Thursday, June 30, 2011
But if you walk outside it is DANGEROUS! The pasuk says "Vi'lo sassuru acharei ... ainaichem" which means that one is not allowed to see immodestly dressed women. In New York, many of the women don't dress immodestly - they don't dress at all.
What is a ben-Torah to do?
Good question! As I traverse the different areas of the "city that never sleeps" [which is sometimes how I feel about myself] I wonder how I can deal with this issue and come out a better, holier person. Kedushah is defined by the degree that one is careful with what he looks at [see Rashi at the beginning of parshas kedoshim].
Two answers: 1] Try your best. Just because in order to cross the street you have to look up and you see things it is better not to see, doesn't mean that ones eyes should freely roam. EVERY SINGLE AVERTED GLANCE is important. Just because you have seen 50 forbidden sights doesn't mean that the 51st is o.k. 2] It is impossible to live in this world and have a job or buy food or just about anything else and not to see, so we are all anusim. We are not sinning because because it is not our fault. But at the very least we should let out a krechtz and say "I wish it wasn't like this."
Much more to say but the time is short and the work is plentiful.
Love and blessings sweetest friends!!:)
It is a tremendous zchus to be part of something like this so I am eternally indebted to everyone who participated. And of course to Mike and Debbie Schreiber who warmly welcomed us into their beautiful home - a major thank you!
Wednesday, June 29, 2011
So many wacky "coincidences"!! I attribute them to two reasons. 1] I have a tzaddik in Yerushalayim who is davening hard for me. 2] I came to America and said "Hashem, I'm in your hands, make it happen." The Sfas Emes says that the more you believe the more Hashem will show you that He is here. Not seeing is believing, if you see you don't have to believe [as the Rebbe Shlita pointed out]. Believing is seeing. If you believe, you will see. I believed and I have seen.
I have felt love for fellow Yidden on this trip in ways I never have. It was worth it to come just for that.
M. Scott Peck
Hashem wants us to be BIG. Like him.
Love is the answer.
Unconditional and all encompassing.
Never forgetting of course what Dovid Hamelech proclaimed - Ohavei Hashem sinu ra. We must always despise evil.
If I were a goy and I went to a place where nobody knew me and I said "I am a fellow goy, can you please host me for a few days and provide me with free room and board?" I don't think that it would fly.
But here I am a Jew ben Jew, ben bno shel Jew, and WHEREVER I find myself I meet Jews who are EAGER to host me. I don't even have to ask!! Of course I would LOVE to do the same for someone else. It is truly an honor to be a Jew.
Mi ki'amcha yisroel goy echad ba'aretz!!:)
And to the Goldish and Gold families who welcomed me [and Reb Yonasan] with a glad countenance and warmth. Before this trip I told myself that I really want to be successful and I used an Olympic metaphor. I said to myself "Go for the gold!!" meaning "ZEIT MATZLIACH"! Lo and behold I went to visit two families with the name "Gold" so I will take that as a sign from Hashem that Kollel Iyun HeNefesh is on the road to greatness.
Amongst religious Jews there are many, many homeless as well. The gemara says at the beginning of Yoma that a WIFE is called "beiso" one's home. Without a wife one is HOMELESS. A woman without a husband is a beautiful home but is EMPTY. How sad!
On this trip I have met many older singles with whom I am close and wish with all my heart that they would find their eternal partner. I hope that before I depart this world I am zoche to bring people together.
Tuesday, June 28, 2011
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I -
I took the one less traveled by,
and that has made all the difference
I once heard someone say that there are two ways in which one can try to make a difference in the Torah world. One is to join an already existing framework and work from within. Another is to branch out on ones own and try to start something completely new.
The latter way is FAR more likely to effect a change. It is also much more risky and challenging.
I feel limitless gratitude to Hashem that despite the difficulties that inhere, He has given me the courage to trod - on "The Road Less Traveled." I hope and pray that this will "make all the difference."
Then I thought - don't we ALL have tremendous potential that we are not tapping into?! We are nothing less that a reflection of Hashem Himself [kiviyachol] and we just limit ourselves because we don't feel our greatness.
Please daven for the refuah of HaRav Moshe Tzvi ben Miriam Yuta who is undergoing surgery today.
"The reason the world lacks unity and lies broken in heaps is because man is disunited with himself."
There is a phrase in Hebrew - "Kol hako'eys, al atzmo hu ko'eys" when one is angry he is really angry at himself. So don't get offended when people aren't nice - it is more of a reflection of themselves than of you.
Monday, June 27, 2011
"We only have person to blame - and that is each other."
Barry [Bubba] Beck of the New York Rangers when asked who was at fault for a brawl that took place during a game.
One of my favorite "this would fix the world middos" is the ability to ADMIT that one is at fault. Admitting you are wrong doesn't make you smaller, it actually makes you bigger.
"Hey G-d" said Adam, "it's all your fault. The WOMAN YOU gave me fed me from the tree." Your fault and her fault. Just not my fault.
Not being able to admit guilt is a sign of insecurity.
Let's be secure.
I REALLY REALLY want to thank all of my sweet friends and Rabbeim who came to the gathering on Sunday night. It was a humbling experience seeing people I consider so superior to me, contribute to my cause. I hope I can somehow repay you - eternally as well as in this world.
I also want to thank those who came to the shiur at YU today. Now I am putting on my resume that I am a former maggid shiur in YU:). Hopefully the Kollel will be an eternal edifice, mushroom into a Yeshiva, and I will never need a resume.
Also, numerous ladies have been so excited about the idea they also wanted to join the program if not for the fact that it is for men. But hopefully just by clicking on, anybody regardless of gender may join.
The goal - Torah on a mass scale. That is also why the people joining will one day be educators themselves we hope.
I know the choleh lists are long but each one is a person suffering and deserves our care and prayers.
Monday night at 6:oo at YU third floor of Glueck Hall [for guys obviously].
Wednesday 8:oopm at Mike and Debbie Schreibers 8 South End Court Woodmere for ladies - see previous post.
