Saturday, January 29, 2011

Heart And Mind

As I was going through my emails just now [primarily telling me how wonderful I am, which is part of the reason I deleted those two posts I regret having posted last week. Vi'hamayveen yavin :)], I was listening to a shiur from Rabbi Reichman on yutorah. He said that men must feel free to cry and otherwise express emotion.

THREE CHEERS!! I think that one of the biggest failures of our educational system is that we overemphasize the intellect. We need more emotion, tears, expression of love for each other and Hashem, awe of Hashem, yearning for ruchniyus etc. etc. All this brainy stuff often leaves Hashem far behind. OF COURSE we should learn Torah with endless diligence, but with a FEELING HEART. ANI MEVAKESH LEV!!!!

פתח לבי בתורתך
I am giving a plug to the blog of my beloved friend. Check it out.
"If you REALLY have trust in Hashem, then you are REALLY fortunate. But if people just SAY about you that you have trust in Hashem, it is as if people just SAY about you that you are rich".

Friday, January 28, 2011

Look At The Present!

Let's jump to Korach!

Why did Korach start up with Moshe? ask Chazal. He was really such a clever man!!

The answer they give is that he saw with Ruach Hakodesh that a great dynasty would descend from him. The great Navi Shmuel and others!! He therefore thought he was worthy.

From here the Baalei Mussar learn two important lessons.

1] A spiritual gift such a Ruach Hakodesh can cause one to leave the path of Hashem.

2] If one looks into the future he can potentially lose his present AND his future.

Love and blessings!:)

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Making the Ordinary Extraordinary

At first glance, the parsha that follows Matan Torah seems somewhat anticlimactic: from the extraordinary miracles in Egypt, to the spectacular scene at Har Sinai, we transition to read about the seemingly ordinary dos and don’ts of daily life in Parshat Mishpatim. We will see, however, that the many laws delineated in this week’s parsha are not perhaps mundane, but not at all anticlimactic. On the contrary, the mishpatim that govern daily life can be seen as the climax of their journey thus far – as it is these laws that enable the Jewish people to hold on to the many fundamental lessons they had learned and to understand those lessons in more meaningful ways. The parsha begins:

Ve’eleh hamisphatim asher tasim lifneihem

And these are the ordinances that you shall set before them (Ex. 21:1)

Rashi comments that the word ve’eleh (and these) signifies that these laws were given along with the Ten Commandments. Though we know that the entire Torah - with all its laws and details - was given at once on Har Sinai, the Torah uses this conjunctive word to emphasize the continuity between the fundamentals of the Ten Commandments in last week’s Parshat Yitro and the many ordinances and rules that govern daily life found in Parshat Mishpatim.

The fact that the portion of Torah that follows the monumental moment of Matan Torah is filled with details of daily law reflects the reality of living a Torah life: Judaism is a faith of ideology and belief as much as it is a religion of action and practice.

Indeed Matan Torah is not only followed, but also preceded by an event that highlights the use of the Torah as a guide for day-to-day activities. Rav Yehuda Amital (cited by Rav Yonatan Horovitz) suggested that the episode of Yitro precedes Matan Torah because the nation could not have possibly received the Torah until it had a civil, judicial infrastructure in place that would enable the daily interaction, interpretation, and implementation of Torah law. Thus, the Torah is not only intended to inform our belief system, but it must also impact our every day decisions, habits, and lifestyles.

The Jewish people understood the importance of Torah as a daily pursuit and practice at the time they accepted the Torah. Upon hearing all of the mishpatim listed in our parsha, the people proclaim: naaseh venishma (see Ex. 24:7). Some suggest that this remarkable response is recorded only after listing the many details of Torah law to praise the Jewish people for their extraordinary level of commitment to the Torah - not only in all its glory (with the thunder and lightning in the backdrop), but also with all its very many details.

The multitude of mitzvot in the Torah could be overwhelming and the intricacies of the Divine work can be complex – the fact that the Jewish people accepted these mitzvot after having been exposed to them is most commendable – perhaps even more so than accepting the Torah sight unseen.

This insight into the true greatness of naaseh venishma leaves us with a question that begs to be answered: if the Jewish people declared we will do and we will listen only after they heard the details of the Torah, then what do these words really mean – what were they willing to listen to now, after having heard the mitzvot already?

To strengthen this perplexing question, we must note that before Hashem appeared to them to deliver the Torah, the Jews declared kol hadevarim asher diber Hashem naaseh – all that Hashem has spoken we will do (Ex. 19:9). It seems quite backwards that before they heard the mitzvot they said we will do, and then only afterwards they declared we will do and we will listen?

In grappling with this question, the Meshech Chochma suggests that before receiving the Torah, the Jewish people thought that they could do it all – and so they responded confidently and eagerly, naaseh (we will do)! After hearing all of the commandments, however, they realized that it was impossible to do it all – they learned that it is not intended that every individual can do it all. It was then that they declared we will do and we will listen – indicating that even for those mitzvot that they cannot and might never be able to perform in their lifetimes, they will learn about them and internalize the messages latent within those mitzvot.

Similarly, Chazal suggest that the word nishmah in this famous phrase may refer to the Jews commitment to study the meaning and reasoning of the mitzvot - even after they were performed - again showing that the Jewish people understood that Torah learning is both a practical pursuit in how to perform the specific mitzvot but it is also a means to internalize the values and lessons that should dictate all of our daily decisions and inform our instincts and initiatives.

Often times we feel overwhelmed when exposed to new halachot or to unfamiliar nuances of already familiar mitzvot – perhaps burdened by the challenge to understand the complexity of the law and how it applies to the given situation or at the specific time. What we learn from the Jewish people at the time of Matan Torah – is that the glimpse of the surface of the Torah and its mitzvot should only tempt us to delve deeper - in hopes to better understand how to perform each mitzvah and in so doing, gaining a better appreciation of its significance and value.

