Thursday, June 22, 2017

Korach- The Bigger They Are The Harder They Fall

Shaaalllommmmm sweeeeteest friends!!!!!

This Dvar Torah is dedicated to a Tzadik Nistar who is beyond kind. He knows who he is and so does Hashem. May he and his family have only bracha and chesed all of the days of their lives.  

In this weeks parsha we read about the great machlokes with Korach and his cronies. You know - it is lonely at the top!!! People attack you from ALL SIDES. In Moshe Rabbeinu's time he didn't even have a twitter account to answer all of his detractors and accusers.... 

The pasuk says [16/4] וישמע משה ויפל על פניו - Moshe heard and fell on his face. What did he hear? Chazal say that he heard that people were accusing him of being with their wives. They wanted to test their wives with the Sotah waters to see if their suspicions were valid!!

MOSHE RABBEINU!! A man who separated from his own wife because of his high level of prophecy. A man who went 40 days and 40 nights without bread and water [and even cake!!]. A man who spoke "face to face' with G-d. How can it be??? Sleeping with married women?? UNTHINKABLE! How could they even accuse him of such a dastardly deed??

Rav Charlap explains that היא הנותנת - his greatness was exactly the source of their suspicions. The greater a person is the lower he is liable to fall. The Jews are compared to the stars and to the dust of the earth. When we are high - nobody is higher. We get HIGH, MAN!! The highest. The stars. But when we sink low - nobody goes lower. We are so low we can play handball on the curb. 

So the Jews figured - if Moshe is that great that means he also has the capacity to sink the lowest. That was why they suspected him of the worst.

There is a HUUUUGE lesson here for all of us. We tend to feel secure in our talents and areas of expertise and success and only are concerned with our areas of weakness. But we have to remember - sometimes it is our greatest strengths that can be our downfalls. I can tell you personally that my greatest strengths have another side that also make them very big liabilities. I am happy I have them but also have to be constantly wary of the down side. 

So look at your strengths and try to discern how they also have another less glorious side to them. Then try to use them only for the good without the negative part. 

So for example: If you are very smart - sometimes we are required to suspend our intellect, as when we try to figure out tragedy. Depending solely on one's intellect can lead one to dangerous places. Also, some very smart people neglect to develop their emotional side.

If you are very good at making money - remember that greed often overtakes people or they get so involved in the excitement of making more and more that they neglect other parts of life that are no less important.

And the list goes on and on. I can't do psychotherapy over an email but you get the point.

Of course Moshe was innocent of all charges and may we also be pure and innocent in all of our doings. 

With much love and wishes for a GREAT Shabbos and gut chodesh,


You Never Know

Something once happened to me that I thought may be the worst thing EVER. It turns out that it was [not THE best but] one of the BEST things that ever happened to me. 

Something else happened that at the time I was SURE that this is about the best thing possible. As good as I thought it would be - it was that bad.  

Another thing happened that was GREAATT for a long time but when it was over then it HURT [and still does]. 

The message: 

A] Don't worry. We NEVER know how things will work out and worrying never helps.

B] Let Hashem run the show. We have little control. All we can control are our feelings and to a certain extent, our actions. The results and outcomes are completely in His hands. Let go and let G-d.    
C] Nothing lasts forever. [Except Hashem, your neshama and maasim tovim]. 

The Beis is THE PLACE

Hidabroot is a Charedi run kiruv site that recently came under attack by a major Sfardi Rov. They are now working hard to defend themselves and preserve their good reputation. This Rov, they claimed, was misinformed. No he wasn't.

They try hard to do good things but instead of defending themselves they should instead try to clean up their act [as other kiruv websites should as well]. 

For example, today they have a picture of Miss Israel [who was chozeret bi-tshuva]. I didn't see the picture because I really don't want to know what she looks like. But I saw the caption. 

So here is a good start. Stop posting pictures of beauty queens.  

That is the Internet. There is always going to be פסולת with the אוכל. So if you want Torah, I invite you to the best and purest place in the whole world - your local Beis Medrash!!:-)

Don't Hoard

More thoughts on this post.

I know a fellow who maintained foreign bank accounts with millions of dollars in order to evade taxes. He also committed perjury. He was caught and found guilty in court. I don't know what his punishment was but there was a real possibility that he would land in the slammer [I saw him recently so it seems he was spared that]. 

He did a number of aveiros. a] He was mechalel shem shomayim. A Jew with a yarmulke who loves to learn is caught lying, cheating and stealing. What a busha for all Torah Jews! b] He was greedy. He has PLENTY of money but wanted more than he was supposed to have according to law. c] He lied, cheated and stole [if you consider cheating on your taxes as stealing]. d] Imagine if he would have used his hidden money [not the part that he owed the government] to feed hungry people. To support hospitals. To be mekareiv Jews. So many worthy causes. And the most worthy cause he could find was hiding it in foreign bank accounts.

