Wednesday, November 30, 2016

How One Becomes A Loving Person

לזכות גילה שושונה בת נעכא גיטל
הרב אברהם יוסף בן ר' משה חיים 
יהושע מאיר בן רחל שרה
שרה לאה בת רבקה

The Torah says that we are commaned to love EVERY Jew as much as himself. How is it possible to reach this lofty level? Who loves every Jew? A person loves his family and maybe a few close friends - but EVERYBODY?

Here is a biiig yesod from Erich Fromm [The Art Of Loving]:

A person who is surrounded by love becomes filled with love and can then love others. A person who lacks love from the outside has none to share with the world. A child who has loving parents, loving siblings, loving teachers, loving relatives, loving neighbors etc. etc. is going to be FILLED with love which he with then distribute liberally to everyone around him. Such a person can potentially fulfill ואהבת לרעך כמוך. If a person is surrounded by criticism or anger, he will be filled with criticism and anger.

Surprise!! Notttt. 

But it is important to remind ourselves constantly. When we give someone love we are not only helping them and ourselves - we are helping all of society. For this person will reflect this love back to the world. 

When we criticize our children - we are harming society for he will reflect this back to the world. That is how he will relate to his wife and children in all likelihood. MOST abusers were themselves abused. They are filled with abuse so they spread it to the world.

We are not living in a loving world. People feel very uncomfortable even saying "I love you" to other people unless it is a spouse or their child. We have to keep our distance - so we shake hands. Why do we shake hands? Some historians believe that people used to shake hands to ensure that the person is not holding a weapon...

Ribbono Shel Olam - HUG THE GUY!! Tell him you love him. After shul at the kiddush we should be all hugs and kisses. But no - distant handshakes ["keep your distance - don't get too close"]. Shake hands with the Hispanic fix it man who did some work for you in your house - but a fellow Yid - he deserves an expression of your love. 

In Israel - I almost never see two frum people hugging. Why not? You hug your child because you love him so why not your friend?? 

From an article:

Hugging therapy is definitely a powerful way of healing. Research shows that hugging (and also laughter) is extremely effective at healing sickness, disease, loneliness, depression, anxiety and stress.

Research shows a proper deep hug, where the hearts are pressing together, can benefit you in these ways:

1. The nurturing touch of a hug builds trust and a sense of safety. This helps with open and honest communication.

2. Hugs can instantly boost oxytocin levels, which heal feelings of loneliness, isolation, and anger.

3. Holding a hug for an extended time lifts one's serotonin levels, elevating mood and creating happiness.

4. Hugs strengthen the immune system. The gentle pressure on the sternum and the emotional charge this creates activates the Solar Plexus Chakra. This stimulates the thymus gland, which regulates and balances the body's production of white blood cells, which keep you healthy and disease free.

5. Hugging boosts self-esteem. From the time we're born our family's touch shows us that we're loved and special. The associations of self-worth and tactile sensations from our early years are still imbedded in our nervous system as adults. The cuddles we received from our Mom and Dad while growing up remain imprinted at a cellular level, and hugs remind us at a somatic level of that. Hugs, therefore, connect us to our ability to self love.

6. Hugging relaxes muscles. Hugs release tension in the body. Hugs can take away pain; they soothe aches by increasing circulation into the soft tissues.

7. Hugs balance out the nervous system. The galvanic skin response of someone receiving and giving a hug shows a change in skin conductance. The effect in moisture and electricity in the skin suggests a more balanced state in the nervous system - parasympathetic.

8. Hugs teach us how to give and receive. There is equal value in receiving and being receptive to warmth, as to giving and sharing. Hugs educate us how love flows both ways.

9. Hugs are so much like meditation and laughter. They teach us to let go and be present in the moment. They encourage us to flow with the energy of life. Hugs get you out of your circular thinking patterns and connect you with your heart and your feelings and your breath.

10. The energy exchange between the people hugging is an investment in the relationship. It encourages empathy and understanding. And, it's synergistic, which means the whole is more than the sum of its parts: 1 1 = 3 or more! This synergy is more likely to result in win-win outcomes.

There is a saying by Virginia Satir, a respected family therapist, “We need four hugs a day for survival. We need eight hugs a day for maintenance. We need twelve hugs a day for growth.” Eight or more might seem quite high, but while researching and writing this article I asked my child, “How many hugs a day do you like?” She said, “I'm not going to tell you how many I like, but it's way more than eight.” That really made me smile and touched my heart. And, I realized how organic and deep the need for hugs is.

 So beloved friends!!!! 

Share your love! And if you don't feel it - fake it. It will come over time because a person who feels loved by you will love you back and it is difficult not to love someone who loves you. 

We need more love in the world. We have enough hatred and indifference. 

If we tap in to the G-dly part of ourselves we will find love for what is Hashem if not love. Let us listen to divrei kodsho of the Rav ztz"l.

"אני אוהב את הכל. איני יכול שלא לאהוב את כל הבריות, את כל העמים. רוצה אני בכל מעמקי לב בתפארת הכל, בתקנת הכל. אהבתי לישראל היא יותר נלהבה, יותר עמוקה, אבל החפץ הפנימי מתפשט הוא בעזוז אהבתו על הכל ממש.

אין לי כל צורך לכוף את רגש אהבה זה, הוא נובע ישר מעומק הקודש של החכמה של הנשמה האלוקית" (ערפלי טוהר).

Ruined It

The dinner I was cooking for my family was going to be a surprise but the fire trucks ruined it.

Brain Transplant

I wasn't originally going to get a brain transplant, but then I changed my mind.


Women spend more time wondering what men are thinking than men spend thinking.

100 Percent

Whatever you do always give 100 %. Unless you are donating blood.

Married Life

"My son asked me what it's like to be married so I told him to leave me alone and when he did I asked him why he was ignoring me."

Big Words

I hate people who use big words just to make themselves look perspicacious.

Get Their Meds!!

When I see ads on TV with smiling, happy housewives using a new cleaning product, the only thing I want to buy are the meds they must be on.

Watch What You Say!!

A recent study has found that women who carry a little extra weight live longer than the men who mention it.


Today a man knocked on my door and asked for a small donation towards the local swimming pool. I gave him a glass of water.

Something Must Be Done!!

One third of all American children are obese!

And the other two thirds are terrified of getting trampled to death at recess. 

Please Daven For The Rosh Yeshiva Of The Diaspora Yeshiva

הרב מרדכי בן נירה 

What Are We Waiting For?

What is better - belief in Hashem that is predicated upon past events or belief in Hashem that is predicated upon PRESENT events?

Definitely - PRESENT events. Memory is great, memory is powerful, but what we experience at any given second is much more powerful that what was in the past.

We live in a faith system that is significantly based upon history and memory. Yetzias Mitzrayim, Matan Torah, etc. etc. There are numerous mitzvos to remember past events. But there is something even better.

To LIVE the existence and presence of Hashem at this given second. 

The pasuk says that at the end of days we will no longer need the memories of Yetzias Mitzraim as much because the experience of the Ultimate Geulah will be so powerful.

 ולא יאמר עוד חי ד' אשר העלה את ישראל מארץ מצרים, כ"א חי ד' אשר העלה את בנ"י מארץ צפונה, ומכל הארצות אשר הדחתים שם, והושבתים על אדמתם, נאם ד'.

That is what we are waiting for.

