Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Hilchos Lashon Hara, Opening – negative commands (7-8)

The speaker sometimes also transgresses the negative command (Vayikra 19:17), "Do not hate your fellow in your heart," if he speaks peacefully in front of a person and speaks badly of him before others. How much more so if he explicitly orders them to not go and inform him that he certainly transgresses this negative command.

Sometimes, the speaker also transgresses the negative command (Vayikra 19:18), "Do not take revenge and do not bear a grudge," if he hates the person for some reason, such as if he asked him to do him a favor such as a loan, and he did not help him, and he therefore harbors hate against him in his heart. Then, when he sees something bad about him afterwards he publicizes it among people. First, by keeping it in his heart, he transgressed the negative command of, "Do not bear a grudge," and afterwards when he took revenge against him due to the bad things he saw of him, he also transgresses the negative command of, "Do not take revenge." Rather, he should erase the matter from his heart.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

3 Parts

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How To Heal

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Please Forgive

The minhag is to ask mechilah before Yom kippur but I want to jump the gun. 

If I ever insulted, hurt or slighted anyone in any way - please forgive me. If I was ever too harsh in my writing and you were offended - please forgive me. 

There is one thing I do PERFECTLY - I am perfectly fallible. I make mistakes all the time. It is all part of my being "human". So I can't promise to stop making mistakes but I certainly can promise to feel badly about the one's I made. 

So PLEASE forgive me. 

With much love,


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Don't Complain

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Find It And Give It Away

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A Gift

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Destroy Evil

Sometimes I have been hard on Trump in the past. 

Some kind words this time. 

He spoke at the UN and was GREAT!!!

He spoke about חייך קודמין - First worry about your own country. Then worry about the rest of world. And we all must unite together to make a better world.  

He spoke strongly against terrorists and terrorism and threatened to knock evil North Korea off - totally [since they threaten the world. But there are 25 million people there. What about all the innocent people?]. He spoke very strongly against Iran, Islamic terrorism and in defense of Israel [Netanyahu was there and liked that part].    

He spoke about governments who harm their own people [such as Iran].

He spoke about how socialism and communism destroy the people. 

And most importantly he spoke at the end about the human soul and G-d. 

He was strong, eloquent and spoke from the heart.

As I always emphasize - I am not a person who understands politics and this is a Torah blog not a political one. But as Jews we must be concerned about world peace and vanquishing evil. Our President wants to liquidate evil regimes. All the power to him.  


Cleaning The Toxins

לע"נ אלימלך בן ר' מנחם מנדל מלכיאל

Forgive the imagery but it best expresses my point:-). 

A person goes to the bathroom and sits on the "throne of glory". He thinks that there is a little bit of waste in there, it will exit [with Hashem's great mercy!! Reb Yeruchem, the Mirrer Mashgiach, said that we should almost say hagomel after relieving ourselves - a free painless, quick operation. הודו לה' כי טוב!!] and he will go on with his day. 

But then it starts coming... and coming ... and coming. When the person is finished and does his "paperwork" he is amazed by how much came out. 

THIS is our story. We all have toxins inside of us. Refuse. Waste. Not only physical but emotional and spiritual as well. We don't realize how much is in there but I can almost guarantee you - more than you think.

Anger, jealousy, hostility [even towards ourselves], cynicism, fear, anxiety, stinginess and the list goes on and on. 

And on. 

The BEAUTY of the days of teshuva is that they allow us to removve all of these POISONS from our system. 

So let it out!! CLEANSE YOURSELF. It's the BEST!!! 

מעשה שהיה a few days ago:

There was a certain chashuv Rov I was very angry with. Very chashuv and very angry:-). It was sitting there in my heart for a loooong time. I said to myself "this is NOT HEALTHY!!"

So I got up the guts. Big-time guts. I went to him and said "I have a few things in my heart against the Rov. Is the Rov mocheil if I tell him". He said "Of course". I then told him what bothered me. He didn't interrupt. When I was finished, he respectfully responded to my claims one by one, explaining his behavior.

And I was cleansed. 

We can do that with almost everyone. 

We can also cleanse ourselves in other ways. All of our bad middos can be corrected. All of our stupid mistakes can be fixed. 


On condition - that we engage in the process. We introspect. We allow ourselves to feel imperfect and keep loving ourselves. We think of ways to change. We apologize to those we wronged. Especially Hashem.

And then? 

And then אשריכם ישראל לפני מי אתם מטהרים ומי מטהר אתכם - אביכם שבשמים - We first purify ourselves and then Hashem purifies us. 

How awesome is THAT???


I was listening to Rebbe Moshe Tzvi Shlita and he taught this Torah. 

רעב - היום אם בקולו תשמעו

הַיּוֹם אִם בְּקוֹלוֹ תִשְׁמָעוּ (תְּהִלִּים צ"ה) זֶה כְּלָל גָּדוֹל בַּעֲבוֹדַת הַשֵּׁם שֶׁלּא יָשִׂים לְנֶגֶד עֵינָיו כִּי אִם אוֹתוֹ הַיּוֹם הֵן בְּעֵסֶק פַּרְנָסָה וְהִצְטָרְכוּתוֹ צָרִיך שֶׁלּא יַחֲשׁב מִיּוֹם לַחֲבֵרוֹ כַּמּוּבָא בַּסְּפָרִים וְכֵן בַּעֲבוֹדָתוֹ יִתְבָּרַך לא יָשִׂים לְנֶגֶד עֵינָיו כִּי אִם אוֹתוֹ הַיּוֹם וְאוֹתוֹ הַשָּׁעָה כִּי כְּשֶׁרוֹצִין לִכָּנֵס בַּעֲבוֹדַת ה' נִדְמֶה לְהָאָדָם כְּאִלּוּ הוּא מַשָּׂא כָּבֵד וְאִי אֶפְשָׁר לוֹ לִשָּׂא מַשָּׂא כָּבֵד כָּזוֹ אֲבָל כְּשֶׁיַּחֲשׂב שֶׁאֵין לוֹ רַק אוֹתוֹ הַיּוֹם, לא יִהְיֶה לוֹ מַשָּׂא כְּלָל וְגַם שֶׁלּא יִדְחֶה אֶת עַצְמוֹ מִיּוֹם לְיוֹם לֵאמר מָחָר אַתְחִיל, מָחָר אֶתְפַּלֵּל בְּכַוָּנָה וּבְכחַ כָּרָאוּי וְכַיּוֹצֵא בָּזֶה בִּשְׁאָר הָעֲבוֹדוֹת כִּי אֵין לְאָדָם בְּעוֹלָמוֹ כִּי אִם אוֹתוֹ הַיּוֹם וְאוֹתוֹ הַשָּׁעָה שֶׁעוֹמֵד בּוֹ כִּי יוֹם הַמָּחֳרָת הוּא עוֹלָם אַחֵר לְגַמְרֵי הַיּוֹם אִם בְּקוֹלוֹ תִשְׁמָעוּ, הַיּוֹם דַּיְקָא, וְהָבֵן.

Ten million bucks:-)!!

Respect Your Chavrusa!!

Rosh Hashana - Davening For True Life

From an email:

Shalloommmm sweeeetest friends!!!!!

These words of Torah and hisorirus should be a merit for my most beloved and faithful friend Moshe Yehuda ben Pesha Dina. He is the best and deserves the best! KB"H should grant him all of the wishes of his heart li-tova. 



Another year:-)!!! Last year we stood before Hashem on Rosh Hashana and said "You are king and we want to proclaim this. Please give us more time to do so". And He did!!:-) How awesome is that?? Very. 

