Sunday, November 19, 2017


Rabbi Ron Eisenman 

Being a rav of a shul with many members who grew up in secular American culture has its unique privileges. I’m humbled to help navigate my congregants’ involvement with family members who are “not-yet-frum,” and not at all embarrassed to mention that I’m the only rav around who receives as many halachic queries regarding Thanksgiving as I receive before Pesach. 

I’m not talking about the obligation or possible prohibition of eating turkey; frankly, that question is “easy as pumpkin pie” in comparison. I am discussing people and their feelings. 

Every Thanksgiving I’m overwhelmed by people grappling with: “To go or not to go; that is the question!” I’m asked about the appropriateness of the baal teshuvah family socializing with non-frum (or even non-Jewish) relatives who would be offended if they were a no-show at Seudas Thanksgiving. 

Each case is unique and must be judged with great sensitivity. At times I must advise the baal teshuvah family to “stand their ground” and graciously, yet resolutely, absent themselves from the event. The exposing of small children to various influences at odds with the Torah is a serious and precarious danger. 

Often, however, my advice is the opposite. 

Last year, when Dov Ber (formerly Marvin) Dubinsky (name changed) approached me and asked about Thanksgiving, I immediately sensed that something was awry. 

“My brother invited me to his home for Thanksgiving. Obviously, there is no sh’eilah, right? I should say no, correct?” 

“Will the food be kosher?” 

“Oh yes, my brother keeps kosher and will even buy take-out and use paper dishes if we want.” 

“Does your brother’s family spend time by the television or discussing inappropriate topics that you don’t want your family exposed to?” 

“No, actually my brother has no television and is a quiet, serious man who would allow me to lead the conversation.” 

“Then why not go?” 

“What do you mean, ‘Why not go?’ He’s not frum, he doesn’t keep Shabbos. How can I let my children into the house of a mechallel Shabbos?” 

My epiphany was crystal clear: I was witnessing an acute outbreak of BHS — Blame Hashem Syndrome. This dreaded condition is a psychosomatic disorder that causes individuals to conveniently blame Hashem for their actions, which in reality have nothing to do with Him. In actuality, their actions or inactions are solely based on their own personality deficiencies and have no connection to G-d. 

I knew from past conversations why Dov Ber did not want to go to his brother — and it had nothing to do with Hashem or with Thanksgiving. 

His brother, although secular, worked hard and became a successful physician. Dov Ber, while frum, never worked hard, never finished college, and is often indebted to his brother for financially assisting him in making ends meet. 

His not wanting to go had nothing to do with his brother not being frum; it had to do with his being jealous of his brother. Dov Ber was using Hashem as an excuse for his own personal insecurities. 

I have observed many individuals who suffer from BHS. I know a couple whose BHS manifests itself as an excuse for never visiting their in-laws even though they are totally frum. And there are sufferers of BHS who exhibit the terrible trait of rage, yet BHS allows them to validate their behavior by claiming they are “angry — for Hashem’s kavod.” 

Unfortunately, BHS has reached pandemic proportions in some sectors of our community. 

Without hesitation and without any doubt, I declared that Dov Ber must go to his brother and eat turkey with him; indeed, I ruled it to be a true seudas mitzvah. (Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 685)

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Don't Blame - Daven

Two gedolei Torah of our generation have daughters who are basically [outspoken and antagonistic] Neo-Reform Jews רח"ל. 

Remember - Avraham had a Yishmael. Yitzchak and Rivka had an Eisav. 

Two lessons: Don't automatically blame the parents and DAVEN HARD that your kids should turn out well. 

Not Everyone Is That Fortunate

I have 2 friends who left Eretz Yisrael with their families a few months ago. It didn't work out here for them. Now another friend tells me that he is leaving [after being here for about 25 years or so] with his family. 

It makes me realize - not everyone has the zchus. Some people don't try so that is their choice. But even among though who do try - many return to their homelands. Others remain but have a very rough time [such as with children or parnassa]. Baruch Hashem I have been here for over 30 years and consider myself incredibly lucky [although it hasn't been without challenges, particularly financial and familial-  not that they wouldn't of been had I lived in the States]. 

So if you are zoche to live in Israel - don't forget to thank Hashem. A good place to do so is .... the second bracha of bentching. Rav Charlap teaches that when one lives in Israel he must appreciate not only the spiritual blessings of the land but the physical ones too, as Hashem told Avraham לך לך  - Go [to Israel] and Rashi comments להנאתך ולטובתך - for your pleasure and your good. Eretz Yisrael should be a good pleasure!!!

If you are not fortunate enough to live here - then by all means - visit often and also send money to those who do live here. You are not just supporting needy people, you are not just supporting fellow Jews - you are supporting Hashem's beloved land.    

Kedoshim Tihiyu

Everything in the news about the sexual depravity in Holloywood and politics and sports etc. is a million times worse than is actually reported. For every story that makes it to the press - countless stories don't. To use Talmudic terminology - לכולם יש חזקת מושחתים. Those who aren't are the exception and not the rule. What do you think, for example, athletes on the road do in their free time? Daf Yomi? Shnayim Mikra?? Why WOULDN'T they be sleeping around? Of course they are.

How do I know?

I know.

Why am I telling you this? To bring home the point that we are different and special. When I say "we" I don't mean the Jewish people, since many of those terribly corrupt people are Jewish. I mean that truly, honestly sincerely G-d fearing Jews are different [and of course not fakers who masquerade as religious Jews]. We don't have any sort of personal relationship with any woman other than our own wives. We don't look or even think about other women and when we do [because we are human males] we immediately distract ourselves and think of something else. 

These people should never be our heroes. Our heroes are people like Rav Moshe Feinstein who had a shyla about the mikva in his town in Russia so he separated from his wife for seven years [!!], although he easily could have found a heter for himself. Or Rav Kook, who when he was yeshiva bachur immediately agreed to the price offered by a woman for lodgings. When asked why he didn't bargain with her like everyone else, he responded that one should minimize conversation with women. 

Some people have no concept of what kedusha is so they knock it. But they are so immersed in the filth they don't even realize how dirty and tainted their souls are. How do I know? Did I peer into their souls? No. But Hashem told us what makes a person soul dirty and a major factor is a lack of shmiras einayim etc.  

A good place to start to understand for those interested in understanding is the Nesivos Shalom on inyanei kedusha.    

Fair Weather Friends

Rav David Silverberg 

The final section of Parashat Vayetze tells of the pact made by Yaakov and Lavan as they parted ways, when Yaakov made his way back to his homeland in Canaan. Twice in this narrative we find Yaakov turning to “echav” – “his brethren,” or “his comrades” – and inviting them to join him. The first is when he instructed “echav” to collect stones and form a monument, which would serve as a symbol and testament of the pact made with Lavan (31:46). Later (31:54), Yaakov hosts a feast at the site of the pact, and invites “echav” to join him.

Interestingly, Rashi interprets the word “echav” differently in these two contexts. In the first context, regarding the collection of stones for the monument, Rashi explains “echav” as a reference to Yaakov’s children, “who were ‘brothers’ for him, joining him in distress and war.” In the context of Yaakov’s feast, however, Rashi writes that “echav” refers to Yaakov’s friends among Lavan’s men. Apparently, Yaakov had befriended some of Lavan’s servants and family members who had joined Lavan as he pursued Yaakov, and Yaakov invited these men to his feast.

The Tolna Rebbe noted the significance of the different meanings of “echav” in these two contexts. There are “brethren” who are prepared to join one another during times of “feasting,” in periods of success, joy and celebration, but not in times of crisis and distress. In the context of the creation of the monument, Rashi emphasizes that Yaakov’s sons “were ‘brothers’ for him, joining him in distress and war.” The process of collecting stones symbolizes the difficult, tedious work entailed in creating and defending boundaries to protect ourselves. When it comes to hard work, one can expect the cooperation and assistance only of his “brothers” who “join him in distress and war.” The “fair weather friends” are happy to join for “feasting,” but not in times of crisis when hard work and effort are urgently needed.

Rashi’s two comments thus remind us of the importance of being “brothers joining him in distress and war” – committed friends and family members who are available for one another through thick and thin, in times of happiness and in times of distress. We need to come to one another’s side not only for “feasts,” but also for the difficult, laborious tasks that are needed.


Teach Your Children Not To Speak L"H

Hilchos Lashon Hara chapter 9, section 5

Even if one hears one's young children speaking lashon hara, it is a mitzvah to rebuke them and stop them as it says, Educate the child according to his way (Proverbs 22:6). As the Orach Chaim (343:1) explains, this applies to all Torah prohibitions. 