In the words of the Rav:

הניסים מבארים הם את האמונה האלהית, שהיא ממעל לכל גבול, והשלמות האלהית נקבעת ע"י אמונה קדושה זו בנפש. וכשתגמר לגמרי האמונה את תפקידה, ותוציא את הנשמה לאורה, אז לא תהיה צריכה לעצמיות האמונה בהניסים ולזכרונם. אבל אין השלמת האמונה ברום קדשה באה, כ"א ע"י קביעות קשר האמונה בניסים בפועל. ויציאת מצרים והניסים הכרוכים בה היא יסודם, שממשכת והולכת עד לימות המשיח, שאז לא תהיה יציאת מצרים עוד ליסוד עקרי, כ"א או טפל לעיקר, או דבר שכבר שמש את תפקידו לגמרי, ולא יאמר עוד חי ד' אשר העלה את ישראל מארץ מצרים, כ"א חי ד' אשר העלה את בנ"י מארץ צפונה, ומכל הארצות אשר הדחתים שם, והושבתים על אדמתם, נאם ד'. והאורה המשיחית תשיב את הזוהר העליון של האדם לאיתנו, ותהיה לכן גבוהה מכל התגלות אלהות שעד כה, עד שאפילו תורה שבעוה"ז הבל הוא כלפי תורתו של משיח. וזוהר עליון של אדם הראשון שואב את טל חיי קדושתו ואשרו מן ההוה, ואינינו נזקק לשעבר, ממעמק הדעת והחיים, ולא מן הזכרון.


Internet Tragedies - Part 4

סיפורים מצמררים עדכניים. מאומת לחלוטין_עמוד_2


If you understand Hebrew - a talk on the damages of the Internet. 

The Gift Of Emotional And Spiritual Attunement

לזכות גילה שושנה בת נעכא גיטל לברכה והצלחה בכל מעשי ידיה!!

Really - our goal is to fix the world. But even if ONE PERSON is awakened by something written it will have been worth the time [a great deal of it] and effort. 

So here goes. We go back to the Garden. Not the Garden on 34th street. The Garden of Eden. 

Adam is told by G-d - "DON'T SIN"! 

He sins. 

G-d says - "Why'd ya do it??"

Adam says "It's YOUR fault."

My fault? What did I do?

"You gave me a woman and she made me do it". 

This has repeated itself trillions of times in human history [and in my own life quite a few times and counting]. A person acts in an offensive way or says something hurtful. When confronted, instead of saying "I am sooo sorry. I was wrong. I will try NEVER to do it again. How can I make it up to you?" [How many times have you heard those words??] The person attacks YOU [the victim] for being "overly sensitive" or otherwise at fault. Very often, the person has been the recipient of great kindness from you and instead of being grateful - BLAMES you, as did Adam.

People don't want to admit fault. It is very rare to find a person with whom you can be straight, tell him or her what they did and an immediate sincere apology is forthcoming. Even better when it is accompanied by an expression of appreciation that you expressed your pain. 

People just don't get it. They understand very well when their own feelings are hurt but when it comes to others they become deaf, dumb and blind. 

A well known Very Modern Orthodox rabbi wrote a book about his life. I didn't read it but I heard that it was all about his successes. Did he never fail??

I saw an interview with Trump. He was asked if he ever failed in life. He answered with honesty and forthrightness - No, never. But, he was asked, you filed for bankruptcy four times - isn't that a failure? No it isn't he replies and explained why... But what about a certain business deal you made that loss a ton of money - No, that wasn't a failure either.   

How lucky we are to have a perfect President-elect!!!

[I think it was Obama who said in jest that his greatest asset is his tremendous humility and that his greatest fault is that he is just TOO awesome]. 

We all fail - and constantly. In big ways and small ways. The more emotionally and spiritually attuned we are, the more we realize it. There are people who can go decades without ever admitting fault!! What does this do to their marriages and children [or talmidim]?? How can you fix your faults [and we are all riddled with them] unless you first admit you have them. 

I went to the doctor and told him that he better not tell me that I am sick because I don't want to hear bad news. I want to hear that I am healthy and will live till 200 in good health running triatholons all the while. If the doctor never tells you what you are sick with then you can't treat the illness. 

We are ALL ill. The question is "with what?"

Do we adequately express love to others?

Are we sufficiently sensitive to the needs of others?

Are we sufficiently generous with our money and time?  

Do we hold grudges?

Do we complain too much?

Do we have gratitude for all that we have? Is this gratitude properly expressed and to whom?

Do we give others sufficient honor? How?

There are SOOOO many questions that emotionally and spiritually developed people constantly ask themselves that we should be aware of. 

How are we working on ourselves? Are we better today than we were 3 months ago - even slightly?

Most people remain more or less the same for their entire adult lives.


Be that person for whom it would have been worthwhile to create the entire world. 

Internet Tragedies - Part 3

From Guardyoureyes

My husband was so bold and so over-confident that he behaved as if he ruled the world and thought he was infallible. He even performed his addiction in front of my eyes without shame. For many years of our marriage he would turn on the computer after the kids had gone to bed and effectively ran raw sewage through our home with no shame whatsoever, even the religious books in our cupboards didn't make him flinch or stop for second. If I would come down and tell him to turn off the computer and come upstairs, he would talk to me as if I was his child and say "go to bed - I'm coming later." He wouldn't turn up of course, he would stay up all night - night after night after night - until shabbos came and he went to shul. Often he would be chazan and everyone would compliment him and smile at me and the kids and say how lucky we were. It made me suspicious of all mankind.

At home he would show his true self. On Friday night he slept by the table and never had any time for the kids whatsoever, often he was so finished from the week he would end up on the sofa all night get up early for shul and after lunch he would sleep for ages to re-charge his batteries for the porn-filled week ahead. I screamed, shouted, behaved like a mad desparate woman and carried around so much pain I cannot begin to express its depth - and all the while he carried on. He found me unbelievably boring and I found him selfish, self gratifying, perverted and abusive. I then decided to refuse anything I felt was not kosher and not right - I explained to him my soul was suffering - I then became extremely boring - overnight I became a granny in his eyes, but I stuck to it. One day when I was due to go to mikvah - I looked at him in the kitchen and smiling I told him the news (he never counted - after all he didn't really care enough), He laughed and said "you care that much?" I said "don't you?" I then went very miserable and he said he hadn't really meant it. He tried to persuade me to go but I refused and he then got angry and verbalized the awful truth - which I knew already but it sounded so awful when it was actually said. He said "he didn't actually need me anymore anyway and I meant nothing to him and with that he switched on the computer. I stopped going to the mikvah altogether and that year I enrolled on a university degree. It demanded so much of my attention it literally saved me and my marriage - if I hadn't shifted my attention I would be divorced by now - my intention was to get more qualified so I could get a good job and find a way of getting out of this marriage and the constant pain. By the end of a whole year of separate lives we somehow got back to together with lots of promises that things would be different.......but gradually they got worse, he started using the internet all day as well as all night and time had no meaning - he could be there for hours on end. Apparently he had forgotten the time she was due home from school. On another occasion my son walked into the living room and just as he was about to pass the computer my husbands hand gave him a firm push backwards to stop him in his tracks and stop our little tzadik from seeing harmful material. I had just been serving supper (which he never had time to join us all for as usual) and he thought we were all in the kitchen and amazingly he took the risk of contaminating his own children - his addiction was so strong it was just unbelievable. I tried explaining to him that he had a serious problem but it was to no avail as he believed he didn't and he could handle it.

Internet Tragedies - Part 2

From guardyoureyes

I was married for 4 years. The beginning was great but then things began to go bad. He started looking at pornography. We stopped having relations, which destroyed me, he stopped talking to me and his hate for himself turned on me. it go so bad that I thought I was going crazy, so bad was his hostility, his hatred for his affliction that I couldn't take it anymore so I took our daughter and left. 1.5 years later we got a divorce.

