Saturday, August 31, 2013
One of the most famous debates in Jewish history was over the issue of saying the poem מכניסי רחמים where we supplicate the angels and ask them to bring our prayers before Hashem [and other similar prayers where we turn to the angels for help]. The problem is that the Rambam [Hakdama to Chelek in the fifth of the 13 foundations of our faith] rules that one may not daven to anyone other than Hashem, so what business do we have turning to the angels as intermediaries. If you need to speak to a big politician, or li-havdil a famous rabbi, sometimes you have to go through intermediaries but Hashem is accessible to all and it is FORBIDDEN to turn to anyone else.
In fact, the Maharal [Nesivos Olam chapter 12] changed the language of the tfilla so it won't sound like we are asking the angels for help [יכניסו רחמינו instead of הכניסו רחמינו]. The Chasam Sofer would say a long tachanun while everybody else was saying the poem so he wouldn't have to join. Many others as well avoided saying it. However the custom in most communities is to say it and it is printed in all of the slichos books. There is a mabul of literature on the topic and I will not quote all of the sources I know about that discuss it. That would make me seem very scholarly and knowledgeable when all it really means is that I have the Otzar Hachochma program with it's 60,000 books and rapid search engine. The one source I will note is the Yeshurun Journal in Volume 3 where there is an excellent, thorough treatment of the topic.
I will add something interesting which I didn't see anyone bring up: In some editions of the Rambam he writes וכן אין ראוי לעבדם כדי להיותם אמצעים לקרבם אליו אלא אליו בלבד יכוונו המחשבות ויניחו כל מה שזולתו
Meaning that one is not allowed to SERVE anyone in order that he should be an intermediary between us and Hashem, rather all of our thoughts should be directed at Hashem Himself. This would indicate that if one is not actually SERVING the angels then just asking them for help would be fine and thus מכניסי רחמים would be permitted. [This was pointed out by Rav Asher Weiss Shlita in Minchas Asher on the Moadim סימן א].
However, in the Rav Kapich edition of the Rambam and so in the Rav Shilat edition the Rambam's words are rendered [from the original Arabic] as ואין עושין אותם אמצעים להגיע בהם אליו אלא כלפיו יתעלה יכוונו המחשבות ויניחו כל מה שזולתו. Meaning that one is not allowed to use the angels as intermediaries to get to Hashem. According to this the Rambam omits any mention of serving the angels and simply forbids turning to them at all as a means of getting closer to Hashem. This would effectively forbid us from saying מכניסי רחמים because that is exactly what we do.
So whether it is permitted or not would be dependent on what is the more accurate translation of the Rambam's words.
What is also interesting is that in our generation very few seem troubled by this issue. I believe that in our Internet/fast food/cellphone/sports obsessed/money pursuing/blackberry generation people are rarely troubled by theological issues. Ask the average guy in shul what was the machlokes between the Gra and the Baal Shem Tov over the concept of Divine Immanence and he will give you a blank look, probably not understanding the question. Ask him if the Yankees should trade for a relief pitcher or who won last year's Super Bowl or what his favorite restaurant is and you will receive a precise answer....
Ahhhhh, the galus.
We want Moshaich now!
לרפואת יוסף בן עליזה בתוך שח"י
Friday, August 30, 2013
The man was embarrassed and said "Yes, I have to come to you".
Rav Ben Tov replied "You don't have to come to me. You have to fix your deeds."
[Tzadik Hamezuzos, Page 52]
At the same hilula the Rav pointed to a young man and said "You aren't embarrassed for dating a goya?"
His girlfriend was sitting next to him and said "I am not a goya!" and left the hall in anger.
The boy's mother was also there and said "She is a kosher Jewess and they are getting married soon." The boy went up to Rav Ben Tov and they exchanged a few words after which Rav Ben Tov told them to call the girl back into the hall and said that they can get married with simcha and bracha.
It turned out that this girl was Jewish but the boy had another girlfriend on the side who was NOT Jewish......
If Rav Ben Tov knew hidden things - Hashem certainly knows....
Thursday, August 29, 2013
No strings attached.....:-)
Wednesday, August 28, 2013
Tuesday, August 27, 2013
The parsha is a continuation of the rebuke, to teach that the mesirus nefesh of איש כי יפלא נדר בערכך נפשת לי-ה-ו-ה [when a man expresses a neder concerning the value of souls to Hashem] is a tikkun for the sins that caused this rebuke. When the reason for the galus is rectified the geula comes. The parsha of the value of people opens איש כי יפלא נדר which is double the gematria of משיח. It concludes תשיג יד הנדר יעריכנו הכהן which is four times the gematria of moshiach.
The main segula of the value of people is expressed most in the value assigned to women [as we see that as a woman gets older her value increases proportionally more than a man's], as the pasuk says נקבה תסובב גבר - a woman will surround a man. Of course נקבה תסובב גבר is gematria ארץ ישראל. A woman's value is גילי. From a month until 5 years 3 shekels [ג], from the age of 5 until 20, 10 shekels [י], from 20 until 60, 30 shekels [ל], from 60 and on, 10 shekels [י]. This alludes to a feminine-messianic pasuk גילי מאד בת ציון הריעי בת ירושלים הנה מלכך יבוא לך צדיק ונושע הוא עני ורוכב על חמור ועל עיר בן אתנות - Rejoice greatly O daughter of tzion! Shout for joy O daughter of Jerusalem. For see, your king will come to you, he is righteous and victorious, a humble man riding on a donkey, upon a foal, the foal of she-donkeys [Zecharia 9/9].
