Saturday, December 31, 2011

Justifying Problematic Behavior

Tonight after shabbos 2 yeshiva bochrim were searching for cigarettes [it had been 25 hours without a smoke, Hashem yerachem!]. I told them that since Rav Nevenzahl is the Rov of the Old City and he holds that it is forbidden to smoke because it endangers health, they should refrain from doing so within the confines of the neighborhood. They started using some very unconvincing logic trying to argue that it is permitted.

So I tried something else. I said "Does Hashem want you to smoke? Do you have any source? It's just a disgusting tyveh"

"I do have a source", one of the boys retorted, "Rebbe Nachman! He said that it is good to smoke. Helps you think better."

Now these boys were Breslov Chasidim like I'm an Ethiopian grandmother pregnant with triplets. But in order to indulge in their health-jepordizing desire they are ready to become partial Breslovers.

So I asked them if they go to doctors. When they answered in the affirmative I told them that Rebbe Nachman said that one shouldn't go to doctors.

Breslovers for cigarettes only.

Shmuel Zalman Hacohen ben Etah

Liver transplant and recovering. Please daven!

Historical Accuracy

Sorry, I'm a stickler for truth. As I was typing up an article on the din of tosefes rosh chodesh I was listening to a shiur on YUTORAH where the good rabbi was mentioning great female scholars. He talked about Rebbetzin Baila Hinda who edited her husband Rav Isser Zalman Meltzer's Even Haezel al HaRambam.

This shiur is on-line and will remain there but that is a misleading statement. As he writes in the preface to Sefer Kinyan she indeed took care of his health and was involved in the technical aspects of printing his sfarim and copied his manuscript into legible hebrew but he never says she edited it. To edit his work would require many years of intense Talmud study which she lacked [unless she had some secret learning seder that nobody knows about].

So I salute all woman who know Torah. There is no greater acquisition in this world than Torah. But I felt I had to set the record straight.

Lesson: Don't believe everything everybody says....


Even me.

Feel free to challenge.

Only Hashem is perfect.


As you may know, I recently spent 3 weeks in the States. In my universe of which I am the center, this was a very big deal as my whole life was changed around. Away from wife and children, different shul, little time or energy to devote to the intense learning I am used to at home etc. etc.

When I returned I realized something strange - nobody noticed I was gone. Just about nobody said welcome back when they saw me except for the three or four people who were told that I was gone. I know many hundreds of people "around town" and not one person said "Hey, haven't seen you around recently". Even my next door neighbor! When he saw me he gave me the perfunctory nod and walked on. From this I learned that while I may at the center of my own universe - I am not even at the periphery of anybody elses.

This opened a 25 year old wound....

When I was in 10th grade I mysteriously disappeared from High School [mysterious for everyone else. I knew exactly where I was:-). There was a sighting of me in Israel]. Of the over 100 students in my class only one boy bothered to call my house to find out where I was.

This made me realize that I was gone and nobody cared - or noticed [although my chemistry teacher I am told would call me for attendance daily].

I have a few other such stories but you get the point.

So from this I learn the following lesson. We often worry what others think of us. Do they think highly of us or do they have a negative opinion. The TRUTH is that people are not really thinking anything!:-) They are far too busy with their own lives.

So instead of focusing my energies on others I should focus on the One with whom I will be spending eternity - Hashem. He is thinking of me every second I am on earth, proof positive my beating heart which hasn't stopped since I was in utero 41 years ago [save for the 1986 Mets World Series run where my heart stopped a number of times]. His opinion is the only one that truly counts.

Of course I would be remiss in not mentioning my family. When I returned there were signs on the door welcoming me back. They noticed my absence. We build families in order to give but we get much more back in return.

SWEETEST FRIENDS! Focus on your neshma, on what's inside, on fulfilling your unique purpose on earth. Nobody else fully understands who you are and what you are about. Don't become a hermit and aviod the world but do good for others for the sake of goodness and not to acquire their adulation or respect.

Love and blessings and a zees'e voch!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

A Gem

For all of my sweet friends learning Yevamos. A gem from the Heilige Imrei Emes Of Ger to the Kadosh Hagaon Rav Menachem Zemba ztz"l [killed in the Warsaw ghetto 1942]. I found it in the journal Degel Hatorah [1920-21].

ב"ה ה' משפטים

אהובי ידידי הרב וכו' מ' מנחם זעמבא שי' לאי"ט

כאשר שמעתי שיוכל להתרבות לימוד התורה ע"י המחברת דגל התורה הנני מסכים ג"כ לזה. ואולי אי"ה לפרקים אשתתף גם בפועל.

what humility! והנני כותב בזה איזה הערות שנ"נ בימים של צער בימי אבלי אולי יוכשר מה ע"י ועד הבקורת בדגל התורה

הנה האונן פטור מכל מצות שבתורה ברכות יז נ"ל הטעם כדי שישתתף בזה בנפש קרובו המת מפטירתו עד קבורתו שבזה העת גם הנפש למעלה אין לה מקום שנפטר מכל המצות כמ"ש במתים חפשי וכו' [נדה סא] ולכן רק ממ"ע כי במל"ת גם המת אינו עובר.

ועלה על דעתי שאפשר לתרץ בזה תמיהת הח"ץ בתשובה סי' א' על המהרי"ט איך משכחת מצות יבום כיון שנפטר שעה אחת בעת נפילתה ליבום כי היא והוא אוננין וכו' אבל לפמ"ש שהוא רק לטובת נשמת המת א"כ מצות יבום שאני שהוא באמת נוחם לנשמת המת כמבואר בספרי קדושים לכן לטובתו ונחמתו ניתנה רק מצוה זו

הברקה גאונית! - הוספת המעתיק

נתנאל אפרים בן אילנה דורית

12 day old having heart surgery.

No Better Than The Children

Many years ago they decided to have a parade in Manhattan to awaken people as to the holiness of Shabbos and to encourage Jews to close their stores. So they got 6,000 children together to walk a little over a mile and the Rabbis and Roshei Yeshiva would travel in front of the children in cars. When Rav Moshe Feinstein arrived at the place where the parade started he began to walk by foot. They told him that the Rabbis and Roshei Yeshiva are supposed to ride in cars.

Answered Reb Moshe ztz"l: "Vas? De kinder vellen gain tzu fus und ich vet zitzn in a car? Oib zei gayen tzu fus, gai ich tzu fus" [What? The children go by foot and I am going to sit in a car? If the children go by foot - I am also going to go by foot!"].

When Reb Moshe started to walk all of the Rabbis followed suit.

[Kol Hatorah Nissan 5763]

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Who Will Be The Lucky One

A woman goes to see her Rabbi.
"Abe and Sol are both in love with me," she says, "Who will be the lucky one?"
The wise old Rabbi answers:"Abe will marry you. Sol will be the lucky one."

Sweetest friends! Most of dating is a SHOW and the real person only emerges AFTER marriage. So don't date for too long [sometimes 3 weeks is enough as it was for me and sometimes people need more time] and remember that you don't really know what you are getting anyway. The purpose of meeting a person before marriage is just to see if eternal bliss is a possibility, if there are shared interests, goals, aspirations and some level of attraction.

After marriage the real work begins.

Breathing Room

Chaim had been a faithful Jew and was in the hospital, near death. The family called their rabbi to stand with them. As the rabbi stood next to the bed, old Chaim's condition appeared to deteriorate and he motioned frantically for something to write on. The rabbi lovingly handed him a pen and a piece of paper, and Chaim used his last bit of energy to scribble a note, then he died.
The rabbi thought it best not to look at the note at that time, so he placed it in his jacket pocket.
At the funeral, as he was finishing the message, he realized that he was wearing the same jacket that he was wearing when Chaim died. He said, "You know, Chaim handed me a note just before he died. I haven't looked at it, but knowing Chaim, I'm sure there's a word of inspiration there for us all."

He opened the note, and read, "Hey, you're standing on my oxygen tube!"

Sweetest friends! Sometimes we as parents or spouses "stand on the oxygen tube" of those around us. Let them breathe, let them grow in their own way, give them independence and don't hold them on too short a leash. Everybody is different and your way is not their way.


Anyone who received an email from "me" that asks you to open it up and is from "myzamana" - please ignore it. I've been hacked once again.....

Nine Days Of Chanukah

We know that Jews in chutz la'aretz keep an extra day of yom tov because of sfeika di'yoma - a doubt as to when the court in Yerushalayim sanctified the new month. This custom continues until this very day.

So you friends [chu"l yidden], are going to be keeping a ninth day of Chanukah, right?!


Why not? Why is it different from the other holidays???

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

False News Reports

There has been a lot of talk in the news about violent acts perpetrated by RELIGIOUS JEWS in Beit Shemesh. Well I live in Israel and I can tell you that all of the news reports are FALSE. There has not been even one act of violence whether verbal of physical carried out by a religious Jew, charedi or otherwise.

Am I hallucinating???


If a person is violent he CEASES at that moment to be religious. So it would be correct to say that imposters dressed as religious Jews were violent. This knowledge doesn't mitigate the massive chilul Hashem that was caused but it gives us a perspective on what it means to be religious. The Rambam says at the end of hilchos chanuka that the WHOLE TORAH is about SHALOM. דרכיה דרכי נועם וכל נתיבותיה שלום. So if someone is not acting in a peaceful manner he is not just transgressing one sin but the WHOLE TORAH.

So just because someone has a beard or a black hat it doesn't make him religious. And just because she wears a long skirt in the summer or covers her hear it doesn't mean she is religious. Being religious means that a person follows the laws and spirit of the Torah.

If someone causes a worldwide chilul Hashem there is NO TSHUVA for him in this world. There is only hope if he dies [Rambam]. So people who hurt others and cause a desecration of Hashem's name are the MOST NON-RELIGIOUS people around.

In Otisville [a well known prison] they have minyanim and learning in a beis medrash donated by a "graduate". Are they "religious"? Maybe. But not the Jewish religion. A person who steals or cheats is a sinner, disqualified as a witness and according to Rabbeinu Yonah in the Shaarei Tshuva, he has corrupted his soul in a way that nobody else has.

He is also really sleazy.