Thursday 9:30pm at the Riverdale Jewish Center, DINNER WILL BE SERVED including cholent kugel and burritos all from Carlos and Gabby's [I am told that this is very significant]. I thank my sweet friends for sponsoring the evening.
Tuesday evening I might be in Queens to see the chevre. If you live there and want to say hello you can contact me.
Sunday, June 26, 2011
The topic is "Love and War."
Somebody said something very hurtful [at least it hurt me..] about someone trying to help me out. If someone drags me through the mud it's one thing but not my friends! I am sure most people don't feel negatively towards me and what I am doing so it is just at most a few lone individuals.
My theory is that it takes two to tango so I will not get involved and only say nice things about others. The people with whom I will no longer be working next year are my friends so I really only have nice things to say.
Someone told me over Shabbos that I need to market myself more. He suuggested that in Israel there is a famous "ayin hara lady" many people go to, so I should be the "ayin tova man".
I LIKE it.
"The Ayin Tova Man."
It looks like Wednesday night in Woodmere there will be a shiur [NOT A FUNDRAISER! - hopefully by then we will be funded:)] for women. Details forthcoming.
Friday, June 24, 2011
So if anyone has any ideas, or more importantly clout, please contact me at email@example.com or at 917-715-0988. THANK YOU.
Love and blessings and a shabbos where we make a tikkun for the sin of Korach and act with love, respect and a sense of camaraderie and brotherhood [and sisterhood] towards one and all.
PS - Strange country this. Yesterday I had to go somewhere and was taking a bus from Port Authority. I wanted to pay for my ticket so I asked "Kama zeh oleh?" The man DIDN'T ANSWER and just gave me a strange look. Did he expect me to go on for free??
So I keep reminding myself of what Rav Hutner taught. I MUST give back. What can I give?
Gratitude. Bucketfulls of Gratitude.
Also, I took upon myself to daven for anyone who contributes. I live next to the makom hamikdash so my tfillos have more potency. Plus, I try to daven from the heart as one whose blog "Searches For Heart" should do. I already have a list of the names of the donors and their parent's names for tefilla.
In addition, our tradition teaches that the study of Torah with the proper motivation and in purity brings down bounty to the world. So the taking is to bring more blessing to the world.
Lastly, when someone gives they purchase for themselves a bigger portion in eternity and blessings in this world as well. Tzedaka saves from gehenom and from death. So for a few bucks it is definitely worth ones while to give.
Still feeling guilty but working on it....
Being overwhelmed by fatigue isn't helping my mood. So I will take a little bit of a break to catch some zzzzz's where my brother used to sleep [30 years ago!!]. He doesn't have internet so he can't read this and don't tell him:).
Thursday, June 23, 2011
“Every argument which is for the sake of will ultimately endure, but every argument which is not for the sake of heaven will not endure.
And what is an argument which is for the sake of heaven? This is the ‘argument’ of the students of Shammai and the students of Hillel.
And what is an argument which is not for the sake of heaven? This is the argument of Korach and his congregation” (Pirkei Avot 5:20)
The Mishnah above, often discussed in the context of Parshat Korach, does not tell us what characterizes or determines when an argument for the sake of heaven. Instead, our Rabbis provide examples of each and leave it to us to determine wherein lays the difference between Hillel & Shammai and Korach.
In understanding the story of Korach that we read about this Shabbat, hopefully we can better appreciate the deeper meaning of this Mishnah and the lesson it teaches. At first glance, the words of Korach do not seem to be all that problematic:
You take too much upon yourselves, for the entire congregation are all holy, and the Lord is in their midst (16:3).
As we have learned from previous parshiot, all of Klal Yisrael is, in fact, holy and Hashem does dwell among all of the people—so why should there be some “more holy” in position than others?
Moreover, we read just a few weeks ago in Parshat Behaalotcha that Aharon was rewarded with the eternal task of lighting the Menorah, because he had been envious of the other tribal leaders for their having been able to bring gifts during the dedication ceremony of the Mishkan. What is the difference between Aharon wanting to have more of a role in the service of Hashem and Korach’s seeming desire to have a higher role in the service of Hashem?
The difference between Aharon and Korach may be subtle, but this difference is what qualified Aharon to be the Kohen Gadol (the very position that Korach was challenging), and Korach to be notoriously remembered as a rebel. Whereas Aharon wanted to be able to give to Hashem as the other tribal leaders did, Korach wanted to take away the role of the Kohen Gadol in being able to serve Hashem on a higher level.
Rav Binny Friedman points out that the very first words we read about Korach are vayichach Korach, and Korach took (16:1). This is not merely stating what Korach did, but also who he was—he was a taker. Korach’s challenge was not a means to raise himself spiritually in his service to Hashem, but it was instead driven by his desire and greed for honor and glory.
Chazal point out that Korach’s complaint was markedly different from all other challenges of that generation, in that Korach was not complaining about something that was lacking (i.e. water or meat), or about concern (i.e. Golden Calf and Sin of the Spies). In this case, Korach was simply challenging authority in hopes to bring Moshe and Aharon down, rather than to accomplish any greater goal.
Perhaps, this is at least one level of understanding why the Mishnah defines Korach’s argument as not for the sake of Heaven—Korach’s arguments were not to raise himself up towards Hashem on His heavenly throne, but instead to diminish the power of others, to lower the status of those around him.
So often when we feel discontent with our lot in life, our status either in the physical or spiritual realm of our lives, and perhaps by instinct we are more inclined to try to bring others down to our level than we are to try to work our way up to theirs. As always, the Torah speaks to human nature: In describing the ground swallowing up Korach and his followers as a consequence of their actions, the Torah tells us that this method of trying to bring others down will only bring us down further. As the parsha continues, we learn the alternative, right way to raise ourselves in the way that Korach was unable, or not willing to do.