There is yet more but we will leave it here......
[Based on the words of Rav Yitzchak Ginsburg Shlita]
לזכות רבי משה גבריאל בן יהודית לברכה והצלחה בכל הענינים
Monday, August 26, 2013
A myseh she-haya:
When Rav Avraham Genechovski's mother, Gita, passed away, his father asked him to write a sefer in her memory. [Incidentally, she earned FOUR doctorates]. He agreed and published a sefer on Maseches Horiyos called חדר הורתי.
One day Rabbi Shmuel Baruch Werner called Rav Genechovski and told him that he had the most amazing dream. The late Mrs. Genechovski appeared to him, repeated a question he asked in his sefer משפטי שמואל סימן ד ענף יא and told him that the same question also appears in the sefer her son put out in her memory and that he should look there. When he woke up he looked in the sefer and there it was, just as he was told. [The question was on the gemara in Kidushin that says that if one's parents are divorced he can choose to serve either one first. This is difficult based on the mishna in Horiyos 13a that implies that the father should come first ע"ש].
Rav Genechovski said that you see that neshamos in the world of truth are told not only of the Torah thoughts written in their memory but are even told of other sefarim that deal with the same issues.
[Agan Hasahar page 63]
לזכות שמואל אלכסנדר בן נעכא גיטל
I know that this mail will come to you as a surprise as we have never met before, but need not to worry as I am using the only secured and confidential medium available to seek for your foreign assistance in a business. I am contacting you independently of my investigation and no one is informed of this communication. I need your urgent assistance in transferring the sum of ($11.3 million united state dollar.) immediately to your private account. The money has been here in our Bank lying dormant for nine good years now without anybody coming for the claim of it. I want to release the money to you as the nearest person to our deceased customer (the account owner) who died along with his supposed NEXT OF KIN since August 1997. The Banking ethics here does not allow such money to stay more than 16 years, because the money will be recalled to the Bank treasury as unclaimed fund. Upon receipt of your reply indicating your interest in this transaction, I will send you full details on how the business will be executed. Please keep this proposal as a top secret and delete if you are not interested. Regards,Mr. MOHAMMAD OUATTARA.Bank of Africa, Burkina Faso-West Africa.
People like Mohammad mamesh mamesh solve all of my financial worries. I am so honored he chose me as the lucky one to give the 11.3 million dollars. He probably knows that I sit and learn and wants a zchus...
If Elul passes and you are the same person - then what was it worth??
[Men should turn away for the first 5 seconds or so. Nothing assur but always better not to look if you don't have to...]
Sunday, August 25, 2013
What do you have to lose?
What do you have to gain?
Will you become smarter and more knowledgeable?
Will you enjoy?
The one thing I see as a barrier that stops people is that "IT REQUIRES EFFORT AND COMMITMENT." It is hard for people to commit to something that will reap them no direct financial or other concrete rewards. I see again and again how people start chavrusas or other learning projects BUT DON'T KEEP TO THEM.
But then again - the ONLY WAY to reach your potential and get to the world of truth with the spiritual accomplishments that are expected of you is to overcome all obstacles in the way.
So if it's not going to be with me - then get a different chavrusa. Keep to the program. CHAZER LOTS! You will see how much it adds to your life.
Daf Yomi [if you learn it] is nice but there is something really special about having a learning seder that revolves less on covering ground and more on understanding and knowing. 25 plus years in Yeshiva and I have not yet experienced a student knowing the material and not feeling accomplished.
PLEASE try it.
This is a mammoth chilul Hashem and places a stain on all good upstanding rabbis all over the world. Now a rabbi can't hug a student without fearing that he will be accused of inappropriate behavior. 99.9 percent of all rabbis and educators are completely clean of any of the accusations leveled against this person. It is always the 0.01 percent that gets all the press and makes people suspicious of anyone like him. This is a tragedy and as chazal say אחד שוגג ואחד מזיד בחילול השם - Even if he is completely innocent of any wrongdoing, a chilul Hashem came about through him and for that we must all mourn and he will have a lot of work to do over Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur asking the "Big Guy" for mechila. The gemara [Yoma 86a] says that for chilul Hashem there is no tshuva in this world. Tshuva, suffering, Yom Kippur and then death. Not an easy one. [Please see the Pachad Yitzchak on Yom Kippur Maamar 15 and 16].
But wait! He also has helped and taught many thousands of people. Does this incrimination mean that he is all bad??? Does this erase all of his mitzvos. On one hand there IS a concept that an aveira erases a mitzva [but can't erase Torah - see Sotah 21a]. The Rambam says in Hilchos Tshuva that when one is a sinner Hashem "rips up" his mitzvos until he does tshuva. On the other hand we have a rule אין הקב"ה מקפח שכר כל בריה - Everybody gets what they deserve for their good deeds even if they are sinners as well. Why must people view him as being all bad? Maybe a mixture of good and less good.