So to all of the wealth hoarders out there - remember, life is short and there are lots of GREAT things you can do with your money. The ONLY money you take with you to the grave and beyond is what you were ZOCHEH to give away.

Bi-ahava rabba,


Link on Keeping Kids Frum

This is a video of Rav Yoel Roth. He has a yeshiva in Williamsburg for Chasidishe kids who dropped out of the system. He plays the guitar and sings with them and tries to make learning and being frum enjoyable and without pressure. An "outta of the box" sort of person.  

Aveiros For Kiruv

From the previous post written by Rabbi E.G. 

Many summers ago, I worked at Aish Ha’Torah in Jerusalem as an advisor in their Discovery program. My friend and I were fresh out of yeshiva and when asked to recruit at a particular location that we didn’t feel was appropriate for “bnei Torah” to spend time, we resisted. A meeting was scheduled with Rav Noach Weinberg zt”l, founder of Aish. After some small talk, he asked us what the problem was. We explained that we were yeshiva guys trying to work on ourselves and we didn’t feel that it would be good for our neshamos to hang out at an immodest location. I will never forget what he answered.

He looked us in the eye and with the greatest sincerity said, “Let me ask you. If you were in Eastern Europe and the train was leaving to Auschwitz and a woman extended her hand for you to pull her off, would you hesitate to take it because you are a yeshiva guy?!” “Well,” he said, “the train is leaving and it is taking millions not to Auschwitz, but to assimilation and oblivion. You need to go recruit and figuratively extend your hand to pull people off the train and redirect them from assimilation and into Discovery.”

Does that mean that for kiruv, according to Rav Noach, one may shake a woman's hand??

And how far do we take this? Can we also HUG for kiruv? Let us say that a female is going through a very traumatic or stressful time and really needs a hug. Would it be permitted?

The answer to the first question is that many many poskim strictly forbid it [some say יהרג ואל יעבור] while others are lenient abut shaking a woman's hand [passively - if she extends her hand]. I am a nobody but I wouldn't. The slope is slippery. Once we start permitting things it never ends. קירוב רחוקים ends with קירוב בשר chas vi-shalom. 

Hugging? Nobody would permit that.

There is a teshuva in the Tzitz Eliezer where he permits teaching immodestly dressed women for kiruv. Because if we don't permit the smaller aveirah - they will do much bigger ones.

But again - how far do we go?

This is not a simple question.  

I heard from a kiruv worker-musician years back that he received a heter from poskim in Bnei Brak [he declined to identify these poskim by name] to have a DISCO for boys and girls because that would draw them to other Jewish kids and save them from intermarriage.

As they say in the sfarim - וצ"ע.  

The Future Of American Jewry

I thank my beloved chavrusa for sending.
I couldn't have said it better myself

Rabbi Efrem Goldberg 

The startling findings of a recent Jewish People Policy Institute study drew an Ha’aretz headline of “Low Marriage Rates and Intermarriage Threaten Future of U.S. Jewry” and an Arutz Sheva’s headline asking, “Is there a future for non-Orthodox American Jewry?” The study found that outside of Orthodoxy, fewer Jews are getting married, those marrying are marrying later and having fewer children and intermarriage rates are increasing. The combination of these three factors raises the daunting question of the future of American non-Orthodox Jews.

Shockingly, the study shows that among all non-Orthodox Jews in the 25-54 age group, just 15% are married to a Jewish spouse and have Jewish children. An additional 8% have a Jewish spouse, but no children, 4% are single parents, 36% are single and have no children, 13% are intermarried and have Jewish children, 8% are intermarried and have non-Jewish children, and 17% are intermarried and have no children.

Intermarriage rates increase the younger the generation. Among those aged 40-44, 60% are intermarried. Among those aged 35-39, it is 73%, and 75% of those aged 30-34 have a non-Jewish spouse.

In contrast to the other denominations, studies show that the Orthodox community is on the rise and exhibit high levels of demographic stability. While that conclusion is gratifying and validating, it is absolutely no cause for celebration or triumphalism. Realize that the hemorrhaging of other denominations is not the result of Jews flocking to the Ocommunity.

Rav Aharon Lichtenstein zt”l wrote (Tradition, Spring 1982):

Nor do I share the glee some feel over the prospective demise of the competition. Surely, we have many sharp differences with the Conservative and Reform movements, and these should not be sloughed over or blurred. However, we also share many values with them – and this, too, should not be obscured. Their disappearance might strengthen us in some respects, but would unquestionably weaken us in others. And of course, if we transcend our own interests and think of the people currently served by these movements – many of them, both presently and potentially, well beyond our reach or ken – how would they, or klal Yisrael as a whole, be affected by such a change? Can anyone responsibly state that it is better for a marginal Jew in Dallas or Dubuque to lose his religious identity altogether rather than drive to his temple?

If the muscles of the left arm atrophy or the arm needs to be amputated, it is hardly a comfort that the right arm is strong and has larger muscles than ever. Sadly, rather than an honest review and return to tradition, ritual and halacha, there has been a doubling down of the policies and ideology that have brought these results to begin with.