Hilchos Lashon Hara chapter 9, section 6

If someone told someone something, he may not repeat it to others until the person gave him permission and that is only if it is not lashon hara.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Set Your Sights High

Rav Moshe Twerski ztz"l Hy"d 

ויעתר לו ה’ (כה:כא) שאין דומה תפלת צדיק בן רשע לתפלת צדיק בן צדיק (רש”י שם)

Everybody asks the question, why is the teffilah of a tzadik ben tzadik greater? We would have thought that the tzadik ben rasha should have a greater teffilah since Chazal say that even perfect tzaddikim are unable to stand where baalei teshuva stand. There is a famous answer from Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz that for the tzadik ben rasha it is inherent that he will have his own unique personal connection to his avodas Hashem since, after all, he had to swim against the tide to get to where he is. The tzadik ben tzadik, on the other hand, lives with the difficulty of finding his own approach. When a tzadik ben tzadik overcomes the natural tendency of simplistic imitation and instead carves his own niche, his own new unique approach – both in terms of his understanding of Torah as well as in avodas Hashem; everything should be alibah dideih – that is a supreme accomplishment that makes his teffilah more effective.

In Orach Chaim siman 53, the Tur brings in the name of the Rosh that the selection of a Chazan is not contingent on the individual’s yichus. Rather, if the person himself is a tzadik, we do not hold it against him if his family stock happens to be degenerate; it is good to bring close the offspring of the distant, as the pasuk says, “Shalom shalom la’rachok v’la’karov.”

There is a machlokes between the Maharshal and the Taz how to understand this statement of the Rosh.

The Maharshal holds that it is in reference to a situation wherein you have two candidates to choose from, and the tzadik ben rasha has some advantage over the tzadik ben tzadik. Either he is a bigger tzadik, or he has a nicer voice, or something that makes him a more desirable candidate. But if all else is equal, says the Maharshal, we would have to choose the tzadik ben tzadik, as Chazal say that the teffilah of a tzadik ben rasha cannot be compared to that of a tzadik ben tzadik.

The Taz, on the other hand, argues. He says that the reading of the Rosh’s words clearly implies that even when all else is equal, we select the tzadik ben rasha, because that is precisely what we learn out from the pasuk that places the “rachok” before the “karov”. We deliberately give him first choice, emphasizes the Taz, in order to bring him closer to the Shechina, and because “Rachmana libah ba’eih, Hashem desires the heart,” and his teffilah will be more effective.

An insight – b’derech drush – in understanding the opinion of the Maharshal is as follows. Chazal tell us that each and every person is obligated to say, “When will my deeds reach those of my ancestors”. This is not only talking about the Avos Ha’Kedoshim. Every generation experiences a lowering of stature from the previous one. Yeridas ha’doros. The Brisker Rav said – and he was known as a person who completely eschewed exaggeration – that the beinonim, the average people of the previous generation were greater than the Gedolim of this generation. Of course, the Brisker Rav was talking about beinonim in accordance with his scale, but the point is still very clear. Even regarding the generation immediately preceding one’s own, there exists this important charge of “When will my deeds reach those of my fathers”.

A tzadik ben rasha can be lacking the type of internal push that this charge is meant to generate. After all, he has long surpassed his father’s deeds! He can be inclined to “patting himself on the back” for where he is holding. And rightfully so! But, at the same time, the fact is that the lack of being able to look back to his own father and grandfather, etc. and feel a need to work hard to try to reach their level can allow room for complaceny and a lack of feeling an urgent need to keep growing more and more.

Paranthetically, this internal push is a very important mechanism for one’s growth in avodas Hashem. Rav Shlomo Heiman – whose whole approach to learning very much centered around the Torah of Rabi Akiva Eiger – once said about himself, “All my life, I strove to become like Rabi Akiva Eiger. Had I not had that as my goal and aspiration, even Shlomo’leh I would not have become.” Did he reach Rabi Akiva Eiger’s greatness? Of course not. He didn’t even reach Rabi Akiva Eiger’s ankles. But his shooting high is what enabled him to achieve what he achieved. Rav Bunim mi’Peshischa said a novel explanation of the words “masai yagiu” (when will they reach). He said yagiu is mi’lashon negiah, touching. According to the Peshischer, our aspiration is to at least touch the greatness of our ancestors. Halevai!

A tzadik ben tzadik feels this push strongly. “Oy,” he thinks to himself, “I am nowhere near the greatness of my ancestors…what is going to be with me?!” And, then, when he davens “please give us understanding” and “please save us”, and so on, it is with a sigh and a groan, with a sense of urgency and need. His is therefore a teffilah from the depths of the heart. When one davens for Torah, by the way, there is a garauntee that Hashem will answer affirmatively.

In this context, it’s important to point out that one should not set low standards for oneself. One should never fully accomplish his objectives. Having one’s sights set high provides him with continuous motivation and drives him to always strive and work for more and more.

(Ed. note: see Vayigdal Moshe on Shavuos [available in audio here:] that Rebbi said, “When one takes something on, it should be specific, concrete, and practical. Not a migdal poreiach ba’avir. It needs to be something that one truly has the ability to maintain. Our kochos are far, far removed from anything resembling the kochos of the previous generation. The goals we set for ourselves need to be modest in accordance with our modest capabilities.” This would seem to contradict, at first glance, what Rebbi said on this week’s parsha. However, perhaps the resolution is that there is a dichotomy between one’s abstract, inner, overarching aspirations versus the concrete, practical undertakings that one assumes. The former should be as high as possible, whereas the latter must be in accordance with what realistically is workable. Of course, the inner aspirations will necessarily push one to consider his practical undertakings from a vantage point that he may have otherwise not seen.)


ואכל מכל (כז:לג) שלשה הטעימן הקדוש ברוך הוא בעולם הזה מעין העולם הבא אלו הן אברהם יצחק ויעקב אברהם דכתיב ביה בכל יצחק דכתיב ביה מכל יעקב דכתיב ביה כל (ב”ב יז.)

Understanding that Hashem blessing Avraham avinu “ba’kol” and that Yaakov avinu saying that he has “kol” is referring to mei’ein Olam Ha’Bah is not so difficult. We can see how such an implication could be read into those expressions. But what about the “mi’kol” of Yitzchak avinu? The pasuk is talking about the food that he ate, so how can we understand that as a reference to mei’ein Olam Ha’Bah?

This is a deep concept, but I will try to convey it in a relatively simple way.

Ha’Kadosh Baruch Hu is the one who provides everything. He, and He alone, is the mashpiah. However, He employs various conduits – pipelines and pathways, if you will – through which He delivers provisions to every individual. As Chazal say, “the Omnipresent has many messengers.” When something comes through a pipeline or pathway, you cannot always see all the way until the other side. You cannot always see from one end to the next. As such, it is possible to lose sight – through all the myriad situations of life that demand human effort and intervention – of the fact that it is Hashem alone who is the provider of everything.

This obfuscation of reality, though, is only a function of Olam Ha’Zeh. Olam Ha’Bah, on the other hand, is a realm of complete and absolute clarity, as Rabi Yehoshua ben Levi said to his son Rav Yosef after the latter was resurrected and brought back from the next world (Pesachim 50a), “Olam barur ra’isah, You saw a crystal-clear world.”

Part of the teffilah of the Kohen Gadol on Yom Kippur was, “Klal Yisrael should not be in need of one another, nor should they be in need of any other nation.” That we should be completely independent as a nation, we can readily understand. But what does it mean that we shouldn’t need one another? Is there some benefit in a person planting all his own grain and vegetables, or sewing all his own clothes?! Some of the great Baalei Avodah explained that what “Klal Yisrael should not be in need of one another” means is not that each person will do every task under the sun for himself, rather that the functioning of the world should be clear to them that everything is from Ha’Kadosh Baruch Hu. They should not experience it as if they are in need of others, because they perceive that it is all from Hashem.

“Kol” is the term that expresses the fact that it is really all Ha’Kadosh Baruch Hu. For the Avos Ha’Kedoshim, there was no lack of clarity. In everything that happened in their lives, they clearly perceived the yad Hashem, that it is Hashem who is “poseiach es yadecha u’masbiah l’chol chai ratzon”. They lived with this existence of mei’ein Olam Ha’Bah, akin to the total clarity that exists in the realm of Olam Ha’Bah.

Rabbi Reisman – Parshas Toldos 5778

1 – Topic - The lesson of the Sh’nei Gedayei Izim

Don’t forget that we Lain the Haftorah of Machar Chodesh since Sunday will be B’ezras Hashem Rosh Chodesh Kisleiv. For today I would like to discuss the words of Rivka to Yaakov Avinu in Perek 27 and the three Nikudos I want to mention all have to do with Rivkah. The first one has to do with the fact that Rivkah in preparing food for Yitzchok says as is found in 27:9 (לֶךְ-נָא, אֶל-הַצֹּאן, וְקַח-לִי מִשָּׁם שְׁנֵי גְּדָיֵי עִזִּים, טֹבִים). Go get me two goats so that I can prepare a meal for Yitzchok Avinu. Of course it is a Davar Pele, why in the world does Yitzchok Avinu need two goats, how hungry could he have been. 

