Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Appreciating The USA

My dentist is orginally from Paris. He excitedly told me that he recently went on vacation to Manhattan ["a really nice hotel on Madison and 41st"]. I felt his excitement because I was the proud sponsor of his vacation and it looks like I am sponsoring the next one as well. He said that he appreciated the fact that one could walk around safely wearing clearly Jewish garb [although he himself doesn't wear a kippah]. Where he is from - you get beaten up. 

G-d bless America [but Israel is home...]. 

Thoughts On Marriage

1. My wife and I were happy for twenty years. Then we met.

2. Just read that 6,159,217 people got married last year, not to cause any trouble but shouldn't that be an even number?

3. My wife just found out I replaced her bed with a trampoline; she hit the roof.

4. There are 2 times when a man doesn't understand a woman - before marriage and after marriage.

5. At the Irish wedding reception, the photographer yelled, 'Would all the married men, please stand next to the one person who has made your life worth living.'

The bartender was almost crushed to death.

Lo Tachmod

The Mishkan

1. The Baal Shem Tov taught that the essence and substance of any particular thing is expressed in its Hebrew name. We can therefore conclude that the essence of the entire Torah portion of this week is revealed in its name, “Terumah” (contribution). The term Terumah, however, is used in the Torah to describe various other types of contributions, for example, the separation of Challah. Terumah is therefore not connected solely to the particular form of contribution discussed in this Parshah, namely, the contribution of materials towards the construction of the Mishkan. The question therefore arises, why has our Parshah been given the name Terumah, which is a general term, and is seemingly inadequate in expressing the essence of this Parshah? Should it not have been given a more specific name which would reveal the unique characteristics of the particular form of Terumah related to the construction of the Mishkan?

Furthermore, upon closer examination of the subject discussed in this week’s Parshah, the name Terumah actually seems to be in contrast with the very essence of the Parshah. The essence of a Mishkan (dwelling place for G-d) is revealed in the words of Shlomo (Chron. II, 6:18), “Behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain You, how much less this house which I have built?” It is an achievement beyond the reach of human capabilities, dependent upon Divine command and power for its materialization. This is accentuated in the verse: “They shall make Me a Mishkan, and _I shall dwell within them.” The existence of the Mishkan ultimately depends upon the descent of the Shechinah (Divine Presence) from above.

On the other hand, “Terumah” connotes the exact opposite. Terumah has two meanings:

1) to separate

2) to elevate, both of which represent levels in the service of man.

Man has the ability to make separate some of his capabilities and parts of his environment, as well as elevate these, to the Mishkan (service to G-d). However both of these levels, “separating” and “elevating” the physical, are within the limited powers granted to man and are a direct result of his own efforts. In contrast is the concept of Mishkan, which is clearly a Divine manifestation originating from and through the powers from Above.

It would seem therefore quite incomprehensible why our Parshah has been named Terumah, when its contents seemingly convey an entirely opposing concept.

The explanation for all this:

The great concept of “I will dwell within them” — the revelation of G-dliness within the physical world — began with the revelation at Matan Torah. That was the first contact between the “lower” (physical) realm and the “upper” (spiritual) realms, and was strictly within the power of the Almighty. Being of Divine origin it simultaneously penetrated, although temporarily, every level of the entire creation to the point that even an ox did not bellow and a bird did not chirp.

However, the true purpose of creation is that the transformation and elevation of the physical into spiritual come about not through Divine intervention but through the efforts and deeds of the physical world itself. That is, the meeting of the “lower” and “upper” realms should result from the service of man. This sort of transformation can only come about through a gradual “step by step” service, which is expressed in the two definitions of Terumah mentioned above. First the Jew “separates” one part of his physical environment and elevates it to G-dliness. Then, according to the directives that he receives from Torah, he proceeds to “separate and elevate” yet another area of his mundane surroundings into spirituality. This step by step transformation of the physical, through the efforts of the creation itself, is the true purpose of creation, contrasting with the sudden and total transformation that took place at Matan Torah.

Now we can understand why our Parshah is called Terumah. Our Parshah does not discuss the Divine revelation that rested in the Mishkan (similar to the revelation of Matan Torah). Rather it describes the physical contribution which Jews gave to the construction of a dwelling place for G-d. This is precisely what Terumah implies — the “separation and elevation” of the 13-15 types of physical materials donated towards the Mishkan building fund and their transformation into G-dliness. Our Parshah focuses on the contributions of the Jews to the Mishkan and not on the Divine Presence which rested there afterwards.

2. At first glance it may seem superfluous to study and discuss the details of the construction of the Mishkan. The Mishkan was erected many generations ago and the (majority) details would never again be duplicated. What then is the purpose of its study?

The explanation is: The Torah is eternal and all its details are everlasting. Although the Mishkan in its physical form no longer exists, all the aspects of the Mishkan still exist in their spiritual form in the service of every Jew. This is also the meaning of the saying “the prayers were instituted to replace the offerings.” The prayers we recite daily actually reflect the very same concept as the sacrifices offered in the Bais HaMikdash. This, therefore, is the reason we are told to study the details of the construction of the Mishkan even though the Mishkan will never again exist. Every Jew has the strength and ability to relive the contributions of the 13-15 materials, to erect a Mishkan of his own and bring that G-d dwell within us.

3. The 13-15 materials that were required in the construction of the Mishkan are enumerated in the Torah in a specific order. The first three items to be mentioned are gold, silver, and copper, respectively. We must analyze the implications of these three items, including the order in which they are mentioned, and we must derive the proper lesson from all this.

One may argue, that although he is prepared to “donate” of himself and his share in the world to the Mishkan, still he wishes to give only his “copper,” which is the “lowest” of the three metals and represents a low level of service. He will begin to contemplate surrendering his “gold” and “silver” to the Mishkan only when he has achieved a higher level of service (and amassed greater material wealth). The passage responds to this attitude by beginning with gold. As the Shulchan Aruch rules in several places, one must contribute “from the choice and from the beautiful” of one’s possessions to G-d.

On the other hand, one may argue that he wishes to “separate and elevate” only the gold. He does not wish to lower himself to elevate the copper, that is, the lower and insignificant levels of creation. He too is told by the Torah that G-d wants him to descend even to the level of the “deep pit” and to cause G-dliness to dwell there as well.

4. An additional aspect of this Shabbos is that it is known as “Shabbos Hafsakah — the Shabbos of interval” when none of the “four Parshahs” are read in the Torah. In our case this Shabbos “interrupts” the reading of the four Parshahs, between Parshas Shekalim and Parshas Zachor. Though at first glance the concept of an interval may seem to be a negative one — merely the absence of a special Parshah — actually it is a very positive concept and is a part of Torah. The Sifra comments that the spaces which exist in the Sefer Torah between one chapter and another were there to give Moshe Rabbeinu the chance to meditate between one chapter and the next. Being that we “always ascend in matters of holiness,” every new chapter that G-d taught Moshe was on a higher level than the previous chapter. Therefore it was necessary for Moshe to have an intermission to prepare himself to receive the higher level that he would attain with the revelation of each new chapter. And not that Moshe did not G-d forbid learn Torah during these periods — but in comparison to the previous level of learning Torah from G-d they are considered “intermissions.”

The above analysis helps explain a puzzling Gemara. The Talmud (B. Metzia 85a) relates: “When R. Zeira emigrated to Eretz Yisrael, he fasted a hundred (or according to another version forty) fasts to forget Talmud Bavli so that it should not trouble him [in learning Talmud Yerushalmi].” A simple question: One is obligated to learn Torah everyday. How then could R. Zeira fast one hundred fasts thereby interrupting his Torah studies during that period? The explanation is similar to that concerning Moshe. R. Zeira fasted to forget Talmud Bavli so that he could reach the higher level of learning Talmud Yerushalmi. R. Zeira did not literally forget Talmud Bavli. It was just that this intermission (the period of fasting), compared to the actual learning done previously, is called “forgetting.” And it was precisely this “forgetting” which was necessary to reach the higher level of Talmud Yerushalmi — similar to the intermissions that were necessary for Moshe Rabbeinu to receive the higher levels of revelation attained with each new chapter.

