Sunday, November 30, 2014


"When a man opens up a car door for his wife it is either a new wife or a new car."

Big Soul

What was Rav Kook's neshama like?

A Holy Soul

From a recent email some people received.....
This Shabbos is the yahrtzeit of the holy tzadik HaGaon Rav Yaakov Moshe Charlap ztz"l. Hashem plants tzadikim in every generation so that we can learn from their ways in addition to learning their Torah. Since I have been zoche to learn and spread much of his Torah, I wanted to share some stories from his life to elevate his neshama and our own.

  • Humility - It was known among the mekubalim, that souls from the world of truth would come to R' Yaakov Moshe for a tikkun. He explained "They see that in shomayim my soul came from a very high and holy spiritual world. What they don't know is that my deeds in this world do not reflect my elevated source.
  • A chossid named Moshe Sheirman was once at the house of the Rov in Shaarei Chesed. During the course of their conversation he said in Yiddish "I am a simple Jew [a poshuter yid]". The Rov said "Halevai that I should merit to be a poshutur yid!"
  • When he was young and learned kabbala from his Rebbi, Rav Tzvi Michel Shapiro, whenever someone would want to come into the room they would first put away the kabala sfarim and take out tehillim and only then let the person in.
  • Tzidkus - There was a Jew who died without children and left everything to Rav Charlap in his will - including his aprtment. Rav Yaakov Moshe pretended that the possessions were not for him to take for himself and his job was just to be the executor of the will, so he made sure to give everything away, including the apartment [which he lacked himself]. He found a poor talmid chochom who had another positive quality - he was a zealot who made Rav Charlap's life miserable. He was found to be the most worthy and received the apartment.... All Rav Charlap kept for himself was a winter coat and a sefer in order to fulfill the niftars wish that Rav Charlap receive an inheritance.
  • R' Yehuda Reeder related - I davened with him for many years in the Gra shul in shaarei chesed and he never criticized anybody. I once put a siddur on a bench where people were sitting and he quietly removed the siddur but didn't say a word to me.    Only one time he said something. One time someone was davening in his makom and a person approached him and told him that he is sitting in the Rav's place. Rav Yaakov Moshe quickly ran over and said to leave him alone. A person shouldn't be bothered when davening.
  • Rabbi Eliyahu Weissfish was on an airplane going to America and an older man who didn't look particularly religious, sat down next to him. The man first spoke to Rabbi Weissfish in heavily accented English but when Rabbi Weissfish related that he is a Yerushalmi he switched to Yiddish. Upon learning that Rabbi Weissfish was the grand nephew of Rav Charlap ztl"z he told the following story:

    When I was a child I was mesmerized by the holy presence of Rav Charlap. It seemed to me that he radiated the Shechina. Even his bekeshe seemed to shine more than anybody elses. I would accompany him to the Gra shul on Friday night, daven in the Chasidic shul and then go back to the Gra shul where he davened and walk him home.

    One week I noticed a man who was contorting his face in a strange way. When Rav Charlap came close I understood what he had been doing. He proceeded to empty out the contents of his mouth on the Rav. The Rav didn't look at his aggressor [so as not to feel enmity towards him or maybe so as not to embarrass him] and took out a handkerchief and cleaned his face, beard and clothing as well as he could and then walked home deep in thought. His eyes looked very sad. I wanted to hug and console him. 

    I now knew that this man was truly an angel of G-d.

    The man removed an old picture from his wallet and showed it to Rabbi Weissfish. He explained that he had undergone many difficulties in his life. Whenever he thought to do something he shouldn't have, he looked at the holy Rav and asked himself how he could look at this holy man and veer from the path of Judaism. Everything he has become in this world, he said, is thanks to Rav Charlap. 
  •  Rav Yaakov Moshe Charlap was once walking down the street with his grandson when he was accosted by a קנאי [zealot] who starting saying horribly insulting things to him. His "sin" was that his Rebbi was Rav Kook whom the zealots could NOT STAND. Rav Charlap's grandson was appalled and wanted to answer the man but the Rav gently grabbed his arm to calm him down and to signal him to remain silent.
When they passed him Rav Charlap explained: A wealthy man once wanted to buy Rav Kook an apartment. Rav Kook said that he didn't need one but that he should give it to me. The man agreed and offered it to me. I ALSO didn't want a beautiful new apartment because I was satisfied with what I had. So I found this poor man and gave it to him in such a way that he wouldn't know it came from me. So he doesn't even know that the people he holds in such contempt gave him a free apartment.
  • Rav Yitzchak Zilberstein [the son in law of Rav Eliyashiv] said that Rav Charlap looked like a holy angel. Just looking at him brought one to a feeling of fear of heaven.
  • A teaching - Avraham was told by Hashem that he should go to Eretz Yisrael for his own pleasure. From here we learn that one is only properly mekayim the mitzva of living in Israel unless he feels the Israel is not only spiritually superior to all other lands but physically as well.

