Monday, March 31, 2014

New Shiur

Second shiur on hagada - here.

A Special Rosh Chodesh Message In Memory Of A Special Woman

From an email that was circulated.....

Shalom sweetest friends!!!

When I was  a junior in high my parents apparently felt that I was far too advanced for high school and offered me the option of learning in Israel.  I have never been the same. I still have yet to take the SATS but by golly I have found so much more meaning in the years of poring over this Talmud [although I am admittedly quite shvach in Math...]. In elementary and high school I had also studied this holy literature but frankly it never really meant much for me. The starting lineup of the Knicks on any given night interested me far more than whether a widow must take an oath in order to collect her ksuba from the estate of the orphans or what happens when an ox gores a cow and they find the cow's fetus dead at its side. I mean, cows for me were a picture on a milk carton - or dinner.... Boys who were into learning in high school were rare birds [the animal theme continues! Maybe because of the 5 weeks I spent watching dogs walk around Manhattan. I wouldn't have wanted to see their pictures on a milk carton - or to have them for dinner for that matter].  In my day we didn't have  - Internet, cell phones, iphones, blackberrys, what's app, what's down, Facebook etc. etc. Today it is even harder to attract the unfocused-A.D.D.'ED-to-death teenage mind to the complexties of Torah study. That is why we must place a special emphasis and invest extra effort in educating our children.
When I was in Israel for that year [and the next] I was fortunate enough to be able to develop a relationship with the only grandparent I ever knew – my great-grandmother Esther bas Shmuel whose yahrtzeit is today – Rosh Chodesh Nissan. In her merit I wanted to share some Torah. She was a women who went through so much in her life and yet was ALWAYS pleasant mannered and sweet tempered. I wish I could emulate her sterling and giving character. Her passing left a void in my life that has never been filled. Had I not come to Israel early I would have lost out on getting close to her during her last two years and it was all Divinely orchestrated. She was so proud of me that I was learning in Yeshiva. I am certain that she is up in Shomayim enjoying the fruits of my decision to spend my life within the confines of the Beis Medrash [may it only continue... May she beseech HKB"H on my behalf! He i$ the One who can make it happen. Once she is already beseeching - may she ask for a few more things that her descendents lack...:-)]. 
Picture the scene. You are sitting with your family on the first night of Pesach in Miami Beach or the King David in Jerusalem or in Cancun, Mexico or if you are really lucky - in a special kosher for Pesach hotel in EGYPT. You are reading through "magid" because that is a prerequisite for getting to the true redemption - the meal. We say [in a classical talmudic sing-song] "יכול מראש חודש" - I might think that we should already fulfill the mitzva of remembering the exodus from Rosh Chodesh Nissan.... The hagada then quotes a pasuk to disabuse us from this notion and we conclude that only on Pesach night is there a mitzva.
The question that occupied the commentators for many generations is - Why would I think that two weeks before pesach there is already a mitzva to remember yetzias mitzraim?? Maybe I should already fulfill the mitzva from chanuka??
One answer: Rebbe Tzadok Ha-kohen in his Pri Tzadik teaches that all of the spiritual energy of the month is centralized in Rosh Chodesh. Everything that happens throughout the month is drawn from Rosh Chodesh. It is not called תחילת החודש but ראש חודש. It is the head of the month. Just as everything our body does emanates from signals given by the brain in the head - so the whole month is guided by and rooted in Rosh Chodesh. This explains the notion that the mitzva of relating the exodus from Egypt may already be fulfilled on Rosh Chodesh. It is only by dint of Rosh Chodesh that we had an Exodus and are on vacation till this very day [with breaks for work in between holidays so that we can afford vacations].

This symbolizes the theme of the seder. The focus is on passing the mesorah down to the children. All of the miracles in Egypt occurred in order to tell children the wonders of Hashem - למען תספר באזני בנך ובן בנך את אשר התעללתי במצרים  - we experienced miracles in order to relate them to our children. The Torah says למען ידעו דורותיכם - so that your children will know [about yetzias mitzraim]. The Pnei Menachem [the Gerrer Rebbe ztz"l] pointed out that the first letters spell - ילד. Yetzias Mitzraim was primarily for the Kinderlach!  Just as Rosh Chodesh is the root of the month, so do the parents plant the seeds for their children's future. The way we speak and comport ourselves, the activities we engage in during our free time, the amount of lashon hara we say about the shul and school rabbis, if a mother cares more about her chesed than her sheitel, if a father is careful never to miss a minyan or a set shiur, the places we send our children for school and camp, how we relate to our spouse ["You are so stupid! You have the sense of direction of a broken GPS!"], will all leave an indelible mark on our children. Children have remarkable powers of perception and pick up on the most subtle things.  
Many thousands in the Jewish world are finishing Maseches Succah in Daf Yomi this week. The gemara concludes with a tragic story about a Jewish girl who was intermarried to a Greek and came into the Beis Hamikdash and spoke in a defaming way about the korbanos. The gemara relates that her entire family was punished because when a child speaks it is generally what he or she hears from his or her parents. They, too, bore the guilt of her violation of what is sancrosanct.

Today, a child hears LOADS of things from sources other than his parents. All a parent can do is try to ensure that the home is a safe haven from the corrupting influences of the outside world. As one who has dealt with kids for over two decades, I can tell you that things are getting .... worse. As parents we have the power to educate our children as to what is right and what is wrong and then to daven our hearts out that they follow the path that is holy and pure. There are countless victims of the immorality and spiritual indifference of our society. The only way to escape it is to build a little island deep in the middle of Atlantic Ocean - underwater.
If we provide our kids with a positive message and show them the beauty and depth of our Torah they will be much less likely to take the bait of what the Satan and his tireless workers have to offer.
May we absorb into our neshamos on this Rosh Chodesh all of the אורות of this month and see ניסן [gematria ניסים] and finally finally welcome moshiach and experience the redemption of the world and gilui kvod malchuso - Amen!:-)

Bi-ahava Rabba,


A Milestone

According to YUTORAH.ORG - this is my 1,600th shiur! I still can't get over it - I give a shiur from my study in Givat Zeev, and people all over the world, many of whom never even heard of Givat Zeev - can listen. Amazing!! ופרצת!!

What a zchus. The best part of it is that I receive zero financial compensation for the shiurim. It is refreshing to do things for nothing. Torah should ideally remain pure. My millions I will make from an invention I am working on [a device, an "app" if you will, that disables one's ability to talk when about to say words of lashon hara].
"There is a wonderful mythical law of nature that the three things we crave most in life -- happiness, freedom, and peace of mind -- are always attained by giving them to someone else."

Sunday, March 30, 2014

New Shiur

Shmatsa 2 Perek 1 - How far does chezkas ha-guf go? Here.

A Case Of Mistaken Identity

News Item from WALLY radio:
A 27 year old barehead, tzitzit-less chiloni man, a sabbath desecrator, one who eats unkosher food and doesn't even wash negelvasser [!], assualted his wife yesterday and was held by police for questioning. He was then released when his equally chiloni father put up 10,000 shekel bail. When he arrived at the police station he was bareheaded.
 Just goes to show that not keeping mitzvos makes one violent.

Sweetest friends!!  Someone sent me a news item that a "charedi man" comitted an act of violence. This implies that his charedi-ism had something to do with his violence. There no correlation between the violence and his religious identity. Being charedi means that you are careful to keep the Torah. The Torah is דרכיה דרכי נועם - It's ways are ways of pleasantness. Striking a fellow Jew is forbidden according to Torah law. The gemara says that slapping one's friends face is like slapping the shechina's face. Saying that the perpetrator is charedi is created a false association. For that I protest. This person is a sinner masquerading as a religious Jew. He keeps some mitzvos and not others. He probably needs a psychiatrist as do many religious people and as do many non-religous people and as do many goyim.

A person cannot be religious and a sinner at the same time. Like the recent Pew survey where something like 94 percent of people who were identified as Ultra Orthodox said that that have not participated in a religious service of another faith in the last year. In other words - 6 percent of Ultra Orthodox Jews are idol woshippers. 86 percent [I don't remember the exact percentage] of all Ultra Orthodox Jews don't handle money on Shabbos. That means that 14 percent of Ultra Orthodox Jews a mechalelei Shabbos.... Are they really Ultra Orthodox???

A Bomb Fell This Shabbos - Details Below

The gemara [Shabbos 132] learns from the extra word וביום in the pasuk וביום השמיני ימול בשר ערלתו that even on Shabbos one may perform a bris milah. From here the gemara learns that even though the act of bris milah is a קלקול because we take a healthy baby and remove some flesh and normally we say כל המקלקלין פטורין, the melacha of חובל [wounding] is different and even מקלקל is חייב. If מקלקל would be permitted with respect to חובל we would not need a pasuk to permit bris milah on shabbos as it would be permitted as a מקלקל. We are forced to conclude [a form of religious coercion...] that מקלקל is חייב in חובל. [There is another opinion in the gemara that ברית מילה is a tikkun and that is why we need a pasuk to permit it].

