Wednesday, February 29, 2012

וקנה לך חבר

Let there be no purpose in friendship save the deepening of the spirit.

Nice Torah - my sentiments exactly...

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

From the New York Times:

The Robert M. Beren Academy, an Orthodox Jewish day school in Houston, won its regional championship to advance to the boys basketball state semifinals this weekend in Dallas. But the team will not make the trip.
The Beren Academy players observe the Sabbath and do not play from sundown on Fridays to sundown on Saturdays. Their semifinal game is scheduled for 9 p.m. Friday.
“The sacred mission will trump excellence in the secular world,” Rabbi Harry Sinoff, Beren’s head of school, said Monday in a telephone interview.
The school filed an appeal to change the time of the game with the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools, or Tapps, the group that organizes the tournament. On Monday morning, representatives of the school were notified that the association’s nine-member executive board had rejected the appeal.
“When Beren’s joined years ago, we advised them that the Sabbath would present them with a problem with the finals,” Edd Burleson, the director of the association, said. “In the past, Tapps has held firmly to their rules because if schedules are changed for these schools, it’s hard for other schools.
“If we solve one problem, we create another problem.”
Membership in the association is voluntary, Burleson said.
“If the schools are just going to arrange their own schedule, why do we even set a tournament?” Burleson said. “Over a period of time, our state tournament, which is a highlight of our association, deteriorates to nothing. That’s the whole point of having an organization.”
Conflicts between religious beliefs and scheduling are becoming more commonplace because of the nation’s changing demographics, said Sarah Barringer Gordon, a professor of law and history at the University of Pennsylvania.
“Some associations are rethinking who their constituencies are,” Gordon said. “As pluralism works its way through American sports, we’re going to see more and more situations like this one.”
Several of Beren Academy’s opponents this season agreed to change the time of their games to avoid conflicts with the Sabbath, the school’s boys basketball coach, Chris Cole, said.
Cole, the team’s coach for 10 years, said many of the players on this season’s team, which is 23-5, had been playing together since grade school.
“We have a pretty mature group of guys,” Cole said. “They knew this could happen down the road.”
Beren Academy has an enrollment of 274, with students from 18 months to 18 years old. The upper-level school has 71 students.
This would have been Beren Academy’s first trip to the state semifinals. (The tournament is separate from the larger one run by the University Interscholastic League for the state’s public schools.) Zachary Yoshor, a 16-year-old junior on the basketball team, said this season’s success was a result of the players’ working together for so long.
“Our record has never been this good,” Yoshor said. “We’ve been able to win against teams that we’ve never beaten before. I’m appreciative that we’ve been able to play this far.”
The appeal request proposed that the team drive from Houston to Dallas on Thursday night, spend the night and play the semifinal game earlier on Friday, school officials said. Beren Academy’s opponent would have been Covenant School, from Dallas. Our Lady of the Hills, the team from Kerrville that Beren Academy defeated in the regional final, will replace Beren Academy in the state semifinal game.
“There isn’t any more for us to do,” Sinoff said. “We want to be in this year, but if not this year, next year.”
Mark Buchine, whose 17-year-old son, Isaac, plays for Beren Academy, said he still planned to head to Dallas with hopes of a resolution that would allow him to see his son play this weekend.
“It’s disappointing,” Buchine said. “I think the kids will be disappointed, too, but the team has this attitude of when there are bad calls, you just move on.”
End of article.
I find it interesting that only playing on Shabbos is a religious issue for them but being in a non-jewish basketball league is not an issue at all. I am not against playing ball. Playing ball is healthy. But leagues which give a chashivus to games, to winning and losing, to sports competition is quite a Hellenistic concept which was exactly what the war of Chanukah was all about. Competing against people who we should ideally have nothing to do with is also quite a religious issue in my mind.
But who asked me anyway....

Skip Tachanun?

A shiur in honor of the bar mitzva - tachanun on the special day, here.

"If At First You Don't Succeed - Skydiving Is Not For You"

Complements of E.B. to add to the simcha of Adar.

Today's Rav Kook shiur on Simcha Shel Mitzva here.

Rav Kook on sexual perversion and other topics, here.

Gratitude - Self Appointment - Survival

I generally don't like to publicly confess my sins. Frankly - it's embarrassing. However, I will make an exception now.

I often take things for granted. Example: 13 years ago today I had a healthy baby boy [my wife helped...:-)]. I was ecstatic. But as time progressed I began to take Avi for granted and to tell Hashem that he should really give me more children. I knew that every morning he would wake up and every day he'd be safe and sleep soundly in his bed at night. His safety and healthy development was a given. THAT is my sin.

I should have spent every moment thanking Hashem anew for the gift he gave me and continues to give me. כל נשמה תהלל י-ה - Every neshama should praise Hashem. Chazal explain - על כל נשימה ונשימה תהלל י-ה - With have to thank Hashem for EVERY BREATH.

My family has had a rough history. 2000 years ago we were happily living in Israel until our enemies came and expelled us. We wandered around until we arrived in Europe many hundreds of years ago. Then we left Europe in 1938 [on one side - the other side is an interesting story] and eventually arrived in the US. I am a first - and last- generation American. The US was good to my family but what a tremendous zchus to raise holy Jewish children minutes away from the Holy Of Holies after a 2000 year interval.

Tonight I went with my adult son [he looks like an adult with his hat and suit] to the kotel [or "koyyysel" as some friends have it] to daven maariv for the very first time as a man. I appointed myself gabbai, gathered a minyan and appointed my son chazan. AMAZING. After all of the pogroms, assimilation, holocaust and everything else - we stand in good health and daven at the one place in the world where G-d's presence is never absent. The medrash promised that no matter what the goyim try to destroy, the kotel will always remain standing.

I am about to wake him up to take a dip in the Old City "swimming pool" followed by shachris at the kotel. Wow. I should really stop taking things for granted and appreciate every second of Hashem's chesed.

כי חסד א-ל כל היום.

It is not only the morally correct approach - it will also greatly enhance my quality of life. Gratitude is a major key to happiness.

Sweet friends - may we ALL appreciate our countless blessings:-).

Love and blessings and simchas by us all.

Hashem Sees

The Beis Yisrael the Helige Gerrer Rebbe whose yahrtzeit was the second of Adar was great at reading people's minds. There are many stories illustrating this Divine כח.

Mori V'rabbi the Tolna Rebbe Shlita related that he was once in a car with the Rebbe and they observed a chossid in the next car beautifying himself in the mirror [chassidim DON'T look in mirrors]. The Beis Yisrael remarked "Baruch Hashem that Heimishe Yidden [good religious Jews] have enough money to buy their own cars."