A religious woman had an affair? I hear about things like that all too often. But again, it's not true. She wantonly transgressed the seventh commandment, so what makes her religious?? That she can say "gut yontiff"? That she bakes a schlissel challah? The Torah says to execute her so if she WAS religious she won't remain that way for much longer for soon she will be pushing daisies.

SWEETEST FRIENDS! Let us always keep the aforementioned Rambam in mind and act in ways that promote peace. That is the whole Torah. We lament the fact that there are imposters walking around misrepresenting the Torah but all we can do is show people the truth by our behavior.

Yoma 86a - If you can't understand the following gemara it is worthwhile asking someone to explain it to you:
ואהבת את ה' אלהיך - שיהא שם שמים מתאהב על ידך שיהא קורא ושונה ומשמש ת"ח ויהא משאו ומתנו בנחת עם הבריות מה הבריות אומרות עליו אשרי אביו שלמדו תורה אשרי רבו שלמדו תורה אוי להם לבריות שלא למדו תורה פלוני שלמדו תורה ראו כמה נאים דרכיו כמה מתוקנים מעשיו עליו הכתוב אומר (ישעיהו מט, ג) ויאמר לי עבדי אתה ישראל אשר בך אתפאר אבל מי שקורא ושונה ומשמש ת"ח ואין משאו ומתנו באמונה ואין דבורו בנחת עם הבריות מה הבריות אומרות עליו אוי לו לפלוני שלמד תורה אוי לו לאביו שלמדו תורה אוי לו לרבו שלמדו תורה פלוני שלמד תורה ראו כמה מקולקלין מעשיו וכמה מכוערין דרכיו ועליו הכתוב אומר (יחזקאל לו, כ) באמור להם עם ה' אלה ומארצו יצאו

Love and peace!

Singing With Joy


1942 in Perigueux, France, a few men hurried into a rundown wooden barrack. Each opened the door carefully looking around to make sure they weren’t being followed. They then went into a hidden backroom. This room served as the makeshift Shul for those brave enough to venture out. The "shul" barely scraped together a minyan of men to pray.

They davened Maariv quickly, their hearts rapidly beating with the knowledge that at any moment the Nazis could storm in and arrest everyone. One man lit the menorah as the others ran to grab their coats and get home as fast as possible.

Suddenly, a man in the back of the room stood up and in a deep, warm voice started to sing “Maoz Tzur.” The men were frightened and aghast. Someone might hear; it was too dangerous! Soon another man joined in singing, then another and another, until everyone was tearfully and courageously singing with joy. For the moment, gone were the fears of the Nazis. For a few moments, Chanukah was there in all its glory, as in days of Judah the Maccabbe, a few brave men stood proud, their faith prevailing over the evil surrounding them.

Ya Gotta Believe

The shulchan aruch rules that if one forgets al hanissim in bentching he should say הרחמן יעשה לנו ניסים ונפלאות כשם שעשית לאבותינו בימים ההם בזמן הזה - Hashem should perform miracles today just as he did in those days. The commentaries wonder - We are normally not allowed to daven for miracles, so why are we supposed to do so on Chanuka?

Answer: Chanuka is a time of emuna in the power of Hashem. If we have such emuna we can daven for miracles. All we have to do is recognize that nature and miracles are the same thing emanating from the same source.

[Klausenberger Rebbe]

זאת חנוכה

The eighth day of chanukah is called וזאת חנוכה based on the words we read in the Torah. But there is more. The Greeks didn't get to the pure vial of oil that had the seal of the kohen gadol. The kohen gadol goes into the holy of holies בזאת יבוא אהרן אל הקודש. AH! There is the זאת again. Chazal say that בזאת "with this" is referring to the BRIS MILAH. In the merit of bris milah Aharon entered the holy of holies. The bris is performed on the ... 8th day!

Seven is nature. There are six directions in the physical world: Up, down, north, south, east and west. The internal point of our physical reality is the seventh dimension. That is Shabbos and Shmitta - the seven that gives nature its existence.

Eight? Eight transcends nature. In the merit of bris milah, called "os bris kodesh", Aharon entered the holy of holies. The Greeks were able to defile all seven dimensions of nature. But the eighth, that level of kohen gadol, of the holy of holies, of bris milah, the Greeks couldn't touch.

This generation has suffered an assault on the kedushas ha-bris. The billboards, television, movies, internet etc. etc. puts us all [including people like me whom they call "Rabbi". Rabbis have yetzer haras too, as my yetzer reminds me many times a day...] in a very precarious situation. It has been said that one stroll down a New York City street poses more challenges to a Jew than he had in 70 years of life in a Polish shtetl.

What should we do? This זאת חנוכה we should try to merit our own entry into the holy of holies by guarding the bris.

So guys - keep your heads in Torah, chesed, tefilla, family and parnasa. Be too busy for your yetzer hara. When we go on vacation the yetzer goes to work.

Ladies - You probably just want to look good and have no evil intentions to entrap unsuspecting men in sin [if you read this blog... Not every woman is such a tzadekes]. But due to chemicals Hashem put in the male body in order to ensure the propogation of the species, when a guy sees you he is liable to lose ALL of the spirituality he might have acquired. The midda is called "yesod" which means foundation. If there is no foundation there is no building. By focusing on your internal world you help others focus on there own.

That makes the world a more spiritual place filled with light. When then Kohen exited the holy of holies his face was shining.

[Based in part on the Maharal]


Wednesday night a shiur for women at Ohr Hachaim 5 in the Old City at 8:30. We thank our organizer D.R.!

מזל טוב

An enormous mazel tov to Taly Wolfson and Marc Braunstein on their marriage last night. May their union be blessed with Infinite Light and joy! We thank Taly for all of the light she has shared with us in her weekly parsha essay.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Shiur To Inspire

My sweet friend Rabbi Mordechai Yitzchak Schiffman on GRATITUDE.

The Three Decrees

Holiness can be found in three realms, space, time and soul [olam-shana-nefesh] as is taught in the kabalistic book Sefer Hayetzirah. This is based on the word "ashan" [by golly my computer refuses to write hebrew characters!] we see at Har Sinai [vihahar koolo ashan], the ayin is olam, the shin is shana and the nun [not the one with the habit] is nefesh.

The Greeks famously banned three things corresponding to "ashan". Shabbos, Rosh Chodesh and Milah. Shabbos is the blessing the Jews bring to the world which is above nature. Chodesh is our holiness in time. We count according to the moon which is constantly renewed. Milah is the mark of holiness on our nefesh [a person's soul is blemished if he lacks a bris].

Sfas Emes 1847
Our 100th post at shmatsabaitzlusa and it's a DOOOOZER. If anybody can enlighten me on what was written I would be grateful.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Was The Brisker Rov Influenced By Movies?


But it is well known in the Yeshiva world that he paskened that one may light the chanuka candles until the end of the last movie at the infamous Edison theater in Jerusalem. The reason being that one may light as long as there are people on the street and until a few minutes after the last movie there were still people on the street.

So until when can one light? Check your movie listings!

I must note that in "The City That Never Sleeps" one could theoretically light all night. OF COURSE the ideal time to light is at sunset or three stars.

Did The Greeks Really Contaminate All Of The Oil?

The gemara says that the Greeks defiled ALL of the oil in the heichal [beis hamikdash]. So how does the gemara turn around and say that they found a vial of pure oil when it JUST SAID that they defiled ALL of the oil?

I have read this gemara about 10,000 times and never thought of that question.

But the Sfas Emes did [5633]!

2 answers.

1] Maybe they found the pure oil buried underground, so it was not in the heichal.

2] Hashem created a new miraculous oil after the Greeks defiled everything. This would also answer the question, why 8 days when the miracle was really only seven days [because they found enough for the first day, it was the last seven that were miraculous]? But now we understand that the vial that they found was a miraculous vial of oil.

Of course we would then ask a kasha. But I don't want to ruin the fun so we'll leave it here.


A man innocently walks down Broadway and 93rd street with a hamburger and fries in hand. Suddenly out of nowhere 6 foot 9 inches 295 pounds of pure muscle comes charging towards him like an uncaged lion who hasn't eaten in 3 days and rams his helmeted head into the unexpecting man's back. The poor man goes flying until he hits the pavement and starts writhing in pain. From the force of the hit his hamburger and fries go loose whereupon the attacker grabs them and starts running in the opposite direction at top speed. The victim's spinal cord will never be the same...

Now, what happens to the attacker? If we catch him - five years in prison for assualt and battery.

OK - Substitute the word football instead of hamburger and fries and put the victim on a "football field". What happens to the attacker? He gets a STANDING OVATION from 70,000 screaming fans, he gets on the news and for a few more of those a new contract for millions of dollars.

Greece, "Sparta", sports, the Olympics. This chanuka as we battle the Greeks we can ask ourselves if the Western fixation on sports has a place in our Jewish lives.

A Party You Would Not Want To Have Attended [Updated Post]

I have been informed by a reliable source that a CHRISTMAS PARTY took place in an apartment next to "...." a WELL KNOWN Jewish institution and it was attended by students of both genders.

Here is a copy of the email... [reprinted w/ permission]


Something to cry about? An xmas party occuring across the hall from us hosted by "yeshiva" boys in our 90% (very) frum building (mostly smicha/kollel families). The most possibly pritzusdik dressed ... girls and .. boys. HKBH should deal with our Holy nation with rachamim and with the zchus of the tzadikim, the kedoishim and the tahorim we should be saved in such a tuma-filled world. And there should be EXTRA Toirah learned tonight to counterbalance the filth!

This to my mind is a scandal no smaller than what happened recently in New Jersey. I want to cry or rip kriyah or both. Too bad they didn't ask me to speak. I would have read an article written by a priest on what Christianity and this day horrible day represent. An excerpt:

Rev. John T. Pawlikowski, OSM, Ph.D. Professor of Social Ethics, Catholic Theological Union,

Chicago Chair, Committee on Church Relations and the Holocaust, United States Holocaust Memorial Council

Antisemitism has many parents. Scholars of ancient civilizations have revealed the presence of a cultural antipathy towards Jews and their religion in Greco-Roman society. There is little question that some of the early Gentile converts to Christianity shared in this cultural bias. As Gentiles they also were not well acquainted with the internal life of the Jewish community at the time of Jesus. Hence they read many of the New Testament texts as condemnations of Judaism as such rather than internal quarrels which were commonplace within the Jewish community of the period.