And so in the parsha that follows (or rather continues the story of) Matan Torah, we learn that what it means to be a People of the Book - as the study of Torah enhances both theory and practice - which in turn, enhance each other. The basic laws of Parshat Misphatim follow the grand show of Har Sinai to remind us that what is extraordinary about Judaism is that every seemingly ordinary moment of our day has potential to be extraordinary when we are living with a constant awareness of Torah ideals. May we all continue to search and to find the deeper meaning, and to allow those lessons to inform our fundamental beliefs and our day-to-day actions in the way that the Jewish nation intended and committed themselves to doing at Har Sinai.

Shabbat Shalom,


ויהי ידיו אמונה - עד בא השמש

When the Jews were fighting Amalek at the end of Beshalach the pasuk says about Moshe "Vayihe yadav emunah" - Literally "His hands were emunah". The Targum translates that Moshe's hands were spread out in prayer. The Besht Hakadosh explains that Moshe was davening to Hashem for emunah!

May I add that the pasuk concludes "ad bo hashemsh" - until the sun comes. If we daven for emunah we can be assured that it will eventually shines its healing rays of light upon us.

Beloved friends! We must constantly pray for emunah, that we should wholeheartedly believe that AIN OD MILVADO - nothing else truly exists or matters but Hashem.
Two lovely ideas on the parsha - here.

And soon hopefully we will be lucky enough to read Taly's always insightful, inspirational and thought-provoking words.

They Are Watching

Don't worry that children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you.

Robert Fulghum

SWEETEST FRIENDS!! If you have children, the most important thing to know is that the greatest influence on them is based not to what you say but how you act. So the best guide to raising children would be the Mesilas Yesharim. If you personify greatness your children are likely to follow.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Food Glorious Food

"Do you consume food or does food consume you?"


It is not a problem when a person enjoys food. This is healthy. The problem is when food becomes the center of one's existence, when conversation constantly centers around it, when one spends inordinate amounts of time and money to ensure the highest culinary pleasures.

The passuk says "Tzaddik ochel li'sova nafsho" - A tzaddik eats to satisfy his SOUL.

Do we eat to live - or live to eat?

Love and Blessings:)!

Monday, January 24, 2011


I copied this from the weekly newsletter of a Yeshiva in the Old City. Hope you like it:

Hashem speaks for the very first time to the Jewish people! The moment has arrived and it is HUGE!

He speaks "I am the Lord your G-d who took you out of Egypt". Wait a minute! You are bigger than that. You created the whole world!! Why limit yourself to a one time [abeit miraculous] event at a certain period in history. You are responsible for everything. Try this "I am the Lord your G-d who created the gantza velt" ["the whole world". I am fairly certain that Hashem has a special place in His heart for the Yiddish language]. Many sources ask this question and many answers have been offered.

The "Mevakesh Lev Al Hatorah" suggests as follows: Saying that Hashem created the world is certainly true but much too global. I need to know that I have a PERSONAL relationship with Hashem. I need to know that when I am in trouble He can extract me from my state of distress. Knowing Hashem's omnipotence is only meaningful if I can somehow relate it to my own life. I am Hashem Elokecha - Your G-d - in the singular and not plural form. Asher hotzeisicha - Who took you - again singular form - out of Mitzrayim from the word meitzarim, narrow places. Whenever you find yourself in narrow places I can take you out. BUT [big "but"] there is a condition! Just like when you were in Egypt you cried out so too I expect you to do so in the future. Yes I am a personal G-d to each and every one of you, but you have to relate to Me as such in order to became saved from all the "Mitzraims" of life.

May we all be saved from our personal Egypt daily when we fulfill the mitzvah of remembering Yetzias Mitzraim.

Love and blessings!

From Diapers To Marriage

"The only time a woman really succeeds in changing a man is when he is a baby."

Ladies!!! Please! If you are married you probably noticed some things about your husband which are not to your liking and you would like to change.

Despair is usually not a good thing to have. In this instance it is! Give it up. He is who he is.

Step #2: But you are annoyed! What do you do? OHHHH, can't cover that in one post. But one small piece of advice. Find out from your husband what YOU CAN DO to make him happy. Then consistently do those things. MAKE HIM FEEL LOVED. He needs it. Ask for nothing in return. As he gets more loving and appreciative of you, drop subtle hints as to what makes YOU happy. If he is a mentsch he will not disappoint.

Many make the mistake and think that by constantly criticizing they will get the spouse they want.


Much more to say but instead I will go for krias shma al hamitta.


Caller I.D. And Derech Eretz

I read the following story about a tzadekes who passed away: She refused to buy a telephone with caller i.d. WHY? Because she was afraid that someone would call her knowing she has caller i.d. and when she doesn't pick up the caller would think that she is being ignored and her feelings would be hurt.

Makes one wonder about all of those people who HAVE caller i.d. and when they see the number on the screen they decide if the person calling is worthy of being answered. Sometimes, not only don't people answer at that moment but they also don't get back to the caller. People aren't bad. They just don't realize that to answer the phone is a chesed as the caller obviously wants something. To ignore the caller is anti-chesed. This doesn't mean that one must answer every phone call no matter what one is doing. On the contrary, often it is not appropriate to answer at that moment. But to ignore a person completely is ..... rude.

At Mevakesh we don't like rude.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Give a Little and Gain A Lot

Parshat Yitro is the pinnacle of the past week’s parshiot, as we read about Matan Torah and the events that surrounded this monumental moment. While the climax of the parsha comes at its conclusion with the delivery of the Ten Commandments, the story of Yitro that precedes the giving of the Torah teaches an important lesson about what characteristics enable an individual to accept, appreciate, and live a life of Torah. The parsha begins:

Now Moses' father in law, Yitro, the chieftain of Midian, heard all that God had done for Moses and for Israel, His people that the Lord had taken Israel out of Egypt (Ex. 18:1)

Chazal debate at what point this happened in the chronology of events. Regardless of whether or not it happened before Matan Torah (as Rashi seems to suggest) or afterwards (as Ibn Ezra claims), the mere fact that the Torah records this event as a preface to Matan Torah suggests that a lesson is to be gleaned from this juxtaposition.

