Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Help The Needy - Yourself

On one hand we all need other people. Nobody wants to be single for life so we all need a spouse. Everybody wants children and friends and people for whom to care and love and who care and love them in return. This can make a person NEEDY.

Nobody wants to be needy.

But we all are.

A conundrum.

I have to think about it more but this is what occurred to me. We have to find a balance between needing people and being completely independent. This means that we can never allow our moods and emotions to be controlled by others and the way they relate to us. We can never allow our self worth be determined by the way others treat us. We cannot allow ourselves to point to a person and say that unless he/she shows me love in the way I need it to be shown, I will be unhappy.

We can say that when my spouse expresses warmth to me it makes me feel good. We can say that when our children respect, obey and love us it makes us feel that we are doing a good job as a parent. We can say that when so and so is friendly it helps us feel more connected to that person.

But we may not allow others, with all of their idiosyncrasies, mishgossim, character flaws and inadequacies, to determine whether or not I will be a happy person. That means giving others far more power over you than they deserve.

A gedank [thought] from someone who has been hurt by people to whom he generously gave far too much power over him. May you all learn from my mistakes:).
There is perhaps no psychological skill more fundamental than resisting impulse. It is the root of all emotional self-control, since all emotions, by their very nature, lead to one or another impulse to act. The root meaning of the word emotion, remember, is "to move."
Daniel Goleman
Source: Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ, Pages: 81
Every one of us, consciously or unconsciously, affects the objects and people around us—including ourselves—on a continual basis. Think about the expression “laughter is contagious.” It is! How do you feel when you are around happy, laughing people? Usually, you can’t help but feel good yourself. All emotions are energy and energy passes from one body to another; from one object to another; matter to matter. Emotions are contagious!
Norma Lehmeier Hartie
Source: Harmonious Environment: Beautify, Detoxify and Energize Your Life, Your Home and Your Planet, Pages: 234
If you hold back on the emotions - if you don't allow yourself to go all the way through them you can never get to being detached, you're too busy being afraid. You're afraid of the pain, you're afraid of the grief. You're afraid of the vulnerability that loving entails. But by throwing yourself into these emotions, by allowing yourself to dive in, all the way, over your head even ,you experience them fully and completely You know what pain is. You know what love is. You know what grief is. And only then can you say, "Alright I have experienced that emotion. I recognize that emotion. Now I need to detach from that emotion for a moment."

Mitch Albom
Source: Tuesdays with Morrie: an old man, a young man, and life's greatest lesson‎ - Page 104 by Mitch Albom

Hard Work Around A Bon-Fire

Tonight we had a LOVELY bonfire together with pizza and [the ikker] Torah. It was so relaxing and peaceful. But the 'person' [will remain nameless in order to protect his identity] who spoke, emphasized that life is about עמילות, toil and hard work. Everyone works hard but fortunate is he who works at Torah.

One shouldn't see toil as a means towards an end [i.e. understanding and knowing the material] but an end unto itself. By toiling one is fulfilling his purpose. People don't like to toil because they see it as an annoying obstacle to success but they don't realize that toil IS the success. When one is cognizant of this he begins to ENJOY the hard work. He learns deeper and harder and reveals the treasures that inhere within our Torah.

It says [in Parshas Vayechi] about Yissachar וירא מנוחה כי טוב ויט שכמו לסבול - He saw that rest was good so he worked hard [in Torah]. What does THAT mean? If rest is so good he should rest and not work hard. Answer: The greatest feeling of menucha comes when one is working hard at what he should be doing in this world. If he sits and does nothing it engenders a feeling of restlessness.

That is in a nutshell what I learned tonight.

The joy of hard labor in meaningful pursuits.


I thank the hosts and organizer:).    

New Shiur

A shiur on the importance of seeking honor:)!


Monday, April 29, 2013

The purpose of education is not the accumulation of information in order to compete for success.  Education is the experience of being fully present to oneself and the world; it is transformation toward wholeness.

David Forbes
It is a miracle that curiosity survives formal education.
Albert Einstein (1879 - 1955)

Words Of Wisdom From A Homeless Man

.... So I'm on the 1 train going up to 181st. and a man gets on and starts telling his story. He is a single father with 4 little girls, his wife abandoned him etc. etc. and, SURPRISE, he wants people to give him money. Since I feel like I am the lone representative in this train car of all of the Jews ever, I hand him a one dollar bill and wish him well.

He liked that. He shook my hand and said "Shalom!". Then he said "The Torah is HARD! Every word has so much meaning. It's so HARD!"

I couldn't help but agree.

And he never learned a kasha of Reb Shmuel Rozovsky on a terutz of Reb Shimon Shkop on a kasha of the Pnei Yehoshua on a proof of Tosfos that they used to bolster an explanation of the gemara's question on the mishna.

Torah IS hard!


Make Your Dreams Come True

I am actually similar to you in that I read this blog, too!:).

The previous post got me thinking.....

What is [if I may express myself in the terminology of the beis medrash] PSHAT in dreams, both those dreamt in a wakened state and those in a less conscious mode? What do they mean?

[I used to like to teach the 9th perek of brachos because it is all about dreams so when the students fell asleep during class, I felt like "Oh, they are just putting into practice what they learned"].

A dream comes from a very deep place in the psyche and soul. So when I, Elchanan Ehrman, dream, nobody can fully understand its depth besides me, because it emanates from my most essential self. I still haven't succeeded in finding a person whom I felt fully understands me because to understand me is to be me.

Please substitute my name for yours and reread the previous paragraph. Does that resonate with you?

You may email me your response.....:)

Lets take Yosef as a f'rinstence. His brothers couldn't understand what he was dreaming about. "YOU? JOE? KING? No way!!!" But in his deepest self he understood that he WAS king and that his brothers would ultimately bow down to him.

He was right.....

The word for dream,  חלם, can be scrambled to read לחם. Bread, sustenance. Our dreams sustain us.

Keep dreaming. Don't let others get you down, they don't fully understand you anyway. [I add that it is often wise to get an outside, objective opinion as well for reasons beyond the scope of our discussion but ultimately the final decisions rest upon you]. You have tremendous potential waiting to be unlocked.

Dreams, and the ability to fulfill them, are a gift from Above. Hashem is כל יכול and He can make it happen. He just needs a little "help" from you in the form of resiliency and determination.

One more thing: Have patience. Yosef's dreams took many years and much heartache until they came true.


Tread Softly

It seems that the poet William Butler Yeats wrote this to someone he loved but felt that he was inadequate in her eyes. [More powerful if you read it aloud].

Had I the heavens' embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

The mussar haskel: If you have children or students or friends who dream, remember, tread softly because you tread on their dreams......

A Informal Poll - G-d Is With The Downtrodden - Like - Strange Language

I am taking a poll...

Is it גאוה [hubris] to place a quote of my own at the bottom of all my emails [as I have been doing]? Like, who do I think I am??

If I get a resounding response of YES then I will leave it there [bet you didn't expect me to go in that direction. Truth be told - either did I. I never really know what I am going to write until I actually write it:)] so that people treat me like a בעל גאוה should be treated thus ensuring that I will be scorned by others in this world paving the way for closeness to G-d.

Question 2: Does it detract from the serious nature of this blog when I write words such as "like" in the context, like, a teenage girl would? If it does then.....

What do you call a prayer book?

A sittur.

What do you call a young, small person?

A baby.

What do you call a teenage girl from 8:30 until 11:30 at the neighbor's house?

A baby sittur.

Why is a teenage girl called a very young, small person/prayer book?

Like, strange language, this.....

Lev Tov

I like people with a lev tov.

Example: I am here to raise money for lomdei Torah who need it. The issue is, that for various reasons that this is not the forum to discuss, I generally don't directly ask people to contribute [this might explain why I only raised about 1 percent of what I needed to start my Yeshiva that wasn't:)]. Nobody gives because they feel guilty saying no and everybody who gives does so out of the goodness of his or her heart.

Today at the bris I heard that one of the biggest Rabbanim and Talmidei Chachomim in America was there. So I approached him and started talking with him about this and that [turns out that we are sort of related by marriage and that he is a very friendly, humble gentleman...]. He asked me what I am doing here in the US and I told him. I really wasn't intending to get a donation. He asked so I answered. He promptly took out his checkbook and wrote out a nice check to support Torah despite my protestations to the contrary.

He really didn't have to.....

מי כעמך ישראל!:)


Tonight [Monday] at 10:15 there will be Torah for the men on the third floor of Glueck hall in Yeshivas Rabbeinu Yitzchak Elchanan [which, coincidentally, is my father's name and my name]. I thank the organizers my holy friends Y.D.W. and Y.P. The topic: The Fine Art Of Seeking Honor.

On Wednesday at 8pm there will be a woman's shiur hosted by the Berman's in Kew Gardens Hills. I thank the holy couple and my sweetest friends Reb Yisrael Yaakov and Rebbetzin Dahlia for opening up their home and for allowing us free, wireless access to the Shechina that resides in their special abode. Topic: Mount Sinai - More Than Just A Hospital.