Competition for converts and other factors led to an intensification of Jewish-Christian conflict towards the end of the first century even though there is evidence of continued Jewish-Christian interaction, including Christian participation in Sabbath worship, in some areas well beyond that. These conflicts had a negative impact on the writers of certain parts of the New Testament especially the author of the gospel of John which was compiled about this time. In several places John' s gospel associates "the Jews" with darkness and with the devil. This laid the groundwork for centuries of Christian characterization of Jews as agents of the devil, a characterization which found its way into medieval popular religion and eventually into passion plays.

In the second century and beyond, many of the principal Fathers of the Church began to write of Jews as a "rejected people" who were doomed to a life of marginality and misery. Jews were to wander the world as a "despised people." This image persisted in Christian preaching, art and popular teaching for centuries to come. In certain countries it often led to civil and political discrimination against Jews and in some instances to physical attacks on Jews which resulted in death. While some Popes, bishops and Christian princes stepped up to protect Jews, they were clearly a minority. It was only in the mid-twentieth century that the Catholic Church and many Protestant denominations issued major statements repudiating this anti-Judaic theology and began a process of constructive Christian-Jewish interaction.

When the Nazis came on the scene in Germany they were able to draw upon the legacy of Christian anti-Judaism even though biologically-based antisemitism went well beyond classical Christian anti-Judaism by arguing for the annihilation of the Jews rather than only for their misery and marginality. Christian antisemitism provided an indispensable seedbed for the success of Nazism on the popular level. It led some Christians to embrace the Nazi ideology and many others to stand on the sidelines as masses of Jews were exterminated.

In the following pages noted Scripture scholar and theologian Gerard Sloyan has detailed in chronological fashion the "shadow" on the cross of Christianity. It does not make for pleasant reading. But it is a legacy that must be confronted with honesty and remorse. Knowledge of this history of antisemitism within the Christian churches is indispensable for any full understanding of the Holocaust.

For more you can go here.

I am SOOO sad. May we see the geula bi'karov.


Chazal give the following mashal: There was a blind man who was led on the way by a man who could see. When they arrived home the seeing man asked the blind man to light a candle for him. The blind man asked "The whole way you led me, whay do you need ME to light a candle for YOU?" The seeing man replied "I want you to light a candle on my behalf so that you don't feel indebted to me".

That is the menorah. When we traveled Hashem led us with his fire. He told us to light the menorah "on his behalf" in the mishkan so that we don't feel indebted to him.

What a HUGE lesson. Sometimes you do a favor for someone and he wants to repay you in some way. The greatest chesed you can do is ACCEPT the favor so that the person doesn't feel indebted to you. By REFUSING to accept you leave the person with that horrible feeling of OWING.

We also see that the menorah [and the menorah of chanuka which is modeled after the original menorah in the mishkan] is about expressing gratitude to Hashem and lighting candles to light the way for Him.

Based on the foregoing, Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz said that on chanuka we must talk about gratitude. Indeed the gemara calls these days days of hoda'a.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

A Rabbinic License Not To Learn

Tonight the 24th of December is "Nittel Nacht" [in Israel it is already the 25th and the church bells are ringing outside my home. POO POO POO FAA FAA FAAAH MAY THEY SEE THE LIGHT AND ABANDON THEIR IDOLS NA NA NAA].

The custom amongst chasidim is not to learn Torah on this night. [I am involved in the sugya of birkas haroeh and learned last night. Hope you don't lose respect for me...:-)] There are many reasons given. The most simple is that in Europe the Jews couldn't go to the beis medrash because drunk partiers would kill them.

Here is another from the Bobover Rebbe ztz'l the Kdushas Tzion [from the Torah journal Ohr Yisrael]. I like it because it has a mussar twist. I am sorry if you don't understand the hebrew. It is 5am, my sweet daughter is draped over my arm and this is no time for writing translations...:

מנהג ישראל מימי קדם שלא ללמוד בליל ניטל ורבים חתרו לדעת מדוע והנה אותו האיש הי' תלמיד ר"י בן פרחיה ולבסוף כישף והסית ומזה נראה דהעיקר מ"ש חז"ל באבות לא המדרש עיקר אלא המעשה דאותו האיש אף שלמד הרבה כיון שהיה תלמיד ללא מעשה יצא לתרבות רעה. ולכן תיקנו שלא ללמוד כדי להראות שלימוד שאינו מביא לידי מעשה אינו כלום. ואפשר להעמיס זה בדברי דוד המלך תהלים קי"ט עת לעשות לה' הפרו תורתך שיש זמן ועת שצריך להראות שהעיקר הוא המעשה ולכן הפרו תורתך אין לומדים באותו זמן כי ביטולה של תורה זו קיומה. דרך אגב מובא בשם ר"י איבשיץ שהשיב לכומר אחד כיצד מתקיים העולם והרי באותה שעה אין לומדים תורה והרי כתיב שלולי לימוד התורה לא נתקיימו שמים וארץ והשיב לו שמנהג ישראל תורה הוא

What People Never Forget

“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.”

That quote rang so true for me. When I see someone I often have a flashback to a time he made me feel good - or otherwise. That is what remains with a person.

Part of our egocentrism but a reality of the human condition....

Worthwhile keeping it in mind.

Tis The Season

On this x-mas day - a critique of the religion, here. There is also a part 2. If you are interested send me an email and I'll link you.

Man And Animal Part 6

With this deep perspective in hand we can understand how when learning Torah, the distinction between the feeling we have when serving Hashem through gmilus chasodim and the feeling we have when serving Hashem through avoda bein adam laMakom is blurred. When we involve ourselves in chesed, the feeling is that we have while our friend doesn't, whereas the feeling we have when we serve Hashem bein adam lamakom is that we have nothing and He has everything. The former engenders a feeling of being a "giver" while the latter engenders a feeling of being a "taker". When we learn Torah we encompass both feelings. The gemara says that after one learns Torah it becomes "his" [first "ki bi'toras HASHEM cheftzo" and then it is transformed into "ubi'torasO (your Torah) yehege yomam vo'laila"]. After one nullifies his intellect to the Divine, Torah'dike intellect, his own natural intellect becomes Torah'dike and his halachic decisions become part and parcel of the Torah. In other words in order to become the biggest giver, one must first be the biggest receiver. That is what we meant when we said that through the course of learning Torah the distinction between gmilus chasodim [giving] and avoda [taking] is blurred. This was part of the removal of barriers between what is above and what is below at Har Sinai that we discussed earlier.

The luchos also expressed the dichotomy of Torah. The first five are bein adam la'Makom while the second five are bein adam lachaveiro [the mekubalim say that the 10 commandments start with "Anochi" and conclude with "rayecha" also expressing this idea]. The two luchos are combined into one integral unit. So the essence of Matan Torah is embodied in the luchos - the removal of the barrier between above and below, bein adam lachaveiro and bein adam lamakom.

We return to the statement of the Maharal that there is a special connection between the power of the light of Torah [maor she-batorah] to bring us back to good and the luchos. His words are EXACTLY what we have explained in this maamar. The ability of the light of Torah to bring us back to good is derived from the removal of the barriers between above and below and the absorption of this good into the soul of the Jewish People was completed at Matan Torah.


Is anybody following???

If not [or if yes] PLEASE tell me!

Friday, December 23, 2011

All For One

Rabbi Zweig on the parsha from

"So the sons of Israel came to buy provisions among the arrivals..."(42:5)

The Mishna in Megilla records the various sections of prayer which require a "minyan" - quorum, for they are "devarim shebikedusha" - imbued with higher levels of sanctity.[1] The fact that these sections require a minyan is derived from the verse "venikdashti besoch Bnei Yisroel" - "and I will be sanctified in the midst of Bnei Yisroel".[2] Utilizing the hermeneutic principle, known as the "gezeira shava", a cross-indexing of similar terms from different sources to shed light upon one another, the Talmud Bavli derives that a minyan must be comprised of a minimum of ten people. The aforementioned verse which discusses the sanctification of Hashem in the midst of Bnei Yisroel uses the term "toch" - "midst". This word is also found in connection to Korach's evil assembly, where Hashem instructs Moshe and Aharon "hibadlu mitoch eidah horah hazos" - "separate yourselves from amidst this evil assembly". Noting that the word "toch" is juxtaposed to the word "eidah" - "assembly" or "congregation", the Talmud cites a third verse which defines the number of people in an eidah. In Parshas Shelach, the spies are referred to as an "eidah"; the verse states "ad masai lo'eidahharah hazos" - "how long for this evil assembly". Since the verse refers to only those spies who provoked Hashem, Calev and Yehoshua are excluded, leaving the group as an assembly of ten. Having defined the term "eidah" as "ten souls", "toch", which is juxtaposed to "eidah", also refers to a minimum of ten. Therefore, the sanctification of Hashem in the "midst" of Bnei Yisroel requires a minyan.[3]
The Talmud Yerushalmi cites a source from this week's parsha to derive the number of people required for a minyan.[4] The verse relates that the ten sons of Yisroel entered Mitzrayim "besoch haba'im" - "among the arrivals". The term "besoch" can be cross-referenced to the verse referring to the sanctification of Hashem. This appears to be a much simpler way of deriving the same result concluded by the Talmud Bavli. Why does the Talmud Bavli follow what appears to be a more convoluted derivation than that of the Talmud Yerushalmi?

Rashi cites a Midrash which says that Yaakov's sons all entered Mitzrayim through separate gates.[5] There is a difference of opinion as to why the brothers took this course of action. The reason given by Rashi is that Yaakov specifically instructed them to enter separately to protect them from an "ayin hara" - "evil eye".[6] Another opinion states that the brothers, who were searching for Yoseif, decided that the most effective and expedient manner in which to do so was by entering the city through different entrances.[7]

A minyan is not merely ten men praying individually. In order to achieve a minyan, there must be a collective meeting of the minds; the people involved must be united for a common purpose and cause. If the brothers had separated with the specific intent to not be seen together, this cannot be the source for the requirements of a minyan, which requires the group to be united and cohesive. However, if the brothers had separated in order to locate Yoseif in the most efficient manner, this is the ideal source for the requirements of a minyan, for they shared a common purpose and worked together cohesively to attain a unified goal.