Some have suggested an embrace of patrilineal descent as a solution. Others argue it is time for rabbis to officiate at intermarriages. Aside from representing gross distortions of halacha, mesorah and the will of the Almighty, these suggestions don’t actual address the core issues. They simply attempt to put a Band-Aid over a deeply infected wound that is gushing blood. Indeed, they are the equivalent of cooking the books or manipulating earnings so that they appear to report profit instead of loss. Recognizing patrilineal descent or accepting intermarriage just gives the illusion of addressing the problem; it doesn’t actually do anything to address the very real threat facing the future of American non-orthodox Jewry.

If one thinks the Orthodox community is unaffected by these suggested monumental shifts in policy, they are grossly mistaken. Individuals and families who will have grown up thinking they are Jewish will meet our children through NCSY or at their college Hillel and their Jewish status will come into question. Children who apply to attend day schools or families that will seek membership in our shuls may have questionable statuses. This potential shifts in policy and practice will not only fail to stem assimilation, but it will further divide our people. This is not a hypothetical issue that may arise in the future. This is happening now in our own institutions and among families in our own community. I see these issues arise frequently – and tragically.

The antidote to these devastating demographic findings is not less adherence to halacha, but more. When talking about the mitzvah of tzitizis, our rabbis (Bamidbar Rabbah 17:6 and see Nesivos Shalom) provide the following metaphor. A person was once cast into the sea and was drowning. The Coast Guard threw the person a rope and said grab on. If you hold onto it, you will survive but if you let go, you will be swept away and disappear. Wearing tzitzis reminds us of our commitment and responsibility to a life of Torah and mitzvos. Grabbing on to those ropes and what they stand for gives us life. Tzitizs themselves are not the solution, but they are symbol of a lifestyle of mitzvos. Eitz chaim hi la’machazikim bah, the Torah is the tree of life for those who grab onto it. Let it go and you will be swept away.

The storms of change are raging around us. The current is getting stronger and stronger and sweeping more and more people away. The only way to stay safe, and remain true to our values, our traditions and our obligations, is to make a commitment to not only hold on to Torah, but to demonstrate a willingness to swim upstream at times, to go against the tide, to dare to be different and to be willing to stand out. This is no easy task and takes great courage, but we have it within our very DNA because our great patriarch Avraham planted it there. Avraham was called Avraham Ha’Ivri meaning mei’eiver, on the other side. When the whole world took one position and stood on one side, he had the courage to stand out, remain true to the vision and will of the Almighty and to stand on the other side, even when it meant standing by himself.

The great Piacetzner Rebbe, R’ Kalonymous Kalman Shapira writes in his spiritual diary, Tzav V’Ziruz:

You cannot remain static in this torrent river just by standing firm in your place – you must actively swim against the flow. You may not be successful in swimming upstream, but at least you will not be swept down by the flow. So it is with spiritual life and the purity of spirit that you have attained. You cannot retain them against the flow unless you continue to struggle for spiritual growth. You must swim upstream without respite – upward, onward against the flow. There may be a limit to how far you can go, but at least you will not be drawn down with the flow.

W.C. Fields once said, “Remember, a dead fish can float downstream, but it takes a live one to swim upstream.” [E.E. Li-havdil the Shulchan Aruch says the same thing in Hilchos Treifos].  Those who are spiritually dead, cut off from our timeless and time tested traditions, are floating away. We, the community who are willing to swim upstream, must not only swim harder, but we must be willing to grab on to those around us and share our life preserver (the Torah).

The potential demise of other denominations is no cause for celebration. It is an opportunity — and an obligation — to reach out and share the beauty, majesty, meaning and joy of a Torah lifestyle. These findings demand a mass movement of outreach. The needle won’t move and the problem won’t be solved by kiruv professionals and rabbis alone. A difference will only be made when every Torah shul, institution and individual sees as part of their core identity and personal mission to not only hold on to the sturdy tree of Torah (eitz chaim hi la’machazikim bah) to prevent being swept down the river, but to reach out and extend a hand to those floating by. 

Milton Friedman, the great Nobel Prize-winning economist and professor at the University of Chicago, had a very simple suggestion for how to identify a person or institution’s priorities. Many people eloquently describe their beliefs, values, and principles and talk about what is most important to them. Friedman advised to ignore what they say. If you want to truly know what someone’s priorities are, it is simple – Look at someone’s budget and you know what is important to him/her. See how someone prioritizes their money and you will know their priorities. [Chazal - li-havdil - say the exact same thing. A person can be tested בכוסו כיסו וכעסו. Eruvin 65].

We claim to care about outreach but do our institutions, shul and schools have an outreach budget? Do we have dedicated people working on this cause? Do we put our money where our mouth is?