Four years down the road after the divorce and I have not seen such a wonderful father as my ex-husband. He has changed completely, a new person, out of himself and not in on himself, loving, kind, happy and the most important thing, not intense. He once said to me that his addiction was intensity everything else was the result of that. I asked him how did he change and he said, a lot of hard work, counseling, following the 12 steps, work, mussar, work and more work, forgiveness, work and work. He said he has been trying since the age of 12 to stop acting out, and the only thing that worked was understanding himself, 12 steps and work. We won't be getting back together but i respect him and think that my daughter is very lucky to have him as her father. Ladies, you must realize that it is an addiction, you must understand that an addict has only one way out and that is the 12 steps and hard work. If he wants to stop, he must take responsibility, and he may not so this until he hits rock bottom, what ever that means for each individual. But in the end, it is a commitment to the program and damn hard, honest work.

Internet Tragedies - Part 1

It might sound unbelievable but the people who tell it swear that they are telling the truth and just won't release his name in order to save his family great embarrassment.

A Rosh Kollel who was "holding" in KOL HATORAH KULA - including Kabbala, had HUNDREDS of men in his kollel who were paid the very respectable sum of 3,500 shekel a month, a mechaber sfarim etc. etc. was given an iphone as a present last winter. He was told that he could answer shylos with the iphone. What a BRACHA!!

Well, to make a long story short - he became addicted, stopped answering shylos and then after a short while stopped giving shiurim because he was busy going to the worst possible places on his phone. 

Soon after he told his wife that he needed to go to chutz la-aretz to raise money to increase the number of men learning in his kollel, pay for his sfarim etc. etc. 


His students went to bring him back and found him with no kippah, tzitzis, beard or peyos. But wait - it gets "better". He was living with a non-Jewish woman. 

Unbelievable but like I said they insist that it is true and I believe it. That is the power of the Internet. 

They asked him to come back but he said that it is too late. He said that they should have spoken to the guy who bought him the iphone as a present.

My message is that if you can do away with it completely GREAT!! If you can't - at least minimize your usage and be very careful. And for goodness sakes - don't let your children use it unless you are supervising [or better - not at all].

Here is the story in the original: 

סיפורים מצמררים עדכניים. מאומת לחלוטין_עמוד_1

Fanaticism And Tolerance

Rav Mordechai Greenberg 

In an essay in the book “Orot” about the disputes on opinions and faith, Rav Kook explains his approach to the issues of fanaticism and tolerance. On one hand there is fanaticism, which believes that its approach and its religion are absolute and immutable truth, and which denies that any other movement has any truth to it at all. As opposed to this, there is a more tolerant viewpoint which believes that all of the movements have some basis of truth, and that by gathering together the items of truth in all the different movements we will be able to achieve absolute truth and there will be peace in the world.

Rav Kook claims that both of these approaches are erroneous. We, in Judaism, do not merely have part of the truth, which would mean that we are in need of additional information from an external source to complete our knowledge. At the same time, we do not subscribe to the infectious fanaticism which claims that we exclusively possess absolute truth and there is nothing left to learn from others. “It is a bad sign for a party if it thinks that it alone is in possession of a living source of all wisdom and honesty – and that everything else is empty and void of any meaning.” [Igrot Re’iyah volume 1, page 17].

Here is the correct way of looking at things: Judaism does indeed include everything, but it does not deny that others also have parts of this whole. Even more than this, the power of every movement and every ideology stems from its specific point of truth. If it did not have at least one absolute truth it would not exist at all. The sages taught us that “falsehood cannot continue to exist.” [Shabbat 104a]. Falsehood has no way to stand up. All the letters of “sheker” stand on a single leg, as opposed to truth, “emet,” all of whose letters stand on a solid base of two legs. It is therefore important to reveal the elements of truth in every movement in order to know how to struggle against the movement. Only something that is totally false must be eradicated from the world. But if it has at least one element of truth there must not be any attempt to destroy it, because if you do so you are fighting against truth, and any such action is doomed to failure.

And for this reason Rav Kook felt that it was wrong to struggle against secular Zionism in a bitter fight to the end, as others did, since it is based on some true ideas. Some people said: If they move to Eretz Yisrael we will not do so. If they speak Hebrew, we will speak Yiddish. Rav Kook disagreed with these ideas. He insisted that the issues supported by Zionism are words of Torah which also obligate us. Therefore we must show our appreciation for the positive elements of truth in their approach and only afterwards argue against the falsehoods.

Rav Kook gave similar advice to parents in Russia whose children were caught up in the Communist movement. He said we should tell them that we appreciate their demands for social justice, because this is based on the Torah and on Judaism, and that there is no need to move away from Judaism in order to embrace the concept of socialism.

This can also help us understand Rav Kook’s analysis with respect to Eisav: “Let me tell you my opinion regarding foreign beliefs. The light of Yisrael should not try to destroy them, just as we do not intend to cause general destruction of the world and of all its nations, but rather to mend their ways and raise them up... The words of the GRA are enlightening: ‘I had hatred for Eisav’ [Malachi 1:3]. The hatred was for the things that had been added on. But the main thing, his head, was buried together with the great people of the world.’” Even Eisav had a point of truth which was put to rest near the Patriarchs.

True Strength

The "pitgam" of Rav Kook for Kislev [we recently had a post about it]:

גבורת אמת תמצא רק במקום שאור אלהים שמה

True strength - גבורת אמת - is found only where there is the Light of Hashem. 

The Rav himself explains:

הגבורה שהכפירה משתוקקת אליה, לא תוכל לעלות בידה. קצף ימלא האדם על חולשתו, ולעזור - מאומה לא יוכל. הרחבת הגבולים, העלאת האדם לשורש נשמתו, והכרת הנשמה לחלק אלוה ממעל, ברב עז ותעצומות, משיבה לאדם את גבורתו. והתעלותו למרומי האלהות - ברצונו היא תלויה, ובאחרית-כל לכל היא מובטחת, ומהאחרית המאושרת, מתעלה האדם ומתאמץ בכל זמן ועדן. 
[שמונה קבצים א' ת"ז]

The Source Of Light

When one sees a great scientist a bracha is made - שנתן מחכמתו לבשר ודם. But only if he is a Goy. On a Jewish scientist no bracha is made. Why? Because that same brain could have been used for what is עיקר - Torah and was instead used for something טפל. We don't make bracha on טפל items. In Pachad Yitzchak [חנוכה מאמר ט] there is a brilliant exposition on the difference between Torah knowledge and secular knowledge עיי"ש. 

Here is the rousing finale!!


Dr. Nosson Leff

Please daven for the author's refuah shleima - R' Nosson Chaim ben Zelda

Sfas-Emes, Zechuso Tagein Aleinu, Toldos, 5631

The Sfas Emes takes us back to the subject — and the reality — of “hester.” That is, HaShem is at all times present, but is “hiding” behind nature and chitzoniyus (superficial appearances). Last week, in Parshas Chayei Sara, the Sfas Emes discussed hester in the context of zeman (time); i.e., in viewing history and current events. This week, the Sfas Emes discusses hester in more general terms. He also focuses on the responsibility that hester brings with it for us, namely, the task of penetrating the Hester to be aware of HaShem’s Presence — despite the hester.

Where in Parshas Toldos does the Sfas Emes find the issue of hester? He finds it in Bereishis, 26:18-22. Avraham Avinu had dug wells to give people access to water. Chazal see these wells, not only as real-life wells, but also as a metaphor for Avraham Avinu’s activity in giving people access to HaShem, Whose Presence is manifest in the water of the wells.

After Avraham was niftar, the Plishtim — the original Palestinians — filled in the wells with earth. Again, viewing this real-world experience in metaphoric terms, we see this action of the Plishtim as blocking access to HaShem. I.e., they actively tried to block access to HaShem. Now came Yitzchok Avinu. He removed the earth that the Plishtim had used to close the channels to — and from — HaShem. Thus, the Sfas Emes sees Yitzchok’s removal of the earth to reach the water in the wells as an act of penetrating the hester to renew contact with HaShem.