Rashi says (וכי שני גדיי עזים היה מאכלו של יצחק, אלא האחד הקריב לפסחו והאחד עשה מטעמים) one was for the Korban Pesach and one for dinner. Why do you need one for dinner if you have one for the Korban Pesach? Probably what Rashi means to say is that the Korban Pesach is eaten Al Hasova and therefore, you need one Korban for dinner and one Korban to eat the Korban Pesach Al Hasova. This is Rashi. It is hard to say that it is Pshat, but lacking any other Pshat this is how Rashi learns Pshat. 

I would like to share with you the words of the Netziv in Harchev Davar who adds that there was a Remez that Rivkah was saying to Yaakov Avinu. The Netziv doesn’t say this on his own. He brings a Medrash that the Sh’nei Gedayei Izim are a Remez to the Shnei S’irai of Yom Kippur. As you know, on Yom Kippur there is S’ir Echad Lashem and S’ir Echad Lazazeil and these two were a Remez to the two S’irim. It needs some kind of Hesber what in the world does Yom Kippur have to do with this which applies on Pesach. 

Zagt the Netziv very Geshmak. Rivkah was teaching Yaakov Avinu a lesson here. Yaakov said that I am going to go B’ramaos, I am going to go with trickiness, I am going to go with lies? Is that the way to serve the Ribbono Shel Olam? 

Rivkah told him let me teach you something. In the Avodah of Yom Hakipurim we bring two S’irim. One which is offered to Hashem and one which is offered L’azazeil. Why is one to Azazeil, it is a sign of the Sitra Achara? It is not a Korban that is offered in the Bais Hamikdash? 

The answer is that Hashem created Kochos Hat’haro V’ha’emes in this world and He created Kochos Hatumah and Sheker in this world. Of course it is our job to connect the Tahara to Emes. However, there are times where we are commanded to give a Shochad to the Satan, a little bit to the Sitra Achara, where we use the Kochos of the Sitra Achara in serving the Ribbono Shel Olam. We see that from Yom Kippur where the S’ir L’azazeil is B’lashon HaRamban, Shochad L’satan, like a bribe to the Sitra Achara. There is a little bit of Kochos Hatumah that we use L’kedusha as well. That was the Remez of the Sh’nei Gedayei Izim according to this Medrash, a Remez that you have to be multi-faceted, that you have to be able to do what is right and do what is the Ratzon Hashem even in a case where it requires Ramaos, where is requires Sheker that as well. So this was Rivkah’s lesson to Yaakov that was Mirumaz in the Sh’nei Gedayei Izim. 

2 – Topic - The lesson of (עַד-שׁוּב אַף-אָחִיךָ מִמְּךָ) 

Let’s move on to a second thought that actually comes with a story that is perfect for the Shabbos table, really a Gevaldige lesson. This comes from the Maimar Mordechai of Rav Mordechai Schwab who says the following and it comes to explain the words of Rivkah which she says in Posuk 43. The following words she says to Yaakov Avinu, go to Lavan’s house (וְעַתָּה בְנִי, שְׁמַע בְּקֹלִי; וְקוּם בְּרַח-לְךָ אֶל-לָבָן אָחִי, חָרָנָה). How long will you stay there? (וְיָשַׁבְתָּ עִמּוֹ, יָמִים אֲחָדִים--עַד אֲשֶׁר-תָּשׁוּב, חֲמַת אָחִיךָ). Stay there until when? (עַד אֲשֶׁר-תָּשׁוּב, חֲמַת אָחִיךָ). Until your brother’s anger subsides. Posuk 45. (עַד-שׁוּב אַף-אָחִיךָ מִמְּךָ). Until your brother’s anger ends from you. What in the world, this is redundant. Posuk 44 (עַד אֲשֶׁר-תָּשׁוּב, חֲמַת אָחִיךָ). (עַד-שׁוּב אַף-אָחִיךָ מִמְּךָ) This is a redundancy. Rivkah is saying what appears to be the same thing twice. 

Rav Schwab told over a Maiseh or Mashal. If I understand correctly it comes from the Ben Ish Chai. The story of a man, a Rav who was involved in a town with a Moser, with a Yid who was a Rasha and he had to publicly embarrass him and chase him out of the community. The Moser swore to take revenge. The day came that the Rav was traveling on the road with two Talmidim out of the city and in the distance they saw the Moser and he sees them and he raises his fist and comes running with some hoodlums. The Talmidim and the Rav are frightened. The Rav says give me a few minutes and he closes his eyes as the Moser is running towards him and he concentrates and he thinks hard. Lo and behold when the Moser comes he says to the Rav I am not going to touch you. Give me Reshus to beat up the Talmidim and the Rav said no. The Moser was Mekabeil and he was Mevakeish Mechilah and the Talmidim were Nishtomeim as they saw the anger in him when he had started out running towards them. Subsequently, the Talmidim asked the Rav what were you doing when you closed your eyes and were concentrating, were you Davening? 

He told them, as it says in Mishlei 27:19 ( כַּמַּיִם, הַפָּנִים לַפָּנִים-- כֵּן לֵב-הָאָדָם, לָאָדָם). As the image of a face when you look into the reflection in a still pool of water. When you smile it smiles at you. Pnei Ish El Achiv, the face of a man to his brother. As you are to him he will be to you, and he thought to himself if I can feel Ahavah towards this man and get rid of my Tainos to him and feel real Ahavah then when he comes to me he will feel real Ahavah to me too. V’kach Hava, I worked hard for those few minutes to take away my complaints to him, my Tainos to him, to feel a genuine love to him, and when he came he couldn’t help but to feel a love for me. But the two of you still hated him so he asked permission to beat you up. But as a tool, if you have Ahavah for someone (no guarantee) but it will be Poel that he will have Ahavah to you. 

Zagt Rav Mordechai Schwab based on this Mashal, he says Gevaldig. In Parshas Vayishlach the Meraglim say as is found in 32:7 (בָּאנוּ אֶל-אָחִיךָ, אֶל-עֵשָׂו) we came to your brother. Your brother? He is not your brother, he is Eisav who hates you. What did Yaakov Avinu do? When Eisav comes towards him from the distance as it says in 33:3 (וַיִּשְׁתַּחוּ אַרְצָה שֶׁבַע פְּעָמִים). He shows great respect and love for his brother. Imagine, he bows seven times, not bowing the way you do by Modim nodding his head. (וַיִּשְׁתַּחוּ אַרְצָה) He spreads himself on the ground in a sign of respect (שֶׁבַע פְּעָמִים, עַד-גִּשְׁתּוֹ עַד-אָחִיו) until he comes to him. 

Zagt Rav Schwab (עַד-גִּשְׁתּוֹ עַד-אָחִיו) when he got there it was Achiv again it wasn’t Eisav. He showed him so much Ahavah that it was M’oreir, it awakened a feeling of Achva, a brotherly relationship. Eisav could not help but to feel an Ahavah back. 

Where did Yaakov get this idea as he had not heard the story? The answer is that this is what his mother told him. His mother told him go away until the time will come. When will the time come? (עַד אֲשֶׁר-תָּשׁוּב, חֲמַת אָחִיךָ) When your brother is not angry. When will your brother not be angry? (עַד-שׁוּב אַף-אָחִיךָ מִמְּךָ). When you will stop having anger and complaints and hatred against your brother then he too will stop having anger. This is because a person who feels true love to someone else and gets rid of his personal Peni’os is able to create in the other direction love. 

Klal Gadol Ba’chaim say Rav Schwab, a Mentch Macht the Eigenir Tzaros. A person makes his own problems. A person is capable of making peace with someone else if only he feels the Ahavah. 

Rav Schwab brings that this idea comes from Rav Chaim Voloziner quoted in Keser Rosh. He says there, that when you feel that somebody has hatred to you show him love and hopefully in Heaven it will cause an awakening of a reciprocal love. What a beautiful lesson. 

Rivkah so many years ago taught Yaakov two lessons, the lesson of the Sh’nei Gedayei Izim and the lesson of (עַד-שׁוּב אַף-אָחִיךָ מִמְּךָ). And here we are, the great great grandchildren of Rivkah learning the lessons as we approach Parshas Toldos. 

Topic 3 – A Dikduk thought. 

Rivkah taught one more lesson which is a Dikduk lesson. Rivkah says in Posuk 8 (וְעַתָּה בְנִי, שְׁמַע בְּקֹלִי--לַאֲשֶׁר אֲנִי, מְצַוָּה אֹתָךְ) this which I command you. It doesn’t say Metzaveh Osach. What is (מְצַוָּה)? The answer is that in Lashon Nekaiva Metzaveh switches to (מְצַוָּה). Apparently Rivkah was familiar with Dikduk and she didn’t say Ani Metzaveh Osach as most people would say. She said (לַאֲשֶׁר אֲנִי, מְצַוָּה) because the Komatz takes the place of the Segal. 