5. The Torah, discussing the construction of the Menorah, concludes that it should be made entirely from “a Kikar (commonly translated as a ‘talent’) of pure gold.” Rashi, commenting on these words, says: “That its weight should only be, together with all its vessels, but one talent, neither less nor more. Now the ordinary talent (weighed) sixty manehs, but the sacred (talent) was double (that), one hundred and twenty manehs. And the maneh is a litra (unit of weight), by which they weigh silver according to the weight of Cologne. (A Maneh) equals one hundred Zehuvim, (or) twenty-five selaim, since the sela (equals) four Zehuvim.”

There are a number of perplexing points in this Rashi. Rashi seemingly wishes to inform the child to whom he is directing his remarks what is the exact weight of a talent. But what is the purpose of it, what difference does it make? There are many other instances in Torah where a weight is mentioned on which Rashi makes no comment. For example, concerning the redemption of a first-born, Rashi says that the amount is “five selaim,” and does not go on to explain the worth of a sela. And there is good reason for this. Rashi’s function is to be an interpreter. He is not writing a Halachic guide-book, giving exact measurements for weights. And yet, in the case of the Menorah, Rashi does exactly that!

There is another difficulty. His opening comment, “that its weight should only be, together with all its vessels, but one talent,” is a completely different matter from the following remarks concerning the exact weight of a talent. As such, it should have been placed under a separate heading and not incorporated into one large comment.

Furthermore, now that Rashi has for some reason, placed them under one single heading, the order should be reversed. He should first tell what the exact weight of a talent is, and only then explain that the entire Menorah and its vessels was made only from that one talent, neither more nor less. This is indeed the order of the verse — first stating “of a talent of pure gold” and only then “shall it be made with all these vessels.”

To understand all the above, we must preface our answer with the observation that Rashi’s commentary was written for those (including the “five year old who is at the stage of learning Chumash”) who understand the Hebrew language. His function is not to translate every word in the Chumash. So too in our case, a child understands what a kikar (talent) is, and Rashi therefore does not translate it. In the description of sacrifices, when the term “a kikar of bread” is used, Rashi does not translate the term, since a child already knows that it means a “piece” of bread, that is, a loaf. So too in our case, the child knows it means a “piece” of gold (i.e. a talent).

With this in mind, Rashi says that the entire Menorah, with its knobs, flowers, cups, and attendant vessels, had to be made only from one kikar. Now, the child learning this cannot understand: A “piece” of bread, he can understand how much it is — it is a loaf; but a “piece” of gold — how is it possible to construct an entire Menorah from only one “piece” of gold?

Therefore Rashi continues to reckon the exact value of this “kikar,” this “piece” of gold. He explains that it is actually very large, and to make sure that the child understands properly, Rashi even explains that a “maneh” is a litra in the weight used in Cologne, a city familiar to children living in Rashi’s time and place (France).

Now we understand both why Rashi found it necessary to give the exact weight of a “kikar” and why Rashi uses the order he does; only after the child knows that the entire Menorah had to be constructed from the one kikar, does he have the question, “how is this possible?” — which Rashi then answers by reckoning the size of a “kikar.”

[sichos in English]

Monday, February 27, 2017

4 Links - The Holy Beis Yisrael

Today is the yahrtziet of the Holy Rebbe of Gur the Beis Yisrael - here and here and here and here are some stories. [He is the Rebbe of Mori Vi-rabbi Shlita so I guess that I am his spiritual grandson]. 

In the secular press they have a lot of venom for him because of his famous "takanos" regulating the marital conduct of couples. The reality is that even though it is not recommend for non-Gerrers to follow these takkanos, there are thousands of Gerrer couples that are happily married. People who don't understand kedusha cannot understand the value of self control. If a tzadik makes takonos for his chasidim, one should respect that. If someone doesn't want to be a Gerrer chossid - it is a free country... It is not a Communist state and everyone has free choice. 

The Two Sides Of The "I"

לזכות רחל בת גאולה לברכה והצלחה בכל מעשי ידיה!

One can look at his existence and feel completely swallowed up by the vastness of creation. He is but one of 7 billion people on earth at this time and one of many more billions who have ever inhabited the earth. There are also billions of other living creatures. The planet earth is but a tiny blip in the vast universe. מה אנוש כי תזכרנו!! Who is man that he should be remembered! So tiny, so meek. 

The logical conclusion would then be complete BITTUL [self nullification]. That is definitely justified. We should never over assess our importance.

On the other hand - we rise in the morning and thank Hashem for returning our neshamos. We introspect and ponder the vastness of our soul. We are filled with gratitude that this G-dly soul has returned to inhabit our bodies. This feeling of gratitude elevates and empowers us. That is the other side of the coin. 

So when we say מודה אני - I thank, this "I" is HUUUGE. The act of expressing gratitude and appreciation of the great gifts Hashem gave us is self-expanding!!

Read the peirsuh on the word אני in the מודה אני:

האדם מוצא את עצמו בעצמו, ע"י אור החיים האלהיים המופיעים בקרבו, הממלאים אותו ברוח הטוב של רגש התודה של הכרת הטובה האלהית והבטאתה. כי במה נחשב האדם בחלישות כחו, באפסיותו וזעירותו, נגד כל היקום הגדול והעצום, וכחות הבריאה האדירים והנפלאים העוטרים אותו, מרוב שממון לעומתם אובד האדם את תוכן האני שלו. אמנם בהאיר עליו אותו האור של הכרת הטובה האלהית, וכל הסעיפים הקדושים כבירי עז הקודש שהיא מעירה בקרבו, אז בא האדם להכיר את גדולת ערכו, את אניותו והעדר בטולו בכללות ההויה, ומוצא את עצמו מאושר לומר בפה מלא : אני.


Adar And The Mishkan

The gemara says, "just as when Av arrives, we lessen our joy, when Adar comes, we increase our joy" (Ta'anis 29.). We understand why we must lessen our joy in Av, since these are the days that the Beis HaMikdash was destroyed, but why should we increase our joy in Adar. The Meor Einayim asks this question:"When Adar begins, we increase joy. But why? The miracle [of Purim] happened on the 14th and 15th of Adar, so why should we be happy starting from the beginning of the month?" 

The Meor Einayim answers, "The names of the months have meaning... The translation of א-דר the Alef dwells. The Alef is the Alufo Shel Olam (Master of the World)… דר means that Hashem dwells with people and His Shechinah resides in this world…" So the joy of Adar is that Hashem's Presence resides, and is perceived, in the world. The parashah that is read on Shabbos is related to the time of year it is read. Parashas Terumah is read in the month of Adar, because their themes are similar. Terumah teaches us how to build the Mishkan. The purpose of the Mishkan was so Hashem can dwell among us. As the passuk states, "Build me a sanctuary, and I will dwell among them" (25:8). Adar is also a דירה, Hashem's dwelling among us. Now we understand why the gemara contrasts (and compares) Adar to Av, as it says, "Just as when Av comes, we lessen our joy, when Adar comes, we increase joy." Why is Av mentioned? It could have simply said, "When Adar comes, we increase joy." The answer is the gemara is showing us that the joy of Adar is the exact opposite of the mourning in Av. In Av we mourn the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash, and in Adar we rejoice with building the Mishkan, the דירה, Hashem's presence in the world.

Preparing Egg And Tuna Salad On Shabbos

 There are some that prepare these salads before Shabbos to avoid any shailos. If they were not, one should prepare them in the following manner: 

Egg salad: 

 Peeling the eggs and onions. The peeling must be done by hand shortly before the meal, and only the necessary amount that may be eaten during that meal may be prepared. - בורר- 

The ideal method is to peel them directly over a garbage can to avoid having to move Muktzah. If one did not do so, the peels may be removed directly only if they are repulsive to him/her in their present location. 