  • THERE IS SO MUCH MORE AND I COULD WRITE HUNDREDS OF PAGES WORTH - BUT SHACHARIS BECKONS:-). I hope to continue at a later date in some framework. 

New Shiur

Parshas Vayishlach, here.

New Sefer

There is a new sefer from the Rebbe Shlita on Chanuka called מוסיף והולך that can be purchased at finer bookstores in the States, as here.


Friday, November 28, 2014

Location Location Location

Three men are in the maternity waiting room at Hadassah Hospital in Israel. A doctor comes in and says to the first man, "Mazel Tov, your wife just gave birth to quadruplets!"
The man replied, "Wow, what a coincidence, I live in Kiryat Arbah and arba is four."
Another doctor comes in and says to the second man, "Mazel Tov! Your wife just gave birth to septuplets."
The second man replies, "I can't believe it. What a coincidence -- I live in Be'er Sheva, sheva is seven."
Just then, the third man faints and thuds onto the floor. The others rush over to him and one of the doctors is able to revive him. "Sir" he says, "what happened? Are you alright?"
The man looks at the doctor and smiles weakly, "I live in Meah Shearim.


Two women meet on the street.
"Molly, I understand you have a mazal tov coming to you."
"Oh yes -- my daughter is getting married."
"Isn't that wonderful! And who's the lucky man?"
"David is the chief surgical resident at Cedars-Sinai Hospital."
"That's wonderful. But wait -- I thought he was a professor."
"Oh no, that was her previous husband -- a law professor at Yale."
"My goodness, that's really something. Then why do I seem to remember a psychiatrist?"
"You must be thinking of Saul, her first husband."
"Oh Molly, you're a lucky women. Imagine, having so much naches, from just one daughter!"

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Don't Run Away

There is a story of the Alter Rebbe, as told by Reb Mottel Slonimer, who is known as one of the most accurate transmitters of chassidic stories, as follows: The Alter Rebbe was at a crossroads early in his life. He was one of the most successful young scholars in Europe and had already mastered the Talmud and halachic authorities. At that point, he felt that he had two choices; to study with the Gaon of Vilna or the Magid of Mezrich. He first chose to study with the Magid of Mezrich.  Although this is not part of Reb Mottel Slonimer’s tradition, it is told that the Alter Rebbe explained his decision to study with the Magid rather than the Gaon of Vilna by saying, “I already know how to learn a little bit, but I haven’t yet learned how to daven.” 
The Alter Rebbe studied with the Magid for several weeks, but he felt that he had not found himself; that the Magid of Mezrich was not the right Rebbe for him. As was the custom at the time, the Alter Rebbe visited the Magid to bid him farewell and seek a blessing for his journey home. During the visit, the Magid accepted his decision, but told him that he should also say goodbye to “the Malach, the angel,” i.e., the Magid’s son Reb Avraham who was known as the Malach because of his great holiness. 

The Alter Rebbe agreed and bid farewell to the Malach, who would later become the Alter Rebbe’s chevrusa. He offered to walk the Alter Rebbe to his horse, wagon, and driver. Before the Alter Rebbe got onto the wagon, the Malach said, “When you get into the wagon, you will see that the driver will smack the horse and it will begin running in an attempt to distance itself from the smack. And then the driver will smack the horse again, and it will run even faster, trying to escape the one pain of the whip. And it will continue on this way throughout your journey. But an intelligent person is not a horse. When an intelligent person feels a smack, he does not simply run away from it. He looks back to see who is smacking him and why he is being smacked.”

Being a deep and contemplative person, the Alter Rebbe understood the Malach’s message and stayed in Mezrich, ultimately becoming one of the star students of the Magid. May we all merit to understand the message of the wagon (עגלה)  and look beyond the suffering of the world of strict justice to see G-d’s loving kindness, and thus merit the final redemption, quickly (בעגלא) in our days.