The Tolna Rebbe thought to himself: "He is calling him a "Heimishe Yid"? If that fellow only knew that the holy Beis Yisrael is watching him" but didn't say a word.

Suddenly the Beis Yisrael turned to the Tolna Rebbe and said emphatically "But Hashem sees! What does it matter what I think? Hashem is watching....."

Monday, February 27, 2012


The gemara says that if one doesn't own land he is exempt from the obligation to come to the Beis Hamikdash for the regel [פסחים ג].

The Kotzker: If a person is not too connected to his land [צי פרבינדן] to earthliness [spellcheck x'ed that word but I'll ignore it], he doesn't need to go to the Beis Hamikdash to "see" Hashem. Wherever he is he can be close to Hashem.

An ignorant person is called an עם הארץ - a member of the "nation of the land". If a person doesn't know Torah, if he is not connected to spirituality, all he is left with is the earth.

Not One But Two

For those wondering - I had two mini miracles after I posted this. Because of their personal nature I can't publicly share. Maybe one day....

But you can trust me.

A new post about kdushas hatzitz and tfillin here.

Would appreciate feedback from the talmidei chachomim.

Taking Stock Of The Soul - The Stock Market - My Plans For When I Make My Fortune

In the haftorah of parshas zachor we read about Shaul Hamelech being commanded to completely wipe out Amalek including their livestock but he didn't finish the job and decided to spare their livestock [שמואל א' פרק ט"ו].

[If he would have listened and killed them they would have been "deadstock". In the title I also used the word "stock". Should I invest in stocks? I heard you need money to do that. Is that true? Why do you need money for everything that costs money? And why the more it costs the more you need? If your stock plummets is that "deadstock"? Am I the only one who thinks I am funny?? Well what I think about myself matters most because I have to spend all day every day with me. You know - I"m dating myself these days. The shadchanit is my mother. I sorta want to be a professional comedian. They just read out jokes other people write for them and I know how to read - thanks again to my shadchanit who used to read (shadchanim don't only "red", they also read) to me as a child. Then I can get paid lots of money and invest in "live stocks" i.e. stocks that will make me big bucks. Then I will use the money to buy clothing for the unfortunate, impoverished people I will see in New York City when I come this spring, who can barely afford clothing, thus being compelled to wear skimpy outfits.]

Shaul sees Shmuel coming to him and he is SO PROUD! הקימותי את דבר השם - I upheld the word of Hashem!

Shmuel replies: No you are tragically mistaken - כי מאסתה את דבר השם וימאסך השם מהיות מלך על ישראל - You have rejected the word of Hashem and He has rejected you from being king of Israel.

Rav Mordechai Shulman Ztz"l the Rosh Yeshiva of Slabodka, used to say that many people walk around with the feeling that they are doing GREAT, PERFECTO, NO PROBLEMO, SUPER-DUPER. While in fact they are really doing just the opposite.

[משמר הלוי פרשת צו]

If you are reading this and thinking "He's got a point, I have to do a cheshbon hanefesh", then you are on the road to perfection. If you are thinking, "He is nuts, I am flawless" you may have a point [about me being nuts] but perfection will necessarily elude you.

A "Derech HaLimud" For Mevakesh Lev Readers

Last night a friend told me that he can tell that when I write posts on the blog I am alluding to specific events or people without being explicit. A few hours later a young lady told me that she KNOWS that I was talking about her in a specific post.

They were both right.

I often can't be completely straightforward on the blog for many, many reasons but I definitely [sometimes] have specific people in mind when I write.

Sometimes that person is none other than myself.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Identifying Numbers

From the weekly parsha sheet שבת בשבתו - פרשת תרומה

At a meeting of taxi drivers, one of the participants told the following story: This week I was cruising on the streets of Tel Aviv. An elderly man got into the cab and after a few minutes he asked me if he could light a cigarette. I said to him, "No problem." When he picked up his hand, his sleeve fell down and I could see the number tattooed on his arm. It was a number of the type that were put on the arms of the victims in the Nazi death camps.

In that brief glance, the number on his arm caught my eye, and it made me very excited, so much so that I couldn't continue driving. I pulled over on the side of the road.

I looked back at the man and I asked him excitedly, "Are you a survivor of the Holocaust?" The man looked at me surprised because I had stopped the car. The number that I read on his arm shocked me, and I asked him to tell me what had happened to him during the Holocaust. He was not used to having somebody ask him about his experiences. He told me how he had been saved, and that ever since the Holocaust he had been alone in the world. At first he had looked for his brother, since there were rumors that he was also alive, but he could not find him, and eventually he abandoned the search. In any case, he could not understand why I was so excited, why I had stopped the taxi and was questioning him so intently.

And then the taxi driver continued with his own story.

* * * * * *

As I child I grew up in a kibbutz. One day I was working in the kitchen. We had a big machine for peeling potatoes. We would empty a sack of potatoes into a big tank with knife blades on the bottom, similar to a blender. The sharp blades would chop up the potatoes. One time I climbed up to empty a sack of potatoes into the machine, and I tripped and fell inside – right into the machine, while it was turned on!

I was very frightened, and I cried out in pain. But I started to panic and to feel really scared when I realized that I was on top of the potatoes and I was slowly moving down towards the bottom of the machine – right into the sharp knives!

I shouted for help, but nobody heard me. I tried to climb up the smooth and very high wall of the tank but I failed. And then I began to cry out to the Almighty. I shouted and I prayed. I think that was the first time in my life that I ever turned directly to G-d: "Help me, save me. I don't want to die!"

And then, while I screamed out of fear and panic, I suddenly saw a hand stretched out to me. It grabbed my hand and pulled me out of the machine.

The first thing I saw about that hand was the number tattooed on the arm. It was the hand of Zalman, a member of the kibbutz. Zalman had survived the Holocaust, and because of his experiences he was in shock and depressed, and he never spoke or had any contact with anybody else. I was very excited, and I started to thank him profusely. "Thank you very much! You saved my life!" But Zalman did not react at all, he just continued walking along.

From that day on, the number that I saw on Zalman's hand has been with me wherever I go. I remember it and I can repeat it any time. And it continues to come up in my life. When I was drafted into the army, three of the digits in my identity number were the first three digits in Zalman's number... I bought an apartment, and the two middle digits of the address are the two middle digits in Zalman's number... I feel that the number accompanies me all the time...

And this time the feeling was stronger than ever. The number on the arm of the old man in my taxi was almost the same as Zalman's number – except for the last digit.

And then I had an idea. I started the engine and I started to drive. I left the city, and I drove to the kibbutz. I went straight to Zalman's apartment, almost as if I had only left the kibbutz yesterday. I left my passenger in the taxi, and excitedly knocked on the door. I did not even know if Zalman was still alive.