 Mashing/ grating/ slicing. One may mash eggs regularly but may not use a utensil designated for mashing/grating1 . A slicer may be used to slice eggs.

Cutting onions. One may cut up onions shortly before the meal as long as the cut pieces are larger than usual2. טוחן 


Oil should be added to the bowl before the eggs, and mixed in a crisscross fashion.3 - לש 


Mayonnaise may be added to the salad after the eggs. Mayonnaise should be mixed with crisscross strokes. לש 

Salt. Salt should preferably be added after the eggs are mixed with other ingredients or shortly before meal. - מעבד 

Removing a shell fragment. One may remove a shell fragment from the egg salad only if some egg salad is removed along with it. - בורר- 

Notes: One may pour out the water from a pot of boiled eggs, since eggs in water are not considered a mixture. A hot egg (110°F) may not be placed into cold water nor rinsed with cold water4 . 

A scooper may be used to serve egg salad. 

Tuna salad: The following guidelines should be followed:  The lid of the can should only be opened halfway with a can opener. - מנא תיקון-  It is permissible to finely mash the tuna. If oil or mayonnaise will be mixed into the tuna, follow as above in egg salad.

 -לש- 1 Eggs are exempt from the prohibition of Tochein, grinding, because in relation to food, the prohibition only applies to foods that grow from the ground. Tuna would be similarly exempted. 2 Since the prohibition of Tochein applies to foods that grow from the ground, which includes onions. 3 Loose mixtures are permitted to be made by changing the order of the ingredients added and the manner in which it is mixed. 4 Even though the water that is actually rinsing the egg will not get cooked, the remaining drops will. 

א. שש''כ פ''ח סעי' כ''ח ג. סי' שכ"א סעיף י', אג"מ או"ח ח"ד סי' ע"ד טוחן אות ד'. ה. סי' שכ"א סט"ז. ז. סי' שכ"א ס"ק כ"א.

Rav Moshe Twersky ztz"l Hy"d - Parshas Terumah


1 Why there was no Aron Kodesh in Bayis Sheini

2 Moshe’s input into the menorah

3 Kaftor v’ferach!

4 Dimensions of the menorah

5 Why the outer mizbeiach was not used in the Beis Ha’Mikdash

6 Quote of the week


ועשו ארון כה:י

The Mishna in Maseches Yoma says that there was no Aron Kodesh in the second Beis Ha’Mikdash. On Yom Kippur, the pan of ketores was put directly on the Even Shesiyah, and the blood of the ox and goat was sprinkled on to the floor, on the area which would have been between the poles of the Aron Kodesh. The Gemara learns out from “mikdash ha’kodesh” that the space where the Aron Kodesh was located has inherent kedusha. Just like the Azarah has its kedusha status, and the Heichal has its kedusha status. So too, does the makom of the Aron Kodesh – even if there is no Aron Kodesh there – have a particular kedusha status.

That notwithstanding, the question still begs to be asked: why didn’t they make an Aron Kodesh for Bayis Sheini?

The Chasam Sofer has an original answer. After the pesukim describe how the Aron has to be made, it says, “v’noadeti lecha sham v’dibarti itcha mei’al ha’kapores”. This, says the Chasam Sofer, indicates that the whole purpose of having an Aron Kodesh was in order to facilitate the communication of Ha’Kadosh Baruch Hu with Moshe Rabbeinu. As such, the commandment to make an Aron Kodesh only applies when Moshe was still alive. Once he was no longer there, there is no obligation to make an Aron Kodesh.

All the other Rishonim, and Achronim as well, say a different answer. They say that it is the previous pasuk, “v’el ha’aron titein es ha’eidus”, which identifies the function of the Aron Kodesh. The whole purpose of the Aron is to contain the luchas ha’eidus. Without luchos, which were in the original Aron Kodesh and were therefore not available during Bayis Sheini, the Aron would not be an Aron Kodesh, it would just be a box. So, there would of course be no point in that.



תיעשה המנורה כה:לא

Rashi brings the Chazal that the passive-reflexive tense of the word teiaseh shows that Moshe was having a difficult time with the execution of constructing the menorah. So, Ha’Kadosh Baruch Hu told him to put all the gold into the fire and it will come out on its own.

It’s not a kashya that Hashem commanded the construction of the menorah despite the fact that it would ultimately have to be given to us in a miraculous manner, because it is part of Torah. What is a question that we could ask is, what is this combination between Moshe’s input and the miraculous emergence of the menorah from the fire? What purpose was Moshe’s involvement serving?

Perhaps we could offer the following answer. The Gemara in Sotah (9a) darshens the pasuk, “Ranenu tzaddikim ba’Hashem la’yesharim navah sehilah.” Navah, says the Gemara, is hinting at naveh, which means an abode. This is referring to Moshe Rabbeinu and Dovid Ha’Melech whose constructions never came under the dominion of destruction of our enemies. The gates of the Beis Ha’Mikdash, which are credited to Dovid Ha’Melech, sank into the ground; and the Mishkan was nignaz, stored away in the tunnels under the Heichal.

The Gemara there only makes explicit mention of all the structural components of the Mishkan; it doesn’t say what happened to the keilim. All the keilim of the Mishkan, with the exception of the outer mizbeiach, were used in the Beis Ha’Mikdash as well. Nevuchadnetzar took those keilim to Bavel. But what ultimately came of them – if they were stored away somewhere or were destroyed – we don’t know.

If they were stored away – meaning, that it was not possible for them to be destroyed – then that could be why Moshe’s involvement in the construction of the menorah, in some manner, was necessary. Only because Moshe was involved did the menorah, as well, become infused with this quality that it cannot be destroyed. That could be why his input was necessary. However, I don’t know if this explanation is correct, since, after all, we really do not know what ever came of the keilim after they were brought to Bavel.

The Sfas Emes gives a different answer to the question of Moshe’s input into the construction of the menorah. He says that the menorah only came out of the fire because Moshe did his maximum. He put in whatever he was able to do by learning the subject matter to the best of his ability, and by putting forth whatever efforts he was capable of. Once he did everything humanly possible, Hashem helped and made it happen.

This is a tremendous mussar haskeil. If you want to produce something from the fire, you have to do the most you can. Then Hashem helps and makes it happen.



כפתר ופרח כה:לג

Whenever a really good explanation of a Gemara or a Rishon would emerge, my grandfather would exclaim, “Kaftor v’ferach!” As a young boy, I didn’t know what he meant by that. As I got older, though, I discovered that this was not at all an uncommon expression amongst the talmidei chachamim of the previous generation when someone would discover a good sevara. Of course, the words kaftor v’ferach come from the description of the various adornments that were part of the design of the Menorah. But what does that have to do with a wonderful explanation of a sugya.

The Netziv answered this question based on the Gemara (Bava Basra 25b) that says, “One who wants to become wise should (slightly) face south [while davening Shmoneh Esrei].” The reason for this is that the Menorah was positioned on the southern side of the Mishkan and Beis Ha’Mikdash, and the Menorah is the conduit for Torah wisdom; specifically the Torah wisdom of Torah sheh’b’al peh.

When someone says a good pshat, the expression, “Kaftor v’ferach!” is as if to say, “That pshat is true Torah exposition and therefore must have come through the conduit of the Menorah!” To this very day, we derive the energy of Torah sheh’b’al peh through the conduit of the adornments of the Menorah; as Chazal say, “Ha’rotzeh sheh’yachkim yadrim.” Even today, if you want to become wise, face slightly south which is the direction of the Menorah and is that direction which is most closely related to the influx of Torah sheh’b’al peh.