Freigt the Kasha, why do women say (מודֶה אֲנִי לְפָנֶיךָ). (מודֶה) is Lashon Zachor. Why are the ladies saying (מודֶה אֲנִי לְפָנֶיךָ) it should be Moda Ani Lefanecha. Lashon Nekaiva is Moda and as we saw the Sefardik Siddurim say (מודֶה אֲנִי לְפָנֶיךָ) and L’nashim Moda Ani Lefanecha. How do you like that? 

That is why we call our kindergarten teachers Morah and the Rabbanim Moireh as in Moireh Derech. A Moireh is a male while a Morah is a female. What do you know. We actually learned a piece of Dikduk. Is it going to make the ladies change from (מודֶה אֲנִי לְפָנֶיךָ) to Moda Ani Lefanecha, I don’t know. But the Yedi’a, the knowledge, the understanding of the way Lashon Kodesh works is Geshmak. 

And so, three lesson from the Baba Rivkah may she be a Melitza Yosheir for all of us as we learn her words. IY”H Shabbos Parshas Toldos should be a Gutten Shabbos for one and all! 

Thursday, November 16, 2017


By Rabbi Joshua (transiently known as The Hoffer) Hoffman [z"l] 

Ya'akov, fleeing from Eisav, leaves his home in the Holy Land and heads for the house of Lavan, in Charan. On the way, he stops to sleep at a location which, according to the midrash, was Mt. Moriah, the site of the future Temple. The Torah tells us that "he took from the stones of the place and he put them around his head and lay down in that place" (Bereishis 28:11). Ramban, in his commentary to a later verse (28:17), cites the Pirkei DeRabbi Eliezer which says that these stones which Yaakov took to sleep on were part of the altar upon which Avrohom bound Yitzchok at the akeida. What was the significance of Yaakov taking these stones from that altar? What message was he trying to impress upon both himself and future generations? To answer these questions, we need to understand the message that the akeida itself conveys, as well as the function of Yaakov's lengthy stay away from home after Rivkoh discovered Eisav's desire to kill him.

Rabbi Yaakov ben Asher, in his commentary Ba'al HaTurim, notes that parshas Vayeitzei, as written in the sefer Torah, is 'closed.' In other words, there are no internal breaks - no parshiyos either pesuchos (open) or sesumos (closed) - in the entire parsha of Vayeitze. The only other parsha in the Torah that shares this feature is parshas Miketz. Rabbi Gedalia Schorr, in his Ohr Gedalyahu, explains that the parsha of Vayeitzei is the parsha of golus, or exile, which is one long, closed period during which God, although still exercising His providence, does so in away that is not easily discernable, and in this sense hides His presence from us. Rav Aharon Kotler, in his Mishnas Rav Aharon, writes that Yaakov, by his actions as recorded in this parsha, was paving the way for his descendants to survive and maintain their Jewish identity during the periods of golus to come. Seen in this way, we can explain that a basic element that is needed to survive in golus is a spirit of self-sacrifice, of readiness to give one's life rather than transgress the cardinal three sins of murder, idolatry and illicit sexual relations. This readiness to sacrifice oneself extends, further, to any infraction of Jewish law, and even to the infraction of a Jewish custom, if done publicly, or as part of a government decree. The willingness of the Jewish people to resist betraying their tradition has enabled the Jewish people to survive as a collective over the millennia, even though it resulted in the murder of countless individual Jews who were killed in the course of history for standing up for their beliefs. Rabbi Chaim of Volozhin, in his commentary Ruach Chaim to Pirkei Avos, says that it was Avrohom who implanted this capacity of the Jew to sacrifice his life for his convictions in the Jewish nation, and that is why he is called "Avrohom Avinu," or Avrohom our father. Thus, Yaakov, by taking stones from the altar of the akeida to sleep on before going to the house of Lavan, was connecting himself to the akeida in order to carry its message with him into the golus, and thereby prepare the Jewish nation, as well, to carry this ability of self- sacrifice with them into all future periods of exile.

I believe, however, that there is another message in Yaakov's use of stones from the akeida as his pillow. My teacher, Rav Aharon Soloveitchik, zt"l, noted, in his book The Warmth and the Light, to parshas Vayeira, that the Rambam, in his Mishneh Torah, Laws of the foundations of the Torah (Hilchos Yesodei HaTorah) chapter five, in defining what constitutes 'Kiddush Hashem,' or sanctifying God's name, mentions the rules of when one is obligated to give his life up to that end only after first mentioning when one does not have to sacrifice his life, but should rather transgress the halacha rather than give up his life. Rav Aharon derived from this that the basic requirement of Kiddush Hashem is to do all one can to sanctify God's name while still living, by acting properly in one's daily life. Rav Aharon added that while the heroic faith of Avrohom and his willingness to offer his only son to God, as well as Yitzchok's willingness to give up his own life for God, were only the beginning of the message of the akeida. The more significant message, as we will see, that applies to everyone, and not only those people who are faced with a situation of giving up their lives, is the importance of small, daily sacrifices for God. 

The Torah tells us twice, in its description of the trip to Mt. Moriah, that Avrohom and Yitzchok walked together. However, we do not find that Yitzchok walked with Avrohom after the akeida. Where was he? The midrash tells us that Avrohom sent Yitzchok to learn in yeshiva. Why hadn't he sent him there before? After all, Yitzchok was, according to one midrash, thirty-seven years old at the time of the akeida, and at least in his early teens according to another. Shouldn't he have already been in yeshiva? Rav Aharon explained that Avrohom wanted to keep his beloved son Yitzchok at home, and therefore did not send him to yeshiva. As far as Yitzchok's Torah learning was concerned, Avrohom could easily rationalize that the best place for his son to learn Torah was at home with his father. However, this approach neglected to take into account the importance of learning in a yeshiva without any outside distractions and responsibilities. Ramban writes that the test of the akeida was for Avrohom's benefit, to bring his potential strength into actuality. Rav Aharon explained this to mean that Avrohom needed to prove to himself that he was capable of making the supreme sacrifice of offering his son to God. Once he realized that he was able to do this, he also realized that he was certainly capable of making the small, daily sacrifice of allowing Yitzchok to be away from him and study Torah in a yeshiva. 

Based on Rav Aharon's analysis of the akeida, we can explain Yaakov's action of taking stones from the altar of the akeida to sleep on to impress upon himself the message that in order to survive in Lavan's house, he needed to make relatively small, daily sacrifices. This willingness to persevere and make daily sacrifices is reflected in Yaakov's willingness to work an extra seven years for Rachel after having been fooled by Lavan, and, in addition, to fulfill his daily task of guarding Lavan's sheep, and later his own. Taking the stones was also an acknowledgment of the inspiration he received from Yitzchok, who studied in yeshiva after the akeida, to spend fourteen years studying in yeshiva himself before going to the house of Lavan, as a means of preparing for the challenges ahead. His daily commitment to torah study during those fourteen years steeled him for his commitment to persevere in golus on a daily basis, and the Torah that he learned taught him how to deal with the challenges that he would face in doing so.

Rav Eisav?

In this article singing the praises of the great, beloved Eisav [I say that tongue in cheek as the pasuk says that Eisav was waiting for his father to die so he could kill Yaakov. Chazal tell us that he would seduce married women in addition to many other egregious sins], the author writes the following:

"Rav Kook believed that just as in the Torah, Jacob and Esau and Isaac and Ishmael were eventually reconciled, so will Judaism, Christianity, and Islam be in future. They would not cease to be different, but they would learn to respect one another."

No source is provided for this assertion - and for a good reason. Rav Kook could never have written such a thing. He despised Christianity and saw it as being very tamei. See this article at length. 
Christianity is idolatrous and murderous [as any student of history knows]  and Islam is less idolatrous but [albeit historically less] murderous. But the author has an agenda of promoting his relativist theology where all people's and religions are purveyors of Divine truth. Rav Kook and no true Rav and Talmid Chochom with Yiras Shomayim believes that. All three religions are mutually exclusive and only one can be true while the other two are false. Period. We are lucky enough to be members of the true faith. Not like the other two that gained adherents by going around killing people.  [If you don't know what I am talking about, learn history]. 

As I was writing I did a search and found this passage from Rav Kook ztz"l. A very-very harsh condemnation of Christianity, certainly not something that post-modern moral and religious relativists would like. 