While Korach’s claim that all of the Jewish people are inherently holy is not wrong, what Korach failed to recognize is that everyone is on their own level of kedusha—and this is based on how hard we work to get closer to Hashem. It is true that we are all part of the am segula, that Hashem loves each one of us equally and unconditionally, but this does not take away from our obligation to always work towards better ourselves and our relationship with Hashem.
We find this lesson embedded in the symbolism of the different episodes in the parsha. In order to prove to the nation that Aharon was in fact chosen by Hashem to be the Kohen Gadol, all of the tribal leaders were instructed to bring a staff to leave overnight in the courtyard. The following morning when the people find that only the staff of Aharon flowered and generated almonds, they understood that Hashem had chosen him for this role.
Rav Frand notes that many commentaries ask why the staff contained both the bud that preceded the fruit, as well as the fruit itself (naturally, the bud disappears once the fruit bears itself on the tree)?
Rav Moshe Feinstein suggests that the symbolism of the bud along with the fruit highlights the importance of preparation—the fruit cannot blossom without proper preparation; in other words, closeness to Hashem cannot be experienced without our efforts.
In Judaism, we are not judged only for the outcome of our actions, but we are judged also on our efforts and our intentions/motivations. Korach’s words were not inherently wrong, but his intentions were. Korach wanted to prove that everyone is holy as a means to excuse himself from not having to work on developing himself or his relationship with Hashem. This is reflected also in the Midrashic account of Korach challenging Moshe as to why he must put a blue string an already blue pair of tzizit, or place a mezuza in a home filled with Torah – Korach wanted to exempt himself from giving a little more of himself - from going the extra step, in terms of his relationship with Hashem.
And so we learn from Korach’s mistake, that even after we have achieved a certain level of closeness with Hashem—we must still be working to get higher and higher, closer and closer. This is the precise fundamental of Judaism that Korach was challenging—if we are all holy, he wondered why do we have to keep working on ourselves and our relationships with Hashem?
[If we could just imagine if we took that approach with any of our relationships, it would become immediately clear to us why that is a very ominous attitude to have and detrimental approach to take in our relationship with our loved ones.]
Every argument we have, every internal debate or choice we have to make can be le’shem shamaim, for the sake of Heaven—and it should be. With every decision we make we are able to reach higher, to grow. Sometimes to gain in the spiritual world, is to lose in the physical world whether through time or effort – this is what Aharon understood, but Korach did not–to serve Hashem and to raise himself up is to be willing to give. When we are givers, and not takers in any of our relationships, certainly with Hashem, then we rejoice in others abilities to serve Hashem and try to emulate their ways—rather than try to prevent them from doing so.
May we always recognize our place as part of Hashem's beloved, holy nation - and let this awareness not, G-d forbid, prevent us from bettering ourselves constantly, but inspire us and move us to keep growing and growing, higher and higher! SHABBAT SHALOM, Taly
I was viewing my present job as chief fundraiser as "shnorring" and I wasn't feeling good about it. So I decided to reframe.
What do the following people have in common? Rav Aharon Kotler, Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik, Rav Yitzchak Hutner, Rav Yosef Kahanamen [the Ponovitcher Rov], Rav Elchanan Wasserman, Ally [Elchanan] Ehrman and ... Moshe Rabbeinu!!!
Whoaaaaaaaa!!!! Stop! Someone does NOT belong on that list!!
Wait! They ALL had to fundraise for Torah! So even the second to last gentleman belongs on the list [with mechila from all of the tzaddikim for being mentioned in the same breath with them].
Viewing my job in that light gives me the strength to plow forward and disregard the obstacles I often encounter.
Sweetest friends, we can ALL reframe when necessary:)!
Love and blessings!
I heard an idea from Rav Moshe Schapiro Shlita which made me jump out of my socks. How come Jews aren't unified? Where is the achdus that we all know is so fundamental to our physical and spiritual survival?
The answer is that each individual has INTERNAL discord. One moment he wants this, the next moment he wants something else and there is no unifying principle which binds a person into one integral being. Most of us have SPLIT-PERSONALITIES. Sometimes for G-d, sometimes for the yetzer hara, sometimes for society and sometimes .......
If we were all one as INDIVIDUALS, if our complete and undivided focus was on bringing goodness to the world and making it a more spiritual place filled with joy, them we would also be unified as a people.
Love and blessings:)!
Wednesday, June 22, 2011
Unfortunately, much of my stay I have been focused on the "green" in order to build a Torah empire. The "ends" are praiseworthy but the "means" are quite contrary to my nature. I am NOT a businessman. My father shlita is a born businessman as were my grandfather's [liheebadel bein chaim li'chaim] but genetics play some funny tricks and it skipped over me.
So tonight I found some respite from my labors and did something more endemic to my nature [is that correct english? If it is then by golly may I take a bow for a well written sentence. If it's not - then it's all my teachers fault:)] and studied Torah with a number of tzidkoniyos who traveled far and wide to let me share the pearls. They were SOOO polite and laughed at ALL of my jokes. And more importantly they tried to soak up and internalize the lessons that emerged from our discussion of Parshas Korach.
I can't summarize the whole shiur but one point that was mentioned was that we really have to be happy with who we are. A Kohen is not better or worse than a Levi. Just different. A man is no better or worse than a woman. Just different. If you need someone to give birth a woman would be better. If you need a construction worker I'd go for a guy. Everyone has his or her own purpose on earth and Korach didn't understand that. He wanted to be Kohen Gadol but that wasn't his task. The result was a swift and brutal punishment. We all punish ourselves when we exhibit bad middos like jealousy. We also quoted the Zohar so it was sort of like a "Manhattan Kabbala Center." All we need are a bunch of goyishe singers and actors and we are set.
AHHHHH TORAAAHHHHHHHHH "Kimayim karim al nefesh ayaifa" - Like cold water on a tired soul. Nothing better than Torah and Jews who can appreciate it.
Blessed are the young ladies who came and I thank them.
Blessed are my parents who open up their home to me even though they thought that I was out when I got married. A bird always returns to its nest.