Travel Stories

Some of what has been going on:

I spent much of yesterday and some of today in transit. Today, on my way home from the bris of Yisrael Meir Gervis, a remarkable, unusual thing happened to me. I actually GOT ON THE RIGHT TRAIN AND DIDN'T END UP IN THE WRONG PLACE!!!:). Boring for the blog but a rare and thankful change from my usual escapades of ending up in the most out of the way places surrounded by people who are true representatives of everything I never want to be:). I must note that part of the way I was accompanied by a beloved friend and brother [it's not my fault that we have different parents] who made sure to hold my hand [figuratively speaking - even though in NYC anything goes:)] who made sure that I didn't get lost. But the last leg of the trip it was just me and thanks G-d - I made it home.

True story - Yesterday in the tachana merkazit  Penn Station a man walked by me and said in a positively sinister voice "Adolph Hitler". I answered [full disclosure - the following only happened in my imagination] "Indeed! You bear a STRIKING RESEMBLANCE to him. I will also assume that you share many of his character traits. Strong sedative medication would help you and the rest of society. You also don't smell nice. You should be a poster child for pro-abortion activists. Ever considered that??"

Today at the beautiful seudas bris a gentleman asked my name and I said "Elchanan Ehrman". He asked [in all seriousness] "Are you related to Ally Ehrman?"


Anyway - he then told me that he heard and enjoyed a shiur I gave on the sugya of שרטוט. Like, does he know that he made my month? The Yid even remembered the chidush I said in the name of Rav Leib Mallin. [Turns out that we went to high school together also - small world]. May Hashem bless him with prosperity [and that he should continue to display exquisitely good taste in Torah:):)].

Moral of the story: If you have something nice to say - say it. People are sensitive and can't help but enjoy a gut vort - a kind word.    

And a mazel tov to Rebbe Ephraim and his wife Sara!!! Torah chuppah and maasim toivimmmmmm!

Be Proud Of Who You Are

The yarmulka shouldn't be any smaller in the workplace. If one's tradition is to wear his tzitzis out - he should do so at work as well. One should be proud of who he is and what he is.

Rabbi Meyer Twerski in Unapologetic Judaism here.

Sunday, April 28, 2013


Rabbi Chaim Yitzchak Poupko was a student of the Chafetz Chaim. The Chafetz Chaim once took him aside and said "If anyone ever asks you how to wrap oneself in a tallis - this is the way to do it." He then showed R' Poupko how he wraps himself. R' Poupko thought it strange that the Chafetz Chaim randomly chose this halacha. Nu nu.

Years later R' Poupko was in Israel and he was with the Chazon Ish who turned to him and said, "You were a student of the Chafetz Chaim. How did he wrap himself in his tallis....?"

A shocked R' Poupko showed him.

זכות הצדיקים יעזור ויגן ויושיע!!

מעשה איש עמ' צ

Friday, April 26, 2013

יוסף בן רות

Was asked to post:
Please daven for my friend's husband. They are a warm, giving family with 3 children.  He has a cancerous tumor.  Doctors have said he is not a candidate for surgery, unfortunately.
Note from his mother:
It is time for us to circulate this information to as many people as possible: friends, shuls, schools, bikur cholim and tehillim lists so that more and more people beseech HaShem to help the doctors find a way to heal Yosef ben Rus.
May the merit of our prayers, tzedakah, acts of chesed (kindness), learning Torah, committing to perform a mitzvah with renewed enthusiasm, etc. reverse this terrible decree.  G-d is the Ultimate Healer.  May He grant Yosef a long and healthy life.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Real You

Chazal, our Sages, were brilliant people. Learning Torah and seeing the depths of understanding they possessed is awe-inspiring.

Let us take one example: Chazal teach that there are three ways to get to know a person for real: בכיסו בכוסו ובכעסו.

When a person gets angry, you see the real him.

When he drinks, all the secrets tumble out. If he is filled with Torah, then words of Torah emanate from his mouth. If he is a fan at a football game or at a bar and he gets drunk, in all likelihood he will get into a fight with someone else and say "lovely delightful" words.

The last example is something I have learned in the last two years. בכיסו. His pocket. Money. People can put on a great show until it comes to their pocketbooks. Then the real them comes out. Sometimes it is heartwarming and inspiring to see. Other times, painful. Like a friend of mine, an orthodontist, once told me כולם חברים שלך, עד ש - everyone can pretend to be your friend until.... The moment finances are involved, the real them comes out. How interesting that Chazal say that במקום חסרון כיס in a case of financial loss, צריך זירוז,  people need to be encouraged to do the mitzvos. Everybody knows how important mitzvos are, but still, when it costs them, they become reluctant.

This makes me sad. There are many people about whom I wish I could continue living under the illusion that they are fine people through and through. But knowing their relationship to money casts a pallor over their character.

An Ohr Hachaim in numerous places: Hashem gives people extra money so that they can give it away. When a poor man comes to my door, he is really asking for HIS money. Hashem just gave it to me to hold onto until he needed it. I am like a teller at the bank. I am giving the customer his own money. אם כסף תלוה את עמי את העני עמך. The עני's money is עמך, with you. So when you give it, give with joy. It gives you lots of great olam haba and in addition it really enhances your olam hazeh.

There was once lived great tzaddik and talmid chochom who used to collect money for the poor named Rabbi Schwartz. He once entered a store and asked the store owner, a well known miser, for a contribution. The man promptly gave Rabbi Schwartz a slap in the face.

Rabbi Schwartz didn't miss a beat and said "That was for me. What do you have for the poor."

The man gave him money.....:):)

A Crazy My-seh In A Supermarket

Today I went shopping in the supermarket [Fairway on 74th and Broadway, for those curious:)]. I am normally not a big shopping guy, but here I have only one other option.

Starvation, resulting ultimately in death.

The reason that such an eventuality doesn't seem so attractive is because I am far from my family and therefore don't know who would attend my funeral and half the fun of being at one's own funeral [I am assuming] is seeing how all the good buddies came out to offer final respects [the other half is not having to pay ridiculously high taxes]. People are so BUUUUUSSSYYYY. Hard to pin anyone down for 30 seconds. Sometimes I will send a friend an email and two and a half weeks later he will reply with three words making me amazed at how busy he must be. He only found four free seconds for me after two and half weeks:):)! AHHHHHHHH - friends........

There are OTHER reasons why I would prefer not to starve to death, all of them enough to get me to go to the supermarket, take a basket in hand and fill it up with delectable edibles.

Today I was walking around watching everybody shop and I could take it no longer.

[I am making the following up. It DID happened - in my imagination].

I stood up in a shopping cart and said with great drama and pathos:

 "Ladies and Gentlemen, Goyim and Jews, Republicans and Democrats, Met fans and Yankee fans, I would like your attention for just a few moments, then you can go back to your business of expanding your waistlines and deciding the ever present dilemma of 'should I get the tuna in water or in oil'. Or maybe thinking 'Darn it, did my wife tell me to get the three percent fat milk or eight percent?'.

 You are all walking around this supermarket filling your shopping carts and baskets with food. Why? Animals eat just like humans eat. Are we all just a bunch of overdeveloped monkeys?? NO, I SAY! Man is endowed with a Godly soul. In Hebrew, the language of the Bible, we call this a N-E-S-H-O-O-O-M-A [if you live in Boro Park]. A soul is a part of G-d that he gave to us in order to distinguish us from the animal kingdom. So that when we eat and sleep and procreate, we do so with different feelings and attitudes than mammals in the jungle.

MY FELLOW AMERICANS [and illegal immigrants] - ARE WE LIVING TO EAT OR EATING TO LIVE? Do we have a higher purpose? Have we transformed our bellies into a substitute for G-d. Can we somehow ELEVATE our gastronomic endeavors into something rich and satisfying for the indomitable human spirit or is all of the pasta we are buying going to merely serve as fodder for the worms on that dark day when we bite the dust?!

Beloved fellow members of mankind with whom I have the privilege of gracing G-d's earth, I URGE you. Transcend your basic animalistic desire to maximize your physical pleasure and go for something lasting, something eternal. Speak words of spirituality at the table. Read a chapter of Psalms written by King David and know that if he were alive today he would insist that another English name be given to his masterpiece. What a silly name. And why are two of the six letters silent?? Read the Song of Songs and try to experience G-d's love. Connect to the Jewish people who are here to guide the way towards a life of meaning and depth.

Thank you all so much for your attention. I love you all!" I then blew kisses to the crowd of dozens that surrounded me.

I can't tell you if they are still clapping hours later but for the next ten minutes I was in the store it didn't stop. All people need is to be reminded that

נשמה שנתת בי טהורה היא

Number In NY

Strangely enough, my home phone doesn't seem to be working so well. For all who have called or would like to my cell [!!] number is - 917 913 4416


Please say this in a thick British accent.

