room. The edim then lifted him off the floor, carried him to the front door and, summarily, threw him out onto the sidewalk. I watched through the living room window as the husband picked himself up, dusted himself off a bit, raised a fist back toward the house, and marched off down the street, defeated.

I did not believe, nor did I much understand, what I had just witnessed. When the edim left I asked my father to explain; and, so, he told me the following story: The couple had been married for less than a year; it was clear the relationship was not a good one; there were no children; there were no joint assets to divide. When the wife asked for a get, the husband said he would only give her a get if her father paid him $20,000 (which, at that time, was a considerable sum of money). The negotiations remained deadlocked for quite a while, so they agreed to consult with my father, who met with each side separately. He told the wife’s father to give him a check for the $20,000, but that the check, he was confident, would never be cashed. He then told the husband that he (my father) would get the check for the full amount from the father-in-law and that he (my father) would hold onto it until after the get was delivered. (My father was careful never explicitly to say he would convey the check to the husband.) The husband agreed to the terms. The rest I saw with my own eyes......

[From Cross-Currents]

Friday, August 29, 2014

גולדה בת רחל לאה

Please daven for Golda bas Rochel Leah on a respirator.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Spiritually Sensitive

לזכות רבי אפרים אבא בן מרים שושנה לברכה והצלחה הוא וביתו וכל אשר לו!

Rav Aharon of Belz [d. 1957] is known in the Chasidic world as "Reb Aharon Kadosh Hashem" and Kadosh he was.... There are many people today [some of whom I know personally] who saw and met Rebbe Aharon.

In 1930, he was in Vienna in order to receive medical treatment. At the same time, the Lubavitcher Rebbe [known as the Raayatz] was there for the same reason. The Raayatz was there with his two sons in law, one of them being Rebbe Menachem Mendel, the future Rebbe, who already had a tremendous mastery over the Torah in his youth [like knowing Shas by heart with the Rosh and I think Rif as well].

The two sons-in-law were walking down the street one day and they crossed paths with Rav Aharon who used to almost run down the street. They weren't dressed as chasidim [don't tell Lubavitchers this story...:-)] and didn't introduce themselves. First, Rebbe Menachem Mendel's brother in law said shalom to the Rebbe. Then Rebbe Menachem Mendel said shalom. The moment he felt the hand of Rebbe Menachem Mendel, he didn't let go. He held it with tremendous dveykus for TWENTY MINUTES on a sidewalk in Vienna.

He had acute spiritual sensitivities and the many stories are legend. He had a special hakpada [among many others] that nobody should touch the water before he was toivel in the mikva. One time they prepared the mikva for him with all of his hakpados. The moment his foot touched the water, he stepped back and refused to immerse himself. It turns out, that the person preparing the water wanted to check the heat of the water and touched it beforehand.

The Rachamestrivka Rebbe Shlita related that when he was going to his wedding with the daughter of the Skverer Rebbe in the United States, he went to Rebbe Aharon to get a bracha. The Rebbe offered much hadracha about marriage and also told him not to engage in any arguments about hashkafos with people who have different opinions than he does. The Rachamestrivker was a bit bothered by this piece of advice. It was against his nature to have such arguments so why did the Rebbe have to tell him this?

At the time, going to the U.S. from Israel was a long trip with numerous stops on the way. It turns out that a person with questionable hashkofos found this future tzadik and decided to try to convince him to his way of thinking. It was then that the Rachemestrivker understood Rebbe Aharon's hadracha. Who knows what type of bad mood he would have been in for his wedding had he started to argue with this person. [On one flight from the US, a secular-anti-religious-pro-arab-dog-loving-charedi-hating-woman from Tel Aviv engaged me in an argument and to this day I still have a bad taste in my mouth. I learned my lesson...:-)] 
זכותו יגן עלינו ועל כל ישראל אמן!

Jewish Blood

An intersting statistic. In the present war, a few dozen soldiers have been killed, Hashem yerachem. Last year, according to the Ministry of Health over 8,000 Israelis died from smoking. Some rolled up tobacco in a white piece of paper is a far greater enemy than the Arabs. 

We kill ourselves many many times more than the Arabs kill us. If Israel would fight against smoking with the same fierceness that they fight against Hamas, many many lives would be saved....

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Modern Civilization

In the aftermath of the Holocaust, Romain Gary, in his book The Dance of Genghis Khan, summed up civilization this way: “The ancient Simbas, a primitive tribe of cruel cannibals boiled their victims and then consumed them. The modern day Germans, heirs to thousands of years of culture and civilization, turn their murdered victims into soap. This, this passion for cleanliness – that is civilization.”

New Shiur

New shiur on meseches Rosh Hashana here! Join hundreds of my talmidim here in Givat Zeev [:-)] and listen to the shiur.
Not normal!

Getting Ready For The Big Days

On the gzeira of not blowing on shabbos - here and on the first sugya in the fourth perek of rosh hashana here and on Milchemes mitzva here.

Nu sweetest friends, it is CRITICAL that we ready for the groise teg - the big days coming upon us. We will have shiurim towards that end and if anyone besides me hears the shiurim I will feel extra special blessed.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

5 R's

"That great word repentance has five "r's": 1) recognition, 2) remorse, 3) resolution, 4) restitution, and 5) reformation."

Monday, August 25, 2014

לא תנאף

Lo tinaf [or Lo Sinaf] is an odd commandment. It made it into the 'Big Ten' but why should we have to be commanded about it at all?? I personally find the entire notion of having a forbidden relationship with a married woman completely repulsive. She is someone else's wife! One should have a natural distaste for such a disgusting act. Isn't the Torah talking down to us? In the world of show-business, professional sports etc. etc., where there is zero amount of sexual restraint, you need such a commandment. But Frumme Yidden? Bnei Toiiiraahhh? Never. We are above that!

Here the Torah brings us down to stark reality. WE ARE NOT ABOVE THAT!!!! An otherwise frum Yid can kill, kidnap, sleep with his friend's wife and lie in court. The reason the aforementioned sins appear in the aseres hadibros is precisely become the Author of the Torah is the one who programmed us and He understands of what we are capable.

We are also capable of loving Hashem with all our hearts, of being burned alive when necessary to sactify his name, of doing every single action purely li-shem shomayim, of never unnecessarily hurting a fellow creature on earth, man or animal. That is why we are commanded to do so.

Man is a complex organism. He can be an Arab terrorist who has no problem slicing someone's throat with a six inch knife or blowing up a bus filled with innocent passengers for no justifiable reason. He can also be, li-havdil, Rav Aryeh Levine who habitually visited a leper colony [people with leprosy whose limbs just fall off and they must for health purposes be secluded from the rest of society] and Jewish freedom fighters jailed by the cruel Brits for the sin of wanting to live freely in their ancestral land and completely devoted his life to helping to minimize the suffering of others.

As we just read in the Torah - we have the choice to choose a life of blessing or curse.

When a scandal breaks out about a well known personality in the Jewish world, even one with a long beard and black hat, I am not surprised. There are two basic over-powering yetzer's that people encounter - money and arayos. The Torah and Chazal never tire of warning us about these two flaws because they are so much part of the makeup of the human psyche.

There are two ways of approaching the issue, the before and the after. Before, one must be constantly engaged in limmud ha-mussar and/or chasidus. This way he will be be constantly aware of the potential downfalls that surround him לפתח חטאת רובץ - sin crouches at the door.

The after is that we can always do tshuva. No matter what act was done, no matter how severe, the gates of tshuva are always open.