After a minute or two, a time which seemed like an eternity, the door opened. I couldn't believe me eyes. There he was – Zalman, alive and well! And then, while I still held Zalman's hand at the door of the apartment, my passenger got out of the car. He came over to us and gazed at Zalman for a long time. And he fell on Zalman and gave him a long hug! I could not have been happier, I had guessed right!

Zalman was my passenger's brother!

I am sure that Zalman was sent by heaven to rescue me from the knives in the potato cutter, so that I would continue to live and many years later bring his lost brother back to him...

5 Biggest Regrets Of The Dying

From the British newspaper The Guardian

Thanks to D.R. for sending me there.

1. I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

"This was the most common regret of all. When people realise that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honoured even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made. Health brings a freedom very few realise, until they no longer have it."

2. I wish I hadn't worked so hard.

"This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children's youth and their partner's companionship. Women also spoke of this regret, but as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence."

3. I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings.

"Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result."

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

"Often they would not truly realise the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down. Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years. There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying."

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

"This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realise until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called 'comfort' of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content, when deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again."

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Wise Counsel

Today's lesson is HUGE.

Once upon a time there was a king named Rechavam. The Jews came to him and said "Hey, things are rough. Taxes are high, the workload is heavy, Please make it easier."

He consulted the elders who told him "Make things easier on the people. They have a point."

Then he consulted the younger advisers who told him "Don't listen to the people. Be even tougher with them."

Who do you think he listened to? The younger advisers. BAD MOVE. There was a rebellion and lotsa bad stuff. [See Melachim 1/12]

From here the gemara learns that one should listen to the elders.

Practical applications: Many.

Here's one: You are single [if you are]. You are in a relationship and want advice. I mean - what do you know about marriage? You've never been married before.

So you ask your big sister for advice.

NOOOOOOO. Nothing against your big sister but chances are all your big sister knows about marriage and relationships is based on her own personal experiences but she is unable to see the bigger picture.

What about your aunt? Probably the same.

What about your best friend? Even worse.

So here is my advice: Go to somebody WHO HAS VAST EXPERIENCE in this area, such as a Rabbi or Rebbetzin who has been dealing with this for a looong time. Go to somebody whom other people go to. Someone with a reputation for understanding this area and giving wise counsel. Somebody who is objective. A person who can see many different possibilities and doesn't have a one-dimensional view of life [I find that many people can only see life one way - their own]. Others might well lead you astray.

When I was engaged I solicited advice from married people and in retrospect I realize they were just telling me about their own marriages. Since I didn't end up marrying any of their wives I found what they told me to be quite meaningless. In general I have found that when making life decisions I have been most successful when following my own intuition. Since just about nobody really knows me inside out -with the exception of my internist [I made that up - I don't have an internist but I thought that it would be funny] - and only a person who truly knows me can give me counsel, the best candidate is myself. The one other person I go to for counsel today [besides me] trusts my intuition as well. Make sure the person you ask DISCUSSES it with you and is interested in your way of looking at things. I am very suspicious of people who think they know it all. You should be, too.


Friday, February 24, 2012

Whose Money Is It?

A vort on the parsha a nice fellow who stopped me on Chabad Street told me.

The Torah says to give to the mishkan with a generous heart. Says Rav Moshe Feinstein - It's easy to give generously - it's not your money:-). It's easy and fun spending someone else's money.

לי הכסף ולי הזהב נאום השם - It's all His.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

רצה - צהר- צרה

From my mailbox - R' Daniel Zweigbaum

.....Also, a reflection I had upon reading your post regarding the word "tzarus":

After learning that the letters in the word 'tzarah' can be turned into 'rotzeh', I began to think of the connection between the two. In my humble opinion It all comes down to "perception" - Tzarah which was defined has difficulty, comes straight from Hashem, and if we realize that any challenge/nisayon was His 'rotzeh' (which I would define as want/desire) then this should be enough to serve as a consolation, because we know that Hashem is in always in control and only does what's best from us.

A personal example of this goes as follows:

When I was a 17 year old boy, I was deciding which Yeshiva to attend. I only applied to one Yeshiva as most of my friends had gone there in the past, and that's where a lot of my friends were going that year. My parents however, even after countless hours of debates and arguing, decided that for various reasons they don't want me going to that institution. Obviously, to say that I was bitter and upset wouldn't do how I felt justice, as this left me with no yeshiva to go to. Luckily, I had one good friend attending Netiv Aryeh and he pushed me to go there with him. At netiv, I met someone named Yaakov who I shmoozed with every now and then, but wouldn't necessarily consider us the best of friends.
Fast forward 4 years later. I'm at my cousins l'chaim and I see Yaakov and we start to talk again. In accordance with the way the jewish world works, I received a text from him a few days later, as he wanted to set me up with the girl who B'H I'm now married to. Clearly Hashem knew what was best for me, and used my parents to ensure that I would go to Netiv, and then of course set me on the path to meet my wife.

That tzarah that my family and I went through during the months that we spent arguing about which Yeshiva I should go to, was all for nought. I could've spared both myself and my family a lot of anger and bitterness, if I would've just realized sooner that the tzarah was Hashem's rotzeh. Embedding this idea within ourselves, would enable us to take every nisayon we face in life and turn it into an opportunity for us to build upon our emunah in Ha'kadosh Boruch Hu.

May we all be blessed with lives filled with simcha, and may we recognise that our loving Father is always watching out for us.


What I REALLY want to do is to get EVERY SINGLE PERSON READING THIS [which according to my estimation is about 1000 people] to dance. Men here, mechitza in the middle, women on the other side. But it's going to be hard to get everyone together. But please click here and get up and dance [from about 1:35]. Then send it to ten friends who will send to ten friends so that the entire Jewish people are dancing.

That niggun is UNREAL!!

Shiur On Parshas Terumah

If you click....

Being Clean

We all know that when one has to relieve himself it is forbidden to daven. This is axiomatic. But what about learning or saying brachos? The Rema [סימן צב] extends the prohibition to learning and saying brachos as well because when one has to go his body is unclean. Somebody with an unclean body has no business being involved in purity.

What is interesting is that the Rambam [פ"ד מהל' תפלה] strongly implies that the prohibition applies to davening alone but not to other things such as learning. It is also implicit from other rishonim that they agree with the Rambam.

Of course halacha li'maase we follow the Rema. In general one should know that it is forbidden to hold it in, called בל תשקצו.