A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.

Winston Churchill (1874 - 1965)

You Thought You Had Problems....

From The Times Of Israel
Elior Babian, 16, the second-oldest of the family’s five sons, last week won the Chidon HaTanach. The knowledge he displayed was phenomenal, but his success is even more remarkable when you step into his home, and learn more about his life and that of his family.
This is a family that has had no shortage of personal hardships, with four of the five sons — Elior among them — suffering from a variety of handicaps and disorders. Though both Babians work, their joint salaries can’t cover the crippling bills that have forced Aharon Babian to resort to asking for donations in order to keep a roof over their heads. “I never believed that it would come to that,” said Aharon Babian. “But I have to do it, to pay the rent.”
For the Babians, however, their son’s win was much more than a significant scholastic achievement. Elior Babian has always loved studying the Bible, and received special tutoring from one of his school rabbis to prepare for the quiz, after competing in local quizzes over the last few years. The rabbi “saw his potential,” said his father. Elior “has a great memory.”
But the teenager has had to grapple with his own demons, after being recently diagnosed with schizophrenia, following an extended period of anxiety and depression.
“He had ups and downs this year,” said Aharon. “He’s been a little bit better; he has more emotional strength this year.”
The idea to work toward winning the quiz was Elior’s, said his parents, but they made sure he knew that they had faith in his abilities. “He’s a special kid,” said his mother, tearing up, “with the skills to do well. And it’s my job as his mother to be an optimist on his behalf, to believe in him.”
For the Babians, Elior’s diagnosis was yet another blow in their spate of health-related and financial crises.
Two of their five sons, including 19-year-old Eliran, the oldest, and Elihu, 10, suffer from pituitary dwarfism, requiring daily injections of growth hormones that aren’t completely covered by the national health insurance. Their third son, Eliav, 12½, has a development disorder and is enrolled in the special-education system. Only their youngest, Elyashiv, 5, is “okay,” said Shula.
The Babians receive some government assistance, but it doesn’t come close to what they need to cover the expenses incurred in caring for their children. They have found themselves trapped beneath a mountain of debt, with only a few thousand shekels a month in income.
Aharon Babian, 48, a Hebrew studies teacher in the local religious public school system, has always worked only as a substitute teacher, lacking a Bachelor’s degree that would solidify his employment possibilities. He was able to support the family years ago, supplemented by his wife’s work as a certified caregiver for seniors. But changes in the public school system lessened the need for substitute teachers, and after he won a protracted disagreement with one school in court, Babian found that he had even fewer hours of employment. Meanwhile Shula developed a back problem and carpal tunnel syndrome in one of her hands that makes it impossible to do the heavy lifting and cleaning required in caring for seniors.
Owing hundreds of thousands of shekels, they needed money urgently in order to make ends meet, Babain started asking for personal donations.
It hasn’t been easy for him to ask for help among the Beit Shemesh community in which he lives, said Rabbi Joel Landau, a Beit Shemesh resident who has tried to help the family.
“The pressures are enormous,” Landau said. “That’s the story in a nutshell.”
For Aharon, there aren’t many solutions, either. He doesn’t believe he has the tools to get a different kind of job. ”There’s a lot of pressure, a lot of anxiety,” he said. “I have a huge load on my shoulders. But I don’t want it to be hard like this for my boys.”
Neither does Shula Babian, who dreams of working as a kindergarten teacher’s assistant.
Shula, who moved to Israel from Iran when she was 19, and married her husband before completing her accounting degree, said softly, “We want to succeed on our own.”
Elior certainly did that, in Jerusalem last week. “This was a success for our family,” said his mother, “and that’s what we want our boys to feel.”

A Bomb

If anybody is able to answer this question - I will be greatly indebted to you.

Thank you!

The Power Of Speech

Written by my beloved friend Rav Lipman Podolsky ztz"l whose yahrtzeit was yesterday the 13th of Iyar. The Metzora, the person afflicted with Tzora'as (a spiritual skin disease, sometimes erroneously translated leprosy), is not healed through the good graces of a physician. The only licensed Tzora'asologist is the Kohen (Vayikra 14:2). The reason for this anomaly stems from the source of this illness. Unlike all physical ailments, Tzora'as is purely a spiritual malady. Tzora'as is the Divine allergic reaction of having spoken Lashon Hara, slanderous speech (Erachin 15b).   Thus, the cure for this sickness is achieved exclusively via the Kohen, about whom the prophet says: "For the lips of the Kohen should safeguard knowledge, and people should seek teaching from his mouth, for he is an agent of Hashem..." (Malachi 2:7) To learn how to speak properly, one must become a disciple of the Kohen, a person who inherently guards his tongue.   Moreover, for the cure to be complete it is not sufficient for the Kohen to examine the patient and see that the Tzora'as has cleared up. The Kohen must declare out loud, "Pure!" (Nega'im 3:1) What is the reasoning behind this?   The Chofetz Chaim -- the pioneer in the field of the Halachos of Lashon Hara -- explained. When the Metzora witnesses that his cure is dependent solely upon a statement by the Kohen, by a person who himself personifies the trait of clean speech, the Metzora is inspired to teshuva, to a realization that, "Death and life are in the power of the tongue..." (Mishlei 18:21) The power that caused his illness was the very same that cured him. Had he spoken properly, he could have built worlds rather than destroy them.   Note that the verse does not say, "Life and death." Without paying attention, the tongue will more quickly send a person in one direction than the other. It is easier to fall off a mountain than to climb it.   Further, it does not say, "Life, and not such a good life." Rather, "Death and life." The Torah, as we know, does not mince words. Death is death. Those born with the instinct for survival usually try to avoid it.   Speech is what distinguishes us from the animals (Onkelos, Breishis 2:7). Speech makes the man. Yet, how often does man consider what to make of his speech?   We are so careful with what we put into our mouths. Cholesterol, saturated fats, chemicals, preservatives. Health -- say the experts -- is preeminent. So why is it that we are so heedless concerning what emanates from our mouths? Why is spiritual health so unfashionable? Good question.   In truth, though, people are concerned about what exudes. Take bad breath, for example. How much of an effort do people invest so as not to offend others with their chronic halitosis? Toothpaste, dental rinse, the occasional breathmint, etc. Yet to offend Hashem with our malodorous speech somehow missed the list of priorities.  The Chofetz Chaim constructed a parable to facilitate our attempt at refining our speech (adapted for the modern reader). "Reuven" once visited a large computer company, and upon entering he beheld a huge hall, lined with two hundred and forty-eight computer terminals, each serving a specific function. As an indication of the importance of every terminal and its function, each one was protected with battery backup in the event of a power outage. Reuven was very impressed with this vast array of the latest technology.   As he strolled between the aisles, he came upon one particular terminal that appeared different from the rest. In addition to the standard protection shared by all the computers, this one was surrounded by uniformed, armed guards, protecting it from any possible harm. Reuven was nonplussed. What could differentiate this particular computer from the others?   Upon inquiry, Reuven revealed the secret. Each of the other terminals served a specific function. Since each function was vital, each was equipped with a battery backup. This terminal, on the other hand, controlled the function of all the other terminals. Should anything happen to this computer, even a minor malfunction, all the rest would immediately cease to operate, bring to a halt all the activities of this corporation. It was for this reason that they took such special care to protect this computer.   The two hundred and forty-eight computers are the positive commandments with which we were equipped to help us achieve our personal missions here on earth. The computer that guides them all is the power of speech, the factor that distinguishes us from the monkeys. It thus requires extra, special protection. When we use our mouths wisely, everything works properly. When we mis-speak, all our computers malfunction; havoc is wreaked and spiritual growth grinds to a standstill.   We no longer have Tzora'as; the sin of Lashon Hara, tragically, continues to thrive. How ironic, to take the gift of speech -- a gift meant to elevate us above the physical -- and to abuse it, rendering ourselves on a level far below that of the animals. This is the message of the Chofetz Chaim, himself a Kohen, one who genuinely excelled in his perfection of the trait of holy speech. "Death and life are in the power of the tongue..." (Mishlei 18:21)

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

"Again and again I therefore admonish my students in Europe and America: Don't aim at success - the more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side effect of one's personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one's surrender to a person other than oneself. Happiness must happen, and the same holds for success: you have to let it happen by not caring about it. I want you to listen to what your conscience commands you to do and go on to carry it out to the best of your knowledge. Then you will live to see that in the long-run - in the long-run, I say! - success will follow you precisely because you had forgotten to think about it."
Victor Frankl
Source: Man's Search for Meaning

Seeing The Good

מי האיש החפץ חיים אוהב ימים לראות טוב

Who is a person who really desires life? He LOVES his days to see good.

Every day he looks for the good in his life. He discerns good in everything!

[Heard from the Rebbe Shlita in the name of the Ktzos Hachoshen]

Reflections From My Journey

I have arrived in America...