This is our generation’s test; it is our challenge. Many summers ago, I worked at Aish Ha’Torah in Jerusalem as an advisor in their Discovery program. My friend and I were fresh out of yeshiva and when asked to recruit at a particular location that we didn’t feel was appropriate for “bnei Torah” to spend time, we resisted. A meeting was scheduled with Rav Noach Weinberg zt”l, founder of Aish. After some small talk, he asked us what the problem was. We explained that we were yeshiva guys trying to work on ourselves and we didn’t feel that it would be good for our neshamos to hang out at an immodest location. I will never forget what he answered.

He looked us in the eye and with the greatest sincerity said, “Let me ask you. If you were in Eastern Europe and the train was leaving to Auschwitz and a woman extended her hand for you to pull her off, would you hesitate to take it because you are a yeshiva guy?!” “Well,” he said, “the train is leaving and it is taking millions not to Auschwitz, but to assimilation and oblivion. You need to go recruit and figuratively extend your hand to pull people off the train and redirect them from assimilation and into Discovery.”

It has been said that in Europe they killed us with hate and in America they are killing us with love. These statistics bear out that truth and challenge us to ask ourselves, will we rise to our generations test and care enough to not only be willing to swim upstream ourselves when necessary, but to extend our hand to those around us who are being swept away. If the answer is not a resounding “yes,” the consequences will be devastating.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Learning To Adapt

לע"נ ר' אהרן בן ר' יעקב שכנא 

Our entire lives revolve around tradition. The way we dress, talk, think, the friends we have, the community in which we live, the schools where we send our children etc. Here is where we reach a very subtle but critical point. Is EVERYTHING in our tradition necessarily appropriate for our day and age??

I am not referring to keeping Shabbos or eating kosher or any other eternal laws that were given to us by Hashem. Those of course are not open to dispute. I am referring to those behaviors and attitudes that were developed over the generations. For example, in Europe parents weren't so lovey-dovey with their children. How often did children hear "I love you" from a parent [especially from a father] or teacher? How much affection did they receive? Were their opinions listened to and valued? Was there a focus on instilling children with healthy self esteem? Were children encouraged to play ball and to develop their talents [artistic, musical etc.]? 

I am not that old but I am first generation American [my parents are both European born] and growing up I knew a lot of European born people. My impression is that the general answer to all of the above questions is "NO" or "very little". 

What happens if the same educational principals are applied to today's children? They will be destroyed. We live in a new world. That means that we have to ADAPT. 

The Rav ztz"l writes in a letter that many rabbis of his time refused to adapt to the changing times. 

…"קשה לי לבא לעמק השוה עם רוב גדולי הזמן, ד' ישמרם, שהם חפצים ללכת רק במסלול הישן, ולהתרחק מכל כשרון ומכל תנועה של חיים, מה שהוא לדעתי ברור נגד דרך ד' לגמרי, ובזה נותנים יד לפריצים….ואין לי דרך אחר כ"א לחזק את ידי החינוך הנותן חלק לידיעות העולם והחיים, והמדריך את הילדים ברוח צהלת החיים בעז ואמץ לב, בניקיון וסלסול הגון, שכל אלה כשהם מצטרפים אל הדרכת התורה ויראת שמים של אמת, מעטרים הם אותה ומאמצים את חילה, וסוף כל סוף מלאך רע בע"כ יענה אמן…וידע ידידי שכל הענינים הגדולים הם תלויים זה בזה, כי מתוך שאין רוב הלומדים, אפילו הגדולים שבדור, משימים לבם להיות גדולים בהלכות יראת שמים, בהרחבה גדולה הראויה למנהיגי הדור, על כן אין כחם יפה ללכת בשבילים החדשים הראויים לפי הזמן, ולכוונם כלפי הקודש, והם אנוסים לעמוד על הנקודה של הסגנון הישן, בלי לקחת כל נקודה טובה מהדרכים החדשים, לתקן על ידם את מעמד הדור..." ( אגרות ראי"ה, אגרת רעד, ע' שי).

We have to take all of the good that exists in our generation and make use of it in our avodas Hashem. Much of the Charedi world has in fact adopted this stance and today there is much more awareness and openness to the emotional needs of children, the need for therapy at times etc. etc.

One area where we need to place more focus is on the marital bond. The ancient model of marriage just doesn't work for most people today. Most people want [and need] love, romance, excitement, a deep emotional bond etc. In the olden days - he hunted and brought home dinner, she cooked it, they had babies - and they lived happily ever after. Today both spouses want so much more. Many people don't even realize how much they are lacking. The need to give and receive love are of the most intense human needs and we are soooooo busssssyyy that we don't even realize how much our souls are starving. The Iphone works as an opiate to dull our deeper emotional, psychological and spiritual needs. 

I see this as part of mankind's development towards the greater era where love will reign supreme. When people fall into the traps of internet addiction, overeating, drinking, a constant search for entertainment etc. it is just a substitute for what they really need. 

I recently had a guest for Shabbos - a young, very lost, man. He didn't stop eating the entire Shabbos. When he wasn't sleeping he was eating. How much can a person eat?? You should have come over to see.... 