Dimensions of the Menorah

Why is it that all the keilim have assigned dimensions in the pesukim, but the menorah does not? We know from Torah sheh’b’al peh that the menorah was 18 tefachim, but why wasn’t it explicitly delineated in the pesukim like all the other keilim?

Although the pesukim say that the menorah is to be made out of gold, if for whatever reason gold is unavailable, a menorah made out of other metals is valid. The Gemara says that when the Chashmonaim first defeated the Greeks and repossessed the Beis Ha’Mikdash, they used a menorah constructed of iron poles. It is not even clear if the poles were connected. The Gemara in Menachos says that a menorah made out of other metals is not adorned with the geviim, kaftorim, and perachim. That’s only for a menorah made out of gold.

Now, if you look in the Rambam (Hilchos Beis Ha’Bechira 3:10), he enumerates the eighteen-tefach height of the menorah in terms of the height of each one of the adornment components of geviim, kaftorim, and perachim, and how much space there is in between them. The implication is that the shiur of 18 tefachim is not a din in the menorah per se, but a din in the geviim, kaftorim, and perachim. The eighteen tefachim is a composite of the location, size, and position of the geviim, kaftorim, and perachim. But the menorah itself has no shiur.

This is derived from the fact that the Torah does not assign a shiur to the menorah.

This is a chiddush, and there is room to research the matter to see if it is really true. According to this approach, it emerges that when a menorah is made out of other metals – in which case there are no geviim, kaftorim, or perachim– it has no shiur. It could be made as small or large as you want.



ועשית את המזבח כז:א

By each one of the keilim, after the pesukim describe how it is to be made, the function is described. By the shulchanit says that the lechem ha’panim is to be placed on it, the inner mizbeiach is for burning the ketores, the menorah is for lighting neiros, and so on. The exception to this is the outer mizbeiach. For some reason, the pesukim here in parshas Terumah do not follow up by describing what is to be done with it.

Why is that?

Perhaps we can suggest an answer based on the Ramban in his hasagos to Seifer Ha’Mitzvos. There is a machlokesbetween the Rambam and the Ramban regarding why it is that each kli is not counted as a separate mitzvah in the count of taryag mitzvos. The Rambam (shoresh 12 and mitzvas asei 20) says that the reason is because of the general rule that a mitzvah which contains numerous components to it, we only count the main, overarching mitzvah, and not each detail thereof. Accordingly, “v’asu li mikdash” is the general category – to construct a Mikdash – and all the keilim are details thereof. According to this explanation of the Rambam, missing a kli is not only a problem in terms of that particular item and the function it serves, but it is also a lack in the very fulfillment of having a Beis Ha’Mikdash. The Yerushalmi (Maseches Shekalim) very much sounds like this shitah of the Rambam. The Yerushalmi asks, how was it possible to submerge the washing basin into the stream (that passed through the azarah) every evening (in order to prevent the water thereof from becoming disqualified through being out overnight), seeing that that makes a lack in the actual Beis Ha’Mikdash? The question clearly implies that missing a kli is missing a part of the Mikdash itself.

The Ramban, though, says differently than the Rambam. According to the Ramban, the mitzvah of making the keilimis not subsumed under the umbrella mitzvah of building a Mikdash; rather, each kli is subsumed under the mitzvah the purpose of which that kli serves. So, for example, the shulchan is included under the mitzvah of lechem ha’panim, the menorah is included under the mitzvah of lighting the neiros, and so on and so forth. These mitzvos necessarily mandate having their requisite vessels that make their fulfillment possible. So the mitzvah of making the keilim is, as the Ramban says, that Hashem “commanded us regarding the necessary prerequisites of the avodah”.

The only kli whose usage was discontinued when Shlomo built the Beis Ha’Mikdash was the outer mizbeiach. Based on the Ramban, and the question about why the pesukim here in parshas Terumah do not delineate the function of the outer mizbeiach, we can suggest a reason why.

If a kli gets lost or destroyed, what is it that mandates constructing a new one? According to the Ramban, it is the mitzvah for whose purpose the kli serves. If the shulchan is lost, it is the mitzvah of lechem ha’panim that obligates the construction of a new shulchan. If the menorah is lost, it is the mitzvah of lighting neiros that demands the construction of a new menorah. That is how we can understand the delineation of each kli’s function following its description. The delineation of its function is expressing that mandate which establishes its imperative for all generations. The fact, then, that the function of the outer mizbeiach of the Mishkan is not delineated, is an indication that this mizbeiach is in fact not a mitzvah l’doros; rather it is a mitzvah l’shaah, only for that time in which it was given. That is why it was only the outer mizbeiach whose usage was discontinued with the advent of the Beis Ha’Mikdash.



Quote of the Week

“Running is rarely an expression of zerizus. More often than not, it’s an expression of, ‘I’m late!’”

(From Reb Avrohom Rudner and Reb Ephraim Weiss)

Know Thyself

Here is a remarkable passage, which clearly indicates that the author has open Ruach Ha-kodesh. But for our purposes - it encourages us to find our true selves through introspection and general knowledge. There is a lot of Kabala but take from it what you can... 

אם תרצה, בן אדם, הסתכל באור השכינה בכל היקום, הסתכל בעדן החיים השמימיים, איך הם מתפלשים בכל פינה וזוית שבחיים. הרוחניים והחומריים, שנגד עיני בשרך, ונגד עיני רוחך. התבונן בפלאי היצירה, בחיי האלהות שלהם, לא בתור איזה תכנית כהה, שממרחקים מציבים נגד עיניך, כי אם דע את המציאות שאתה חי בה. דע את עצמך, ואת עולמך, דע את הגיוני הלב שלך, ושל כל הוגה וחושב. מצא את מקור החיים שבקרבך, ושממעל לך, שמסביבך, את פארי הדרות החיים, שאתה שרוי בתוכם. האהבה שבקרבך העלה אותה לשורש עזה ועדנת תפארתה, הרחיבה לכל סרעפותיה, לכל אשד נשמת חי העולמים, אשר רק רצוץ המקום של ההגה גורם מיעוט זהרו. הבט על האורות, בתוכיותם. אל יבלעו נשמתך השמות, המילים, הניבים והאותיות, הם מסורים בידך, ואי אתה מסור בידיהם. עלה למעלה עלה, כי כח עז לך, יש לך כנפי רוח, כנפי נשרים אבירים. אל תכחש בם, פן יכחשו לך, דרש אותם, וימצאו לך מיד.

[א' קפ"א]

Women Rabbis, Basketball, Israel, Ice Cream And Mom

There has been a huge amount of discussion on the Internet and other forums about women rabbis and clergy. So much ink has been spilled [or keys pounded] about this topic. My opinion?

There are so many more important things to talk about!!:-) THAT is the major issue of our day? I think not. [If you know me you can probably guess my opinion on women rabbis but that is not our topic]. In general, one important task in life is to prioritize and give various issues their correct weight and value. When one topic is blown out of proportion it throws one entire viewpoint out of whack. I recently received an email about a dinner in honor of yeshiva league "hall of fame" athletes, for people who "love Israel and basketball". Makes me squeamish when love of Israel and basketball are mentioned in the same breath. It's like "I love vanilla ice cream and my mom". 

The best thing would be if every week there were heated debates on line arguing about Tosfosim in Maseches Kodshim and Rambam's in his Ya"d. A Messianic vission....  

Here is an essay from Rabbi Efrem Goldberg [a male rabbi, but hey - ya can't win 'em all:-)] from a number of years ago. 

Recently, a self-described Orthodox Rabbi wrote what has become a highly controversial article challenging the authorship of the Torah. His radical approach, which shares more in common with the conclusions of academic Biblical criticism than with traditional Rabbinic Judaism, garnered a harsh reaction and prompted a firestorm of articles, posts, and blog entries. Many immediately declared his views heresy and called into question his status as orthodox.