Ahhhh - but now we once again stand in judgment. Will we be worthy? I sure hope so!! Nobody wants to die. Yet every time I find myself in an airport "terminal" or receive a "please daven for .. ben/bas/ ... who is in critical condition", I am reminded that I too am on a limited visa. 

I am a citizen of two countries and a permanent resident of none. 

Anyway, after those sobering thoughts - a word or 8 about Rosh Hashana. We insert into our Shmoneh Esrei the words

"זכרנו לחיים מלך חפץ בחיים וכתבנו בספר החיים למענך אלקים חיים" 

I was pondering those words today and began to jot down my thoughts and all of the sudden [this is a true story] the computer started mellifluously playing the beautiful tune put to these very words. [Here is one rendition. The singer actually lives in my neighborhood and is a fine gentleman]. 

We ask Hashem to give us life. That makes sense. But what do we mean when we call Hashem "אלקים חיים"? All that matters for our purposes is that He gives life and we would like some more of it, so what does the title אלקים חיים add??

I would like to take an approach based on the Maharal

What is life? Ahhhhh!!


Well - if one is an animal then merely existing is life. For Hashem, life is something different. There is a concept in the chumash called מים חיים - Flowing "live" waters. Water that just keeps going. The life of Hashem is unique in that He MUST LIVE, is the only ABSOLUTE, ETERNAL existence and is the source of all other existence. When we live it is a different type of existence. We could live but we could also be dead. It has happened in world history that people have died. If so, then one is never really alive in the true, G-dly sense of the term. Life must be an endless flow.

Now we understand. We say to Hashem "Hashem. We don't want to just keep breathing. Even Neo-Nazis breathe. [And, may I add - "yimach shimam:-)"]. We want to REALLY LIVE. You are the אלקים חיים - The eternal source of all life and we want to connect to THAT. Not just another round so we can consume more slurpies, takes more selfies or scroll another 10 thousand times down our ipods. But an eternal, spiritual existence that is filled with joy and vitality. About you it says עז וחדווה במקומו - Strength and joy is in His place. We want that too. You never get sick [which, according to the gemara is death in the micro]. We ALSO never want to be sick." 

The way to live as Hashem lives is to cling to Hashem. The closer we are - the more we live. In both worlds. We don't want life to be just the absence of death. We want life to be full of meaning, purpose and joy. And that they should never end. 

How do we get close to Hashem?


Here are 2 ways [there are many but these two are key]:

One way is to DESIRE with all of our hearts to be close. אחת שאלתי מאת השם - One request. That we should sit in the house of Hashem all of the days of our lives. Everywhere we go, we should feel that we are in the house of Hashem and to see his sweetness. לחזות בנועם השם. 

Another way is to GIVE. The Maharal says that when one gives s/he becomes G-dly because ALL Hashem does all day is give. 

There are many thousands of people who died clinical deaths and they related that all of their lives passed before their eyes in seconds and every time they observed themselves GIVNG - they felt bliss. To be good is to be [almost] G-d. As close as you can get. Some people have this horrific disease called "miserliness". It is worse than cancer or anything else in that it kills a person in both this and the next worlds and most people who have don't even realize they have it. S-C-A-R-Y!


May we all be inscribed in the book of true life. The life given by אלקים חיים and not just resuscitation. 

It would be an honor if anybody would give me his or her name and those of their loved ones so I can daven for you. I can't say much about my tefillos but I am in Israel and that counts for a lot. So please send if you wish. 

With much love and brachos for the GREATEST YEAR of your life. 



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Hilchos Lashon Hara, Opening – Negative commands (5-6)

לישועת אלחנן בן הענא מרים 

The speaker also transgresses the negative command of (Devarim 8:11), "Be careful lest you forget Hashem your G-d," which is a prohibition against pride. For since he is mocking his fellow he probably considers himself wise and an important person, and if he realized his own shortcomings he would not mock his fellow. Thus, Chazal say in Sotah (4b) that the sin of pride is exceedingly harsh, and that if one transgresses this sin his dust will not stir at the resurrection of the dead, he is considered like a worshipper of stars and constellations, the Divine Presence wails over him, and he is called an abomination. 

In particular, if the speaker of lashon hara glorifies himself he certainly transgresses this negative command and in addition, the sages say he is cut off from the world to come, saying (Yerushalmi 2:1), "Someone who is glorified through the calumny of his fellow has no portion in the world to come." 

The speaker and receiver also transgress the negative command of (Vayikra 22:32), "Do not desecrate My holy name," since there is no desire or physical enjoyment through which the evil inclination overcame him. Therefore, this sin is considered as simple rebellion and removal of the yoke of heaven, and through this, he desecrates the name of heaven. All this is regarding a regular Jew, especially if he is an important person whose deeds are watched by all – he certainly desecrates the name through doing this. How much more so if this sin was committed in public – certainly the sin will be very great as the transgressor is called a person who desecrated the name of heaven in public.

Monday, September 18, 2017

A Different Type Of Chasidus

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Rav Kook's Favorite Sefarim - Open Orthodoxy

Rav Kook had three sefarim on his table in order to enhance his oneg Shabbos. 1] The Likutei Torah of the Baal Hatanya. 2] The Sfas Emes. 3] A sefer of pipul called Kli Chemdah written by Rav Meir Don Plotzky ztz"l, who was a contemporary of the Rav. 

For the first sefer, it is a MUST to go here and read the Maamarim of the Rebbe with a biur. And/or buy "חסידות מבוארת". If you can't understand on your own then listen to shiurim or learn with a chavrusa. [BTW - Rav Soloveitchik was impacted deeply by the Torah of the Baal Hatanya - so his sefarim sefer are for YU intellectuals and otherwise as well:-)].  

For the second - we have many a shiur on line. Here is the latest. 

As for the Kli Chemdah - I never see anybody learning it and it is not quoted so often so BL"N I will try to bring him back into the public eye where he belongs. I LOVE Kli Chemdah. DEEEELICIOUS!!!

A note on "Open Orthodoxy". The Rav was Open Orthodox. A talmid of the litvishe Netziv in litvishe Yeshivas Volozhin who followed the Vilna Gaon in his halachic practice had three sefarim on his table - all written by Chasidishe Rabbonim. THAT is Open Orthodoxy. May we all merit to open ourselves to the Torah of Tzadikei Ha-doros of all streams [and of course not waste our time with much of the nonsense that circulates on the web].   

The Sound Of The Shofar

לע"נ אלימלך בן ר' מנחם מנדל מלכיאל

What really satisfies a person in life? Those ideas that are beyond the senses, that are invisible and incomprehensible. Things that we just "hear about" but can't be put into words because they are beyond words and nevertheless we and all of existence are satiated by them. 

One of these sublime ideas is the shofar. We can't fully comprehend what the shofar does. We just hear the sounds and it makes an indelible impression on our souls. It then gives us life the whole year as it says in the gemara [Rosh Hashana 16b] "Any year when we blow at the beginning - nothing bad happens at the end" [כל שנה שמריעין בתחילתה אין מריעין  בסופה]. 

The blowing of the shofar relates to Hashem Himself, as it says "ה' א-להים בשופר יתקע". He blows constantly. But our souls only hear it on Rosh Hashana through our blowing. Then we merit to connect to His blowing, as it says "אשרי העם יודעי תרועה". 

The Lights Of Rosh Hashana

לע"נ אלימלך בן ר' מנחם מנדל מלכיאל 

On Rosh Hashana the world returns on some level to the pure and holy state it was in before the primordial sin. These were the best moments the world has ever seen since creation. But then all of the problems, "klippos" and impurities of our very incomplete world "slap us in the face" and "strict judgment" comes into being because of the great gap of present reality and the yearning of our souls for what was and we can no longer tap into. 