Chazal say that every day one is נכשל in sinful thoughts. This was said 1,500 years ago before the age of Tv/Movies/Internet and the daily pornography of the New York Post. Today, one cannot go anywhere with being bombarded with immodest images. One can't even walk to the Holy Kotel with encountering women who neglected to get properly dressed that morning. Airports? Terrible. A walk in Central Park on a Sunday afternoon? Filled with pritzus. Everywhere you go. Working in midtown Manhattan or going to Vegas on business? Hashem yerachem! Today we need constant gedarim and serious vigilance in order to remain clean. And as for the sins of the past - the Rambam in his ten prakim of hilchos tshuva tells us the procedure.

It is also important to have a Rebbi who can serve as a living example of virtue and a guide to making your way through the maze of life.   

A freilichin Elul!!!!!!

Important Query About Important People

There are numerous halachos in Shas [in the present daf-yomi masechta Moed Kotton] which apply to an אדם חשוב. In tonight's shiur, the Rebbe Shlita discussed at length the following question: What classifies someone as an אדם חשוב? If anyone has seen this discussed or has any orignal ideas I would love to hear....

It is strange that almost nobody adresses this question. It is also strange that the poskim define quite clearly what an אשה חשובה is [nafka minah that she does הסבה]. Why does אדם חשוב remain vague while אשה חשובה is clearly defined?

Would The Rambam Have Answered Your Email?

My sweet and beloved friend R' Chaim Yehoshua Austein Shlita directed me to this article by R' Ari Enkin on the Torah Musings website. My own experience has been that I know almost nobody who consistently returns emails and phone calls promptly. People generally answer if they have some personal interest but if they get nothing out of it, then they won't. When receiving applications for jobs, many frum people don't even give the seeker of employment the dignity of answering "no", which takes exactly 2 seconds, including pressing send.

My own personal revenge against such people is to try to answer everybody promptly even when I will receive no personal benefit in doing so. The truth is - I do have a personal interest. I want to remain a mentsch. I also have a theory. Those who ignore others will be ignored by Hashem when they call out to Him. Those who have an open ear and heart for others will find the same behavior in Hashem's relationship to them.

And to the many who have ignored my emails, seen my number on the caller ID and not picked up or return the call and others who have caused me distress, I wish the following: May Hashem ALWAYS answer you positively, promptly and with great Divine compassion. May you never feel pain, lack for money or health, or have to seek help from others.


Now the article: 

It’s fair to say that most people, including this writer, are greatly disturbed by those who don’t respond to letters, emails, or return phone calls within a reasonable amount of time. In fact, in the event of a first time correspondence, the timeliness in which a person responds is actually the only gesture which offers a glimpse into that person’s level of derech eretz.
In fact, failing to respond to others in a timely manner is not only distasteful behavior but it might actually be a Torah transgression, as well. As Rabbi Chaim Palagi writes:1
Derech eretz kadma l’torah….Therefore, one who has received a letter from a friend should respond immediately as there are a number of prohibitions which one may violate by not responding in a timely manner. Responding to a correspondence is basic derech eretz, and forcing someone to yearn for a response has the potential to cause that person long term health concerns… It might just be that one’s reply will be the catalyst for some type of mitzva to be performed… Not responding causes the one who sent the letter great pain while he waits for his query to be addressed. It is also cruel and a sign of arrogance. He who judges the world will pay back such people midda k’negged midda. I myself have sent letters to many prominent people, and those who failed to answer my letters fell to unfortunate circumstance.
Furthermore, in yet another one of his works,2 Rabbi Palagi quotes the Re’im who goes off on an especially lengthy tangent, apologizing to someone for not having responded to a letter, explaining that he did not receive it and that perhaps it got lost. He also emphasizes to the person he is addressing that it is the first time he has ever missed responding to a letter. The Re’im also writes that he is proud to be among those who answer letters from all people, regardless of their stature or prominence.  Rabbi Palagi then elaborates on the importance of responding to correspondences and says that it should be one of the first things that one hurries to perform. He again asserts that not doing so is a sign of arrogance.

We also find that Rabbi Chaim Benvinisti once apologized excessively and begged forgiveness from someone for not having responded to a letter in a timely fashion. He too, elaborates on the importance of responding to letters in a timely manner.3 Rabbi Avraham Palagi, the son of Rabbi Chaim, writes regarding his father: “He always answered letters from even the most simple people. He did so even when it was terribly inconvenient.”((Tzavaa M’chaim 75.))

Although the issue of v’ahavta l’reiacha kamocha,4 loving your fellow Jew as yourself and treating others how you yourself would want to be treated5 is not explicitly cited, it is no doubt one of the “number of prohibitions which one may violate by not responding in a timely manner”. I would also add that there are some serious violations of “lo tonu“,6 the prohibition against wronging another person, along with ona’at devarim – causing others pain and distress.7

After contacting a number of experts in the field of social and business propriety, it seems to be the consensus that proper etiquette calls for electronic and phone correspondences to be responded to within two days or less. As with most matters related to civil and monetary law, the “minhag hamedina“, the custom of the society, has the strength to establish halacha.8 As such, I would like to suggest that those who delay, let alone ignore their obligation to respond to correspondences, will be in violation of the issues discussed above once two or three days have passed since receiving them.
Although the issue of responding to emails and phone messages may seem somewhat trivial in the greater picture of halachic practice, this is simply incorrect. Unfortunately, many people have a conceptual difficulty attaching non-ritualistic precepts to a spiritual accountability. It is time that as part of our constant efforts to upgrade our halachic behavior, we pause to reflect and better apply day-to-day bein adam l’chaveiro principles to the many social obligations we find ourselves in, including this one. Perhaps the words of the Rambam will inspire us to internalize this idea. The Rambam once praised himself saying: “…how many [written] questions have I received and not answered? I swear to you that I have no recollection of ever not answering a single question.”

Long Life

The gemara at the end of megilla [28] relates that Rebbi asked Rebbi Yehoshua ben Korcha in what merit he lived such a long life? He answered that he never gazed at the face of a rasha. [It also helps not to smoke, eat a healthful diet and to exercise regularly:-)].

Explained Rav Kook [who yahrtzeit is the 3rd of Elul]: Tosfos in Bava Basra [113a] says that "Korcha" is an allusion to Rebbi Akiva. Rebbi Yehoshua was then the son of Rebbi Akiva. Rebbi Akiva was involved in the revolt of Bar Kochba. Some of the soldiers were not such tzadikim. It would make sense that Rebbi Akiva gazed at them and his son Rebbi Yehoshua did so as well.

So Rebbi Yehoshua explained that he did not look at the reshaim and in that merit he earned long life.

Rav Tzvi Yehuda Kook understood that his father was also alluding to himself. Despite trying hard to be mekarev reshaim, he nevertheless refrained from gazing into their face [it brings upon one a ruach hatumah - See Maharsha]

Lesson - Try not to gaze at reshaim. Try to gaze at tzadikim for added holiness.

לרפואת ישי דב הלוי בן נרי בתוך שח"י
ולזכות ישראל שאנן בן ברכה לאה שיזכה להישאר עם אמו

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Danger Signals

R' Dr. Sacks:

The novelist Rebecca West once said that Jews, having suffered so much, had an “unsurprisable soul”, In 2000 our daughter, then a university student, attended an anti-globalisation rally in London that turned into a tirade against America, then Israel and finally Jews. “Dad, they hate us,” she said through her tears. Hearing those words in Britain in the 21st century showed me that I had a surprisable soul.

Jews in Europe have been shaken these past few weeks by the virulence of the demonstrations about the war in Gaza that also turned into something older and darker. More than a century after the Dreyfus trial the cry of “death to the Jews” has been heard again in the streets of Paris. Seventy years after the Holocaust, “gas the Jews” has been heard again in Germany. In Britain last month antisemitic incidents were at almost their highest level in 30 years. These are danger signals not just for Jews but for Europe.