Even the Yeshiva from which he received Rabbinic ordination felt obligated to pen a statement. Its president wrote, “Rav Z. is thinking honestly and personally, but his ideas are different from, and in some ways contradictory to, what we teach and ask our students to believe… His beliefs on this matter are his own and far from the broad classical views of Torah Min Hashamayim that we at the Yeshiva believe in.”

I reference this article not because I want to discuss its contents, merits, or appropriateness. In fact, though an analysis of the article is important and a discussion of the limits and boundaries of orthodoxy are critical, I don’t want to talk about the article at all. It is the volume and intensity of the reaction to the article that I believe deserve to be addressed.

One prolific blogger, who has a propensity for providing his views on a topic before the proverbial ink has even dried, introduced his analysis of this particular piece by stating, “The most important discussion in orthodox Judaism right now is the pair of articles written by R’ Z…” To be honest, I didn’t read one more word of his blog entry because I was so startled by his opening sentence. Really? This is the most important discussion in Orthodox Judaism right now? Aside from the practical question of how many Orthodox Jews even know of the article or for that matter have heard of its author, how could it possibly be, I thought to myself, that this is the most important discussion in Orthodox Judaism?

To be clear, I am not minimizing a discussion of the authorship of the Torah and I understand that our religion comes with theological principles, boundaries, and challenges. In contemporary times, with children and adults having easy access to the compelling – at times, even seductive – arguments of Biblical criticism, we must introduce courses on our beliefs to the Jewish Day School and Adult Education curriculums. My question is not with the importance of the conversation; it is with the disproportionate assessment, in my opinion, of how important this discussion is in Orthodox Judaism right now.

In the “7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” Stephen Covey made famous the time management matrix that contains four quadrants – Urgent/Important, Urgent/Not Important, Not Urgent/Important and Not Urgent/Not Important. He argues that we spend way too much time on that which presents itself as urgent even if it is unimportant, but neglect and fail to address the non-urgent, yet very important work that will truly yield the greatest productivity and success.

It seems to me that Covey’s prescription for time management is highly appropriate and profoundly needed for the agenda-setting of the Jewish community. We seem to react to everything that presents itself as urgent even when it is not, in the greater scale of things, critically important, while we neglect issues that are of critical importance even if they don’t present themselves as urgent. Our attention, resources, and energy get focused on a controversial position taken in an article, or to provide tehillim rallies or funds to those that scream the loudest, take out the most colorful ads in Jewish media or acquire an endorsement from a “Gadol” who likely didn’t fully understand the issue to which he has attached his name.

A few years ago, two Jews were in prison simultaneously. One, an orthodox Jew who admittedly performed a crime and broke the law, received a particularly harsh and punitive sentence. The other, a secular Israeli who was risking his life serving in the IDF, was kidnapped by terrorists and held in unknown conditions. I remember my disbelief as I would receive emails and read full-page ads raising money for and holding tehillim rallies on behalf of the confessed criminal with a harsh sentence, with relative silence on behalf of our soldier who remained in captivity.

Who sets the agenda of the Jewish community? How should we dedicate our resources, energies, talents, time, and focus? How do we prioritize our collective to-do list? It seems to me that our agenda is being set for us by the media, zealots, and what topics attract the most attention on social media. If we are going to make a dent in fixing the problems in the orthodox Jewish community, we cannot simply have a reactive agenda, but we must articulate a proactive one that includes areas that may not seem urgent, but yet are critically important.

One might say authorship of the Torah and Biblical criticism is vitally important as we are losing observant Jews to those beliefs and they are abandoning an observant lifestyle. Surely there are thoughtful Jews grappling with these issues and an articulate and persuasive response by us may keep them in the fold. Yes, communicating the capacity to engage scientific thinking and traditional Judaism without compromise is a worthwhile exercise.

But let’s be honest. How many Jews do you know who stopped keeping Shabbos, began eating non-kosher, or entered a relationship with a non-Jewish woman because they couldn’t reconcile the authorship of Exodus and Deuteronomy? It seems to me many more are walking away because of the issues that we are not discussing broadly. Here is a short list of topics just off the top of my head that seem more “important discussions for the Orthodox community” right now than Biblical criticism:
Torah learning leading to ethical living: Are Orthodox communities measurably more ethical, honest, caring, compassionate, and moral than those that are not guided by Torah and mitzvos? Are they measurably less moral and courteous, and if so, how could that possibly be given that Torah is designed to shape us into better people?
Are Torah and mitzvos relevant to a modern Jew? Why should I observe if observance doesn’t “do anything for me?”
What are we doing to empathize and support victims of abuse who have been failed by the Orthodox community that neglected to protect them? What are our policies and protocols to properly deal with allegations going forward?
How do we reconcile traditional Jewish values with modern, Western philosophy and ideals? Isn’t the Torah’s view on homosexual marriage a violation of civil rights and if not, how?
What are we doing about the growing divorce rate in the Orthodox Jewish community? How can we improve family values and shalom bayis?
What is our relationship with the 90% of Jews who are not orthodox? And do we see value in the non-Jewish world and how are we to relate to it?
What are we doing to stem the tide of assimilation and intermarriage? Do we genuinely respect and care about non-Orthodox Jews and how do we show it?
How can we improve the health and wellness of the Orthodox community given the culture of eating and emphasis on food?
What can we do to be better advocates for Israel and keep the threat of Iran on the forefront of the minds of our elected officials?

The list could go on and on, but we, the organized community, must pause to actually create it, prioritize it, and then pursue it rigorously in order to make meaningful contributions to our future.

Should One Break His Self Love?

Many mussar sefarim emphasize the importance of breaking one's excessive self-love and egocentricity. There is definitely room for that because we are generally overly in love with ourselves. HOWEVER, there is a higher level where one's self love is not a contradiction to his love and care for other beings. On the contrary - his sense of self is so elevated that the more he loves himself, the more he loves others. The more he amplifies and expands his כמוך, the more he feels the ואהבת לרעך. 

The ultimate goal is not to SQUASH ones nature but to flow along with it and elevate it to the highest plateau. The premise of this insight is that our souls are part of Hashem - חלק אלו-ה ממעל - and automatically we want in our deepest selves is what is good and holy. 

I think we can all identify with the feeling that negating and nullifying oneself is often emotionally and spiritually weakening and desiccating. Hashem wants to empower us and that is accomplished when we expand our sense of self and love of self to include all of creation. 

"המגמה האחרונה בחיים היא הקדושה. הקדושה היא חטיבה עליונה, שאין בה כלום מהחולשה שבמוסר. הקדושה איננה נלחמת כלל נגד האהבה העצמית, הטבועה עמוק במעמקי נפש כל חי, אלא שהיא מעמידה את האדם בצורה עליונה כזאת, שכל מה שיותר יהיה אוהב את עצמו, ככה יתפשט הטוב שבו על הכל, על כל הסביבה, על כל העולם, על כל ההויה. אין בתכונה של קיבוץ ציבורי בשום אופן אפשרות לנטיה של החלשת האהבה העצמית, ואיננה בה כי אם הירוס מוסרי, אם יזדמן, ורקבון פנימי האוכל כל. על כן אי אפשר כלל לדרוש שיהיה בעולם עם מוסרי, כי אם עם קדוש, עם שכל מה שיגביר את עצמו, כל מה שירומם את ערכו בפנים ובחוץ, כן ירומם ויגביר את האור והטוב בעולם. ונמצא שהתמצית הטוב שבמוסר כלולה היא כבר בהקדושה, בצורה יותר מפוארה, יפה ומענגת".

[א' קל"ב]

This lesson applies to all of our כוחות הנפש. We were given talents and capabilities for a reason - to use them in the service of Hashem. 

We were also given a libido for a reason. There is a time and place to sublimate it [most times and most places, in fact]. But ultimately it is to be elevated and purified in being the agent in creating a loving and peaceful home. 