Fortunate are the Tzadikim who are written and inscribed in the book of life and are elevated to the most sweet and pleasant place of beauty from before the sin and are included in the holy world of primordial Man.      

The Preparation for the Yemei Hadin

לע"נ אלימלך בן מנחם מנדל מלכיאל 

The best preparation for the yemei ha-din is to realize that the light of Hashem is within us. Realizing this is the way to combat all of the external impediments. It brings to a personal geulah and sweetens all of the "strict judgments".  

אא"ז מו"ר ז"ל הגיד בשם הרב מפרשיסחא עמ"ש ואמר כו' על כי אין אלקי בקרבי מצאוני כו'. כי נחשב לחטא. שצריך כל איש ישראל להאמין כי השי"ת בקרבו כו'. ומ"מ אמת הוא כי כשיש השראת השכינה אין מגע נכרי לאדם כדכתיב וראו כו' כי שם ה' נקרא עליך ויראו ממך. אך כי [*אין] אלקי בקרבי כו' כשאדם נופל מבטחונו בהשי"ת ואומר כי [*אין] אלקי בקרבי עי"ז מצאוני כו'. ולזאת נכתב פרשה זו שיחזק האדם עצמו לבטוח בהשי"ת. ולהאמין כי הוא שוכן בקרבנו. ועי"ז יהי' התגלות שמו ית' עלינו להיות נשמר מכל דבר רע ח"ו כנ"ל:

[שפת אמת שבת שובה תרל"ד]

The Battle Of Good Vs. Evil

לע"נ אלימלך בן  ר' מנחם מנדל מלכיאל 

Every year there are new outlets of Torah learning, types of Avoda and revelation of the unity and oneness of Hashem. In the same vein there are new opposite powers of evil that come into being whose task it is to impede the good  from coming to fruition. We daven on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur that these forces should be nullified. The reason we are victorious is only because of our tefillos and maasim tovim at the beginning of the year. After all of our davening on Rosh Hashna and Yom Kippur we go out with our "weapons" of the arba minim [as the medrash puts it] and the victory is on Shmini Atzeres when we celebrate our victory. Shmini Atzeres in Kabala corresponds to the world of yovel, the world of complete freedom.    

Who Decides...

what to name the hurricanes?

On Yom Kippur We Reveal Our Deeper Side

לעילוי נשמת אלימלך בן מנחם מנדל מלכיאל    

ולהבדל לחיים טובים וארוכים משה יהודה בן פעשא דינה לזיווג הגון וכל טוב סלה!

On Yom Kippur the deep internal spiritual world of the Jewish people is revealed and specifically because of this it is a special day of teshuva. Therefore, everybody has to appease his friend and people forgive each other in order to show that on this day we are deeper and all of the quarrels between people is only because of external blemishes and inadequacies but not on deeper soul level. For deep inside we are all one, with the unity of the Creator [כביכול]. 

Hilchos Lashon Hara, Opening – Negative commands (3-4)

לישועת אלחנן בן הענא מרים 

The speaker also transgresses the verse (Devarim 24:8), "Beware of the plague of tzara'as to guard exceedingly and to do." The Sifra explains that when the Torah says to "guard exceedingly," it means that one should not forget to be careful from lashon hara so that tzara'as does not afflict you because of these words.

The speaker and receiver also transgress the negative command (Vayikra 19:14), "Do not put a stumbling block before the blind." Because each one puts a stumbling block before his fellow by making him transgress explicit Torah prohibitions. But in this case there is a difference between the speaker and the receiver. The speaker transgresses this prohibition when the listeners are few or many, and on the contrary, the more listeners, the greater the prohibition. Not so the receiver who might transgress only if he is alone, since, if he did not listen the speaker would have no one to whom to relate the lashon hara. But if there are other listeners it may be that he may not transgress this prohibition but only the other negative commands mentioned in this opening. This is only if he came after the story began, But if he was there from the beginning he certainly transgresses in any case, because the prohibition began because of him. 

Nonetheless, one must beware of such groups and not sit with them for in heaven they are written by the name of a wicked group. So we find in the will of Rabbi Eliezer Hagadol who adjured Hurkenus, his son: "My son, do not sit with groups that say bad of their fellows, because when the words rise above, they are written in a book, and all those standing there are called by the name of a wicked group."

Sunday, September 17, 2017


Rabbi Gav Friedman's condition is not as serious as previously thought, BARUCH HASHEM!!! But still needs tefillos. אלישע גבריאל בן טובה. 


Hilchos Lashon Hara, Opening – Negative commands (1)

לישועת אלחנן בן הענא מרים 

Someone who speaks against his fellow transgresses a negative command as it says (Vayikra 19:16), "Do not go as a talebearer (rachil) in your nation." What is a rachil? Someone who carries things and goes from this person to that saying, "Ploni said this about you, and I heard that ploni did that to you", even if it is true. This person is among those who destroy the world. There is a much worse sin than this, namely, lashon hara, which is included in this negative command. This is someone who speaks of the bad of his fellow even if the says the truth, but someone who say lies is considered a slanderer of his fellow.

Hilchos Lashon Hara, Opening – Negative commands (2)

The speaker or receiver also transgress the negative command (Shemos 23:1), "Do not accept (lo tisah) an empty statement," which can also be read as lo tasi (do not report), and thus, this negative command includes them both, the speaker and the receiver.

The Secret To Happiness

לרפואת אלישע גבריאל בת טובה 

There are two ways of viewing our search for happiness [and we ALL want to be happy]. One is by viewing happiness as coming from sources outside of us. That is the way most people view happiness. If I have enough money, if I marry the right person and having a fulfilling marriage, if I like my job, if I live in a community in which I feel comfortable, if I have good health, if ... if ... if.... so many ifs. And, sweet friends, those ifs don't always pan out. That is why there are so many sad people around and we also find ourselves being sad at times.  

There is another way. A better way. A truer way: We all have free will. This can and should catapult us to happiness. The very moment we desire good, we should be OVERWHELMED with happiness. It is in OUR hands. No ifs ands or buts about it. Completely one hundred percent in our hands. It doesn't matter what HAPPENS, what people are saying or doing or anything else. All that matters is that you have free will and can use it to desire what is good, holy and pure. 


When we have positive thoughts - we elevate all of the spiritual worlds that depend upon us. And we are filled with joy at this knowledge. 

The pasuk says שמחו בה' וגילו צדיקים והרנינו כל ישרי לב - Be happy with Hashem and the tzadikim will exult and those of a straight heart will rejoice.  If we have a לב ישר - a heart that desires the right things, we should be BRIMMING with joy!!! For that is all that is in our hands and all we can do.

The PROBLEM is that people don't appreciate this. People look at the bottom line - what did I DO? What did I ACCOMPLISH?? But that is an error - a potentially fateful error. The key is in our minds and hearts. What do we WANT? 

That is what matters. [Obviously, we must do as much as we can but the results are not completely in our hands. Only our will is]. 