May be we ALL mixtures of good and less good?? I know I am. Baruch Hashem I have my aveiros and I suspect that you have yours too:-).
A number of years ago a man who was mekarev thousands of Jews all over the world died. He made a tremendous kiddush Hashem wherever he went. He brought ruchniyus to beggars, prostitutes, professors and college students. Everyone. His message was one of love and acceptance. His probably gave more hugs than any person alive. The heilige Amshinover Rebbe said about him to his chassidim "Not only is he going to get a bigger portion in gan eden than I am going to get - he is going to get a bigger portion in gan eden than you guys think I am going to get." I personally wish to be more like him. His generosity was almost unparalleled. He was so dedicated to helping and loving people that he seemed to have almost completely nullified his ego. Our world is one where everything is the ego and he was above that. Nobody was beneath him. Not prison inmates or little children or anyone. He was filled with love. I simply have met almost nobody like him in my life [maybe one person]. He continues long after his death to inspire people.
On the other hand he was accused of doing some questionable stuff. He was also witnessed doing some very problematic things. [I too, would like to hug everybody who comes into shul but I would put a limit from EXACTLY where the mechitza stands and beyond...:-) To touch an ervah is יהרג ואל יעבור].
So what does this mean about him? It means that he is both a tzadik and ALSO afflicted with personality defects [or so it would appear]. It is not all or nothing.
The message: We have to find the holy part of ourselves, accentuate that and thereby drown away that less solid parts of who we are. In the terminology of Chazal - to enable the yetzer hatov to overpower the yetzer hara.
Saturday, August 24, 2013
I could give you a one line answer but that is the style of blogs and the mass media in general that I try to avoid. The rule of the thumb is 'the more superficial the better'. The real answer would require a full length article which I may or may not write......:-)
The issues involved Shvisas Keilim [must my "utensils" rest on Shabbos], deriving benefit from chilul shabbos, doing business on shabbos, schar shabbos [earning money on shabbos], zilusa d'shabbos [disgracing shabbos], lifnei eveir [causing someone to sin] and more:-)!
In the latest edition of the journal אליבא דהלכתא there is a thorough discussion with many sources, עיין שם.
All see the sefer רץ כצבי of Rabbi Zvi Ryzman Shlita of L.A.
Thursday, August 22, 2013
"Dad, I just heard on the news that there's a car going the wrong way on the I-75. Please be careful!"
"Sarah," said Mr. Epstein, "It's not just one car. It's hundreds of them!"
In life we often like to accuse the world of being at fault and we don't realize that the true culprit is staring at us in the mirror..........
"The New Year came and went. Although he never said it to anyone, Morrie knew this would be the last year of his life. He was using a wheelchair now, and he was fighting to say all the things he wanted to say to all the people he loved. When a colleague at Brandeis University died suddenly of a heart attack, Morrie went to his funeral. He came home depressed.
"What a waste," he said. "All those people saying all those wonderful things, and Irv never got to hear any of it." [According to the gemara the meis does hear it but it's still not the same..]
Morrie had a better idea. He made some calls. He chose a date. And on a cold Sunday afternoon, he was joined in his home by a small group of friends and family for a 'living funeral.' Each of them spoke and paid tribute to the old professor. Some cried. Some laughed. . . . Morrie cried and laughed with them. And all the heartfelt things we never get to say to those we love, Morrie said that day. His 'living funeral' was a rousing success."
Sweetest friends!!! Don't wait till it's too late. Tell people NOW how you feel about them. [Unless how you feel is that you hate their guts:-)].
We have a Shas and innumerable practical halachos which emanate from there. It is our joy and "pride" [pride usually isn't a good quality]. Those who disregard many halachos are really missing out. Learning and knowing mishna brura and similar works gives one a structure that allows him to fulfill the will of Hashem at every moment of every day in a real concrete way and builds our nation.
In the words of Maran HaRav ztz"l
"The fact is, there is no foundation, no secure ground, upon which people may stand today if it isn’t the family. It’s become quite clear to me as I’ve been sick. If you don’t have the support and love and caring and concern that you get from a family, you don’t have much at all.
Love is so supremely important. As our great poet Auden said, 'Love each other or perish'. . .(If I had no family) this disease, what I’m going through, would be so much harder. I’m not sure I could do it. Sure, people would come visit, friends, associates, but it’s not the same as having someone who will not leave. It’s not the same as having someone whom you know has an eye on you, is watching you the whole time. This is part of what family is about, not just love, but letting others know there's someone who is watching out for them. . .what I call, your spiritual security. . .Nothing else will give you that. Not money. Not fame. . . Not work." (Tuesdays with Morrie)
Jackson, the 48-year-old son of civil rights leader Jesse Jackson, had been a Democratic congressman from Illinois from 1995 until he resigned last November. In an emotional speech to the judge during which he became choked up, he apologized and said he wanted to “take responsibility for my actions.”
“I misled the American people. I misled the House of Representatives. I misled the Federal Election Commission,” he said. “I was wrong.”