And blessed is Hashem who made me Jewish which is the most awesome thing to be.
If you can't make it and you want to have a portion in the founding of our hallowed institution Kollel Iyun HaNefesh you may send donations to the aforementioned address and make out the check to American Friends Of Yeshivat Netivot Hatorah tax id#34-184177. [Any questions or inquires can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.]
LOVE AND BLESSINGS TO ALL AND THANK YOU SOOOOO MUCH FOR TURNING THIS DREAM INTO REALITY!! It is only because of people like you who care, this vision is slowly coming to fruition.
Hakattan meod meod, Eved li'am kodesh al admas kodesh,
Elchanan ben Henna Miraim
Hakoseiv Vi'hachoseim Bi'ahava Rabba, po galus Manhattan
PS - A indescribable amount of gratitude to my host and role model Reb Shmuel Binyamin Ben Tishna Rochel Leah and his wife ha'isha hatzidkonis Shira Malka Bas Binyamin Moshe Halevi for hosting us and for everything else. May Hashem bestow upon them limitless bounty in the material and spiritual realms.
"Im ain kemach - ain kollel."
Love and blessings:)!
I just spoke to him. He wants to contribute!!!!
I NEVER approached him. He just heard about it and took the trouble to get my phone number and to call me. He really didn't have to. This man works HARD for his money. But he wants to give for Torah.
Me ki'amcha Yisroel goy echad ba'aretz!!!!
Avraham Avinu didn't WAIT for hungry people in need of lodgings. He actively seeked them out right after delicate surgery in the blistering heat! THAT is the Jewish way!!
Love and blessings!
Tuesday, June 21, 2011
Admission: A smile. If you can't pay at the door you will probably pay at some point during the shiur.
ROCHEL TOOK LEAH'S HUSBAND????????
ROCHEL GAVE HER HUSBAND TO LEAH!! Only afterwards she found out that she would be allowed to "share" Yaakov with Leah [girls - how many of you would like to "share" your husband with another woman?]. How can Leah say that??
Rav Betzalel Rudinsky - Rochel gave Yaakov to Leah with such good will that she made Leah feel that Yaakov was really her's all along!!!
TRUE chesed when you make the beneficiary feel as if he is doing YOU a favor and that he really deserves the chesed. [Of course the beneficiary must always remember who is the giver and who is the receiver.]
SWEETEST FRIENDS!! I have met NUMEROUS such baalei chesed on this trip and I feel very fortunate. People who make me feel SO GOOD about taking. Taking their tzedaka for the kollel, taking their time, energy, rides, hospitality etc. Last night I received the last and most honored [be'kovodike] bracha under the chuppah. I tried to refuse but the kallah made me feel as if I was doing HER a favor by taking it.
Mi ki'amcha Yisroel goy echad ba'aretz.
I love being Jewish!!!:)
Monday, June 20, 2011
Just as Chaim found his "crown" ["aishes chayil ATERES baala"] and Atara found her "life" ["Re'aih CHAIM im ha'isha asher ahavta"], so too should every one of my sweet friends find his or her bashert bimi'heira - especially those many people I met at the wedding who are waiting for their own special day.
Another ray of bright light in this dark bitter golus which will soon come to an end.
I just have to figure out how to get ruach hakodesh and get my brachas to be fulfilled under the dictum of "Tzaddik gozer viHakadosh Baruch Hu mekayeim".
Today I went to shul and I found out that a DEAR friend Yonatan Shai Freedman formerly of the upper west side and now Gush Etzion became a chosson. MAZEEEEEEEEEEELLLLLLLLLLLL TOOOOOOOOOOOOOVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVV to Yonatan and his Kallah, Rachel Reinstein. May they build a beautiful home of Torah and Kedusha in the Land of Torah and Kedusha.
Sunday, June 19, 2011
This did two things for me.
1] It put my "problems" in perspective. I don't even HAVE problems! I just have blessings. I started to count them.
2] It made me sad for the rest of the day. I would like to go to sleep tonight but I fear that I will be haunted by the trauma of this man's suffering. It's much easier to stay up and try to learn and distract myself.
May Hashem provide a salvation for each and every person and for the entire community of Israel and the entire world.
LOVE AND BLESSINGS!!!
What I think she was really saying was "HEY, I'M JEWISH ALSO!!" A goy generally doesn't know to identify a "tallis bag".
So I made a woman feel Jewish for a moment. Maybe it was worth it to come to America just for that...
Nobody actually says that to me but that's the message certain people can certainly convey to me with their actions.
I have two responses.
1] I am not collecting for myself. I am collecting to advance Torah and Avodas Hashem amongst the Jewish people. I am also not collecting because I don't want to work. I actually want to work very hard. I take no pleasure in doing nothing and having other people give me money and anyone who does has serious problems. Leading a kollel, preparing shiurim, working with the avreichim, dealing with the finances and government regulations is hard work. But I have to fundraise because there are expenses.
2] Even "annoying shnorrers" are human beings and deserve to be treated with dignity.
This year I thought I was going to America to fundraise for the Iyun Hanefesh kollel that we are trying to found. But it just "happened" that I was here for Daniel's first yahrtzeit and attended a very uplifting, moving and poignant gathering in his memory in Brooklyn and was able to tell his family what he meant to me. I have to remember that I have my plans but Hashem is running the show and is showing me constantly that my small vision is infinitely surpassed by His Divine Providence.
One thought that resonated with me was expressed by Rabbi Eliyahu Baruch Shulman. Chazal say that there is a decree that the dead is forgotten after a year. He explained that after a year we must try to forget that he is dead and instead remember that he was ALIVE and what he contributed to our lives and what we can learn from him.
It was inspiring seeing the emunah of his family and particularly the strength of his widow who had her husband taken away after a painfully short marriage of about 2 months.
May Hashem give them simcha and all of us the realization that we are living in this world for a limited amount of time and that every second we have the gift of life we should cherish it.