Rav Kook On Torah And Yiras Shomayim

Now… you gladdened my heart by informing me that you began to learn matters of mussar and fear of heaven with your students, wisdom from holy books; fortunate is your lot. Surely this is particularly necessary at this time and in this country, where the transient cravings for the vanities of the world, jealousy, desire, honor and the like, are so loud and clamorous. How can we stir the hearts of youths that they should open their eyes to see the glory and splendor, the brilliance and majesty of the Torah, if not by studying the discipline of genuine piety from the works of the great authorities of Israel, who delved into the wisdom of piety profoundly and expansively …?
I am unable at this time to offer you an orderly account of the ideas that are appropriate for your dear students. And it is especially difficult to specify the holy ideas in accordance with the level of the students, as I am not familiar with their state of mind and emotional strengths. Nevertheless, it would appear that, first of all, you ought to explain to all the students the fundamental principle that any success in Torah, sense of accomplishment in study … and one day achieving a high level in the crown of Torah – depends on the measure of fear of heaven and the depth of pure and holy faith that is implanted in one's soul. For the broadening and deepening of the intellectual faculty, its brilliance and its branching out in many directions, which is the great foundation for sharpness and fluency, depends on the depth of emotional will that awakens to value what is being studied. Since he is occupied with Torah, which is the word of the living God, the quality of the inner appreciation of his occupation with Torah depends on the sanctity of true fear of God that rests in the heart of him who is occupied in the Torah. For to the extent that the fear of heaven becomes strengthened in one's heart in sanctity and purity, so too the words of the Torah, which are the light of the countenance of the living king, become precious and elevated in one's eyes. And owing to their great dearness, inner desire attaches to them, and it is the nature of inner desire to arouse all of the soul's faculties with life, joy and good-heartedness, with great desire and the pleasantness of high and lofty spiritual delight. And since the soul's faculties are aroused - through the expansion of the holy quality of the fear of heaven - to love for the Torah and passion for all its words, and cognition grows from day to day…, the soul's faculty of memory is greatly strengthened, from the life force that the sacred desire for the Torah stirs up in the soul that contemplates genuine fear of heaven. And from the great respect and elevated value that he assigns to the words of the Torah, which grows every day in accordance with the fear of heaven that grows in his heart from day to day, as he continually occupies himself in the holy study of the true fear [of heaven] and its branches - his intellectual diligence is strengthened, the brightness of his mind grows, and true sharpness and sound reasoning increase.
It turns out, then, that the best advice for the students to succeed in their study, that their learning should be blessed and stay with them, and that they themselves should experience satisfaction and delight from their study, is to broaden their hearts every day with the study of the pure fear [of heaven]. All of its disciplines and all study of the soul and of character traits are offshoots branching out from the root of the elevated fear of God, which leads to perfect love of God, love of the Torah and its commandments, and love of Israel. (Responsa Da'at Kohen, no. 51; Iggerot ha-Ra'ayah, no. 798)

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

New Articles

Vayeitzei - here.

How Rav Kook related to you and me, here.

Holy Thoughts From A Holy Man

From my archives.....