The Rav ztz"l writes: 

שנואה היא העצבות, מפני שהיא נובעת ממקור היותר משחת שבדעות וברגשות. הידיעה, שהאדם בהתגלותו בתור בעל רצון, אופיו משתלם כולו בנקודת רצונו דוקא, האושר שלו הוא רצון טוב, כל קוי האושר וההצלחות הרוממות, שלב כל אדם כל כך עורג להם, אינם כי אם תולדות מנקודת חיים מלאים זו, נקודת הרצון הטוב הקדוש והבהיר,ובתוכן זה דומה האדם בחופשו ליוצרו, ליוצר כל, בחפצו המקיף והחפשי מכל מועקה, כשידיעה זו מתבררת, מיד מוצא האדם את עצמו מלא חדוה, מסולק מכל עצבות. הוא מכיר שהוא אינו צריך כי אם לאמץ את רצונו לטוב, וזה מסור בידו בכל עת ורגע, ותיכף כשרצונו מתעלה, הרי הוא מתעלה, וכל הספירות העולמיות התלויות בו מתעלות עמו. ואיך לא יהיה האדם מלא תמיד עז וחדוה, אם טובת הטובות, עושר העשירות, הצלחת ההצלחות, מסור ונתון בידו, והוא מושל בכל המכמנים הנפלאים האצורים באוצר נחמד ושמן זה. המחשבה שהאושר תלוי במה שהוא חוץ ליכלתו של האדם, ממה שהוא חוץ להוייתו, וחוץ לרצונו, מחשבת פגול הוא, רשעות וסכלות היא מרופדת. והיא מעוררת את כל התכונות השפלות וכל המדות הרעות שביסוד הרשעה, שכחת ד' וטובו, אורו וישעו, חכמתו חסדו וגבורתו. על כן ישרי לב שמחים תמיד, שמחו בד' וגילו צדיקים והרנינו כל ישרי לב.

[קובץ ג' נ"א] 


But in the meantime it is REALLY tamei....

The Bracha Of סלח לנו - Where Is The Kapara? Why The Bracha?

לרפואת אלישע גבריאל בן טובה
בתוך שח"י

1] Why in the bracha of סלח לנו don't we ask for כפרה as we do on Yom Kippur - "סלח לנו מחל לנו כפר לנו"? 

2] The gemara lists four categories of sins. Only for a מצות עשה is תשובה enough to atone. For a לא תעשה one needs Yom Kippur as well. For כריתות and מיתות ב"ד one needs יסורין too. For חילול השם one  needs to die... If so, what is the ברכה of סלח לנו all about? If one transgressed an עשה, then תשובה is enough - and we don't need a tefilla for סליחה. For other sins - he won't get סליחה without יום כיפור or יסורין. So where does the תפילה come in?

In the words of Rav Yaakov Rosenthal z"l:

והנה בתפילות מצאנו אמנם תפילות מיוחדות על התשובה ועל הסליחה ומחילה, וכגון בתפילת אבינו מלכנו: החזירנו בתשובה שלמה לפניך, וסמוך אחריו: שלח רפואה שלמה לחולי עמך, להדגיש שכמו ברפואה, אדם רוצה שיתרפא החולה לגמרי בשלמות, ה"נ בתשובה צריך שתהי' תשובה שלמה, ולא יחסית למה שהוא היה קודם. או יחסית לאנשים אחרים, אלא שובה ישראל עד ה' א-להיך, ממש בשלמות, וכדברי הילקוט על הפסוק בישעי' נ"ה: וישוב אל ה' וירחמהו, רי"א כאדם שהוא מלחים שני נסרים ומדביקן זה לזה. [דריש וירחמהו מלשון וילחמהו מלשון הלחמה ודבקות, ופי' המפרשים שבמלחים שני נסרים בלי שיהא שום אויר ביניהם, אי אפשר לנתק זמ"ז לעולם. וגם דבקות לבורא, צריך להיות בדרך זו] ולכן סמכו רפואה שלמה, ותשובה שלמה]. ואח"כ יש תפילת סלח ומחל לעוונותינו, כי שני דברים מיוחדים הם. תשובה לענין שיחשב כצדיק גמור ויזכה לחיי עוה"ב, וסליחה ומחילה הוא לענין העונש שאמורין היו לבוא עליו. וזה גם ענין כפרה, ותפילות יוהכ"פ הם בעיקרם על הכפרה, סלח מחל וכפר. כי יוהכ"פ מכפר להלכה עם תשובה ולרבי אף בלי תשובה.

אך צ"ע למה בתפילות כל השנה, התפילה היא סלח ומחל, ולא מזכירין מכפרה, ורק ביוהכ"פ אומרים סלח לנו, מחל לנו, כפר לנו, ומזכירין גם כפרה, ולמה כל השנה לא מזכירין כפרה. הרי הרמב"ם פוסק כאן בה"ג: התשובה מכפרת על כל העבירות וכו' ועצמו של יוהכ"פ מכפר לשבים וכו', ובה"ד כ' אע"פ שהתשובה מכפרת על הכל ועצמו של יוהכ"פ מכפר, יש עבירות וכו', יעו"ש. וא"כ גם כל השנה היה צריך להזכיר גם כפרה, וכמו ביום הכפורים, וצ"ע. ואולי משום דרק על עשה מכפרת התשובה לגמרי, ואילו על ל"ת תשובה תולה ויוהכ"פ מכפר, כמש"כ הרמב"ם שם, לכך אין מזכירין כפרה בתפילות כל השנה.
[ועי' ברמב"ם שם בה"ד שכתב: אע"פ שהתשובה מכפרת על הכל וכו' כיצד עבר אדם על מצות עשה שאין בה כרת ועשה תשובה אינו זז משם עד שמוחלין לו, וק"ק למה נקט כאן לשון מחילה ולא לשון כפרה]. 

ובעיקר התפילה דסלח לנו וכו', או בתפילת יוכ"פ סלח מחל וכפר, צ"ע, דממ"נ אם עשה תשובה הרי הדין הוא, דהקב"ה סולח לו, ואי לדברים שאין מועיל בזה תשובה לבד כגון בל"ת ובעבירות שיש בהם כריתות ומיתת ב"ד, מה תועיל תפלתו, הא הלכה פסוקה היא דצריך יסורין ומיתה, ובלא עשה תשובה, ודאי דלא שייך לבקש סלח מחל וכפר, וא"כ עיקר התפילה צריכה להיות לכאורה על התשובה, וע"ז יש כבר תפילת השיבנו וצע"ג.

[משנת יעקב תשובה א' א']

Elisha Gavriel ben Tova

Image result for gav friedman

Please daven for Rabbi Gav Friedman - אלישע גבריאל בן טובה - who has developed a serious infection and needs tefillos. 


Keep Spreading The Word!!

What is going on in the world??? 

We, the Jews, spread the message of monotheism to mankind, yet we see today that there are so many atheists in the world and even in the great America. So what did we accomplish??? 

We accomplished a LOT!! 

1] All of those people who do believe in One G-d. 

2] Even those who don't believe often talk about it a whole lot. We put the idea "out there" and compelled people to think about it. Even that has value. A marriage is in much worse shape if the couple is not talking than it is if they are fighting.... 

3] Even in those who remain deniers רח"ל there are still traces of belief. The very search for morals and goodness, which is a hallmark of modern Western culture, is an outgrowth of Jewish values. Also [as others have noted], the entire philosophy upon which the United States was founded [what they call the "Judeo x-tian ethic"] enabled people to deny G-d. The notion of human freedom and dignity, very Jewish values, allow people to express opinions contrary to the very basis of their opinions. In other words, the Jewish values allow people to express their opinions freely, then they express opinions saying that there is no G-d רח"ל. But even that opinion is predicated on the fact that there is a G-d.   

4] The notion of monotheism impacted people in subconscious ways and made the world a better world. 