From my trip:

1] On the bus ride from JFK to the city [since I am such a chashuve Rov, I wanted to ride in a vehicle larger than a Limo so I took the bus - from Grand Central Station I took the train - even bigger!! SOOOOO chashuv!] the Hispanic [or otherwise very goyish looking] driver asked me if I am Jewish. I said "I think so" [hehe:)]. He said "I keep Shabbat".

Sorry, not a heart warming geirus story. He is a Seventh Day Adventist. I could have told him that גוי ששבת חייב מיתה but I just wanted to get home already and not start trouble. When we parted I wished him a "Shabbat Shalom" and he wished me one in return. I am sure that his Shabbos looks very little like a Jewish Shabbos so no harm done [he probably never even ate potato kugel and can't pronounce "kasha varnishkes"].

2] When I was looking to get married I was sought out a girl who is on the quieter side. Due to my slightly, outgoing personality [slightly:)] I figured that if I marry the bubbly type our home will never have a peaceful, quiet moment. When I was on the plane I found out what might happen when two outgoing people marry. There was a gregarious couple sitting in the next row [his hair was covered but hers wasn't. Can't win 'em all:)] and they were talking to the couple sitting next to them. They were both loudly talking to the same people at the same time.... I was amused:).

3] All of that traveling time [including about an hour and a half (!!) at Kennedy waiting at passport control] allows one to think. I spent a lot of time pondering the following issue: In my lifetime I have invited countless people to my house, for Shabbos or Yom Tov meals or otherwise. A very large percentage of the people who I have invited "couldn't make it". Sometimes with a reason "I really HAVE to eat at the hotel" and sometimes without [not that they owe me an explanation]. Why don't they come? I don't charge. FREE FOOD! I think the reason is that people are not comfortable taking. Sometimes there were people who I would have so enjoyed their company but repeated invitations were politely rebuffed. Also, when people have come over to visit over the years, in almost EVERY instance, they have said "I can't stay long, I am in a rush".

Everybody is in such a rush?? Where is everybody rushing to??? It hasn't happened once that someone came over and said "I am not in a rush, how are you?"

A gemara, a thought and a myse.

 The gemara: At the end of megilla [shout out to my megilla chavrusas Eitan Ross and Abie Korman] it says that despite the fact that one should normally avoid taking [as it says שונא מתנות יחיה],when it makes the giver feel good then he SHOULD take. Sometimes it is harder to take that it is to give. It could mean swallowing pride, it could mean discomfort or it could mean that one feels indebted to his friend. In such instances the chesed of taking is magnified.

The thought: We believe that Hashem wants us to connect. In order to connect to another Jew, both must feel that the other is not in a rush, that he really wants to be there. I believe we are all missing out in our haste to rush to the next place from where we will also rush.

The myse: When the first man went up to the moon, they interviewed the great Ponovitcher Rosh Yeshiva Rav Kahanaman ztz"l [d. 1969] and asked him what he thought. He answered "A man can reach the moon, but lev el lev lo naga'u - people's hearts are no closer." 

It pains me to think of how distant people are from each other....

The Secret Of Life In Two Words




Something bad happens.

Two options.

1] You resist it which results in anger, frusration, regret etc. [fill in negative emotion].

2] You accept reality [it already happened!] and go on with your day.

This is simple to understand but difficult to implement.


1] Understand that by resisting you are only prolonging your own misery.

2] Learn to laugh at life's absurdity. Transmute your troubles into a laugh or three.

3] Realize that what seems unfortunate, might be the best thing that ever happened to you.

4] Remember - אין עוד מלבדו. Let Hashem be at the drivers seat and enjoy the ride.

[Based on something I read]

Monday, April 22, 2013


Tomorrow morning I am in the USA please G-d.
El Al - It's not just an airline. It's Israel, is their motto.

Well, Israel is on strike:).

So my flight was cancelled and instead I am "stuck" at home.

הודו לה' כי טוב כי לעלום חסדו

Sunday, April 21, 2013

For years, years, I have labored to educate my children. I don't know if I have been successful. I will find out when they are adults. Tonight - I had a special moment. I learned that at least a child of mine knows clearly my position on a certain matter.

I don't have a cell phone in Israel [only in America I feel like I need to use one]. This is a principled position of mine and while I don't preach it or force my views on others, for myself it is critical. [Why this is so is not our topic. If you would like I can explain one on one].

Tonight someone called and asked to speak with me. My child answered that I am not home. The caller asked for my cell phone number to which my son replied הוא סולד מזה [meaning "not in a million years, bud"].


A Debunking

I thank my friend R' Baruch for sending this link about  Korean Talmud study. So it seems that they are not going to develop into great talmidei chachomim after all.....

Are We Really All Geniuses?

From The Jewish Press:

Charlie Park, Vice President of Samsung Korea, visited an Israeli Yeshiva at Shalavim last week, accompanied by a South Korean camera crew, and met with the program directors and with students to document how students study Talmud at the Yeshiva.

The South Koreans have developed a fascination with the study of Talmud. The country’s ambassador to Israel, Ma Young-Sam, has told the “Culture Today” TV show that Talmud study is now a mandatory part of the country’s school curriculum.

In addition, it is said, almost every home in South Korea boasts a Korean version of the Talmud, and mothers commonly teach it to their children, who call it the “Light of Knowledge.”

Young-Sam explained, “We were very curious about the high academic achievements of the Jews, who have a high percentage of Nobel laureates in all fields – literature, science and economics.

“This is a remarkable achievement. We tried to understand: What is the secret of the Jewish people? How are they, more than other people, able to reach those impressive accomplishments? Why are Jews so intelligent?

“The conclusion we arrived at is that one of your secrets is that you study the Talmud… We believe that if we teach our children Talmud, they will also become geniuses. This is what stands behind the rationale of introducing Talmud study to our school curriculum. I, for example, have two sets of the Talmud.”

While touring the Beit Midrash, the study hall, he said he now felt he understood “the growing grounds” of the Jewish genius.

Next time I meet a South Korean, I am going to talk with him in learning.

"So, Kim Sim, how do you learn pshat in הפה שאסר הוא הפה שהתיר - is it a migo or a different din? Why is chezkas hagoof stronger than other chazakos? How do you understand "shanyim ochazim"? Is pshat that each of them has half or that they both have the whole thing? Is migo a ra'aya that he is telling the truth or koach ha-tyneh? Is the issur of chatzi shiur part of the issur of the whole shiur or a completely different issur? What are the nafka minos? Is shavya anafshei mi-din neder or a new hischayivus? Prove your position!"

AHHHHHHHH - the light of knowledge.........:)

PS - On a more serious note PLEASE see the Rambam in Hilchos Talmud Torah פרק י הלכה ט. Sorta makes me wonder why they spoke with him....
"The thing that most people do not understand, is that you get to control the way you feel, because you get to choose the thoughts you think. Most people think that they only have the option of responding to the circumstances that surround them. And that's what makes them attempt the impossible, which is to control the circumstances around them, which only feeds their feeling of frustration and vulnerability, because it doesn't take very much life experience to discover you can't control all of those circumstances."

To Be A Gadol

A man stands on the roof of a skyscraper and sees below him little dots. He goes down 20 floors and everyone looks like little babies. He descends another 20 floors and people look like children. Another 20 and they look like adults.

He gets to street level, sees a man and hugs him. The man says "What are you doing? I don't even know you???"

He answers "You might not know me, but I know you since you were a little-little baby:):).

To be a "gadol" means to give. To be a kotton means to take. Chazal say that a kotton who is self-reliant is called a gadol while a gadol who is dependent upon others is called a kotton.

The root of gadol is גד which means to extend as in the talmudic concept of גוד אחית or גוד אסוק.  The gemara says גד means גמול דלים - to give to the poor.

The moon was originally called gadol [שני המאורות הגדולים] but was called a kotton after it received the light of the sun [ואת המאור הקטן לממשלת הלילה]. [Rav Soloveitchik]

ויגדל האיש ויצא אל אחיו וירא בסבלותם - The man [Moshe] became a gadol, he went out to his brothers and saw their suffering. To be a gadol means to step outside of your own egotistical needs and to see the suffering of others.

Gadol has another meaning - to continuously grow. לך השם הגדולה - זו מעשה בראשית. The gedulah of Hashem is expressed in his creating more and more. The gemara in megilla says that בית גדול refers to a house where they are מגדל and constantly increase Torah or Tefilla [בית שמגדלין בו תורה או תפילה].

Gadol almost means to see go down to the lowest places and people to help them. The bigger you are the more you can see those smaller as the gemara [end of megilla] says about Hashem, that wherever you find an expression of His greatness you see the he also cares for the downtrodden.

It is hard work to be a gadol:).