 This Shabbos is the yahrtzeit of the Holy Gaon and Tzadik Rav Yaakov Moshe Charlap ztz"l so I thought it worthwhile to taste some of his irresistibly sweet and uplifting Torah [as I understand it].
1] The Torah relates that Yaakov came to the "place". ויפגע במקום. He then had his prophetic dream. The use of the word מקום is significant. Everybody needs to find their "place" in the world. So many people are unhappy because they feel lost. When a person finds his place, s/he can reach great spiritual heights. Even Hashem, kiviyachol, is blessed from His place. ברוך כבוד השם ממקומו. Chazal tell us that Hashem is the place of the world and the world is not His place. But even His blessings emanate from His "place".  
2] The gemara says that Yaakov passed by Yerushalayim and didn't daven and then when he arrived at Charan he said "How could I not daven where my forefathers davened?" He desired to return and, as Rashi teaches, Har Habayis jumped to where he was. The Avos paved the way for all of the generations. It doesn't matter in what physical geographic location you find yourself. If you DESIRE and PINE for a holy place, it will come to you. In fact, every time one davens, the halacha says that his/her heart must be in Yerushalayim opposite the holy of holies. It is all about desire. Go to Israel and skip customs [including disrobing and taking your computer out of the case...], the loooonggg trip and the pricey flight!!!
3] The Torah tells us that Yaakov dreamed that the angels of Hashem were going up and down the ladder which connected heaven and earth. We think that going "down" is of no spiritual value. Most people only enjoy going up. Here the Torah is teaching us that even when one is descending, it is still part of his spiritual journey. The מלאכי אלקים , the angels of Hashem also went DOWN. It is OK to go down. With one condition: That the ladder you descend connects heaven and earth.... Remember that each step of your journey is connected to the highest places. Wow-eeee!:-)
4]  Yaakov has a dream. He sees angels. He wakes up. Now what would YOU say after such a dream?
I would gather my wife and children and describe to them in vivid detail what I saw. What did Yaakov say? Well, first of all he doesn't go looking for someone to tell! Good things should be kept at "home". Next he exclaimed "Hashem is in this place". HASHEM? Angels!!!
 Lesson: It is lovely to be able to see angels. It is also a great, elevating experience to meet Holy Tzaddikim. But never forget the most important One. Sometimes, maybe due to His transcendence, we lose sight of this and focus on more earthly beings while forgetting about Him. We must remember that every creature draws its holiness from the Divine. Never forget the Source!  
5] Yaakov sees Rochel and he kisses her. NEGIYAHHHHHHH!!!!!! What is going on? Rashi says that he cried because he saw with Ruach Hakodesh that they would not be buried together. What a HOLY kiss!! Yaakov was experiencing ETERNITY! He was shaken because he realized that their union would not continue after death. He was thinking about his יום המיתה. What a HOLY ZEIDE we all have:-)!
6] How holy was Yaakov? He was with his Kallah for a whole night and only in the morning he found out the she was the wrong kallah. ויהי בבוקר והנה לאה - It was morning and it was Leah. It doesn't say that he SAW Leah but that it WAS Leah. A farfrumpte Chasidishe Bachur!  
A blissful-holy-shmiras-einayim-remembering-yom-hamisa-seeing-angels-but-focusing-on-Hashem-desiring-Israel-and-finding-your-place-dike-shabbos!:-)
Love and blessings!

Take Notice

I often tell people not to worry what other people think of you - because people aren't thinking much of you. Really.

This was brought home to me when I returned from a month long stay in the US. I live in a relatively small neighborhood and daven almost every tfilla in the same shul but almost nobody noticed my absence. The gabbai on shabbos gave me shishi which is a great aliyah and this week it was the bracha to Yaakov. I told him "You gave it to me because I was gone for so long". He  replied "I didn't know you were gone".


But there is a down side to not being thought about. To wit; The weather here in Israel is FREEEEEZING and stormy with heavy rains [just had some THUNDER!!]. This morning after I went off to shul, a friend knocked on my door and asked my wife יש לך מעיל לבת שלי - Do you have a coat for my daughter [and he said her name]? Meaning, they are so poor that they cannot afford to purchase a coat for their 13 year old daughter [I know their situation first hand]. I have been living for the last 3 years on no income [and much Divine mercy] so I am not exactly in a position to help them but it pains me [and I am sure you, too] that a Jewish child cannot own a coat because of her families poverty. Wouldn't it be a beautiful world if people noticed others so much that nobody lacked the basics. There is more than enough money in Klal Yisrael to ensure that nobody should lack the basics, yet so many do. That is the concept of NOTICING others. Who lacks. Who is in pain. Who is alone. Who is sad. Who needs a good word. To escape from the prison of the Self.

I often feel that it is often an awfully cold world where so many people are so self-absorbed that they can't see past their own narrow existence.

Yaakov Avinu said in this weeks parsha אכן יש ה' במקום הזה ואנכי לא ידעתי - This can mean that indeed when G-d is in this place, I don't know myself, ואנכי לא ידעתי. If we are aware of Hashem, we become so small and meaninngless and only then can we truly connect to Him and others...... 

Growing Up

"We never really grow up.
We just learn how to act in public"

Being Happy

As long as we look for happiness we'll never find it. Being happy means marveling over the mystery and miracle of being at all.


Detachment is not that you should own nothing. But that nothing should own you.

Does Hashem Answer If One Is Not Worthy?

The power of tfilla here.

Beating The Law

A cop pulled me over and said ''Papers...'' So I said, ''Scissors, I win!'' and drove off like a boss!

New Shiur

Third night of Chanuka, here:-)

haflei  va-feleh.....

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Learn About Kiddush Hashem

A hesped here - listen and live.

New Shiur

Second Night Of Chanuka - Gvura And Yisachar, here.

Get Weadddyyyy!!!!!


I know what you are thinking!! How am I going to prepare for Chanuka this year??

Ahhhhhhhhhhhh:-):-). I am here to be AT YOUR SERVICE!

First completely abnormal shiur - here

Rabbinic Scandals And How To Prevent Them

A video talk from the Aguda Convention.