The very fact that Yitro joined the Jewish people and accepted a life of Torah and mitzvot is in it of itself a reminder that we are a privileged people to have been handed this Divine guidebook and the Divine mission that comes along with it. I think there is perhaps an even deeper lesson to learn from the episode that makes Yitro an exemplar of how to receive the Torah.

It is clear from the text that Yitro was a distinguished man, as he is referred to as kohen Midian, a chieftan of Midian. If Yitro had been a man of no status, it would be conceivable that he was attracted to the glory and the fame of this Godly nation. And yet, the Torah goes out of its way to remind us of his esteemed position when he left in Midian - making his decision to join Israel in the desert considerably more noteworthy. Yitro was ready to forfeit his dignified position in Midian to be a less prominent member of Klal Yisrael; he was willing to give up part of himself for the sake of something he believed in.

Moshe Rabbeinu demonstrates a similar ability to negate his ego for something beyond himself. After years of serving as the leader of the Jewish people, one might imagine Moshe would be hesitant to forfeit his almost absolute influence and jurisdiction by appointing judges to work beneath him. The fact that Moshe so readily limited his sphere of control over the people proves that he was not at all driven by a sense of pride or self-righteousness, but by his genuine desire to implement the word of God.

Like Yitro, Moshe was able to subordinate himself in some way for the sake of a higher and greater purpose, which was more satisfying and gratifying than personal power and honor. The ability to give up a part of one’s sense of authority for something beyond oneself can actually be empowering. Perhaps in this light, making self-sacrifices in order to be part of something more valuable and meaningful is not really a sacrifice at all.

An insight of the Imrei Emet highlights this characteristic that Yitro and Moshe model for us. The Midrash tells us that the tall mountains argued with one another to be the mountain upon which the Torah would be given. But,as we know, Hashem chose instead the smallest of mountains, Har Sinai – the one mountain that actually lowered itself. Surely if the lesson to be learned was one of humility, Hashem could have given the Torah on flat lands or in a valley. The deeper meaning of this Midrash, according to the Imrei Emet, is that it is much more challenging, but also significantly more impressive (and rewarding) when a person of stature is willing to lower himself.

Often times we may feel that we lower ourselves, or lose a sense of ourselves when forced to live a lifestyle dictated by the rules of the Torah - this prevents us from embracing the word of the Torah in its entirety. And yet, it is only by listening to and following the words of God - thereby subjugating ourselves to the will of Hashem - that we become worthy of the title mamlechet kohanim – a kingdom of priests (Ex. 19:6). Almost paradoxically, when we become servants of Hashem, we become more esteemed - as we are likened to the two most highly regarded positions in Judaism (the king and the priest). When we fulfill God’s command we may feel that we are giving something up, but in reality we are gaining so much more - we become part of something beyond ourselves – something universal, eternal, and Divine. When we subjugate our will, we do not actually diminish or lower ourselves, but instead we expand ourselves and raise ourselves up.

It should be noted that the Torah is comprised of mitzvot between man and God as well as between man and fellow man. Thus, an individual must subjugate himself both to the will of God and to the needs of others to be considered part of the mamlechet kohanim. As Rabbi Moshe Taragin notes, the positions of the kohen and the melech both serve others – the kohen fulfills the spiritual needs of the people, while the melech serves the political needs. Though the concept may seem contradictory to cultural norms today, Judaism holds that the sign of greatness and honor belongs to those who serve others rather than those who are served by others.

And so, the story of Yitro as a prelude to Matan Torah serves as a reminder for all of Klal Yisrael that in order to truly appreciate the Torah in all its glory and all its details, we must be ready, willing and even eager to subjugate our will to the will of Hashem and to serve the needs of those around us. Like the rebellious teenager who feels stifled by what seem to him to be meaningless rules, an Jewish individual's need for autonomy and independence may prevent him from appreciating the essence of Torah. But, just as the teens find the rules to be less oppressive as they begin to mature and understand the reason for the rules that are imposed upon them - so too, we must trust that there is value and meaning behind the many details of the Torah. In this way, we will not feel stifled by the rules - in fact, we may rejoice in knowing that the guidelines set by the Torah actually allow us to expand ourselves to be part of something greater and to lead more rewarding and fulfilling lives! May we all rejoice as we relive the Sinai experience when reading this week's Torah portion and the privilege we have to serve as part of the God's mamlechet kohanim!


Loving is not just looking at each other, it's looking in the same direction.

Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Sweetest friends - don't only look into his/her eyes when deciding whom to marry. Make sure you are looking in the same direction.

A Torah Scholar Is Like Shabbos

The gemara in Brachos [47b] has a STRANGE exchange. Rav Ami [no relation to the great Rav Ami of our times] two [people] and Shabbos can combine to make a zimmun. Rav Nachman then wondered, Is Shabbos a person?! Rav Ami explained that what he meant was that two Torah Scholars who sharpen each other in halacha combine to make a zimmun.

What was Rav Ami thinking? Did he not know that Shabbos is not a person?!

Rav Yosef Engel, the late great Poylishe Gaon: Rav Nachman misunderstood Rav Ami and took him literally. But what Rav Ami meant all along what what he said at the end, namely that two Torah Scholars combine for a zimmun. So why did he mention Shabbos? The answer is that he was alluding to the statement of the Zohar in numerous places that a Torah Scholar is called Shabbos.

Rav Sofer [Kerem Yaakov P. 122] adds pilei plaos: The gemara in Shabbos [119a] says that Rav Nachman would carry heavy packages and say, "If Rav Ami and Rav Assi would come, wouldn't I honor them in such a way". The Messilas Yesharim explains [Ch. 19] that Rav Nachman would honor Shabbos as he would honor a Torah Scholar.

Maybe this happened after the gemara in Brachos where he learned from Rav Ami that a Torah Scholar is like Shabbos.

Shabbos is called by the Zohar the day of the neshama [yoma di'nishmisin]. A Torah Scholar learns Torah and adds a lot to his neshama.

May we all be zocheh to be like Shabbos.


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Scandalous Behavior

This post is only for people with deep voices [I always like to say that I am male even though I have never been inside an envelope] who are willing to hear a little "shtark mussar" from a person who is light years away from perfection.