At the shabbos mevorchim tisch on leil shabbos the Rebbe Shlita dropped a BOMB. The gemara learns from that very same pasuk a different limmud. The pasuk concludes ימול בשר ערלתו and the word בשר is superfluous [if it would have said ימול ערלתו it would have been perfect]. From here the gemara learns that even if the מקום המילה has tzaraas on it and the father intends to cut it off [which is normally forbidden] - he may still do the bris. בשר - even if it has tzaraas.

The question is that we can apparently no longer derive that with respect to חובל a מקלקל is חייב. Since our pasuk is talking about someone who cuts off the ערלה which has tzaraas on it, which is clearly a tikkun, we need a pasuk to permit this tikkun. But really when there is no tzaraas we don't need a pasuk to permit milah on shabbos because it is מקלקל and כל המקלקלין פטורין!! So how is the gemara so sure that with respect to chovel we say that מקלקל חייב??


Lirfuas -  Chaya Gittel Feiga bas Beila Bluma bitoch shear cholei yisrael. כי חיים הם למצאיהם ובשרו מרפא

Saturday, March 29, 2014

They Are All Number One

The Hagada lists the four sons, Echad Chochom, Echad Rasha, Echad Tam, Echad SheEino Yodei'a Lishol.  Rav Menashe Klein asks shouldn't it say Echad, Sheini, Shlishi... instead of Echad for each one?

He answers that Baal Hagada is teaching us a very important lesson.  Each person whatever he is, has a Neshama that comes from Hashem, a Cheilek Elokai MiMaal.  Each person comes directly from Hashem who is Echad.  They are all special.  There is no Rishon, Sheini, Shlishi no matter what they look like.  They all need to be treated as number one.

לזכות רבי אפרים אבא בן מרים שושנה הוא וכל אשר לו

Sgulos For Shmirah

Someone bought a new car and asked the Belzer Rebbe Reb Ahare'le for a Segula to ensure he will not get into any accidents on the road. The Rebbe offered him two tips. First said the Rebbe make sure you obey all the traffic laws and treat them as you would the Aseres HaDibros. Secondly, said the Rebbe, when you see people walking give them a ride and in the merit of the Chesed you will be protected from any harm. (Shevet HaKehosi 5:241:7).


Thursday, March 27, 2014

They Never Found Him

One day, some builders are renovating an old building in Jerusalem when Srulik, one of the workers, falls through the rotten floor into a previously undiscovered cellar. As the dust settles, Solly sees to his horror a skeleton lying in the corner. The skeleton is wearing a blue and white sash with these words written on it:


Why A Woman's Place Is In The Kitchen - Do You Like Cold Pizza?

Because guys don't seem to know hilchos shabbos. Guys!! Get your act together. It's embarassing that after all those hours you have spent learning you still don't know the laws of shi-hiyah and chazara!:-) I am organizing a shiur in hilchos shabbos for all of the male readers of mevakesh lev. I just suspect that nobody will fly in for that. Oh well....

Thank G-d for women and for seminaries! They know the halachos and we can trust 'em. Otherwise we'd be eating cold pizza for the shabbos day meal.
For the sake of fairness and openness that I preach and attempt to practice and because Reb Chaim is a good friend and a talmid chochom, I link this post [without a rebuttal or response].

Holy Doubt

I have recently been conducting conversations with two types of people.

One type are the people who know it all. They have no doubts. They walk around instructing others as to what is right and wrong. They don't need or want rabbonim because they know it all. They write op-ed pieces for the Jerusalem Post, have blogs, or just preach their gospel to any listening ear. Such people suffer from the insidious illness of never admitting that they are just wrong or that they don't know or that they have so much to work on.

Another type of person is not so sure. He sees both sides of the argument. Some issues are multi-dimensional and this person tries to make his way through the maze of approaches in order to get to truth. He appreciates the subtleties of life and is aware of the fact that he doesn't know it all.

In sfarim the concept of "doubt" is associated with amalek [safek and amalek even share a gematria]. So doubt is a horrible thing. Wipe out doubt! But sometimes two words with the same gematria are exact opposites. Doubt can be great. Amalek is cynical doubt. You can't know anything for sure so forget about it. Life has no absolute meaning because "who knows". Maybe there is a G-d but maybe not. Maybe my life matters, maybe it doesn't etc. That is Amalek. There is another, positive type of doubt. It says "I am so small and don't know very much but I want to know more. I am so limited in my perspective and I want to be expanded. Just because I think a certain way doesn't mean that it is necessarily the truth. Let me learn more. Let me expand my consciousness!!" 

The brain is an incredibly complex organ [over 100 BILLION nerve cells in the brain alone. Anyone who studies the brain and doesn't believe in G-d would seem not to have a brain... Google "human brain" and read. Ammmmaaaazing! מה רבו מעשיך השם]. In the brain, we have synapses and neurotransmitters and countless other parts which determine the way we think and feel. We are essentially prisoners of our brains, being able to function only with it's context. Hashem in His great love and mercy created us with great capacity for thought and understanding but we are still limited by our experiences, upbringing and our predisposed genetic tendencies. There is a great value in learning from others because we get a glimpse of another ways of thinking and being often no less valid than our own ways.

At the seder the child asks his father the 4 questions. If there are no children then the adults - even if they are great scholars - ask. There must be asking. Asking means "I don't know - I want to know more. Enlighten me". Some people have no questions and they also have no seder. More significantly [possibly], they will never leave the jail of their own limited understanding and achieve expanded, broader knowledge.

The beautiful Torah notion of having is Rebbi is a boon to growth, humility and knowledge. "Rebbi", we say, "I don't know, show me the way".

Chazal say a remarkable thing: ומתלמידי יותר מכולם - A good Rebbi learns more from his student than he does from anyone else. This idea shows the value and benefit of always keeping an open mind. The student is subordinate to the Rebbi and tries to understand and learn from him but the learning process is a two way street. The Rebbi is constantly learning from the student as well.

We never know it all. The greatest gadol in the world is called a תלמיד חכם - a wise student. Can you imagine telling a professor at MIT that he is a good student? He would be insulted. 

Sweetest friends - if you read this blog you probably have an open mind and want to expand your perspective and develop emotionally. You realize that life is a continuous often arduous journey of growth. Thanks for joining me, learning with me and most importantly - for teaching me:-).

חיה גיטל פייגע בת ביילא בלומא

Please daven for Chaya Gittel Feiga bas Beila Bluma.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Look Past The Skin

From my archives:

When we were kids there was a running, popular joke: You go up to someone and say "Your epidermis is showing." This was supposed to be funny because it could make people VERY self-conscious. In fact, epidermis is another word for skin. 
Ha ha.
This weeks parshiot teach us about the terrible skin condition called "tzaraas" that one gets for speaking loshon hara. Why the skin? Skin in Hebrew is called עור. The same letters עור can also mean "blind" [although it is pronounced differently]. What is the connection between being blind and having skin [besides the obvious connection that blind people have skin].?
Every person is FILLED with spiritual Light. However, his physicality covers it up. The "skin" blinds one to a person's true value. The reason we have little holes in our skin [pores] is because there must a path to see through to the Light.
After Adam sinned it says that he was given כתנות עור  - a garment of skin, meaning that his spirituality was covered up. רבי מאיר - the medrash tells us. had written in his Torah the words כתנות אור . Rebbe Meir whose name means light, was able to see through the עור. He wasn't blinded - he saw the Light.
When a person sins and speaks loshon hara, the problem is that he didn't see the light in the other person and focused on externals. He learns this lesson when his skin is afflicted.
[Based partly on the Sfas Emes]
The lesson: Don't judge people by their externals. Don't marry a girl just because she is pretty. Don't be superficial. There is more to a person that meets the eye. People are filled with Light which is just covered up by the body. Relate to them accordingly. 
May you all have a Shabbos-of-Light-Holiness-Good-Words-About-All-People-Seeing-To-The-Core-And-Loving-All:):) 

New Article On The Parsha

After a month long absence, our weekly article on the parsha returns here.

The Ehrman Challenge

Why do we have to listen to Gedolim, people wonder, maybe they are wrong?? We don't believe that a Gadol is infallible, only Hashem is infallible [not even, li-havdil, the Pope is infallible, as many goyim believe. If he was so perfect he would have found a shidduch already. Many women would want to be married to perfection...].