Surrounded by Scandal: Rabbi Avrohom Nesanel Zucker from Agudath Israel on Vimeo.

Tears Of Compassion

From "yeshivaworld":

“And so I found myself in the middle of Har Nof, in a small neighborhood grocery store. The store owner is talking to one of the workers. Both are discussing the names, just released, of those murdered while davening.

 At that moment a beautiful little 7 year old boy comes in accompanied by his rebbi. The rebbi, in a choked-up voice announces the full name of the smiling bashful child. The grocer immediately realizes that this is the son of one of those killed in the attack. The rebbi signals that the child has not been told anything.

The grocer rushes up to the little one, ice cream in hand and says: “Here you are motek, you can have whatever you want – Do you like these?” The kid smiles and says he does. Then the grocer whispers to him, “Any time you want something from my store, just come here and I’ll give it to you for free” “The boy whispers back “Thank you” and looks happy. His rebbi thanks the grocer with a look in the eye and the two leave. The grocer could not hold back his tears, and held his head in his hands...

"Right" Or Wrong?

In wake of the Har Nof massacre, many have been talking about the Kdoshim and I too have been thinking about them a lot. Rav Moshe Twerski was the scion of the Number One "Modern" or "Centrist" orthodox family in the world. His grandfather, Rav Soloveitchik, was the leader of the "Torah Umada" movement in the US and himself embodied the ideals of the movement, being both a gadol bi-torah and also receiving a doctorate in philosophy.

It is interesting that his grandson, about whom he said "He IS me" [as opposed to other grandchildren who learned from their grandfather and adopted various traits] did not choose a "Centrist" lifestyle or outlook. He was completely charedi, koolo Torah. If you go to Har Nof you will find a large percentage of people who rejected their modern upbringing and chose a more extreme charedi lifestyle. Why is that??

I myself am a flipout. I heard all of the modern orthodox rhetoric, went to their schools, read their publications and found it lacking. Not that it doesn't make sense, because it does. Be a pious, devoted Jew and be part of the world at the same time. Perfectly logical:-). It is also not that it doesn't have sources in our tradition. It most certainly does. There is much room for the study of secular wisdom to enhance our understanding of Hashem's world. It is also a mitzva to support one's family and one should not live off tzdaka. So what is wrong? Why are there so many defectors to more "right wing" pastures?

The answer, for me, is that IT DOESN'T WORK. In theory it is fantastic but the מבחן התוצאה - the practical application, yields very poor results. The day school system produces not only students who are close to Jewishly illiterate [I write as both a student and putative educator for over two decades] but are also sorely lacking in their commitment to halacha. There is very little ambition for greatness in the spiritual realm which is not called in that world "gadlus" or "tzidkus" but "fantacism" or "extremism". Striving for mediocrity is a recipe for failure. The desire to be engaged in the outside world brings many to enjoy activities and entertainment that are halachically problematic at best, forbidden at worst. A very well known and outspoken modern orthodox rabbi spoke at my sheva brachos and boasted that his students go to theater and the like. How very uplifting and inspiring:-). So many issurei di-oraisa in one, two hour show. Nivul peh, maros assuros, bitul zman, moshav leitzim AND MORE:-)!

People who want the truth without compromise find themselves gravitiating towards a more charedi lifestyle, with all of the hardships that often come along with it. The official "party line" in the charedi world is that we want to be perfect ovdei Hashem and that is all that matters in life. Everything else is just a means to achieve closeness to Hashem. [Of course nobody is perfect but the ambition is there]. To acheive that goal we don't need television, the New York Post, the NY Knicks or vacations in exotic locations.

The is much the charedi world can learn from the "Centrist" world as well. There are many, many many exemplary individuals who identify with that camp. The purpose of this post was not to denigrate or to be condescending, G-d forbid. The average "Centrist" is probably a hundred times better a Jew than this writer, yours truly. My goal is to prompt people to think about how they want to raise their children, what community in which to live and what type of rabonim to choose as guides and role models. It is my firm belief that an uncompromising life, with the highest religious standards, sealed off as much as possible [outside of parnaasa needs] from the outside world, is the only way to go in our crazy "post-modern" world where all values are relative and everyone's opinion is just as valid as anyone elses. We need to live lives where we strive for kedusha, tahara, dveikus baShem and bi-talmidei chachomim.

The niftar [and the other kdoshim as well] Hy"d was a beautiful example of someone who in life and in death, lived a life of religious maximalism, called by our holy books "tzidkus" and "chasdius". May we be zoche to follow in his path.   