Why does the Sfas Emes return so often to the theme of hester? In his constant reference to HaShem’s being hidden, the Sfas Emes may be addressing his own personal question of: where is HaShem? And out of his personal experience with this problem, the Sfas Emes drew a crucial insight. As he has often told us: the purpose of Creation is to give us the challenging task of penetrating the Hester; and thus to finding HaShem in nature (ma’aseh breishis). That is, our key responsibility is to make ourselves aware that despite appearences to the contrary, all existence comes from HaShem.

After Yitzchok Avinu encountered strife and hatred from the Plishtim in the matter of the wells, he dug a new well, over which there was no conflict. Accordingly, Yitzchok called that well “Rechovos,” a name which connotes expansiveness and repose. The name Rechovos evokes for the Sfas Emes a posuk in Mishlei (1:20): “Chochmos bachutz barona, baRECHOVOS titein kolah.” (ArtScroll: “Wisdom sings out in the streets; it gives forth its voice in the squares.”) The message is clear: Once we remove the outer shell which hides HaShem, an awareness of His Presence will expand and permeate the world.

Continuing with this theme, the Sfas Emes tells us that the agent for this permeation is Torah Shebe’al Peh (the Oral Law). How does this process work ? The Sfas Emes explains. By extending HaShem’s accessibility to all our activities, Torah Shebe’al Peh enables us to experience HaShem’s Presence more thoroughly in our daily lives. Thus the posuk in Mishlei is telling us that by giving forth its voice (an allusion to Torah Shebe’al Peh ), wisdom — Torah — expands its domain.

The Sfas Emes continues. This specification of our role in life — to expand awareness of HaShem’s Presence — helps answer a puzzling question. Why — and how — did Yitzchok Avinu misjudge his son Esav?

A posuk (Bereishis 24:62) tells us: “Vayeitzei Yitzchok lasuach basadeh.” (That is: Yitzchok went out (ArtScroll: “to supplicate;” Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan: to “medidate”) in the field.) As you see, translation of the word “lasuach” is not obvious. The Sfas Emes sees this word as related to the word ‘sicha’ — spoken words. Thus, he reads ‘lasuach’ as; “to speak.” Why did Yitzchok Avinu go out “to speak” in the field? The Sfas Emes answers: To expand awareness of HaShem in the world. Thus, the Sfas Emes sees Yitzchok Avinu as being engaged in kiruv (outreach).

Further, the Torah tells us (Bereishis, 25:27) that Esav, too, was known to be an “ish sadeh” (a person of the field). But for Yitzchok Avinu, the sole reason for going out ‘to the field’ was kiruv. Yitzchok thought that Esav, too, was engaged in kiruv. Thus Yitzchok Avinu misperceived his son Esav, viewing him as “a chip off the block.” “Like father, like son.”

Finally, Esav played on his father’s misperception. He did this by asking Yitzchok Avinu questions that implied that he, too, was concerned to extend awareness of HaShem’s Presence. Thus he asked his father: How does one give ma’aseir (tithe) from salt? How does one give ma’aseir from straw? The former question conveyed the impression that he (Esav) wanted to extend our awareness of HaShem even to the inanimate world (salt); and the latter question, even to the relatively unimportant part of the world (the chaff).

Three suggested take-home lessons from this Sfas Emes. Bear in mind:

1. The sheer evil of the Plishtim, expending resources to block access to HaShem.

2. The Sfas Emes’s novel interpretation of why Yitzchok favored Esav; i.e., ish sadeh.

3. The fact that hester is not something that happens accidentally or that we bring upon ourselves. The Sfas Emes is telling us that HaShem built hester into creation — to give us the challenge of seeing Him despite the hester!

A Conversation With G-d

From the blog of Rebbetzin Hurwitz who is treating her husband, A Chabad Rabbi with Lou Gehrigs disease

Please daven for R' Yitzchak ben Bracha

Let's imagine for a minute that G-D took our hand in His and said "I have a job for you. It's going to be a hard one but I know you can do it. Your path will be full of heartbreak and difficulties, yet you will be able to help and comfort many. When it's time I will show you how important it was and how necessary you are, but until then, although you will comfort many, none will comfort you." 

Would you take the job? I know I would without hesitation, yet without that conversation, I am having a heck of a time with all this. This is probably true for most of us. Our challenges are straight from G-D, and we know He is good and kind and the only reason he would put coal through the fire is to make a diamond. Our souls were each told something like this on their way down, and we really have no say in that part of the deal. The part we do have a say in, is what we do with it. The founder of the Chassidic movement, the Baal Shem Tov, taught us that a soul comes into this world for 70 or 80 years just to do a favor for another. Can you imagine if we measured our success by that? Not fame or fortune, but a kind and generous heart. A person willing to forgo their personal comfort to help another. A person willing to approach another in need, and offer assistance. Let's get really uncomfortable. Let's say, my journey is hard and I know how that feels, maybe I can make someone else's easier. Along the way, that might bring you some satisfaction and will most definitely be more purposeful. For myself, I have noticed that I am occasionally able to help people and to comfort them. Let them know they are not alone in this great big world. Yet I feel very alone. At night I am alone. In actuality and in my mind. It's painful and harsh and the worst part is also the best part. Yitzi. He healed my heart and now because of him it is broken. He taught me how to love and how to be loved. How to forgive and how to love life. The whole house revolves around him, yet he has never even seen my room. At night, it's me and my memories and conversations with G-D.

More On Chinuch

By Rabbi Yirmiyohu Kaganoff

Question #1: His own Lulav?

“Am I required to purchase for my son his own lulav?”

Question #2: Three-year old Tzitzis?

“At what age should my son start wearing tzitzis?”

Question #3: Minor Kohanim

“I know that one must be very careful that a kohen, even an infant, does not become contaminated with the tumah of a meis. Yet I rarely see a child under bar mitzvah duchen. Is this consistent?”

Question #4: Kiruv Kohanim

“We are in the process of being mekarev a fellow who is a kohen. He enjoys joining us for our family outings, and we love to visit museums. Could this present potential halachic issues?”


In the beginning of parshas Tolados, the Torah mentions the birth and upbringing of Yaakov and Eisav. In what many consider the most controversial passage in his commentary on Chumash, Rav Hirsch criticizes the education that Eisav received. This provides an opportunity to continue our discussion on some of the aspects of the mitzvos of chinuch that we began a few weeks ago.

In this context, we find the following passage of Gemara:

“A minor who knows how to shake a lulav in the way that halachah requires is obligated to fulfill the mitzvah of lulav; one old enough to put on a talis properly is obligated in tzitzis; if he is old enough to protect his tefillin, his father must purchase for him tefillin; when he knows how to talk, his father teaches him Torah and the Shma” (Sukkah 42a; see also Arachin 2b and Tosefta, Chagigah Chapter 1).

We see from the Gemara that we should begin teaching a child Torah and training him to observe mitzvos at the earliest age possible for him to perform the mitzvah correctly. One of the first lessons of mitzvas chinuch that we see here is that the mitzvah is not simply to demonstrate to a child a few times before his bar mitzvah how the mitzvah is performed. The mitzvah is to train him from when he begins to be able to perform the mitzvah properly, and we then begin to encourage him to observe the mitzvos. Thus, as soon as he begins to speak, we should have him recite pesukim. When old enough to wear a talis properly, we should train him in the mitzvah of tzitzis, and when old enough to perform the mitzvah of lulav properly, we should train him to observe that mitzvah.

Why are tefillin different?