The answer is...... [drumroll]

Maybe they ARE wrong. BUT, [a big "but"], it doesn't matter. If we disregard the rulings of Gedolei Yisrael [meaning those who are recognized by Klal Yisrael as Gedolei Torah], then our Torah will splinter into millions of Torahs. Everybody will decide every question for his or her self. Like much of what is already happening in newspapers and blogs where everybody has an equally valid opinion. So you open up the Jewish Press and discover on the letters to the editor page, that a dentist from Englewood has taken upon himself to argue with Gedolei Yisrael and decide major questions for Klal Yisrael. How very very dangerous. Doc, you know root canals and crowns! Don't cross the lines of your expertise. Today it is considered acceptable that my bobbe, your bobbe, and four of their yente friends can have uneducated opinions that are just as valid as the viewpoints of Rav Moshe Feinstein and Rav Ovadiah Yosef ztz"l.

So even if the Gedolim are wrong it doesn't matter very much. The most important thing is that the Torah retains its integrity and shleimus. The very sad reality is that people [often with great impudence] cavalierly disagree with the Gedolim and have the impression that the Torah is like silly putty in our hands and after having read a tweet about a certain issue the person now can decide for himself what the ratzon HaTorah is.

Chazal already said that we should listen to the Sanhedrin אפילו יאמרו לך על ימין שהוא שמאל ועל שמאל שהוא ימין - Even if they tell you that right is left and that left is right. Even when it is so obvious that they erred.

That being said we shouldn't be so quick to decide that they are mistaken. They have special siyata di-shamaya as leaders of the Jewish nation and also have ingested tens of thousands of hours of the most profound and G-dly wisdom in existence. They only became Gedolim because they proved that in a nation of millions of people, many of them highly intelligent and educated, they are head and shoulders above the rest.

There is a certain arrogance in saying that they are wrong with so little knowledge and depth. When someone disagrees with the Chazon Ish, I give him the "Ehrman Challenge". Take a pen and paper write fifteen volumes on the level of the Sifrei Chazon Ish [including lots and lots of Zraim, Kodshim and Tahoros] and then argue. The truth is that almost everybody who argues with the Chazon Ish on major issues wouldn't even be able to read and understand his sfarim.

Of course one may ask and try to understand with his or her limited intellectual faculties. But that is a far cry from asserting that they are just wrong and don't understand the Torah as well as I do.

Am I wrong???

I await your responses....

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

New Article

This was sent by my beloved friend R' Kivi Naiman. I thank him.
Read it if only for the vocabulary!!:-)

A sampling:

"As already explained, the real, underlying issue is the Torah's religious gender differentiation. Accordingly, any accommodation nolens volens accepts and reinforces the inimical premise that avenues and expressions of avodas Hashem for men and women must be identical."

"Nolens volens", for those of my readers who skipped out of Latin class, means "willing or unwilling".

The Chachmei Ha-mesorah

Rav Soloveitchick in a 1975 lecture [from R' Ari Kahn's blog]. I was unable to attend as I was very busy playing with my blocks and lego.

Kabalas ol malchus shamayim -- which is an identical act with talmud torah -- requires of us to revere and to love and to admire the words of the chachmei hamesorah, be they tannaim, be they amoraim, be they rishonim.  This is our prime duty.  They are the final authorities, and an irresponsible statement about chazal borders on, I don't like to use the word but according to Maimonides, the heretic.  When the Rambam says about tzadukim, perek gimmel hilchos t'shuva halachah ches, v'chen hakofer b'perusha v'hu torah she- b'al peh v'hamach'chish magideha k'gon tzadok ubaitos -- it's very strange, I wanted to discuss it with my father zt"l.  Whoever denies the truthfulness or the authenticity of the torah she-b'al peh is a tzaduki.  Why did he add v'hamach'chish magideha -- whoever denies the authority of the scholars, the chachmei hamesorah?  Apparently the Rambam says that under the category of kofrim batorah are classified not only those who deny for instance that nisuch hamayim or avodas beis hamikdash is required, or those who deny the torah she b'al peh -- there is no doubt about it in those cases.  But moreover, even those who admit the truthfulness of the torah she b'al peh but who are critical of chachmei chazal as personalities, who find fault with chachmei chazal, fault in their character, their behavior, or their conduct, who say that chachmei chazal were prejudiced, which actually has no impact upon the halachah;  nevertheless, he is to be considered as a kofer.  V'chen hakofer b'perusha v'hu torah she b'al peh v'hamach'chish magideha; he who denies the perfection and the truthfulness of chachmei chazal -- not of the Torah, but of the chachmei chazal as personalities, as real persona as far as their character, their philosophy, or their outlook on the world is concerned -- is a kofer.  Let me add something that is very important: not only the halachos but also the chazakos which chachmei chazal have introduced are indestructible.  We must not tamper, not only with the halachos, but even with the chazakos, for the chazakos of which chazal spoke rest not upon transient psychological behavioral patterns, but upon permanent ontological principles rooted in the very depth of the human personality, in the metaphysical human personality, which is as changeless as the heavens above.  Let us take for example the chazaka that I was told about: the chazaka tav l'meisiv tan du mil'meisiv armalo has absolutely nothing to do with the social and political status of women in antiquity.  This chazaka is based not upon sociological factors, but upon a verse in breishis -- harba arbeh itz'voneich v'heironeich b'etzev teildi vanim v'el isheich t'shukaseich v'hu yimshal bach -- "I will greatly multiply thy pain and thy travail; in pain thou shalt bring forth children, and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee".  It is a metaphysical curse rooted in the feminine personality -- she suffers incomparably more that the male who is in solitude.  Solitude to the male is not as terrible an experience, as horrifying an experience, as is solitude to the woman.  And this will never change, mayid shamayim vaaretz.  This is not a psychological fact; it is an existential fact, which is due not to the inferior status of the woman, but rather to the difference, the basic distinction, between the female personality and the male personality.  Loneliness frightens the woman, and an old spinster's life is much more miserable and tragic than the life of an old bachelor.  This was true in antiquity; it is still true, and it will be true a thousand years from now.  So, to say that tan du mil'meisiv armalo was or is due to the inferior political or social status of the woman is simply misinterpreting the chazaka tan du mil'meisiv armalo.  No legislation can alleviate the pain of the single woman, and no legislation can change this role.  She was burdened by the Almighty, after she violated the first [law].  Let me ask you a question -- ribono shel olam, G-d Almighty, if you should start modifying and reassessing the chazakos upon which a multitude of halachos rest, you will destroy yehadus.  So instead of philosophizing, let us rather light a match and set fire to the beis yisrael, and get rid of our problems.

Maran HaRav Kook ztz"l On Army Service For Bnei Yeshiva

Of course he was not referring to Tzahal because he passed away before the birth of the state but read his words [translations are welcome...].

שע"פ תורת ישראל, תלמידי חכמים אסור ללחצם ללכת למלחמה... והצלחת המדינה תלויה במלחמתה ע"י מה שנמצאים בה תלמידי חכמים העוסקים בתורה, שבזכותם המלחמה נוצחת, והם מועילים למדינה יותר מאנשי החיל הלוחמים... ואמרו בסנהדרין (דף מט, א), אלמלא דוד שעסק בתורה לא עשה יואב מלחמה. כלומר, לא היה מנצח את המלחמה... ובטוחים אנו שתדע הממשלה להשתמש בכוחו של כל אחד מבני ישראל לפי סגולתו, וכוחם של תלמידי חכמים יראי ה' תניח על מקומו בקדושת התורה, ולא תחללהו בשימוש החול של מלחמה ואנגריה, שאינם מוכשרים לו כלל לפי מידתם ותכונת גופם ונפשם. וכל כך גבוהה היא בישראל תעודת לימוד התורה ללומדיה הקבועים, עד שע"פ המסורת התלמודית היא לא תוכל להיות נדחית גם מפני ציווי של כל מלך ושליט... על כן, תלמידי החכמים העוסקים בתורה הם הם מגינים על הארץ ועוזרים להצלחת הנשק הלאומי, לא פחות וגם יותר מכל החיל הלוחם, ומזה תוצאה בטוחה, שממלכה אידיאלית המכרת את הוד הקודש לא תכוף את התלמידים השוקדים על דלתי התורה, לבטל את תורתם ולעסוק בעבודה גשמית שאינם מסוגלים לה (אגרות ראי"ה ג, צ-צב)


Do They Work?

Pursuant to some recent posts.... see this video.

Understanding The Charedi Weltanschauung [Hashkafa]

A response to an email sent by a beloved friend.

One of the major problems in relationships is the lack of effective communication. Too many men expect women to think like men and relate to them that way. Women can't and won't ever think like men. They are physiologically and emotionally wired so much differently that in order to talk to one's wife effectively, he has to speak "wife-ese" just like when he talks to a person from China he must speak Chinese. Otherwise his words will either be misunderstood or not understood at all.

When talking to a charedi one must speak "Charedi-ese". One must use their frame of reference and step into their shoes and only then is there a chance to understand them.

So let us get to current events.... The battle cry is "If not army, then at least national service!!" Sounds great! Why not??