New Shiurim

The Heilige Heilige Rebbe Leibele Eiger ztz"l on Parshas Vayeitzei here and here.

Sweetest friends - it doesn't cost any money but it's worth a million dollars. שמעו ותחי נפשכם

[After Rav Gustman publshed his Kuntresei Shiurim, a student wanted to purchase a copy. He asked Rav Gustman "How much is it worth?" Rav Gustman said "It's worth a million dollars but I will give it to you for 20 shekel".
Even though I enjoy posting very deep lumdishe shiurim - I fear that people are scared away by things they fear they won't understand or that require tremendous mental exertion. So I make sure to put up shiurim that appeal to the soul and that are שוה לכל נפש - appropriate for all. These are two such shiurim. Please listen li-ilui nishmasi vi-nishmascha, we should all live biz a hindrid un tzvonsik - till 120 in good health and prosperity:-)].

Monday, November 24, 2014

Link To The Eulogies [In Both Hebrew and English]

A link to the hespedim of Rav Moshe Twersky ztz"l Hy"d at the conclusion of the shiva here. You can believe everything all of the maspidim say except where HaGaon Rav Dovid Cohen Shlita the Rosh Yeshiva of Chevron says [in his humility] that he is in the captivity of his yetzer hara. Believe me sweet friends - I am in captivity, most people I know are in captivity - but he Shlita is NOT:-).

May we all be zoche to go free - ואין בן חורין אלא מי שעוסק בתלמוד תורה!!

I thank my beloved friend and sometimes "email chavrusa", R' Meir Zev Steinmetz, for the link.

Rav Aharon Kotler And The Mafia Godfather

Today is the yahrtziet of HaGaon R' Aharon Kotler ztz"l. He changed the face of American Jewry in a way that nobody else did. His emphasis was on Torah Li-shmah - Torah for Torah's sake. Not for "credit" or for "smicha" or because it is "interesting" or "inspiring" or for any utilitarian purpose. We learn Torah because it is dvar Hashem, the undistilled will and reflection of G-dliness that He gave us in order to cling to Him. We learn in order to learn and understand. Any external goal such as parnassa or kavod or even a feeling of accomplishment is foreign to the ultimate purpose of learning.

Introducing such a concept in America of the 40's 50's and 60's was similar to suggesting that everybody walk the streets barefoot while wearing a large sock on the head as a hat. Mishegge! But he prevailed and the 6000 plus talmidim of Lakewood are a living testimony as are the many thousands of graduates who are learning and teaching Torah worldwide.

From Emunah magazine [I heard the story from Rav Shachter Shlita]:

  •  This seemingly too-incredible-to-be-true story actually took place. It was during World War II when twenty-four rabbonim were being held in Italy and faced being returned to Nazi-occupied Europe and certain death.
Rav Aharon Kotler, founder and rosh yeshiva of the Lakewood Yeshiva,turned to the well-known askan and subsequent author of Ethics From Sinai, Irving Bunim, and asked him who could intercede on behalf of these 24 rabbonim. Irving Bunim suggested the Italian Mafia. Rav Kotler urged Mr. Bunim to contact them immediately.
After contacting them, he asked Rav Aharon, “Who are we sending to the meeting?”
Rav Aharon replied, “You and I are going.”
Off they went to meet the godfather of the Mafia, Joe Bonnano. Rav Aharon did not speak English, so it was Mr. Bunim who explained the problem of the 24 rabbonim trapped in Italy.
The Mafia chief asked Mr. Bunim, “Who is the elderly man sitting next to you?”
He told him, “He is the godfather of the Jewish people.”
“Really?” asked the Mafia chief.
“Yes!” replied Mr. Bunim emphatically.
“Tell him I want a blessing.”
So Mr. Irving Bunim turned to Rav Aharon and in Yiddish told him, “Ehr vill a bracha fun de rov. (He wants a blessing from the rov).”
“Zog eim ehr zol leiben lang un shtarben in bet.”
Irving Bunim turned back to the mafia chief Joe Bonnano and told him, “The rabbi blesses you with long life and you should die in bed.”
Upon hearing this, the mafia chief replied, “I like that,” and promised within 2 weeks to arrange the freedom of the 24 rabbonim stuck in Italy, which he did indeed accomplish.
Twenty-something years later, in 1964, a shiny black stretch limo pulls up in front of Lakewood Yeshiva in Lakewood, New Jersey. Two fancy-dressed men get out and walk up to the office. They say are looking for Rabbi Kotler. Out comes a man who introduces himself.
“No, not you,” say the two Italian guys. “We are looking for an older man.”
“That was my father,” says the rosh yeshiva, Rav Shneur Kotler, ”but he passed away a number of years ago.”
The Italian men explain that they are the Bonnano brothers, and that their father always “attributed his long life to your saintly father’s blessing. Now that he has just retired, we are taking over the business and we came here for the same blessing.”
“I’m sorry,” says Rav Shneur, “my father could do that, but I am not on that high level.”
Disappointed, but clearly understanding the concept of yeridas hadoros - the descent of the generations, the new Mafia chiefs bid farewell to Rav Shneur.
For saving 24 rabbonim from the Nazis, and with Rav Aharon Kotler’s bracha, Joe Bonnano - the Mafia godfather - lived to 97 years old.