After our daughter’s experience I saw events move rapidly. In August 2001 at the UN international conference against racism in Durban, Israel was accused by NGOs of the five cardinal sins against human rights: racism, apartheid, ethnic cleansing, attempted genocide and crimes against humanity. A new blood libel was born. Days later came 9/11, and almost immediately an opinion poll found that 40 per cent of Pakistanis believed it was carried out by Mossad, Israel’s secret service.

The new antisemitism is different from the old. In the past Jews were hated for their religion, then for their race. Today they are hated for their nation state. But it was not long before I saw how seamlessly the old and new hatreds meshed.

In April 2002 our family was in Italy celebrating Passover, which usually falls close to Easter. In Israel a group of Palestinian terrorists had taken refuge in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. The Israeli army, not wishing to enter a house of worship, stationed soldiers outside to wait until the terrorists emerged. It took several weeks. One day we opened the Italian newspaper La Stampa and saw a cartoon of the infant Jesus in a crib with an Israeli tank pointing at the child. The caption read: “Surely they don’t want to kill me again?!”

Weeks later the Catholic Herald in Britain published an apology about its reporting of the event. Initially it had criticised the Israelis. However, once the terrorists had left, Christians returned to the church to discover they had torn up bibles, stolen all religious artefacts of value and hidden 40 bombs, some booby-trapped, to kill or injure those who had given them refuge. The paper admitted that it had misjudged the situation.

It has been this rush to judgment, the assumption that if people are killed it is Israel’s fault, that convinces many of us that something other than the normal passions of politics is at work. In the 12 years since, the situation has become steadily worse. Criticism of Israel is not antisemitism, but demonisation is.

This matters because antisemitism is not really about Jews. It is about how societies treat the Other, the one-not-like-us. For more than 1,000 years Jews were the most conspicuous non-Christian presence in Europe. Today they are the most prominent non-Muslim presence in the Middle East. Jews were hated because they were different. But it is our difference that constitutes our humanity. Because none of us is the same as another, each of us is irreplaceable. A nation that has no room for difference has no room for humanity.

The hate that begins with Jews never ends with Jews. It was not Jews alone who suffered under Hitler and Stalin, nor is it Jews alone suffering from the ruthless pursuit of power that today masquerades as religion. Christians are under assault in more than a hundred countries: put to flight in Syria, driven out of Mosul, removed from Afghanistan, butchered, beheaded and terrorised elsewhere. Hundreds of Muslims are dying daily, 90 per cent at the hands of fellow Muslims. Bahais, Buddhists, Hindus and Sikhs have all suffered their own tragedies. Yazidis are on the brink of the abyss. The world is awash with hate across religious divides.

The West misread the 21st century. This is not an age of secular ideologies. It is an era of desecularisation. Our greatest challenge is not political or economic or military. It is in the deepest sense spiritual. No one expected this and we have not been equal to it. What rescued Europe from its last age of religious wars, in the 17th century, was not weapons but ideas: those of Milton, Hobbes, Spinoza and Locke that laid the foundations for religious liberty and the free society. Thus far the 21st century has been marked by an unprecedented series of new technologies, but no new ideas.

That is the challenge of our time and it will take a generation. First, we must stand together in defence of religious liberty and the scandalously neglected Article 18 of the UN universal declaration of human rights. People have the right to practise their faith, or lack of it, without fear. But without determined action on the part of the West it will not happen.

One comment: I submit that the following quote paragraph is inaccurate: This matters because antisemitism is not really about Jews. It is about how societies treat the Other, the one-not-like-us. For more than 1,000 years Jews were the most conspicuous non-Christian presence in Europe. Today they are the most prominent non-Muslim presence in the Middle East. Jews were hated because they were different. But it is our difference that constitutes our humanity. Because none of us is the same as another, each of us is irreplaceable.

Jews are hated because they are Jews, not only because they are different. Assimilating never stopped gentiles from hating us.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Opening his front door, the Rabbi found himself face to face with the local priest. "Rabbi, may I have a few words with you?" asked the priest.
"Of course, Father," replied the Rabbi somewhat nervously.
"Rabbi," began the priest, "It must be evident to you that in this town we are plagued by thieves. Scarcely a day passes without one of my flock coming to me bemoaning the fact that his house has been broken into. On the other hand, I have noticed that thieves do not bother you Jews nearly as much."
"Father, you are correct."
"Yes, but why is that?" inquired the priest.
"Look at this little box here on the side of my doorpost," said the Rabbi. "It's called a mezuza. We Jews believe that when we put a mezuza on the entrances to our houses, the Holy One, may His Name be blessed, protects both us and our property."
"In that case", replied the priest, "I must have one!"
Not wishing to be the cause of an incipient pogrom, the Rabbi reluctantly handed over a mezuza to the priest.
Some two weeks later the Rabbi was awakened by the sound of someone pounding violently on his door. Dressing himself hastily, he made his way down the stairs.
"Who's there?" the Rabbi asked tremulously.
"Open the door! Open the door!" screamed a voice on the other side.
Leaving the door on the latch, the Rabbi cracked the door wide enough to see the priest standing in front of him, his eyes wild with great distraught.
"What happened?" asked the terrified Rabbi. "Were you not protected from robbers?"
"I was! But these people were worse than robbers!" screamed the priest.
"Who?" asked the rabbi.
Moishe (the father) says to his son: "I want you to marry a girl of my choice."

The son says: "I will choose my own bride."

Moishe says: "But the girl is Bill Gates' daughter." [And they will convert her of course...]

The son answers: "Well, in that case, yes, okay."

Moishe then approaches Bill Gates and says: "I have a husband for your

Bill Gates answers: "But my daughter is too young to get married!"

Moishe says: "But this young man is a vice-president of the World Bank."

Bill Gates answers: "Ah, in that case, yes, okay."

Finally Moishe goes to see the president of the World Bank.

Moishe says: "I have a young man to be recommended as a vice-president."

The president answers: "But I already have more vice-presidents than I need."

Moishe says: "But this young man is Bill Gates' son-in-law."

The President answers: "Ah, in that case, yes, okay."

And that is how successful Jews do business.....

Thursday, August 21, 2014

New Shiur - Chai

Milchamos in halacha - here [the kushyos] and here [the mehalech to answer all the kushyos].
A delight to the mind and very practical for inyanei di-yoma.
We recently hit 1,800 shiurim according to the yutorah count. Just like I hit חי now I should be zocheh to give another 1,800 for more חי.
AMEN!! Thanks for listening.

The Power Of Listening

Great and sweet words of Torah on the parsha in English, here.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

New Article

Chidushim on Parshas Re-eh that are tastier than anything the palate can absorb, here.

A Word About Cell Phones

Rabban Shimon Ben Gamliel said: כל ימי גדלתי בין החכמים. All of my days I grew up amongst the wise. I learned it ALL. Every Tosfos, every Rashba, every Ktzos and every Rav Chaim. Everything. Full time scholar. Top Gun! What came out of it? What did he get?

ולא מצאתי לגוף טוב משתיקה - I found nothing better for the body than silence.

AHHHHHHHHHH!! Silence. Some people trade commodities. Silence is a lost commodity. So  much noise. I would like to trade noise for silence.

So much blabber.

Turn off your phone more often:-).

[Based on the words of Rav Moshe Mordechai Shulzinger Ztz"l one of the Torah giants of Eretz Yisrael and the world in our generation].

A Different Heart

The Torah said לא תשנא את אחיך בלבבך - Don't hate your brother in your heart. This can mean the following: Sometimes, people wrong you and hurt you and you think "I would NEVER do that to him. I don't have the heart... How could he do that to me??"

The Torah therefore teaches - Don't hate your brother WITH YOUR heart. Don't hate your brother because he treated you in ways that your heart would never allow you to treat him. His heart isn't your heart.