Why?? He wasn't hungry???!! No. He is STARVING. But he is unable to give soul what it really needs [love, connection, family, meaning, fulfillment etc.] so he tried to satisfy his hunger with food. 

It doesn't work. 

So let us be open to anything the world has to offer that will help us reach our spiritual [and material] goals in life, while at the same time remaining faithful to our eternal Torah attitudes, laws and practices.    

Be Present

From our Shavuos email:

The pasuk says that Hashem called Moshe up the mountain to receive the luchos:

וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה אֶל מֹשֶׁה עֲלֵה אֵלַי הָהָרָה וֶהְיֵה שָׁם וְאֶתְּנָה לְךָ אֶת לֻחֹת הָאֶבֶן וְהַתּוֹרָה וְהַמִּצְוָה אֲשֶׁר כָּתַבְתִּי לְהוֹרֹתָם.

What is the meaning of the words והיה שם - Be there?? Of course if he goes up he will "be there". 

The Baal Shem Tov teaches a famous lesson. We are where our thoughts are. The real person is where his thoughts, feelings and soul are - not where his body happens to be. 

Hashem was saying - come up the mountain and BE THERE. BE FULLY PRESENT!!! Don't be thinking about your tax returns that you have to fill out or a meeting you are having next week with Dasan and Aviram to try to make peace. BE PRESENT!!! היה שם!

Chazal tell us that when the Torah was given no dog barked and no bird chirped and no horse horsed around [my own formulation:-)]. There was complete stillness. The reason is that people's attention spans are so short and they are so easily distracted that any tiny peep would have distracted them from hearing the world of G-d!!!!

Ahhhhhhh - what a contemporary message!! The Twitter-Generation!!! Iphones, Uphones, Smartphones, Dumbphones - endless competition for our attention.

The result is that it is ALMOST IMPOSSIBLE to find people who are EVER fully present. There are always a million things going on in one's mind and in one's machines. 

So sweet friends - here is a great Avoda to start on Shavuos. Whatever you are doing - do it with FULL presence. Daven as if all there is in the world is Hashem and you. Learn as if it is your last hour on earth and your last and only task on earth is to learn the page in front of you. Focus on your wife and children. Put away the phone [at least sometimes]. Put away the distractions.

Be present!! It is a prerequisite not only for kabbolas hatorah but for success in anything. 

I heard from my Rebbe, Rav Dovid Kram Shlita, in the name of Rav Nissan Alpert ztz"l who explained the famous line of Hillel - אם אני כאן הכל כאן - If I am here, I am COMPLETELY here. 

A sweet delicious Shavuos beloved friends!!!
With much love כאיש אחד בלב אחד,


Intellect And Imagination

The beginning of all human recognition is, according to the Rav ztz"l, in the imagination - דמיון. Our rational mind - שכל, is just a small student that explains just a bit of the light of life that is in the treasure chest of our rich imagination.

" באוצר הדמיון מונח כל האמת וכל הגודל, שמתברר קמעה קמעה על ידי כמה צינורות מקטינים ומזככים של השכל...השכל הרציונלי אינו כי אם תלמיד קטן, המסביר קצת את כל אור החיים שיש באוצר דמיונינו העשיר והקדוש.." (קובץ ג', קסד)

Since this is so, it is hard to distinguish between our rational mind and imagination. 

" ...אין הדמיון והשכל מחולקים זה מזה חילוק חטיבי, כי אם חילוק דרגאי. ישנן מדרגות שהדמיון הולך ומתברר, ובא בחלקיו לידי זיכוך, עד שהוא נכנס לגבול השכל, והשכל לפעמים יורד הוא בחלקיו, ומתכנס לגבול הדמיון" (קובץ א', ריג)

Sometimes, the דמיון can be beneath the שכל and sometimes above the שכל. Not because of its independent value but because it is a receptacle to Divine light. 

"הדמיון הוא הצל של השכל, ולפעמים הוא למעלה מן השכל, לא מצד עצמו, כי אם מפני שהוא כעין חומר מקבל הארה מאור עליון" (קובץ א', תקמה)

"...בידוע הוא שגם כל ציורי הדמיון הנם באמת ציורי שכל, אלא שהם כדמות גרעינין שלא נגמרו עדיין בגידולם" (קובץ א', קעז)

But if one allows the imagination to be activated without the influence of the intellect it is dangerous and can lead to sin, fear and sadness. 

"ישנה צורה מיוחדת שהדמיון מתלבש בה כשהשכל פועל עליו. ואותה הצורה היא קדושה, ומבסמת את האדם מכל טומאותיו. וכל זמן שהצורה הזאת מתטשטשת, והדמיון מצטייר על פי חק שלו בעצמו, בלא השפעת השכל עליו, אז הוא המקור היותר נרפש לכל תקלה ולכל חטא ועון..." (קובץ א', נט)

"כל מחשבה שאינה נגמרת, היא מצטיירת בכח דמיונות וע"פ רוב היא מעוררת פחד ועצב." (מדבר שור, סו)

[Sources from Dr. Baruch Kahana "אורות הנפש"] 


לרפואת ר' נחמיה בן שרה בתוך שח"י 

The Piasetzner in the Derech Hamelech [p. 407] writes that if we would just be [what is called today] "mindful" and scrutinize our thoughts we would reveal that we are CRRAAZZZYYYYY!!!!!

