Thursday, January 19, 2017

Making A Name

לזכות עדינה בת שבע בת נעכא גיטל

The timing is impeccable. The inaugaration. 200 million bucks. [You know what I think of that....]. The biggest name in the world today. Sworn in. Erev Shabbos Parshas Shmos. 

Sefer Shmos. Names. Funny name for this sefer of galus and geulah. "Names" sounds boring - like the phone book is a book of names and is quite boring. But Sefer Shmos is anything but boring.

The reality is that the whole redemption from Egypt which is a precursor for the ultimate redemption of mankind revolves around "names". The topic is broad but one nekudah relating to עניני דיומא: 

Moshe askes Hashem what His name is. Funny question - like, what does it matter? And who says He has a name?! What Moshe is asking is - With what revelation of your existence and mode of operations are you going to redeem us? Hashem answers א-ה-י-ה - I will be. Meaning - my name will become revealed to the world progessively as this geula develops. It is not a one shot deal but this geulah will start the process of revealing my name which will continue throughout history until we reach the day of וידעו כי אתה שמך השם עליון על כל הארץ. 

Moshe doesn't care about his own name and when the Jewish people are in danger of being erased, Moshe challenges Hashem to erase Moshe's name from the Torah instead. For that reason Moshe's name doesn't appear in תצוה and only makes one cameo appearance in the Hagada shel Pesach, because the geulah is not at all about Moshe's name but Hashem. As we say in davening about geulas Mitzraim ותעש לך שם גדול כהיום הזה.

Rav Moshe Schapiro ztz"l: The דור הפלגה built a tower and said נעשה לנו שם. It was all about making a name for themselves. Avraham Avinu made the tikkun and it says about him ויקרא בשם השם א-ל עולם - He called out in Hashem's name. 

Erev Shabbos Parshas Shmos 5776. The most powerful man in the world is being sworn into office [כל פוליטיקאי בעולם, כמעט, חשוד על השבועה ומה הועילו חכמים בתקנתם ]. They wanted to build a Migdal La-shomayim. Or maybe Migdal La-shemim - A tower for their many names. נעשה לנו שם was their motto. He also built a מגדל לשמים. A tower until the sky [almost]. He put his name on it. He loves his name and making a name for himself. A deep look into his psyche will almost definitely reveal that this run for the Presidency was to a great extent about his name. Now he is even greater and more powerful. What is the next hurdle? King Of The Universe?

Ahhh - that post is already taken by the only Reality that truly exists, must exist, has always existed and will forever exist. 

והיה א-ד-נ-י למלך על כל הארץ ביום ההוא יהיה הויה אחד ושמו אחד!!

Check out this amazing shtickel Sfas Emes [spell check disagrees with my spelling of "shtickel" and Sfas Emes. Let them come up with a better spelling...]:


Even Kofrim Are A Chizuk For Ma'aminim

After Watson and Crick, we know that genes themselves, within their minute internal structure, are long strings of pure digital information. What is more, they are truly digital, in the full and strong sense of computers and compact disks, not in the weak sense of the nervous system. The genetic code is not a binary code as in computers, nor an eight-level code as in some telephone systems, but a quaternary code, with four symbols. The machine code of the genes is uncannily computerlike. Apart from differences in jargon, the pages of a molecular-biology journal might be interchanged with those of a computer-engineering journal. . . .

Our genetic system, which is the universal system of all life on the planet, is digital to the core. With word-for-word accuracy, you could encode the whole of [many books] in those parts of the human genome that are at present filled with “junk” DNA – that is, DNA not used, at least in the ordinary way, by the body. Every cell in your body contains the equivalent of forty-six immense data tapes, reeling off digital characters via numerous reading heads working simultaneously. In every cell, these tapes – the chromosomes – contain the same information, but the reading heads in different kinds of cells seek out different parts of the database for their own specialist purposes. . . .

Genes are pure information – information that can be encoded, recoded and decoded, without any degradation or change of meaning. Pure information can be copied and, since it is digital information, the fidelity of the copying can be immense. DNA characters are copied with an accuracy that rivals anything modern engineers can do.