Bi-lashon HaRav ztz"l: 

אין להבהל כלל, אם אחרי עבור תקופה ארוכה של פעולת ישראל על עצמם ועל העולם, ישובו המחשבות של הכפירה להתפשט בעולם - א"כ צדיק מה פעל. כי אין עיקר תיקון העולם ניכר במה שמתבטא בפה ודבר שפתים, עיקר הדבר תלוי בעצמות שכלול החיים ופנימיות הנפשות, באדם, ובחיים המתפשטים במלא כל, ובזה אין לשער כמה נתפתח העולם, וכמה אמת צדק ויושר מונח הוא בתוך עצם חיי הנפשות, יותר ממה שהיה בימים הקדומים שאור ד' לא פעל בעולם. הפנימיות היא דעת ד' ואור ד', אפילו כשהיא מתגלמת בלבוש של כפירה.

[קובץ א' קע"ז] 


Two shiurim on the Sfas Emes - Shabbos Shuva, here and here

The Importance Of Mesirus Nefesh

לרפואת אסתר רות בת נעמי שרה

There is always on emphasis on Yitzchak in Akeidas Yitzchak. Why? His mesirus nefesh, his self-sacrifice, was the root of all of the sacrifice that Jews have made for all of the generations when dying for Hashem's glory and name. 

When Yaakov received his brachos it says that Yitzchak smelled ריח בגדיו - the smell of his clothes. Chazal interpret this to mean ריח בוגדיו -  The smell of those "traitors" who rebelled against Hashem but returned at "crunch time" with great personal sacrifice. This refers to Yosef Meshisa and Yakum Ish Tzroros[*].

This teaches us that Yaakov merited these brachos because of the root of mesirus nefesh within him that was revealed in his descendents. The upshot is that Esav is excluded from the bracha, as Hashem said to Avraham  כי ביצחק יקרא לך זרע and Chazal expound ביצחק ולא כל יצחק - Some of Yitzchak [i.e. Yaakov] and not all of Yitzchak [excluding Esav]. 

The more mesirus nefesh we exhibit - the greater part we have in the brachos of Yitzchak. 

[עפ"י ס' ואני תפילה עמ' כ"ט]   

[*] דבר אחר: וירח את ריח בגדיו ויברכהו -- כגון יוסף משיתא, ויקום איש צרורות.

יוסף משיתא. בשעה שבקשו שונאים להכנס להר הבית, אמרו: יכנס מהם ובהם תחלה. אמרין ליה: עול, ומה דאת מפיק, דידך! נכנס והוציא מנורה של זהב. אמרו לו: אין דרכו של הדיוט להשתמש בזו, אלא עול זמן תנינות, ומה דאת מפיק, דידך! ולא קיבל עליו.

אמר רבי פנחס: נתנו לו מכס ג' שנים ולא קיבל עליו. אמר: לא דיי שהכעסתי לאלהי פעם אחת, אלא שאכעיסנו פעם שניה?! מה עשו לו? נתנו אותו בחמור של חרשים, והיו מנסרים בו. היה מצווח ואומר: ווי, אוי, אוי, שהכעסתי לבוראי!

ויקום איש צרורות היה בן אחותו של ר' יוסי בן יועזר איש צרידה, והוה רכיב סוסיא בשבתא. אזל קומי שריתא למצטבלא. אמר לו: חמי סוסי דארכבי מרי, וחמי סוסך דארכבך מרך. אמר לו: אם כך למכעיסיו, ק"ו לעושי רצונו! אמר לו: עשה אדם רצונו יותר ממך?! אמר לו: ואם כך לעושי רצונו, קל וחומר למכעיסיו!

נכנס בו הדבר כארס של עכנא, הלך וקיים בעצמו ארבע מיתות בית דין: סקילה, שריפה, הרג, וחנק. מה עשה? הביא קורה, נעצה בארץ, וקשר בה נימא, וערך העצים והקיפן גדר של אבנים, ועשה מדורה לפניה, ונעץ את החרב באמצע, והצית האור תחת העצים מתחת האבנים, ונתלה בקורה ונחנק. קדמתו האש, נפסקה הנימה, נפל לאש, קדמתו חרב, ונפל עליו גדר, ונשרף. נתנמנם יוסי בן יועזר איש צרידה, וראה מטתו פרחה באויר. אמר: בשעה קלה קדמני זה לגן עדן:

Esther Rus Bas Naomi Sarah

Please daven for a young relative of mine אסתר רות בת נעמי שרה who suffered a serious concussion and is in great pain. 

Saturday, September 16, 2017

The Bitterness Is A Gateway To Happiness

לרפואת אסתר רות בת נעמי שרה 

A person begins approaching holiness because the soul has shined and achieved a sense of G-dly perfection. This results in a person feeling bitterness due to his sins which make him spiritually weak and limited. But this is the foundation of teshuva done out of love because he yearns to cling and attach himself to his Creator but cannot and feels the pain of the gap between his desires and reality. It is very positive for every person of character to accept this feeling of bitterness with happiness and a good heart, and then this deep pain is transformed into elevated joy into which a steady flow of holy, delicious pleasure will flow.  

הַצַּעַר, שֶׁמַּרְגִּישִׁים בְּעֵת שֶׁנִּגָּשִׁים אֶל כָּל דָּבָר שֶׁבִּקְדֻשָּׁה, הֲרֵי הוּא בָּא מִתּוֹךְ שֶׁאָז הַנְּשָׁמָה הִיא מְאִירָה יוֹתֵר וּמִתְגַּלֶּה בָּהּ הַתֹּכֶן שֶׁל הַשְּׁלֵמוּת הַמֻּחְלָטָה, וְהִיא רוֹאָה מִתּוֹךְ כָּךְ אֶת הָאַפְסִיּוּת שֶׁבְּהַגְבָּלָתָהּ וְצִמְצוּמָהּ, וְהִיא מִתְמַרְמֶרֶת עַל כָּל מַה שֶּׁגּוֹרֵם לָהּ עִצּוּר–כֹּחַ וְכֵהוּת. וְזֶה הוּא בֶּאֱמֶת יְסוֹד הַתְּשׁוּבָה מֵאַהֲבָה, שֶׁרָאוּי לְכָל אָדָם בַּעַל נֶפֶשׁ לְקַבֵּל אֶת הַהַרְגָּשָׁה הַמְּרוּרָה הַזֹּאת בְּשִׂמְחָה וְטוּב לֵב, וְאָז עֹמֶק הַצַּעַר הַזֶּה מִתְהַפֵּךְ הוּא לְתֹכֶן שֶׁל עֹנֶג עֶלְיוֹן, שֶׁשִּׁפְעַת עֲדָנִים שֶׁל קֹדֶשׁ מִתְגַּלִּים בּוֹ.

[אורות התשובה ט"ז ה] 

The reason that bitterness is transformed into an elevated sense of joy is that the feelings of bitterness and distance themselves create a closeness. Hashem comes close to those who feel pain over being so distant. The pasuk says [Yesahya 57/15] ואת דכא ושפל רוח - Hashem is close to those downtrodden and of a low spirit. So the feelings of depression and anguish over one's sins and consequently, distance from Hashem, engender a renewed closeness. There is nothing like closeness to Hashem to make one happy and fulfilled.

The Power Of Emunah

לרפואת שרה לאה בת רבקה
 ואסתר רות בת נעמי שרה
בתוך שח"י

Everybody has the power of emunah within themselves that they are charged to develop. Those who are of weaker intellectual capacities, have in a sense, a higher potential for emunah than those of a higher intellectual capacity. They realize that they just "don't get it" so they rely on the natural faith that resides in their soul and absorb lights higher than would normally be able to with their minds. 

In contrast, those of greater intellect try to comprehend things with their own mind so the "lights" and spiritual insight they absorb are more limited than that of those who scale the heights with the power of their soul. 

But there is also hope for those gifted with higher intelligence:-). They too can reach a point where their minds can't comprehend and are then compelled to resort to the power of faith in their soul.    