When the Gemara mentions that a child should begin to observe mitzvos, it teaches that his father is obligated to purchase tefillin for his son, but it does not say that the father is required to buy either tzitzis or a lulav for his son. This implies that only in the case of tefillin is the father required to make a purchase, but not for the mitzvos of tzitzis or lulav. Why are tefillindifferent?

The answer is that someone cannot observe the mitzvah of tefillin properly without owning his own pair, and it is obvious that a child would not have the means with which to purchase tefillin. Therefore, the mitzvah of chinuch requires the boy’s father to purchase a pair of tefillin for him.

However, Chazal did not require the father to purchase the four species or tzitzis for his son. Why not? In the case of the four species, the son should be able to perform the mitzvah by using his father’s, and it is therefore unnecessary to require the father to purchase his son a set (Tosafos, Arachin 2b).

What about tzitzis?

Regarding the mitzvah of tzitzis, Tosafos rules that, even for adults, Chazal did not require one to purchase a four-cornered garment in order to fulfill the mitzvah. Rather, someone wishing to wear a four-cornered garment is required to have tzitzis attached to it. In the days of Chazal, one did not purchase a garment with tzitzis, or even purchase tzitzis threads to place on a garment. Clothing was made at home, and tzitzis threads, which require being manufactured for the sake of fulfilling the mitzvah, were spun at home. Therefore, there was no requirement to purchase tzitzis for a child, but, that when the household provided all its members with home-made clothing, it provided the men-folk, including those under bar mitzvah, with four-cornered garments and spun tzitzis to attach to them (Tosafos, Arachin 2b).

“Protecting” tefillin

The Gemara rules that when a child is old enough to “protect his tefillin,” we should purchase for him a pair of tefillin. What does it mean that he is old enough to “protect his tefillin”? Some understand this to mean that he understands that he should not bring his tefillin into the bathroom (Rashi, Sukkah 42a). Others understand this to mean that he can keep a guf naki, meaning that he is old enough to be careful not to release flatulence while wearing tefillin, which is prohibited because of bizuy mitzvah, treating mitzvos with disdain (Rashi, Brachos 5b; Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 37:2). There is obviously a major difference between these two approaches: A fairly young child can be entrusted not to bring tefillin into a bathroom, whereas someone considerably older may still have difficulty maintaining control and awareness to remove his tefillin when he feels that his stomach is somewhat unsettled.

Contemporary practice

Following the second approach mentioned above, which is the conclusion of the Shulchan Aruch, common practice today is that we do not have a child wear tefillin until he is almost the age of bar mitzvah. This is because we are concerned that he will be unable to keep a guf naki. Therefore, we wait until the child is almost the age that he is required min haTorah to wear tefillin, and only then do we train him how to wear tefillin.

Minor kohanim

At this point, let us address one of our opening questions.

“I know that one must be very careful that a kohen, even an infant, does not become contaminated with the tumah of a meis. Yet I rarely see a child under bar mitzvah duchen. Is this consistent?”

This question needs to be dealt with as two different headings. The first topic is the prohibition of causing someone to violate a halachah. The second topic is understanding how the mitzvah of chinuch applies to the specific mitzvah of birkas kohanim. I will first discuss the topic of causing a minor kohen child to become tamei.

Causing someone to violate the Torah

It is prohibited min haTorah to be the direct cause of a child violating a prohibition of the Torah (Yevamos 114a). For example, providing a child with non-kosher food or bringing a minor kohen into a house that contains tumas meis causes the child to violate what the Torah says. The Torah prohibits doing this, even when the child himself is too young to be responsible to fulfill the mitzvah and is not commanded to observe it. As a matter of fact, this law applies min hatorah even to a newborn (Magen Avraham 343:2). It also applies even when a child is, unfortunately, being raised in a non-observant way. Therefore, it is forbidden for someone who has a babysitting job to feed a Jewish child non-kosher food, or to serve non-kosher food to a Jewish child in a school cafeteria. Similarly, it is prohibited to dress a baby in a blanket or clothes made of shatnez (Shu"t Beis Yehudah, Yoreh Deah #45).

Tumah is worse

In the particular instance of causing a kohen to become tamei, there is an additional violation, specific to this mitzvah. The Rambam rules that it is forbidden for someone to make an adult kohen tamei and, at times, this may involve violating a prohibition min haTorah (Rambam, Hilchos Aveil 3:5). The Rambam rules: "If the kohen is unaware that what he did is forbidden, and the person who made him tamei knows that it is, then that person violates the lo saaseh. If the kohen knows that it is forbidden, then the other person violates only lifnei iveir lo sitein michshol, do not place a stumbling block before a blind person (Vayikra 19:14).” Chazal interpret this pasuk to mean that one may not give someone bad advice, nor cause him to violate a prohibition.

Kiruv kohanim

Thus, we can now also address another of our opening questions. “We are in the process of being mekarev a fellow who is a kohen. He enjoys joining us for our family outings, and we love to visit museums. Could this present potential halachic issues?”

In a different article published in this column many years ago, I discussed at length the shaylos that exist concerning whether a kohen may visit a museum. (A copy of that article, entitled Finding a Compatible Place for an Extended Family Outing, is available on the website Based on our current discussion, we are now aware that the same issues exist if I cause a kohen to enter a museum. Thus, taking a nephew who is a kohen on a family trip to a museum may involve the same halachic problem, and I should consult my rav or posek. Bringing our friend the kohen involves the same halachic issues, notwithstanding the fact that he, himself, has no concerns about the matter. As we saw above in the Rambam, it is actually a more serious problem for me when I know that the kohen is not concerned about the prohibition.

What if the child does it on his own?

The Gemara (Yevamos 113b-114a) relates that Rav Yitzchak bar Bisna lost the keys of the beis medrash in a reshus harabim, an area into and from which it is prohibited min haTorah to carry on Shabbos. Thus, there was no way to unlock the doors and use the beis medrash on Shabbos. Rabbi Pedas suggested that Rav Yitzchak bar Bisna bring some children to play in the area where the keys were lost, hoping that one of them might find the keys and bring them to the beis medrash. According to Rabbi Pedas, one is not obligated to prevent a child from violating a mitzvah of the Torah, provided that one does not ask or enable the child to do so. In other words, although it is prohibited to cause a child to violate a mitzvah, we have no obligation to prevent the child from violating a mitzvah, nor are we prohibited from placing a child in a place where he may choose to violate a mitzvah on his own.

The rishonim ask why the mitzvah of chinuch does not require preventing the child from violating Shabbos. Here I will present three widely-held approaches to answering this question.

Under age

One answer is that Rabbi Pedas’ rule that we are not required to prevent children from choosing to violate prohibitions applies only when they are very young -- meaning that the child is below the age of chinuch, when we are required to educate him about the mitzvah (Tosafos, Shabbos 121a, s.v. shema). Thus, Rav Yitzchak bar Bisna brought only fairly young children to play in the area where the keys were lost. It would be prohibited, according to this approach, to cause older children who understand that we do not carry on Shabbos to carry the keys in a reshus harabim. This approach is quoted by the Rema (Orach Chayim 343).

Mitzvos Asei

A second approach to answer this question is more lenient, contending that the mitzvah of chinuch applies only to positive mitzvos, but does not apply to prohibitions (Rabbi Eliezer miMetz, the author of the Sefer Yerei’im, quoted by Tosafos Yeshanim, Yoma 82a; the same position is quoted by several rishonim to Yevamos 114a). According to this understanding, there are three levels:

1. We are prohibited min haTorah from directly causing a child to violate a prohibition.

2. We are required miderabbanan to train a child to perform mitzvos.

3. There is no requirement at all to prevent a child from performing violations of the Torah that a child is doing on his own.

Isn’t this counterintuitive?