This weeks Torah on yutorah.org is being sponsored in his memory please go there and listen to a shiur. I would suggest the shiurim of a close friend - but that would be self serving......
Friday, June 17, 2011
Thursday, June 16, 2011
We know that the concept of sending spies is not in it of itself problematic – as we read in our hafotrah of the spies sent by Yehoshua at a later point in our history who were successful and ultimately enabled the successful conquest of the land. The nature of the sin of the 12 spies in our parsha can thus be understood when compared with the two spies sent by Yehoshuah that we read about in this week’s haftorah. The fundamental difference between the two sets of spies is not in the number that went or the route that they took – but in the attitudes that they had toward their missions.
While the spies sent by Moshe went to determine whether the Jewish people were capable of conquering the land, the spies sent by Yehoshua went with the assumption that they would conquer the land – and it was this conviction that motivated them to go to strategize the best way to make this happen. A similar quality of faith is seen in the woman named Rachav who hid them and protected the second set of spies during their mission. Upon sending the spies away, Rachav says: I know that the Lord has given you the land, and that your terror is fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land have melted away because of you (Yehoshua 2:9).
Like the spies whom she had saved, Rachav knew that Hashem had promised the land to the Jewish people and He would therefore make sure that the land was delivered into their hands. Rachav’s steadfast belief that moved her to act, to risk her own life, and most importantly to become a partner with Hashem in making His words come into fruition. (Interestingly, chazal tell us that Rachav later converted and married Calev – as both of these individuals demonstrated the same quality of bitachon and ability to act on that high level of trust.)
If we understand through these comparisons that the essence of the sin of the spies sent by Moshe at this time was in their lack of faith and trust in Hashem, then how do we understand how the 12 greatest, hand-picked, leaders of Klal Yisrael at the time could steep to such a low level?
The answer is very much rooted in human nature and the human struggle to relate to the Divine. During their “tour” of the land of Israel, these 12 leaders realized that the transition from the desert life to Eretz Yisrael was quite dramatic for the Jewish people at the time.
Rather than feel the constant protection of the cloud that prevented them from reaching harm’s way, the Jewish people would have to take arms to conquer the land of Israel. Rather than the manna that would reliably fall from the skies and Miriam’s well that supplied an unending amount of water, the Jewish people would have to toil the lands and work to feed themselves and their families once they entered the land.
What the spies and the entire nation failed to realize was that the fact that they would now have to work and put in their own efforts to survive and to thrive in the land of Israel, did not mean that Hashem was no longer with them. We see how words of comfort and encouragement offered by Calev and Yehousha alay their fears of leaving their utopian lifestyle in the desert:
But you shall not rebel against the Lord, and you will not fear the people of that land for they as our bread. Their protection is removed from them, and the Lord is with us; do not fear them (Bamidbar 14:9).
Their message can be understood from their unusual comparison of the other nations to "bread." The Gomorrah points out that making bread requires at least 10 steps—more so than most other crops. For this reason, as Rav Binny Friedman notes, bread is the ultimate expression of the partnership between man and G-d, as it requires our actions, but also depends on the rainfall and the right weather conditions for the crops to grow.
Unlike the desert experience, in which Hashem miraculously protected and provided for the Jewish nation, upon conquering and eventually living in the land of Israel, the Jews would have to work. The challenge and the message that Yehoshua and Calev speak to is that the Jews must realize that this is a new reality—one in which we become partners with Hashem—one in which we must do our part and trust that if we do so, Hashem will do His.
There is no such thing as a punishment in Judaism – Hashem is not vengeful. Instead there are consequences for our actions. In the case of the spies and the Jews of their generation, Hashem realized that they were not at a level to be able to enter the land – only Yehoshua and Calev understood that the ideal is not for Hashem to provide for us without our efforts, but that we must be able to recognize both our role as well the involvement of Hashem in our every endeavor and success – and so only they were able to enter the land.
In this light, we can understand the significance of the set of seemingly unrelated mitzvot that we find following the incident of the spies – all of which, we will see, serve as reminders of this partnership that is recognized and celebrated when we are living in the land of Israel. First, we find the mitzvah to separate a portion of the challah to give back to Hashem. In the desert, the Jews did not have to work for the manna, their physical sustenance. But in Israel, the Jews are involved in making their bread; they were obligated therefore to perform this mitzvah to demonstrate to Hashem, and to remind ourselves, that they are partners in this process of making the bread—that without Hashem, their labor would be futile.
Rav Goldvicht explains that this is true also with the mitzvah to pour wine on the altar. Unlike their travels in the desert where there was an endless supply of water form the beer (well), the Jews took part in making the wine in Israel. By pouring the wine onto the altar - giving it back to Hashem - the Jews would constantly be reminded that it is Hashem who ultimately provides them with fruits of the land from which the wine is made.
Finally, the mitzvah of Tzizit takes the place of the Clouds of Glory that protected the Jews and surround them with kedusha throughout their travails in the desert. In Israel, the Jews had to provide their own cloak of kedusha - the tzizit meant to serve as constant reminders that Hashem is all around us and that Hashem is ultimately in control - whatever we do and whatever we are doing it is with the assistance of Hashem.
Finally, this theme of partnership between man and his Creator is found also in the last verses of the parsha, where we find an interesting story about one individual who desecrates the Shabbat and the harsh consequence for this sin. We know that Shabbat is the time in which we commemorate Hashem’s creation of the world as well as our partnership with Him in continuing to create the world—we are meant to be creating and completing the world all week, and like Hashem we rest from this work on the 7th day.
And so, perhaps one of the lessons we learn from the sin of this generation is that a life of bitachon (trust in Hashem) and histhadlut (our own efforts) are not contradictory – if Hashem is with us it does not mean that we do not have to ut in our efforts, and if we put in our efforts and succeed it does not mean that Hashem was not helping us along the way. This lesson is strengthened by the haftorah we read – reminding us that that more bitachnon we feel, the more we have faith the more willing, able, and motivated we are to put in our efforts and essentially become partners with Hashem in changing our lives and the lives of those around us. May Hashem continue to give us the strength to continue to put in our efforts, the ability to feel the Divine assistance that guides and protects us each day, and the opportunity to see the success from this Divine partnership we are part of each and every day. Shabbat shalom, Taly
Lesson: Just because he isn't excited doesn't mean it's not a great idea. I can't expect everybody to be enthused about this. But I believe Hashem is "psyched up" [kivi'yachol kivi'yachol if it's muttar to say such a thing] about this.