Every so often a scandal involving arayos [meaning "lions" but also something else] makes its way through the airwaves. We often look upon these people and say "Shame on you, you indecent, immoral, sub-human, distorted version of human being".

What does the Torah say?

First of all, don't read about these things. They put your brain through the gutter.

But there is another important nekudah "." [Get it, I made a nekuda:)]: The gemara says that in a certain way, merely THINKING illicit thoughts is WORSE than the actual deed itself. [Yoma 29 I think]

Just LOOKING at someone in a less that holy [although perfectly natural given the hormonal mechanism that the Creator endowed upon us] is a BIBLICAL [dioraisa if you want to get Aramaic] prohibition.


I have an answer and it rhymes with "ko" [I wish it would rhyme with fes]. The gemara already says that not a day goes by without such thoughts [Bava Basra 164b].

So let us get out our mirrors and tell that handsome chevre-man looking at us that he must LEARN halachos and mussar related to this aveira, he must IMMERSE himself in Torah, he must DIP in purifying waters when he can, he must stop watching movies - actresses are not chosen for their good middos, he must DAVEN that Hashem save him from impurities and he must find SIMCHA in playing for Hashem's team, so that he doesn't need to search for "simcha" on the "Sitra Achra Devils" team.

Should we get down on ourselves if we fall? NOOOOO! But we must never stop battling.

Told you it would be shtark.

Love and blessings!!!:)
Tonight's weekly ladies shiur at Yeshivas Mevakesh Lev was on the topic of music. I could tell what was said [how I got in is another question] but would you rather read the recipe or taste the food?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

מנא לן - מנא הני מילי

Sometimes the gemara asks "mina lan?" and sometimes "mina hani mili?" - both essentially mean the same thing. "What is the source for this ruling?".

However there is a difference. The mishna in kiddushin [26a] says that a field be bought with kesef, shtar or chazaka. The mishna continues and teaches that you can purchase movable items with meshicha. The mishna concludes that one may purchase movable items by making a kinyan on land [kinyan agav].

Now it gets fascinating. When inquiring about the ability to buy with kesef, shtar, chazaka and meshicha the gemara asks "mina lan". When inquiring about kinyan agav the gemara asks "mina hani mili?". Why the change?

Rav Yaakov Chaim Sofer Shlita [Kerem Yaakov simman yud] explains that "mina lan" means that we agree that it's true and are just wondering what the source is. "Mina hani mili" means that we are questioning the very premise that your halacha is true and are therefore asking "Where do you get that from?"

Now it's beautiful. Kesef, shtar, chazaka and meshicha we have a precedent for in other halachos. Kesef and shtar are koneh an isha, chazaka and meshicha are koneh an eved kinaani. So the gemara asks "Mina lan"? It's true but what's the source. However we have no precedent for kinyan agav, so the gemara asks, "Hold on, mina hani mili?" How do you know that it true at all that there is such a thing as a kinyan agav. What is your source?

לשון חכמים מרפא

Monday, January 17, 2011

I've Learned

Another set of "I've learned" that is in the category of what our Sages say "Chachma Ba'goyim Ta'amin" - If someone says that there is wisdom amongst the Gentiles, believe him.

“I've learned that no matter what happens, or how bad it seems today, life does go on, and it will be better tomorrow.

I've learned that regardless of your relationship with your parents, you'll miss them when they're gone from your life.

I've learned that making a living is not the same thing as making a life.

I've learned that life sometimes gives you a second chance.

I've learned that you shouldn't go through life with a catcher's mitt on both hands; you need to be able to throw some things back.

I've learned that whenever I decide something with an open heart, I usually make the right decision.

I've learned that even when I have pains, I don't have to be one.

I've learned that every day you should reach out and touch someone. People love a warm hug, or just a friendly pat on the back.

I've learned that I still have a lot to learn.

I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The following is circulating on the internet.

Revelations of a Burnt- Out Shadchan .....

It's so hard to please anyone these days!!! Here is a partial list of my clients .... I couldn't even get them one date, and that is why I am finally quitting and going into the pickle business.

Avraham Avinu: How can you recommend him to my daughter? Wasn't he involved in a family feud with his father over some idols? Then he left home without a GPS or a viable business plan!

Yitzchak Avinu: His brother is an Arab terrorist!!!

Rivka Imeinu: Sorry, she seems nice but did you hear about her mishpuche??? Her father's a murderer and her brother's a ponzi scam artist... .

Yaakov Avinu: Okay, he sits and learns all day... but his brother is a no-goodnik. And anyway, we heard he has a limp..... .

Leah Imeinu: Her father's a con artist, and she has ophtalmological problems. Maybe it's genetic?

Moshe Rabbeinu: Are you kidding? His parents are divorced! And worse.. they remarried! And we hear he's in speech therapy....

King David: How dare you suggest him to our yichusdike family? Our neighbor Yenti told us that his great-grandmother was a giyoret!!!

Chava: Do you know anything about her family? We never heard of them. No one knows where she came from and she can't come up with any referrals!

Please chevra, judge the person for him/herself - you're going to marry the person, not the family. You're getting married to build your home, not to please your neighbors. And finally, remember that if you are in this world, you are not perfect and neither is your spouse.

The Baal Hamevakesh would like to add that you SHOULD check out the family and you SHOULD know if there are serious genetic problems. However if the boy is like Avraham Avinu or the girl like Rivka Imeinu you should marry them despite their family problems. Otherwise, think long and hard....

A Treasure Chest

A man moved with his family into his late parent's apartment. He lived there for decades while BARELY eeking out a living. One day in his advanced age he opened up an old suitcase that belonged to his parents. Inside he found hundreds of thousands of dollars!

OYYYYY!! What anguish. Had he known he could have lived in comfort for decades while saving himself soooo many worries. Had his parents only told him.


Tell your children or ANYONE'S CHILDREN how special they are. Tell your husband what you admire about him. Tell your chavrusa where he excels in life. Anybody and everybody! Start small, with those closest to you and then expand.