According to court papers in the case, Jackson used campaign money to buy items including a $43,350 gold-plated men’s Rolex watch.
You know, Reb Jes, had you thought of the consequences of your actions before you bought your gorgeous chosson's watch, you'd have been much better off:-).
We too, sweetest friends should ponder the consequences of OUR actions before we pay prices that we don't want to pay....
To deal with this issue our Rabbis instituted a procedure known as eruv tavshilin. The process of eruv tavshilin works in the following manner. On Erev Yom Tov, the head of the household, or his designee, should set aside a baked item such as bread or matzoh, and a cooked item such as meat, fish, or eggs (i.e. a food that is eaten along with bread). Each item should be at least the size of one kezayis, preferably the size of one beitzah. He or she should then recite the blessing of "Baruch...Al Mitzvas Eruv" and the proclamation, both found in the Siddur. This proclamation states that the cooked and baked items should permit us to continue baking, cooking, lighting a flame from an existing fire and do all the necessary preparations from Yom Tov proper to Shabbos. It is now viewed as though meal preparations for Shabbos have already begun before Yom Tov and Shabbos meal preparations may continue on Friday Yom Tov, Erev Shabbos.
Once done, the eruv covers all household members and guests.
The foods set aside for the eruv should be saved and may be eaten on Shabbos.
If one forgot to make an eruv tavshilin one should consult a competent Rabbinical authority for further instructions.
Tuesday, August 20, 2013
The Rav looked at the mezuzos and said "You kept the halachot of taharat hamishpacha for a long time but recently you have been lax. You have to learn the halachot again until you remember them clearly."
He also told me to do a few different segulos. I carefully did whatever he told me and today I am Baruch Hashem completely healthy.
"I once made an appointment with Rav Ben Tov for a couple that I knew. They were not religious and came to the Rav due to a problem they were having with the development of one of their children. The Rav asked them to keep taharas hamishpacha. The woman was willing but the man wasn't.
I really wanted to help this couple, so I gave this woman advice on how to keep the mitzva despite her husband's objections. She listened to everything I said and a short time later her childs problem disappeared.
Tzadik Hamezuzos Page 139
Monday, August 19, 2013
Today we were talking and the topic of smoking came up. I expressed my 'radical opinion' that smoking is terribly bad for you. He differed. Smoking, he explained, is a matter of personal preference. If you want, then you smoke and if you don't want to then you don't have to. The health risks are overstated. Maybe it will kill a person at the age of 90 or 100 but not before. His father has been smoking since he was very young and he is fine. So did his grandfather. He doesn't smoke but almost everyone around him does and they are fine. The overwhelming evidence against his position doesn't faze him in the slightest. "Look at Rav X", he told me. "He smoked and made it past 100." Besides, he reminded me, smoking also has benefits. It calms a person.
I heard what he said and decided that if someone could be so crum [crooked] and maintain such a twisted, unconscionable, untenable perspective on an issue which is universally agreed upon by all doctors in all fields and every smoker can also testify to the negative effects, then it is not worth my time to try to convince him otherwise. So I didn't. I also didn't try the old argument that many rabbonim hold that it is assur min hatorah to smoke and all the other ones hold that it's a bad idea and would he eat a piece of meat that many rabbis held was treif and those who held it was strictly kosher still felt it was better not to eat it.
But I learned an important lesson. He told me that the way he was raised was that smoking is a matter of choice and both choices [i.e. to smoke or not] have equal merit. The power of education.
So if one can raise a child to think that smoking is really not that bad for you and even as an adult he continues to believe that utter nonsense, imagine how powerful the long term effects of teaching one's child positive values??!
WHERE should we raise our children? The top three words in the real estate business are "location, location and location". In a city called Emanuel you can buy a nice house for 40-50 thousand dollars. In Yerushalayim for that money you can buy a parking spot... It is all about location.
It is also critical factor in raising children. The Rambam [Deyos 6/1] is clear that people are products of their environment, so it behooves us to make sure our kids grow up in a spiritually nurturing environment.
Nu - limyseh, where???
Let's start in Israel. Bnei Brak - that's frum!!:-) There are hundreds of kids off the derech there. Yerushalayim? The Old City? Loads of kids off the derech to varying degrees. Kibbutz Hazorea?? NOBODY is ON the derech there. So where? Tel Aviv?? Nahhhhhh. Raanana? The only American city bordered on all four sides by Israel. Well, not every kid there turns out so well either. Efrat? They have their mylos, but lots of problems too. Kiryat Sefer? Ditto.
Let's move to America!:-) Ahhhh - Lakewood, everybody in Lakewood has the purest best behaved children. Not really. Flatbush. Good and not so good. Passaic. Great community but far from ideal. What about places that start with "Wood" ["mere", "sburgh" "stock" etc.]? Well, if you are old enough you know that Woodstock is a great place for an "aliyah" but that would be through narcotics.
The other Woods are very comfortable and about 50 percent of my readers come from there but not all of those kids turn out so well either [others turn out grrreeeeeaaaaatttt:-)]. Manhattan? The "city that never sleeps", yes, but not because everybody is learning a mishmar....