ודוק מאד כי לא אוכל עתה להאריך יותר.  

Who Is The Only True Judge?

לזכות נעמי מרים בת רחל לברכה והצלחה בכל מעשי ידיה!!

Who is a person REALLY?? I often hear people making character assessments. I believe that the very ENTERPRISE of trying to classify and characterize another human is faulty at its very base. How can we truly know another human being?? A person has tens of thousands of thoughts a day. Do we know what he is thinking at any given moment?? Nay!! Do we know WHY he is thinking those thoughts? Not only don't we - he doesn't either!! Do we know how and why one perceives reality in a given way?? Of course not. We can NEVER fully know such a thing. So we can do is have a PARTIAL, EXTREMELY MINOR understanding of another human being. So let us not be so quick to judge.

The truth is that we don't fully know ourselves. Remember - we are not just physical organisms but souls. How can one fully plumb the depths of his soul when caged in a human body??

Nobody can rightfully judge us, we can't even evenly and justly judge ourselves. Only Hashem can judge.  

This passage almost made me jump from so much excitement:

את האופי העצמי אי אפשר לשום אדם לדעת, אפילו של עצמו, וקל וחומר של זולתו, לא של יחיד, וקל וחומר של אומה. אנו הולכים סביב להמרכז של הידיעה, עסוקים אנו בהשערות ובאומדנות, לכוין על פי המעשים הגלוים, שגם נסתרים ברובם ממנו, וביחוד סיבותיהם המסובכות, ועל פי תעודות כאלו מדברים אנו על דבר אופי מיוחד ונשמה מובדלה. מוכרחים אנו להחליט, שידיעתנו בזה תלויה היא על בלימה, והמשפט לאלהים הוא.

Purifying The Will

Modern psychology offers many different methods to help a person actualize their wills and desires [see previous post]. This is very important. People walk around so frustrated that their desires remain dormant in their souls and psyches and don't find proper expression. 

But there is something that is often ignored by modern psychology - the purification of one's desires. A healthy person must want but it is not enought to merely want. WHAT do you want?? WHY do you want it?? The foundation of teshuva is purifying and elevating the will. 

הישרות הטהורה אומרת, שכל עמל המדע צריך שיהיה מכוון אל היסוד האידיאלי לתן לרצון האנושי את הפנים היותר טהורים הראוים לו, לעדן את הרצון, לאמצו, לקדשו, לטהרו, להרגילו בחנוכים שונים שתהיה שאיפתו תמיד רוממה ושגיבה. יתעסקו המדעים איך להוציא מן הכח אל הפועל את כל הפרטים, שהרצונות הטובים והישרים השולטים בעולם שואפים אליהם, והם הם כל צרכי החיים ההגונים החמריים והרוחנים, אבל מרום פסגת מטרתם הכללית צריך להיות עדינותו של הרצון עצמו, בהירותו השכלית של הרצון והתאדליות עצמיותו. ואוי לה לאנושיות כולה כשהיא סרה מדרך הישרה, ותחת ליסד את המרכז של כל ההשלמות על הבסיס של עלוי הרצון תניח את הרצון עצמו בגסותו, בלא עבוד ועלוי. וכל עמלה יהיה רק למלא את התאוות הרצוניות. שהן זורמות כנחל גפרית וכל מיני גיהנם שולטין בהן. אז נופלת היא אנושיו בכללותה ברשתה הנורא והמכוער של זוהמת עבודה זרה, אשר דם ירדפנה. וממעמקים תקרא אל אל אלהי אמת, לשוב אל התכונה הקדושה של יסוד ההשתדלות הכללית לעלוי הרצון, ואז תקרא וד' יענה תשוע ויאמר הנני, כי קרוב ד' לכל קוראיו לכל אשר יקראוהו באמת. וזהו כל יסוד התשובה: התעלות הרצון והשתנותו לטובה, לצאת מחושך לאור ומעמק עכור לפתח תקוה. ועמי תלואים למשובתי, שובה משובה ישראל, שובה ישראל עד ד' אלהיך.

[קובץ ח' קפ"ו]

Stephen Covey's Seven Habits of Highly Effective People

habit 1 - be proactive

This is the ability to control one's environment, rather than have it control you, as is so often the case. Self determination, choice, and the power to decide response to stimulus, conditions and circumstances

habit 2 - begin with the end in mind

Covey calls this the habit of personal leadership - leading oneself that is, towards what you consider your aims. By developing the habit of concentrating on relevant activities you will build a platform to avoid distractions and become more productive and successful.

habit 3 - put first things first

Covey calls this the habit of personal management. This is about organizing and implementing activities in line with the aims established in habit 2. Covey says that habit 2 is the first, or mental creation; habit 3 is the second, or physical creation. 

habit 4 - think win-win

Covey calls this the habit of interpersonal leadership, necessary because achievements are largely dependent on co-operative efforts with others. He says that win-win is based on the assumption that there is plenty for everyone, and that success follows a co-operative approach more naturally than the confrontation of win-or-lose.

habit 5 - seek first to understand and then to be understood

One of the great maxims of the modern age. This is Covey's habit of communication, and it's extremely powerful. Covey helps to explain this in his simple analogy 'diagnose before you prescribe'. Simple and effective, and essential for developing and maintaining positive relationships in all aspects of life.
habit 6 - synergize

Covey says this is the habit of creative co-operation - the principle that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, which implicitly lays down the challenge to see the good and potential in the other person's contribution.

habit 7 - sharpen the saw

This is the habit of self renewal, says Covey, and it necessarily surrounds all the other habits, enabling and encouraging them to happen and grow. Covey interprets the self into four parts: the spiritual, mental, physical and the social/emotional, which all need feeding and developing.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

The Messianist At the Kotel

Gutman Locks

I was walking down the stairs by the Kotel to go for mincha. I noticed this unusual looking man having his picture taken while he was touching the big mezuzah that is attached to the tunnel entrance. He was wearing a kipa and tzitzis, but he did not look Jewish, not at all. I wondered if he was a ger or maybe an overly enthusiastic Ben Noach.

About an hour later he walked by the tefillin stand and I asked,

"Where are you from?"


"What's your name?"


"Are you a convert?"


"You're not Jewish, are you?"


"A Ben Noach?"

"What's that?"

"A righteous gentile who keeps the Commandments of Noach."

"No. I'm messianic."

That explained it all. A "messianic" is a gentile who believes that yushka was the moshiach (messiah). They try to mix the little bit they have read about Judaism with x-ianity. There is no way to change their belief… well not on the spot, but you can give them information that later, when they are ready, when a few more challenges come to their irrational beliefs will help them to move away from that foolishness.

"Let me ask you a question. You read the Bible, right?"

He nodded, yes.

"In the Bible it says that the messiah has to be from King David's tribe. That's the tribe of Judah."

He nodded that he agreed.

"And the Bible clearly says that the tribes go by the father; whatever tribe a Jew's father is from, that Jew is also from that tribe."

He was okay with that… until the next sentence.

"Now who was your messiah's father? I read your book. It wasn't anyone from the tribe of Judah."

They believe that yushka was born from a virgin mother, that there was no man involved, that his mother was impregnated by the "holy ghost"!

"There are no ghosts in the tribe of Judah!"

"You gave me something to think about," and he turned and walked away. 

Almost always, when a x-ian is challenged he walks away.

The truly sad thing about them is that they really want to do good, but someone has sold them a bill of counterfeit information.

Knowing What to Fix

לזכות ר' יוסף עזרא בן אסתר לברכה והצלחה בכל מעשי ידיו
לרפואת נעמי בת טובה

Chazal say that if one claims that s/he toiled and didn't find then don't believe them. If they toil then they will DEFINITELY find. Rochel Imeinu seems to present a challenge to this adage. She TOILED SO HARD FOR CHILDREN. She davened and davened and davened. To add insult to injury, when she approached Yaakov about this - he became angry with her. What did he want? When you have a problem you go to a Tzadik and he davens for you, so she did as she was supposed to do??