And that's what really matters.
This is about the BIGGEST TIME IN MY LIFE!! I have arrived in the "Malchus of Chesed" [as the U.S. is affectionately called in Rabbinic Literature] to make my dream of a kollel where we want nothing else than to produce Chofetz Chaim's [we might not get there but will get much closer by trying] a reality. Intense study of Mussar, Chassidus, Emunah, Hilchos Bein Adam La'chaveiro etc. etc. by men who realize that to grow as a Jew one must be knowledgable not only in texts but also in the internal workings of one's psyche. I have a letter from the Nasi of the Kollel, The Tolna Rebbe Shlita, giving his full support to this project. The Rosh Kollel and main [and only] fundraiser would like this trip to be such a success that he can drop the second job and focus on the first:)!
If anyone would like to reach me for any reason - even just to say hello - my number is 212-877-0589 or 917-715-0988 [if you leave a message at the second number I won't get it]. Shiurim or events will be posted on Mevakesh.
[A special thank you to a michlala girl (as attested to by her sweatshirt) who switched seats with me on the plane so I wouldn't have to sit next to a lady who, after definitely suffering from temporary amnesia, neglected to get dressed before she boarded the plane. May you and your similarly attired friends (all wearing the sweatshirt) find your zivuggim at the right time!! And may my zivug and her beautiful children manage in my absence!]
Tuesday, June 14, 2011
"If I regarded my life from the point of view of the pessimist, I should be undone. I should seek in vain for the light that does not visit my eyes and the music that does not ring in my ears. I should beg night and day and never be satisfied. I should sit apart in awful solitude, a prey to fear and despair. But since I consider it a duty to myself and to others to be happy, I escape a misery worse than any physical deprivation."
See Tzvi Moshe on "Depth Perception" [yes I note the irony].
Monday, June 13, 2011
The Ba'al Hamevakesh Lev [i.e. yours truly] will be arriving in the United States in the York that has been reNewed on the 16 of June [li'minyanom] and returning on July 4th [yontiff!]. The purpose of the trip is to turn the dream - a kollel devoted to Emunah, Avodas Hashem and Middos Tovos - a reality. If you can help in any way - or you feel I can help you in some way - feel free to contact me.
THANK YOU TO ALL and a special thank you to those who have already reached out.
Sunday, June 12, 2011
IDOLS? What's the connection. A little harsh, no?
Heilige Pnei Menachem [Gerrer Rebbe]: Just like serving idols won't help you - getting angry won't either.
כל הכועס כל מיני גיהנום שולטים בו - When one gets angry he brings upon himself gehenom. Gehenom is not the punishment. Anger is itself gehenom.
Anger is a SIN as the Rambam makes clear in the seventh perek of hilchos tshvuah halacha gimmel. It requires tshuva like any other sin.
“Speak when you are angry - and you'll make the best speech you'll ever regret.”
When angry - fill your mouth with water for 120 seconds. Take 5 deeeeep breaths. Sing an uplifting niggun.
Don't you feel better already:).
Or how about a line from Ralph Waldo Emerson [who had a reason to be angry - his parents gave him the name "Waldo"]: “For every minute you are angry you lose sixty seconds of happiness.”
Who wants to be unhappy?
I personally fight the battle against anger - and sometimes lose. What helps me is learning mussar and particularly watching how utterly stupid other people look when they are angry which apprises me of how I must look.
Also: Smiling. Learning Torah. Playing with a baby. Taking a nap. Having a drink. Repeating statements of Chazal condemning anger. Kissing my child.
Would LOVE TO HEAR any other ideas.
Love, blessings and a life of serenity!!
Saturday, June 11, 2011
Often, our friends don't tell us how we need to improve for fear of hurting our feelings, while our enemies don't hesitate. So if someone says something critical - listen and examine. It could be that he is doing you a big favor by pointing out an area of your character which requires improvement [although his intentions in telling you are less than pure].
One of the 48 ways to acquire Torah is "Ohev es hatochachos" loving rebuke. It would be wonderful if we all had a friend or Rebbe who would sensitively point out our flaws to us from time to time.
[See the sefer Doleh Umashke Page 298]
[Rav Moshe Shapiro Shlita]
Thursday, June 9, 2011
Parshat Behaalotcha begins with the command for Aharon and his descendents to light the Menorah. In last week’s parsha, we read about the various gifts that the tribes, other than the Leviim, brought in the inauguration of the Mishkan. Rashi explains that Aharon felt distressed in not being able to serve Hashem in the way that the other tribes had—for this reason Hashem commanded Aharon and his descendents with the ability to serve Hashem eternally with the lighting of the Menorah.
This beautiful insight into the connection between the two topics leaves us wondering why the section of the Menorah was not included in last week’s parsha? An understanding of the rest of the parsha reveals that there is an underlying theme of Parshat Behaalotcha in which Aharon’s command is included. This parsha that begins with the lighting of the eternal light of the Menorah is about opening our eyes to the goodness and the opportunities that we all too often fail to notice.
After Hashem describes Aharon’s duties, the Torah tells us: vayaas kein Aharon – and Aharon did as he was commanded (8:3). Rashi suggests that this is a praise of Aharon shelo shina – that he did not diverge. Rav Zeven explains further that what was praiseworthy about Aharon was not simply that he heeded to G-d’s command (after all, we would expect nothing less of such a righteous man). What was noteworthy about his actions was that each time he went to light the Menorah, he did it with the same passion, zeal and love that he did the very first time.