"…כי כך דרכה של המחשבה, שמסתבכת זו בזו וקשה לו לאדם לפרוש מהן…שבאם יסתכל איש על מחשבותיו הנובעות, אף של יום אחד, אז יראה שכמעט אין חילוק בינו לבין משוגע, רק בזה שהמשוגע עושה ומביא מחשבותיו לפועל, אבל מחשבותיו לעצמו הם אצלו ממש כמו אצל משוגע. ונתן עצות ממשיות איך להשקיט מחשבותיו. ודיבר אז שיתחיל האיש להביט על מחשבותיו שעה קלה, לערך איזה רגעים, היינו- מה אני חושב. אז ירגיש לאט לאט שראשו מתרוקן, ומחשבותיו עמדו משטפן הרגיל…"

We think one thought that leads to another that leads to yet another without an end. What is the purpose of all of these thoughts?? There is no purpose because they just FLOW with no rhyme or reason. Only by being aware of these thoughts can we make them useful and start making changes in our lives. 

Most of our thoughts are just repeats of thoughts that we have had THOUSANDS of times before. We have these neural pathways in our brain that cause us to have the same thoughts AGAIN AND AGAIN AND AGAIN. 

We also think destructive, harmful thoughts. We focus on things that are bothering us and don't let go. There is so much right yet our thoughts and feelings are with what is wrong. Who offended us. What is wrong with our spouse. How so and so was so thoughtless and insensitive. How our boss drives us crazy. How we have bills, debts etc. etc.   


In addition, we dwell on past events which are LOOOOONG over and place ourselves in the no longer existent past. Or we think-worry-ruminate about the unknown future. How often are we HERE AND NOW?? 

Almost never. 

Think about it.  

No Short-Cuts - Find The Good

People look for sheimus in this world. Says Rav Yaakov Moshe ztz"l that this was the argument of the primordial snake: Eat from the tree and you will be knowledgable like G-D!! - והייתם כאל-הים יודעי טוב ורע. How do think G-d became so smart? He ate from the tree. If you follow suit then you can be like Him. 

The mistake was that NOTHING in this world will satisfy the thirst of the soul.We need to connect to what is beyond this world. 

And of course Hashem didn't become so smart because He ate from a tree. People want the easy road to G-dliness. Eat a fruit and you are there.  Swallow a pill and you are happy. Not so easy. 

Also, being able to differentiate between good and evil doesn't make you like G-d. You want to be closer to G-d? Look deep into all of the evil and extract the good. Don't DISCARD the evil but squeeze out the positive. EVERYTHING has something positive. Every person, ideal, philosophy, situation etc. etc.  


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The Source Of Faulty Character

Do you know why people have bad middos? This is a shocker...

A lot of times it has a LOT to do with the fact that the person is physically and emotionally tired [of course there are other factors as well]. This causes him to be sad and sad people are generally not the nicest people. Sad people are immersed in their own misery which is bad for them and bad for the world. 

So if you want to improve your character - go jogging, do some push ups and sit ups. Play some basketball or tennis. Go swimming. Don't DRIVE to shul. Walk. You get שכר פסיעות and will be healthier!! And GET ADEQUATE SLEEP!!! Caffeine is not a substitute for sleep. It is a drug to which most of the world is addicted...

See what the Rav says: 

קובץ ה' קסז' - החלישות והעיפות הנן מבוא לכל המדות הרעות. הן מעוררות את העצבון, והעצבות מביאה את הכעס ואת הגאוה, את הקנאה ואת המשטמה, ואת כל הנטיות היותר שפלות. לזאת, ההנהגה של בריאות, של האומץ הגופני, היא עבודת הקודש בעד הכלל ובעד הפרט. החלישות גורמת שימשיך האדם אל הבשר את האימוץ הנפשי שלו בכונה כדי להחזיק את עמדתו, ובזה הוא מוריד את הזרמים הנפשיים ממקום מעלתם וטהרתם, והודם ובהירותם נפגמים. האומץ הגופני המספיק, מניח הוא את כחות הנפש ללכת בעצמם במרוצתם ומעופם. על ידי החולשה הבשרית, צריך האדם לאגור אל קרבו ציורים מאמצים, והציורים המאמצים המלאכותיים והחולניים מעוררים גסות הרוח, גאוה עכורה, ועזות מצח מדולדלת. כל הוד וכל יופי מוכלל ומרומם, נשכח, והצבעים הבהירים, הנוחים והנעימים, של הבטחון והאומץ הפנימי, המחובר עם הענוה הטהורה ובושת הפנים והצניעות הנאוה, משתכחים.