I will explain: For a charedi the word "national" is essentially two four letter words [count...:-)]. They feel that that the State has been waging war against them from the very outset. Would you want to work for your enemy?? It started when the Zionists stole the Yemenite children from their parents, cut off their peyos and secularized them [this is documented and repeated very often in the charedi world]. Since then the government has always been less than sympathetic to religion [in their eyes].

Many argue that the government has also done much good for the charedim such a providing an army to defend them and many, many other services. So why don't the charedim appreciate that? The answer is that some charedim [such as Mori Vi-rabi Shlita who has spoken about this publicly] do appreciate what has been done for them [usually not li-shem shomayim but still ...] but still want to distance themselves from the secularism [read heresy] of the government and state. Others can't appreciate the good because of all of the harm they felt that the government has done. It is like a divorced woman who despises her ex despite all of the benefit she received from him [years of support, children etc.]. She just can't get past the pain. The charedim feel that the government are enemies of G-d and Torah and no benefit that they received can overcome that feeling. They may or may not be right but this is how they feel. In therapy we allow the client to feel as he does without judging.... That is a show of RESPECT. Let us respect their feelings even if we feel differently.

Also, once they are doing this national service they are under the jurisdiction of a secular entity. They don't want to have to listen to a chiloni named Opher. They want to be under the jurisdiction of their rabbonim and spiritual leaders. [That is why they are so stridently opposed to national service for girls. The Chazon Ish said "יהרג ואל יעבור"].

"Service" - For a charedi "service" is davening and learning and keeping mitzvos. "Service" in this context is "chesed". So let's call it "national chesed". Well, charedim do more chesed than any other community and do this chesed for everyone who needs it regardless of his or her religious affiliation. They don't need or want any guy without a kippah on his head to tell them when, where and how to do chesed. There are principals and guidelines when to do chesed and when to learn Torah which are not honored or understood by the secular. For a charedi, chesed is one of the three pillars upon which the world stands. Nobody has to tell them to do chesed, especially when it is a chesed for the community at large. But for them the world was created for Torah. When a frum girl, a bas Torah, looks for a shidduch, the first thing on her list is someone who is devoted to becoming a talmid chochom. In the religious community, the leaders and heroes are the greatest scholars and not the hatzola guys - even though they appreciate the hatzola guys. But ten hatzola guys don't equal one Rav Ovadia or Rav Eliyashiv, both ztz"l. Are they wrong? Many think so but that is how they see the world and understand ratzon Hashem.

In fact, charedim perform national service better than everyone else: R' Shlomo Aviner once said that the greatest national service is having children and building families. Nobody does this better than the charedim.

For a charedi, the notion of army and national service is a non-starter. The army for them is no less treif than a McDonald's cheeseburger [due to tzniyus and other issues as we discussed in a previous post] and national service is entry into the secular establishment which endangers the perpetuation of pure shmiras Ha-Torah.

Many of my readers disagree with this perspective. You can disagree but understanding that their attitudes don't stem from evil character and selfishness [as they are often portrayed] will go a long way to bringing ahavas yisrael.

If a boy is not learning [as many aren't] then there are Gedolim who feel that the army and national service are the answers for such a boy.

Many people complain about the support yeshivos receive from the government. Universities, sports teams, CHURCHES, museums, ARABS [our sworn enemies] etc. etc. receive governemental support. Why shouldn't charedim who are also taxpayers and contribute to the country [even if one doesn't appreciate their Torah, quite a few charedi men work and almost every charedi wife does too. They have yet to open up a charedi kollel for women. NCSY's summer michlelet program doesn't count...] receive a piece of the pie? Why shouldn't they use their political power to get as much as they can as every other group does??

Are charedim perfect?? Far from it. But they are also the group of Jews who are doing everything they can to preserve Torah and it is primarily them who have revived Torah all over the world after it was destroyed 70 years ago.

I humbly suggest that those who choose not to be charedi respect what they do and the good they bring to the world. An little ayin tova goes a far way.....

And yes, the charedim have much to learn from the Dati-Leumi [as Mori Vi-rabi has said publicly]. Charedim don't have a monopoly on Torah and goodness.

Blocking The Exit?

"I was in this place in Manhattan and someone came up to me and told me that I was blocking the fire exit and would have to move. As though if there was a fire I wouldn't run. If you are flammable and have legs you are never blocking a fire exit."

Making A Profit

If it is a penny for you thoughts and you put your two cents in, then someone, somewhere is making a penny.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Incalculable Power

We possess within us a force of incalculable power, which, if ...we direct it in a conscious and wise manner, gives us the mastery of ourselves and allows us not only to escape... from physical and mental ills, but also to live in relative happiness.

Emile Coue
Source: Self mastery through conscious autosuggestion‎ - Page 35 by Émile Coué

The Costumes We Wear

Moishe goes to the unemployment office in search of a parnassa. They offer him a job as a monkey in the zoo. He is desperate so he takes it. The first day of work went well. He wore his monkey suit and entertained the visitors to the zoo. That night he was sleeping in his cage and suddenly he heard the tiger in the next cage trying to break in. Moishe was becoming more and more afraid as the scary tiger rattled the bars of his cage. When it seemed that he was about to break in and have Moishe for a late second dinner, Moishe cried out "Shema Yisrael Hashem Elokeinu Hashem Echad!!!"
The tiger didn't skip a beat and answered "Baruch Sheim Kavod Malchuso...."

"Who are you?" asked Moishe the monkey.

"I am Yossi from the unemployment office," answered the tiger.

Someone once said that we all wear our costumes and try to shield ourselves from all of the people in the outside world. We are often insecure, afraid of criticism, don't fully believe in ourselves and fear the reactions and attitudes towards us of those around us.

Remember!! Every person you see ALSO has fears and insecurities and similarly is concerned with the way others view him or her.

Every other person is really just Yossi from the unemployment office who may be dressed up in a tigers outfit and make you uncomfortable about yourself. He may be your boss or wife [usually the same person...:-)], business associate or the guy who sits next to you in shul.

Sweetest friends - take it easy. Nobody has the right to judge you or assign you self-worth. Nobody really understands where you are coming from [and the way I view it, most people don't understand where they themselves are really coming from. Takes many years of introspection....] and only views you from the limited prism of their own personal existence. People are wired to think a certain way and you should not let the chemicals in other peoples heads get you down.

Ahhhhh - there is so much I want to say but I must at some point to succumb to the jet-lag and general traveling fatigue from which I suffer. Maybe another time and maybe in person:-).

A Generation Where Chitzoniyus Reigns Supreme

This is Rav Dessler speaking in the generation before Facebook and Twitter, when the world looked MUCH better than it does today. Here is what he said then.... What would he say today??    

דורנו - דור חיצוני, דבק בחיצוניות ללא תוכן פנימי. דור שכל עולמו - תיאטרון, וכל מעשיו - משחקים. דור שכל מחשבותיו - דימיון

The Chasam Sofer Against Yeshiva?

A beloved friend sent me a link to a blog that quoted a "startling" Chasam Sofer that in Israel there is a special mitzva to work as it is considered "settling the land". So empty out the yeshivos, proclaimed the blogger, and off to work.

I have known this Chasam Sofer for maybe 20 years. I am sure that the Gedolei Yisrael know this Chasam Sofer as well. I must say that if I know the Chasam Sofer as I think I do - today he would be the biggest proponent of kollel. The reason is that today in order to make a decent living one must use the Internet. The Chasam Sofer would NEVER go for that. He would encourage everyone to stay faaaaar away and to remain in Kollel.

In addition, the gemara says יפתח בדורו כשמואל בדורו - every generation has their leaders. The leader of the Jews two hundred years ago was the Chasam Sofer. He is no longer and we follow the leaders of this generation [despite the complete lack of respect people have for them. I have a friend who is a successful businessman but not much of a scholar. I was once offended that he spoke to me as if he was my teacher even though he knows so little and so superficially. I now see that he relates to all the Gedolei Hador and Roshei Yeshiva in the same way so I am in good company. They just don't get it, in his opinion. Only he does. Ahhhhhh - what I would do to see more humility in our world of "everyone's opinion has equal merit"].

That being said - I am compelled to add that those who work in Israel [and even in chutz la-aretz] are doing a great mitzva. But so are the learners. I once again suggest that we let each person consult with his Rav as to the right derech for himself.

The Miraculous Creation Of My Plane

I sat on the plane next to a super-secular-super-left-wing-grandmother. She clearly has a much greater affinity for her five dogs and Arabs than she does for religious Jews. She kept egging me on to get into religious debates with her [e.g. by telling me how "stupid" - מטומטם - our laws are]. I relented [I had nowhere to run to...]. I discovered that her philosophical sophistication was on a scale of 1-10 about 0.13. I asked her if she agrees that the world is complex and she agreed that it is. I then asked if it is logical to say that complex things don't happen completely by accident and that it would therefore make sense to say that Someone or something intelligent created it. She replied [as she did innumerable times] "I don't know".