[The Rebbe Shlita in the name of earlier Chasidim]

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Really Good:-)

Tonight we had a siren and went to our shelter and missles rained down on Israel
It is soooo hard to find something positive to say about Hamas. They are soooo rotten. But I saw something and I am going to repeat it.

Hamas is really good ....... at breaking cease fires:-).

Nu, one positive remark deserves another.

CNN and the international press in general is really good ..... at being stupid:-).

You Are A Strong Number Two

Dedicated to my wife Necha-Gittel on our 20th anniversary. 20 years ago I was a student in Yeshivat Hakotel, who sported colored shits, sandals and a tchup. She was a first year Philosophy/English Linguistics student in Bar Ilan University. Ohhhhhh, how far we have come. I was concerned that she wasn't frum enough and she had other concerns about marrying me [a lifetime of poor humor??]. In the end - she turned out soooooo frum. She is always either taking care of the kids, the house or most likely - davening and saying tehillim. Thankfully, when I leave the house without my hat and jacket she lets me go [not before telling me that my shirt is untucked in the back]. As for her concerns about me - I hope that they never constituted a problem.

We traveled the path of chasidus together and found Hashem through that Avodah. Hashem blessed us with 6 beautiful children and many MANY challenges to help us grow:-). I will not state all of her praise and suffice with one aspect. In all of the years of our marriage that I have been learning Torah and we had very little money on which to subsist - she never ONCE suggested that I leave my gemara and get a job. That is a testimony to the high regard in which she holds limud hatorah and my own personal avodas Hashem. May we see nachas from our children for many years to come and may she see her husband and children constantly shteiging in learning and leaving the olam ha-zeh matters to those who are good at them.   

Myse - A dedicated student of Rav Soloveitchik NEVER missed a shiur. Over the summer, Rav Soloveitchik would be home in Boston and the devoted students would go there to hear him give shiur. This student had just gotten married but nevertheless made the trek to Boston to hear his beloved Rebbi give shiur.

Rav Soloveitchik asked him where his new bride was. He said that she is back at home in New York. Rav Soloveitchik was incensed. "You go back to her and don't return unless she is with you". The talmid complied and went home and returned with his kallah.

He remarked to one of his friends that he couldn't understand why his Rebbi was so adamant. "I told her that besides the Rov, she is the most important person in my life..."

Li-myse - A wife generally represents for her husband a fulfillment of his physical and material needs. A Rebbi is the fulfillment of his spiritual yearnings and strivings. A person who innocently tells his wife [I don't recommend it...] that she is a strong number two in his life is saying that ruchniyus is the central and primary component in his life. [Of course, a wife is also a spiritual being and one can only reach shleimus when married. But in the day-to-day, a wife is usually associated with the physical - meals, clean clothing, child rearing etc. vi-hamyvin yavin].

Monday, August 18, 2014

חיים בן לאה

Pleeeaaasee daven.
thank you

Sunday, August 17, 2014

New Shiur

Recently we gave 4 shiurim on Rav Kook's Oros Hamilchama [can be found on Yutorah]. Now we have started the Rav's Oros Hatchiya, here. It is SUCH a zchus to learn this Torah and to find out what it means to believe, to serve, to .... LIVE!

Friday, August 15, 2014


Some mussar from the PM here. I thank R' Aryeh B. for sending.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

More On Robin

More about Robin Williams...
Jim Norton, a comedian writing for Time:

No one will ever know exactly what Robin Williams was thinking and feeling when he made the decision to end his pain the way he did. But I do know he wasn’t seeing himself the way the rest of us saw him.

I first met Robin in 1998 when he came to the Comedy Cellar in New York City to do a guest spot.

Comedians tend to be impossible to impress and love to stress how they’re impossible to impress when bigger, far more famous comedians perform sets.

But on this particular night, I noticed that none of the regular comedians were leaving when they were done. We were all finding excuses to hang around. None of us wanted to admit it, but Robin Williams was performing, and we were genuinely excited.

What struck me the most about Robin was how important it was to him that the other comedians liked him. He was always gracious to the performer he had bumped off the lineup. That first night, and during his many returns over the years, he would always come upstairs and sit with us at the “comedy table” (made famous on Louie).

He could have easily dominated the conversation; we all knew the difference between who he was and who we were. Robin was one of the few larger-than-life comedians who could have actually gotten a table full of other comics to shut up and listen. But he didn’t. He joked and laughed with us and went out of his way to not tower above us. He probably never knew how much we loved him for that.

By all accounts, Robin struggled with depression and addiction over the years. So many comics I know seem to struggle with the demons of self-hatred and self-destruction. While my physically self-destructive days ended when I got sober, the thought of suicide was always there, an option behind glass that I could break in case of an emergency. I glamorized the idea of constructing my own exit.

And yet on a day like Monday, that idea seemed terrible and unnecessary. Not triumphant or glamorous but sad and empty and incomplete.

The funniest people I know seem to be the ones surrounded by darkness. And that’s probably why they’re the funniest. The deeper the pit, the more humor you need to dig yourself out of it.

Over the years, comedy has gone from happy-go-lucky pie-in-the-face jesters to the stuff of the deeply personal and honest with the coming of Lenny Bruce, Richard Pryor and George Carlin. The public began to see, through brilliant material and public battles with personal demons, that the people who made them laugh the hardest seemed to be enjoying life the least. Maybe all those jokes were hiding something much darker. The cracks in the exterior began to show.

On Jan. 28, 1977, Freddie Prinze ripped the facade down for good when he shot himself.

In the 25 years I’ve been doing stand-up, I’ve personally known at least eight comedians who committed suicide.

Years ago, I was told that one of the most important attributes humans don’t have is the ability to see themselves the way others do. This is normally what I think of when people behave like an idiot and don’t realize it, or think they’re smarter than they actually are. It’s rare that I think of it in the terms I have been after hearing about Robin.

There is simply no way Robin could have understood the way the rest of us saw him. And there is simply no way he could have understood how much respect and adoration other performers had for him.

At least I hope he couldn’t have understood.

Because it’s too sad to think that maybe he did understand, and it just wasn’t enough anymore.

Yaakov Menkin from cross-currents:

I grew up watching Mork. I’ve seen Aladdin. I even, during college, watched him perform live. But I never knew Robin Williams.

He was the consummate entertainer. He just knew how to make us laugh. His improvisation, his off-the-cuff remarks, were brilliantly funny. But we never understood who he really was.

And that was, perhaps, the problem, that which made him so depressed as to bring him to a tragic end.

With his passing, journalists and commentators are talking about mental illness and depression, recognizing the challenges he faced. And let me make it clear that I am not commenting about most cases, or even necessarily his case, of mental illness or depression. A person with either must seek professional treatment and it is a Mitzvah to do so.

But I don’t believe that Williams simply had a mental illness. Few are discussing how common depression seems to be among the leading entertainers — or why this is so. While I could of course be wrong in this one case, it is hard to imagine that so many entertainers, upon finding success, coincidentally develop depression.

Someone challenged me, asking whether it is true that so many entertainers are depressed, so I did a little research. I looked up Rolling Stone's list of the top 5000 albums , and found that nine of the top ten artists (those with the most albums on the list) had a drug problem (Bruce Springsteen being the exception). So did all five of IMBD'S top 5 actors (that’s where I stopped looking, though #6, Dustin Hoffman, did as well). Sports figures, of course, must stay in shape, but even there you find one drug scandal after the next. And what are drugs? Escape from the plain, real, often-depressing world.

I’m not aware of any other industry whose top practitioners are so likely to have trouble with drugs, alcohol, broken marriages, other self-destructive behaviors, and of course suicide… as entertainment. Not politicians, not the military, not any other profession or (legal) blue-collar field. In order to find a similar level of prevalence, one must look at drug dealers or prostitutes.