Learning From Jealousy

לע"נ הרב משה בן הרב מנחם
לע"נ רבקה רחל בת ר' מרדכי
לע"נ ר' אליהו שמואל בן ר' יוסף זאב
לע"נ עטל בת ר' שלמה אריה הלוי

Chazal tell us that קנאת סופרים תרבה חכמה - Jealousy increases wisdom. If I see my friend learning that will make me jealous and cause me to learn as well. He finished Shas - I ALSO want to finish Shas! Sounds great. More Torah. More Chochma.

Not so simple. The pasuk says רקב עצמות קנאה - Jealousy rots one's bones. So this jealousy is NOT the ideal. The wisdom that one acquires out of jealousy will eventually rot. That is what Chazal mean when they say that before Moshiach comes חכמת סופרים תסרח - the wisdom of the scholars will rot. Why? Becomes it stems from jealousy. 

After this happens then people will learn from a place that is free of jealousy. This learning will be pure and flow from the light of the neshama.  "ויהי כזית הודו וריח לו כלבנון" - His splendor will be like that of the olive tree and his fragrance like that of Lebanon. [Hoshea 14/7]. 

See the words of the Rav:

אורות התחיה לח' – החכמה שמתרבה מתוך קנאת סופרים, כיון שבאה מתוך קנאה סופה להרקב, וכל רקבון יש בו סרחון, וזאת היא חכמת סופרים שתסרח בעקבתא דמשיחא וע"י סרחון זה תתבטל צורתה הקודמת, ויוחל להיות מאיר אור הנשמה של החכמה העליונה מכל קנאה, שהיא למעלה מחכמת סופרים, היא החכמה שתצא לאור ע"י שיר חדש ושם חדש אשר פי ד' יקבנו. "ויהי כזית הודו וריח לו כלבנון".

Tuesday, June 20, 2017


And to the hidden Tzadik to whom the Torah is dedicated, I say -

 תבורך מן השמים בכפל כפל כפליים, וה' ימלא כללללל משאלות לבך לטובה תמיד יחד עם אשתך וכל אשר לך

באהבה רבה ואהבת עולם

I must say - Jews are SOMETHING ELSE!!! מי כעמך ישראל!:-)

I wouldn't be a goy for anything. [A special thanks to my MOM for giving me at the very same moment both life and a Jewish identity].   

Scissors Should Be Fine

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The Rewards Of Staying

Regarding this post.

Rav Shimon Shkop was a student in Volozhin. When he knew that Rav Chaim Soloveitchik was going to give a shiur he left a little while before Rav Chaim came in so that he could continue learning privately.

One time he couldn't get out on time [he was dirt poor and his shoes didn't have laces so it was hard for him to walk quickly]. He stayed in order not to offend Rav Chaim. He liked the shiur so much he stayed for a year and a half and the entire WOLRD [I refer to the greatest world I know - the "yeshiva world". And I don't mean the website] benefited from a much greater Rav Shimon Shkop. 

Stay around - you might learn something:-). 

Wear Wigs Where? [With 2 Links]

When I was a kid - very few women in the "modern" community covered their hair. The last twenty, thirty years has seen a resurgence of this age old HALACHA [machlokes if it is Biblical or Rabbinic].

I take my hat off to them!! [I am SOO punny sometimes:-)]. 

Of course, women want to look good, so many women prefer to wear a shaytel [wig] over a tichel [kercheif] or hat. [In some communities in Israel the hats are preferred. I think that this practice is more sociological than halachic]. 

That is fine. 

Well - it depends who you ask. The issue of wearing a sheytal in the public domain has been hotly contested over the generations. This post is not going to resolve the conflict. 

But there is something that gets me. Many women walk around the home dressed very shabbily but when they go out they get all dressed up. 

OF COURSE, it should be just the opposite. A woman is supposed to get dressed up for her husband [as she did when they were dating] and for the street she is supposed to dress in a way that doesn't attract attention. There is no obligation to look UGLY but certainly one should tame it down. 

So it is much better halachically to wear the sheytal at home and the tichel on the street [if it covers all of her hair]. This way she fulfills the opinion of all of the poskim who say that one may not wear a sheytal in public and also looks her best for her husband. 

Of course, close to 100 percent of the married people reading this either wear a sheytal in public or are married to someone who does [including the writer]. That is PERFECTLY FINE. But my message is that it is most important to be attractive to one's husband. He is allowed to gaze at no woman other than his wife and she does him a great chesed when she makes it pleasant for him. It displays sensitivity and care for his needs and instills her with the message that the most important relationship in her life is the one she has with her husband. 

וידעת כי שלום אהליך!!!   [איוב ה' כ"ד]

Sins Become Merits

Many people have expressed puzzlement at the Rambam's ommision of the famous talmudic rule [Yoma 86b] that if one does teshuva out of love of Hashem all of his sins become merits [זדונות נעשות לו כזכיות]. 