Here is a HUUUUGE lesson for life. Rochel's task was NOT to daven. She had to fix her middah of קנאה - jealousy, toward her sister Leah. Until she fixed that middah there was no chance for her to conceive. She was, as the old song goes "Lookin' for love in all the wrong place". She was looking for CHILDREN in all the wrong places. That is why Yaakov became stern with her. It wasn't HIS job to get her pregnant but primarily hers to fix her jealousy. When she brought her שפחה in and told Yaakov to be with her וַתֹּאמֶר: "הִנֵּה אֲמָתִי בִלְהָה, בֹּא אֵלֶיהָ, וְתֵלֵד עַל בִּרְכַּי וְאִבָּנֶה גַם אָנֹכִי מִמֶּנָּה and then she let Leah be with Yaakov in exchange for the דודאים she fixed her middah of kinah and was ready to conceive.  

Says the Ishbitzer:

ותאמר הפעם אודה את ה'. איתא בגמ' (מגילה ו:) אמר ר"י אם יאמר לך אדם יגעתי ולא מצאתי אל תאמין, לא יגעתי ומצאתי אל תאמין, יגעתי ומצאתי תאמין. 

והנה בגמ' ודאי לא בשופטני עסקינן שזה האומר יגעתי ולא מצאתי איירי שאנו רואין שיגע הרבה ולא מצא וכן האומר שלא יגע ומצא וא"כ איך שייך לאמור אל תאמין. 

אך עומק העניין הוא מבואר ברחל ובלאה, כי בטח אמנו רחל כמה תפלות וכמה בקשות בקשה שיושיע לה ה', אך מפני זה לא והעיל לה לפי שנאמר ותקנא רחל באחותה, והוצרכה הקנאה להתברר אם הוא קנאת סופרים שהוא לש"ש או קנאה בעלמא כפי דרך הטבע ח"ו, והנה התנהגות הש"י עם האדם אשר באותה הטובה שנחן בהמדה בהמדה הזאת עצמה ברא בו חסרון, ע"כ לא יוכל הטובה לצאת לפועל קודם שיתרפא חסרונו וקודם שיתרפא החסרון לא יועיל כמה תפלות וסיגופים להאדם עד שיתרפא חסרונו ואז יושע. ע"כ לפי שרחל הוצרכה להתברר במדות קנאה וקודם שנתבררה בזאת לא הועיל לה שום תפלה וכל יגיעתה, וע"כ כאשר בקשה מיעקב אבינו שיתפלל בעדה חרה אפו עליה. 

ולהבין זאת כי הלא כדין עשתה, כי מי שיש לו צרה בתוך ביתו ילך אצל חכם וכן הקשה הרמב"ן ז"ל, אך מחמת שכתוב קודם ותקנא רחל ע"כ ויחר ליעקב מחמת שמקודם היתה צריכה להתברר קנאתה, אך כשאמרה ליעקב תנה אמתי לפניך כו' ואבנה גם אנוכי ממנה, מזה נראה שכוונתה היתה לש"ש הרי הכניסה צרתה לתוך ביתה. וזה פירוש יגעתי ולא מצאתי אל תאמין אף שאנו רואין שיגע את עצמו, מ"מ לא היה במקום הראוי לפניו להתייגע. כאדם הרוצה לכנוס לבית ודופק שלא במקום הפתח אפילו ידפוק כל היום לא יועיל לו, אבל כשיבא למקום הפתח וידפוק אז מיד יפתח לו.

This is a big lesson in Avodas Hashem. Sometimes, Hashem is waiting for us to fix certain middos until we get what we want. By doing other things [possibly - davening, segulos or by attempting to fix the wrong midda] we are not allowing the shefa to come. Of course one must always daven because that might be what is needed but when the tefilla isn't being answered in the affirmative then other avenues sould be explored as well. 

May Hashem always give us the wisdom to know what to fix. 

Levado And Together With Others

Rav Soloveitchik gives two reasons why man was created singular: 

"1. The originality and creativity in man are rooted in his loneliness-experience, not in his social awareness ... Social man is superficial: he imitates, he emulates. Lonely man is profound: he creates, he is original.

"2. Lonely man is free; social man is bound by many rules and ordinances. God willed man to be free. Man is required, from time to time, to defy the world ... Only lonely man is capable of casting off the harness of bondage to society... The 'levado'-awareness (the awareness of standing alone) is the root of heroic defiance. Heroism is the central category in practical Judaism. The Torah wanted the Jew to live heroically, to rebuke, reproach, condemn, whenever society is wrong and unfair. The 'levado' gives the Jew the heroic arrogance which makes it possible for him to be different... Lonely man is a courageous man; he is a protester; he fears nobody; whereas social man is a compromiser, a peacemaker, and at times a coward. At first man had to be created 'levado,' alone; for otherwise he would have lacked the courage or the heroic quality to stand up and to protest, to act like Abraham, who took the axe and shattered the idols which his own father had manufactured." (Uvikashtem mi-shom pp. 13-14)

"It means a community of common pain, of common suffering. The Halakha has taught the individual to include his fellow man in his prayer... Halakha has [thus] formulated prayer in the plural...

"The individual prayer usually revolves about physical pain, mental anguish, or suffering which man cannot bear anymore. At the level of individual prayer, prayer does not represent the singularly human need. Even the mute creature in the field reacts to physical pain with a shriek or outcry... However, prayer in the plural is a unique human performance... I am aware, not only of my pain, but of the pain of the many, because I share in the suffering of the many. Again, it is not psychological; it is rather existential awareness of pain." (pp. 19, 21)

According to the Rav, the highest form of interpersonal communion is attained through the teaching community. The true teacher must merge his total experience with that of the student, and they thereby attain a closeness which exceeds the sympathy and mutual aid of the prayer/charity community. A teacher not only trains the mind, but fashions the personality of the student; he shares not only information, but experiences, visions, dreams - in short, his very essence. As the Rav explains in "U-vikkashtem Mi-sham" (pp. 228-229), the personality of the master teacher, like that of the prophet, spontaneously overflows toward the student in an act of self-revelation. This leaves an indelible impression upon the student's soul and binds the two together intimately.

In fact, the entire enterprise of the Masora is based on the unity of teacher and student:

"In this principle [i.e. unity of teacher and student] is enfolded the secret of the Torah She-be'al Peh (Oral Law), which by its very nature has never been objectified, even after being committed to writing. The meaof Torah She-be'al Peh is: a Torah which merges with one's personal uniqueness and turns into an inseparable part of him. When it is passed on, part of one's essence is transmitted along with it." ("U-vikkashtem Mi-sham," p. 229)

"Can the Oral Torah pass on kedusha (holiness) ... in the sense that the Written Torah sanctifies tefillin, mezuza, the Torah parchment, etc.? ... It would be folly to conclude that the Oral Torah is inferior in this respect. The answer is that the Oral Torah operates in a more subtle manner, transmitting sanctity through study and its relation to the mind of the student... The parchment of talmud Torah is the human mind, the human heart and personality... The old halakhic equation that every Jew is a sefer Torah is, in this light, fully understandable. The living Jew is the sefer Torah of the Torah she-be'al peh."

"The Jew who believes in Knesses Israel is the Jew who lives as part of it wherever it is and is willing to give his life for it, feels its pain, rejoices with it, fights in its wars, groans at its defeats and celebrates its victories. The Jew who believes in Knesses Israel is a Jew who binds himself with inseverable bonds not only to the People of Israel of his own generation, but to the community of Israel throughout the ages. How so? Through the Torah, which embodies the spirit and the destiny of Israel from generation to generation unto eternity." (On Repentance, p. 137)

An Individual Or Social Being?