Isn’t something wrong with this picture? The entertainment industry is supposed to be about making us happy; entertainers are sharing happiness with us. Yet behind the scenes, they seem to need to escape. Either temporarily by getting drunk or high, or all too often permanently, whether via overdose or deliberate action.

The answer, I believe, is that what I said above is not really true. Entertainers are not sharing happiness, they are acting. Comedians practice their art and make people laugh… and then go home, where life isn’t funny. They aren’t creating something real, or (usually) making a lasting difference in someone’s life, so the feelings of accomplishment are similarly transient. Thus the need to escape.

True happiness is not found via entertainment. Happiness is tied to attainment, to achievement, especially to attaining completion as a person. The Vilna Gaon says on Megillas Esther (8:16) that in this world, Simcha, happiness, precedes Sasson, joy. “Happiness is moving forward to reach an objective in happiness, and joy is afterwards, when one has already achieved the objective and feels joy in his heart.”

This statement also teaches us that happiness is not a state of laughing delight. Rav Alexander Mandelbaum, in his “V’hayisa Ach Samayach” (“and you shall only be happy”), speaks about two types of happiness considered by Chazal — happiness with one’s lot, and happiness in performance of Mitzvos. Happiness with one’s lot is developed by considering that G-d gives each individual precisely what that person needs — so he or she, even in a difficult situation, should be happy with the understanding that HaShem saw that the difficult situation would prove to be of ultimate benefit. That sort of happiness doesn’t “just happen.”

One does not always feel Sasson, joy. But it is a Mitzvah to always be happy — even on Tisha B’Av, even during Shivah. How can this be? We can comprehend this by understanding Simchah as a feeling of moving happily in the right direction, pursuing a goal. That is something that can remain with a person even during times of grief and pain.

That is real happiness. Unfortunately, the purveyors of what the modern world calls “happiness” — the entertainers — realize within themselves, either consciously or subconsciously, that they have not found and are not providing true happiness.

What makes this especially sad is that now that he is gone, the stories are emerging of Robin Williams, the humanitarian, who visited hospitals to give presents to all the children. When he met the doctors and nurses who had spent their holiday stabilizing a premature baby, he teared up — recognizing people whose efforts were real and transformative. Perhaps he didn’t realize that yes, you can make others happy, you can give people something lasting, just with a smile — and even a joke or two, which Robin Williams had in abundance.

Yes, it’s sad that he went, and it’s sad that he was so sad — he could have been so happy.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

New Article

Article on Eikev, here.

Beyond geshmak!:-)

The Paradox Of Stardom

I pashut CAN'T believe it.

I was brought up on a steady diet of the actor and comedian Robin Williams. It started with Mork and Mindy where he played a foreign alien and was hilarious. Then he appeared in many popular movies and made me laugh together with millions. Nu, today, and since my conversion to Judaism, I would never watch him anymore because I find most of pop-culture offensive to my values and a mammoth waste of time and brain cells but I was a young child and at the time "Gefet" [Gemara, Peirush Rashi, Tosfos] didn't do it for me.

He is dead. Probably a suicide. I just don't get it. Almost everybody in Hollywood has the same basic biography. They have some or all of the following:

1] Drug addiction.
2] Alcohol addiction.
3] Multiple marriages and/or partners. NOBODY [just about] has one spouse from the age of 23 until death. There is always infidelty as well.
4] Depression and/or serious emotional issues.
5] Few children [despite many partners] who are messed up like their parents.

They also have....

6] Beauty [particularly the women] and attractive partners as well.
7] A ton of money and possessions.
8] Fame.
9] Adulation of the masses.
10] Lots of free time to enjoy life.
11] Talent.

They often die young of overdoses and suicides.

If they have numbers 6-11, why then would they also have 1-5? I mean, they seem to have it all - so why are they so miserable and 'messed up in the head'? [The fact that dozens of entertainers recently signed a petition condemning Israel and supporting Hamas proves beyond any shadow of a doubt the Israel is absolutely right....].  It is not one of them or ten but it seems that they ALL have serious issues.

Go to any Wiki page of entertainers alive and dead and you will read of the same tragic stories. Many of the popular entertainers of the last century were Jewish born, changed their names to something goyish sounding ["Jerry Lewis" "Mel Brooks" "George Burns" "Woody Allen" etc. etc.] and lived such sad lives. Broken marriages, substance abuse, depression, a small number of children, if any etc. etc. They knew they were Jewish but wanted nothing to do with it. Gentile women aren't more attractive than Jewish women but to them they were. Very often the first wife was Jewish because they were less assimilated in their younger years but as they got older and became more goyish they almost always married non-Jewish women. Why?? Very simple. They thought that such a lifestyle and choices would bring them happiness. NONE of them were happy.

That is the bottom line. Fame and fortune, a wife who is a world class beauty and limitless material possessions DON'T bring one happiness. Period. They usually bring just the opposite. These people are generally FAKE people. The job of an entertainer is to be fake. An actor fakes being a person he is not. A singer fakes enjoying the song he is singing in order to impress the crowd. It is all about impressing other people and achieving imaginary stardom. Then, after years of hard word at perfecting their fakeness - they reach the pinnacle, the zenith, the peak. When they arrive they realize that it is all hot air and the people around them are similarly hot air. How did Koheles put it?  הבל הבלים.

As for us - we know the truth. אשרי אדם עוז לו בך. When a person is FILLED with Emunah in Hashem, when a person has a sense of purpose, when a person is REAL - he will be happy. The money, possessions, women and fame, just won't do it. Paradoxically, the very same things that people pursue to achieve that ever-so-elusive happiness and contentment are often the very things that destroy them...

A person with Emunah can say חסד ומשפט אשירה - I will sing whether I experience chesed or the opposite. Life is a song because I walk with Hashem.

Let's learn from the Robin Williamses of the world what doesn't bring happiness and go in the direction of truth, meaning and holiness.  

From The Depths

לזכות רבי אברהם יצחק בן אסתר לברכה והצלחה בכל מעשי ידיו


Every tfilla must emanate from the depths of your soul and not just be external and lip-service [called in Hebrew מס שפתיים - Lip tax. So many taxes....]. But in tehillim there is only one perek that is explicity from the מעמקים - the depths, namely שיר המעלות ממעמקים קראתיך השם. Why is this perek different?

The answer [as is often the answer to questions of this sort] is to look at the context of the perek. It is all about tshuva. אם עוונות תשמור, כי עמך הסליחה. When we do tshuva, we don't merely uproot the actual sin but try to get to the root of the sin. What feelings caused us behave in this manner? What was the trigger? What is at the root of those feelings? What would have been a better reaction? There is a word for this in English. It is called "Psychotherapy":-). This doesn't mean that one must spend the 250 dollars on a professional who may or may not help [while the client is DEFINTELY helping the therapist in 250 ways...], but that one should peer into his/her own soul and try to get to the roots of deviant behaviors.

Indeed, ממעמקים. Proper tshuva requires depths.

[Maran HaRav Hutner ztz"l]


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

He Was Already Helped

לזכות ידיד נפשי רבי אפרים אבא בן מרים שושנה וכל משפחתו לברכה והצלחה בכל מעשי ידיהם!!!

R' Avigdor Yaakobovitch z"l related the following story about Reb Aharon Mi-Belz:

His brother was trying to sneak over the Russian border in order to escape and of course was filled with fear. He sent a telegram [before email...] to R' Avigdor imploring him to get a bracha from the holy Rebbe that he should be successful on the following Sunday in sneaking over the border.