[Based on a drasha I gave at a bar mitzva tonight - it is likely that some of the ideas I heard from the Rebbe Shlita]

Reforming Halacha

There is a new organization called "Beit Hillel". A friend recently sent me an article written by one of their members [a software engineer by profession] describing their ideology. I will first reprint the article and they give you my censored opinion. [My uncensored opinion is that it is a branch of Reform Judaism masquerading as Orthodox:)].

Beit Hillel’s Halachic Approach

Beit Hillel is fervently and totally committed to Halacha, the Orthodox tradition, and the rigorous methodology of studying the sources from the Talmud, via the Geonim, Rishonim, Aharonim and Poskim; carefully weighing the various opinions on the background of the issue at hand, bearing in mind the nature of the period of time.

Beit Hillel leans to a holistic approach. While one can find Halachic rulings which will emphasize certain traditional values, while paying less regard to other central Torah tenets, Beit Hillel will attempt to bring all concerns to the table.

Beit Hillel would never approve of leniency on any Torah value or Halacha in a void.But when value stands against value, it is the very essence of the Oral Torah, and the duty of the rabbinic leaders of each generation to evaluate and weigh the issues, using their moral compass, common sense and precedence to favor one Torah value over another.

This is reminiscent of the famed story attributed to Rav Chaim of Brisk. There are many versions, but they all have Rav Chaim instructing Jews with health concerns to eat and drink on Yom Kippur. When confronted by a colleague about his leniency on the laws of the solemn fast, Rav Chaim famously retorted: “I am not being lenient about the laws of Yom Kippur; on the contrary: I am being strict about the laws of guarding one’s life.”

Beit Hillel is not lenient, Heaven forbid, on the laws of Shabbat; on the contrary it is strict about the laws of guarding one’s fellow Jew’s spiritual life, family harmony, and the unity of Am Yisrael.

Beit Hillel’s Methodology

Beit Hillel is currently comprised of approximately 170 Rabbanim and Rabbaniyot, the vast majority leading communities or holding key Yeshiva/Midrasha roles, including several Rashei Yeshiva, who share the ideology of an enlightened, inclusive Judaism, whose “ways are pleasant”; and are committed to presenting what they consider to be the genuine face of Judaism to the public, sophisticated, nuanced and sensitive to the needs of the era.

All of the members are invited to participate in the Beit Midrash Ha-Hilchati (Halachic study forum). This forum meets about every 2 months (according to need) for roughly 5 or 6 hour sessions, to study and discuss pressing Halachic issues of weighty and significant public concern, towards publicizing responsa. Critical sources are sent to participants before convening, so they are well versed and prepared for the conference. A symposium will typically include a lecture by renowned experts on the topic at hand, who present different angles of the subject. This will often be followed by an in depth lecture by one of the Beit Hillel members on pertinent aspects of the question. The symposium is typified by lively and energetic discussion throughout the proceedings, and will end with debate over the decisions to be made, and when necessary will determine how to investigate matters further.
These meetings are invariably followed by further extensive deliberations by the Beit Midrash forum via email.

After decisions are reached, a draft is made up by one of the members, which is submitted to the Beit Midrash forum for comment and often extensive debate. This process will continue until a consensus is reached.

Once the Beit Midrash forum agrees on a document that reflects their proceedings and decisions, the document will be submitted to the wider Beit Hillel forum by email, giving the entire group the opportunity to offer new insights or point out issues or sources overlooked.

As is readily apparent, this is an unprecedented method of developing a responsum. The result is a paper which has been critically examined and weighed by some of the best minds that Religious Zionist rabbinic leadership has to offer. The entire spectrum of Halachic concerns, from texts to social issues is thrashed out and taken into account. The shared responsibility affords the decision substantial authority and validity.

I would like to give an example from an area that I used to know a lot about: Sports. Yeshiva University has a very good basketball team - The Macs [short for Macabees - not sure how the original Macabess would feel about a competitive basketball team using their name. My hunch is that they wouldn't be happy as it is foreign to their spirit]. I heard that they were the second most accurate three point shooters in all of "Division Three" college ball this year. The Macs have a great history with many superstars [some of whom were my family members:)].

So I ask: How come the Macs don't play with the "Big Boys" in "Division One A". Why are they playing against schools like City College and not against schools like U.C.L.A. or Duke?

The answer is that they are completely out of their league [literally and figuratively]. If they would play against the best teams in the country they would be WHUPPED. Sorry. No offense coach Jonny. YU is good but only on their limited level but no YU guys are going to the NBA. [A couple were drafted over the years but nobody ever made it to the big show]. In Division Three, YU is great but not beyond that. If YU would play the Lakers they would almost get shut out! Lakers 151 - Yeshiva 4. [But I am CERTAIN that the players are better gemara learners than the Lakers and have better middos and THAT'S what counts:)].

This generation is blessed with people who are first rate titans of Torah. To name a few of the better known: Rav Chaim Kneyevsky, Rav Ovadiah Yosef, Rav Shlomo Fischer, Rav Aharon Leib Shteinman, Rav Asher Weiss, Rav Moshe Shternbuch and Rav Zalman Nechmiah Goldberg, all Shlita. People who know Shas by heart, Shulchan Aruch by heart, EVERYTHING by heart. People who excel at discovering brilliant novel interpretations of our ancient texts.

I look at the men and women [!!] who compromise the members of this new halachic panel. Are they on the same level as the Torah giants that I mentioned. Clearly not. I am SURE that I, little me, learn better and know more than some of the members of this group and I can assure you, that all humility aside,  I personally know plenty of people who are bigger than I am in Torah.

The way the halachic system has worked since Sinai is that the BIGGEST authorities are consulted when deciding big questions. Our gedolei yisrael are well aware of every source that there people will bring up. The difference I believe is that these people want to superimpose their modern value system on the halacha [with a "holistic" approach] and the gedolim judge based strictly on pure Torah values.

There is a very simple way of testing my assertion. Approach each one of the members of this group and give them a test on Kol Hatorah Koolah. I am quite certain that I can guess what the results would be.

Remember - In order to get semicha one needs to pass test on a very small percentage of the Shulchan Aruch so having semicha does not a gadol make.

I don't think Beit Hillel, the members of the Yeshiva of Hillel, would be happy.... I believe it arrogant for small [albeit I am sure very nice and sincere] people to claim that they know better what the Torah says than people who know so much more than they do and have so many more years of learning under their belt.

I have a lot more to say but will suffice with this [for now...:)]

A Rotten Apple

If one wants to eat a fruit on Shabbos and discovers that it is partly rotten, is it permitted to cut away the bad part and eat the rest?

Apparently this would fall under the category of borer, selecting the bad from the good, which is a no-no.

A shocker is in the Rabbeinu Chananel [Shabbos 74a] who writes that when the good, edible food is connected to the inedible, the melacha would be dosh [threshing] and not borer. Borer, explains Rabbeinu Chananel, is a mixture, not one unit. According to this, there would be no heter of cutting away the food from the rotten part [אוכל מתוך פסולת] right before eating, which is a special dispensation given in cases of borer [but see Birkas Avraham Shabbos 74a] but not other melachos.

However the Biur Halacha [שי"ט ד"ה מן העלין] seems to rule that one would be permitted to cut away the rotten part, as this is considered part of the normal eating process [such as removing a peel which is permitted]. So rules the Minchas Yitzchak [ה' ל"ח] and the Shmiras Shabbos Ki-hichasa [פ"ג הערה נו].

However Rabbi Yisrael Harfenes [נשמת שבת בורר סי' ק"י] begs to differ and feels that it WOULD be borer and is dissimilar to removing a peel whose development is part of the natural growth process of the fruit.

Bottom line: There is room to be lenient to cut away the rotten part of the fruit. It is better, however, to remove part of the edible fruit together with the rotten part and then it would be permitted to eat the rest. [But see נשמת שבת סי' קי"ב that some authorities don't like the idea of removing part of the food with the unwanted part].

Eytza: Eat your fruits before they start rotting.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

The weekly article בס"ד on a sugya in the parsha here.
Some adopt a rigid system that answers all possible questions and so you don't have to think beyond its systems.  The other response is much more seemingly fragile but much more expansive, because it doesn't lay down a rigid framework.  It allows you to move within the mystery of it.  And that seems to be flowering right now.  I think people are more and more interested in embracing that because they've been through everything else.  It is a willingness to embrace mystery, a willingness to embrace not knowing, allowing that intuitive awareness to speak.

Paul John Roach
Source: The Translucent Revolution: How People Just Like You Are Waking Up & Changing the World
"The instant experience of the present, right now and here, as it is, for your mind, energy and body, are many, and each is operating in a different state of awareness and dimension of time.

The present of your mind is far away from the time of here and started beyond the time your remember, in a time that is ever lasting and always there.
The present of your energy is actively in a time you can perceive, beyond the vision of the world in this time, and is replicated at each dimension you are manifested or related.
The present of your body, is an experience of your senses, limited to the infinite potentiality of a body that exists beyond time.
The instant experience of all dimensions of time, is available here and now, through every cell you experience and nourish with life."