You may start sharing this gift today:).

Bittul Zman

They once asked the Heilige Chiddushei HaRim, what he learned in Kotzk.

He answered "In Kotzk we were taught that wasting time is as serious as the aveira of having relations with a married woman."


One highlight from the Rebbe's shmues in L.A. The whole thing here.

What Lies Within Us

“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

AHHHHHH, Sweetest friends. People spend so much time thinking about the past, worrying about the future and reading about what is going on everywhere in the world - while ignoring the most valuable, priceless being on the planet earth.


A plea for introspection and self-knowledge brought to you by one who "seeks heart".

Love and Blessings!:)

Friday, January 14, 2011

Growing Upward & Going Forward!

This Shabbat is known as Shabbat Shira - as we see for the first time - in the aftermath of Kriyat Yam Suf - the Jewish people join together to sing Hashem’s praises. In taking a closer look at the scene in the context of Bnei Yisrael’s journey, we will hopefully gain a deeper understanding of the purpose of Kriyat Yam Suf at the time, as well as the lasting lesson that we learn from one of the most memorable events in Jewish history.

The parsha opens with seemingly arbitrary introduction, in which the Torah relates that Hashem led the Jews on a specific path in order to avoid an encounter with the Philistine nation, lest the people reconsider when they see war and return to Egypt (Ex. 13:17).

At first glance it would seem these words come to show the lengths Hashem went to protect the still vulnerable, recently liberated Jewish people from a potential battle. And yet, just several verses later we learn that the Jews would face the people they feared the most of all when Hashem tells Moshe: And I will harden Pharaoh's heart, and he will pursue them (Ex. 14:4).

From the contrast of these two verses, we see how imperative it was that the Jews face the Egyptian army one last time before moving forward in their journey towards becoming the nation they were destined to be. We must try to understand what this lesson was– a lesson that they evidently could not have learned in battling any other nation – perhaps a lesson they had to learn before they were capable of battling another nation.

The Chizkuni, among others, points out that the Jews did not actually need to get to the other side of the Yam Suf to continue on their path. According to these commentaries, the Jews traveled through the waters in a semi-circle, landing in the very same spot that they first entered the stormy waters. Accordingly, Chazal explain that the purpose of the entire episode of the sea splitting was in order that the Jews witness the final downfall of the Egyptians.

From this perspective we learn an important lesson about how we, too, can progress in our own personal life journeys. At times the fear of the unknown is enough to paralyze us, or even to force us to turn back to a past that might have been bitter and painful – but in some ways comfortable in its predictability. Rav DovBear Pinson explains that this is how we can understand the seemingly delusional statements of the Jewish people that they would have preferred to remain in Egypt. Immediately after leaving Egypt, the fear of the unknown future plagued the Jewish people – knowing they could turn back, they would do so rather than try to tackle a new challenge.

When the Jews saw Pharaoh and his army go down, they realized for the first time that going back to Egypt, to their past, would no longer be possible. This is what Moshe assures the people, as he tells them to strengthen themselves with the understanding that they will never see the Egyptians ever again:

Don't be afraid! Stand firm and see the Lord's salvation that He will wreak for you today, for the way you have seen the Egyptians is [only] today, [but] you shall no longer continue to see them for eternity (Ex. 13:13).

With these encouraging words, along with the witnessing of the Egyptians drowning at sea, the Jewish people realized that a chapter in their lives was officially concluded. It was only after this realization that they were moved them to break out in song – to rejoice in the present and to feel excitement for the future – to look ahead rather than retreat back.

With this insight we can also explain why after so many miracles they witnessed, it was this event that affected them most deeply. The song is filled predominantly with imagery of the Egyptians drowning at sea - highlighting that it was not the miraculous divide of the waters, but the obliteration of Pharaoh and his army, that had the most lasting and impacting affect on the people.

Either as an individual or as a nation, there is a balance we must strike - to be able to learn lessons by looking back at our past – without dwelling in it. The Jewish people did not erase their past from memory, in fact it was only when they recognized these events as part of their past - part of a memory of what was but no longer is - that they could move forward. In one of the final verses they call out: The Lord will reign to all eternity (Ex. 15:18). The ability to reflect on the past is what gave them a renewed spirit to rejoice and to find hope in the future and the strength to face what lay ahead.

The greatest challenge of all, perhaps, is to hold on to the moments of clarity, inspiration, and excitement that move us to push ourselves beyond our comfort levels. Indeed as the Jews continue on their journey, there are many more moments of doubt and looking back at what was (for example, see Ex. 16:3). Even the generation that witnessed such high levels of Divine revelation struggled to hold on to these most inspiring experiences to make lasting changes in their lives.

So too in our own lives we feel a sense of complacency in the status quo; the moments of motivation and confidence in our abilities to take leaps forward are often fleeting. Perhaps the best way to hold on to those passing thoughts and feelings is to let our past successes instill a sense confidence in ourselves and to solidify our faith that Hashem will continue to be with us as we try to push forward in our own personal journeys of self-discovery and growth. It is the belief both in ourselves and in Hashem' guidance that will allow the excitement of a yet discovered future to overcome our fear of the unknown terrain that lies ahead.

This coming Wednesday is Tu B’Shvat – the celebration the blossoming of the trees in Eretz Yisrael. The Torah tells us: For man is like the tree of the field (Deut. 20:29). We must recognize this is a time of renewal and possibility in our own lives. Rav Goldwicht notes that the celebration of the trees seems premature – as we would expect to celebrate in the springtime when the trees are finally baring fruit. And yet, the celebration is now – as this juncture when the seeds are planted but the trees are still far from reaching their fullest potential. We know the only way for the tree to reach its greatest heights is if it is well grounded and it is given constant care and attention. Perhaps what we are really celebrating is the confidence and the trust that our constant hard work now will prove to be fruitful in the future.

Although the progress cannot be seen on a daily basis, there is an underlying faith that the work of the farmer will pay off, which moves him to keep tending to the plant day after day. So too in our lives, we must be rooted in our past – letting the lessons of our past guide us – but we must let our visions of our future move us to be constantly and consistently working on ourselves in order to reach that highest potential. May we all find the inner strength, confidence, and faith to be able to grow upward and go forward always!