That Friday night at the tisch, R' Avigdor gave money ["שטעלן ויין" in "chassidic"] and asked for a bracha for his brother who is going on a dangerous mission on Sunday. Reb Aharon said "Ehr is shoin a gehalphener" - He was already helped. Hmmmm. The next day he gave money another time, so great was his trepidation about what might happen to his brother. That Sunday morning the Rebbe was receiving people but he convinced someone in the inner circles to mention his brother again.

The Rebbe said "Farvoos fardreit men mir dem kop mit azelecha narisha hazkoros" - What are you driving me crazy with such silly requests. Hmmmmm.

Turns out that his brother changed his plans and already successfully sneaked through on Friday. That is what the Rebbe meant when he said Friday night "Ehr is shoin a gehalphener".

בקדושתו של אהרן עמ' קמ"ו

זכות הצדיקים יעזור ויגן ויושיע!! 

Hashem Decides

לרפואת ר' צבי משה בן איתן אברהם הלוי בריאות איתנה וכל טוב סלה!

עשיר ורש נפגשו עשו כלם השם

A rich man and poor man meet - both were made by Hashem.

[Mishlei 22/2]

Some people think that the reason that successful people are successful is that they are smarter or otherwise more talented while the poor are lacking brains and talent. But then they meet and you see that it is the poor one who proves himself brighter and more capable in many ways than the rich one. So why is he poor and he rich?

עושה כולם השם - Hashem decided that way!

My Washing Machine And The Geula

My washing machine broke.


Better than a critical limb [or even uncritical limb], chas vi-shalom. G-d is great! Only chesed.

But now I have to buy a new one [or so my wife tells me - unless I choose to do the laundry by hand daily]. So what type of machine should I buy?

A German machine? No way! Yimach shimom! A Polish machine? After what they did to us?! No sir! A Spanish model? Who can forget the inquisition? I'll pass. A French one? There is a Jewish exodus from that country that is filled with anti-semitism.

An American-made washing machine? They refused to take in Jewish escapees from Nazi Europe, resulting in their deaths. Roosevelt would not even come out of the White House to meet the Rabbis who were protesting in order to help the European Jews being starved, gassed and burned alive. Not to mention the present administration and their pro-arab inclinations.

An Israeli model? Don't know if they make such machines in this country. Even if they do maybe the factory isn't shomer shabbos and who would want to support mechalelei shabbos?!

So I will make the machine myself! But I need to buy the parts. Where am I going to get the parts from? Not German made etc. etc. etc.

Moral - Moshiach should come and redeem us from anti-semitism, broken washing machines and mostly .....

Broken Hearts.

כאיש אשר אמו תנחמנו כן אנכי אנחמכם ובירשלים תנוחמו

אמן כן יהי רצון!!!:)

The Shchina Feels Our Pain

The Rizhiner Rebbe could often be found in his court surrounded by musicians, strolling in the fields or orchards, or riding in his golden coach drawn by six white steeds. He practiced an interesting form of avodas Hashem, shrouded in mystery.  While his divine service was appreciated by the Chassidim and many non-chassidim, it was not appreciated by the Russian authorities. They eventually accused him of plotting to depose the Czar; his regal way of life proof in point. The Rizhiner was imprisoned for 22 months, 16 in the notorious Kiev dungeons in a dark and damp cell and then another 6 months in Kamenetz. No charges were ever brought against him and he was never placed on trial. The Rizhiner, undaunted continued to lead his Chassidim even while incarcerated, despite the fact that he was allowed almost no visitors.

Before he went to jail he quoted the famous pasuk and added his own interpretation. גם כי אלך בגיא צלמות לא אירא - Even though I walk in the shadow of the vally of death, I will not fear. רע - But things are bad, כי אתה עמדי - Because You are with me. You, the Shchina is suffering along with me and THAT is רע.

Stopping The Chillul Hashem

One of the most distressing phenomena in our days is the proliferation of stories about rabbonim and mechanchim who acted with women and girls in completely inappropriate - or better, criminal [at least according to halacha], ways.

The Internet compounds the problem because the Chillul Hashem is magnified when everybody knows about it. How can it be stopped?

Ideally, men should not be teaching or counseling women. A guy is a guy whether he has a beard and payos or not. אין אפוטרופוס לעריות. If a person wants to satisfy his appetite - nothing will stop him. The yetzer hara is more powerful than a line in the shulchan aruch. It is not only the men's fault - sometimes the women fall for the men. People are only human. That explains why the earth is populated with 7 billion people [including many of our "cousins" who don't exactly fit into the category of "human":-)].

The problem is that men need parnassa and teaching women provides parnassa. Another issue is that men generally know a lot more Torah than women and are thus more qualified to teach. [Men don't know more because they are necessarily smarter but because they spend far more time in the beis medrash than women.] Another issue is that men are more authoritative than women are in the eyes of the students for various reasons and thus make deeper impression on the students. Rebbetzin Kniyevski was a tzadekes but nobody viewed her as an authority as they do her husband.

I still think that it is bi-dieved that men teach women [I myself did so and viewed it as bi-dieved and am happier today having no parnassa than I was when I received the extremely minimal amount I received. In order to make a semblance of a living teaching in Seminaries one must teach in 10 seminaries....]. Once they are already teaching, there must be guidelines that go beyond the regular halachos of yichud. The details are not the point of this post but there is definitely too much close contact between teachers and students [in many cases] that must be curbed.

There is always a male/female tension present and this often leads to misunderstandings. This can be prevented to a certain extent if there are proper boundaries. Not every male is a predator. 99.9 percent are not. Not every rabbi has a personal interest in his students that are not pure and holy. A mature man is not interested in 18 year old girls. But there are good people who fall, there are moments of weakness and of that we must be wary.   

Seminaries would also be wise to conduct extensive background checks on their teachers. Many of them do not.

In conclusion - steps must be taken to curtail the amount of horrible stories we hear about all too often.

Monday, August 11, 2014

A recent article by Rav Asher Weiss Shlita [in Hebrew] on killing innocent civilians at war, here.
 See also R' Shachter Shlita in Ikvei Hatzon Simman 32.

Great Opportunity!

My neighbor wants to sell his apartment and asked me to spread the word. It is beautiful, spacious and about half the price of such an apartment in Yerushalayim [Givat Zeev is about 20 minutes from Yerushalayim]. Gorgeous view, sunny, many mylos. I would buy it myself if I had money....

For more information - contact me......

Sunday, August 10, 2014

A Talmid Chochom Of Refined Character

The late Rosh Yeshiva of Chofetz Chaim in Yerushalayim was Rav Moshe Chait ztz"l. Although I wasn't zoche to be his student, I was the student of his students. I hope his spirit permeates my being and that I am able to pass it on to my sweetest friends.

In shul I saw a dvar torah in which a beautiful story was related about the Rav. A student came to his yeshiva for the year and planned to attend college the following year [old story...]. He ended up staying for a number of years. When asked why, he explained: One time the student was at the kotel with his Rebbe Rav Chait. The Kohanim took off their shoes to duchen. The boy noticed that the Rav gently moved the shoes closer to where the kohanim were duchening so that they would not have to step on the cold floor. He decided that if he has the opportunity to be around a person of such refined character he would not give it up.

Fear Of A Rebbi

It says in Pirkei Avos "מורא רבך כמורא שמים" - Simply, your fear of your Rebbi should be like your fear of Hashem.

Reb Eizekel of Zidichov explained  - Your fear of your Rebbi should be like HIS fear of Hashem.

The Rebbe Shlita related that he was once walking with the Holy Beis Yisrael in Bayit Ve-gan and their were children who were playing in the sidewalk. Suddenly one of the children saw the glowing countenance of the Beis Yisrael and cried out "Immmmmaaaa-leeeeeeee" and ran away to his mother. The Beis Yisrael couldn't understand why he scared the child away.