המינות [הנצרות] מתאמצת לקרוע את העולם, לפרוק עול המעשה, עבודה-זרה ותרנית היא. הביאו לבוקר זבחכם לשלשת ימים מעשרותיכם וקטר מחמץ תודה. חשבה בגאות זדונה, לספוג מן הקודש רק אורח הרעיון והרגש, וזהו הכל רק לתועלתה ולאהבת עצמה. אין לה שום הכרה בכבוד שמים ובתוכן של עבודה אלהית, אבל מתאוה היא לאותה המנוחה והשלוה שהבטחון והאמונה נותנים, אבל לסייג את החיים במעשה אינה חפצה. אחוזה היא יותר מדאי בהגסות הגופנית, ואינה יכולה לותר עליה. על-כן שתה בשמים פיה ולשונה תהלך בארץ, לחפות דברים אשר לא כן על ד' אלהיהם, ובתוך אותה הרכות וההכנעה, שמראה מבחוץ על-ידי פישוט טלפים, טמונים הם המון חרופים וגדופים ושנאת ישראל, זה גוי קדוש, נושאי האמת האלהית העליונה, אשר נתגלתה פנים בפנים במעמד אשר לא היה כן לכל גוי. ממקור משחת זה הולכת ונמשכת איבת הנחש הקדמוני לאדם וזרעו, בהפקרם של המעשים. המחשבה והרגש מוכרחים הם להטמע בעומק הרשעה, ומה שיראה איזה יפיפות, איננה כי-אם כסף סיגים מצופה על חרש, שפתים דולקים ולב רע. הסליחה והתשובה שלה נעשות בסיס לדבר האסור ולזוהמת החיים. אין בה אותה הטהרה וההגדרה של מניעת אחטא ואשוב, אחטא ויום הכפורים מכפר, שבאופן זה באה התשובה להעלות את החיים בטהרת אמת, להחיות את העולם, ולבנותו בתואר מעלה, לעשות את הטוב ואת הישר בכל אומץ, ולסור ממוקשי רע בכל עז ותעצומות מלחמה. והתשובה בעומק אמונת סליחתה, היא סוללת את דרך האורה, ומגשמת את המטרה של טהרת החיים בפועל. לא כן הוא באותה באר צרה נכריה, הסליחה היא לה מטרה, בשביל הסרת העול הנשאר עדיין בעומק הרוח מאין יכולת לאטום את הלב לגמרי, כדי להנצל ממוסר הכליות ומכאוביו, והמטרה היא להוסיף חטא על פשע. זהו ארס טמון בעומק של קליפה קשה זו, שהרבתה מאוד להסתירו, ולזייף את קלף אילן זה בתור תכלת הדומה לים ולרקיע ולכסא הכבוד. ועתיד הוא עשו הרשע להתלבש בטלית, ולבא לשבת אצל יעקב בגן-עדן והקב"ה אומר לו: גם אם תגביה כנשר ואם בין כוכבים שים קינך משם אורידך אמר ד', וישראל עושה חיל. וידו נטויה במלחמת מגן פנימית מול איש צר ואויב, עד אשר יראו גוים כי הם זרע ברך ד', וברצות ד' דרכי איש גם אויביו ישלים אותו.


In the last sentence the Rav quotes the pasuk ברצות ה' דרכי איש גם איוביו ישלים אתו - When Hashem is pleased with the path of man, even his enemies will make peace with him. Maybe this is what the author was referring to. However, this DOESN'T mean that we will respect their differences and encourage them to go to church. We all know what the Torah says about churches [see Devarim 12/3 that we cannot fulfill today because such behavior might prompt World War 3]. When Moshiach comes, certainly all Avoda Zara and Ovdei Avoda Zara will be out.  It means that they will come to an understanding that the G-d of Israel is the one and only true G-d, as the Rav writes in the previous line "'וידו נטויה במלחמת מגן פנימית מול איש צר ואויב, עד אשר יראו גוים כי הם זרע ברך ד"

One should of course be polite to members of other faiths [especially if that person believes in Allah and is holding an axe in his hand and habitually says things like "Let's kill all the infidels] but the actual religions are false and impure. Yes, the Rambam says that Hashem put Christianity and Islam in the world to pave the way for Moshiach but that only means that they are closer to pure Monotheism. It is a perversion of Torah to see them as equal but different truths.

It is nothing less than dangerous to espouse a philosophy that celebrates and embraces evil people and evil ideologies. 

And only 29 shopping days till X-mas. [I just made that up]. 


Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Different Tents - Different Approaches

The Midrash Tanchuma (Vayishlach, 9) explains the Torah’s description of Yaakov as a “yosheiv ohalim” – “dweller of tents” (25:27) as a reference to Yaakov’s diligent study, and elaborates, “There was nobody who toiled in Torah like our patriarch Yaakov… It does not say here, ‘dweller of a tent,’ but rather ‘a dweller of tents’ – he would go from the study hall of Shem to the study hall of Eiver, and from the study hall of Eiver to the study hall of Avraham.” Drawing upon the plural form “ohalim,” the Midrash tells that Yaakov did not study in a single “tent,” but rather availed himself of the variety of different learning opportunities that existed at that time.

The Tolna Rebbe Shlita explained that the Midrash seeks to convey to us the importance of learning from multiple teachers and utilizing a variety of different learning styles and methodologies. Torah exists in “ohalim,” in many different schools, offering a wide range of approaches. We are encouraged not to remain confined to a single “tent,” to one specific approach, but rather to follow Yaakov’s example of going from one study hall to another, exploring different methodologies and benefitting all we can from each in our pursuit of excellence.

The Tolna Rebbe Shlita further noted the significance of the fact that the Torah presents this description of Yaakov as a point of contrast with his brother: “Esav was a man who knew hunting, a man of the field, and Yaakov was a simple man, a dweller of tents.” Symbolically, Esav is associated with negative spiritual forces and tendencies. Yaakov’s description as a “yosheiv ohalim” thus alludes to us that we can resist and overcome “Esav,” our negative tendencies and external spiritual threats, by following his example of learning in many different “tents.” No single “tent” can be assumed to have the solutions for all the different manifestations of “Esav.” In order to overcome the wide range of spiritual challenges that we face over the course of our lives, we need to access the wide range of spiritual resources that are found in the various different “tents” of study. We are encouraged and urged to “go from the study hall of Shem to the study hall of Eiver, and from the study hall of Eiver to the study hall of Avraham” – to avail ourselves of different styles of learning and different approaches to Torah life, so we can build for ourselves a complete, integrated Torah persona that can overcome the different religious challenges that we confront.

[Rav David Silverberg vbm] 

Even Great People Have A Yetzer Hara

Rav David Silverberg

Parashat Ki-Teitzei begins with the law known as “eishet yefat toar,” outlining the procedure by which a soldier who desires a woman captured from the enemy during war may marry her. The Gemara famously comments in Masekhet Kiddushin (21b) in reference to this law, “Lo dibera Torah ela ke-negged yetzer ha-ra” – the Torah made this provision out of consideration to the unique strength of this particular desire. As the Gemara explains, the Torah recognized that unless it established a protocol through which the solider may marry the captive woman he desires, he would likely succumb to temptation and sleep with her in a forbidden fashion. And thus, although a solider in this situation must ideally suppress his desire for the woman, the Torah nevertheless provided a permissible way for him to satisfy his lust, as a safeguard against illicit relations.

The Tolna Rebbe Shlita noted that the Gemara’s comment must be considered in light of the view of Rabbi Yossi Ha-gelili in the Mishna (Sota 44a) stating that any soldiers who feared going out to war because of sins they had committed, were sent home before battle. According to Rabbi Yossi, it appears, all the soldiers who went out to war were righteous men who had no reason to fear the consequences of sins, because their records were clean. It was with regard to people of this unique spiritual stature that the Gemara comments, “Lo dibera Torah ela ke-negged yetzer ha-ra” – that the Torah feared they would succumb to temptation if they were not given a permissible way to marry a captive woman they desired. Ironically, the Torah found it necessary to introduce a special provision as a safeguard against the most righteous members of the nation falling prey to their passions.

To explain this anomaly, the Tolna Rebbe Shlita suggested a novel reading of the Gemara’s comment. He proposed that the Torah specifically sought to remind these soldiers that even they, the nation’s spiritual elite, were susceptible to natural human weaknesses. The purpose of the law of “eishet yefar toar” is not so much to provide a permissible way to marry a captive woman, but rather to humble the soldiers by noting that even they, despite their outstanding religious credentials, were not immune to the basest human desires. This reminder was vitally important, the Rebbe explained, because the soldiers were waging battle on behalf of the entire nation, and needed to see themselves as full-fledged members of Am Yisrael, not as a special, separate spiritual class that is detached from the rest of the nation. Particularly these righteous soldiers needed the reminder that when all is said and done, they were not fundamentally different from the rest of Am Yisrael, as they, too, were flawed human beings who struggled with negative tendencies and inclinations. Although these were the purest and most spiritually accomplished members of the nation, they needed to see themselves as essentially the same as their fellow Jews, humbly acknowledging their shortcomings and limitations and ensuring not to allow their accomplishments to lead them to arrogance and condescension.