Thursday, January 13, 2011

Twelve Paths And Two For The Price Of One

Chazal tell us that the sea split into twelve different paths, one for each tribe. This teaches us, say the holy books, that there are many different paths to Hashem. The ikker, tyere yidden, is that we be on one of the paths!!

And a special mazel tov to Chemie Jacob and his wife [who has a name. I just don't know what it is. But I do know that her brother's name is Yaakov Yisrael Simcha] Mrs. Jacob on the birth of their daughter.

Another mazel tov to the aformentioned couple on the birth of their son.


Two for the price of one:)!

Mazel tov, Mazel tov!!!!!!


Good Shabbos Sweetest Friends!
“When you judge another, you do not define them, you define yourself.”

Wayne Dyer

SWEETEST FRIENDS! Ayin Tova. We decide out the outset that we are going to see the good in every person we meet. We need not make things up. People really have a lot of good to them. Think about your friends one by one and how they are all better than you in some way.

WARNING! This can only be done if you are feeling good about yourself and realize that you are special in a way that nobody else can be. Otherwise this exercise can be harmful.


Love and blessings!!!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Indescribable Pain Of Grief And Loss

“Can I see another's woe, and not be in sorrow, too? Can I see another's grief, and not seek for kind relief?”

William Blake

“No one feels another's grief, no one understands another's joy. People imagine they can reach one another. In reality they only pass each other by.”

Franz Schubert

I ponder the feelings of the family and friends of Asher Strobel who just last year was a first year student in our Yeshiva and now is no longer amongst the living. Sudden. No prior warning. Just like that.

I have Baruch Hashem never experienced such a loss and pray that I never do. But I must feel on some level the pain of those whose sense of loss and grief will continue to haunt them as long as they inhabit this planet.

What are words one can say to comfort them? I fear that words at this time are hollow.

Perhaps though the words of this poem:

“You can shed tears that he is gone, or you can smile because he has lived.

You can close your eyes and pray that he'll come back, or you can open your eyes and see all he's left.

Your heart can be empty because you can't see him, or you can be full of the love you shared.

You can turn your back on tomorrow and live yesterday, or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday.

You can remember her only that he is gone, or you can cherish his memory and let it live on.

You can cry and close your mind, be empty and turn your back.

Or you can do what he'd want: smile, open your eyes, love and go on.”


Not enough.

We must go back into our tradition and remember that only the Source of all consolation can cure the pain.

המקום ינחם אתכם בתוך שאר אבלי ציון וירושלים
For those who came tonight to the shiur - thanks again.


Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Mirror For Women Only?

I received an email from a tyere yid quoting the Shulchan Aruch who forbids a male to look in a mirror [see previous post] because it is the way of women to do so and is therefore a transgression of "Lo yilbash beged isha". This is correct. [Even though I am sure that the point of the post was not lost on him].

However the Rema in his comments on the S.A. and many of the later sources say that in our day and age it is no longer an exclusively female act to look in a mirror and is therefore permitted for men.

Many Chassidim are still careful not to look in a mirror. Those who are careful about this are blessed. Vanity is not a desired trait.

A mai'seh with a non-chossid the heilige Chazon Ish:

One time he was in a room and started walking towards the other side. He was asked where he was going and he explained that he sees a distinguished looking Jew at the other end of the room and was going to say Shalom. There was in fact no other Jew at the other end of the room.

He had merely seen his own reflection in the mirror.

זכות הצדיקים יעזור ויגן ויושיע!!
If you are involved in a relationship with a parent, spouse, child, friend etc. and it is not going the way you want it to, I have a GOLDEN piece of advice based [although not explicit] on our vast literature.


Then look in the mirror and ask the person you see what HE/SHE can do to improve the situation. If there is nothing to do and it is ALL the other person's fault [highly unlikely], then you don't really have a problem after all.

The other person does.

Love and blessings!:)

Monday, January 10, 2011

Mai'seh she-haya:

A very chashuv bachur from Yeshivas Lakewood got engaged to the daughter of one of the Roshei Yeshiva. Many of the great Talmidei Chachomim of Lakewood attend the vort. At the head table sat one person who looked completely out of place. He was the grandfather of the Chosson and even though he didn't have the external appearance of a Talmid Chochom, nevertheless he was placed at the head table. At one point he asked to speak and was granted permission.

He related the following: About a hundred years ago in a small town in Poland there was a little boy who was quite a troublemaker. One time he did something which disgraced the Aron Kodesh. The head of his cheder said "Enough is enough! Arois! You're out". The boy insisted that they first go to the Rov of the town and let him pasken. When they appeared before the Rov the boy said as follows "You can kick ME out, but what about my children and grandchildren? Did you ask them? If I leave I will probably end up marrying a non-jewish woman!! I promise never to do anything like that again!"

They were convinced and let the boy stay. He later became a Rov himself and moved to America. As it happened he wasn't successful in the education of his own child. His son announced one day that he was planning on marrying a non-jewish woman. The father cried "How can you do that? I promised in your name and the name of all the future generations that you wouldn't intermarry?!" In the end the son listened and married a Jewish woman.

Our chosson is the grandson of that son.

Sweetest most beloved friends! Before you make decisions in life, think about how they will impact future generations.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Mazel Tov!:)

Mazel Tov to

Shmuli Stern and Rachel Andron

Yitzchak Buckingolts and Tova Kahn

Menashe Benedict and Amalia Tammam

on their engagement!

Together with all of the other sweet yidden who have simchas such as brisos, barmitzvahs, weddings.

Yidden! Make a simcha happen. Set someone up. Especially widows, divorcees and other special cases.

The Great Cellphone!

I found this on Cross-Currents. My only comment is ...... GEVALDIK!!!!:)

Using the Blackberry for the first time, I called the Sudilkover Rebbe to speak to him before he returned to Eretz Yisroel. I asked him what, based upon his life experience, had helped him the most in his avodas Hashem. The Rebbe answered with one simple word, “Tefilla”.