So where yes? Alaska? Beijing? Moscow? Well, Chabad shlichim do it and their children usually come out great, but not for us.
Sweetest friends, of course it is important to find a place to live which will provide your kids with a nurturing environment, good friends, a solid education etc. etc. But, tachlis, there is no place without problems. Which of course brings us back to what we wrote in the previous post.
The answer is in tehillim. Say lots of tehillim:-).
There are many reasons I like being religious. As a matter of fact, I like just about everything:-). One of the reasons I am most proud of our world is when I see who our heroes are as opposed to the heroes of the outside world. We don't revere people who are richer, funnier, better looking, more powerful etc. etc. Our leaders aren't elected in politically motivated elections.
We respect those who are smarter, holier, more spiritual and most connected to Hashem, regardless of how much money, connections or political power he has. Here is a short clip of Kavod Hatorah shown to HaGaon Rav Michel Yehuda Lefkovitz ztz"l.
To whom are we showing sensitivity? A DONKEY! The lowest of animals. When you want to insult someone in Modern Hebrew, the custom in these parts is to call him [affectionately] a חמור! Oyyyyy sweet friends, if we have to be careful about insulting a donkey - how much more so must we be careful not to insult or offend a person.
[The gemara in Bava Metzia 85a, relates that Rebbe Yehuda Hanasi accepted upon himself 13 years of suffering because he once insulted a calf. The calf was running away from the shochet and hid under Rebbe's kapote. Rebbe said "זיל לכך נוצרת" - Go, that is why you were created. For those words spoken to a calf [which were actually true] he suffered for 13 years. נורא נוראות].
Many years ago, Hagaon Rav Avraham Genechovski Ztz"l used to give a weekly shiur in Yeshivas Chebin. One week, the shiur was on the sugya of הנותן גט מתוך קטטה - One who gives a get to his wife as a result of a quarrel. The Rav arrives and out of the blue and to everyones surprise, he said, "Since Chanuka is coming up, I will give a shiur on inyanei Chanuka". He did but nobody could understand why he changed the topic of the shiur. After the shiur, the present Tolna Rebbe Shlita [who was a talmid at the time] was asked by HaRav Yehuda Rabinowitz ztz"l a maggid shiur in the yeshiva, what the shiur was about. He told him "Chanukah". Rav Rabinowitz said humorously "Maybe next week he will give a shiur on Pesach?!" The next week the Rav continued talking about Chanukah and the next week after as well, to everyone's surprise.
The Rebbe Shlita's chavrausa had a theory. There was a boy whose parents were going through an acrimonious divorce and Rav Genechovski didn't want to talk about the topic, even in the context of learning, in order not to cause the boy more pain than he was already experiencing. Some time later, the Rebbe Shlita asked Rav Genechovski if this was the reason and he confirmed that it was.
[Based on the words of the Rebbe Shlita, Motzaei Shabbos Parshas Ki Teitzi תשע"ג]
לרפואת ולזכות כ"ק אדמו"ר שליט"א
Sunday, August 18, 2013
Thursday, August 15, 2013
There are 3 basic groups -
1] Some raise their kids "charedi" [or "chardal" in Israel which means either "mustard" or that you wear a kippa sruga and keep all the mitzvos] with lots of Torah and Mitzvos and yet not all of the children turn out well. Some this way and some that way.
2] Some raise their kids "modern" and not all of those kids turn out well either. Some rebel to the "right" [i.e. to Hashem] and some to the "left" [to the Satan].
3] Some raise their kids not frum at all and they aren't always successful. Many of these kids end up becoming baalei teshuva while others end up marrying goyim.
How do you raise kids to be like you want them to?
Here is the secret [I am VERY experienced:-)].
You don't because your children are unique and not necessarily your "type". You also don't because you have very-very limited control over what your children do. When they are toddlers you have a lot more control but as teenagers - almost none. Today I was talking to a mashgiach in a yeshiva and he was telling me how much he was against his children getting drivers licenses and then right under his nose his son when out and got his driver's license. A good boy. Charedi. Hat, jacket, everything. But at the end of the day - people are people and people are independent/egocentric/ideologically-driven etc. etc. which will make them do things their parents don't want them to.
I will use an example close to home. Me. I am closer than close. I am actually home. When was a kid I didn't listen to everything my parents said. Did you?
So here is my take: Love them, set a good example, have good shalom bayis, try to give each child time, understand their unique needs etc. etc. and them love them more, kiss them and hug them frequently and then get down to doing together with your spouse what is really the most powerful and effective parenting tool.
Say tehillim. Lots!!!!!
Li-zchus my holy beloved children who have taught me more about parenting than any book could ever possibly teach me.
Dozens of lecturers and students are demonstrating in the Hebrew University in Jerusalem against the decision to close a hundred courses in the faculty of humanities... The university announced the cancellation of the courses, which are taught by external faculty members, if less than ten students sign up for them... The courses which will be closed are in a number of subjects, such as archeology, history, and geography. The demonstrators are protesting to the university management about what they call 'a mortal blow to the faculty of humanities.'" [Galatz, IDF Radio Station, 9 Tammuz 5773].