The conclusion of course is מה רבו מעשיך השם כולם בחכמה עשית!! Or as the Rav ztz"l put it - מה קטנו מעשיך השם - How we see Your handiwork in the most minute details of creation.

What is more fascinating is that this passage was written by nothing other than Dick Dawkins - the most militant atheist ... dead, in his book River Out Of Eden p. 16-19. 

Don't Hurt The Child

Imagine a parent randomly strikes his child. 


That is abuse. 

Here is a scary thought: When one criticizes or rebukes a child unjustifiably [because the parent is in a foul mood, or the child needs it but the words are too harsh etc.. etc.] that is WHACKING the child's soul.

That is worse abuse than a black and blue mark. It is long term and deep. What is scarier is that most parents who are unnecessarily critical don't even realize what they are doing. They are consistently eroding the foundation of their child's healthy soul and creating emotional illness that will probably never completely heal. 

They don't mean to but they are. They will never be arrested [nor should they be] but they are subtly destroying their child's mental health. Most kids get through it but like I said - it leaves deep scars. 

What a child needs is a tremendous amount of unconditional love and acceptance, coupled with firm discipline with an emphasis on warmth and kindness. 

אל תגעו במשיחי - אלו תינוקות של בית רבן.  

Mussar From My Dentist

My dentist is a nice guy. He is friendly and seems to really care. After he pulled a tooth some time back he called me repeatedly to find out how I was. Except for two people [my mother and someone else] I have never in my life met anyone who called out to find out how I was - certainly not multiple times. Life is busy, people are busy and once we get involved with other people's problems we "risk" having to get even more involved which might inconvenience us in a myriad of ways, so the nature of man is to worry about his and his family's needs and to try to make the best life for he and them [Note - The grammar on that sentence was almost definitely off]. Of course there are exceptions but in my experience this is the rule. If someone else has a different experience then that doesn't negate my experience nor does my experience negate his experience. איש איש and ha-experience shelo. 

Now it could very well be that he called and is so nice to me because he wants to keep me as a patient but I will be דן לכף זכות that on some level he really does care.

Anyway, for some time already I have been suffering from a toothache [actually - two toothaches] and I kept pushing off going to the dentist because it takes up valuable time I would rather spend doing other things, it often hurts and it costs me a LOT less money not to go the dentist than to go. Nice guy - yes. Chesed organization - no.  So I kept pushing it off. Procrastinator rule number one: Never push off until tomorrow what you can push off for two days...

First lesson relearned: Avoiding a problem usualy doesn't cause it to go away and often even exacerbates it. Toothache NOT disappearing. 

So I made an appointment and after having considered cancelling a thousand times - went.

I came, he graciously received me in his French accented Hebrew, covered me up with a "radiation apron", took an x-ray, looked at it carefully and then came the verdict: 

A deep pnimiyus-dike infection under a root canal and crown. 

The sentence: Five more visits to the dentist. One to a specialist to see if he can save the tooth. Four more to him and a price tag that is BLI AYIN HARA going to go a long way in helping two Jews pay a lot of bills!!:-) [He didn't inquire as to whether I have the necessary funds because he is my dentist - not my banker:-)]. 

But there was GREAT mussar here. 

We look at many things, people, situation, sugyos in Shas etc. etc. on the surface. But life, people and certainly Torah are far more complex. The real issues are usually VERY deep. Problems are VERY deep. An emotional and spiritual x-ray will often reveal what is going on beneath the surface. What we find isn't always pleasant but we must look. [My dentist assured me that if I do nothing about this problem it will eat away at my jaw. GREAT!!] That is the only way to fix it. Fixing it may be painful not fixing it will be FAR more painful.

OK!! BARUCH HASHEM!! Lesson learned. Hashem will pay for it as He does for everything else [I don't have it but He has more than enough, as the Ancient Prophet declared "לי הכסף ולי הזהב נאום השם".] The discomfort is part of my tikkun and HODOO LASHEM that I have teeth.

After I fix this one I have to fix the next one which is bothering me as I write and Hashem will get me through that one too.

Hashem will also send you tikkunim to make. They aren't always sweet and pleasant but they are ALWAYS boons for great potential growth. He is the secret in three words.