Rashi’s commentary is especially interesting in light of the fact that the actual job of Aharon to clean out the lamps and remove the old wicks from the Menorah each day was quite menial. And yet, Aharon felt honor and glory that he was privileged to perform such a task. Aharon chose to see the beauty and sanctity of fulfilling this Temple service and felt privileged to do so.
The next episode we read about also highlights an eagerness to serve Hashem. The people who had been ritually impure and unable to participate in the Korban Pesach are given a second chance the following month. Even though they were technically excused from offering the Korban Pesach and they were not to blame for having been ritually impure at the time, they still sought out a way to serve Hashem in this way. Like Aharon, they viewed the service of Hashem as a privilege, not a burden. As the parsha goes on, we continue to learn about the importance of literally opening eyes to the opportunities to serve Hashem and feeling the pleasure and privilege of being able to do so.
In our parsha we find Moshe pleading with Yitro, Please don’t leave us…for you with be our eyes (10:31)? Moshe asks that Yitro be their guide through the desert, for he has lived in the desert land all his life, and he will know all of the potential dangers that lie ahead. But, it is difficult to understand Moshe’s request, given that the Torah has just described to us that Hashem guided the Jewish people with a cloud by day and a fire by night. We also know that Hashem preformed great miracles to protect the Jews from scorpions and all other dangerous creatures. Why, then, do they need a tour guide or a body-guard, so to speak, when Hashem was guiding them with the clouds and protecting them with the fire at all times?
Rav Schlesinger so beautifully explains that it was precisely because the Jewish people were being protected from all these dangers that they needed Yitro to be present to “open their eyes to the blessing bestowed upon them each and every day.” Yitro would be present to remind the Jewish nation of all the dangers that the Jews could have encountered in the desert, but were protected by the hand of Hashem. Yitro’s expertise served to remind them of the Divine protection they had and the kindness Hashem performed for them at any moment of any day.
The Jewish people needed Yitro to open their eyes to see beyond the scope of their daily lives – to see all the good in our life that that we so easily take for granted.
If we have learned the importance of seeing the good in our opportunities to serve Hashem and to open our eyes to the blessings in our life, then the final section of our parsha teaches us to see the good in the people around us. In the final portion of the parsha, the Torah records the incident in which Miriam speaks Loshon Hara about Moshe. Chazal explain that when Miriam spoke negatively about Moshe’s decision to separate from his wife, she did not realize that Moshe had to do so because of the extremely high level of prophecy that he had reached. Unlike the other prophets who saw Hashem only at nighttime, Hashem spoke to Moshe at all hours of the day. For this reason, Moshe could not be with his wife for he had to always be in a state of readiness for prophecy and communication with Hashem.
In essence, Miriam did not take into account all the factors that might have contributed to his ultimate decision. She chose to see Moshe’s actions in a negative light, she did not open her eyes and heart to the possibility that Moshe had done this for a positive reason. Ultimately, Miriam learns the lesson that she teaches to all of us – to resist our human instinct to assume the worst, and instead not only assume the best of others – but perhaps to go even further to find the good that we know lies within each of us.
And so, we learn from the various episodes that are so poignantly linked in this week’s parsha the importance of opening our eyes to see the goodness around us—in the kindness that Hashem grants us in allowing us to serve Him and get closer to Him through the mitzvot, in the blessings that He bestows upon us on a constant basis, and in each other. Chazal often refer to the Torah as Torah Or –the Torah of Light – because if we can truly internalize these messages we will be able live with a lighter and brighter life outlook that is illuminated in our parsha. Shabbat Shalom, Taly
Tuesday, June 7, 2011
What do Malchus Beis Dovid and the old Yankee Stadium have in common?
Both are "The House That Ruth Built".
Down to business....
"Naase vinishma" - Naase means to do it and nishma means to understand [as in "I hear what you are saying" when you say shma yisroel the correct kavana is understand Israel].
If you DO it you will understand it. Nobody can appreciate Shabbos until he keeps it to its fullest. Nobody can comprehend the GESHMACK of Torah until he learns it. NOBODY CAN ENJOY RESTRAINING HIMSELF UNTIL HE ENTERS THE MAGICAL WORLD OF OVERCOMING HIS YETZER AND EXHIBITING SELF CONTROL. Food, the opposite gender, sleep etc. etc. To deny oneself when appropriate and to imbibe when called for is a sublime existence. [Sfas Emes]
טעמו וראו כי טוב השם - Taste and see that Hashem is good!
Sweetest friends - Shvuos is when the Jews accepted the Torah and became like converts [that is one reason we read Rus]. A ger has to accept it ALL. This shvuos let's accept it ALL! No more filthy newspapers, no more filthy internet, no more filthy movies, no more lashon hara, no more anger and jealousy.
A LOT MORE Torah and chesed and tzedaka. A LOT MORE ahavas yisroel and ayin tova for everyone. Let's decide to fill our lives with so much light [orasia=light] that the darkness is expelled!!
Let's convert back to Judaism this yontiff with all of the excitement and vigor of a newcomer.
Love and blessings and a lichtige matan torah to all!!!
Monday, June 6, 2011
"If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours."
Sunday, June 5, 2011
- "Don't cry because it's over. Smile because it happened.”
Saturday, June 4, 2011
That is why the Torah says "Vishinantom livanecha" - You must teach your sons. Ideally, a father should teach his children because only he has sufficient love to enable him to convey the Torah properly.
Chazal expound "livanecha - ailu talmidecha" - Your sons means your students. A Rebbe must view his students as if they are his own sons, otherwise he cannot give over the Torah in its pristine form.
[Based on Maran HaRav Hutner ztz"l]
We should all merit having Rabbeim who love us and students whom we love!
Friday, June 3, 2011
I again thank those who have given of their time and resources to help.
LOVE AND BLESSINGS TO ALL OF MY TYERE PRECIOUS FRIENDS WHO WANT TO BE MY PARTNERS IN CHANGING THE WORLD "YIDDLE BY YIDDLE".