לע"נ מרת אסתר בת שמואל
Wednesday, August 14, 2013
Tuesday, August 13, 2013
We all have done things we regret. The question you asked is, once we do teshuva, express remorse, say vidui and resolve never to do it again, can we then remove the sin from our consciousness or must we constantly revisit the sin and continuously repent.
There is a halachic side to this question which I dealt with in a recent article bs"d. Here, I will relate from a more hashkafic perspective.
A moshol: A child is disrespectful to his parents. He then reconsiders and thinks of how they brought him into this world and he only exists because of them. He feels awful so he goes up to them and asks forgiveness for his insolence.
The next day he recalls all of the times they took him to the doctor when he was sick. His new found appreciation makes him more remorseful. He feels badly again so he asks them for forgiveness.
The next day he thinks of how they gave him full financial support for his whole life until that day. He says "WHOA! How could I disrespect my benefactors?!" So he asks for forgiveness again.
The next day he finds out that they put 15 million dollars in a trust fund for him. He says "Those tzadikim I disrespected???" So he asks them for forgiveness...... again.
The next day they give him the keys to the ten room apartment they secretly bought for him years back opposite the Inbal hotel [4 million dollar value]. He says "Oh me oh my!! How could I have disrespected them?? They are so wonderful!" So he begs them for forgiveness once again.
The nimshal: Every day we get a new appreciation of Hashem's kindness. So every day we intensify our teshuva on previous sins with the understanding that yesterday's teshuva was not enough. We do this not out of fear or guilt but out of LOVE!!
[PS - We should all have such parents and be such parents:-)]
He once said: "The greatest gift that Hashem ever gave me is...... the seichel to realize that my money is not mine."
What is weird is that he actually lives that way.
The Rambam teaches the same halacha in 3 different places with significant changes. See also how the Lubavitcher Rebbe deals with this in the sefer Shaarei Ahavas Yisrael [from page 307]. Also see Vi-atah Birachamecha Harabim [R' Ginzburg page 72], Dvir Kodsho [page 73].
Monday, August 12, 2013
Hilchos Teshuva - Addictions - Before It's Too Late - Soda Water And Yom Hadin - Today's Kushya Yomis
In any case, I beg/urge/encourage/advocate that all of my sweetest friends should similarly put time into this limmud over the next month. One month and it's alllll over.
The Rambam paskens [in hilchos teshiva...] that Yom Kippur is קץ למחילה וסליחה - the last chance for mechila.
More learning suggestions - Maran HaRav's "Oros Hatshuva". Not normal. Also the Pachad Yitzchak on Rosh Hashna and Yom Kippur. And can we forget the Maharal's "Nesiv Hatshuva"?? [On yutorah Hashem has been mezake me to have many shiurim on inyanei teshuva. You can listen and it will be a zchus for me.] And any sefer that wakes you up from your slumber. ELLLLLULLLLLLLLL!!! Even the fish in the sea are shaking. Even soda water is feeling it. Try this - pour some soda water into a cup and see how it SHAKES!!
Today's Kushya Yomis here on a shver Rambam in hilchos teshuva.
"In the olden days the government told people what to do. Today, society tells people what to want."
I have a lot to say about this topic but, by golly, it's either this or hilchos teshuva and for now I am going to choose the latter and let my intelligent reader think about it him/herself.
My goodness, it ELUL and I have to get my act together. The first mitzva in the Torah is Pru Urivu. From here we see, said the Lubavitcher Rebbe, that a Yid has to make another Yid. I will try to be mekarev myself and maybe in the process bring a few others along with me.....
[Oros Hakodesh volume 3, page 147].
The man said he would give away ALL OF HIS MONEY in order to live for just one more year. He felt such regret over all of the time he invested pursuing more and more wealth while neglecting what is really important. He wasn't so fortunate to live much longer....
The mussar haskel: Life is a much greater gift than wealth. Enjoy it and appreciate it while you have it:-).
Sunday, August 11, 2013
Is Elul a scary time or a happy time? Fear creates distance while joy engenders closeness.
It is axiomatic that Elul is a scarrrry time. Last week a fellow approached me in the Central Bus Station and stating singing in the famous yeshiva tune "Eluuuuuullllll, even the fish in the sea are shaking!" Rav Yisrael Slanter said that in the olden days people would be overcome by fear when they heard the holy call of Elul.
Fear! Elul is scary. We might be judged for death and we have one month to get our act together. Last year at this time there were millions of people who are doing just what you are doing now, looking at the computer, possibly drinking a coffee or soda and today they are pushing daisies. That was all decreed on Rosh Hashanah last year. We don't want to be included on the list of such people this year and we have NOOOOOO guarantees. Remember the ol' line about death and taxes....?
On the other hand we all know the Roshei Teivos of Elul stand for אני לדודי ודודי לי - I am to my Beloved [Hashem] and my Beloved is to me". There is romance in the air!! We and Hashem are involved in a "love affair". We are enamored with Him and vice versa. Sounds more like closeness and simcha than fear.
So which one is it??