He explained to me that a person should talk to Hashem on numerous occasions throughout the course of the day for everything large and small; before learning, before eating, while sitting at their desk at work, and even before routine errands.

The Rebbe then said me something that I didn’t expect to hear from him. He told me that in his opinion the cellphone was one of the greatest inventions in the past few decades.

The reason for this was because it gave a person the ability to walk on the street and talk to Hashem without giving the appearance that he was insane.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

My Day In The Sun

There I was in Madison Square Garden. The seats were completely filled. S.R.O., standing room only. An orchestra of 58 people were behind me playing their instruments. I sang the greatest hits in Jewish music. Fried, Ben David, Carlebach, Miami Boys, Shwekey and some of my own personal compositions. The crowd was eating it up. The electricity in the air was palpable. Interspersed amongst the songs were inspiring stories and divrei torah. So elevating. The feeling I had was that nobody, including me, wanted this evening to end. But it had to. I exited. But the cheers were overwhelming and I felt compelled to come out for one last final song. Bishaaaaaaaah shemeeeeelech haaaaamoshiach baaaa...... I finished and the crowd gave me a standing ovation. I couldn't help but feel enveloped in the love and adulation that the people were showering upon me.

Off-stage I met the organizer of the event who gave me a check for the evenings 'work'. I looked at it. Seven figures. I started licking my chops. 20 percent to tzedaka. And enough left over to solve all of my financial problems until the end of my life. I can marry off all of my children, buy them apartments and have plenty left over. A feeling of calm and serenity comes over me.

I made it.

But then I heard it. Beep-Beep, Beep-Beep, Beep-Beep. My alarm. I clumsily reached over to turn it off. Back to life. High electricity bills. Seemingly endless waits for crowded busses taking me places I really don't want to go to in the first place. Difficult people I have to deal with on a daily basis. Nagging physical ailments.

Life as we all know it.

Sweetest friends all of life is like a dream. One day we will wake up to the real world. All we will have there is our Torah and Mitzvos. Everything else will be gone with the wind.

It is worth our while to wake up now.

Love and blessings:).

Friday, January 7, 2011

Importance of the Do's and Don'ts

Remembering the Exodus plays a prominent role in both the liturgy and practice of Judaism. Often times when retelling the story of the Exodus we focus on the wondrous plagues and the miraculous splitting of the sea. A closer look at the events that took place in Parshat Bo – after the plagues but before the Jewish people embarked on their journey to receive the Torah to become the Jewish nation - will reveal timeless lessons about what it means to be a member of Klal Yisrael.

Before he could lead the Jews out of Egypt, Moshe introduced several commandments (which would be kept for generations to come), including Rosh Chodesh, Korban Pesach, and Brit Milah. Given that the Jews were soon to receive the Torah in its entirety with all its mitzvot, Chazal question why these mitzvot were given at this time, before all the other mitzvot? The Mechilta, among others, suggests that the positive mitzvot were given in order to give the Jewish people the merit by which they would be taken out of Egypt.

The Kli Yakar notes, however, that Chazal tell us that the Jews merited the redemption for other reasons - because they did not change their language or names, commit adultery, or speak loshon hara. If this is so, then why was there a need for these additional commandments to be given to make them worthy of redemption.

In grappling with the question, Shprintza Herskovits points out that the initial three merits of not changing their language, not committing adultery, and not speaking slander are all things that the Jews avoided doing. While these actions were praiseworthy given the conditions in which the Jews found themselves in, it was, evidently, not enough to merit the redemption.

By not transgressing negative commandments (sur mera), the Jewish people were indeed able to maintain some semblance of their spiritual status in the corrupt land of Egypt. However, it was only the bare minimum of spirituality that the Jews held on to, as we know that they were on the lowest level of impurity at the time they were redeemed. In order for the redemption to come, therefore, the Jews also had to demonstrate their commitment to Hashem through positive action (aseh tov).

Ms. Herskovitz suggests further that the three positive mitzvot mentioned in our parsha correspond directly to the three negative commandments that the Jews upheld in Egypt. The positive mitzvot served as a way for the Jews to both channel and develop the spiritual energy they maintained by keeping the three negative prohibitions.

Just as not changing their language served to preserve their identify, so to the establishment of the Jewish calendar would ensure that the Jews remain distinct from all others – in whatever land the Jews might find themselves in the coming generations

Likewise, the command to bring the Korban Pesach corresponds to the negative commandment to not speak loshon hara. The Talmud (Bava Meziah 59a) tells us that causing someone shame or embarrassment is likened to murder - with the slaughter of the Korban Pesach we channel that energy towards the fulfillment of a positive command.

Finally, the mitzvah of circumcision corresponds to the negative prohibition of adultery. The bris mila signifies the unique approach of the Jewish people not to dismiss physical pleasures or to indulge in them, but instead to find the balance to channel physical desires in a spiritually guided fashion. The positive commands serve as vehicles for the Jewish people to channel both physical and spiritual energies towards a positive purpose and in a meaningful way.

In any relationship, not doing anything to upset or distance the other person is crucial. And yet, it is through actions that display one’s feelings towards the other that the bond can truly be strengthened. And so it is in our relationship with Hashem. While it is essential to remain distinct from other nations by not becoming consumed by the values or tempted by practices that contradict Torah values, in order to truly live and evolve as a Jewish people, we must also focus on doing and performing positive deeds.

The duality and importance of both the sur mera (avoiding evil) and channeling the energy positively with the aseh tov (doing good) is exemplified in the custom of Pesach when we commemorate the Exodus. On this holiday we are commanded both to eat matzah and not to eat chametz. Rav Milston points to many commentaries that question the significance of both of these mitzvot, both of which serve as reminders that we were freed from bondage. Perhaps we learn from these two related, but different customs of the holiday that the optimal way to serve Hashem is both the sur mera, by avoiding chametz, and aseh tov, which is done by eating matzah.