The Talmud Bavli understands that the brothers separated because they were following the instructions of Yaakov. Therefore, the Bavli seeks another source to prove the number required for a minyan. The Talmud Yerushalmi, understanding that the brothers were united by the common goal of finding Yoseif, defines the minimum number of people required for a minyan according to this incident.

1.Megilla 23b 2.Vayikra22:32 3.Megilla ibid 4.Berachos 7:3 5.42:5 6.Ibid 7.Bereishis Rabbah 91:6

From we see the importance of feeling connected to the other people in the minyan. Do we feel that way or are they merely there in order to help us fulfill our responsibility to daven with a minyan?

Good Shabbos and a lichtige Chanuka:-)!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Reb Tzvi Moshe - Don't Miss It!

Our chosson chases chanuka depth - placing the beis hamikdash on our doorsteps.


From an article in Psychology Today - triggered by an email from someone [I won't give your initials just in case you think someone will figure it out] who is a perfectionist.

Today's hothouse parents are not only over-involved in their children's lives, they demand perfection from them in school.

And if ever there was a blueprint for breeding psychological distress, that's it. Perfectionism seeps into the psyche and creates a pervasive personality style. It keeps people from engaging in challenging experiences; they don't get to discover what they truly like or to create their own identities. Perfectionism reduces playfulness and the assimilation of knowledge; if you're always focused on your own performance and on defending yourself, you can't focus on learning a task.

Here's the cosmic thigh-slapper: Because it lowers the ability to take risks, perfectionism reduces creativity and innovation—exactly what's not adaptive in the global marketplace.
Yet, it does more. It is a steady source of negative emotions; rather than reaching toward something positive, those in its grip are focused on the very thing they most want to avoid—negative evaluation. Perfectionism, then, is an endless report card; it keeps people completely self-absorbed, engaged in perpetual self-evaluation—reaping relentless frustration and doomed to anxiety and depression.

No one knows this better than psychologist Randy O. Frost, a professor at Smith College. His research over the past two decades has helped define the dimensions of perfectionism. This, he's found, is what perfectionism sounds like:

"If someone does a task at work or school better than me, then I feel like I failed the whole task."

"Other people seem to accept lower standards from themselves than I do."

"My parents want me to be the best at everything."

"As a child, I was punished for doing things imperfectly."

"I tend to get behind in my work because I repeat things over and over."

"Neatness is very important to me."

Each statement captures a facet of perfectionism:

Concern over mistakes: Perfectionists tend to interpret mistakes as equivalent to failure and to believe they will lose the respect of others following failure.

High personal standards: Perfectionists don't just set very high standards but place excessive importance on those standards for self-evaluation.

Parental expectations: Perfectionists tend to believe their parents set very high goals for them.

Parental criticism: Perfectionists perceive that their parents are (or were) overly critical.

Doubting actions: Perfectionists doubt their ability to accomplish tasks.

Organization: Perfectionists tend to emphasize order.

By itself, having high standards (or being orderly) does not impale a person on perfectionism; it is necessary, but not sufficient. "Most people who are successful set very high standards for themselves," observes Frost. "They tend to be happy." What turns life into the punishing pursuit of perfection is the extent to which people are worried about mistakes.

Concern with mistakes and doubts about actions are absolute prerequisites for perfectionism.

Perfectionists fear that a mistake will lead others to think badly of them; the performance aspect is intrinsic to their view of themselves. They are haunted by uncertainty whenever they complete a task, which makes them reluctant to consider something finished. "People may not necessarily believe they made a mistake," explains Frost, "they're just not quite sure; they doubt the quality of their actions." Intolerance for uncertainty characterizes obsessive compulsive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder, too.

But it's only paralyzing in the presence of parental criticism and exacting expectations. It's one thing to strive for perfection, another to demand it. "Overly demanding and critical parents put a lot of pressure on kids to achieve," says Frost. "Our studies show that is associated with perfectionism." It's transmitted in subtle ways. There's a modeling effect, so that parents who are obsessively concerned with mistakes raise children who are, too. And there's an interpersonal effect, transmitted by an authority figure in a child's life who is overly critical and demanding.

Pushing for perfection clashes with children's developmental needs. If a child's sense of self comes to rest on accomplishments, they buy into the idea that they're only as good as they achieve. Driven from within to reach that impossible ideal, perfection, they become compliant and self-focused.

"There's a difference between excellence and perfection," explains Miriam Adderholdt, a psychology instructor at Davidson Community College in Lexington, North Carolina, and author of Perfectionism: What's Bad About Being Too Good? Excellence involves enjoying what you're doing, feeling good about what you've learned, and developing confidence. Perfection involves feeling bad about a 98 and always finding mistakes no matter how well you're doing. A child makes all As and one B. All it takes is a parent raising an eyebrow for the child to get the message.

The truly subversive aspect of perfectionism, however, is that it leads people to conceal their mistakes. Unfortunately, that strategy prevents a person from getting crucial feedback—feedback that both confirms the value of mistakes and affirms self-worth—leaving no way to counter the belief that worth hinges on performing perfectly. The desire to conceal mistakes eventually forces people to avoid situations in which they are mistake-prone—often seen in athletes who reach a certain level of performance and then abandon the sport altogether.
Frost also looked at writing ability in college students. "We found that those with great concern over mistakes did poorly on a writing test. People learn to write by showing their work to others and having it critiqued. Perfectionists avoid having their writing evaluated. They avoid courses that require sharing their writing . They don't develop their writing skills because they don't put themselves in the right environment." The pressures of perfectionism similarly keep people from developing social skills and emotion-regulation skills that would help them cope in life.
Perfectionism is self-defeating in still other ways. The incessant worry about mistakes actually undermines performance. Canadian psychologists Gordon L. Flett and Paul L. Hewitt studied the debilitating effects on athletes of anxiety over perfect performance. They uncovered "the perfection paradox." "Even though certain sports require athletes to achieve perfect performance outcomes, the tendency to be cognitively preoccupied with the attainment of perfection often undermines performance." Overconcern about mistakes orients them to failure.
Preoccupation with perfection also undermines performance in cognitively based academic pursuits such as math—especially among the best students, those who have superior working-memory capacity. Such students are most apt to choke under pressure, which selectively erodes their memory capacity.

Emote Control

In the grand scheme of things, perfectionism is an intrusive form of parenting that attempts to control the psychological world of the child. But where does psychological control come from? At the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium, developmental psychologist Luc Goossens and colleagues have identified two distinct sources of psychological control.

One is the parents' own perfectionism, an excessive concern with mistakes. Parents approve of their children only when high standards are met. Using covert, indirect techniques—a sigh, a strategic silence, the raised eyebrow—perfectionist parents apply their psychological control on the children, who then become self-critical.

Another source of control is parents' separation anxiety. The adults are overly attached to their kids and anxious about their growing autonomy ; a child's continued development poses the threat of emotional loss and abandonment to the parent. Such parents guilt-trip their kids, approving of their behavior only when the children remain close and dependent on them. Parents tend to resort to keeping their children dependent when their own adult relationships are less than fulfilling.

Whether stirred by fear of loss or a need for status, parents who employ psychological control focus primarily on their own personal needs, not their children's developmental needs.
Suniya Luthar was not at all prepared for the discovery she made about the modern pressures on kids. Children of upper-class, highly educated parents, she explained in a 2005 article, "Children of the Affluent," experience just as many problems as inner-city kids—and in some cases, more. Luthar tracked the source of their problems. First and foremost are achievement pressures. "Children with very high perfectionistic strivings—those who saw achievement failures as personal failures—had relatively high depression, anxiety, and substance use, as did those who indicated their parents overemphasized their accomplishments, valuing them disproportionately more than their personal character."

How to Criticize
The big element influencing perception of parental relationships is criticism. Criticism implying that affection or approval is conditional on good performance is lethal. What's destructive is the actual or threatened withdrawal of affection or approval: the expression of anger when he gets something wrong or disappoints, even a sigh or sounds of exasperation, irritation, or annoyance.

Never tell kids that second best is not good enough. If you feel disappointment in a child's performance, use it constructively. Ask her to evaluate her performance. "Are you happy with it?" "Why?" "What did you get out of it?" Ask: "What would you do differently next time?"
Ask a child what he needs in order to do as well as he wants. Maybe your child needs more sleep or to learn how to prioritize.

Offer support verbally and nonverbally. Empathize with the child: "This stuff is hard, isn't it?"
If a child leaves her homework for the last minute and consequently doesn't do well on a test, don't put the knife in with "I told you so." Instead, capitalize on her own disappointment. "You're not happy with the way things turned out, are you?" Ask: "What can you do next time to make it come out the way you want?"

How to Give Praise

Praise given the wrong way can reinforce the need to be perfect.

Reward the process and the effort, not the talent or the product. Shifting focus to effort illuminates the key to mastery.

When a child gets a great grade on a paper, resist the urge to say: "You're brilliant." Instead say:
"You're a really good thinker." Be specific: "It's great that you connected X to Y." Or ask a question that focuses attention on the thinking: "What got you interested in this?" If you praise kids' intelligence and then they fail at something, they think they're not smart anymore, and they lose interest in work. But kids praised for effort get energized in the face of difficulty.

Praising effort also gives kids (and adults) the keys to their own mental health. The brain is built so that it generates positive mood states—and subdues negative ones—as it works hard toward a meaningful goal.

White Hairs

Rav Chaim Soloveitchik said that every white hair is like a subpoena to court - the Divine court. It reminds us that the time is coming closer when we will have to give an accounting. This writer is slowly watching white hairs crop up in his beard and blesses himself and his readers that when we arrive at our final destination we have countless defense attorneys [in hebrew we call them "mitzvos"].

Chanuka Torah

A link to my beloved friend Rabbi Mordechai Yitzchak Schiffman. LIONS TIGERS AND THE MACCABEES

Question On The Parsha - Send A Post Card!


Any thoughts?? [Besides the Ramban's explanation]

A True Friend

“A true friend knows your weaknesses but shows you your strengths; feels your fears but fortifies your faith; sees your anxieties but frees your spirit; recognizes your disabilities but emphasizes your possibilities.”