As they say in America: "It is what it is".

Or better, as they say in the talmud - GAM ZU LI-TOVA!!! 

Faith And Practice

 לזכות עדינה בת שבע בת נעכא גיטל

The Mishna in Brachos [13b] asks why we first say the parsha of שמע and then the parsha of והיה אם שמוע. This is a funny question J! In the Torah the parsha of שמע  precedes the parsha of והיה אם שמוע  - so why shouldn't we say it in that order??  The answer is that the only way to reach perfection in da'as Hashem is to keep his mitzvos which straighten a man out and purify him.  So we might think that we should first say the parsha of והיה אם שמוע  which is all about קבלת עול מצות before the parsha of והיה אם שמוע which is all about קבלת עול מלכות שמים. Nevertheless, says the Mishna, we first say the parsha of שמע because it is necessary to first establish the general basis for all we do and accept on ourselves the yoke of heaven and faith in our special inheritance.  

לפי כונת התכלית להגיע אל שלמות דעת ד' שאי אפשר לבא לה אלא ע"י ההתרגלות במצותיו שהן מישרות דרכיו של אדם ומטהרות מדותיו ודעותיו, היה נראה להקדים פרשת והיה אם שמע אע"פ שפרשת 'שמע' קדמה לה בתורה. אבל מפני שיסודה של תורה הוא כללי ושוה לכל לכן יש להקדים לקבלת עול המצות את קבלת עול מלכות שמים מצד המסורת והאמונה של מורשה קהלת יעקב [עולת ראיה א עמ' רנ"א].

There are two ways of viewing קבלת עול מלכות שמים. One is that there is an external yoke on our necks that is compelling to keep laws which are foreign to our nature. This makes the keeping of mitzvos to be a burdensome task. The other possibility is to view mitzvos as being part and parcel of who we are and the foundation for our very existence. Just as we don't view breathing as an unnecessary burden – so too Torah and mitzvos are not an unnecessary burden but life itself. כי הם חיינו. Of course, the second approach is the correct one and generates tremendous simcha in our Avoda. 

ההכרה המבוררת בערכו האמתי של עול התורה ומצוותיה, הנמשך מתוך עול מלכות השמים והארץ שהוא אינו עול חיצוני המדכא בשיעבוד כפייתו אלא פנימי של תכן החיים האלהי והכרח צוו הקבוע ושורה במציאותם של ישראל ומופיע בגילויי צורותיו וסדורי פעליו "כי הם חיינו ואורך ימינו" היא הממשיכה את מבוע נועמן של המצוות ואת שמחת קיומן [לנתיבות ישראל עמ' קסד קסה].

Today there is a concept called "Orthoprax". This means that the person doesn't BELIEVE in Hashem and His Torah but practices it. It must be clear that this "Praxis" is worth less than an Israeli lira ["Lirot" for those uninitiated, are a now extinct Israeli currency]. Without Emunah – there is nothing. The BASIS is kabbalas ol malchus shomayim while the fulfillment of mitzvos is built on top of that. This means that it is not even enough to BELIEVE that Hashem gave the Torah. One must ACCEPT upon himself this yoke – with sweetness and love. But it is not an option, like in college there are "electives". Shmiras Hamitzvos is not an elective. If they are kept that way, then the person that fulfills these mitzvos loses his exalted status of מצווה ועושה  and is relegated to the lower level of אינו מצווה ועושה

The Rav ztz"l, commenting on a book written by Dr. Drachman wrote [incidentally - we see his opinion of Mendolsohnn whom we recently discussed on these pages]:

אל הטעות של ההשכלה הברלינית לא נוכל לשוב. הדברים שאמר הד"ר הנכבד, "כי אמנם יש ליהדות אמונות ועקרים הנוגעים לדברים שהם למעלה מן הטבע, אך מעולם לא שמה היהדות לחובה על איש להאמין באופן ידוע ומסוים בדברים כאלה". ועוד, "היהדות מודדת את נאמנות היהודי לדתו לא על פי רעיוניו ומחשבותיו כי אם על פי מעשיו אם מקיים הוא את המצוות והחוקים אשר שמה התורה לחובה על עם ישראל או לא". כשאמר הרמבמ"ן [הרב משה מנדלסון] דברים הללו אז בימי הפריחה של ההתבוללות והטמיעה היו הדברים לכל הפחות מובנים לאלה שנטה רוחם לזה, והם הסתפקו באקסיומה זו מפני שכל הנטיה של הטמיעה הלא היא באה מתוך תכונה שטחית בנפש אבל עכשיו נשתנו עלינו הזמנים. ההכרה הלאומית הולכת היא וחודרת בקרבנו ואין אנחנו חפצים באונאת עצמנו כלל. איך יתכן הדבר שאנחנו נעמיד את מצב האומה על פי יסוד רפוי כזה לא בהארה פשרנית כזאת של התרפסות לפני הכפירה ע"י מה שנאמר לה שהננו מוסרים לה את הרעיון את הנשמה שתעשה עמם מה שלבה חפץ ואין אנו דורשים ממנה כ"א מס של מעשים דתיים בזה נבוא אל המטרה לא התביעה שלנו היא שלמה ורדיקלית. כל חיי הנשמה הישראלית כמלא הזוהר שלה מוכרחים להיות מאירים בתחייתנו הלאומית.

Hashem Prepares The Footsteps Of Man

Rabbi Staum from Stamtorah

Rabbi YY Jacobson related that, even though he travels a lot, after a personal experience a few years ago, he has a very different perspective about travel generally.

In his words: “A few years ago, I was heading to Ottawa for a speaking engagement. I arrived at the airport with plenty of time, but soon enough the flight was delayed, and then delayed again. 

After some time I came to the realization that there was no way I was going to make it there for the talk.
“I called the Rabbi who had hired me and explained to him the predicament. He was insistent that I had to figure out a way. “There are so many people coming to hear you…” I apologized a few times, but there was nothing I could do.
After I hung up the phone, my mind was still racing, trying to think of any way I could pull it off, when I noticed an elderly chassid sitting nearby calmly learning from a sefer. I sat next to him and we began schmoozing. I asked him where he was heading, and he replied that he was heading to Ottawa to be sandek and his grandson’s bris. I looked at him surprised, “You realize that there is no way we are going to make it there before sunset, and the b’ris has to be before sunset?” The chassid nodded. I couldn’t believe it. 

“So you are missing your grandson’s bris, and you’re okay with that?”
The chassid looked at me and calmly replied, “Don’t you know the vort of Reb Chatzkel of Kuzhmir?” I admitted that I didn’t, and so he continued: “Reb Chatzkel explained that every morning we recite the beracha thanking Hashem, “hameichein mitzadei gaver – Who prepares the footsteps of man.” If one recites that beracha and doesn’t think to himself that wherever he ends up that day, and in whatever situation he finds himself in, is exactly where G-d wants him to be, has recited a beracha levatala!
“I wanted very much to be in Ottawa for my grandson’s bris, and I had planned on being there. But I said that beracha this morning, and now I see that Hashem didn’t want me to be there, so I have accepted it.””
If we could truly live by that mantra, imagine how much frustration, anger, and impatience we could eliminate from our lives. The challenge is that we usually cannot see how Hashem has prepared our footsteps, and what the plan is.
G-d prepares our footsteps each day. Our task is to walk in those footsteps that He has lovingly and uniquely charted for each one of us.
In 1905, Friedrich, a native of Kallstadt, Bavaria, traveled to America to make some money. After a few years he sought to return to his hometown where his wife had remained. He wrote a letter to Prince Luitpold of Bavaria, pleading with him to allow him to return. The prince denied his request, as punishment for not fulfilling his responsibility to serve in the Bavarian military forces, when he went to America. Because of that, he had been stripped of his Bavarian citizenship and was barred re-entry.
Friedrich was forced to return to America. At the time he was undoubtedly quite dejected because of it.
This coming Friday, January 20, 2017, Friedrich’s grandson will be sworn in as the 45th president on the United States. How different would things be if Prince Luitpold had acceded to Friedrich Trump’s request!

בנימין בן חנה

Please daven for a great tzadik Binyamin ben Chana בתוך שח"י