לזכות נעמי מרים בת רחל לברכה והצלחה כל מעשי ידיה!!

Is man primarily an individual who also must function within a community? Or is he primarily a "social animal" who also has a unique, individualistic side?

Both Rav Soloveichik and Rav Hutner tackled this question and came to the BEST Jewish conclusion - we are both!

Let us see:

Rav Soloveitchik refers back to the Creation story and notes that man is created alone but we also learn that "it is not good for man to be alone". This leads to the conclusion that ... 

"The answer to the problem is rather a dialectical one, namely, man is both... In fact, the greatness of man manifests itself in his inner contradiction, in his dialectical nature, in his being single and unrelated to anyone, as well as in his being thou-related and belonging to a community structure." [The Community p.8]

Rav Hutner ALSO refers to the Creation story and reaches the same conclusion:

The takeaway lesson is that we must strive to constantly be unique, sui generis, unequalled human beings and at the same time strengthen and fortify our communal connections, forge friendships etc. 

Learning And Loving

"When a person delves into God's Torah and reveals its inner light and splendor ... and enjoys the pleasure of creativity and innovation, he merits communion with the Giver of the Torah. The ideal of clinging to God is realized by means of the coupling of the intellect with the Divine Idea which is embodied in rules, laws and traditions... However, halakhic knowing does not remain sealed off in the realm of the intellect. It bursts forth into one's existential consciousness and merges with it... The idea turns into an impassioning and arousing experience; knowledge into a divine fire; strict and exacting halakhic discipline turns into a passionate love burning with a holy flame. Myriads of black letters, into which have been gathered reams of laws, explanations, questions, problems, concepts and measures, descend from the cold and placid intellect, which calmly rests on its subtle abstractions and its systematic frameworks, to the heart full of trembling, fear and yearning, and turn into sparks of the flame of a great experience which sweeps man to his Creator." ("Al Ahavas Ha-Torah," pp. 410-411)

Davening In A Purim Costume

לע"נ ר' מרדכי גימפל בן ר' אברהם משה

The prevalent custom is for people to daven on Purim while wearing their Purim costumes. This would seem problematic because one wouldn't stand before a king [or the President of the US] in a clown or other type of costume. The Mishna Brura says that when one davens the clothing he wears must be fitting for appearance before a king. 

Rav Vosner ztz"l [Shevet Halevi 10/18] say that if a non-chossid is dressed like a chossid or vice versa, it is permissible because one would wear these garments before a king.

אשר שאל בענין אשר הרבה נוהגים בתחפושת בפורים החלפת בגדים כגון ליטאי עם שטריימל או להיפך, אם מותר להתפלל בזה תפלת מנחה או מעריב עפ"י המבואר או"ח סי' צ"א שצריך כדרך שעומד לפני אנשים חשובים. הנה לדעתי אין חיצונית המלבוש קובע אלא אופן עמדו לפני השי"ת בתפלה עפ"י המבואר סי' צ"ח דיחשוב כאלו שכינה כנגדו ועומד לפני מלך העולם ועוד וכיון שמתפלל ע"פ הלכה והוא מכוסה כהלכה ואינו עושה שום שחוק אין נפ"מ באיזה בגד עומד

The clear implication is that if it is not a honorable be-kavodike garment, one may not wear it.

After asking mechila from one of the gedolei ha-dor, Rav Vosner ztz"l, I will make 2 comments.

1] On Purim, one WOULD appear before a king in a Purim costume. You see many chasidim going to their Rebbe's wearing their purim costumes and you see Bnei Yeshiva going to their Rosh Yeshiva in their Purim costumes. So PERHAPS Purim is different.

2] He seems to hold that it doesn't matter what this particular person normally wears. As long as it would be considered for a others a בגד של כבוד it is fine.

If that is the case then one need not wear a hat and jacket when he davens [which is de riguer in the Charedi world]. Since in many circles they do not wear a hat and jacket and even if the greatest king or li-havdil a gadol bi-torah would come they would wear a white shirt and dark pants but no more, then it is OK for everyone. That is hard to swallow [לא מסתבר in talmudic parlance].

It would seem to be a subjective issue based on what THIS PARTICULAR PERSON wears and if he normally wears a chasidic hat then wearing a non-chasidic hat is not appropriate for davening or vice versa. A kibbutznik may daven in sandals and a t-shirt because that is how he would appear before BN [the PM of the memshala ha-tziyonis] while for a member of the Chazon Ish Kollel it would be a terrible breech of respect to daven this way. 

Just some thoughts to stimulate discussion.....

How Many Walls In A Succah??

לע"נ ר' מרדכי גימפל בן אברהם משה 

A] There is a "famous" Tosfos [definition: Tosfos that I learned] in Rosh Hashana [כח: ד"ה ומנא תימרא] that talks about the איסור of בל תוסיף. They say that doing a mitzva more than once is NOT בל תוסיף. They add that the same applies to lulav. Only if he adds another species does he transgress the prohibition but not if he adds a second lulav or more hadassim and aravos. [See Minchas Chinuch mitzva 454/4 who wonders how Tosfos compares doing a mitzva twice to adding to the number of lulavim. The former is not בל תוסיף while the latter may well be עיי"ש].

Tosfos [at the end] tries to prove that one may add to the requisite number of Aravos from the law of succah where all one is required to build is two walls and a third that is only a tefach and still if a person builds four complete walls he is not עובר on בל תוסיף. Tosfos rejects this and says that there is no proof from Succah because the added wall[s] enhance the Succah as they make it more תשבו כעין תדורו. 

עומק דברי התוספות - There is no specific number of walls that the Torah requires. The halacha of two regular walls and a third a tefach long is what makes the Succah meet the requirement of תשבו כעין תדורו - the Succah becomes like one's home. If he builds four complete walls he is NOT adding on to the fundamental obligation of the Torah. He is just meeting the requirement of תשבו כעין תדורו in an enhanced form. IF the obligation of the Torah was 3 walls and he built a fourth then we may have a problem but that is not the case. 

B] We see from Tosfos that the wall is a חפצא דמצוה - a bonafide mitzva object. Otherwise there would be no בל תוסיף to talk about. This is significant because there is a machlokes rishonim if the wall is a חפצא דמצוה - See Rabbi Genack Shlita in his Gan Shoshanim [סימן לה].

C] One contemporary sefer wanted to suggest that Tosfos accords with the Shlah who says that building four walls is a הידור מצוה. However, MaRan HaRav Hutner in his shiurim on Succah [סימן ד and Rav Yaakov Chaim Sofer in his עוז יעקב] correctly points out that Tosfos never calls it a הידור מצוה - just more תשבו כעין תדורו. When the gemara in Shabbos [קלג] gives examples of הידור מצוה it significantly omits the notion of building a fourth wall for the Succah.

D] The mishna in Tomid says that the Kohanim would guard in three specific places. Rav Moshe Rosen [who was the Rav of the town where the Chazon Ish lived and they had a chavrusa together. He penned a multi-volume set on shas] asks why a specific number is given. Just tell me the places and I can count how many there are?! He suggests that that mishna is telling us that if the kohanim guard in more than three places it would be בל תוסיף. Rav Tzvi Pesach Frank [הר צבי פרשת במדבר] rejects this based on our Tosfos. Having more than three places guarded is not בל תוסיף but enhanced שמירה just as more walls is not בל תוסיף but enhanced תשבו כעין תדורו. 

Halacha li-maaseh - Ideally one's Succah should have four walls either because it is more תשבו כעין תדורו or because it is hiddur mitzva. So paskens the Chaye Adam and others [See עוז מלכו סי' ח].

Torah is GESHMAKKKKK!!!!!

See here where this Tosfos is expanded upon with Hashem's limitless help....

עיין עוד בספר משנת חיים ע"ס דברים סי' עא לג"ר חיים מאיר הלוי שטיינברג שליט"א