One Person - But The World

“To the world you may be just one person, but to one person you may be the world.”
"Now and then it's good to pause in our pursuit of happiness and just be happy."

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Listen To People's Dreams

When did Yosef's dreams start coming true?

When he listened to other people's dreams [the sar ha'mashkim and sar ha'ofim].

[Heard from Y.S.A.S.]

AHHHHHHHH how often have I written and spoken about this.


A lost art.

Never in history have we had so many means to communicate. And may I venture that never in history has communication been so dysfunctional...
A thought from R' Sacks:

In his Culture and Anarchy (1869) Matthew Arnold differentiated between the world of the Greeks, which he called Hellenism, and that of the Jews, which he called Hebraism. Hellenism was about art and the imagination. Its great ideal was beauty. Hebraism was about ethics and obligation. Its ideal was righteousness.

Arnold’s complaint was that in high Victorian England, there was too much Hebraism and too little Hellenism. Today the situation has been almost entirely reversed. Our secular culture, with its abortion and ever louder demands for euthanasia, its cult of the body, its deification of science and scepticism about religion, even its quasi-religious worship of sport, is deeply Hellenistic. Hebraic values such as the sanctity of life, the consecration of marriage, fidelity, modesty, inner worth as opposed to outward displays of wealth and power: all these are in eclipse. Not surprisingly, most philosophers of our time have found inspiration in the sages of Athens rather than the prophets of Israel. Ours is the most Hellenistic age since the conversion of Constantine to Christianity in the 4th century.

Ancient Greece gave the world the concept of tragedy. Ancient Israel taught it hope. In the loose sense in which we use these words today, they are no more than two different aspects of life. But they are in fact deeply incompatible. The French playwright Jean Anouilh put it best: “Tragedy is clean, it is restful, it is flawless . . . and the reason is that hope, that foul, deceitful thing, has no part in it.”

The fate of the Alexandrian empire should give us pause. It seemed all-conquering but within a few centuries it had been eclipsed. Bertrand Russell explained why: moral restraints disappeared; individualism ruled, and the result was “a rare florescence of genius”, but because of the “decay of morals” the Greeks fell “under the domination of nations less civilised than themselves but not so destitute of social cohesion”. That is surely a warning for our times.
Tragic cultures eventually disintegrate and die. Lacking any sense of ultimate meaning, they lose the moral beliefs and restraints on which continuity depends. They sacrifice happiness for pleasure. They sell the future for the present. The West’s less-than-replacement birth rates and its ecological irresponsibility are just two examples of how it too is going the same way.
Ancient Greece and its culture of tragedy died. Judaism and its culture of hope survived. The Chanukah lights are the symbol of that survival, of Judaism’s refusal to jettison its values for the glamour and prestige of Hellenism or what today we call secularisation. A candle of hope may seem a small thing, but on it the very survival of a civilization may depend.

The Agudah Convention

Agudas Yisrael of America had their yearly convention at the Pioneer Country Club [a religious hotel in the Catskills - alav hashalom!]. One time it happened that someone rose and announced that the Rabbis don't have to pay because the Agudah is taking care of it. About 40 Rabbis left the hotel and 3 remained behind to pay: Rav Moshe Feinstein, Rav Aharon Kotler and Rav Yaakov Ruderman. They all came independently to the office and asked to pay. When they were assured that the Agudah had paid, they asked if the Agudah also tipped the workers. When Rav Aharon and Rav Ruderman heard that the Agudah took care of tips as well they left.

Rav Moshe was still not satisfied until he went around the hotel thanking the workers individually for all they had done for him.

Rav Moshe On Playing Ball

One time Rav Moshe Feinstein was asked to test a class of ten year olds in MTJ who had learned shnayim ochazim [no mean feat!]. When the test began the first question was "What do you do when you get home from school?"

A boy answered "Mir shpeelin ball" [We play ball].

Rav Moshe ztz"l enjoyed the answer and said "Zayer gut. Eahr darft shpeelin ball. Uber vee a Yid shpeelt ball un niSht vee a goy shpeelt ball. Nisht vee vilder chayos un nisht tzu shrayen. Eahr darft oich shpeelin ball uber vee a Yid shpeelt ball." [Very good. You should play ball. But like a Jew plays ball and not like a goy. Not like wild animals and not screaming. You must also play ball but like a Jew plays ball.]


[Kol Hatorah Nissan 5763 page 66]

Ripple Effect

"Remember there's no such thing as a small act of kindness. Every act creates a ripple with no logical end."

Interesting. When someone is kind to me, I feel being kind to the next person. When someone is mean or selfish to me, I feel like being that way to the next person too.

Finding Problems While Still On The Ground

On my return trip the plane was delayed for about six hours. We just SAT there. I got up to dance but nobody wanted to join.. So we just sat.

It turns out that there was a problem with the motor. So I thought - better we find the problem here on terra firma [firm ground - picked that Latinism up from Rav Soloveitchik :-)] than finding it 30,ooo feet over the Atlantic.

This true story is of course a metaphor for marriage. Sometimes a person is dating and they discover a serious problem in the other person that compels him/her to break up. It hurts. But better before marriage than afterwards when you are 30,000 feet over the Atlantic, so to speak.

Part 5

We have arrived at a point where it behooves us to explain the internal significance of the luchos. Our explanation is separated into two parts. The first part starts with the famous statement that "Love your neighbor as yourself" is the overarching principle that encompasses the whole torah. The question is famous: We understand how this mitzvah encompasses all of the laws governing interpersonal relationships but what about those laws that govern our relationship with Hashem? How are those laws covered by "Love your neighbor as yourself"?

The explanation is as follows: In the world of teshuva we are required to ask our friend for forgiveness in order to make amends and fix what we did wrong. We fix the hurt we caused our friend by appeasing him and removing the feeling of anger he rightfully has towards us. This requires us to explain the mitzvah of vi'ohavta li'rayacha kamocha: In addition to the mitzva of loving our friend we are also required to be loved by our friend. Since the nature of a person is that when he loves someone he also wants to be loved in return, it makes sense that the mitzvah of loving your friend includes the effort a person invest to ensure that the love be reciprocated. It emerges then that every sin between man and his fellow includes two distinct violations of the mitzvah of vi'ohavta: A] He caused harm [emotional or otherwise] to his friend. This is a violation of the mitzvah to LOVE ones fellow. B] He gives his friend the halachic right to have a complaint against him. This is a violation of the commandment to be loved. When he appeases his friend he in essence removes his friend's right to be angry with him. For if his friend refuses to forgive him he is called a "cruel" person. In this way, the act of asking for forgiveness fixes the evil that had been perpetrated.

In the mishna in horiyos we find that there is a list of people who take preference when it comes to saving lives, for example a talmid chochom takes precedence over a non-scholar. We see from this that there are levels of "reyus" [friendship] and the bigger the "raya" the more one is obligated to love him and save him if necessary [see Maran's eulogy of R' Chaim Shmuelevitz – A.E.]. Here we find the place where the mitzvos between man and G-d are encompassed by the mitzvah of loving your friend. For the mitzvah of loving others includes the mitzvah to be loved by others. Every bit of growth in Torah obligates others to love one more. He becomes a bigger "raya". So we see that a person's investment of effort in torah [a mitzvah between man and G-d] obligates others to love him more and we have before us then a fulfillment of vi'ohavta li'rayacha kamocha through the fulfillment of mitzvos between man and G-d.


We have now arrived at part two. The Rambam in the seventh perek of hilchos deyos says that we are obligated to walk in the derech Hashem which he defines not as the path on which we are commanded by Hashem to walk but rather the path on which Hashem Himself walks. After revealing this gem we reveal yet another gem. The secret of the fatherhood of Avraham Avinu is the fact that he treaded the path of Hashem. Ki yidaativ etc. vishomru derech Hashem etc. What is the deeper meaning of this quality of Avraham?

The very desire a person has to emulate the ways of Hashem is mirrored by Hashem's desire to emulate us. When Hashem acts in the manner of midah kineged midah He is in effect mirroring our actions.

In our shabbos davening we say "ki li'olam chasdo" 26 times corresponding to the 26 generations that the world existed based on the chesed of Hashem. At Har Sinai we accepted the Torah and now no longer subsist on chesed but rather earn our keep. That was the quality of Avraham Avinu that characterized his fatherhood of the Jewish people. He desired to go in the derech Hashem emulating Hashem's qualities which is exactly the way Hashem relates to us. He too, starting from matan torah strives [kviyachol] to mimic our behavior [in judging us midah ki'neged middah].

The avoda of "viholachta bidrachav" walking in the ways of Hashem is an avoda of bein adam la-makom even though bein adam la-chaveiro is included as well, as chazal expounded on the pasuk "Just as Hashem is merciful so should you be". Based on the foregoing we understand that they are really two sides of one coin. On one hand bein adam lamakom is included in the bein adam lachaveiro of loving your friend [as we explained that the mitzvah of loving your friend requires reciprocity, that you endeavor to make yourself beloved to your friend as well]. The more one excels at bein adam lamakom [and learns Torah making one a bigger "raya"] the more his friend is obligated to fulfill the bein adam lachaveiro and love him. [ That was "part one".] On the other hand, every bein adam lachaveiro ["just as He is merciful"] is included in the bein adam lamakom of walking in the ways of Hashem [and that was discovered at Matan Torah when Hashem decided that He wants to mimic us with midah kineged midah. That was "part two"].

New light now shines on the mishna that teaches that the world stands on three things "Torah, avoda and gmilus chasodim". These are not 3 distinct categories but rather by the power of Torah, the vessels of avoda [bein adam lamakom] are filled by gmilus chasdim [bein adam lachaveiro]. And the vessels of gmilus chasodim are filled by avoda.