What happened, explained the Rebbe Shlita, is that this child's neshama sensed that there was an intense amount of kedusha in this holy man.

[From a drasha given motzei shabbos parshas Va-eschanan 5774]

Friday, August 8, 2014


An outline [in Hebrew] of a drasha that will be given in shul tonight - here. Va-eschanan, Nachamu, Rebbi Akiva etc. Good stuff bs"d!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Civilian Casualties

"One Israeli commentator said years ago that it is the height of cynicism for the Arabs to cry over their civilian losses when their entire strategy is to inflict civilian casualties on Israel through terror. Every rocket or missile they launch has a civilian address on it. It is intended to hit homes, schools, stores and hospitals."

Who Is Guilty?

From the "Cross Currents" blog, remarking on a boy who appeared on national television and spoke in a crude, vulgar manner. The writer is a judge and I am sure a very good man. I will comment at the end.

The various news and social media have been crowing about the “modern Orthodox” 12-year-old who appeared last night on AMERICA’S GOT TALENT. This little caricature of the caricature “Jacob”-a painfully embarrassing and seldom funny woman playing a bar mitzvah boy on Saturday Night Live-told a few foul “jokes” to the utter delight (tinged with shock) of the crowd. By any objective standard, neither the kid’s delivery nor his material would have made the grade if he were not a 12-year-old wearing a KIPA. Getting prominent play for how supportive they are, his father- also sporting a yarmulke on stage, and his mother, who could not have appeared more delighted if she were at her son’s medical school graduation, were just so obviously proud. It would have been a cringe- worthy display under any circumstances.

But, assuming that they are not just very savvy Gentiles (and bad parents), who just used the device of a yarmulke to get a leg up on the competition, I find their identification as “modern Orthodox” appalling.

I am modern Orthodox.

Want to know what that means in my world? It means we adhere to an age-old tradition with as little compromise as is humanly possible. In fact, if you sat down and talked to us there are just a few things that make us different from the so-called “chareidi”Jews-easily identified by their sartorial fascination with the color black:

1) We attribute theological significance to the birth, growth, survival, and success of the State of Israel

2) We view the female half of our culture as intellectually equal, and worthy of equal treatment in education and in cultivation of their leadership potential.

3) We believe that education in almost any subject is a worthwhile pursuit without apology.

4) And perhaps most significantly, we believe that our children can be taught to discern good from bad and need not live in a sanitized environment with a bag over their heads. Sometimes we let them watch television. And then we try to be around to point out that many aspects of our dominant culture do not reflect our values.

In that vast area across the Hudson River known as America, those of us who identify as Orthodox have a certain sensibility derived of our constant awareness that we represent something very large and very significant. In our area, in Pittsburgh, that theme resonates throughout our society. During the sports segment one recent night on our local news they interviewed Stephon Tuitt, the newly signed defensive end on the Pittsburgh Steelers, who spoke of the tremendous responsibility he now bears having been assigned number 91, a number last worn by the great defensive end Aaron Smith. L’HAVDIL.

When I arrived in Family Court today, lawyers, court personnel, even sheriffs, who have formed an impression of me over the years by my demeanor and speech, evinced shock at what they had seen on TV of a child whom they identify with me and my belief system because of his choice and that of his parents to put a beanie on his head. Ordinarily, some of these people actually apologize if they have occasion to say something inappropriate and I am present. Out of respect for what they perceive me to be. But this kid, and of course his parents, dragged me down with them.

Make no mistake; I believe that in America this child’s parents have every right to parade him like JonBenet Ramsey before millions on TV. But this level of Chillul Hashem- desecration of God’s name- resulting from a child mouthing foul potty humor before an audience of millions with that kipa on his head, shocks the conscience. This isn’t about rights. It’s about responsibility.

By those parents shepherding their child into that particular manure pile, they have besmirched all of us who share that identification by others with a Judaism that does not abide stealing, lying, cheating, racism, vulgarity, bullying, Shabbat violation, or desecration of God’s name. They have a right to do it, but we have a right to be sickened by it and to cry out against it.

So kid, as you go on to Vegas, or wherever AGT takes you next, do a big favor to those of us who’ve spent our lives trying for kiddush Hashem-sanctification of God’s name. TAKE OFF YOUR YARMULKE.

Or, if you insist on adherence to this lesser of our traditions, wear a Yankees cap, so that our Torah, our faith, and our tradition don’t have to viewed in the public eye on the same level as the sewage you are spewing.

1] Charedim are not "fascinated with black". They [I...] wear a certain type of clothing that distinguishes us from goyim. It works nicely....:-).

2] Charedim ALSO attribute "theological significance to the birth, growth, survival, and success of the State of Israel". Just a different type of significance than you do. It is quite hard to argue on what Hashem is thinking but that is essentially the argument. But we all agree that Hashem is in control and the State has some sort of meaning.

3] Charedim also "view the female half of our culture as intellectually equal". Equal but different. Not a male brain is a female brain and not a man's obligation to be immersed in Torah is a female's. We don't "cultivate their leadership potential", because traditionally, barring a few exceptions - women don't lead men. If they want to lead other women then we happily cultivate that. My daughter is a madricha for little girls:-).

4] "We believe that education in almost any subject is a worthwhile pursuit without apology". And Charedim believe that instead of studying American History, time would be better spent studying Torah. Does it say anywhere "American History ki-neged koolam"?

5] "And perhaps most significantly, we believe that our children can be taught to discern good from bad and need not live in a sanitized environment with a bag over their heads. Sometimes we let them watch television. And then we try to be around to point out that many aspects of our dominant culture do not reflect our values." Charedim don't "put a bag over" their children's heads but find it quite foolhardy to expose their children to all of the filth that pervades modern media and then explain to them that it doesn't conform to their values. Show a child pornography and then say "but Jewish girls dress with tzniyus." Hmmmmmm, sounds educationally problematic, to say the least. People are faaaar more convinced by what they see than what they hear.

Which brings me to my point. This child is not guilty. He is but a child. His parents aren't entirely guilty. They are just products of their society. The ENTIRE SYSTEM is guilty. When a Jewish child is exposed to unfiltered, unsupervised internet, television, movies etc. he is going to speak in a crude and vulgar manner. Why should he speak any differently? We are all products of our environments and just reflect its values and behaviors.

It completely befuddles my mind how otherwise responsible, frum parents allow their children unlimited exposure to the mass media. By all accounts it is filled with so many elements - "sewage" we may call it, as the writer above did - which are completely at odds with our values [and assur at that]. In 20 years of teaching such children I have seen the results.

My hope is that people reading this will be extremely cautious in their own exposure to the media and even more vigilant when it comes to their children, present and future.

Questions On The Parsha

לרפואת ישי דב הלוי בן נרי בתוך שח"י ויהודה בן מרגלית שרה בתוך שח"י

The Rebbe Shlita in his weekly chumash shiur asked [as he does every week] questions that have never been asked before but require understanding at every level.  Moshe in this weeks parsha [4/20] says in this weeks parsha that Hashem took us out of Egypt which was a כור הברזל.

1] What on earth is a כור הברזל? Iron crucible. What is that??

2] Rashi says that it is a machine that purifies "gold". So why then is it called "Iron". It should be called a "gold crucible"?!

3] This is the first and only time in the Torah that Egypt is called כור הברזל. Why not earlier in the many times that the Torah mentions yetzias mitzrayim?

4] The Netziv and Meshech Chochma ask: Moshe was talking about Matan Torah and then out of the blue in our pasuk he goes back to Mitzraim. Is he an old grandmother who is no longer with it and is confused?? Chas vi-shalom! So why does he speak out of context?

5] In pasuk says that Hashem took us out of the כור הברזל to be his עם נחלה. This term עם נחלה appears nowhere else. What on earth does it mean?? עם נחלה???