Is this approach not counterintuitive? In general, prohibitions are treated more strictly than positive mitzvos, and the punishments for violating them are usually more severe (Terumas Hadeshen #94). Why, in this instance, is the positive mitzvah being treated more stringently than the prohibition?

Some explain that the reason is because performance of a positive mitzvah usually requires more effort, and these mitzvos will be more difficult for him to observe when he becomes an adult. Therefore Chazal required the father to make certain that his child is habituated to perform mitzvos. They did not require chinuch on lo saaseh prohibitions, since they are passive (Terumas Hadeshen #94).

Only the father

I promised that I would share with you three approaches to explain how Rabbi Pedas permitted placing children somewhere where they will likely end up performing melachah activity on Shabbos. Is there not a mitzvah of chinuch?

A third approach to answer this question understands that when Chazal introduced the mitzvah of chinuch, they obligated the father, but no one else, to train a child to perform mitzvos. Since other people have no obligation of training a child to perform mitzvos, they are permitted to place a child somewhere where he may, of his own volition, violate a prohibition (Tosafos Yeshanim, Yoma 82a; Rambam, Hilchos Maachalos Asuros 17:28). This last approach is the one followed by the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 343:1), who writes: “If a child is eating non-kosher, beis din is not commanded to prevent him, but his father is commanded to rebuke him and prevent him.” The Rema cites this opinion also.

Remember, as we taught above, that all opinions prohibit directing a child to violate a prohibition. What is permitted is placing him in a position where he will, of his own volition, violate a prohibited activity.

In conclusion, we are prohibited from causing a male child to become tamei from contact with a corpse. According to the conclusion of the Shulchan Aruch, you are not obligated to prevent a child from making himself tamei, unless the child in question is your son.

What about duchening?

At this point, let us return to the question raised above: “I know that one must be very careful that a kohen, even an infant, does not become contaminated with the tumah of a meis. Yet I rarely see a child under bar mitzvah duchen. Is this consistent?” Now, that we have explained the background to the first part of the question, let us discuss the second part: Our questioner reports not seeing many minor kohanim perform the duchening.

The Mishnah (Megillah 24a) states that a child does not duchen, which Rashi explains is because it is not respectable for a congregation to have a child bless them. Our question is whether the Mishnah means that a child should never duchen, or does it mean that he should not duchen when he is unaccompanied by an adult kohen? The issue being debated is whether the lack of dignity for the tzibur is any time a child is blessing the congregation or only when he does so by himself.

This issue is the subject of a dispute among early rishonim. Rashi (Sukkah 42a) rules that a child should never duchen, whereas Tosafos contends that it is fine for a child to duchen, as long as he does so together with adult kohanim (Tosafos, Megillah 24a s.v. Ve’ein). According to the latter opinion, it would follow that there is a mitzvah to train a minor kohen to duchen, just as there is a mitzvah to train him to perform other mitzvos. However, according to Rashi, since Chazal ruled that it is not a kavod to have a child duchen, then, clearly, there is no mitzvah of chinuch to train him to duchen. There were many places in Europe where the custom was to follow Rashi in this law. This is why our questioner has rarely seen a minor duchen. However, this is by far not a universally held practice. I have been in many places where I have seen kohanim who are under bar mitzvah duchen alongside adult kohanim.

Conclusion - Avraham and chinuch

We now know that there are specific halachic rules directing us how to educate and train children in the observance of mitzvos, and also about our interactions that might cause an adult to violate a prohibition of the Torah. It is interesting to note that the only verse in the Torah that uses the word chinuch in relation to people is in parshas Lech Lecha, and there the verse refers to training and teaching adults to perform mitzvos. There the Torah teaches about Avraham that, in order to save his nephew Lot, vayarek es chanichav, literally, he emptied out those whom he had trained. As Rav Hirsch points out, the situation of saving Lot required Avraham to change direction from what he had been doing heretofore to develop his following to serve Hashem. Prior to this point, Avraham had taken his following, his disciples, and moved them away from civilization, into the mountains, so that they would not be influenced by the nearby social environment of Canaan, which was antithetical to proper values. Avraham’s previous chinuch had involved isolationism to grow the spirituality of his students. At this moment, serving Hashem required Avraham to expose his following to improper mores, albeit only temporarily, for the sake of saving Lot.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016


Maybe I am missing something here but why would the OFFICIAL NEWSPAPER of Stern College feature an article on A Guide To The Best Children Halloween Movies with a detailed description of each one.

You can go to the wiki page on Halloween and learn of its pagan and heavily Christian roots. But don't.  Shouldn't we be repulsed by that - like - what about the second of the Aseres Hadibros??

Is this what Rabbis Revel, Belkin and Soloveitchik had in mind?  

The Morning After

Rabbi Dr. Shalom Carmy from Kol Hamevaser 

For a while nearly everyone I met, mostly students and colleagues, looked and talked depressed and disappointed, whether because they had voted for Mrs. Clinton or, as I did, for a write-in, or because they expected me to be unhappy—as a college professor, they may have reasoned, even those who label me a political conservative, I couldn’t possibly have been for Trump and as college students they were reluctant to jeopardize my opinion of them.

I did not quite share their mood. The reason is that I knew in advance that the results of the presidential election, whoever won, would not make me happy. Forewarned of the bad news, I woke up on the morning in question without a hangover. I knew that “we” conservatives had lost, and “bigly,” not when the Ohio and Wisconsin results were projected a few hours before, but several months earlier, when Mr. Trump clinched the Republican nomination.

Not having been intoxicated or deluded Tuesday night, I fancy myself a kind of “designated driver” for those whose deepest commitment is neither Democrat nor Republican, liberal or populist, but religious, particularly those who believe that at this time and in this place, conservatism is the best overall political expression of that commitment.

Where do we go from here?

The most painful aspect of the last presidential campaign is the disgusting rhetoric and the deterioration of political debate. The winner of the Electoral College majority set new lows for abusive national political discourse. Yet it will not do to pretend such coarsening was unexpected. Review the past 50 years: the elegant Kennedy, whose exchanges with Nixon seem, in retrospect, a golden age of engagement with substance, had more skeletons in his closet than almost any contemporary politician, even if he was shielded by a sycophantic media. The personal flaws of the eminently well-prepared and savvy Johnson and Nixon were hard to ignore, even before they led to shipwreck and self-destruction. Secretary Clinton’s husband did so much to lower the dignity of his office. I say nothing of lower level political potentates. One of the few times I felt a twinge of sympathy for Mr. Trump is when his transgressions towards women– verbal and quite possibly the actions that accompany the verbal attitudes– were singled out by those who had tolerated the same or worse across the political aisle. (Who knows? The whiff of hypocritical ad hoc persecution may actually have gained him votes!) The fault, dear friends, is not in one of our reality TV stars, but in ourselves and in our culture.

As long as we have universal democracy we will have uninformed and, increasingly, very selectively informed voters with short memories and short sight. It is not an option in today’s culture to quarantine politicians who fail miserably to meet a minimal threshold of civility and knowledge. Yet each of us in his or her respective sphere can try to foster a culture of yirat Shamayim(fear of Heaven) in which human dignity and responsible behavior can survive.

One small suggestion: Judaism enjoins respect for the established civil authorities. There is no ground to believe that Roman emperors and high officials were, as a rule, more admirable human beings, or wiser than our democratic leaders today. But without such respect human society cannot be sustained. Contemporary democracy, by dissolving the element of dignity and majesty in our political transactions, has replaced the prestige of authority with the magnetism of notoriety and insouciance, with results even more evident and predictable than the much talked of climate change. In the months ahead few simple citizens like us will feel compelled, for the sake of the country, to work for and with a president they find unappetizing. Many experts and politicians will have that task and I wish them well. But we too must likewise contribute to the civil atmosphere by treating political big shots with the respect appropriate to their positions and power. Is it necessary for us, however, to call them by their first names, as if fantasizing them as our pals or aspiring to intimacy with their aura? Does doing so add to their professional dignity or detract from it? Let us stop fueling the baleful identification of the statesman with the celebrity.