I saw that one Jew claimed that this was alluded to by the Rambam [Teshuva 7/8]:

בעלי תשובה דרכן להיות שפלים וענוים ביותר אם חרפו אותן הכסילים במעשיהם הראשונים ואמרו להן אמש היית עושה כך וכך ואמש היית אומר כך וכך אל ירגישו להן אלא שומעין ושמחים ויודעין שזו זכות להם שכל זמן שהם בושים ממעשיהם שעברו ונכלמים מהן זכותם מרובה ומעלתם מתגדלת.

The manner of Baalei Teshuvah is to be very humble and modest.
If fools shame them because of their previous deeds, saying to them: "Yesterday, you would commit such and such [sins]. Yesterday, you would commit these and these [transgressions]," they will pay no attention to them. On the contrary, they will hear [this abuse] and rejoice, knowing that it is a merit for them. Whenever they are embarrassed for the deeds they committed and shamed because of them, their merit increases and their level is raised.

As for me - I REALLY don't think so. The Rambam is not referring to all of one's sins turning into merits through teshuva, just that it is a great merit to remain silent in the face of abuse. 

ושערי התירוצים לא ננעלו....

We ARE All Holy, But....

“The entire congregation is holy, and God is with them. Why do you raise yourselves over God’s community?” (Num. 16:3)

This was the battle cry of Korach’s rebellion — a complaint that, at first glance, seems perfectly justified. Did not the entire people hear God speak at Sinai? It would seem that Korach was only paraphrasing what God Himself told Moses: “Speak to the entire community of Israel and tell them: you shall be holy, for I, your God, am holy” (Lev. 19:2). Why indeed should only the Levites and the kohanim serve in the Temple? Why not open up the service of God to the entire nation?

Havdalah and Chibur

In our individual lives, and in society and the nation as a whole, we find two general principles at work. This first is havdalah, meaning ‘withdrawal’ or ’separation.’ The second is chibur, meaning ‘connection’ or ‘belonging.’

These are contradictory traits, yet we need both. This is most evident on the individual level. In order to reflect on our thoughts and feelings, we need privacy. To develop and clarify ideas, we need solitude. To attain our spiritual aspirations, we need to withdraw within our inner selves.

Only by separating from society can we achieve these goals. The distracting company of others robs us of seclusion’s lofty gifts. It restricts and diminishes the creative flow from our inner wellspring of purity and joy.

This same principle applies to the nation as a whole. In order for the Jewish people to actualize their spiritual potential, they require havdalah from the other nations — as ‘a nation that dwells alone’ (Num. 23:9).

Similarly, within the Jewish people it is necessary to separate the tribe of Levi — and within Levi, the kohanim — from the rest of the nation. These groups have special obligations and responsibilities, a reflection of their inner character and purpose.

Separation in Order to Connect

Yet separation is not a goal in and of itself. Within the depths of havdalah lies the hidden objective of chibur: being part of the whole and influencing it. The isolated forces will provide a positive impact on the whole, enabling a qualitative advance in holiness. These forces specialize in developing talents and ideas that, as they spread, become a source of blessing for all. As they establish their unique traits and paths, life itself progresses and acquires purpose.

We find this theme of havdalah/chibur on many levels. The human race is separate from all other species of life. Through this havdalah, humanity is able to elevate itself and attain a comprehensive quality that encompasses the elevation of the entire world. The Jewish people are separate from the other nations; this separateness enables them to act as a catalyst to elevate all of humanity, to function as a “kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Ex. 19:6).

The tribe of Levi is separated from the rest of the nation through their special responsibilities; this distinction ennobles the members of the tribe to fulfill their unique role. The Levites sanctify themselves and become a blessing for the entire nation. And the kohanim, with their special holiness, are elevated until they draw forth ruach hakodesh (prophetic inspiration) for the benefit of the entire nation, thus actualizing the nation’s highest spiritual abilities.

The Correct Order

Now we may understand the source of Korach’s error. The Zohar (Mishpatim 95a) teaches:

“The Sitra Achra [literally, the ‘Other Side’ — the forces of evil] begins with chibur [connection] and ends with pirud [division]. But the Sitra deKedushah (‘Side of Holiness’) begins with pirud and ends with chibur. “

The correct path, the path of holiness, follows the order of first separating and then connecting. In other words, the separation is for the sake of connection. But Korach’s philosophy (and similar ideologies, such as communism) took the opposite approach. He sought a simplistic inclusiveness of all, binding all people into one uniform group from the outset. He boastfully claimed to unite all together — “The entire congregation is holy.” This approach, however, replaces the splendor of diversity with dull uniformity. In the end, this totalitarian approach leads to disunity, as all parts yearn to break apart in order to express their unique individuality. “The Sitra Achra begins with chibur and ends with pirud.”

(Sapphire from the Land of Israel. Adapted from Orot HaKodesh vol. II, p. 439)


This is an AMAZING idea. A person first has to develop himself and his [or her] own talents and abilites and only then can he [or she] unite with a spouse and with society. The more fully developed one is, the greater the contribution to society and the world.