כח האמונה להקשיב יפה ולקבל ממה שנמסר, הוא מצוי באדם לצורך פיתוחו הכללי והפרטי. עומד הוא כח זה למלאות את החסר, כלומר להכניס באוצרו הרוחני של האדם הארות כאלה, שהם מצד עצמן גבוהות ממנו, עד שלא יוכל ליהנות מאורן. חלושי השכל, שהם מכירים בעצמם את קטנות כחם הרוחני, עד שאינם מוכשרים לשפט דברים לאשורם, הנם חנונים בכח אמונה יותר נשגב מגבורי הדעה, שהם מרגישים את חילם בקרבם לדעת ברוח משפט, להבחין דברים רמי ערך. אבל לעומת זה חכמי לב, כשהם באים בדרך שכלם אל המקום ששם באמת שורה כח נשגב שאין בינתם יכולה להולמו, הם מוציאים מחביונו את כח האמונה, ובזה הם עומדים על מעלה לא פחותה מצד התכונה הטבעית של האדם, מכל המוני העם שהטבעיות האמונית נשמרת בהם בטהרתה.

[קובץ א' כ"א] 

Closeness To Hashem

We can already detect the existence of a soul in young children who have a very strong inclination to spirituality before they have been contaminated and corrupted by the impurities and vicissitudes of life. It is quite easy to teach children about Hashem - even though they can't see Him. They are naturally inclined to live religious lives and pedagogues believe that the best education for children is a pure religious one. Even adults can connect to their souls when not troubled by life's constant struggles. When they have quiet moments, when they are in a hospital, at a cemetery, at a shiva home, when remembering lost soldiers or children brutally murdered, people naturally focus on soul, meaning and the purpose of existence. On G-d.  

Look at the world. How many religions are there? Countless. Despite all of the advances of modern science which often claims to understand and explain everything, there are still billions of religious people in the world. Even so-called atheists also are religious. They are religious atheists. They try to find meaning in life [even if that meaning is proving that there is no G-d, G-d forbid]. They attempt to form a philosophy of secular ethics [unsuccessfully, but they try]. Some even talk about a human soul. Everyone who is seeking to connect to something bigger than himself is expressing his innate [albeit usually misguided] religiosity. 

The strongest inclination of man is seek closeness with Hashem. 

See the words of the Rav ztz"l:        

א. "קרבת אלהים" באדם

הטבעיות הטהורה של נשמת האדם יכולים אנו להכיר בהבחנה עמוקה וחודרת בקטנותו של אדם, בתקופת הילדות, בעוד לא נזדהמה נשמתו בזוהמת "השאור שבעיסה" שבמהומת החיים. בהבחנה מבררת רואים אנו, כמה נוח הוא אז האדם לקבל רגש אלהי וכמה הוא מוכשר להיות מושפע לחבת קדושה ויראת שמים, תיכף משבא לכלל דעה כל שהיא. על כן באו גם טובי החושבים של הפדגוגיה לידי הכרה, שהחנוך הדתי הטהור, המואר בשכל טוב ומרופד ברגשות עדינים, הוא החנוך היותר טבעי להאדם בילדותו. בגדלותו של אדם, אמנם חזון יקר הוא, מפני מחשכי החיים הרבים, למצוא אדם, שנשמתו האלהית מאירה בו כפי עצם טבעה וטהרתה. אבל בכל עת שימצא האדם לרוחו חפש גמור ומחלט, כשלא יזעזעוהו מקרים מרעישים, טובים או רעים, וטרדותיהם המסערות לא תטרדנה אותו, הננו רואים את הנטיה האלהית, על פי הכרח טבעי פנימי, עצמי, הולכת ומפלסת לה נתיבותיה בלבבו; אף באין אמר ודברים יחשק להתרומם אל על, וחפץ אדיר ימצא בקרבו גם לחוש ולהרגיש בנפשו פנימה מנוחה ומרגוע לב בקרבת אלהים. כמו כן מצד חיי החברה של העמים, אין לנו שום קבוץ חברתי חשוב ומתוקן אפילו במקצת, שלא יפעל בקרבו התכן האמוני והדתי פעולות נכרות ורבות ערך, על ידי זרם השאיפה לקרבת אלקים הזורם בקרבם, אף שהוא בצורה מסותרת ועלומה. ובחיי האנושיות בכללה, הלא ההתגלות וההבעה, הדרך ואופן השאיפה לקרבת אלהים, באיזו צורה שתהיה, הוא החוט הפנימי המאחד וחורז בכללותו את כל האמונות והדתות כולן, שהן הנן המקיפות את כל האנושיות בעלת הערך ההיסטורי. ככה מתברר לנו, מתוך כל מצביו השונים של האדם וחזיונות חייו, המשפט כי הנטיה היותר עזה, תקיפה ועדינה, מכל הנטיות, התשוקות והשאיפות הרוחניות, המתגלות בנפש האדם, היא זו של "קרבת אלהים".

Opening to the laws of Lashon Hara and Rechilus


Because of the great evil involved in this disgusting trait, the Torah specially warns against it with the negative command (Vayikra 19:16), "Do not go as a talebearer, etc," as we will explain later. 
It seems that there is yet another reason why the Torah specially warns against this. If we examine this specific, that is, lashon hara and rechilus, we will find that it just about includes all the negative and positive commands between man and his fellow, and many between man and G-d, as we will explain, G-d willing. Therefore, the Torah warns us explicitly so that we should not be caught in this evil snare, and I will explain this with G-d's help, and this will incidentally also be of great benefit regarding other halachos. Also, through this the evil inclination will be chastened when it sees the great commotion and stumbling caused through one's speech. This I will begin with Hashem's help. 
First, we must explain the general rules of these halachos - that lashon hara and rechilus are forbidden even if one speaks the truth, as we will explain later. Also, it is forbidden to speak lashon hara and rechilus whether in front of a person or not, and there is no difference between the speaker and the accepter as we will explain later. The accepter is someone who believes the story told to him in his heart even if he does not participate in the telling of the story but believes the lashon hara and rechilus he heard in his heart. This is called a sheima shav and one transgresses the negative command, "Do not accept an empty statement." Each of these rules has roots and branches like the other parts of the Torah, may Hashem help us know them thoroughly. 

Know, that when we write that a person transgresses negative and positive commands, and the three curses that fall upon him as we will write and explain later, we include both true and false lashon hara and rechilus, and this is what we will mean when we write everywhere in the Be'er Mayim Chaim, "In the four first ways." We mean through lashon hara, rechilus, whether before him or not before him, both the speaker and the receiver, and whether it is true or false. Remember this. 
First, we will explain a number of negative commands, afterwards a number of positive commands, and afterwards a number of curses that a person brings upon himself through this, in addition to a number of great transgressions caused by this. I will divide this opening into two. The main text is called Mekor Hachayim and the explanation around it is called the Be'er Mayim Chayim. I wrote the reasons for these names in the introduction. In the Be'er Mayim Chayim will be explained in what cases the negative or positive command applies and various other halachos. This I will begin with Hashem's help.

Find Hashem In Yourself

לרפואת אסתר רות בת נעמי שרה 

There is a big task for every human being to develop himself to the extent that he recognizes the closeness of Hashem within his or her inner world. When this happens, all of life becomes more honest and meaningful. It doesn't matter HOW one achieves this recognition of Hashem's proximity, whether it is intellectually, emotionally or otherwise. What is important is that he realize it.

All mitzvos and tfillos are avenues through which one can find Hashem's closeness. Every bracha one makes, every mitzva, every good minhag, can help one on this path. 