What else should matter to religious conservatives? Yes, the Supreme Court. We know that President Trump does not care about the judiciary the way we do, but there is comfort in the hope that in this area he will satisfy the expectations of his nominal party. Yes, the courts mean a great deal. But I am not at all certain that appointing conservative judges will make a permanent difference unless accompanied by a reversal or at least a stabilization of the social trends that make it necessary for us to worry about the composition of the courts. A temporary majority in Congress can delay unwelcome developments but cannot forestall them forever. That can only be done through the commitment of individuals and communities and by commanding the respect of those who disagree with us and whom the swinging pendulum may well return to power tomorrow.

The same goes for Israel, an overriding concern for religious Jews and many Christians. Given President Trump’s unpredictability and his perceived tendency to personalize policy judgments, we can only hope and pray that his favorable statements will translate into a pro-Israel agenda executed with tact and prudence. Even so, we cannot ignore the increasingly anti-Israel mood of the Democratic base. When Mrs. Clinton’s election was in the offing it occurred to me that she, with some links to an older generation of liberals, might retard the growth of doctrinaire anti-Israel opinion on the left—a hypothesis that now will never be tested.

As religious individuals our ultimate loyalty is to God, not to any political ideology or party. I mentioned Israel and the protection of religious liberty by the courts because these challenges speak to the survival of our community and our ability to live our lives as a religious minority without intrusion and compulsion on the part of those in power. Many other political questions are less urgent and also less clear-cut. One hopes that “sane” liberals and “sane” conservatives recognize an overlapping list of values: for example, that we are all concerned about personal and national security while still anxious to safeguard individual liberty; that we believe in the value of individual responsibility but do not exclude some measure of intervention on behalf of the less fortunate; and so forth. Religious individuals will resist the temptation to reduce human welfare to the satisfaction of desire. Nevertheless they may differ significantly among themselves, even those who share a commitment to the same set of spiritual institutions, practices and doctrines, about how to balance these values in the political arena, both in principle and under particular conditions. They may also disagree about matters of fact and about likely outcomes.

Political parties are coalitions. Liberalism and conservatism, for example, connote a set of moral judgments, economic preferences and views about international affairs. There is no necessity for a liberal or conservative in one area to adopt liberal or conservative principles in all. You may be an opponent of homosexual marriage and a libertarian regarding government intervention in the marketplace and combine these views with a variety of positions on national defense. Due to fear of primary challenge or loss of campaign contributions, politicians, especially in our hyper-partisan era, are often trapped into conforming to the literal party line of the Democrat or Republican parties, with all the harm this entails for individual integrity and intelligent compromise. As simple citizens we have no excuse. We must recognize the worthy courage of public figures who resist the pressure to walk in lockstep and, to the extent that we study the issues, we should avoid the temptation to adopt views at variance with our convictions merely because they are prevalent among our political bedfellows.

Lastly, in that vein, let me mention one concern that should be a conservative one but does not seem to be high on the agenda of the incoming administration. If you are convinced that the threats of climate change and other drastic environmental upheavals are imaginary you are right to do nothing to prevent or mitigate them. If, however, you believe there may be real dangers then conservatives ought to do no less than conserve the environment for our old age and for future generations. Of course, as realists about human nature and 20th century history we are wary of the use that liberals make of such situations as an opportunity to expand centralized government intervention and regulation, and we know the effect of inertia on liberals and conservatives alike, whatever lip service they pay or withhold from the thought of environmental catastrophe: there will always be more urgent problems to be dealt with, and the sacrifices can always be postponed until it is too late. Politicians thus have a built-in excuse for passing the buck.

Our “progressive” brethren may celebrate the exciting transformative impact of disorder. The worse it gets, the old Marxists intoned, the better the prospects for the revolution. We, better than they, have reason to fear the effect of extreme and unpredictable breakdowns of our physical environment. If these begin to occur, the dislocations driving current social despair will be nothing to the resulting disruption and resentment.

One student I heard from the morning after entertained the idea that desperate people are willing to try desperate remedies. Perhaps his explanation of Mr. Trump’s astonishing rise to power has some merit, though surely it applies to the mentality of his most vociferous opponents as well. And we must always remember that despair is most profoundly not about material possessions and social status alone; often, as Kierkegaard taught, it is more about restlessness and boredom than about the hunger for more. The student’s next thought was that those who bet on desperate remedies—and he could have added those who do not no less– are then compelled to live with them. This is a sobering thought indeed.

Racism In Our Community?

One of the Rabbeim in Yeshivas R.Y.E. gave a speech where he decried some racist remarks made on election night as students sat and watched the election results unfold. How can we be racist when we have suffered ourselves so much from racism over the centuries? It is repugnant. As is Donald Trump who has also made racist comments. That is the gist of what he said according to the edited version.

I would like make a number of comments.

First - I really think that Yeshiva boys would better spend their time learning night seder than watching television. Yeshiva boys shouldn't be watching television, in the morning they can find out the results of the election and in the meantime they can learn a daf gemara. 

That bothers ME. 

As far as racism is concerned - I once heard Obama say that he arrived late because of CPT - which stands for Colored Peoples Time [if I am not mistaken]. He added that white folks better not say that. So why is he allowed to make racist remarks and not us? [That was a joke. As was Obama's remark]. 

I want to make a very important distinction. It is true that one hears remarks about people of color from time to time in the frum community and it is clear that many are wary of them. However, in all of my years I have only seen black people treated with the utmost respect by Orthodox Jews. Whether it be the janitor of the shul, the receptionist, the security guard or cop - it doesn't matter. Jews are for the most part, unfailingly polite and courteous. If they are not, it is because they are that way to all people and not only to blacks. Over the centuries-  not only did our enemies in Christian and Muslim lands despise us but they also persecuted and killed us. No Frum Jew - even if he might say behind his back "stupid shva----" or other terms of respect and endearment, would ever think for a second to cause him any harm. So the equation made between some black people jokes people say and what we suffered over the centuries is completely off base.

I am NOT justifying racist remarks but they must be seen in context. Many of these remarks are also not mean spirited but just old fashioned ethnic humor. Many of us make jokes about Jews as well [myself included]. Does that make us Anti-Semitic?

Rav Chaim Vital, Talmid Ha-Ari Hakadosh, said that we should love all people - even Gentiles and that would include blacks [although the mitzva of ואהבת לרעך כמוך applies to Jews only]. So we can go for it without getting all worked up about off-hand remarks that people make. 

Another important point is that we should never forget that we believe that Jews [of whatever color] are different than goyim [of whatever color]. The modern liberal notion of all men being equal is clearly not a Jewish one. Many people accuse our entire faith system of being racist and if by that they mean that we think that we are different and specially chosen by G-d - then they are correct. Many people are so caught up in these post modern notions of equality that they forget about המבדיל בין קודש לחול בין אור לחושך בין ישראל לעמים. We can't change the Torah just because it doesn't conform to the latest editorial in the New York Times. 

As far as Trump is concerned - I am not his lawyer who has to defend him and don't know what he said against blacks. But I DO know that Hillary kissed Yassar Arafat's wife Suha. How can one kiss a human being who wants an entire nation of innocent people to be annhilated because they are of a different religion? She did not only desire their destruction, she was an ezer kinegdo of a man - yemach shmo - who worked hard to achieve it. So to think it despicable to vote for the "Racist Trump" has another side to it as well. 

I like to be balanced if possible:-).   

Are We Getting Better Or Worse?- Mamesh DEEEPPP!