[עי' תשובה בנד"ד בשו"ת דברות יעקב ח"ב סי' ג - אם ידוע למישהו עוד ספרים שהתייחסו למחלוקת זו אשמח לדעת]

What is interesting hashkafically is that the Torah is concerned not only with our being spiritually clean but with our being physically clean as well. We see this in many halachos: The gemara says to wash every day [shabbos 50b]. One must wash inside and out before davening [brachos 15a]. The sugya about how critical it is to have water for laundry [nedarim 80b]. And many many more.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

How To Make Miracles Happen

So there I was sitting in front of my computer pondering the notion that a chezkas pnuyah is stronger than a chazaka di'hashta and working on a chapter of Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz's sefer where he performs delicate reconstructive surgery on the issue. I also had music playing in the background. But what was REALLY going on was that I was feeling particularly rotten about certain things in life that are going BARUCH HASHEM exactly the opposite of how I want them to be going. BARUCH HASHEM - yisurim builds character.....

Then I listened to the words of the song playing on the computer הוא יתברך עושה נסים לכל הבוטחים בו - Hashem performs miracles for those who have trust in Him. I thought GREAT! I could use a few miracles. Then I wondered where the words come from. A medrash? A Rambam in Moreh Nevuchim?? [Come to think of it they should put more of the Moreh to song.] So I did a search on my otzar hachochma program. I found that there is something similar in the Kedushas Levi on Chanuka of Rav Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev. והאנשים
הבוטחים בה מאמינים שקרוב ה' לכל
קוראיו ותפארתו בישראל
ובודאי יפתח להם שערי ברכה שיקיימו
מצותיו ויעשה להם נסים ונפלאות כי
מלכותו בכל משלה

"... And the people who trust in Hashem believe that he is close to all those who call out to Him and His glory is in the Jewish people and He will definitely open up the gates of blessing that they should fulfill His mitzvos and he will perform miracles and wonders for them because He rules over everything."

So sweetest friends, what I really need is some more bitachon. I am going to get it:-).

Hold On

Recently - I was furious with somebody. Really mad [happens to the best of us..]. I thought that this person had done something evil and my righteous indignation was overwhelming. I had a need to tell the whole world how I felt. I contained myself [well at least publicly].

Then some time passed. I still feel that this person had done evil but have lost interest in talking about it. I now regret what I said earlier.

From this I learned a life lesson. When angry - wait it out, hold on, do something else. Tell your yetzer hara that you will give it a fair hearing at a later date. When this later date comes you will no longer feel the need.

שומר פיו ולשונו - שומר מצרות נפשו
See Reb Mordechai Yehoshua on Linsanity, Rav Soloveitchik and ...Adam Harishon here.

Rav Kook On Current Events

I saw this passage of Rav Kook [Kovetz 6/99] about those with alternative, non-normative inclinations and I JUMPED out of my socks. Mamesh like the Rav read today's New York Times. I have a lot to say in explanation but in the meantime will just quote and MAYBE in the future I will expand in English. Illuminating.

ההתעוררות של המדע החדש על דבר הנטיה הטבעית שיש לאיזה בני אדם מראשית יצירתם, ובשביל כך חפצים הם לעקור את המחאה המוסרית בזה. אבל דבר אלקינו יקום לעולם. וכבר פירש בר קפרא על זה [לקמן נא ע"א]: תועבה - תועה אתה בה, שהיא נטיה רעה, שצריך אדם וכללות האדם להלחם עליה. ומקצת הטינא שאולי תמצא אצל יחיד באופן שאי אפשר לעקרה, זה ראו חכמים מראש ואמרו על זה, כל מה שאדם רוצה כו', משל לדג הבא מבית הציד, רצה לאוכלו צלי, שלוק, מבושל אוכלו. ובזה העמיקו בטבע האדם עד לחמלה על המקולקלים בראשית יצירתם. ומכל מקום העירו, חגרין מפני מה הויין מפני שהופכין את שולחנם. ואע"פ שאינה הלכה, מכל מקום היא סיחה של מלאכי השרת, דהיינו חכמים הדומים למלאכי ד', וכל עם ד' על פיהם יחנה ויסע. וכל הנותר בציון ונשאר בירושלם קדוש יאמר [ישעיהו ד, ג], וישנא תהפוכות [ע"פ משלי ח, יג], ודרך ישרים סלולה [ע"פ משלי טו, יט].


Based on a post on Alleywaystotorah.

If you are depressed, you must know - it is ALL OVER. Happiness must reign as Adar enters tonight.

"Wear A Smile And Have Friends, Wear A Scowl And Have Wrinkles. What Do We Live For If Not To Make The World Less Difficult For Each Other" [G. Eliot]

That's it. It's over.

Anyone who is: dejected, depressed, despondent, disconsolate, melancholy, downcast, sad, forlorn [two lorn + two lorn], low, in the doldrums, gloomy, disheartened, discouraged, grieving, sorrowful etc. etc. etc. No more.

IT'S ADAR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

A sign we put on the wall in the childrens bedroom:


It doesn't cost anything, but it's worth a fortune
It enriches the receiver, while not impoverishing the giver

There is no person so strong
who can exist without it

There is no person so powerful
For whom a smile will not add

There are some tired people that in order to enable them to smile at you

Because -

There is no person who is in need of a smile
as much as a person who is unable to smile.

Just Scramble The Letters

Do you have any צרות [difficulties]? I do!:-)

Can I share them with you? On second thought I won't. You have your own so why should I bother you with mine.....

But I am HAPPY I have them. The word צרה can be re-scrambled into the word רצה - something I desire. The next step is to scramble the letters again yielding the word צהר - light. Yes sweet friends, your צרה can turn into a צהר - you just have to appreciate it.

The gemara in shabbos [יז] says that Chananya ben Chizkiyahu wrote a book called Megillas Taanis commemorating all of the difficult times the Jews had because they "loved צרות". Who loves צרות?? Jews! [See the Ayn Ayah there]

The צרה always turns into a צהר if we just have enough patience.

עת צרה היא ליעקב וממנה יוושע [yirmiyahu 30/7] - It is a time of extreme difficulty for the Jews and "from it" ממנה we will be saved. Meaning that the source of salvation is what we originally believed to be the צרה. We thought the the decree Haman orchestrated to wipe out the Jews was to our detriment and that the tree was for Mordechai to be hanged. In the end he set up his own downfall. On the day the Jews were supposed to be wiped out they in fact killed their enemies and Haman ended up hanging on the tree. Yes indeed the צרה is the source of salvation. וממנה יוושע - from it we will be saved. ממנה is the letters of מהמן - from Haman comes the salvation.


[החודש אשר נהפך עמ' מב]

Logic Removed

עד דלא ידע

It's like when two people are meeting in order to see if they should get married. They MUST use their sechel to decide if it's the right thing. But once they are married - אוי ואבוי woe unto them if they are still deciding. They must let go of their logic and completely immerse themselves in the euphoric experience we call love.