I then told her that when I get home I am going to tell my children that the airplane I flew in was created when a bunch of guys were sitting in a room playing with explosives and suddenly there was a "Big Bang" and the plane came into being. She said זה מטומטם - That is stupid.

The plane could not have been an accident. Only the universe was.....

During the course of the conversation I discovered that she doesn't read [she is dyslexic]. She knows all the answers while admitting that she knows nothing because she doesn't read. Hmmmm.

She showed me pictures of her daughter [who is well enough off to buy two apartments in Manhattan but, nebuch, can't afford sleeves. I tried not to look...] and grandchildren. I bless her that they should all be chozer bitshuva:-).

Friday, March 21, 2014

Sorry to belabor the point....
I was sent an email by a relative who forwarded me an article of army service for yeshiva students. I am reprinting the article and my response.

By R' Jeremy Gimpel

I am a platoon sergeant in the IDF. I am a religious Jew. I am a platoon sergeant in the IDF because I am a religious Jew.

Recently, hundreds of thousands of haredim gathered in Jerusalem to protest the idea that they should be drafted into the army like every other Jewish citizen of Israel. This, they claim, is the Torah law and the will of God.

It is nearly impossible to find a precedent in all of Tanach, Talmud or Jewish history where Jews did not go out to defend their country together. There is not one time when Jews were exempt from fighting alongside their brothers because they were learning Torah.

Joshua, the spiritual leader and commander of the first Jewish army in the land of Israel, was commanded by God that “the Torah shall not depart from your mouth day and night.” In the haredi paradigm, we should expect to read about the houses of study Joshua established. Instead, for the next seven years Joshua went out to battle with all his people.

Ironically, that passage in the first chapter in the book of Joshua is the primary textual source for the commandment to learn Torah.

King David, the author of so many of our treasured prayers, also went out to battle. With a Torah scroll by his side he led his men in war and toward peace. The Maccabees were priests in the Holy Temple. Matityahu was the high priest and his son Judah a priest as well. Both led the military revolt against the Greek empire. Later, Rabbi Akiva led his students to war under Bar Kochba against the Roman occupation in Israel.

For those who can’t find value in the Jewish state and therefore refuse to defend it (or to even thank God for its existence on Yom Ha’atzmaut), a religious re-education is in order. There has never been more Torah study in the land of Israel in all our history than there is today. More synagogues, mikvehs, yeshivas and seminaries have been built by the modern state of Israel than ever before. In quantifiable numbers, the amount of people learning Torah in our modern state dwarfs anything that King David, King Solomon, Ezra, Nehemiah, the Hasmoneans and Rabbi Akiva ever produced.
Outside of Israel, the greatest yeshivas like Volozhin and Lublin had no more than 300 students. Even the legendary institutions of Sura and Pumpedita had approximately 1,000 students. Just the fact that there are hundreds of thousands of Torah students in Israel to protest is reason enough to celebrate the country.

Only the modern state of Israel with a trained military could have transformed our shattered and devastated people after the Holocaust into a new spiritual empire. While it is forbidden to rely on miracles, we live as a free people again today because of our brave, dedicated soldiers. Only a few decades ago Jews wore a different kind of uniform – one with stripes and a yellow star.
In this sense, the popular demand “to share the burden” creates the wrong discourse and misses the heart of what it means to be a Jew in our country. Serving in the first unified Jewish army in the Land of Israel since the times of King David is not a burden; it is a privilege, an honor, and a miracle. It is unconscionable for a religious Jew living in the Promised Land, connected to his heritage and his history, not to want to serve in the army.

Although the ultimate Jewish vision aspires to no army, no soldiers and no weapons of war, the story of the modern Jewish army is the next chapter in the ongoing saga of Jewish history.

Israel Eldad articulates this point in his book The Jewish Revolution. “Some time in 1953,” he writes, “a remarkable series of ancient letters was discovered in the Judean desert. These were the letter of the last commander of Judea, Simon Bar Kochba, the leader of the last great revolt against the Romans…. The letters, addressed to commanders in various theaters of operation, were personally signed by him. Now they are on display at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.
“This by itself is an outstanding archeological discovery. But it is not the most miraculous part of the story. The true miracle lies in the fact that the person who discovered the letters of the last Jewish commander was the well-known archeologist, General Yigael Yadin, effectively the first commander of the new Jewish army.

“For 1,820 years Bar Kochba’s letters lay hidden in the Judean desert, in clay pots where they were preserved for some unknown date in the future.… They were waiting until they reached their final destination. The letters of Bar Kochba, the last commander of the Jewish army, thus reached the first commander of the new Jewish army after 1,820 years as if by personal delivery….”
What Eldad does not discuss is what Bar Kochba wrote and how relevant his message is today. He ordered his men to deliver lulavs and etrogs to his soldiers in the battlefield. It was the holiday of Sukkot and his Torah-observant troops wanted to serve God while they served in His army.
A call to us from the days of Rabbi Akiva to never forget that serving in the Jewish army is not a secular burden but a religious duty.

 Rabbi Jeremy Gimpel is the host of “Israel Inspired Radio” on iTunes and the creator and host of the TV show “Tuesday Night Live in Jerusalem.” He currently serves as deputy director of the World Mizrachi Religious Party.

My response

Is R' Jeremy Gimpel privy to information that is hidden from every gadol bi-yisrael in our day and the recent era?
Rav Elyashiv and Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach and Rav Aharon Kotler and Rav Ovadiah Yosef and the Chazon Ish and Rav Moshe Feinstein. None of them learned sefer Yehoshua?? Why do people assume that gdolei yisrael are idiots and don't know what the Torah has to say on such a critical issue. I don't get it. Uncle .... - you are a wise and knowledgable man. Tell me what you think. If Rabbi Riskin paskens a shyla for you, shouldn't you listen to him, regardless of what others think? He is your Rebbi?! Why should the bnei yeshiva in Israel not listen to people who are their "Rabbi Riskin"??
A little sampling from Rav Moshe.
אם ללמוד תורה בישיבה או להתגייס לצבא
בע”ה עש”ק י”ז סיון תשמ”א.
מע”כ התלמידים החשובים מישיבת נתיב מאיר בירושלים מר דניאל קראוס נ”י ומר עפר טויבר נ”י.
הנה אף שעניין צבא ההגנה הוא ענין גדול, אבל עניין לימוד התורה ללומדי תורה עוד יותר גדול גם מלהגין על המדינה כמפורש פ”א דבבא בתרא ח’ ע”א הכל לאגלי גפא (לשערי חומות העיר להציב בהן דלתות – רש”י) אפילו מיתמי אבל רבנן לא צריכי נטירותא. וכנראה שהממשלה הכירה ג”כ את זה, ומי שלומד בישיבה גדולה ועוסק בתורה פטור מענייני חיובי הצבא. ולכן ודאי מי שיש לו תשוקה ללימוד התורה ולהעשות גדול בתורה ובהוראה וביראת שמים, יש לו לילך לישיבות הגדולות, ויהיה ברכה לכלל ישראל והגנה גדולה לכל ישראל.
והנני המברך אתכם להתגדל בתורה וביראה לתפארת בישראל
משה פיינשטיין.
Dear worthy students of Yeshiva Netiv Meir Daniel Krauss and Opher Tauber,
Even though army defense is a great matter, but the learning of Torah to students of Torah is an even greater matter – even more so than defending the land, as is made clear in the first chapter of Bava Basra 8a.   All must give toward installing doors to block entrance to the city, even orphans. Except for Rabbis who do not require protection.   It would appear that the government also recognizes this and one who learns in a Yeshiva Gedolah and is involved in Torah study is exempt from the obligations of the army.  Therefore, certainly one who has a desire to learn Torah and to become great in Torah and in Horaah and in fear of Heaven, should attend Yeshiva Gedolah and will be a blessing for Klal Yisroel and a great [source of] defense for all of Israel.
I bless you to grow in Torah, fear of Heaven, and be a source of glory in Israel,
Moshe Feinstein


Thursday, March 20, 2014

Mevakesh Goes Home

To my sweet friends!!

My sojourn in the US is coming to an end on Sunday and I will be returning [after 2000 years!] to Israel. I think they want to draft me....

I thank all of my friends who came to shiurim and otherwise showed their friendship and loyalty during my extended stay.

May we ALL have yeshuos vi-nechamos!:-)

Bi-ahava rabba,

They Are Not All Bad:)

Rav Shlomo Aviner, as a devotee of Rav Tzvi Yehuda Kook ztz"l, is an outspoken critic of charedim. He is bothered by the fact that they don't appreciate the inherent sanctity of the State of Israel, they don't celebrate Yom Ha-atzmaut, they don't promote army service for their young men etc. This is what he had to say in a recent article [sent by my beloved friend R' Y.A.]

[Be-Ahavah U-Be-Emunah – Tzav 5774 – translated by R. Blumberg]

A lot of hostile verbiage has been uttered recently against the Charedim.  We therefore must, in honor of Purim, fulfill Esther’s call for unity: “Go gather up all the Jews” (Esther 4:16).