Ohio State U.

"I can't believe it! I had my money on the Swedish grandmother again in the prospective terrorist attack pool.

Darn it!!!!"

Women's Rights And Equality

כ"ק מרן אד"ש
ר' נח בן חי' ליבא
שרה לאה בת רבקה
חי' רייזל בת דינה
בתוך שח"י

We live in an interesting world. On one hand, the last few decades has seen a tremendous surge in women's rights. Women want to be treated as equals to men. The belief is that "all men are created equal" regardless of race, religion or gender. I am not sure that this is true about gender for if it were then we would see women playing middle linebacker in the NFL. I am not sure that you would find any volunteers to try out for the job and even if they would - something tells me that it would not be very successful. Men and women are different physiologically, emotionally and spirituality and no amount of western liberalism is going to change that ontological reality [whatever that means]. Marry a woman and treat her like you would a guy and see how long the marriage lasts.   

Women aren't better or worse - just different. In some areas they are superior to men [generally speaking] while in others they are inferior [physical strength being an example]. In other areas they are different. For example, that women are generally more sensitive than men has its advantages and disadvantages. 

One area that has received a lot of attention is the fact that men relate to women as objects of their desire and not as thinking, feeling human beings endowed with a G-dly soul. 

This is something that a Torah Jew has to agree with very strongly. And here is where the problems start....

When a woman dresses as people in America do, then there is no way that any healthy, straight man is not going to view them on some level as objects of desire. When a man sees a very attractive woman dressed in a provocative way, then on some level he wants to be in bed with her [it could buried very, very deep in the subconscious but it is there. There may be exceptions but they are rare]. Sorry for being so graphic but that is the reality. The very same quality that attracted a man to his wife potentially attracts him to any other woman. So women are just shooting themselves in the foot when they dress that way. They say "I am a mind with thoughts and deep feelings" and then they dress in a way that screams "Look at me! Desire me". 

It is the entire culture. What is a "model" if not a person who gets paid to make men desire her and buy products she associates herself with. Modeling is not at all considered a dishonorable profession. Why not? It is deplorable. It demeans women more than any stupid Donald comment. What about female newscasters? Why are they always young, attractive, heavily made up and often with low necklines or sleeveless outfits? A frum Jew can't watch the news! What about sports? Sports used to be a male dominated domain but in order to attract viewers they have young attractive women working as sportscasters. And what about cheerleaders?? Do we really need someone to lead us in cheers?? When our team makes a good play we cheer and we don't need any help from a bunch of young girls in skimpy outfits. All of these things are terribly degrading to women. And of course the entertainment industry is all about arousing the lower part of man and accentuating the externals of a woman. 

The gemara says that the korban of a sotah is barley because barley is animal food and to engage in forbidden relations is an animalistic act. Explained the Maharal:

ולפיכך אמרה תורה במנחת סוטה שיהא קרבנה שעורים, לפי שהיא עשתה מעשה בהמה, לכך קרבנה מאכל בהמה, כי ענין הזנות הוא מתאוות הגוף, וישראל שהם קדושים ונבדלים מן העריות זהו מפני שהם נמשכים אחר הצורה, שהיא קדושה ונבדלת מן החומר... (גבורות ה' פרק ד)
Jews are holy and to be holy means to be separate from anything relating to sexual impurity.

One of the consequences of our culture are the countless girls who suffer from eating disorders because they feel that they are not pretty unless they are super thin. 

Man is composed of two parts - his holy G-dly part and his lower animal element. When he sees a woman who is dressed in a provocative way - the ANIMAL in him is activated. Even if he goes on with his day and nothing happened - it doesn't matter because the damage has already been done. This G-dly soul was transformed, albeit momentarily, into an animal. 

So OF COURSE women should not be viewed in a lustful way but men were born with a "birth defect" that inclines them to see women in this way. When a woman is modest in her dress and behavior, she is accentuating her more spiritual side which helps men see her that way as well. 

I once knew a young girl who was very pretty. She told me that she was introduced to an elderly couple and the husband couldn't stop commenting on how pretty she is. She was so embarrassed and disgusted that she told me that she wants to cut off her hair. Of course that isn't necessary but I felt that it was special that despite the gift she was given, she didn't want men to enjoy it because it doesn't bring out the holy part of themselves. 

The gemara in Sotah relates that we learn fear of sin from a certain girl who davened that men should not stumble when they see her. 

"וְהָאָמַר רַבִּי יוֹחָנָן, לָמַדְנוּ יִרְאַת חֵטְא מִבְּתוּלָה, וְקִבּוּל שָׂכָר מֵאַלְמָנָה. יִרְאַת חֵטְא מִבְּתוּלָה - דְּרַבִּי יוֹחָנָן שָׁמְעָה לְהַהִיא בְּתוּלָה, דְנָפְלָה עַל אַפָּהּ וְאָמְרָה, רִבּוֹנוֹ שֶׁל עוֹלָם, בָּרָאתָ גַּן - עֵדֶן, בָּרָאתָ גֵּיהִנּוֹם, בָּרָאתָ רְשָׁעִים, בָּרָאתָ צַדִּיקִים, יְהִי רָצוֹן מִלְּפָנֶיךָ שֶׁלֹּא יִכָּשְׁלוּ בִּי בְּנֵי אָדָם.

I am not writing this to convince Michelle Obama to start dressing like a Beis Yaakov girl from Prospect Park. I don't think she reads this blog and even if she did, people who weren't raised on the standards of tzniyus of religious Jews just don't get it. They see nothing wrong with wearing revealing clothing and men see nothing wrong with looking and desiring. 

I am writing this for all the Bnos Yisrael who want to be close to Hakadosh Baruch Hu and who want to make the world a holier place and themselves holier, more elevated people. It is a challenge for many but worth the effort. The rewards are great. When Hashem gives a girl the gift of beauty and she uses it for her husband and for the propagation of Am Yisrael, THAT is holy. 

We all know of the מראות הצובאות. So let us remind ourselves:
One of the donations to the mishkan were mirrors - מראות הצבאות. What were these מראות הצבאות? Explains Rashi [Shmos 38/8]: 

from the mirrors of the women who had set up the legions: בְּמַרְאֹת הַצֹבְאֹת Israelite women owned mirrors, which they would look into when they adorned themselves. Even these [mirrors] they did not hold back from bringing as a contribution toward the Mishkan, but Moses rejected them because they were made for temptation [i.e., to inspire lustful thoughts]. The Holy One, blessed is He, said to him, “Accept [them], for these are more precious to Me than anything because through them the women set up many legions [i.e., through the children they gave birth to] in Egypt.” When their husbands were weary from back-breaking labor, they [the women] would go and bring them food and drink and give them to eat. Then they [the women] would take the mirrors and each one would see herself with her husband in the mirror, and she would seduce him with words, saying, “I am more beautiful than you.” And in this way they aroused their husbands desire and would copulate with them, conceiving and giving birth there, as it is said: “Under the apple tree I aroused you” (Song 8:5). This is [the meaning of] what is בְּמַרְאֹת הַצֹבְאֹת [lit., the mirrors of those who set up legions].

Beauty is a double edged sword. So is the Yetzer Hara in general. When Chazal tried to nullify the Yetzer of Arayos, no chicken laid an egg [see Yoma 69b]. We NEED the Yetzer Hara, we WANT the Yetzer Hara, but it has to be completely under control and only activated when necessary. [See Igros Hara'ayah 1/108]. 

My intention was not to offend but to remind people how important it is to maintain our purity and how we are all partners in this great task. כל בני ישראל קדושים וכל בנות ישראל קדושות but from time to time we need reminders to act accordingly. 

As Chazal say in the Medrash "There is nothing more beautiful than tzniyus".