Man And Animal - Part 4

Now that we have learned that the Torah has the ability to activate those "pleasure sensors" in the soul we will continue this line of thought. Chazal said a mashal about the giving of the Torah: A king made a decree that the residents of Rome should not enter into Syria and that the residents of Syria should not enter into Rome. In the same vein, until Har Sinai there had been a decree that people should not ascend to the upper realms and that the Divinne presence should not descend to our reality. But at matan torah it says that Hashem descended upon Har Sinai and the Moshe went up to Hashem ["umoshe alah el haElokim]. It is not hard to comprehend that this change was a general indication of a number of changes that transpired with the giving of the Torah. One of the changes whose inner workings can be explained by this removal of the mechitza between the upper and lower realms is the ability of the Rabbis to decide halacha. The Torah is the word of G-d yet rabbis have the power to decide what the word of G-d is in any given situation. The Torah was given "al da'atom shel chachomim" – based on the understanding of the sages. This is truly the removal of a mechitza. There is a parallel removal of mechitza in the spiritual world of man. A man's intellect corresponds to the lower world in contrast to the koach hataanug which is much higher, due to the fact that the activation of the intellect is dependant upon the effect of the koach hataanug. Here we discover the uniqueness of the sechel hatorah which breaks the barrier between the lower and higher levels of the soul and connects to the sublime koach hataanug. This power is rooted in the removal of the barrier between the higher and lower worlds at Har Sinai.

Man And Animal - Part 3

Based on the foregoing we can now understand the difference between torah maivee lidei zihirus and hamaor she-ba machziram la-mutav. The former means that the power of ruler ship invested in the intellect is now used for holy matters. Instead of the mind being used for secular matters it is used for spiritual ones. The phrase "hamaor she-ba machziram lamutav" is on a far more elevated plane. It means that Torah has the power to activate the koach hataanug which is not activated by the intellect rather it activates the intellect. In other words the Torah has the power to shine its light into the reality [metzius] of the koach hataanug. This causes the koach hataanug to become transformed into a "service vessel" for holiness and instead of enjoying regular standard pleasure the soul enjoys sublime spiritual pleasure. A sensitive ear can discern that the words "hamaor she-ba" the light of Torah, is talking about the koach hataanug, because taanug is indeed the light of the soul. This is evident when we see that a person who is happy has a shining countenance and when a person is sad his face is darkened. When we say that Reuven welcomed Shimon with "maor ponim" we mean that he ENJOYED welcoming him. Now it is clear that "Torah maivee lidei zihirus" is talking about Torah qua Torah whereas the expression "hamaor she-ba" is referring to the koach hataanug and light of Torah. [Translators note: If light is synonymous with pleasure we can understand the concept of "or ain sof" - infinite light. What that means is infinite pleasure. We can also understand that the ninth plague was "darkness" – being cut off from this Divine light and pleasure and this was followed up by the tenth plague "makas bechoros" which is a cutting off of the connection to the "beginning" HKB"H in His glory].

Now new light shines on an apparent contradiction between a chazal and a Rambam [which puts the Rambam in trouble..]. Chazal [in the Sifree] say that the way to achieve love of Hashem is to study Torah while the Rambam opines that the path to love of G-d is through viewing and appreciating His wondrous creations.

The answer is that when the Rambam asks "What is the path to come to a love of G-d " he is asking how we can empower the intellect to instill love in the heart. When the Sifree asks how one should love G-d the question is how can one shine the light of pleasure in the soul so that the intellect will enjoy it. The Sifree then answrs that this is achieved by Torah study – "Vihayu hadvarim ho'ayle asher anochi mitzavcha hayom al livavecha" – [this pasuk appears after the pasuk "vi'oavta es Hashem Elokecha"].

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Marry A Frummy

The ancient Greeks were prutzim. They liked to "reveal all".

We Jews in contrast are tznuim. What is tzniyus [modesty]? Saying that tzniyus is defined by the length of a skirt is like saying that one is religious because he wears a kippah. It is the exact opposite - one wears a kippah because he is religious. Similarily, if a girl is tznuah, she wears a long skirt. Wearing a long skirt doesn't make her a tznuah. The skirt is the effect not the cause [the מסובב and not the סיבה, if I may wax philosophical].

What do I mean???

The pasuk in Michah talks about one who is הצנע לכת עם השם אלקיך - walks modestly with G-d. To be modest means to be focused on ones internal essence and not on ones external shell [i.e. the body]. A tznuah is someone who understands that the "real me" is the soul and not the body. Such an attitude necessitates that the body be properly covered because if it isn't, the focus will be drawn to the externals - the diametrical opposite of tzniyus. Thus, tzniyus applies to men and women equally. Tzniyus is knowing that my soul is a piece of Hashem and therefore ALL that matters is His will. What others think and say is irrelevant because they are fixated on the externals.

The paradigm of tzniyus according to Chazal was Rochel [megilla 13b]. When she gave her sister the private signs between her and Yaakov on their wedding day she exhibited tzniyus. Where is the tzniyus here? A good heart, yes, but where is the tzniyus?? But now we understand that tzniyus is focusing on what is good and right in a world we can't see. Rochel gave away the signs because she knew that this was the will of her Creator and paid no heed to the desires of her body.

Shaul her descendant also exhibited tzniyus when knew he was about to be appointed king and told nobody. The shows that he was internally focused and had no need to publicize his greatness.

So when a girls dresses modestly and covers up she is displaying tzniyus, meaning that she is focused on her soul and is trying to draw attention AWAY from her body. Thus, the result of her tzniyus is her dress. [See Kol Hatorah Nissan 5763]

There are many, far too many, young men who are looking for a wife who is NOT tznuah. Those "frummy girls" are boring in their misguided minds. They will unabashedly ask the shadchan or the girl herself embarrassing [as least to me when I hear about it] and immodest questions.

For such people I have news - not only is it MORALLY corrupt to be immodest but it is also NO recipe for a successful marriage. On the contrary. External attraction and excitement are short-lived causing those who seek it to look elsewhere. והמבין יבין. If, however, the primary attraction is the soul and inner life of the person, then there is hope for a future.

So girls, Bnos Sarah Rivka Rochel and Leah, PLEASE don't be swayed by young men whose minds have been contaminated by our morally deviant society, by pictures on a screen that convince him that his happiness is going to be rooted in an external, temporal shell. Don't be afraid that you won't get a husband because they are all like that. There are boys who realize that a lasting union must be built on tzniyus, otherwise it's doomed.

Marry such a boy. He is not supercial and shallow like so many others. He realizes that in the private context of marriage a "frummy girl" is not necessarily a boring girl and that the MOST ATTRACTIVE quality a girl can possess is tzniyus.

Tznius is beautiful. Therefore on chanukah we celebrate the victory of the tznuim against the prutzim with beautiful menorahs and light mehadrin min hamehadrin - in the most beautiful way.

Never Judge

“We can never judge the lives of others, because each person knows only their own pain and renunciation. It's one thing to feel that you are on the right path, but it's another to think that yours is the only path.”

Finding Your Bashert

I re-link the excellent piece of Dr. Sorotzkin on finding your bashert, here.

Thanks D.H.! May you find yours SOON!

Advice In Latin

One thing I noticed on this trip is the lack of menuchas hanefesh people have. People seem always to be rushing somwhere and don't live the moment. It is very hard for people to just "be". When conversing with someone you can often get the feeling that they have to GO. When I give a shiur there are always people who rush in late, people who have to leave early and an undercurrent of pressure to "keep it short". Even on Shabbos people seem to be unsettled and rushing somewhere. No phone, no blackberry, but still... AHHHHH the phone I mentioned? Invasive, bothersome, yet ubiquitous. The blackberry, always busy making sure its owner is not where he actually is but in some far off place.

A "moifes" [miracle]! The Rebbe Shlita. He is busy about 20 hours a day. His phone doesn't stop ringing. He has weeks worth of people waiting to speak to him for five minutes. He is constantly finishing mesechtos, going through sefarim and giving shiurim. He has his own large family. Etc. etc. YET I HAVE NEVER IN MY LIFE SPOKEN TO A PERSON WHO GIVES ME THE FEELING HE IS COMPLETELY WITH ME WHEN I TALK TO HIM AS HE DOES. It is like the world stops and all he cares about are the words that come out of my mouth. He NEVER gives me the feeling he is rushed [I have spoken with him countless times]. He doesn't nervously glance at his watch, he makes eye contact and doesn't look around giving me the feeling that what is "there" is more interesting than what is "here" [i.e. me].

Another example - Rav Yaakov Katz Shlita. When I would speak with him he made me feel that he was so completely with me. Calm, relaxed, as if he had all the time in the world [despite his extremely busy schedule].

But the average person seems so "not here". Always rushing from place "a" to place "b" only so that he can then rush to place "c". Ad infinitum. WHERE IS THE DESTINATION WHERE HE WILL FINALLY JUST RELAX AND "BE"???

Here, beloved friends, is the kicker. I often speak to people about THEMSELVES AND THEIR OWN ISSUES AND LIFE and THEY seem to be rushing to go. Where are you rushing to??? Is there some subconscious fantasy that somewhere else you will find paradise?? Paradise, tyere yidden, is precisely where you build it. The best place is your internal world. This way you take paradise with you wherever you go.

PLEASE: When you are davening, be completely with Hashem. When learning, focus on that page as if nothing exists in the universe except that page - not even the next page. [Why does a person learn todays daf-yomi? So that he can get to tomorrows daf-yomi. Problem is that tomorrow he will do the same thing...]


In two latin words - CARPE DIEM.

Sunday, December 18, 2011


As my sojourn in the US comes to an end I reflect....

In my life I have merited writing checks and have also received checks [bar-mitzvah, wedding, kollel etc.]. I must say that on scale of one to ten the feeling of giving a check is a ten plus, the bigger the check - the better. The feeling of receiving is a one minus. Fortunately, people gave with completely good will but what can I do, I am a descendent of Avraham Avinu and my strong inclination is to give. I was touched by the amount of smalls checks I received on behalf of the kollel. People with little money or less who wanted a portion in supporting Torah. People who actually have money and could write big checks didn't give anything baruch Hashem [with an exception or two]. I say baruch Hashem because I am His employee and thank Him for His grace and want no more than He deems fit to give. I have big plans for the future and know that they will either happen or not but it is not in my hands so hopefully I will be at ease. I also know that there are many yeshivos and I am not entitled more than others. The important thing is that Torah is propogated amongst our people.

On this trip I was able to connect to a lot of people which I found very rewarding. Baruch Hashem people came to various shiurim and communicated with me personally or via telephone or email. I love people so that part was the most gratifying.