Please Daven

Ella bas Freda - serious surgery now.

Baby In Critical Condition - Please Daven

 Moshe Rephael ben Itta Meira

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Things Aren't So Pashut

The astonishment of life, is the absence of any appearance of
reconciliation between the theory and the practice of life.
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803 - 1882)
This relates to the previous post. Life is complex. People are complex. Situations are complex. Things just don't fit into the nice neat boxes we would sometimes like them to. [Is it מותר to end a sentence with the preposition "to"?? Ahhhh - I just googled this shyla and found the following gem: "There’s no necessity to ban prepositions from the end of sentences. Ending a sentence with a preposition is a perfectly natural part of the structure of modern English". So there! You know - when I was in school back in the early 30's my least favorite subject was .... everything, but particularly grammar (and science and math). Now I write a lot in English and find myself quite interested in everything my poor, dead (now, not then) teacher was trying to teach. So Ms. Mayefsky, in the Oilam Ha-emes, I speak to you in Yiddish which is the language of preference there. Ich beyt mechila. Please forgive me for my insolence. English class is in fact more important that whether the pizza store is having a "three for the price of two" special. Have a lichtige gan eden and warmest regards to all. I DON'T believe this. The brackets in this post are far longer than the actual post. I got outta hand. Is that מותר?]

Abandon The Urge

Abandon the urge to simplify everything, to look for formulas and easy answers, and to begin to think multidimensionally, to glory in the mystery and paradoxes of life, not to be dismayed by the multitude of causes and consequences that are inherent in each experience -- to appreciate the fact that life is complex.

Dr. M. Scott Peck

MOIRRAAA-DIIIKKKKKK:) [That is a yeshivish way of saying "I LOVE IT"]
Anyone interested on an interesting eyewitness account of Rav Soloveitchik on Yom Ha-atzmaut and his views on aliyah in general can read here. Fascinating.

Anyone who wants to read 9 different answers to a BOMB KASHA of the Shaar Hamelech can read here.

At the end I presented a kasha of the Rebbe Shlita. The gemara says that a blind person is חשוב כמת. The gemara also says that חרשו נותן לו דמי כולו even though it doesn't say that a חרש is חשוב כמת. Why then does one who blinds his friend [ר"ל] not pay דמי כולו - it is like killing him?? Why is the payment for a חרש greater??

Anybody with a good terutz should be blessed and I will kiss your forehead when I see you bl"n and take your כלים to the בית המרחץ [see עירובין כז,ב].

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

A Judge Who Doesn't Judge

Excerpted from Mitch Albom from the Detroit Free Press

Detroit is a city whose treasures are often hidden. A Diego Rivera mural adorns the inner walls of a museum. The history of Motown music rests inside a converted house on West Grand Boulevard. One of the world's great hockey teams labors in a stark, windowless arena by the river.

Tucked away on the second floor of the federal courthouse in Detroit, a cold monolith of concrete and steel, sits one more treasure: a treasure of a man. His name is Damon Keith. Born on the Fourth of July, he has graced this Earth for more than 90 years, nearly all of it here in Detroit.
Although he never had a black teacher as a child, Keith influenced countless promising black students throughout his life. Although his skin color denied him the right to join certain clubs or ride in certain train cars, Keith kicked down doors so that others could be blessed with equal opportunity. Although he once mopped the floors for a Detroit newspaper, Keith made headlines around the world with legal decisions.

And nearly every day, he makes his way to that office on Lafayette Boulevard, exits the elevator, walks down a corridor lined with photographs of virtually every major American personality over the last six decades -- all posing with him -- and, reaching his oversized office, he sits, reads the Bible, and prays.

Anyone who knows him feels the process should be reversed. We should ask the heavens every day that Damon Keith, senior judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit, be given continued long life. Because, like other gleaming treasures behind gritty, urban facades, this man is part of Detroit's most precious wattage.

He illuminates it from within.

"Hey, how you been?" Damon Keith will exclaim, his voice high and reedy and sounding like an excited kid permanently on the edge of discovery. It is not an authoritarian voice, not a James Earl Jones boom -- not, perhaps, what you expect from a judge. Which is perfect. Because his whole life, Damon Keith has been defying stereotypes.

When he was young, there were no black judges; yet he became one. He served his country in an "all-colored" unit during World War II, yet he would help shape the country with his legal views. During the meat of his career, many fell in line with the government; yet Keith stared down a president and an attorney general and was upheld both times. And when a dear friend named A. Alfred Taubman was on trial, he testified as a character witness, despite urgings from fellow law types to keep his sterling reputation out of it.
"He's my friend," Keith proclaimed, and that was enough.

Here is the grandson of slaves, the son of a Ford worker, a kid who played baseball in Detroit's streets, ran track for a Detroit high school, took his future wife to a Lions game for their first date but told her he couldn't root for them until they got some black players. He endured segregation in the South, discrimination in the North, and the drag of lowered expectations in his profession, yet never resorted to such things himself.

He accepts people as they are, even as he aspires to be as great as he can be. Those arguing before him speak admiringly of the fair and respectful tone he sets behind the bench, and of meetings in his chambers with coffee, pastry and civil conversation. As Kipling once put it, he walks with kings yet never loses the common touch.
And his "Hey, how you doing?" is often followed with a grandfatherly kiss.

Love and judgment share the robe.

.... He is simply a person who makes you feel better about yourself and mankind.

He recently hosted a "soul food luncheon" in his offices that was so packed with friends and colleagues you couldn't move. But he could. He eased through the crowd that seemed to part for him like the Red Sea, everyone grabbing his hand, pulling him for a hug, posing for countless pictures. People want to be around him. Coworkers can't get enough. Former law clerks return like Capistrano's swallows.

And if I am gushing here -- and if every time you read something about Damon Keith it is gushing -- well, that is fair and that is accurate and there is a reason, I believe.

We have all been judged. We are judged every day. Our parents judged us, our teachers judged us, our bosses judge us, society judges us. It is a constant feeling, a constant worry, a dynamic of life that we often wish would go away or, at the very least, be more fair.
Damon Keith comes across as fair. Not bitter. Not vengeful. Not trying to make you the receptacle of whatever injustices he has endured. He sees you eye to eye, and he leaves you looking up at him. You can be human around him as you feel he is being human around you.

What higher praise can we give a judge?

Peace In The Middle East

How does one create true shalom and understanding between a couple? The answer is partly by creating a shared language. Only when people speak the same language is effective communication possible.

Example: I say to my wife "Let's do something FUN today". My wife [if she would not know me] might think "Oh, Ally wants to go to a museum or to have a picnic." After knowing me for 19 years she knows EXACTLY what I mean. I mean that we should stay home and I will sit up in my study and "kenock in lernen" [learn really well] and she will be downstairs doing whatever she pleases [hey - each man and HIS fun:)]. That is what a shared language creates - understanding.

Another example: Man comes home from shul and says - "Shul was great today". Depending on what type of guy her husband is it can mean that the kiddush was sumptuous, the rabbi didn't speak, the rabbi gave a long powerful drasha, the baal tefilla for mussaf was inspiring or he sat next to his friend Jeff who filled him in on the results of all the Friday night ball games. A wife who understands her husband will know more or less what he meant.

Language reveals a way of perceiving the world.

In this country there are three basic groups [with 10 billion sub-groups]. Charedi, Dati-leumi [Religious Zionist] and chiloni [secular]. There is much animosity between many members of all three groups because each perceives that the other groups are somehow off the mark and a blemish on a properly functioning society.

I will tell you what I think the problem is. Each group [and often sub-group] has their own language that outsiders can't understand. I have spent many years learning with and living with both Charedim and Dati-Leumi and in my humble opinion they are worlds apart in their use of language and thus in their outlook and perception of life, values and even Avodas Hashem. Often, when I hear members of each group talking about members of the other group I see clearly how polarized they are. Even if there is no hostility or enmity being expressed there is [to me] clearly a completely different Weltanschauung [fancy German word meaning Hashkafa] involved.

I am priviliged to be close to a Chassidishe Rebbe and have spent countless hours with the Chassidim at various events. I can tell you that outsiders cannot understand where they are coming from and how they view the world. I am not a Breslover and I can tell you that I haven't the foggiest where they are coming from. Even if it would be explained to me I STILL wouldn't understand because it is a FEELING in the HEART, a way of being, more than it is an intellectual exercise.

A ben-torah whose life is guided by the writings of the Maharal and Rav Kook will speak a completely different language than a bochur learning in the Mir. A student of Rav Soloveitchik will have a completely different language than a student of Rav Soloveitchik's cousins here in Israel.

The Chilonim want the Charedim to enlist in the army en masse. It will never happen. Put aside any halachic issues involved [tzniyus, kashrus, learning, davening, keeping shabbos according to one's personal standards as opposed to that of the Army's Rabbinate etc. etc.]. There is a more basic issue involved. Charedim have there own set of values, of beliefs, their own private, shared language.