On Purim we accepted the Torah once again - this time out of love [הדור קבלוה בימי אחשורוש - מפרש רש"י מאהבת הנס]. We just have to feel the ecstasy of being in love with Hakadosh Baruch Hu. No logic.

עד דלא ידע

[ספר החודש אשר נהפך עמ' לח]

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Power Of Music

The gemara in meseches ערכין [daf י] says that there was a מגריפה - a rake in the beis hamikdash that would make beautiful music. Rashi explains that this rake was used to do the mitzva of הרמת הדשן and remove the ashes from the beis hamikdash. Tosphos asks on Rashi that the gemara says that it was a musical instrument and not for removing the ashes. So Tosfos concludes that there were two rakes - one for music and another one for the ashes. But Rashi says that there was only one rake. How is he going to answer Tosfos' question?

A Chassidic answer from the Holy Piasetzna in his Aish Kodesh [Vaera]: When the Jews see the ashes they are liable to feel despair. How depressing. Burnt nothing! They do the mitzva of הרמת הדשן lifting up the ashes, by playing beautiful music and expressing their trust in Hashem.

Why We Marry

Why do we get married?

Of course - because boys really like girls and vice versa, so we are just doing what comes naturally.

That might be the correct answer - but it shouldn't be.

The reason we get married is explained by the Zohar Hakodesh in Parshas Acharei Mos: The pasuk says that Hashem spoke to Moshe from between the two keruvim. מכאן אוליפנא - from here we learn, דבכל אתר דלא אשתכח דכר ונוקבא - in any place where there is not a male and a female [like the Keruvim which were faces of a man and woman], לאו כדאי למחמי אפי שכינתא - you cannot see the face of the Shechina.

Zohar Hakadosh in Parshas Bereishis on the pasuk of זכר ונקבה בראם that Hashem created us male and female [in His image]: כל דיוקנא דלא אשתכח ביה דבר ונוקבא - any countenance that is not male and female, לאו איהו דיוקנא עילאה כדקא חזי - is not a reflection of the Divine as it should be. תא חזי, בכל אתר דלא אשתכחו דכר ונוקבא כחדא - Come and see, in any place where man and woman are not united, קוב"ה לא שוי מדוריה בההוא אתרא - Hashem does not dwell in that place.

We get married because that is the only way we bring Hashem into our lives. Our task is to channel our nature towards G-dliness. If you help somebody get married you are doing the same. So in addition to working on your own unity with you present or future spouse - try to help another 2 Jews. For them and for the whole world.

The Way Of Perfection

[אשכילה בדרך תמים מתי תבוא אלי אתהלך בתם לבבי בקרב ביתי [תהלים קא ב
ביאר המלבי"ם - אשכילה בדרך תמים גדר התמימות הוא שיעשה מעשה הצדק שלא
בעבור שום פניה חיצונית מתקות שכר ויראת עונש או בעבור פניה אחרת כמו להתגאות
ולהתפאר וכדומה רק יעשהו מצד אהבת הטוב בעבור שהוא טוב ומצד שצוה ה' עליו
ויען שבקל יטעה האדם בעצמו ויחשב שעושה מעשהו בתמימות ובאמת ימצא בלבו אחרי
החיפוש פניה נסתרת מכבוד או גאוה וכדומה יאמר כי אשכילה בדרך תמים מתי תבוא אלי
הדרך הזה שיהיה תמים באמת עד שלא ילך הוא אל הדרך רק הדרך תבא אליו רוצה
לומר שלא יהיה על ידי הרגל רק שיהיה מוטבע בנפשו בענין שהדרך ימצא בטבעו
והבחינה לזה יהיה כשאתהלך בתם לבבי אף בקרב ביתי שאין שם פניה משבח בני אדם
והתפארת וזה סימן שיהיה תם לבבי לא תמימות חיצוני

"I contemplate the way of perfection, when will you come to me. I walk constantly with innocence of heart within my house" [Tehillim 101/2]

What is "perfection"? To serve Hashem with NO ulterior motives, particularly impressing others. The way to examine this is to see how you serve Hashem when nobody else is around in the privacy of your own home.

Read and try to understand the entire passage I quoted from the Malbim.

It's worth it:-)!

Rav Belskey Shlita

Please say Tehillim, give tzedaka and do whatever you can for a zechus
for R' Yisroel Ben Chana Tzirel.

How To Be Happy

The latest on "The Art Of Happiness" from HaRav Kook.

Chuckling Doesn't Always Mean Dveykus

וירא העם וינועו ויעמדו מרחוק

The nation saw, they shook and they stood afar.

[Parshas Yisro]

Sometimes you can see, shake and STILL BE FAR.

[The Kotzker]

A Poem From Rabbi Yehuda Halevi

ברחקי ממך - מותי בחיי

ואם אדבק בך - חיי במותי

דרשתי קרבתך

בכל לבי קראתיך

ובצאתי לקראתך

לקראתי מצאתיך

When I am distanced from you - I am dead in life

And if I cling to you - I am alive in death

I sought your closeness

With all my heart I called out to you

And when I went out to meet you

I found you coming towards me

Monday, February 20, 2012


An issue with which I struggle. Trust.

Who can I truly trust? This is a big issue because our society is built upon the foundation of trust. You trust the cab driver will take you to your destination. You trust the doctor will do his best to help you. You trust that the mailman will deliver the letter you sent. [Am I being anachronistic? Do I use words like "anachronistic" to show people that I have a large vocabulary? Do I try to impress people or am I being real? Another issue with which I struggle. As I mentioned in another post - when I DO try to impress people I am usually not successful because frankly - people couldn't care less whether or not I'm impressive. They are much more concerned with whether THEY are impressive. So why do I still care what people think? Why are my parenthetical comments longer than the main point?]

But sometimes in life people let you down. Parents, friends. Yes, even spouses. How many stories are there of a husband or wife who woke up one bright morning and said "That's it, we're done". Or a husband or wife who finds out that their spouse has been less than faithful. אין אפוטרופוס לעריות. According to our holy Sages the only person you can completely trust in such matters is one whose heart has permanently stopped beating. What about money matters? I am EXTREMELY naive and have been swindled in various ways over the years in too many ways to count. [My personal favorite is the gentleman who said he desperately needs money to buy his mother medication RIGHT NOW or else she would die. I of course forked it over. I hope he enjoyed the drugs he purchased...] There are so many people out there who are less than completely honest. Now, my last name means "Honest Man" and I really try to live up to it but not everybody is an "Honest Man".

What about friends? Who can I count on to be there for me when I need him. That my simcha will be his simcha and my trouble will be his trouble. I have a loooong list of friends who have let me down. [One of my favorites is my former chavrusa who didn't come to my wedding and never even apologized. It's been about 17 and a half years and when I see him, as I do quite frequently, I still remember. I'm not angry G-d forbid. Just slightly pained.]