A myseh she-haya [heard from the Rebbe Shlita to illustrate the point we are making]:
A young man heard about a certain investment that would reap HUUUUUGE dividends in a short time. So he emptied out all of his savings, his wife's savings, borrowed large amounts from parents and in-laws, friends and gemachs and put his money in this investment. After some time he called up to find out how it was going. No answer. He called again. No answer. Again. No answer. He made some more phone calls until he was apprised of the fact that the whole thing was a scam and all of his money is down the drain.
How does he feel at the second he finds out?? HORRRRRIIIIBBBLLLEEEEE!!
That is the feeling we should have when we sin. We have to know what tremendous harm we caused to ourselves, others and the whole world when we sinned. We must appreciate the severity of sin.
But let us say that afterwards this young man goes to Rav Chaim Kniyevsky, who tells him that if he learns all of Meseches Shkalim he will recover every penny [or shekel] that he invested, plus 20 percent, how would he feel? A-mazing!!!!!!!!!! Redemption!!
That is the process we must go through. First tremendous pain and fear over our aveiros. Then we transform that fear into tremendous joy because we know that we can fix everything - and turn all of our aveiros into mitzvos.
Av is the month of destruction, when we saw what happens when we sin. Elul is the month of renewal. The mazel of Elul is Besulah, symbolizing freshness and purity. A new start.
So Elul begins with fear but turns into great love and happiness.
לרפואת זאב ישראל בן אסתר בתוך שאר ח"י
Friday, August 9, 2013
Thursday, August 8, 2013
Ours is an age of lack of self-esteem. we don’t trust ourselves. We want to be protected, for we feel small, afraid, far from the center of spirituality. In being humble, we think we are modest, but really we are weak. In being excessively cautious, we think we are being exceptionally frum, but really we just don’t trust ourselves. We see ourselves as vulnerable enclosures whose boundaries must be clearly demarcated, whose territory must be secured, whose way in the world must be defensive.
“Excessive fear of sin destroys the goodness in a person, and makes of him a lowly creature, who does nothing but lie there, shaking.” So writes Abraham Isaac Kook, in the opening paragraph of Orot Ha-emuna. “A person must believe in his life, in both his physical and moral powers.” The lack of emunah in oneself is the greatest of all the curses in the Torah, “Your life will be in the balance…and you will not believe in your life.” You will be plagued by self-doubt (Your life will be “in the balance”) and lack inner confidence. Because of this inner anxiety, “In the morning you will say, ‘Who will give evening?’ and in the evening ‘Who will give morning?’ “katnut ha-emunah,” “insufficient emunah,” is a lack of confidence in oneself, and “comes from the inability to raise one’s own self-worth to the point of understanding how he is deserving of the Divine Greatness.”
When we believe in ourselves we are not afraid-cautious, yes, but not afraid. And when we are not afraid we can look at the world again, and see in it the kaleidoscopic possibilities of existence. We can look outside, and see beneath the surface. And beneath that surface, we may even find something of ourselves.
“When a person believes in himself he discovers great contentment in his spiritual endeavors, and ascends upward.’’ In this work Rav Kook explores emunah by comparing and contrasting it with kefirah (atheism, denial), avodah zarah (idol worship), and “minut,” which is the term favored by him to refer to Christianity, and by examining its relationship to the doing of mitzvot, and to general culture.
From these writings there emerges a profound teaching that belief in oneself is conceptually and existentially inseparable from emunah in God. For first and foremost, for Rav Kook, emunah is a state of being. As he writes elsewhere, “Emunah is the most basic self-revealing of the essence of the soul.” And this self-revealing is really the Divine within us made manifest: “Too much fear spoils emunah, because one doesn’t trust himself and his understanding, thereby diminishing his awareness of the Divine spark in his soul.” The essence of emunah is an awareness of the perfection of the Infinite and that “whatever experience of the infinite] enters the heart is but a minute spark of what can be imagined.” Emunah, then, is a self-affirmation in which one experiences one’s own self-revealment as the revealing of the Divine within. Emunah is a state of being.
It follows that emunah is not constituted by an act of “belief” or by a linguistic, cognitive affirmation. The latter are important both as external expressions of emunah, and as a means of bringing to emunah.
But even in their absence, emunah can be alive. And more, emunah can live even where there is no conscious awareness of one’s self divinity and even when one denies the Divine: “Sometimes you will find a kofer with an inner, shining strong emunah, flowing from the source of transcendent holiness, stronger than a thousand believers, who are “small of emunah.” How is this possible? Because “the inner spiritual basis of the holiness of emunah transcends all language.” A kofer can manifest the Divine power of his being even while denying faith with his mouth, and a believer can be lying, shaking with fright, all the while proclaiming his faith through chattering teeth.
Kefrah can itself even emanate from holiness. This can happen for example, when linguistic affirmations are rejected precisely because they are sensed to be inadequate, as but a weak shadow of the power of being. Thus, “there is denial (kefrah) that is like consent, and consent that is like denial.” Inadequate articulations of Judaism may force their own rejection, out of the depths of holiness. If we are to return the kofer to the practice of Torah, our elucidations of Torah contents must be adequate to the power of his being.