There are some people who try to satisfy this need by being ethical people but that is not enough. If Hashem is not in the picture, if there is no intention to connect to the Divine, then it has little value. There must be intention to reach what is beyond our narrow existence. 

 Bilashon HaRav:  

עבודה רוחנית גדולה היא לאדם, שיפתח כ"כ את עצמו עד שיכיר את קרבת אלהים אליו בפנימיותו. כל סדרי החיים הם מתישרים, כשנטיה זו הכוללת היא מתעוררת יפה. לשם צורך זה אין הפרש באיזה אופן יבאו לידו ההרגשות עד קרבת אלהים, אם יבאו בדרך שכל והכרה הגיונית או בדרך הרגשה פנימית, ובלבד שיכיר בתוכיותו את עצמה ואמתתה. המצות כולן והתפילות, הנן המכשירים היותר טובים להרחיב את הנטיה של קרבת אלהים, ולהרחיב את צעדיה במעמקי הנפש. על כן גדול ורם הוא מאד ערך כל תפילה בכונה, כל ברכה ותהילה, כל מצוה וכל מנהג טוב, שהם הם הנם האמצעיים ליסד את הרגשת קרבת אלהים בלבו של אדם בדרך יסוד מוסד. אמללים הם האנשים אשר לא ידעו את ד', אשר לא יתפללו ולא יעשו את המצות עם כל קהל עדת ישראל. ההכשר שבנשמה לתביעת קרבת אלהים מבקשת גם מהם את תפקידה, והם באשר אינם ממלאים את חובתם לנפשם, נשארים הם ע"י זה אומללים יבשים מכל טל טוהר, ואף אם ירטיבו מעשים טובים למלאות את צמאון המוסר הטבעי שבתכונתם, לא יוכל צורך זה להספיק את החסד מצד הצורך של תביעת קרבת אלהים, שאיננה מתמלאת כ"א במעשים אלהיים מיוחדים לשם ד', בשיחת קודש ומעשה מצוה ופקודי ד'. מתוך החמלה שעלינו לחמול על כללות האדם, וביחוד על בנינו והקרובים לנו בגזע ורוח, הננו מתעוררים לישר לפניהם את הדרך הישרה של קרבת אלהים, שהיא נקנית ע"י התורה, בתלמודה וקיומה. וכל מה שתעלה בידנו יותר מטרה נעלה זו, כל מה שיתרבו המעשים הטובים והטהורים המביאים בטבעם להשרשת קרבת אלהים בכח החיים, כן יגדל האושר בעולם.

[קובץ א' כ'] 

Friday, September 15, 2017


Divrei Torah for Parshas Nitzavim.

Hard Or Easy?

Based on what we wrote in the previous post, we can answer a question that I saw. Here in Nitzavim the pasuk says כי קרוב אליך הדבר מאד בפיך ובלבבך לעשותו - The matter [i.e. Torah] is very close to you, in your mouth and heart to fulfill. This implies that it is EASY to acquire Torah. The gemara in Chagiga [15a] says that Torah is as easy to lose as glass easily breaks but is as hard to acquire as gold. This implies that Torah is hard to acquire. So which one is it? Hard  - or easy?

The answer based on what we said is ... very hard. It requires so much commitment that one must be ready to do anything for it including go to the heavens and die. Only after this feeling and many expressions of commitment it becomes close to one and in his mouth and heart.    

Parshas Nitzavim - Man's Seach For Meaning

Shallllooom swweeeetest friends!!!!!:-):-)

A huuuuuge mazel tov to my most beloved friend HaRav HaGaon R' Aharon Hakohen Finkelstein Shlita [known from the old days as Rabbi "Jason" Finkelstein] and his special rebbetzin on the birth of their son. May they be zocheh to raise him and all of their children in good health and happiness for many many many many years to come and may this little kohen serve with his father in the Beis Hamikdash!!

A huuuuuuuge mzel to to my sweetest friends R' Yair and Shira Hillman on the birth of their daughter. May this bundle of joy and her sister Emunah be lights unto the world and give their parents and all of the Jewish people LOTS of nachas!!!

In this weeks parsha, parshas Nitzavim, we read the following pesukim: 

"כִּי הַמִּצְוָה הַזֹּאת אֲשֶׁר אָנֹכִי מְצַוְּךָ הַיּוֹם לֹא נִפְלֵאת הִוא מִמְּךָ וְלֹא רְחֹקָה הִוא: לֹא בַשָּׁמַיִם הִוא לֵאמֹר מִי יַעֲלֶה לָּנוּ הַשָּׁמַיְמָה וְיִקָּחֶהָ לָּנוּ וְיַשְׁמִעֵנוּ אֹתָהּ וְנַעֲשֶׂנָּה: וְלֹא מֵעֵבֶר לַיָּם הִוא לֵאמֹר מִי יַעֲבָר לָנוּ אֶל עֵבֶר הַיָּם וְיִקָּחֶהָ לָּנוּ וְיַשְׁמִעֵנוּ אֹתָהּ וְנַעֲשֶׂנָּה: כִּי קָרוֹב אֵלֶיךָ הַדָּבָר מְאֹד בְּפִיךָ וּבִלְבָבְךָ לַעֲשֹׂתוֹ" (דברים ל')".

12. It is not in heaven, that you should say, "Who will go up to heaven for us and fetch it for us, to tell [it] to us, so that we can fulfill it?"
13. Nor is it beyond the sea, that you should say, "Who will cross to the other side of the sea for us and fetch it for us, to tell [it] to us, so that we can fulfill it?"
14. Rather,[this] thing is very close to you; it is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can fulfill it.

Rashi [based on the gemara] comments that if the Torah was in heaven then we would have to go up and get it!! 

But wait! The pasuk says that the Torah is NOT in the heavens so why is it necessary to tell us that if it were there we would have to go get it?? If my grandmother had wheels, the old saying goes, she would be a trolley car. But my grandmother doesn't have wheels and are there any trolley cars left in our world?? The Torah is in our mouths and heart, as the passuk itself says, so why do we need to know that if it were in the heavens, then we would have to go get it?! 

The Baalei Mussar [Rav Baruch Mordechai Ezrachi Shlita and Rav Shmuel Yaakov Bornstein ztz"l] explain that Rashi is teaching us a huge lesson. The only way one can merit to truly acquire Torah, to assimilate in into his [or her] soul, is if he is READY to go to the heavens to get it. If the Torah was on the moon - we would commission a spaceship, put on our space suits and oxygen masks, and FLLYYYY. We would arrive, take one small step for man and one HUUUUUGE STEP for mankind [to paraphrase Neil Armstrong] and get the Torah. 

There must be such a powerful belief in the importance of Torah that we must be willing to sacrifice everything. The mishna teaches that the way of Torah is to eat bread and salt, drink a small amount of water, and sleep on the floor. It doesn't [necessarily] mean that if you have the means you are not allowed to put a little bit of peanut butter or cottage cheese on your bread if you can afford it or drink fresh orange juice in additon to water. It means that Torah should be so valuable in your eyes that you should be ready and willing to live on the bare minimum if it is necessary. That creates a כלי קיבול - a receptacle, to absorb the Torah. 

Why is this? Because we are human beings. Not apes. And human beings need meaning

If we lose our sense of the deeper meaning of life and just live to eat and eat to live then we are no better than animals who also live to eat and eat to live.
So first we have to establish what we would be willing to go to the moon for, what we would be willing to die for - and then we know what we should live for. As we say nightly - כי הם חיינו, Torah is our life. If we ignore this, the practical ramifications will be that financial and other considerations will trump Torah, meaning, values and 5000 years of tradition.