Or "talmidim". I don't actually have any for two reasons. A] I am not worthy. B] They generally move on and forget you exist [or so it seems]. To find true allegiance is very rare. Even the one's who were actually in my shiurim would come sometimes and not come other times. Whatever was convenient for them. Rarely a feeling of "I want to learn as much as I can from this person - I'd better come." Parents of "talmidim". I ממש love them all but I rarely get the sense that my investment of time energy and resources went appreciated. Just another one of those "rabbis". Yes - but rabbis are people with feelings too and are not made out of plastic.

Ahhhhhh - am I going to become cynical and say that I can't trust anybody? No sireeee [or madammme, depending on your gender]. There are people I believe I can trust. Like my wife or my parents. [For an essay on marriage and trust see Rabbi Yosef Dovid Epstein's מצוות הבית in the הקדמה]. Also the rare good friend.

But you never know for sure with anybody. We all have part of us that says אני ואפסי עוד - I am the only true reality that matters. Some people I know really seem like tzaddikim but we have all heard stories [even in the last few years] of people who were trusted by many and turned out to be less than stellar in their behavior [to make an understatement] and caused indescribable anguish to many. I could be more specific - but I won't...

So I will continue to assume that the tzaddikim I know are tzaddikim but there is always part of me that is terrified to discover that I was wrong.

I am working through this issue and thought [although a little more personal than I like getting in such a public forum] that it may resonate with others and that ideas may be shared.

I will tell you my conclusions:

A] I am only in control of one lone person on the planet and I can make sure he always remains trustworthy. His name is "Al" and I feed and dress him every day. Otherwise - it's really not in my hands and I cannot control what is not in my hands. So I can try to be the most trustworthy person around in all areas, friendship, financial, familial and [f]otherwise [so many f's, decided to add one]. When someone has a simcha it should be my simcha and when someone has a trouble it should be my trouble. When dealing with money always be careful that the other person comes out on top [I am NOT going into business - don't worry]. Be a good husband, father, son and friend. These are things I can control.

B] I take Dovid Hamelech's advice to heart. אל תבטחו בנדיבים בבן אדם שאין לו תשועה.... אשרי שא-ל יעקב בעזרו שברו על ה' א-להיו - Don't rely on people, rely on Hashem.

Hashem! I believe that Hashem will never let me down. THAT is comforting.


בא במחתרת

לבני תורה בכל מקום שהם - קושיה מהספר קבא דקשייתא קו' א

נפסק להלכה [או"ח שכט במג"א סק"ד] שהבא במחתרת ונפל עליו גל של אבנים אין מחללין עליו את השבת כדי להצילו. והטעם, מכיון שבחתירתו נתחייב מיתה, א"כ כבר נחשב "גברא קטילא [אדם הרוג] ואין בו דין פיקוח נפש

וכאן ניצבת קושייתנו - הרי מהרגע שנפל עליו הגל כבר אינו חותר ואינו בכלל מה שכתוב בתורה "אין לו דמים" שמותר להורגו וא"כ כבר אינו גברא קטילא, ולמה לא יחללו עליו את השבת

אני מחכה לתירוצים שלכם


Bar Mitzvah Drasha - Long Hair - Dating Yourself

Recently I have been busy writing my son's drasha for his bar mitzvah. The custom in these parts is that the boy says a very complex talmudic pilpul in rapid-fire Hebrew. My goal is that it should be so complex that not only don't the guests understand what he's saying AND he doesn't understand either but ..... even I the writer don't understand what he says. DEEP.

Anyway the topic has been the issue of chatzitza [a halachic interposition] between the tefillin and the head. Two common problems are people with long hair and wet hair.

What hashgacha pratis! I am in shul this morning and I see a young man with an absolutely beautiful mop of hair on his head. It looked liked a 4,000 dollar shaitel. So I said "AHHHHHHH, this is a classic example of what the poskim are talking about when they discuss excessively long hair." I debated whether I should go up to him and tell him that besides the fact the he might not be considered as having tefillin on his head, there is also a possible issue of "beged isha" looking like a woman and "ubichukoseyhem lo teileichu" going in the ways of the gentiles. It is also probably an issue of kibbud av va'eim because most parents are much less than thrilled when their kids grow their hair really long.

But he was davening so nicely and seemed like such a sweet boy. Plus he reminded me of a kid from "The Partridge Family". [I'm really dating myself when I mention that popular show from the 70's. It is so ODD dating myself. I mean, what am I going to talk about? I already know everything about myself. Plus I would only date for marriage and I would never marry myself, in part because I am already married. But at least I know what I enjoy doing on the date. Also, I would always have a date when I wanted one. Ahhhh, "dating yourself". What a novel idea! ]

I didn't say anything.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Oh A Deer A Female Deer

כאיל תערוג על אפיקי מים כן נפשי תערוג אליך אלקים

תהילים מב

"As the deer longs for brooks of water so my soul longs for you Hashem"

A deer goes to the water and he sees his reflection. He thinks he is seeing a female deer. So he has a תאוה to be with the female but it's "NOT happening". The way desire works is that when unrequited it intensifies. So the deer has stronger and stronger feelings of passion for the female.

Our soul's desire to be close to Hashem is similar. It keeps getting stronger and stronger because in this world its desire to get close to Hashem is never fully satisfied. Our souls are חולת אהבה - lovesick.

You don't feel it sometimes? Just a matter of getting closer to your soul...

כן יאבדו כל איוביך השם

Years back there was a war between Iran and Iraq. They asked the Gerrer Rebbe the Lev Simcha what he thought.

He replied "The truth? I wish both sides complete success...."

Kol Isha - The Sequel

When I was a kid - I didn't know about kol isha. This allowed me to listen to the pop stars of the 80's [and go to a religious camp with "boy-girl sing" contest where I got to hear not one but hundreds of girls singing! And before my email box gets flooded with people telling me that if there is more than one girl singing at the same time it is permitted - please be good enough to look at the gemara in sotah 48a towards the bottom of the page. That will lay to rest that myth. Incidentally, the girls always won... They pashut sounded better than we did:-).] One of my favorites died a few days ago. It actually made me sad.

Ahhhh she had it all. A glorious voice, beauty, fame, money, adulation. What DIDN'T she have??

Happiness apparently. That is why she turned to the drugs and alcohol that destroyed her life and [it seems] eventually killed her before she saw her 50th birthday.