Rav Kook’s concept of emunah provides hope for our seemingly faithless world. For, “There are many apikorsim who are deniers, in accordance with the standards of Halacha. However, when we examine their soul we will discover in them a connection to the Divine content, in a hidden form. And that is why in our generation there is a tendency toward merit and kindness even toward absolute deniers.”
That does not at all mean that it does not matter for Rav Kook if you are atheist or believer, as long as the inner emunah manifests its power in you. Far from it. Linguistic affirmations of faith lead in the direction of transcendent truth, whereas protestations of atheism lead in the direction of falsehood and inauthenticity. He who is faithful to conceptual assertions of emunah has a covenant with God that he will merit that emunah which is beyond conceptualization and language. From that high vantage point he will apprehend the correspondence between the elements of the conceptualized emunah and its transcendent counterpart.
Yet sometimes, when we look outside, and beneath the surface, we do see something of ourselves.
Idol worship, too, in its deepest essence knows the power of being of emunah, but covers it over with corruption and evil: “In the filth of avodah zarah great is the spirit of emunah, in its wildness and coarseness, its frenzy and horselike power. Avodah zarah knows the visceral, immediate engagement with the Divine in the world, and total, passionate, self-actualization and self-affirmation.
... To believe that which can be practiced is the special genius of Jewish spirituality. This is the “balance of the Torah” which knows how to weigh the ideals against possibility of implementation.
Emunah is an ineffable state of being. How does it relate to the details of Torah practice? “Emunah is the highest poetry (shira) of the world, with its source in the Divine nature in the depths of the
soul. High poetry is unstructured, without meter and rhyme. It has total freedom of imagination without restrictions. It is a spontaneous outpouring of individual creativity. The Torah is the translation of the higher poetry into measure and beat, into conventions and rules. Torah is the poetry of emunah in its practical rhythm. “There are those filled with the glory of the poetry, who are pained by the restrictions of the practical life, but they accept the yoke of the kingdom of heaven.
But there are also impatient souls “who cannot bear the measure, and they are full of rebellion. But even in this rebellion the Divine pleasantness lives, albeit in an unclear way.”
Rav Kook once wrote "Just as there are laws in poetry, there is poetry in laws.” When one loves a poem, he does not experience the restrictions of its form. The possibility exists to live a life of mitzvot as a form of poetry.
The poetry of emunah is not to be found exclusively in Torah. It informs every aspect of human endeavor that is “Divine creativity”: “The pure understanding sees the appearance of the Divine in every improvement of life … It is all included in Divine creativity.” The realization of our humanity is included in the power of emunah— “Everything is included in her, and everything exists in her.”
The bifurcation of reality into that which is the Lord’s, and that which is Caesar’s, originates in the anti-life of Christianity which severs the material world from its foundation of holiness. This poison has also infected the body of the Jewish people. For there are those amongst us who in their zealousness to fight evil believe we must suppress science, arts, and political activity because they are not part of the Divine aspect of the world. Hence, “They hate culture, the sciences, and statecraft, in Israel and in the world.” This is a lack of emunah.
The Jewish people excels at integrating opposing forces into a balanced whole, the power of Torah, the power of Tiferet. Therefore we must not stifle any talent, any human propensity, from developing to its fullest. It must first be allowed to exhaust the individuality buried within it. Once its full nature has been revealed and drawn out, then, and only then may the Jewish genius for integration and synthesis, including the rolling back of excessive development, be brought into play. If we impede the power of human creativity in the name of “faith” we sin against emunah.
“The enslavement of human reason and its silencing destroys the world. The holier the source of enslavement, the greater the damage.”
What are we to do? It is not enough for intellect and emunah to dwell side by side within our soul. For we must not allow emunah to settle in a corner of ourselves where our intellectual powers have not reached. Our emunah would then be weak, and not worthy of us. We must unite intellect with emunah, so that in proportion to our intellectual achievement, emunah will be raised up.
“This is true not only of the individual, but also of the nation in general, and of the whole world, in the generality of humankind.”
These are the teachings of Rav Kook in Orot Ha-emunah.
Ask the average modern orthodox person what emunah is and he will say "Belief in G-d". I once was present when a boy heard the word "emunah" and wasn't sure what it meant, so he said "Isn't that the soul" [I guess according to what I copied above he would be correct]. Ask the average charedi person and you would get the same answer. Once a person learn Rav Kook and the many other sefarim that discuss in emunah in detail and at great length, a entirely new world opens up. How sad that the most basic mitzva and the foundation of the entire Torah and all of our existence, remains with the most possible superficial [and misleading] understanding possible.
How tragic that we are not educating our children to live lives of depth and profundity. A person who plumbs the depths of spiritual concepts and internalizes them loses interest in Facebook, The New York Post and Mets and the other havolim of this world. In the charedi system, students achieve a sophisticated understanding and approach to the laws of a cow that gores an ox but when it comes to the bread and butter of his basic existence, he is mostly in the dark. One can only appreciate the darkness after he has seen light. In the modern orthodox system the student is generally in the dark about the cow and the ox as well, more busy with hockey and coed activities.
Am I wrong?? Is anybody going to try and change this reality? I tried [twice] and failed. I hope someone else is more successful....