Beloved friends!!! May we always be ready to sacrifice for Torah but at the same time have SOOOO MUCH material and spiritual bounty that we never lack anything we need. 

Have a sweet Shabbos

Thursday, September 14, 2017

The Cost Of Values

לזכות שמחה בן נעכא גיטל
 ולרפואת הרב אברהם יוסף בן ר' משה חיים
שרה לאה בת רבקה 
אסתר רות בת נעמי שרה

There is an article circulating widely around the Internet written by a Modern Orthodox father of 4 who complained that the cost of living a fully religious life is just too much. So he yanked his kids out of yeshiva, left his MO shul etc. And now he is happy. He has money again!!:-)   

From the tone of the article it is clear that he is angry - and I understand his anger because [I would conjecture - I haven't spoken with him so I don't know for sure] under the anger [and cynicism] he is feeling hurt and guilty. He wants to do what is right but there are just too many demands on his money and he felt the pressure. So he had to make a decision - either financial stability or a full "Orthodox" lifestyle including a Jewish education for his children and he decided on the former. Deep inside - I can't imagine that he feels good about that decision.  

But I understand and empathize with him. My own experience [and that of many many like me] is that no matter how much I work, it never comes even close to covering expenses. All of the years I was teaching, I literally wasn't making enough to put food on the table. Food. Not that we starved. Every month, somehow, some way, Hashem took care of us. Everyone in my predicament either has parents who help [big secret - no matter how rich, they usually would rather not help their adult children and often do so very parsimoniously and thriftily], in-laws [ditto], the wife works [which is really too much for her because she often has a large family which is a full time job in and of itself] or the person has to beg. He works but has to beg in order to put food on the table. Pathetic but that is the reality. But people aren't always so generous so he goes from gmach to gmach to borrow money he has no idea how he will repay. The employers of rabbeim often couldn't care less whether or not they have enough money for their basic expenses. If he doesn't like it, he can leave and there are another thousand people who would happily take the spot because earning 40 percent of your expenses is better than nothing. It lessens the debt. Is anybody doing anything about it? No. I write about it but it is like a cry in the forest with no response. All I hear is the sound of the computer keys being pressed [and Rabbi Simon's Chumash shiur in the background:-)]. I take issue with the implication of the article that rabbis are rich people. Most are actually poor. Even if a rabbi is pulling in six figures [rarely the case], it still isn't so much, because after one is done with yeshiva tuition, camp, food, insurance, clothing, simchas, etc. etc. etc. there is very little if anything left. Any rabbi who has a fortune of money didn't make it because of his salary. And also, why should the lawyers and finance people in his community be making six [and often seven] figures and he should be paid peanuts. To be a rabbi of a community is a 24/7 job with countless pressures, disappointments, stress, critisicms and all too often the tremendous angst of people who want to learn and grow in their avodas Hashem but instead have to deal with a myriad of major and minor issues and pettiness that come up in every shul. There are countless rabbis who dropped out because of burn-out and many others would like too. So cut the rabbis some slack.    

It is not only rabbeim who [very often] are struggling. In the US, anybody who makes a nice salary of 80k a year has ZERO chance to support his wife and six children. Tuition alone is over a 100k. It is heartbreaking.      

I understand this person's pain. Now, he says that he is so much happier because he can put away money for retirement and be relaxed:-)!! 


But it is not so simple. This person [and many many many like him] are working on unstated assumptions and belief system. Namely, that financial stability is more important than Torah study and other religious values. When the two clash - Torah has to go. How many years are boys and girls sent to study Torah after high school? One, maybe two, very rarely [after a war] three. If the kid doesn't want to go to Israel to learn - his parents won't cut him off. But EVERYBODY, EVERY MO kid, is sent to college. There is no question that college is faaaaar more important in many parents minds than yeshiva. Because college is a ticket to financial security [or so people hope] while yeshiva is about some abstract, vague idea of the world to come which may or may not exist [so they think]. No contest. 

Let us learn a Medrash [Shir Hashirim 8/7]. 

"מים רבים לא יוכלו לכבות את האהבה וכו' ר' יוחנן הוה מטייל וסליק מטבריה לציפורין והוה רבי חייא בר אבא סמך ליה מטון חד בית חקלא א"ר יוחנן הדין בית חקלא הות דידי וזבינתיה בגין מלעי באוריתא מטון חד בית כרם וא"ר יוחנן הדין בית כרם דידי הוה וזבינתיה בגין מלעי באוריתא מטון חד בית זיתא ואמר כמו כן שרי ר' חייא בר אבא בכי א"ל מה את בכי א"ל בכי אנא דלא שבקת לסיבותיך כלום א"ל חייא בני ונקלה זו בעיניך מה שעשיתי שמכרתי דבר שניתן לששה ימים שנא' (שמות כ') כי ששת ימים עשה ה' אבל התורה ניתנה לארבעים יום שנא' (שם ל"ד) ויהי שם עם ה' ארבעים יום וכתיב (דברים ט') ואשב בהר ארבעים יום כד דמך רבי יוחנן היה דורו קורא עליו אם יתן איש את כל הון ביתו באהבה שאהב ר' יוחנן את התורה בוז יבוזו לו כד דמך רבי אושעיא איש טרייה ראו מטתו פורחת באויר היה דורו קורין עליו אם יתן איש את כל הון ביתו באהבה שאהב הקב"ה לר' אושעיא איש טרייה בוז יבוזו לו":    

Basically, Rav Yochanan pointed out to R' Chiya his many fields that he sold in order to learn Torah. Rav Chiya cried and asked "What are you going to do for retirement?" [exactly what the anonymous article writer is worried about]. Rav Yochanan wasn't bothered. He explained that it is worth it because he sold some things made in six days [i.e. this world] for something given in 40 days [i.e. the Torah]. When he died, his generation paraphrased the pasuk in Shir Hashirim "If man would give all of the wealth of his house for the love that that Rav Yochanan loved the Torah - he would be scorned". Meaning - no amount of money can equal the importance of Torah. For Torah we have to sacrifice - and bi-simcha, for we thereby fulfill our purpose in this world and Hashem's purpose in creating the world. [Hopefully, bli neder, we will be able to go further into the Medrash and explain it more in depth elsewhere, but the point is understood].   

We have to clarify for ourselves what our core values are and how much they are worth to us. If, for example, the only way we could save all of our money is to violate shabbos - would we violate shabbos in order to save our money? The halacha says that one must lose EVERYTHING in order not to violate shabbos but I know many people who keep shabbos - but only up to a point. There are times when people feel a need to be מחלל שבת - even when not in a life threatening situation.

If a woman would not sleep with a man if paid a hundred or a thousand dollars but would do it for 100 thousand or a million dollars, then she is [potentially] a prostitute. It means that the value of money is more important to her than her value of sexual purity [and self respect]. If a person says that financial stability is more important than Torah - that is a huuuuge statement. I know of people who risked being sent to Siberia to learn Torah and keep mitzvos. They were often caught, sentenced to 20 years of hard labor - and when they were there they still did everything they could to keep mitzvos. And when they were released - they went right back to their gemara, once again at the risk of being sent back to gulag. I don't know if I am on that level but I strive to be and so should we all.  

Sweetest friends!!! I am sure that many people know the author of this article. His kids should be allowed into yeshiva at a reduced rate. All Jewish children should be given a Torah education. There is enough money in our communities to ensure that every frum Jew will have enough money for food, shelter other basics including a Jewish education. But life is a struggle. NOBODY HAS IT EASY!!! But let us try to ease the burden of others and make sure that we have clarified our value system. As Oscar Wilde famously said, a cynic is someone who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing. Let us not turn into cynics, G-d forbid.