We must remember that we are brothers. We must remember that what we have in common is infinitely greater than that which separates us. We must remember that all the different hues within our Nation are nevertheless parts of the Nation, and that every hue needn’t occupy itself with criticizing others, but rather with examining itself. My point is not to teach the Charedim what they should be doing. That we leave to their Rabbis. My point is for us to clarify for ourselves, what we, the Jewish Nation, must learn from them. Be it a little or a lot, we mustn’t learn what they lack, but rather, what virtues that they possess, and these are they:

1. Faithfulness to the word of G-d: “Hear the word of Hashem, you who tremble at His word” (Yeshayahu 66:5). Once we were all Charedim, the entire Nation. Yet the Reformers changed things and said that one should adapt the Mitzvot to the spirit of the times. The Chatam Sofer proclaimed, “Everything new is forbidden by the Torah” (Shut Chatam Sofer Vol. 1 Orach Chaim 28, 148, 181. Vol. 2 Yoreh Deah 19). As a safeguard against inroads by the Reformers, the Charedim came and built a high wall to stop the changes.

2. Belief. Absolute, steadfast belief in the Written Torah’s being from heaven, and in the Oral Torah’s being from heaven.

3. Fear of G-d. The ideal for every person is to be a Torah scholar, and the duty of every person is to keep the light Mitzvot just as steadfastly as the weighty Mitzvot, and to set fixed times for Torah study.

4. Torah study surpassing all else. One must devote all his energies to Torah learning, even if one lives in penury.

5. Pristine Jewish Education. Pristine, pure education for one’s children in preschool, in elementary school, in yeshiva high school, in post-high-school yeshiva. There should be as much Torah learning as possible, along with the teaching of good character, the fear of G-d and the importance of keeping the light Mitzvot as steadfastly as the weighty ones. Such is the ideal: to be a Yeshiva person, learned, with sterling character.

And the girls should be provided with the appropriate parallel education, even at the cost of living in poverty.

6. Respect for Torah scholars. Respect, as well as reverence, and love. And above all, obedience before the great Torah luminaries of the generation.

7. Caution. Internet only with the strictest safeguards against corruption, and, if possible, not at all. And the same applies as far as the cell phone. Rejection of social events that are not entirely appropriate. Study of a profession in appropriate institutions. Charedi dress that preserves one from evil influences. By the way, Maran Ha-Rav Avraham Yitzchak Ha-Cohain Kook, and Rabbenu Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehuda Kook, dressed this way as well, as did many other Zionist Rabbis.

8. Modesty. Modesty in female garb. Modesty in male garb. Each distancing themselves from the other, in accordance with Jewish law. Separate-gender education for children. Avoidance by women of prominent positions in society. Avoidance by couples of public displays of affection.

9. Free-loans. Many free-loan societies. 46 percent of Charedim volunteer many hours of their time with free-loan societies. This also provides an internal insurance for poor families.

10. Healthy families. A very high marriage rate. A very low divorce rate. Families blessed with many children.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Giving Mussar - To Whom?

A man has criticism to offer his wife. What should he do?

Sometimes, he should expend that energy on instead criticizing HIMSELF. He won't change his wife - only she can do that. But he CAN change himself.

A Charedi Rabbi has criticism to offer non-charedim. In most instances, since they are not his constituency, they will not listen and only take offense. So what did he accomplish? He increased strife and friction among Jews. If he has something negative to say it should be directed at the people who actually listen to him, won't take offense and will view his words as a trigger for personal growth. The same applies to other groups. MO rabbonim should be focused on the many maladies of their own communities and not on what is wrong with the charedim. Not because there is nothing wrong with the charedim but because their words of admonishment will not be taken well and only cause dissension.

I am not referring to any particular statements of any specific rabbonim because frankly I try to avoid reading the news and don't know who has been talking recently that has made people so offended. I am just drawing on a lesson I learned from Mori Vi-rabbi Shlita who dishes out some intense mussar but 100 percent of the time it is for people who would be receptive to his message and NEVER about other groups.

I hope that I am zoche to follow in his footsteps. If I don't, I need him to set me straight.
[For the record, I have asked him in the past to set me straight and spoke to him a few days ago from here in New York with a request to tell me where I went wrong on a certain issue and how to fix it. People email and speak to me to set me on the right and narrow as well. One of the 48 kinyanei torah is אוהב את התוכחות - loving rebuke].

Post Purim Chicken Soup For The Soul

From an email:

Shalom Sweeeeetest friends!!!

I could not resist sending you a story about the Rebbe of my revered Rebbe Shlita, May we all grow in our emunas tzadikim and our connection to them.

This dvar Torah is dedicated to HaRav Ariel ben Shlomit and R' Ephraim Abba ben Miriam Shoshana who are two models of people who are devoted to getting close to tzadikim which quite frankly makes them no small tzadikim themselves. May they and their families have only good things always:-).

The Pnei Menachem, Rav Pinchas Menachem Alter, the previous Gerrer Rebbe was niftar motzoei Shushan Purim 18 years ago. Mori Vi-rabi Shlita was extremely close to him and often tells amazing stories that he witnessed first-hand. He passed away suddenly but gave many hints that he was about to go to the world of truth. One hint he gave was what he said at the tisch on the day before his passing. He spoke about how the hidden Esther alludes to the neshamos of tzadikim and like Queen Esther they too are given whatever they ask for. He continued by saying that the death of tzadikim is a kapara and a tzadik takes the souls of the wicked out of gehenom. A true tzadik asks for nothing just as Esther asked for nothing when preparing to meet the king.

There was a certain Jew who had tremendous tzaros in the realm of health, parnassa and the chinuch of his children. His friends told him that he should go in on Purim to the Pnei Menachem to ask for a yeshua. He came in on Purim with a broken heart and handed the Rebbe ztz"l a kvittel detailing his many tzaros. After the Rebbe read the kvittel he looked at him and asked "On Purim" as if to say "Why are you bringing me such tzaros on Purim?"

The man broke out into hysterical crying and explained that his friends told him to go see the Rebbe and to ask for a yeshua on Purim which is the day that כל הפושט יד נותנים לו - Anyone who stretches out his hand is given. This applies not only to the poor asking from the rich but to whatever we ask of Hashem. The Rebbe ztz"l said "In aza groise tog darf men alein davenen" - On such a great day a person must daven on his own and told him to place the kvittel on the grave of his father, the holy Imrei Emes, Rav Avraham Mordechai of Gur.

My Rebbe Shlita related that after Purim he traveled with the Pnei Menachem to a certain place and he related to the Rebbe Shlita what had happened. He asked if the Rebbe Shlita believes that Hashem can do anything and the He is able to help this unfortunate man who is in an impossible situation.
The Rebbe Shlita answered that he believes that Hashem can help. The Pnei Menachem said "Well then this person has already been saved because of the powerful tfilla he davened with a broken heart on Purim."

When the Rebbe Shlita returned home, this person called him up and told him that he had miraculously found a source of parnaasa and that a sick person in his family had suddenly, unexpectedly recovered. All of this happened during the conversation between the Pnei Menachem and the Rebbe Shlita.....

We should all be zocheh that Hashem should give every one of us his or her personal salvation in the areas where we lack and suffer.

[The Tolna Rebbe Shlita Melave Malka Parshas Tzav 5768]

Marcel My Brother

Charles Krauthammer from the Washington Post Friday, January 27, 2006

Place: Los Angeles area emergency room.
Time: Various times over the past 18 years.

Scene: White male, around 50, brought in by ambulance, pale, short of breath, in distress.

Intern: You're going to be all right, sir. I'm replacing your fluids, and your blood studies and electrolytes should be back from the lab in just a few minutes.

Patient: Son, you wait for my electrolytes to come back and I'll be dead in 10 minutes. I ran the ICU here for 10 years. I'm pan-hypopit and in [circulatory] shock. I need 300 milligrams of hydrocortisone right now. In a bolus. RIGHT NOW. After that, I'll tell you what to run into my IV and what lab tests to run. Got it?

Intern: Yes, sir.

This scene played itself out at least a half-dozen times. The patient was my brother, Marcel. He'd call later to regale me with the whole play-by-play, punctuated with innumerable, incredulous can-you-believe-its. We laughed. I loved hearing that mixture of pride and defiance in his voice as he told me how he had yet again thought and talked his way past death.

Amazingly, he always got it right. True, he was a brilliant doctor, a professor of medicine at UCLA and a pulmonologist of unusual skill. But these diagnostic feats were performed lying flat on his back, near delirious and on the edge of circulatory collapse. Marcel instantly knew why. It was his cancer returning -- the rare tumor he'd been carrying since 1988 -- suddenly popping up in some new and life-threatening anatomical location. By the time he got to the ER and was looking up at the raw young intern, he'd figured out where it was and what to do.