  • The Rav, Zatzal, and HaGaon Rav Aharon Kotler, Zatzal - These passages are from "A Fire In His Soul," which is the biography of the great Oskan B'Tzorchei Tzibbur, Reb Irving Bunim, Z"L, written by his son, Rav Amos. Rav Bunim sheds a great a deal of light on the relationship between HaGaonim Rav Aharon Kotler and Rav Yosef Dov HaLevi Soloveitchik, Zichronom L'Veracha.
["Bunim" here always refers to Reb Irving and "the Rosh Yeshiva" here always refers to Rav Kotler.]

  • p.211
"Bunim saw that the Rosh Yeshiva always distinguished between people and the principles they professed. Bunim never saw him attack another Jew, except for those who negated the Torah. A person's opinion might be at fault, Rabbi Kotler said, but never the person. Rabbi Kotler could disagree vehemently with a fellow gadol's opinion while respecting him for his Torah knowledge and middos."

  • p.212
"[Rav Kotler] differed with Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchick's approval of secular education and secular Zionism. Still, Rabbi Kotler invited Rabbi Soloveitchik to be honorary chairman of Chinuch Atzmai's first annual dinner. During his speech, Rabbi Soloveitchik spoke in strong support of Chinuch Atzmai (a bold move since his own Mizrachi party supported the mamlachti dati day schools) and praised Rabbi Kotler as the gadol ha-dor. Rabbi Kotler began tugging at Rabbi Soloveitchik's sleeve and, with tears running down his face begged him to stop, saying, 'No, no, dos is nisht emes [that is not true]!'"

  • p.371-2
[Rav Soloveitchik describing Rav Kotler in his aforementioned speech]
"Something in him speaks, as I would imagine Reb Yoshe Ber Brisker once spoke. Something in him speaks as I would imagine the Chasam Sofer once spoke: indignation, wonderment, anguish and an invoking of one's responsibility. And I mean not only the erudition of a gadol m'gedolei ha-dor because to be a gadol--scholarship alone is insufficient. The qualities of a gadol, besides Torah, are warmth, exuberance, tolerance, wonderment: "and warm yourself in the light of talmidei chachamim"--to benefit from their light is not enough. Cold light is worthless; there must be searing light so that one burns himself in its proximity. Reb Aharon, the great Rosh Yeshiva, has no cold light in him; it is hot; it kindles. And as you approach him, you, in turn, become enkindled...I would like to request that the entire audience rise and pay homage."

  • Rav Yitzchak Hutner related that he had a "meshune-dike tyveh" - a bizarre fetish. He would try to get Rav Aharon to say the word "Teyreh":-). Rav Aharon said it with SUCH relish and love that Rav Hutner was inspired just hearing the word.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

A Big Man With a Big Heart

R' Moshe Cohen - A eulogy circulating on the web.
Aryeh Kupinsky was a big man with a long, red beard. He towered over almost everyone. But what really made him stand out was that he always had a big smile.
Aryeh was a doer, always in motion. Long legs taking great strides, powerful arms reaching out with great sweeping gestures. And what was Aryeh doing? He was always helping someone. He lived for others. His first thought was never for himself.

As Rabbi Jonathan Taub put it so well, Aryeh was simply incapable of being a guest at someone's simcha. If he was there early, he would single-handedly flip over tables and set them on their feet. He often did not leave until everything was put away. A friend once insisted that Aryeh sit, enjoy himself, and let those who were hired do the work. That didn't stop Aryeh from lugging in all of the cartons of drinks that he spotted outside of hall and loading them into the refrigerator.