An insight of Rabbi Cordoza highlights why the focus on action is so crucial to the practice of Judaism: as much as our thoughts shape our actions, our deeds inform our mentality. For this reason, Judaism is a religion of both faith and practice. Often times it feels that as long as we have strong Jewish identity and we avoid the don’ts of Judaism, we could feel content in our religious and spiritual status. But we must remember that it is only by going through the motions that we can both demonstrate and strengthen our faith and essentially raise ourselves up to greater spiritual heights.

This is perhaps why the Torah is comprised of both the negative prohibitions and the positive commandments – it is only with the unison of sur mera and aseh tov that we are able to optimize the spiritual energy and potential inside each of us. At different stages of our lives and in different realms of our lives it is likely that one of these presents itself as more challenging than the other. May we all find the strength to be able to find value and meaning in both the dos and the don’ts of Judaism in order that we are constantly developing ourselves as well as our relationship with Hashem and others.

Shabbat Shalom, Taly

Thursday, January 6, 2011

A Mikva In New Zealand

The Tolna Rebbe Shlita on the Lubavitcher Rebbe Ztz"l - From

When we hear that something horrible befell another individual, G‑d forbid, do we feel their pain? Or do we simply move on with life?

What is the first thing we do when we hear about a fatal accident, for example?

Most of us wonder:—near my house or child's school? Could the victim have been a family member or a friend?

When we hear that it was nowhere near anyone we know, we breathe a sigh of relief and continue with our day. Sure, we are saddened, but if our family and children are fine, life continues...

Rabbi Pinchas Menachem Alter, the previous Rebbe of the Gur chassidic dynasty, told me a story that happened in 1949:

One of the disciples of Rabbi Yisrael Alter of Gur, known as the "Beis Yisroel," was very wealthy and at one point lived in New Zealand due to his business dealings.

"What astounds me is what was on the Rebbe's mind for forty years—a mikvah in faraway New Zealand" Once, on a trip to New York to visit his daughter, he entered an elevator only to be greeted by a Jew who asked where he hailed from. He responded that he had just arrived from New Zealand.

The stranger asked him, "Is there is a mikvah (ritual bath) in New Zealand?" The wealthy man responded, "I am there for business, not a mikvah."

The stranger responded, "If a Jew finds himself somewhere, he must have a positive impact."

The elevator doors opened, both men exited and went their separate ways.

The wealthy man asked his daughter, who was waiting for him nearby, regarding the identity of the man who had rode in the elevator with him. She responded that he was Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the son-in-law of the sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe, who would later himself become Rebbe.

Over forty years passed, during which time the businessman had aged significantly. He had long since left New Zealand and he was, again, visiting his daughter in New York. He decided to go to the Lubavitcher Rebbe's Sunday dollar distribution.

When he greeted the Rebbe, the Rebbe asked, "Is there a mikvah already in New Zealand?"
The elderly man was clearly amazed.

"I asked him," the Rebbe of Gur continued, "'Tell me, what you were amazed by?'"

He responded that he was amazed by the Rebbe's memory; after all, forty years had elapsed since their elevator rendezvous!

"And I told him," the Rebbe of Gur concluded, "that was astounds me is what was on the Rebbe's mind for forty years—a mikvah in faraway New Zealand. And how bothered he was that there was none there..."

Make Here the Land of Israel

We are all connected, and it's in our power to positively influence the people we encounter

"Make here the Land of Israel," several Chabad rebbes expressed.

What is the meaning of this statement? How can one take the land of Israel – its holiness and unique qualities – and mimic that atmosphere in the Diaspora?

To explain, we turn to a discussion on Jewish law. On Shabbat we refrain – by biblical injunction – from carrying in a public domain. The rabbis further applied this restriction to an area that Biblical law does not mandate, for it is not a "public domain," and that is an enclosed courtyard or neighborhood that contains multiple private dwellings. One may not carry between two private properties within this enclosure unless there is an eruv that "merges" the private properties.

The eruv consists of a food substance, usually bread or matzah, placed in one of the homes within the enclosure—but jointly owned by all those who live within the eruv parameters, so they could all technically come and eat of that bread.

In this regard, there is seemingly a contradiction between the Jerusalem Talmud and the Babylonian Talmud. The Jerusalem Talmud says that one needs only to designate the food as the eruv; however, one does not need to actually make a transaction to transfer the food from the property of the individual providing it to the ownership of the public (i.e., all who live within the enclosure). The Babylonian Talmud says that one would need to make a transaction in order for the eruv to be effective.

The Rebbe explains that, in essence, there is no disagreement. For the Jerusalem Talmud, authored by Israeli sages, is referring to an eruv created in the Land of Israel; the Babylonian Talmud is referring to one outside of Israel.

The uniqueness of Israel is that it is natural for Jews to live there, and citizens feel an inborn attachment to each other. Outside of Israel, however, people are more preoccupied with their own lives, and feel less attached to their coreligionists.

The natural connection between Jews in Israel is reason why a transaction is not necessary for the eruv to take effect. However, outside of Israel, in order for unity, the merging of people's properties, to occur, one would need an actual transaction.

From this explanation, we might also understand the statement, "Make here the Land of Israel."

This is a call for us to create in the Diaspora a unified atmosphere, a sense of belonging, that which exists naturally only in the Land of Israel.

Give What You Know to the Other

When the Rebbe would announce a new campaign, he would say, "When you meet someone on the street, share it with him." This is the essence of the Rebbe's message: what you know, share with others. We are all connected, and it's in our power to positively influence the people we encounter.

When you hear of a tragedy, try to generate compassion, and assist your fellow as much as you can.

When you know that someone near you is lacking in Jewish knowledge, try to reach out to him or her.

For, in essence, we are all one, like two hands on a single body.
An article on the two stages of accepting nezirus. More critical reading than anything about current events. Understand the Torah better and deeper. SWEET!

More sweeteness from a sweet man.

Yet another sweet man.

The fifth of shvat is the sfas emes' yahrtzeit. Learn him:).

And Rav Zweig - insightful as always.

PLEASE daven for a refual shleima for Aliza Rachel bas Yocheved Mindel and Yoel ben Esther.