Friends and colleagues knew this part of Marcel -- the headstrong cowboy -- far better than I did. We hadn't lived in the same city since he went off to medical school when I was 17. What I knew that they didn't, however, was the Marcel of before, the golden youth of our childhood together.
He was four years older and a magnificent athlete: good ballplayer, great sailor and the most elegant skier I'd ever seen. But he was generous with his gifts. He taught me most everything I ever learned about every sport I ever played. He taught me how to throw a football, hit a backhand, grip a 9-iron, field a grounder, dock a sailboat in a tailing wind.

He was even more generous still. Whenever I think back to my childhood friends -- Morgie, Fiedler, Klipper, the Beller boys -- I realize they were not my contemporaries but his. And when you're young, four years is a chasm. But everyone knew Marcel's rule: "Charlie plays." The corollary was understood: If Charlie doesn't play, Marcel doesn't play. I played. From the youngest age he taught me to go one-on-one with the big boys, a rare and priceless gift.

And how we played. Spring came late where we grew up in Canada, but every year our father would take us out of school early to have a full three months of summer at our little cottage in the seaside town of Long Beach, N.Y. For those three months of endless summer, Marcel and I were inseparable, vagabond brothers shuttling endlessly on our Schwinns from beach to beach, ballgame to ballgame. Day and night we played every sport ever invented, and some games, such as three-step stoopball and sidewalk spaldeen, we just made up ourselves. For a couple of summers we even wangled ourselves jobs teaching sailing at the splendidly named Treasure Island day camp nearby. It was paradise.

There is a black-and-white photograph of us, two boys alone. He's maybe 11, I'm 7. We're sitting on a jetty, those jutting piles of rock that little beach towns throw down at half-mile intervals to hold back the sea. In the photo, nothing but sand, sea and sky, the pure elements of our summers together. We are both thin as rails, tanned to blackness and dressed in our summer finest: bathing suits and buzz cuts. Marcel's left arm is draped around my neck with that effortless natural ease -- and touch of protectiveness -- that only older brothers know.

Whenever I look at that picture, I know what we were thinking at the moment it was taken: It will forever be thus. Ever brothers. Ever young. Ever summer.

My brother Marcel died on Tuesday, Jan. 17. It was winter. He was 59.

Talking With Your Hands


No Daas?

"Religious tolerance is not religious indifference. Tolerance means to value the right of another person to hold beliefs that you know are absolutely wrong."


Religious tolerance also means appreciating the multi-faceted truth of life and existence and not blindly dismissing other viewpoints as irrelevant and misguided. Anyone who has ever cracked open a gemara is witness to the religious tolerance exhibited by our Sages. In today's world, tolerance often streches until but not including those whose preferred mode of dress is dark suits and black fedoras. How unfortunate. There is so much to learn from them.

The Vilna Gaon was charedi. The Chofetz Chaim was charedi. Rav Moshe Feinstein was charedi. It is a good thing that they didn't live in our time because had they lived now they would definitely have been leaders of the charedi world, thus making them vulnerable to the venom spewed by many [even rabbis] in the so called MO camp. They, too, would have been accused of "not having daas".

Hashem yishmor.

Seeing The White In The Black

Many years ago there was a gathering of prominent Rabbonim in Europe in order to discuss the critical issues of the time. One Rav arose and gave a fire and brimstone speech, pointing out the many flaws in the behavior of the Jewish people. After he finished, arose the great Gaon and Tzadik HaRav Menachem Zemba ztz"l [who was later killed by the Nazis in the Warsaw Ghetto, Pesach 1942 הי"ד] and quoted our Rashi. Asked Rav Zemba - The parsha that Yisro added does not start with the words ואתה תחזה [means look for worthy judges] but even earlier with the words לא טוב הדבר אשר אתה עושה - What you are doing [judging the Jews alone] is not good. Why does Rashi not quote THAT pasuk?

Answered the Holy Rav - לא טוב is not a parsha. Just criticizing doesn't have any merits!! The parsha only really begins when we search for solutions. ואתה תחזה - find worthy judges. THAT is a parsha!  [Heard from the Tolna Rebbe Shlita]

The prevalent custom and beloved hobby of Jewish bloggers is to knock the charedi world. They enjoy pointing out the many maladies that afflict the Torah true world, trying to prove that they are not so "Torah true". Is the criticism justified? Much of it - yes. Charedim are human beings who are by definition imperfect. Sometimes even rabbis say and do inappropriate things and then it is mamesh a yuntiv for the media.

Let us use the model of a married couple. They come for therapy filled with complaints about their spouse. What a good therapist does is try to give the couple perspective. One way is to focus on the positive in the spouse. Nobody is all bad. Everybody has redeeming qualities.

The charedim also have [as a community] many, many redeeming qualities that everybody can learn from and try to emulate.

1] Chesed - There is an incredible amount of chesed that goes on in every charedi neighborhood. There are gmachs [free-loan funds] for almost everything: Money, pacifiers, medicine, low shiva chairs, clothing etc. etc. When a woman gives birth, the other ladies in the community organize meals for the first month after birth. When someone is sick in the hospital, besides the chesed organizations that help find the best medical care, there is also often a steady flow of visitors. I know of no other community where chesed is practiced as it is by the charedim.

2] Middos - Every chodesh av thousands of ladies gather in a large stadium to hear shiurim on how to speak less lashon hara and how to love each other more. Where else do you see that? Not every charedi has perfect middos, but I often see people with open mesilas yesharim's or other mussar sfarim because there is a basic charedi ethic that a person must constantly be involved in perfecting his character. When the Rov in a charedi shul rises to speak on shabbos, he doesn't talk about politics but about how we can learn from the parsha to be a better person. 

3] Torah - How many MO balabatim can read a gemara without the help of an Artscroll? Very few... Thousands upon thousands of pages of gemara are learned daily thanks to Artscroll - a charedi publishing company. Every day about 2 new sfarim on published on endless numbers of topics. You have regular people walking the streets who have been successfully tested on all of Shas. Thousands upon thousands of men live lives that revolve completely around the eternal word of Hashem. They sacrifice material security and the endless pleasures that this world has to offer in order to dedicate themselves to full time Torah study [and kudos to the wives who selflessly give of themselves so that their husbands and sons can learn].

4] Children - Hitler ימ"ש killed one and a half million children. Every child is another victory over Hitler. Instead of searching for personal comfort and ease, charedi families have large numbers of children, thus insuring the propagation of our people and the great message we have to offer the world at large. 

The list is long and I will let you add. My point is that with all of their faults - the charedi community has much positive to emulate even by those who choose not to be charedi. This doesn't mean the non-charedi communities have nothing to offer and to learn from - there is a tremendous amount of good in non-charedi communities.  

All a person needs is an ayin tova and then he can proclaim with great feeling... 

ועמך כולם צדיקים 

It is almost impossible for me not to end this post with a quote from Maran HaRav ztz"l in his Oros -

האהבה הגדולה שאנו אוהבים את אומתנו לא תסמא את עינינו מלבקר את כל מומיה, אבל הננו מוצאים את עצמיותה, גם אחרי הביקורת היותר חופשית, נקיה מכל מום. כולך יפה רעיתי ומום אין בך

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Hallel like you have never heard before here.

Be Transformed

The issue of army and working for yeshiva students in Israel is on the minds of many and I have received many emails both today and yesterday about it. A few salient points.

1] The charedim believe that the purpose of the creation of the world is the study and complete fulfillment of the Torah with study being the highest level of fulfillment [תלמיד תורה כנגד כולם]. Someone who doesn't share this belief, and many Orthodox Jews do not [as evidenced by their very loose commitment to study and practice], will of course be infuriated by their "draft dodging". But according to their belief system, Torah study is the highest value and trumps anything and everything else. גדולה תלמוד תורה יותר מהצלת נפשות is how the gemara has it in one place. There are many sources that make it clear that tremendous benefit comes to the world as a result of Talmud Torah. Sick people heal, poor people find sustenance, childless women conceive etc. etc. [see the fourth chapter of Nefesh Hachaim]. The enemies of Torah study simply do not believe this. If you accept this premise then it makes a lot more sense that so many thousands cast aside the pleasures of this world in favor of immersion in the refreshing waters of Torah. Learning, if done right, also makes one a better person. The secular schools in Israel are filled with violence, drugs etc. Does anyone ever see a group of yeshiva buchrim and fear for their safety?! The argument that charedim don't contribute to the world is simply heresy [see Sanhedrin 100]. אם לא בריתי יומם ולילה חקות שמים וארץ לא שמתי - If not for the Torah there is no world [Yimiyahu 33/25].