I also learned a lot about human nature in general and about specific people. What I learned about certain individuals was not always the most complimentary and actually caused me great pain. But I choose not to elaborate on that for fear of offending people [people don't feel comfortable when you can see through them but what can I do - it is a G-d given ability that I have]. On a brighter note I learned who my real friends are. That is important to know and adds a sense of security. I wish EVERYBODY a few good emes'e friends. I must say that I find them very hard to come by and appreciate the ones I have. You know who you are.

A special highlight of the trip was participating in the simcha of the engagement of Moshe Gavriel Bernstein and Rochel Leah Mitnick. They are a pair from shomayim.

Another uplifting simcha was that of the engagement of Ariel Waintraub and Esti Schneider. They are a special couple and will live together for many, many happy and healthy years.

I thank all those people who hosted me, gave me rides, contributed to the kollel, attended shiurim or even looked at me [I know people who don't even do that..]. May Hashem bless you all. And to all those who read the blog I say a HUG thank you. [Note - that was a typo I realized well after posting but if you know me you realize that it was a Freudian typo. I think I gave out about 10,000 hugs this trip. Except for girls and li'havdil a trillion havdalos, the many dogs on the UWS, I hugged just about everybody that moved...:-)]

Of course a major thank you to my parents who hosted me for this period. They are the BEST!

Sweetest friends - tomorrow I will make aliya once again and see the six people in the world to whom I am inextricably connected forever. My holy wife Necha Gittel, the tzidkonis who let me come, Gila Shoshana who faithfully assists her mother in keeping home while working VERY hard at high school, Shmuel Alexander who pounds away at his meseches shabbos day and night, Avraham Mordechai who does likewise with his bava kamma while getting ready for his bar mitzva in two months plus [you are invited], Simcha'le who is possibly my greatest source of simcha in this world and Chana Leiba who is the light of our home. America is nice but Israel is home. And while friends are special nobody can replace family and how fortunate am I to have one. כן ירבו!

Love and blessings sweetest friends and see you in Jerusalem!


Bitter are the tears of a child: Sweeten them.

Worrisome are the thoughts of a child: Quiet them.

Sharp is the grief of a child: Take it from him.

Soft is the heart of a child: Do not harden it.

Speech Speech!

A man's character may be learned from the adjectives which he habitually uses in conversation.

Mark Twain

Man is a מדבר. He is defined by his or her speech.

You are NOT what you eat. You are what you SAY!

Man And Animal Part 2

There is a halacha that a person should decide on what to learn based on what he is drawn to, the topic from which he will derive pleasure - אין אדם לומד אלא במקום שלבו חפץ. We don't find this halacha in regard to mitzvos. If one enjoys visiting the ill more that he enjoys giving people rides, there is no bigger mitzva to do the former. One still may choose to do what he wants but there is no special "inyan" to follow his hearts desire. Only with respect to Torah do we find that one follows the heart. The explanation is that a person relates to things through connection. A person sees and connects to various objects by means of light. He ears connect to sound by means of sound waves etc. The same applies to the intellect. A person connects to a concept by means of PLEASURE - ta'anug. Without some measure of pleasure the mind cannot comprehend. The deeper the pleasure the greater the understanding [and the greater the understanding the deeper the pleasure]. That is why it is so important that a person learn what his heart desires. Otherwise the mind lies immobile like an inanimate rock. This explains the bracha we make every morning on Torah - והערב נא, make it sweet and pleasurable, we ask Hashem. We don't say that about any other mitzva because Talmud Torah is unique in that it can only be fulfilled with pleasure. Talmud Torah is intellectual and the intellect requires pleasure in order to connect to the subject matter. Ever try reading a REALLY boring book for school? Ever study math and couldn't care less? So you know what I am talking about.

We already learned that the intellect is the master over ones middos [as human exercise mastery over the animal kingdom] but this only happens after the intellect ENJOYS and derives pleasure from the subject matter. So the כח התענוג is above the intellect but once the intellect achieves this תענוג and connects to the subject matter it can start exercising its power over the middos.

To be continued bl"n... hold your breath, it gets better!

Peace In The Tent

There is a position in many yeshivas called a "mashgiach ruchani". His job is to make sure that all of the boys are davening and learning as they should. Part policemen, part judge, part parent.

Many wives think [unconsciously] that they must serve as mashgichos of their husbands after marriage. This is a fundamental and potentially catastrophic error. NO HUSBAND WANTS A WIFE WHO SERVES IN SUCH A ROLE and therefore anything she says will only create friction and tension. A man wants a wife who will love, encourage, appreciate and respect him. He also wants dinner [ועי' שלחן ערוך או"ח סי' ר"מ והמבין יבין]. If a wife does those things peace will reign in the home. If she wants him to change a certain behavior, positive encouragement and subtle hints are the correct approach. Criticism doesn't help and only serves to annoy the husband and frustrate the wife when he is not changing. It has already been said that the last time a woman changes a guy is when he is wearing diapers... [that is a FUNNY line! Please laugh. Thanks!!]

As I write I already imagine the emails the ladies will send me asking about husbands who act as their wives mashgichim. Is THAT ok? Why the double standard?

The fact is that this is WORSE than the other way around. One of the dumbest things a man can do. If she wants your mussar, she'll ask for it. If she wants, she can go to a shiur and hear mussar from someone who is not her husband. She is much more likely to be receptive to someone else. From her husband she wants love, validation, acceptance, understanding, help around the house and ... a credit card.

So if she is wearing a skirt you think to short [a STRANGE yetzer hara that I can't understand, I NEVER felt like wearing a short skirt, even in my more "modern" days] or focusing too much on the interior design of the house and not the interior design of her soul DON'T GIVE HER A MUSSAR SHMOOZE. It'll cost you big... What you can do is appreciate her more modest look and compliment her when she is focusing on matters of the spirit.

Thoughts that if taken to the heart will result in a fulfillment of the pasuk וידעת כי שלום אהליך

Solitude And Community - Part 1

Based on Pachad Yitzchak Shvuos Maamar 15 from Maran Ztz"l:

There are two statements of Chazal that seem similar but are really different. "Torah maivee lidei zihirus" - Studying Torah brings one to become more careful [about keeping mitzvos]. Hamaor she-ba machziram limutav" - The light of Torah will cause people to return to goodness. Emotion and middos are intensified when people are in a large group. Watch how excited people get at a concert of sporting event or at a rally for a good cause. In contrast, the intellect craves solitude. When you need to think you go to a quiet place and concentrate on your thoughts.

In halacha we also find such a distinction. Mitzvos should be done "bi-rov am" with large numbers of people. If you can daven with a minyan of 30 people or a minyan of 300 people it is better to daven with the 300 people. But we find no such halacha of bi-rov am with respect to Torah study.

The contrast between intellect and emotion is rooted in the kabbalistic teaching on the pasuk said to Adam Ha-rishon וכבשוה ורדו בדגת הים ובעוף השמים ובכל חיה הרומשת על הארץ - subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea, the fowl of the heaven and over every animal that creeps upon the earth. Meaning, that since man has been given the power to rule over the animals he also can rule over the middos of his soul. Animals too have middos [Chazal say that had the Torah not been given we would have learned the middah of modesty from a cat, the middah of not stealing from an ant etc.] so middos represent the more animalistic side of the human being which must be ruled by his intellect.

Taking this line of thought one step further we can understand the difference between intellect and middos and emotion. Animals were created למינו or למינהו - by species. Man was created as an individual. The most human part of man is his intellect whereas the areas of middos and emotion represent his more animalistic side. Thus, in man himself we find a dichotomy. His intellect craves solitude as man was created as an individual while middos thrive on large numbers of people as animals were created en masse [forgive the French. Couldn't resist...:-)].

To be continued bl"n...

Whose Life Is It

כחיצים ביד גבור כן בני הנעורים - Like arrows in the hand of the mighty, so are children.

Tehillim 127/4

A slightly edited poem I saw:

Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Hashem.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,

For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.

The Archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the Archer's hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.

One can't live his children's life for them [as much as I sometimes see people trying]. All he can do is gently guide them, love them, teach them [primarily by personal example] and daven for them. The rest is in their and His hands.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

תודה רבה

I really want to thank Mike and Debbie Schreiber for opening up their home to us tonight.

In addition I feel tremendous gratitude to every person who came. "He'emanti ki adaber" [I believe when I speak about Hashem, said Dovid Hamelech] and tonight you afforded me the opportunity to speak about Him. I hope in some small way you, too, believe more.

It is the foundation of our entire Torah, our entire religion and our entire lives.

צדיק באמונתו יחיה

PS - On my way back to the city I came to the train AS IT PULLED OUT OF THE STATION. First, I cried out "NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO" and banged the nice machine which gave me the ticket I bought 3 seconds too late [I threatened to completely break it but it didn't take my threat seriously. and besides - it wasn't the machines fault, so I left it alone]. Another hour to wait OUTSIDE IN THE COLD. But then I remembered that this was PERFECT because it was what Hashem planned. So thank G-d I went to a friend's house nearby and spent a pleasant hour eating melave malka [home baked whole wheat challah!] and connecting to a heilige yid.

It is MUUUCH better living with Him.

Friday, December 16, 2011

צדקה תציל ממוות

To answer numerous emails in one shot.

If you would like to contribute to the Kollel [and future yeshiva please G-d] you can make out checks to Kollel Iyun Hanefesh and send to either Mr. Steven Stein 130 Oak Street Woodmere New York 11598 or Ehrman 5 Ohr Hachaim Jerusalem Israel 97500.

Temporarily we can't provide a tax deduction. Coming soon imy"H! We are also working on setting up a pay pal account.


Thursday, December 15, 2011

Women 8:30 מוצאי שבת

Motzaei Shabbos there is a shiur for women at the Schreibers 8 South End Court, Woodmere.

I thank them for having us!!

Topic: Emunah - Believing When You Don't See.

Men: Sunday Night - 7:30!!

Sunday night at 7:30 - a gathering of Torah and ruach for men in Woodmere. The Austeins!! 572 Green Place. Any questions? You may email me.

Hope to see you with a smile.

Donations will not be solicited.

Kedusha and tahara will be!