They want to have NOTHING to do with the Chilonim and their values and language. It is a different, foreign world that the Charedim find offensive. So why would they enlist and put themselves under the auspices of the secular establishment? They never will.

That is my analysis.

My own personal preference is to try to bridge between the Charedi and Dati-Leumi worlds. But that is no way to bring up children so I have chosen to bring them up completely Charedi - with all of the inadequacies of their system. It is the best I have found. Many very fine people [much greater than myself] believe otherwise:).


Science Says....

I thank Mrs. D.H. and her son-in-law-my-chavrusa-and-good-friend R' J.B. for sending this.
Professor : You are Jewish, aren't you, son ?

Student : Yes, sir.

Professor: So, you believe in GOD ?
Student : Absolutely, sir.

Professor : Is GOD good ?

Student : Sure.

Professor: Is GOD all powerful ?

Student : Yes.

Professor: My brother died of cancer even though he prayed to GOD to heal him. Most of us would attempt to help others who are ill. But GOD didnt. How is this GOD good then? Hmm?

(Student was silent.)

Professor: You cant answer, can you ? Lets start again, young fella. Is GOD good?

Student : Yes.

Professor: Is satan good ?

Student : No.

Professor: Where does satan come from ?

Student : From … GOD …

Professor: Thats right. Tell me son, is there evil in this world?

Student : Yes.

Professor: Evil is everywhere, isnt it ? And GOD did make  everything. Correct?

Student : Yes.

Professor: So who created evil ?

(Student did not answer.)

Professor: Is there sickness? Immorality? Hatred? Ugliness? All these terrible things exist in the world, don't they?

Student : Yes, sir.

Professor: So, who created them ?

(Student had no answer.)

Professor: Science says you have 5 Senses you use to identify and observe the world around you. Tell me, son, have you ever seen GOD?

Student : No, sir.

Professor: Tell us if you have ever heard your GOD?

Student : No , sir.

Professor: Have you ever felt your GOD, tasted your GOD, smelt your GOD? Have you ever had any sensory perception of GOD for that matter?

Student : No, sir. I'm afraid I havent.

Professor: Yet you still believe in Him?

Student : Yes.

Professor : According to Empirical, Testable, Demonstrable Protocol, Science says your GOD doesn't exist.  What do you say to that, son?

Student : Nothing. I only have my faith.

Professor: Yes, faith. And that is the problem Science has.

Student : Professor, is there such a thing as heat?

Professor: Yes.

Student : And is there such a thing as cold?

Professor: Yes.

Student : No, sir. There isn't.

(The lecture theater became very quiet with this turn of events.)

Student : Sir, you can have lots of heat, even more heat, superheat, mega heat, white heat, a little heat or no heat. But we dont have anything called cold. We can hit 458 degrees below zero which is no heat, but we cant go any further after that. There is no such thing as cold. Cold is only a word we use to describe the absence of heat. We cannot measure cold. Heat is energy. Cold is not the opposite of heat, sir, just the absence of it.

(There was pin-drop silence in the lecture theater.)

Student : What about darkness,  Professor? Is there such a thing as darkness?

Professor: Yes. What is night if there isn't darkness?

Student : Youre wrong again, sir. Darkness is the absence of something. You can have low light, normal light, bright light, flashing light. But if you have no light constantly, you have nothing and its called darkness, isnt it? In reality, darkness isnt. If it is, well you would be able to make darkness darker, wouldnt you?

Professor: So what is the point you are making, young man ?

Student : Sir, my point is your philosophical premise is flawed.

Professor: Flawed ? Can you explain how?

Student : Sir, you are working on the premise of duality. You argue there is life and then there is death, a good GOD and a bad GOD. You are viewing the concept of GOD as something finite, something we can measure. Sir, Science cant even explain a thought. It uses electricity and magnetism, but has never seen, much less fully  understood either one. To view death as the opposite of life is to be ignorant of the fact that death cannot exist as a substantive thing.

Death is not the opposite of life: just the absence of it. Now tell me, Professor, do you teach your students that they evolved from a monkey?

Professor: If you are referring to the natural evolutionary process, yes, of course, I do.

Student : Have you ever observed evolution with your own eyes, sir?

(The Professor shook his head with a smile, beginning to realize where the argument was going.)

Student : Since no one has ever observed the process of evolution at work and cannot even prove that this process is an on-going endeavor. Are you not teaching your opinion, sir? Are you not a scientist but a preacher?

(The class was in uproar.)

Student : Is there anyone in the class who has ever seen the Professors brain?

(The class broke out into laughter.  )

Student : Is there anyone here who has ever heard the Professors brain, felt it, touched or smelt it? No one appears to have done so. So, according to the established Rules of Empirical, Stable, Demonstrable Protocol, Science says that you have no brain, sir. With all due respect, sir, how do we then trust your lectures, sir?

(The room was silent. The Professor stared at the student, his face unfathomable.)

Professor: I guess youll have to take them on faith, son.

Student : That is it sir … Exactly ! The link between man & GOD is FAITH. That is all that keeps things alive and moving.


By the way, that student was EINSTEIN.

A contemporary gadol was asked if a girl who was raised irreligious must tell the boy she is going to marry that she is not a besulah?

The answer [and I quote]: מה - הוא שוטה שלא מבין לבד? שתאמר לו שהיו לה חברים ולא תאמר לו מפורשות
["What - is he stupid and doesn't understand on his own? She should tell him that she had boyfriends and not tell him explicitly."]

Note - If a girl has a hidden blemish that would make a boy not want to marry her the marriage is annulled. Our case is such an instance. [See אבן העזר סח ח]

From this we learn -

1] Use your sechel. That's why you have one.

2] This generation is parutz.

3] Honesty is the best policy.
A tribute - here.
[You might want to turn off the sound of the music for sfiras ha-omer...]

Monday, April 15, 2013

Learning ... And Life

What does learning Torah have to do with real life?

Tonight I was learning a gemara and let out a krechtz. My Gila'la looked at me with concern and asked what had happened. I told her that an engaged girl died prematurely - in the gemara I am learning. The gemara wonders about the halachic implications but I was saddened by the loss. 

What do these ancient stories have to do with MY life. Wouldn't I do better to help my wife and wash the dishes or something??

The basic answer is that Torah is the Word of G-d and there is NOTHING more elevated than that. Torah IS life so the question of what it has to do with life is moot. [It is painful to encapsulate what many books wouldn't encompass in two sentences but the nature of this blog is to strive for brevity].

But an additional benefit......

Learning is about seeing problems and then solving them. After the solution we are glad we had the problems because they triggered further analysis which yielded new-found clarity that would have been absent if not for the problems.

Life is FILLED with problems. Our job is to solve them and then discern how beneficial the 'problems' were. Every challenge of life is a boon to growth.

Thanks for letting me share:).

Famous Rabbi Commits Suicide [OK - That is sensationalist, but read the post anyway:)]

Rov Moshe Shternbuch Shlita related that a certain gadol ba-torah was dying after his lungs had been consumed by all of the smoking he had done over the years. He called 10 people into his room and said "I know that I will be judged by Hashem as a SUICIDE because I am responsible for my death. But I wanted to tell 10 people that it is my fault and that I regret it and maybe that will be some sort of tikkun for my soul."

Soon after he passed away.

The conclusion the Rov comes to is obvious. He just says that if he signs a proclamation forbidding smoking most people won't listen anyway. If the doctors promising disease and early death doesn't help - a "kol-korei" [public proclamation] won't either.

Love Suffering

A man who clearly needs - and in fact receives - intense psychotherapy...

To love is to suffer. To avoid suffering one must not love. But then one suffers from not loving. Therefore, to love is to suffer; not to love is to suffer; to suffer is to suffer. To be happy is to love. To be happy, then, is to suffer, but suffering makes one unhappy. Therefore, to be happy one must love or love to suffer or suffer from too much happiness.
Woody Allen (1935 -)
Although the act of nurturing another's spiritual growth has the effect of nurturing one's own, a major characteristic of genuine love is that the distinction between oneself and the other is always maintained and preserved.
M. Scott Peck

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Lezecher nishmas Margaret Thatcher who recently passed away:

In 1938, Edith Muhlbauer, a 17-year-old Jewish girl, wrote to Muriel Roberts, Edith’s pen pal and the future prime minister’s [Margaret Thatcher] older sister, asking if the Roberts family might help her escape Hitler’s Austria. The Nazis had begun rounding up the first of Vienna’s Jews after the Anschluss, and Edith and her family worried she might be next. Alfred Roberts, Margaret and Muriel’s father, was a small-town grocer; the family had neither the time nor the money to take Edith in. So Margaret, then 12, and Muriel, 17, set about raising funds and persuading the local Rotary club to help.
Edith stayed with more than a dozen Rotary families, including the Robertses, for the next two years, until she could move to join relatives in South America. Edith bunked in Margaret’s room, and she left an impression. “She was 17, tall, beautiful, evidently from a well-to-do family,” Thatcher later wrote in her memoir. But most important, “[s]he told us what it was like to live as a Jew under an anti-Semitic regime. One thing Edith reported particularly stuck in my mind: The Jews, she said, were being made to scrub the streets.” For Thatcher, who believed in meaningful work, this was as much a waste as it was an outrage. Had the Roberts family not intervened, Edith recalled years later, “I would have stayed in Vienna and they would have killed me.” Thatcher never forgot the lesson: “Never hesitate to do whatever you can, for you may save a life,” she told audiences in 1995 after Edith had been located, alive and well, in Brazil.