2] The complaints people have should be directed not at the thousands and thousands of students but at the handful of Rabbonim to whom they listen. The Rabbonim tell them to learn and they were [well] trained to respect and obey authority. Does the more "modern" camp expect anarchy in the charedi ranks? That students should tell their rabbeim that they don't know what they are talking about and disobey them?? [One friend told me that he believes that his Rebbi is one of the Gedolei Hador and promotes army service and integration into general society - I replied that if that is what his Rebbi says and his Rebbi is a worthy bar plugta [interlocutor] of the other Gedolim then he should follow him].

3] Once the argument against extended Torah study is directed at the Torah giants who guide the masses, the question is  - What is the basis for people's certainty that the Gedolei Torah were wrong. As someone who has spent years delving deeply into the thought and writings of the Chazon Ish, Rav Aharon Kotler, Rav Shach, Rav Yitzchak Zeev Soloveitchik, Rav Ovadiah Yosef etc. etc. I can testify to the fact that their genius, depth and breadth of Torah knowledge was breathtaking - not to mention their complete unswerving devotion to the keeping and spreading of dvar Hashem. Do people really believe that bloggers, community rabbis and the average housewife is more aligned with the Divine will than these aforementioned titans?? Do they really think that they were blind to the fact that Israel is constantly in mortal danger and needs an army to protect her? Were they insensitive to the inequality between those who serve and those who don't? Did they not know the Rambams and other sources people quote?? They knew everything very well and still forcefully asserted that the ideal is to learn in yeshiva for many years. When you have such a consensus among great people it behooves one to stand with respect and to try to understand where they were coming from and not to dismiss them as close minded fanatics.

4] The charedi system is flawed. It sets up their children for a lifetime of poverty [among many other problems]. But the dati leumi [Modern Orthodox in the US] system is also flawed [for many other reasons]. NO SYSTEM IS PERFECT. The shidduch systyem is flawed. Chemotherapy is a very flawed way of healing someone. It sometimes kills the person more than the cancer. We live in an imperfect world. The charedim feel that despite its flaws it is the best we have. We can criticize all day but if there is no better alternative [and they don't believe that there is] then we make do with what is.

5] One common criticism of the charedim is that they are separatist and don't want to integrate into the general population. This is 100 percent true. The value system of the outside world is inimical to Torah ideals. Why would they want to be part of a world that they believe to be contaminating? One example: The Chief Rabbi of the IDF ruled that religious soldiers must remain present when immodestly dressed women sing in their presence [as reported on Arutz Sheva]. For a charedi Jew - it borders on the yehareig vi-al yaavor to participate in such an event [see the gemara in Sanhedrin at the end of perek ben sorrer umoreh]. The Rambam says that in a generation where the standards of religiosity and purity are not up to par one must run away to the desert. Todays "deserts" are Bnei Brak and Kiryat Sefer.

One need not agree with the charedim - but before criticizing one must try to understood where they are coming from. Opening ones mind to a different viewpoint can be a transformative experience [try it with your spouse and children too]:-).

Love and blessings.

Subway Series

Today I was trying to get home on the train [the 1 train from 96th street for those who must know:-)]. I put my metro card in the turnstile and it said "insufficient fare".

I had a second metro card and tried again but was informed by the machine "insufficient fare".

Fortunately I had a third metro card and put it through and it had enough money on it and I happily went through. [Thank you HASHEM for the money!!!:-)]

After 120 we will go to shomayim and might be told "insufficient fare". We had a purpose and we didn't fulfill it. So we may be sent down here again. We may try again and still not have sufficient fare. Until we fulfill our purpose we will have to keep trying.

So buy lots of "metro cards" meaning do every mitzva you can because you never know for sure how important a little act may be. Sometimes we think we have one purpose in life [or for this moment] when in fact we have a completely different one. Try never to miss an oppportunity to do a mitzva. If your eyes are open wide enough you will see them everywhere.

לזכות רבקה אסתר בת אליהו פרץ לזיווג הגון במהרה וברכה והצלחה בכל מעשה ידיה

The Intergenerational Self

From the New York Times March 2013:

The single most important thing you can do for your family may be the simplest of all: develop a strong family narrative.
I first heard this idea from Marshall Duke, a colorful psychologist at Emory University. In the mid-1990s, Dr. Duke was asked to help explore myth and ritual in American families.

“There was a lot of research at the time into the dissipation of the family,” he told me at his home in suburban Atlanta. “But we were more interested in what families could do to counteract those forces.”
Around that time, Dr. Duke’s wife, Sara, a psychologist who works with children with learning disabilities, noticed something about her students.

“The ones who know a lot about their families tend to do better when they face challenges,” she said.
Her husband was intrigued, and along with a colleague, Robyn Fivush, set out to test her hypothesis. They developed a measure called the “Do You Know?” scale that asked children to answer 20 questions.

Examples included: Do you know where your grandparents grew up? Do you know where your mom and dad went to high school? Do you know where your parents met? Do you know an illness or something really terrible that happened in your family? Do you know the story of your birth?
Dr. Duke and Dr. Fivush asked those questions of four dozen families in the summer of 2001, and taped several of their dinner table conversations. They then compared the children’s results to a battery of psychological tests the children had taken, and reached an overwhelming conclusion. The more children knew about their family’s history, the stronger their sense of control over their lives, the higher their self-esteem and the more successfully they believed their families functioned. The “Do You Know?” scale turned out to be the best single predictor of children’s emotional health and happiness.

“We were blown away,” Dr. Duke said.

And then something unexpected happened. Two months later was Sept. 11. As citizens, Dr. Duke and Dr. Fivush were horrified like everyone else, but as psychologists, they knew they had been given a rare opportunity: though the families they studied had not been directly affected by the events, all the children had experienced the same national trauma at the same time. The researchers went back and reassessed the children.
“Once again,” Dr. Duke said, “the ones who knew more about their families proved to be more resilient, meaning they could moderate the effects of stress.”

Why does knowing where your grandmother went to school help a child overcome something as minor as a skinned knee or as major as a terrorist attack?

“The answers have to do with a child’s sense of being part of a larger family,” Dr. Duke said.

Psychologists have found that every family has a unifying narrative, he explained, and those narratives take one of three shapes.

First, the ascending family narrative: “Son, when we came to this country, we had nothing. Our family worked. We opened a store. Your grandfather went to high school. Your father went to college. And now you. ...”

Second is the descending narrative: “Sweetheart, we used to have it all. Then we lost everything.”

“The most healthful narrative,” Dr. Duke continued, “is the third one. It’s called the oscillating family narrative: ‘Dear, let me tell you, we’ve had ups and downs in our family. We built a family business. Your grandfather was a pillar of the community. Your mother was on the board of the hospital. But we also had setbacks. You had an uncle who was once arrested. We had a house burn down. Your father lost a job. But no matter what happened, we always stuck together as a family.’ ”

Dr. Duke said that children who have the most self-confidence have what he and Dr. Fivush call a strong “intergenerational self.” They know they belong to something bigger than themselves.
Leaders in other fields have found similar results. Many groups use what sociologists call sense-making, the building of a narrative that explains what the group is about.

Jim Collins, a management expert and author of “Good to Great,” told me that successful human enterprises of any kind, from companies to countries, go out of their way to capture their core identity. In Mr. Collins’s terms, they “preserve core, while stimulating progress.” The same applies to families, he said.

Mr. Collins recommended that families create a mission statement similar to the ones companies and other organizations use to identify their core values.

The military has also found that teaching recruits about the history of their service increases their camaraderie and ability to bond more closely with their unit.

Cmdr. David G. Smith is the chairman of the department of leadership, ethics and law at the Naval Academy and an expert in unit cohesion, the Pentagon’s term for group morale. Until recently, the military taught unit cohesion by “dehumanizing” individuals, Commander Smith said. Think of the bullying drill sergeants in “Full Metal Jacket” or “An Officer and a Gentleman.”

But these days the military spends more time building up identity through communal activities. At the Naval Academy, Commander Smith advises graduating seniors to take incoming freshmen (or plebes) on history-building exercises, like going to the cemetery to pay tribute to the first naval aviator or visiting the original B-1 aircraft on display on campus.

Dr. Duke recommended that parents pursue similar activities with their children. Any number of occasions work to convey this sense of history: holidays, vacations, big family get-togethers, even a ride to the mall. The hokier the family’s tradition, he said, the more likely it is to be passed down. He mentioned his family’s custom of hiding frozen turkeys and canned pumpkin in the bushes during Thanksgiving so grandchildren would have to “hunt for their supper,” like the Pilgrims.

“These traditions become part of your family,” Dr. Duke said.

Decades of research have shown that most happy families communicate effectively. But talking doesn’t mean simply “talking through problems,” as important as that is. Talking also means telling a positive story about yourselves. When faced with a challenge, happy families, like happy people, just add a new chapter to their life story that shows them overcoming the hardship. This skill is particularly important for children, whose identity tends to get locked in during adolescence.

The bottom line: if you want a happier family, create, refine and retell the story of your family’s positive moments and your ability to bounce back from the difficult ones. That act alone may increase the odds that your family will thrive for many generations to come.