He Is Still Your Brother

Rav David Silverberg 

The Torah in Parashat Ki-Teitzei (25:3) forbids court officials from exceeding the prescribed amount of lashes when punishing violators. The Torah warns lest “ve-nikla achikha le-einekha” – one might look disdainfully upon the offender and decide to lash him more than Halakha prescribes. Even when a person has committed a Torah violation that warrants court-administered punishment, we must still treat him as “achikha” – our kin, and refrain from excessive punitive measures. 

The Gemara, in Masekhet Makkot (23a), adds a further layer of interpretation to this verse, explaining, “Keivan she-laka – harei hu ke-achikha” – “Once he was lashed, he is then your brother.” This reading of the verse forms the basis of the halakha requiring treating a violator as an ordinary, upstanding member of the Jewish Nation after punishment has been administered. He should not be suspected or mistrusted, as he had already endured his due punishment. Thus, for example, his testimony is valid and accepted by a court. Surprisingly, the Rambam writes in Hilkhot Eidut (12:4) that this law applies even if the sinner had not repented. A sinner regains his eligibility to testify, the Rambam writes, either after repenting, or after enduring lashes, even without having repented. 

The Tolna Rebbe Shlita noted that this halakha becomes particularly striking, and instructive, when we consider the circumstances under which a violator would be liable to lashes. In the times when Beit Din had the authority to punish violators, lashes were given only if two witnesses saw the act and forewarned the offender of the punishment to which he would be liable, and the offender verbally acknowledged and dismissed the warning. The rule of “harei hu ke-achikha,” which requires treating a sinner as our “brother,” applies even to those who were fully aware of the law they transgressed and its consequences, were given the opportunity to reconsider their decision, and flagrantly disregarded the warning. Even such people – and, in some circumstances, even without any signs of repentance – must be viewed and treated as “achikha,” as our beloved brethren, worthy of our respect and consideration, and of our trust. Despite the fact that a person committed a Torah violation knowing very clearly what this meant, he can still regain our esteem and affection.

This halakha has much to teach us about the proper way to relate to other offenders, who would not be eligible for lashes. More often than not, people act improperly because of deficient knowledge, misunderstandings, misconceptions, clouded judgment, emotional turmoil, or other circumstances. We have all made mistakes that could have been avoided, but resulted from faulty judgment or a momentary lapse of some sort. If even those deserving of lashes, who transgressed with full conviction, are given the opportunity to regain their standing, then certainly, we must look sensitively, forgivingly and lovingly upon those who err due to misunderstandings or poor judgment. There are many different factors that lead people – including ourselves – to act wrongly, and we must therefore give others the benefit of the doubt and treat them as “achikha” despite their mistakes and failings.

[from vbm]

מהרסיך ומחריביך ממך יצאו - ישעיהו מ"ט י"ז

Commentary Magazine 

The growing divide between Israeli and American Jews was a major topic of conversation at this week’s annual meeting of the Jewish Federations of North America. It was also the topic of a lengthy feature in Haaretz, which largely blamed the Israeli government. Inter alia, it quoted former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Daniel Shapiro as saying, in reference to that majority of American Jews who identify as non-Orthodox and politically liberal, “There is an idea that has some currency in certain circles around the Israeli government that says, ‘You know what, we can write off that segment of American Jewry because in a couple of generations their children or grandchildren will assimilate.’”

I agree that the idea of writing off this segment of American Jewry has some currency in Israel. But in most cases, it’s due less to fantasies about liberal Jews disappearing than to a belief that Israel will have to do without them whether it wants to or not, because liberal Jews can no longer be depended on for even the most minimal level of support. And by that, I don’t mean support for any specific Israeli policy, but for something far more basic: Israel’s right to be heard, by both Jewish and non-Jewish audiences.

Nothing better illustrates this than recent decisions by two campus Hillels to bar mainstream Israeli speakers from addressing Jewish students. At Princeton, it was Israel’s deputy foreign minister, Tzipi Hotovely, and at Stanford, it was a group of Israeli Arab veterans of the Israel Defense Forces. I can understand Hillel refusing to host speakers from the radical fringes. But how are Jewish students supposed to learn anything about Israel if campus Hillels won’t even let them hear from representatives of two of the country’s most mainstream institutions – its elected government and its army?

Both Hillels later termed their decisions a “mistake” – most likely under pressure from Hillel International, whose CEO, Eric Fingerhut, was the lead author on Princeton Hillel’s apology. But that doesn’t change the fact that at two leading universities on opposite sides of the country, the Hillel directors, both non-Orthodox rabbis, initially thought canceling the speeches in response to progressive students’ objections was a reasonable decision. Princeton’s Julie Roth thought it completely reasonable to deny her students the chance to hear an official Israeli government representative try to explain the government’s policies. And Stanford’s Jessica Kirschner – backed, incredibly, by the university’s “pro-Israel” association – thought it completely reasonable to deny her students the chance to hear from non-Jewish Israelis who don’t agree that Israel is an apartheid state.

American Jewish rabbis and lay leaders obviously have the right to disagree with Israeli policies. But how is any relationship possible if one side won’t even allow the other to be heard? Gagging and boycotts Israel can get from its enemies; it doesn’t need American Jews for that. So if Israel can’t even rely on them to enable interested students to be exposed to mainstream Israeli views, what exactly are they contributing to the Israel-Diaspora relationship? And why, under these circumstances, should Israel have any interest in accommodating their concerns about, say, prayer arrangements at the Western Wall?

Moreover, consider who did step in to allow the Princeton and Stanford speeches to take place as planned – the Orthodox Chabad movement, which, on both campuses, volunteered to host the speakers on very short notice. If Orthodox groups are the only ones in America these days even willing to provide a venue for Israelis who deviate from progressive orthodoxy, why wouldn’t Israel give greater weight to Orthodox views than non-Orthodox ones?

Nor is this problem limited to college campuses. The most salient example – one worth revisiting precisely because both sides consider it a turning point in the relationship – was the dispute over the Iranian nuclear deal.

Given the almost wall-to-wall Israeli consensus that the deal was dangerous (despite deep disagreements over how best to oppose it), many Israelis felt no less betrayed by American Jewish support for the deal than many American Jews felt when Israel reneged on the Western Wall compromise two years later. As former Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren told Haaretz, “We went to American Jews and told them that the Iran deal endangers 6 million Jews in Israel, and that it’s not an American political issue, but rather, a matter of Jewish existence, and I don’t need to tell you what happened.” Indeed, absent that sense of betrayal, I suspect Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu might have been more willing to rebuff ultra-Orthodox pressure over the Western Wall.

But policy disagreements I can accept, even on issues of existential importance. What I found far more troubling was liberal American Jews’ reaction to Netanyahu’s efforts to lobby against the deal, which Haaretz reporter Judy Maltz accurately described as follows: “Considering that 70 percent of American Jews had voted for Barack Obama, Netanyahu’s efforts to lead a revolt against him were seen by many in the Jewish community as unconscionable.” Indeed, many prominent American Jews vociferously objected to Netanyahu’s speech to Congress against the deal, using terms like “humiliated” and “angered” to describe their feelings. Yet somehow, I haven’t heard a word from them against European leaders’ efforts today to lobby Congress to defy President Trump and preserve the deal.

In short, many liberal American Jews didn’t just oppose the Israeli government’s policy, they even objected to the government’s efforts to publicly advocate for its chosen policy. Effectively, they declared that Israel had no right to make its views heard in America if doing so discomfited them.

Many liberal Jews remain staunch supporters of Israel. Yet the ranks of the Roths and Kirschners seem to be growing every year. And though Israel and Diaspora Jewry can survive disagreements about policy, if liberal American Jews aren’t even willing to hear what Israeli Jews think, and provide a platform for others to hear it, the relationship will be over. I continue to think that would be tragedy. But you cannot have a relationship with people who don’t even acknowledge your right to speak – even if those people are your family.



הרב הצדיק ר' משה בן רייזל

Refuah Shleima to Rav Moshe ben Raizel, a great tzadik who has ALS [known as Lou Gerhig's disease which afflicts even non-Yankee fans רח"ל].


Isn't The Issur Owning Chametz?

All of the Torah generated by the kashya should be a zchus for my mooooooost beloved friend R' Avraham Yitzchak ben Esther a great lover of Torah and Torah scholars, and his wife and family, keyn yirbu [the "keyn yirbu" is on the family - not the wife. One wife is just perfect]. 

The Rambam says [Chametz Umatza 1/3]:

אינו לוקה משום לא יראה ולא ימצא אלא א"כ קנה חמץ בפסח או חימצו כדי שיעשה בו מעשה. אבל אם היה לו חמץ קודם הפסח ובא הפסח ולא ביערו אלא הניחו ברשותו אף על פי שעבר על שני לאוין אינו לוקה מן התורה מפני שלא עשה בו מעשה. ומכין אותו מכת מרדות.