.....Thatcher, by contrast, had no patience for anti-Semitism or for those who countenanced it. “I simply did not understand anti-semitism myself,” Thatcher confessed in her memoirs. Indeed, she found “some of [her] closest political friends and associates among Jews.” Unique among British politicians, she was unusually free of even “the faintest trace of anti-Semitism in her make-up,” wrote Nigel Lawson, her chancellor of the Exchequer, in 1992. Lawson knew of what he spoke. Alan Clark, a senior Tory politician, wrote in his diaries that some of the old guard, himself included, thought Lawson could not, “as a Jew,” be offered the position of foreign secretary. Lawson’s “Jewish parentage was disqualification enough,” the Sunday Telegraph wrote in 1988, without a hint of shame. Rumors and speculation persisted well into the 1990s about why this or that Jewish member of Parliament couldn’t be made leader of the Conservative Party.

By Charles Johnson

The Consequences Of Your Actions

From a song I listened to far too many times in my childhood [sorry for posting lyrics during sfira:)]:

Honesty is such a lonely word.
Everyone is so untrue.
Honesty is hardly ever heard.
And mostly what I need from you.

I can always find someone
to say they sympathize.
If I wear my heart out on my sleeve.
But I don't want some pretty face
to tell me pretty lies.
All I want is someone to believe. 

A new scandal has just emerged. A leading Modern-Orthodox Rabbi has ADMITTED to being dishonest when lying to a reporter. He is being accused of much worse.

I will not get into the story or the allegations but will just say this: This individual is one who makes his voice heard on a whole range of ethical and moral [not quite sure what the difference between those two words are] issues. He is a Dayan who presides on a Beis Din. He is considered a leader and guide by many as one who successfully bridges the gap between the secular and religious world.

When a person such as this is involved in any wrongdoing people think: "If I can't trust HIS credibility then whom CAN I trust." Such behavior ruins it for EVERYONE because then people lose their faith in Rabbis - and everybody else. I have seen so much in my life that I really don't know whom I can trust. It takes a loooong time until I fully trust anybody and still remain with the fear that at some point the person will be revealed as an imposter. Scary. But that is the result of so many prominent people whom I respected and were discovered to be corrupt.

An example of the effects of people's actions: Last week I went to purchase the upgrade for my Otzar Hachachma program [up to over 60 thousand sefarim!!]. It was a long bus ride to get there but well worth it. When I arrived I realized that I had left my credit card and checks at home. All I had was 900 shekel in cash [rich guy that Ehrman dude] and it cost 1400 shekel. I figured "No sweat. I am a good, long standing, faithful customer and they can trust me. I will give them the cash and when I get home I will give my credit card number and they will get the rest of the money".

I figured wrong.

The nice lady wouldn't hear of it. "Sorry, it's happened too many times that people forgot [we hope it was just "forgot"] to pay. Either you pay in full or I can't give it to you". [I wanted to say "Hey!! I am 300 thousand dollars, twenty students and six employees away from being a Rosh Yeshiva. You can trust me!:)]

Meaning, they learned that people can't be trusted so EVERYONE, even the trustworthy ones, lose. My crestfallen countenance didn't influence her in the slightest and I went home empty handed and had to make the trek again the next day.

Not the end of the world but a shame. The people who buy this program are all serious lomdei Torah but something so basic as paying for what you bought is lost. The excuse of "I forgot" is shvach.

Why? Because a person never forgets what is really important to him. NOBODY forgets to go to his wedding. Or to put his pants on in the morning.

When  I was a yeshiva boy back in my youth, there was something called asimonim. These were special coins used to pay for telephone calls. A common request in yeshiva was "Can I borrow an asimon?" Of course. Why not.


It almost NEVER happened that the person returned the asimon he had borrowed. According to halacha that is STEALING:). At the time the call was important, the person was almost desperate and he fully intended to return it. But once the call was made it stopped being so important and the asimon was forgotten.

Remember sweet friends. Your actions often have consequences more far reaching than you ever imagined.  

Thoughts On Yom Haatzmaut

Before I get to Yom Haatzmaut I'd like to talk about my close friend Elchanan Ehrman...

He has a lot a mylos - good qualities.

He ALSO has a lot of chesronos - inadequacies.

He is trying to bolster his mylos and improve on his chesronos. Life is a process of growth and change.

He has noticed that he is NOT alone. EVERYBODY he knows has mylos and chesronos. Every SITUATION has its pros and cons. Nothing and nobody is completely perfect or completely lousy.

He tries to focus on the positive while not forgetting about the negative.

You're with me?


Now we get to the State Of Israel.

 Is it as bad as the Neturei Karta says it is? No sireeeeee. SO MUCH good here. MUCH better that living in, say, Lebanon or Syria. More religious freedom, certainly:). Today I spoke to an older Israeli Charedi friend/talmid chochom and he was lamenting the tragic circumstances in which we [the Torah-true community]  find ourselves. I couldn't help but disagree. I try to be a polite person and didn't think it would be respectful to disagree so I just let out some sound like "ahh".

H-E-L-L-O-O-O-O-O, it's not so bad. Better than Russia under the Communists or in Poland under the Nazis. I even find it better here for myself on a personal level than the GOLDENE MEDINA of America. Even more than Flatbush. Or Teneack. Or Woodmere. Even Woodmere. [Although I must admit that I do enjoy the time I spend there and the many invitations I receive and all the GREAT friends I have there:)].

There is ALSO much left to be desired. Many improvements to make. We have an imperfect government. Very imperfect. We have MANY problems in this country.

But Israel to me is like a child. He might be naughty sometimes but you love him no matter what.

Hallel? I love Hallel!!! So many nice tunes:). That מה אשיב is off the charts!! Do I say Hallel on Yom Haatzmaut? Maybe that is another one of my chesronos. I was taught to follow the rulings of the Gedolei Yisrael and the consensus is not to say Hallel - certainly not with a bracha. Does that make me less of a good Jew? Some people would say YES:):). But I really think that the Chazon Ish was a religious man-  no less religious than those who accuse him of heresy for not saying Hallel, so I will stick with him and hope Hashem forgives me. But I DO wish that I lived in Israel with my family.

Isn't it GREAT when you can have what you wish for?!

So I say - Baruch Hashem that we have a State. May everybody here do teshuva shleima and very soon we should have a government led by Moshiach tzidkeinu and ALL DAY LONG all people will do is seek knowledge of Hashem [see the very last Rambam in the Yad Hachazaka].

ומלאה הארץ דעה את השם כמים לים מכסים


[PS - I used to be afraid of losing my job because of my "anti-zionist" views, such as those delineated here. Hashem has blessed me that NOBODY can fire me anymore. All I fear now is Hashem. That, sweetest friends, is THE life:):). Hashem is AWE-SOME].

Tzaraas Habayis In Our Days

In this week's parsha sheet that is distributed in neighborhood shuls I wrote on the topic of "chazakos".

Chazaka is the principle that teaches that unless we know otherwise, we don't assume that a status has been altered. [Rav Asher Weiss Shlita calls it עקרון אי ההשתנות.]  The source for this principle is the tzaraas that develops on a house. Unless we know otherwise we assume it remains there [see Chullin 10b for more information and if you are a man of intellectual curiosity - the Talmudic Encyclopedia entry of chazaka at length].

After mincha today a friend stopped me and asked me a question that has been bothering him for years. The concept of chazaka applies to ALL areas of halacha and is a very broad topic. Why did the Torah choose to teach us the principle DAVKA regarding the tzaraas of a house. That is a very "Hutnerian" question that the Rav ztz"l asked quite often. If this is where it is derived, there is SOME lesson here.

I don't know the answer to this question and expect to see a full in-box of possible answers.

But I'll tell you what I think: Many people have problems at home. Some people have problems with parents or siblings, others with spouses or children. MOST homes have problems. The Torah is teaching us - If you have some spiritual problem in your home, some tzaraas habayis if you will, it WILL NOT go away on it's own. We must assume that it will remain there UNTIL SOMETHING IS DONE.

This is a HUGE lesson. Things generally DON'T change by themselves [excluding hair color with age:)]. Something CONCRETE must be done.

Today's task: Think about the tzaraas in YOUR home and what practical measures you can take to clean it up:):).