6] I add [if I may...]: We are chosen as an עם נחלה כיום הזה. What does כיום הזה mean? Does it mean "today". Then say היום הזה. Does it mean "like today". What is "like today"? What would have we missed if the pasuk would have said that we are chosen as G-d's nation and stopped there?? [So completely by "accident", I was learning something else minutes after I posted and came by a maamar in the Pachad Yitzchak - Chanuka 16 where he talks about כהיום הזה in a different context - עיי"ש]

If you learn and you think you discover amazing things.....:-)

New Shiur

Shiur on the machlokes Rashbi and Rebbi Yishmael in Brachos 35, the pasuk בכל נפשך and mesirus nefesh - here, here and here [they are all brief but jam packed].

Not normal what happens when you learn deeply.

Ashrei ha-am she-kacha lo!!:-)

Be Sincere

Copied from

            Yesterday, we noted the Gemara’s famous comments in Masekhet Yoma (9b) describing the generation of the Temple’s destruction as one which was loyal to Torah study and observance but failed in the area of interpersonal relations.  Interestingly enough, as we discussed, the Gemara mentions that the people of the time were involved in gemilut chasadim – acts of kindness – despite being plagued by sin’at chinam (baseless hatred).  This description gives rise to the question of how, and why, the people were on the one hand kind and generous, while on the other hand hateful. 
                        One possible explanation is that the people of the time performed acts of kindness outwardly but without genuine, heartfelt feelings of love and devotion to one another.  The Torah in Sefer Shemot (23:5) commands that we must assist even an enemy struggling with his overburdened donkey, and writes, “azov ta’azov imo.”  Targum Onkelos explains this to mean that we are to abandon our inner feelings of resentment and hostility toward the person in need and come to his assistance.  This might suggest that the Torah requires not that we assist our enemy despite our feelings of resentment, but rather that we eliminate those feelings and then help our fellow out of genuine love and concern.  Accordingly, the Torah specifically commands us to work toward changing our feelings and emotions toward people whom we naturally dislike, and not merely to be kind to them in spite of those feelings.  Gemilut chasadim performed with feelings of sin’at chinam falls short of the standards demanded of us.  The internal feelings with which we engage in acts of kindness are a critically important component of the fundamental obligation of gemilut chasadim. 
            The Gemara tells us that the people at the time of the churban were outwardly involved in acts of kindness while at the same time harboring feelings of sin’at chinam internally  They felt content going through the motions without embarking on the far more difficult task of changing their outlook and feelings toward other people.  The Torah’s ideal of gemilut chasadim, from this perspective, requires not only acts of kindness, but feelings of kindness, harboring genuine emotions of love, concern and fraternity toward our fellow Jews. 

New Blog:-)

Introducing a NEW AMAZING blog, penned by one of the top avreichim in the Mir yeshiva, my beloved friend R' Tzvi Moshe Kantor Shlita! Enjoy his sweet, deep Torah.

Check it out, here.

What To Do With Hamas

I am not saying that I agree or disagree with the following article, because honestly, I don't know what the solution is [besides Moshiach:-)].

Rabbi Yisrael Rosen - Shabbat Bi-shabbato Va-eschanan 5774

We are in the midst of a difficult struggle against a cruel enemy who wields a sword and who sanctifies death and a religion of blood. We have written in the past that the Divine providence has given us the task of being a "light to the nations" and to teach humanity, which desires life, how to fight against diabolical and cannibalistic terrorism. "They will even burn their sons and daughters for their gods" [Devarim 12:31]. Since as I write this article the security status is very fluid and the international situation is quite complex, causing our national spirit to be very unstable, I am not able to come to any clear conclusions about the current state of affairs. It will therefore suffice for me to discuss some marginal thoughts about the events of the past days.
The Lesson of the "Disengagement" – A lack of Trust
Exactly nine years have passed since the wretched "disengagement" on the Ninth of Av 5765 (2005). I have no interest in rehashing the past and in putting the blame on ... Arik Sharon. I would much rather take a look at the future than look back at the past, since I fully identify with a motto that the Rambam coined: "A man should never set his thoughts on the past, since the eyes are in the front and not in the back" [from a letter to the wise men of the city Marshilia on the subject of luck and the Zodiac]. What lesson can the "disengagement" of the past teach us about the struggle in Azza in which we are now engaged? The following is my answer to this question.
First of all, we can assume that if the settlements had remained where they were in Azza and Gush Katif our international status would have been worse than it is now, and this might also be true for our security status. Our status in terms of nationalism and Zionism is another story, they would be much stronger. On the other hand, there is a very strong lesson to be learned – it consists of scorn and a slap in the face for all those who promised us "security and quiet for many years to come... military flexibility to fight against terrorist activity from Azza... appreciation by the nations of the world towards the steps we took, with appropriate international compensation," and other such vain balloons and lies. The lesson of the "disengagement" cries out to be heard: Don't believe! Not the government of Israel, not the minsters, not the advisors. If now we will act in a way that is "reasonable and rational," as it were, and give up on the idea of chocking out of Azza all ability to rearm itself and dig new tunnels all in return for political promises – history will repeat itself yet again. In a very short time, we will be witness not only to new tunnels but also to hundreds of drones guided by the Hamas and by Iran.
I accept with understanding and I even agree with the withdrawal of the IDF troops from the dens of the serpents, and the refusal to listen to the harsh war cry, "Retake Azza!" Such a move would not give us any benefit, certainly not in view of the high price we would be forced to pay in the number of lives lost, heaven forbid. We cannot expect any real practical meaning to be gained by fulfilling the foolish slogans that are being bandied about in the open markets: "We should go from house to house and eliminate all the terrorists... We will locate every single rocket launcher..." I also totally reject the hollow mantra, "We have destroyed thousands of elements of the Hamas infrastructure." For anything more than the destruction of the attack tunnels, this sounds to me like a vain boast meant mainly to calm our own nerves. Can anybody define just what the "Hamas infrastructure" is?
Therefore, the only alternative that remains is to declare a war based on "an eye for an eye" in the civilian realm. Every rocket, missile, and artillery shell that is fired toward Israel will immediately be met with two barrages (or airplane attacks) on the area from which the attack occurred. The severity of the reaction follows the line of "a double portion" [Shmuel I 1:5], which is a natural proportion in terms of "a reaction that fits the rule of "a punishment that fits the crime" and judicial equivalence in a threatening situation. Every shot fired will have a return address on it, which will include the exact time when the return rocket or missile will be fired. Can any reasonable person claim that this scheme is not balanced, to return two high-trajectory shells for every one that is fired towards us?
I can see all the raised eyebrows against this suggestion, claiming that it is immoral because it will cause injuries to non-combatants, as it were. My reply is based on separate reactions of King Shaul and the Holy One, Blessed be He. "And Shaul said to the Keinite, go away from the Amalakite, lest I destroy you together with them. But you showed kindness to all of the people of Yisrael when they left Egypt." [Shmuel I 15:6]. However, this concerns undesired damage not to participants and supporters of the enemy but to people who "showed kindness to Bnei Yisrael." And even so, they are told to "go away, lest I destroy you together with them.
We can learn directly from the Holy One, Blessed be He. "And I will set My face against that man (who sacrifices his son to the Molech) and his family" [Vayikra 20:5]. "If he sinned, what did his family do? This teaches you that there is no family which has a tax-collector who are not all tax-collectors at heart, and no family of thieves where they are not all thieves at heart, because they protect the guilty ones." [Shavuot 39a].
This "high-trajectory" equality is over and beyond the specific destruction of all the nests of terrorists and the surgical removal through personal attack of all of the political, religious, and ideological heads of the Hamas and not only their terrorist messengers.