Odd?! Why does the Rambam says that the איסור is הניחו ברשותו - Leaving the Chametz in one's possession. The איסור is OWNING the Chametz, so the Rambam SHOULD [seemingly] have said שיש לו חמץ and not הניחו ברשותו?!!

Am I missing something? Too many brain cells destroyed by watching all those episodes of the Cosby Show perhaps?

Sacrifice For Your Children

We read in Parashat Vayelekh of the mitzva of hakhel, the nationwide assembly that is to be conducted in Jerusalem every seven years during Sukkot following the septennial shemita year, for a public reading of the Torah. The Torah emphasizes that all members of the nation must participate in the hakhel assembly – men, women and children (31:12).

The Gemara, in a famous passage in Masekhet Chagiga (31:12), tells that Rabbi Elazar ben Azarya raised the question of why even young children are to attend hakhel. The question, seemingly, is that the children are incapable of understanding the content of the reading, such that there seems to be no purpose served through their participation. Rabbi Elazar ben Azarya’s answer to this question is somewhat ambiguous: “To give reward to those who bring them.” At first glance, this seems to mean that there is, in fact, no practical benefit from including the young children, but the Torah nevertheless included them in hakhel in order to increase the parents’ reward, as they fulfill an additional mitzva by bringing their children with them to hakhel.

A bold approach to explaining Rabbi Elazar’s comments was advanced by the Tolna Rebbe Shlita. He suggested that Rabbi Elazar questioned not the value of including the children per se, but rather the value of the parents’ hakhel experience if it is accompanied by the need to tend to their children. Seemingly, the children’s attendance would compromise the impact of the hakhel experience upon the parents, who would be encumbered by their children’s needs throughout the hakhelassembly. The purpose of hakhel, as the Torah says (31:12), is to instill fear of God, to inspire the nation to commit themselves to the Torah’s laws. Why, then, would parents be required to bring young children, which would undermine their ability to focus on the reading and receive the full emotional impact of the experience?

Rabbi Elazar’s answer, the Rebbe explained, is that parents earn reward for tending to their children even – or especially – when this comes at the expense of their own spiritual growth. Parents are responsible to take the time to care for and educate their children despite the limits this work imposes on the time and energy available for their own quest for greatness. Rabbi Elazar thus noted that the Torah’s command to include children in hakhel should come as no surprise, for parents are indeed expected to lower their own spiritual ambitions for the sake of caring for their children.

On this basis, the Tolna Rebbe Shlita explained the account in the Talmud Yerushalmi (Chagiga 1:1) of Rabbi Yehoshua’s enthusiastic reaction upon hearing Rabbi Elazar ben Azarya’s comment about the children’s inclusion in hakhel. Rabbi Yehoshua exclaimed, “A generation in which Rabbi Elazar ben Azarya lives is not orphaned.” The simple meaning, it would seem, is that Rabbi Yehoshua extolled Rabbi Elazar’s brilliance, and thus noted that Rabbi Elazar’s generation is fortunate to have a great scholar and teacher, such that it cannot be considered “orphaned.” Additionally, however, the Tolna Rebbe explained that when we apply Rabbi Elazar’s teaching, we ensure that the young generation will not be “orphaned,” and detached from the previous generation. We ensure the perpetuation of our tradition and the continuation of the chain of Torah when we are prepared to make great sacrifices for the sake of educating the younger generation, including sacrifices in our personal spiritual ambitions. Rabbi Elazar’s comments regarding hakhel, Rabbi Yehoshua observed, bears great relevance to Torah education generally, emphasizing the extent of the sacrifice we must be prepared to make in order to teach the next generation of Jews, to ensure that they will not be “orphaned,” and will instead be inextricably linked to the preceding generations.

[Rav David Silverberg vbm] 

What Is A Lashon Of Hashbasa? Languagely Challenged

לרפואת רבי משה בן רייזל
אסתר רות בת נעמי שרה 
בתוך שח"י

Rashi in Pesachim [י,ב ד"ה שלש לשונות] says something simply BEFUDDLING. 

He says that there are 3 terms of השבתה in the Torah. 1] Hashbasa. 2] Ri-iyah. 3] Metzia. Now I see how השבתה is a לשון of השבתה. But how are ראייה and מציאה leshonos of השבתה?

Maybe I don't know Hebrew??

Make Sure Your Family Members Don't Speak Lashon Hara

Hilchos Lashon Hara chapter 8, section 13

The Torah warns us not to believe lashon hara. Briefly, the rule is that every Jew is commanded to not believe lashon hara said of any Jew unless he is a heretic, informer, or suchlike, who are not considered as being with you [in Torah observance].

Hilchos Lashon Hara chapter 8, section 14

It makes no difference if one hears lashon hara from non-relatives or from one's parents or household. We even see in Tana Debei Eliyahu (ch. 27) that if one sees one's parent speaking superfluous words, such as lashon hara, besides being commanded to not believe them he must also make them stop this behavior. (He should be careful to do this respectfully as I write in Be'er Mayim Chayim). If one keeps quite, he and they will be severely punished. 

The sages say (Shabbos 54b) that if someone can rebuke the people of his household [and does not do so] he is punished because of them in the world to come. Therefore a person should often rebuke them [for wrongdoing], doing this gently and explaining the great punishment of the next world and the great reward if one refrains. 

One should be very careful that one's household does not ever hear one disparaging people, for besides the prohibition of lashon hara, he will now never be able to stop them from speaking lashon hara as he does so himself. Generally, the household's behavior depends on that of the householder.

Tunics Of Light

We read in Parashat Bereishit that after Adam and Chava’s sin, God prepared for them “kotnot or” – leather tunics as clothing (3:21).

The Midrash, in a surprising passage (Bereishit Rabba 20:12), comments that Rabbi Meir, in his Torah scroll, spelled the word “or” with an “alef” instead of an “ayin,” such that the phrase “kotnot or” means not “leather tunics,” but rather “tunics of light.” The obvious question arises as to how Rabbi Meir could advocate a deviant spelling of a word in the Torah, and what the significance of this deviant spelling might be.

The Tolna Rebbe suggested a symbolic approach to the Gemara’s remark, by examining other comments made by Chazal concerning Rabbi Meir. In Masekhet Eiruvin (13b), the Gemara cites Rabbi Acha bar Chanina as stating that Rabbi Meir had no equal among the scholars of his time. The reason why Halakha does not follow Rabbi Meir’s rulings, Rabbi Acha said, is specifically because of his superior stature: “It is known and revealed before He who proclaimed that the world should exist that there was no one like Rabbi Meir in his time. So why does Halakha not follow him? Because his colleagues could not properly grasp his thinking…” Rabbi Meir’s analytical skills were so advanced that the other Sages could not accept his conclusions. Elsewhere, in Masekhet Megila (18b), the Gemara notes Rabbi Meir’s unparalleled memory, which allowed him to write a Torah scroll from memory, which is normally forbidden.

And yet, despite Rabbi Meir’s superior stature, Rabbi Meir devoted himself to teaching even the simplest Jews. In Masekhet Sanhedrin (38b), the Gemara describes Rabbi Meir as a master storyteller, who would create fables to stir his audiences. In fact, in Masekhet Sota (49a), the Gemara comments that nobody was ever able to tell stories like Rabbi Meir: “Once Rabbi Meir died, there were no longer any tellers of fables.” Telling fables is an art generally practiced by those who teach simple, unlearned people. It appears that Rabbi Meir, who stood head-and-shoulders above the other scholars of his time, did not deem himself too learned or too accomplished to teach uneducated laymen.

Indeed, Rabbi Meir vigorously advocated the obligation to share one’s Torah knowledge with the masses. We read in Masekhet Sanhedrin (99a) that Rabbi Meir interpreted the verse in Sefer Bamidbar (15:31), “…for he has scorned the word of the Lord” as referring to one who has studied Torah but does not teach it.

The Tolna Rebbe Shlita suggests that this quality of Rabbi Meir underlies the switch from “or” with an ayin to “or” with an “alef.” Leather is generally used to cover and conceal. The Gemara is alluding to us that Rabbi Meir used his Torah to illuminate those who were “covered” and in the dark. He worked to bring Torah to even the darkest places, to those on the lowest levels of ignorance and indifference. His Torah differed from that of others who kept the light of Torah with themselves and their colleagues. His Torah was one which shed light upon all strata of Am Yisrael, as he worked to teach, inspire and guide all members of the nation, rather than focus his energies solely on the intellectual elite.

[Rav David Silverberg]

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

They Should Have Davened

"Reason to Hope", the third Global Atheist Convention scheduled for Melbourne in February 2018, has been cancelled because of "lack of interest".

I get it. What is interesting about life having no meaning or moral basis and talking about how we are all just accidental over developed monkeys doomed to die forever? Pathetic.    

Not enough people are interested in Atheism. Indeed, a reason to hope. 