From this I learn for the umpteenth time that what the human soul needs is not fame, fortune or anything else people spend their lives pursuing. The soul needs true, lasting meaning. I have none of what she had and yet every day is a little taste of gan eden. A daf gemara here, a chesed there, some tefilla thrown in, stable family life and the belief that every minute encapsulates within it eternity. I don't envy the rich and famous for a second. ברוך אתה השם שלא עשני גוי. Just being Jewish without doing anything is worth more than all this world has to offer.

Maybe her death will be a blessing if people learn what NOT to strive for. We don't gloat when people live empty lives and die. We mourn the great loss of human potential for spiritual greatness, lost in the abyss of dizzying material abundance.

I hope I don't fall prey to the false promises of this world and live a life that matters. I hope you join me. We can start right .... now.

Words that she sang that have been ringing in my ears for so long, that while I don't fully agree [the greatest love of all is to love Hashem and other people, not yourself] - I find some truth to them. Plus the "niggun" is great:

I decided long ago never to walk in anyone's shadow
If I fail if I succeed at least I lived as I believed
No matter what they take from me they can't take away my dignity
Because leeeearning to love yourself - is the greeeeeatest looooove of allllll

I know a lot of people who would be much better off if they learned to love themselves.

Love and blessings:-)

Kol Isha

Many years back I had a friend who was a really cool guy. He was a fighter pilot in the Israeli army, an avreich in my yeshiva's kollel, seemed to have another child every 10 months and was an all around great guy. Well, he moved forward in his army career and was eventually appointed the Chief Rabbi of the Israeli army. Neat-o!

But then something happened that saddened me. At army functions they have immodest performances by female performers that includes public singing. The gemara forbids a man from listening to a woman singing or to even be present at such an event [see brachos 24 and bava basra 57b]. The army is filled with sweet, pure bnei Torah who put their life on the line because that is what the Torah wants them to do. The same Torah that forbids these events. These boys don't want to pick and choose, they want to keep the whole thing. This Chief Rabbi ruled that it is forbidden for them to leave such performances. His ruling is based in a large part on non-halachic principles and the halachic principles he uses are not applicable here. With all due respect there are many greater Torah scholars then he in this country and I wish he would have deferred to them.

I believe that the highest value in the army should be the pasuk - והיה מחניך קדוש, your camp shall be holy. How unfortunate that many people are now going to have to choose between their allegiance to the army and to the halacha, fracturing an already fractured army and country.


Disturbing Thoughts

Pursuant to the previous post - a myseh. [I hope you like stories sometimes. It's hard to tell what really resonates with people as I stare at this computer screen opposite me and see none of you.]

Many years ago a young man who came from a more modern home decided to become more observant. His father had been from a family of Gerrer chasidim before the war and he wanted to return closer to his roots. He ended up in Lakewood yeshiva [not so chasidish but still a great place to learn....]. The Heilige Beis Yisrael ztz"l the Gerrer Rebbe wanted to guide this young man from a distance so he had his trusted chossid and confidante, Mori Vi'rabbi the Tolna Rebbe [then a young man], keep up a correspondence with him.

One day the [Tolna] Rebbe Shlita received a letter the young man had written him. He related that there was another student in the yeshiva who was going through a terrible crisis. This boy was one of the top learners in the whole yeshiva, a real super-lamdan. But he was obsessed with thoughts that he must become a ... Christian. ממש thoughts of avoda zara. This made it EXTREMELY difficult for him to daven and learn. His friend wrote the Tolna Rebbe asking him if he has any advice.

The Rebbe Shlita showed the letter to the the Beis Yisrael. The Beis Yisrael instructed the Rebbe shlita to take a gemara shabbos of the shelf and told him to turn to daf קיט where is says כל העונה אמן יהא שמיה רבא בכל כחו אפילו יש בו שמץ עבודה זרה מוחלין לו - "Anybody who answers amen yehei shmei raba, [may Hashem's name be great forever and ever], with all of his strength and kavana, even if he has dabbled in avoda zara, he will be forgiven."

The Gerrer Rebbe asked the Rebbe shlita what he learns from this gemara. The Rebbe replied that he learns the power of answering amein yehei shmei raba properly. It can atone even for avoda zara.

The Gerrer Rebbe replied that he learns something else from this gemara: That a person can dabble in avoda zara and still answer amen yehei shmei raba properly. So tell the boy to tell his friend to continue davening and learning and it will be OK.

And so it was. Eventually the thoughts disappeared and he became a maggid shiur and many students thirsted in his Torah.

[Heard from the Rebbe Shlita during the course of his shiur between Kabbolas Shabbos and Maariv]

זכות הצדיקים יעזור ויגן ויושיע!

So sweet friends - if you have disturbing thoughts related to avoda zara, heresy, the opposite gender or anything else - don't let it affect your avodas Hashem. Ignore them and they usually go away.

Love and blessings:-)

אודליה נחמה בת מיכל

Almost 1 year since the terror attack and Odelia Asulin is still in a coma in Alyn Hospital. ODELIA NECHAMA bas MICHAL l'refuah shleima.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Even Sinners Can Say Nishmas

The holy Imrei Chaim of Viznitz told a story of a certain tzadik who was saying Nishmas on Shabbos morning. Now Nishmas is a very special tefilla where a person expresses his soul's yearning to praise Hashem. So this tzadik's yetzer hara comes to him and says -"How can you say Nishmas when you did this and this aveirah."

The tzadik answered "You are right! I did this aveira and I will continue doing aveiros - but right now I am saying Nishmas..."

Moral - It's OK to mess up and still be a good Jew afterwards. The yetzer hara wants you to think that you are filled with sin and therefore your mitzvos mean nothing.

Coffee And Bishul Akum - Negiyah On Airplanes - Being Woken In The Middle Of The Night - The Zoo

We all know about the prohibition of bishul akum - we are not allowed to eat what a gentile cooked for us. The halacha only applies to certain foods. The poskim discuss coffee. This can be a very practical question because many Jews are addicted to caffeine [nicht a gitte zach]. In addition many Jews fly, or more correctly sit on planes which fly [only Superman flies. And of course Jordan in his heyday and me in my dreams - "Ehrman flies in for the slam right in Bryant's FACE"], and get woken up a 3am by a non-jewish stewardess who somehow thinks a sleeping person wants to be woken up to drink a cup of coffee. I can say personally I've been woken up many times by such women [sometimes they lightly tap me and I jump out of my seat and scream NEGGGIIIYYYAAAHH!!!] and haven't drunk a cup of coffee since I sat in the woman's section of the Yeshivat Hakotel beis medrash and learned by myself hoping a] to become a talmid chochom and b] to find a shidduch. But that was about 20 years ago. [For those interested, sitting there didn't help me find a shidduch - I found her in the zoo (or rather she found me in the zoo, chronicled here and here). The talmid chochom part I'm still working on].