A mother says "What an amazing chesed I did today!!! I served my family dinner!!"
"And?" I ask.
"That's it! I served them dinner. What a tremendous chesed!!"
EVERY MOTHER SERVES HER FAMILY DINNER!! IT'S THE MOST NATURAL THING IN THE WORLD.
"Viyihiyu aniyim bnei bescha" - Poor people should be members [not "like members" but actual members] of your household [Pirkei Avos]. Giving to the needy should be the most natural thing in the world.
[Of course it IS a great chesed for a mother to serve her family but people don't look at it that way.]
Thursday, June 2, 2011
Parshat Naso, the longest parsha in the Torah, includes several important topics and themes. The parsha begins with the continuation of last week’s parsha, delineating the specific jobs allotted to the sons of Levi and their respective families. The parsha begins:
Take a census of the sons of Gershon, of them too, following their fathers' houses, according to their families (Vayikra 4:22).
Rashi explains the seemingly superfluous words - of them too - connect these words to the closing verses of last week’s parsha that discuss the job of to carry the most sacred vessels of the Mishkan. The Torah continues to tell us in our parsha that bnei Gershon were responsible for carrying the curtains for the Mishkan and bnei Merari were responsible to carry the planks, pillars and sockets.
Rav Zeven suggests that the specific service of each of the Levite families is hinted to in their names. He explains that the name Kehat derives from the word that means to gather in Hebrew (the same as the root word for leket). The children of Kehat their entire lives were gathered around or focused on their service of Hashem. For this reason they were not merely zocheh with the highest task and trusted to carry the holiest and most sacred objects.
Implied by their name that derived from the word that means to separate or to ride oneself (legaresh), bnei Gershon focused much of their energy on resisting negative influences, separating themselves from negative influences that were tempting to them. These individuals were given the job of carrying the curtains that would separate the curtains that separate the holy, sacred space from the public sphere. They yearn to be on the level of purity of Kehat though they struggle in their pursuit to live a most holy life.
Finally, on what would perhaps be considered the lowliest level were bnei Merari – whose name implies a sense of bitterness or discontent. These individuals might go through the motions but without excitement and positive sentiments. For this reason they are assigned the “lowliest” job of carrying the nuts and bolts that held the other pieces in place.
It is difficult to claim that all of bnei Kehat were on the holiest level, bnei Gershon somewhere on the middle, and bnei Merari on the lowliest level. Instead, Rav Zeven suggests that these approaches and character-types do not represent three different types of individuals, but three moods that lie within each of us.
There are times that we feel completely motivated and encompassed by our service of Hashem. There are other times we feel the struggle of wanting to do the right thing but we get distracted or we do not always find the strength to do what we feel is right. And still, there are other times that we feel really distanced, maybe even a sense of bitterness towards following a straight and honorable path. The essential point to recognize is that all the individuals are counted and allotted specific jobs teaches us that the actions of all of these individuals are considered part of the Divine service.
We are each judged according to where we stand, according to our mindset – and so the bnei Gershon who carries the curtains and the bnei Merari who carry the sockets are elevated in the same way (gam hem) as bnei Kehat – because they are all judged according to their mindset and the specific challenges that they overcame to perform their service.
In commenting on earlier parshiot that deal with the construction of the Mishkan, Rav Hirsch notes that the Aron Hakadosh that was carried by the Leviim was never removed from the poles on which it was carried. He suggests that the symbolism of this teaches us that no matter where we are going and no matter where we are settled, we should be involved with Torah and mitzvot. Perhaps on another level we can suggest that it is not only a matter of external environments and circumstances that may be more or less conducive to Torah study and observance; no matter what spiritual state we find ourselves in we must be committed to our Torah values and ideals.
We must never think or feel that because we do not feel like we are in the right frame of mind, that our actions are meaningless – in fact our actions take on an entirely different level of meaning as Hashem knows the struggle and the effort it takes to perform each act when we are not feeling spiritually uplifted.
And so on Shavuot we will hopefully feel the excitement of receiving the Torah, as we remember the moment at Har Sinai in which we were fully committed to living a life guided by Torah mitzvot and ideals. We will try to hold on to those feelings and that elevated feeling ready to fully embrace Torah life and embark on the Torah journey. Still, we know there will be moments of struggle, confusion, and even bitterness.
May we all commit ourselves over the coming chag to living a life guided by Torah values – knowing that no matter where we find ourselves spiritually - it is our duty to uphold the Torah with all its mitzvot and that It is through our actions that we work ourselves back to a more purified internal state. Rather than letting our struggles and doubts effect our actions, let our actions influence and elevate our thoughts and bring us closer to the spiritual state we strive to be on and commit ourselves when we re-accept the Torah each year on Shauvot. Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameach, Taly
To accept the Torah means to turn your back to the world and to be completely focused on the task at hand. AFTERWARDS one turns back to the world and applies the Torah to his life and spreads the light. Im bechokosai teleichu - If you WALK in my statutes, one must take it with him wherever he goes.
But when accepting, when in Yeshiva, the world doesn't exist.
Mount Sinai is also called Har Choreiv - Mountain of Destruction. To stand at Sinai means the world is destroyed.
This Shavuos, let us face the mountain.
[Based in part on the teachings of Maran HaRav Hutner Ztz'l]
Love and blessings:)
Wednesday, June 1, 2011
While on the topic - Shaindel Feige Bas Chaya Tzivia who has been battling illness for years.
No! As we speak Yerushalayim is being built. But we are not there yet. 44 years ago we took a step in the right direction with great miracles BUT WE ARE NOT THERE YET!
למען ציון לא אחשה ולמען ירושלים לא אשקוט עד יצא לנגה צדקה וישועתה כלפיד יבער
For the sake of Tzion I will not be silent, and for the sake of Yerushalayim I will not be still, until her righteousness emanates like bright light, and her salvation blazes like a torch [Yeshayahu 62/1].
Love and blessings sweetest friends:)!
[Based on Sifrei Chassidus]