You Never Know

I am not really planning to die anytime soon and I, in theory, would even buy green bananas. But you never know. So for the record - I want there to be singing and simcha at my funeral. The gemara says that one is obligated to say the bracha of Dayan Ha-emes with the same simcha one would feel when making a bracha upon hearing great news. 

So if you are reading this and are at my funeral, please make it known. Simcha-dike singing.  

People should walk away uplifted. I am not into this melancholy stuff. That is for the sitra achra

That being said, I hope Hashem gives us ALL long life, health, prosperity and all of the brachos possible. 

As Yitzchak blessed Yaakov - ויתן לך אלקים - יתן ויחזור ויתן!! MORE AND MORE AND MORE!!!

I love you Hashem and I love you dear readers!!!

New Shiurim

Since the "oilam" is learning Makos, I recorded some Makos shiurim bi-iyun and hope to do more with the help of Hashem. I hope they are a big "hit" [pun intended]. שמעו ותחי נפשכם!

I MUST SAY that to learn Makkos with Shiurei Rebbi Shmuel is like [if I may wax yeshivish for a moment] "not shayich" and highly recommended. GO FOR IT!!! 

Lashon Hara To Non-Jews

Hilchos Lashon Hara chapter 8, section 12 

Lashon hara applies if one disparages a person to a Jew, and how much more to non-Jews in which case his sin is far worse. For besides sullying the honor of Yisrael and desecrating the name of heaven, if one tells a non-Jew that a Jew is a cheat and suchlike, unlike a Jewish listener, the non-Jew will believe the information immediately and publicize it to all. (We find something similar in Bava Basra 39b where it explains the difference between lashon hara and protesting, see there). This causes the Jew damage and distress. How much more if he informs on a Jews [to the authorities], his punishment is beyond bearing for he is counted as an informer who has the same status as a heretic and denier of the Torah and the resurrection. Gehinom dissipates but [their punishment] does not dissipate as is taught in Rosh Hashanah (17a). Therefore one must be very careful of this. If someone informs of Jews to non-Jews it is as if he blasphemed and lifted his hand against the Torah as the Choshen Mishpat rules (ch. 26).


This is an especially acute problem when publicizing lashon hara on the Internet when the whole world can read it. Yet - there is LOADS of lashon hara on the Internet, even by seemingly religious Jews. Religious until it comes to the איסור of לשון הרע. 

If You Already Have To Live In Teaneck You Should Know This

"גולין לחוץ לארץ על ידי פגמים של הפנימיות, ושם שבים בתשובה, כדי להוציא את האור מתוך החושך, שזהו האור היותר גנוז, וטועמים מרירות פנימית מאד, בהשגה של עבדות שאין בה משום חירות גלוי, כי אם חרדה וקדרות, אבל בתוכה אור עליון מאיר בחסד של אהבה מסותרת, שעתיד להגלות גודל אורו בשיבת ציון".

[שמנה קבצים ו' רכ"ו] 

The secret is to feel the מרירות. 

The Objectification Of Women

There is a lot of talk today in light of all of the accusations of sexual abuse and harrassment about the objectification of women. But of course there are much deeper roots to the problem. The abuse is only a פועל יוצא - an outgrowth, of an internal, cognitive-emotional-spiritual-cancer. Treat the root and the symptoms will disappear.  

Let us try to understand what this objectification is all about. 

In fact, men don't just objectify women - they objectify MEN as well. Not in a sexual way [if they are straight] but as an object that is only useful if "it" serves my needs. The other is an "it" and not a "you". 

Let me give an example. You are standing in shul and waiting to daven. You only have 9 men. BUM-MER. OK - So you look around outside for one more man. "TZENTER TZENTER" ["tenth, tenth"] you call out. Do you CARE about that missing man as an independent living, breathing person who have inherent value outside of enabling you to daven? Generally - not. If you see a woman you will be disappointed because she can't complete the minyan. You want a tenth man - not dinner. The woman becomes useful when you are hungry and she can cook. She is an object. He is an object. He completes the minyan. She cooks dinner. If you see a child, you will ask him "How old are you?" If he says 13 and he needs to daven, you hit the jackpot. If he says 11 or he already davened, you lost. You don't really care if HE wants to daven and join the minyan or not. You don't care about how he is doing in school, how he gets along with his siblings etc. etc. He is only useful if he completes the minyan for YOU. Otherwise, he is useless. He is an object. An "it" and not a "you".

The example of a minyan is significant because a minyan is a WONDERFUL THING. But even when we are doing wonderful things, we objectify others. Objectification is wrong even when done in a positive context. 

A less pure example. You see a good looking woman on the street. At that moment she ceases to be a human being with a whole range of emotions, thoughts, hopes, aspirations, fears, beliefs etc. etc. At that moment she is one thing - a sex object. Not for long. Because one moment later you will forget she ever existed. You will see another good looking girl and the previous "relationship" will be discarded to the dustbins of history. But something horrific happened. A human soul was transformed in your mind into an object of raw, physical desire. It is actually a subtle, legal [according to secular law] form of rape. Using the body of another human being for your own pleasure without the other person's consent. [If she dresses in such a way as to attract the stares of men then she tacitly expresses consent but just because another person wants to be viewed as an object doesn't mean that we should treat them as such. The reason is that deep down women don't really want to be viewed as sex objects. They want to be loved, admired and appreciated. They just feel that the only way to achieve those goals is to dress - or not dress - in alluring ways. By the way - a lustful glance is also אסור דאורייתא but this is not a halachic essay so we will leave that point aside].   

We all do it, unless we are angels. Every person is a potential object. If he is rich and you are poor, then he is a potential source of money. If he is well connected and you are not, then he can be a source of connections. If he is a doctor and you are not well then he is the source of healing and improved health. The bus driver is an object that brings you to your destination etc. etc.

Women objectify men also. Not necessarily as objects of physical pleasure [although that happens too] but, for example, as objects of financial stability. So when a girl looks to get married, the anonymous boy is less a human being and more a means to live a comfortable life. A woman will objectify other women as well, viewing them as a means to meeting her emotional or material needs. If they don't serve any purpose for her, then they lose all significance.

When we get a phone call or email, we decide whether to answer based on whether this person serves our purposes. How does this "object" fit into my life? What will I get out of the deal if I answer? He is rarely seen as a person who wants or needs to get in touch with you and deserves your time and attention by virtue of him or her being created in the image of G-d. 

"G-d". He is ALSO viewed as an object. He will give me health, money, nachas from my children, long life, the world to come etc. etc. He is a slot machine. We "insert" our mitzvos and prayers and learning and we want all of the coins and prizes to flow out in great bounty. Do we care about HIM? About HIS nachas [כביכול]? Rarely, if ever. When we do an aveirah we feel badly because WE goofed or because WE fear that we will be punished. When we do a mitzva we feel good about OURSELVES. It has little or nothing to do with HIM. He is just an object.         

I have been treated like an object countless times in my life. People were really nice when they needed me but the MOMENT they decided that they didn't, I ceased to exist in their minds, even to the point of harming me when it met their goals. Of course, I deserved it for all of the people I viewed as objects. For all of the times, for example, I viewed my mother as an object of my need to have clean clothing [or clothing at all for she is the one who has always - and still does despite my protestations to the contrary - bought my clothing. Nothing like a Jewish mother. הודו לה' כי טוב!] or my father as someone who will pay the bills. 

This objectification of the other is - I don't think I am exaggerating - the root of all evil. It is the root of all הקנאה התאוה והכבוד המוציאים את האדם מן העולם. How can I be jealous of someone else having things I don't when I view him separate from my own personal reality and needs? Lust is pure [or better "impure"] egocentric desire for someone else to give me pleasure. [The story in the Navi of Amnon and Tamar is classic. First he wants her. Then he rapes her. They she is disgusting in his eyes. Complete objectification from beginning till end]. When one seeks honor, the other is an object used to achieve a personal sense of importance. 
Freedom of the soul is achieved when we begin to view others as people who have NO LESS SIGNIFICANCE and are no less valuable than we are. Nobody is merely a vehicle for us to achieve OUR goals and to fulfill OUR wishes. People are holy entities with inherent value beyond any utilitarian value we might think they possess for us.  

When a person starts viewing people outside of their own "need base", when a person starts viewing Hashem as a Being who wants a healthy relationship with us and not just as a means to getting what we want, his soul will be redeemed [גאולה פרטית]. 

It says in this weeks parsha that when Rivka was having a lot of pain in pregnancy "ותלך לדרוש את השם"-  She went to seek out Hashem. When you have a problem, remember that the goal is to seek out and search for a connection to Hashem. The problem is just the catalyst. Look primarily for the relationship - not just for the solution. If one just wants the solution, then, G-d forbid, Hashem is transformed into a heavenly candy machine. Hashem is not an "it. He is a "He".