Back to our coffee-bishul-akum-shyla. Can I have that 3am cup of coffee generously prepared by Christina, my stewardess on Lufthansa? The consensus of poskim is ........ yesssss! If it's kosher coffee of course.

One reason is that the coffee beans are first roasted and not yet fit for consumption and now that the hot water is poured over them it is considered "bishul achar tzlia" cooking that follows roasting, which is not considered cooking. Only the original cooking [or roasting] counts and in our instance at that point it wasn't yet ready to be eaten so it doesn't cause a problem.

One posek says that he sweetens his coffee so that the finishing touches are done by a Jew thus negating the problem of bishul akum.

But I say that coffee isn't good for you and nor is sugar so when you have them together it's a double no-no.


The Power Of Desire

There are special tfillos some say on parshas shkalim [which was this past shabbos]. One sentence says אור פניך עלינו אדון נשא, ושקל אשא בבית נכון ונשא - The light of Your face our Master should raise upon us and a shekel I will raise in the beis hamikdash which is established and raised.

Reb Tzadok Hakohen [פרי צדיק שקלים מאמר ה] explains that we are not talking about the future but about the present. Chassidus teaches that no less important than action is desire. Action is limited. Desire is limitless. Action is finite. Desire is infinite. In the realm of action we can never be perfect. But in the realm of desire we can always yearn for perfection and so we must do.

אין דבר העומד בפני הרצון - There is nothing that stops the will. This means that there is nothing that can prevent us from wanting.

שקל אשא - I have such a strong desire to give the half-shekel, בבית נכון ונשא - I am actually giving it in the beis hamikdash which is already built and waiting in shomayim.

Beloved friends - we all have dreams which are as of yet unfulfilled, but we must continue dreaming and hoping. It makes a tremendous impression in shomayim.

Have a sweet zees'a week:-)!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

A shiur on Mishpatim.

Let's Bring Him Back To Life

This shabbos is the yahrtzeit of Rav Yisrael Slanter. His yahrtzeit usually falls out during the week of parshas mishpatim. At the end of the parsha we read of the korbanos that were brought and half of the blood was sprinkled on the mizbeach and half sprinkled on the Jews. This symbolizes the equality of bein adam lamakom [mizbeach] and bein adam lachaveiro [the Jews]. Reb Yisrael dedicated his life to teaching the Jews that bein adam lachaveiro is not one iota less important than bein adam lamakom.

[Maran HaRav Hutner]

I think his lessons are often forgotten. On his yahrtzeit - let's bring him back to life.

Tefillin For An Orphan

A מעשה שהיה about Baba Elazar Abuchatzeira ztz"l who was murdered a few months ago.

Elchanan [no relation to me despite our shared name] was an 18 year old yeshiva bochur in critical condition in Tel Aviv's Ichilov Hospital. He was unable to eat normally so he needed a nasogastric [feeding] tube in his nose [called in hebrew a "zunda"]. He had lost about 70 pounds and was a mere skeleton. In desperation the father arranged a meeting with Baba Elazar in Be'er Sheva. The Rav told him to collect 18 shekels from every brother and sister of the parents, their spouses and their children as well. The father was one of 8 children and the mother one of 9. The siblings had many of their own children so all together there were over 150 people. After the money was collected they were to use the money to buy tefillin for an orphan who was about to have a bar mitzva.

It wasn't easy collecting the money because some of the relatives lived in the US and Europe but all of the money eventually arrived via mail. Now he had to find an orphan whose bar mitzva was coming up [and then go to Bnei Brak to purchase tefillin]. Not an easy task.

Elchanan's father was sitting by his sons bedside with the bag of money while his son had one eye open and one eye closed. Then suddenly his cell phone rang. It was the principal of an institution in Kfar Chabad whom he had never met. The man said: "I heard you are a man of means and are able to perform acts of chesed. In our institution we have an orphaned boy who needs a pair of tefillin for his bar mitzva. We would love to buy them for him but right now things are tight and we are unable to help."

The father jumped. "I'll bring it today!" He rushed to Bnei Brak and purchased the tefillin and then off to Kfar Chabad to give the tefillin to the orphan. At 6pm he arrived and delivered the tefillin.

At 6pm they served dinner at Ichilov hospital. They were serving cabbage salad, a food that Elchanan really liked. He said to his mother "Call the doctor and tell him to take the zunda out of my nose." The mother quickly called the doctor who said "We cannot remove the zunda from your nose. Tomorrow we are doing a cat scan and you are not allowed to eat solid foods."

Elchanan said "If you don't take it out I will take it out on my own". The doctor refused. After the doctor left Elchanan started pulling the zunda off his nose. The nurse shrieked "What are you doing?" He explained that he wants to eat the cabbage salad. The nurse saw that he was determined so she helped remove the zunda from his nose. After not eating for three months he started to eat as if he had never eaten in his life.The doctor came in and rebuked the nurse for helping. "But look at how he is eating!" she said.

The next day they did a cat scan and the illness had disappeared completely.

This was eleven years ago. Today Elchanan is married with five children and is a rabbi in Rechovot.

זכות הצדיקים יעזור ויגן ויושיע!

Told by Ohad Mizrachi here.

Who Has No Emotional Problems?

A shadchanis recently spoke to me about someone and added that I should send her singles "unless they have emotional problems". If she would read the blog she would know that this would SERIOUSLY limit her pool to a total of zero prospects [except for dead or heavily sedated singles].

But I know what she MEANT.

I asked her what her fee is. She didn't answer but I understood - A LOT! Sweet friends - I have no problem with people taking money to make a shidduch. But I will tell you what I believe to be the greatest simcha in this world: To bring to people together just because it's Hashem's work. [The medrash says He spends His time bringing people together.] To bring people together just because about the highest level of pleasure in this world is to love a spouse and children. If one facilitates that it is just euphoric.

When someone charges money, the money is not tainted [it is kosher money according to halacha] - but the experience is.

34th Street Is On Fire

One of my informants tells me that EVERYBODY is talking about the latest phenom of the Knicks. He wasn't offered a college scholarship, worked hard and was accepted to Harvard where he played for the team without a scholarship and got good grades. Then he wasn't drafted into the NBA and while playing in a d-league the Knicks were in need of a player and they picked him up whereupon he LIT UP the league. His name is Jeremy.

You probably knew all that but I am going to add one thought. How is it SHAYICH that a person with such a story and such a name is not Jewish. It's almost a chillul Hashem that he's not one of us.

I would love to see him play but I fear that if I go to NBA.COM to watch some highlights there are going to be some "Rebbetzins" courtside whom I am trying to avoid seeing during this period of Shovevim. Well - I guess Shovevim ends this Shabbos so I can watch then?