Last chance. I'm leaving monday... Iy"H!:-)
On my way home from shul this morning a street vendor with a vegetable stand was given a ticket by a policeman because he wasn't wearing his id. The problem was [I understand] that the string that the id was attached to was ripped, so it really wasn't his fault. It looked like he was about to cry. These fellows don't make very much money and stand out in the freezing cold or the heat to make a living. Then to be hit with a ticket for something so silly, it hurts.

So a nice fellow [he looked Jewish but you never know] who was purchasing from him added a dollar to "help him pay for the ticket". When the seller took the money he flashed a big smile. It wasn't much but showed that someone cares.

It was heartwarming to watch. We should always do things to warm peoples hearts.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Topics Of Conversation

By now many people have heard of the terrible tragedy that occurred in a certain yeshiva high school in New Jersey. A tragedy because the eternal contamination of souls is far worse than any physical catastrophe.

I am not going to comment on what happened. That is exactly my point. Unless there is some practical reason for doing so, talking about it only serves to further contaminate people. People should talk about good things. When you go into the mud [gematria "newspapers"] - you get muddy. This is mud. The filthiest, most contemptible type of mud.

So at the Shabbos table this week, if someone brings it up, try to change the subject. "Hey, did you hear the one about the Rabbi, nun and sheikh who were stuck in an elevator?!" "So how 'bout that Giant victory on sunday night?! Whatta game!!!!" "Isn't it annoying to have a wart on the tip of your nose!!" "When is the Mevakesh finally going back home to Israel? I am afraid he is going to try to hit me up for a donation for his kollel."

Or better "Did you see that Ohr HaChaim on mechiras Yosef?"

Good Shabbos Sweetest Friends!

More On Mechitzas

I remember that I was on a class trip in elementary school and we had to daven mincha. My class was composed of two types of people, ones who did well at gemara [girls, probably because strangely enough the girls CARED about school. Strange indeed. I married a girl but on condition that she agree that it was OK that I don't care about school] and others who didn't do particularly well at gemara [boys, with a few exceptions. I was NOT an exception:-)]. So we were in this room and the boys stood in the front and the girls in the back and we davened.

I felt very uncomfortable with this arrangement. NO MECHITZA!! Hashem yerachem!! So I found a part of the room that had a slightly elevated piece of wood and stood behind it and considered it a semi-mechitza. I screamed "Shabbos" and threw rocks at the wall and started singing the neturei karta national anthem [בשלטון הכופרים אין אנו מאמינים].

I made up the last part about the rocks.

I might have been frum ...but I was also ignorant. The only place that requires a mechitza is a proper shul. Any other place does not require a mechitza. This is why at weddings the men gather and daven despite the fact that woman are roaming around the very same room. Shiva homes as well don't require a mechitza.

So I tried. Two points for trying:-)!

But not necessary.

To conclude our discussion - a mystery that has plagued the Rabbis for generations: How come the Shulchan Aruch never mentions the need for a mechitza in shul? The source is the gemara in succah about the separation between men and women in the beis hamikdash but nowhere does the gemara or earlier sources [to the best of my knowledge] mention the need for one in a shul.


Would love to hear an answer. I don't have one. [Also a mystery why the Shulchan Aruch doesn't mention the prohibition of lashon hara.]

But OF COURSE a shul requires a mechitza and nobody [excluding those who cut many halachos out of daily practice] disputes that.

REMEMBER!! A mechitza is to separate between men and woman but never should there be a mechitza between you and G-d or between you and your same-gender friend!!:-)

Love and blessings!!:-)

Big Shiur

Tomorrow night is the yahrtzeit of Maran Rosh Hayeshiva HaRav Hutner Ztz"l. I am on Chaim Berlin's mailing list because I learned there for [too short] a time. I sorta want to go back. But I am not sure my wife or children would like that. Or maybe they would. Ask them when you see them!:-)

So I received a postcard that tomorrow night after the 8:30 maariv the Rosh Yeshiva Shlita will be speaking [presumably in Yiddish]. If anyone is going, tell me and I promise to try to translate if you don't understand. If you know of anybody driving from the city - please tell me. You know, the subway late at night thing doesn't appeal to me but I NEED TO CONNECT TO THE NESHAMA OF MARAN ZTZ"L!

They ask me if I raised any funds on this trip. Funds shmunds. I want to raise my neshama!!
A Lubavitcher thought on yud tes kislev the Rosh Hashnah of Chabad Chassidus

here [warning - long and intellectual, if you like that great!] and here.

The Mechitza Conundrum


A nice place! But I go to shul and I see something I am not used to where I come from. The mechitza is either so low that the women are in full view or the mechitza is transparent. Chazal apparently understood that when a man can see a woman it may well distract him enough that he won't concentrate on his prayers.

They were right.

The Rambam says in one place that the purpose of the mechitza is that men should not "look" at women. If that is the case then the low or see through mechitzas are no good. In another place the Rambam says that the concern is that men shouldn't "mingle" with women. That would mean that a low or transparent mechitza would suffice as it prevents mingling. There is much discussion in our sources regarding the proper height of the mechitza.

Bottom line: Rav Moshe Feinstein famously permits a mechitza that only reaches the shoulders of the women. He holds that our concern is that men and women shouldn't mingle. This lenient opinion is also maintained by the Sreedei Aish Rav Yechiel Yaakov Weinberg of blessed memory.

However many others [most famously the Satmar Rebbe] held that the mechitza must completely hide the women from the men's view. They felt that the main issue is whether the men can see the women and when the Rambam wrote "mingle" he meant even to see them as this is a form of mingling [in the mind]. Thus there is no contradiction in the Rambam.

My take: BY GOOOLLLY! It is much easier to daven with a proper high mechitza.[It should also be pointed out that when women come to shul dressed immodestly it is forbidden to daven in their presence]. The only problem is that the woman feel left out. We don't want that!

So I have no solution....

דבורה חנה בת אילנה

A neighbor of mine who just found out about a spinal illness, a young mother of many.

Oy - Those Charedim!

Something nice, here.

מנהג ישראל תורה

A great post on minhag yisrael from Reb Shmuel here.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011


In any healthy relationship there are boundries. Even a husband-wife relationship which is the closest of the close must have boundries. As we spoke about recently, two people become one but remain two.

I have a friend who has crossed the boundries in our relationship. It is really bothersome and actually quite offensive the way he behaves at times. I would mention it to him but there are some people who despite their excellence in certain areas of life JUST DON'T GET IT! It wouldn't help.

A person can have a doctorate from Harvard and be a CEO of a major firm and "just not get it". This is in the realm of what today is called" Emotional Intelligence" [see the book of the same name]. They don't teach it in schools and you just pick it up from your surroundings and based on your natural abilities. In order to excel in interpersonal relationships one must have an abundance of "EI". Interpersonal relationships are an integral facet and in fact the most important facet of the Torah. A person can be intellectually brilliant but socially inept. This limits his ability to succeed at marriage, childraising, chessed, kiddush Hashem etc. etc.

Our society often perceives success in very one-dimensional terms. The fact is that there is much more to success than ones yearly salary and professional status. It would be wise for people to pay more attention to their ways of relating to others and to life and slightly less attention on how to make another dollar.

My friend is a classic example of someone who is great at the dollar thing but really flawed at the personal thing.

May he have a refuah [of his soul]!

A Hidden Angel In All Of Us!

Once in an age God sends to some of us a friend who loves in us, not a false-imagining, an unreal character, but looking through the rubbish of our imperfections, loves in us the Divine ideal of our nature,--loves, not the man that we are, but the angel that we may be.”

Harriet Beecher Stowe

Interesting. When people get married they are usually not marrying a real person. They are marrying their image of who that person is. In other words - an imaginary person. After being married and getting to know the person the challenge presents itself - can he love her as she is for who she is??

Not pashut!

A more spiritual approach is to love more than who the person is but who the person may become. This is also the way we should relate to children. I don't just love the 8 year old standing before me but a person with limitless Divine potential who one day may light up all of the worlds!!

Is It Permitted To Eat Bishul Akum?

A Sefardi yeshiva boy wants to learn in an Ashkenazi yeshiva.

No problem!

But he also wants to eat.


Ashkenazim [based on the Rema] hold that if a Jew turns on the fire a gentile may place the food on top. Sefardim [based on the mechaber and the gra agrees] hold that a Jew must also place the food on the fire - otherwise it is bishul akum [food cooked by a gentile, a no-no]. So it emerges that a Separdi boy may not eat the food in an Ashkenazi yeshiva where a gentile is working in the kitchen and preparing the food.

Uh Oh!

So there are two possible arguments [at least - if weren't so tired I'd try to find more:-)] to permit him.

1] The boy now studies for an extended period of time with Ashkenazi teachers. In such an instance he is no longer obligated to follow his family custom because the mechaber didn't intend to be stringent in such a case.

2] Even the mechaber agrees that there are those who permit one to eat food as long as a Jew turned on the fire. So in order to enable this boy to learn Torah in a good yeshiva he would permit him to be lenient.

Conclusion: He may eat.

Bi'teavon and as the Ashkenazim say - LEARN SHTARK!!

[See tshuvos vi'hanhagos 5 p. 378]

Still In The Same Place

When I was a little boy there was a handicapped Jewish boy who was about my age who lived downstairs from me. He had a brother who was thank G-d healthy. This handicapped boy LOVED sports. The Yankees, Knicks and Rangers were his teams.

I saw him tonight in the elevator. 30 years have passed and he is in the SAME position. Literally. He is still sitting in a wheelchair being pushed around by his parents. His brother has moved on, gotten married and became a doctor like his father. But my poor friend - still living in the same home, stationary in his wheelchair. He has aged considerably. Not much to look forward to in life except his parents eventually dying and being placed in an institution.

When I saw him I said "Hey, still like the Rangers?" "Of course" he replied. That was the beginning and end of our conversation. He doesn't have much else in life besides the Rangers. How very sad that makes me.

The lesson I learn is to uproot the egocentricity which is so strongly rooted in my nature. Think about someone elses suffering! Stop worrying about my own problems and remember to empathize with others.

I hope my brief meeting with my neighbor made me a better person. And I pray that Hashem have rachmanus on him [and the rest of us] and redeem the world from this all too often bitter existence of suffering and we shall live in a perfected world of pure good!