How many times had I heard him say, "What can I do to help?"
When I first came to yeshiva nearly two decades ago, someone told to me, "Aryeh Kupinsky is a person who would do anything, for anyone, at any time." When he was a student living in a dorm, he had put up a sign, "Please borrow anything – no need to ask." Who does that?
Aryeh acted quickly and quietly. He asked for no recognition, and many were unaware of things that he had done. For example, on Tisha b'Av for years Neve has hosted a popular program featuring superb lecturers. By 2 PM everyone has gone home. Well, nearly everyone. There was one man who made sure that the Sefer Torah and two Haftarah scrolls that were used for davening were returned from the dining room to the Shul, and that the Aron Kodesh was properly locked. That was Aryeh.
Aryeh was a deeply emotional, passionate person. His passion was particularly evident when it came to learning Torah. He was a Torah scholar who loved learning. When we learned together for a brief period as study partners, he would get fired up at the drop of a hat.
The truth is that over the years, when I would meet up with Aryeh, my heart would sometimes fall. Aryeh was always bothered by something. He was constantly nursing a question in learning, turning it over, gnawing at it, trying to resolve it. And he would share it with you when he saw you. There was no such thing as, "Interesting! I'll have to think about it." Nor was it possible to simply suggest an answer. Any possible solution had to be analyzed, weighed for merits and demerits, and then discussed again. When I "didn't have the time" for this process, I would feel somewhat exasperated. How I would love to be able to experience such a delay again...
Although Aryeh was always doing for others, it did not come at the expense of his own family. He was an utterly dedicated husband and father. After leaving Kollel where he learned full time, Aryeh continued to set aside a few hours every to learn Torah as worked, first as a Mashgiach and then in computers, to support his family. Because his wife Yaakova, has an excellent job with great benefits – and staggeringly long hours – Aryeh took on much of the housework, cooking, cleaning, and taking care of his kids, to enable his wife to keep to her schedule. Although he had been praying for many years at Kehilas Bnei Torah, the Har Nof shul that was attacked, he had only recently switched to the 6:25 minyan in order to get home earlier and help his wife. The massacre took place during this minyan.

His Daughter's Death

Two years ago, just days after Tisha b'Av, Aryeh's daughter Chaya did not wake up. She was just shy of her 14th birthday. Chaya had been mature for her age. She had been the one to shoulder much of the burden in the house, acting as almost a second mother to her siblings. After her untimely passing, her parents found personally composed prayers, pages long, which she apparently had expressed daily.
Aryeh was inconsolable after Chaya's death. Everything reminded him of her and tears were never far below the surface. For much of the next two years, the family did not eat their Friday night Shabbos meal at home, as this family time was too painful for Aryeh to experience without his beloved eldest daughter. Sitting at another family's table allowed him to mitigate some of the sorrow. Only when giving his other precious children the Friday night blessings Aryeh was unable to contain his grief and broke down with heart-wrenching sobs.
But Aryeh would not allow himself to wallow in pain. Assemblies were held in Chaya's memory, inspiring others to spiritually grow. Aryeh often said that it was a great source of comfort to him that so many people changed their lives for the better as a result of Chaya's death. Yaakova Kupinsky believes that these words, heard so often by the family, serve as a focus for them now at this enormously difficult point in their lives.
But Aryeh wanted to do more. He sought to establish something permanent in Chaya's memory. We live in a world with so many kindhearted Jews where there are literally hundreds of categories of "gemachs" – various types of free loans listed in Jewish directories worldwide. But Aryeh Kupinsky, ba'al chesed extraordinaire, managed to found a gemach so rare that to the best of my knowledge there is only one other one in existence. A freezer gemach! He purchased a number of medium-sized freezers and advertised that they would be available free of charge for use for Jewish holidays and private celebrations. He told me with a mixture of incredulity and regret that before Rosh Hashanah he had to turn down 92 applicants. Just days before Aryeh was so brutally taken from us, he was attempting to figure out how to acquire more freezers for this noble purpose.
What elevated Aryeh's gemach from merely unique to awe-inspiring, however, was the manner in which he ran it. Har Nof is built around a mountain. Every street is on another level. The entire neighborhood is made up of long, winding streets, and steep, winding staircases.
At his funeral a mutual friend told me that that he yelled at Aryeh the last time they had met. He bumped into Aryeh as he was transporting a freezer from one recipient to another, on a two-wheeled handcart. This was the only mode of transportation employed by the gemach – hand-wheeled, bumped up and down every step and along every roadway. And there was only one "employee" – Aryeh.
"Are you crazy?!" our friend asked Aryeh. "Isn't it enough that you lend people a freezer for free? Let them pay 50 shekel for delivery!"
Aryeh recoiled. "This is my chesed (my opportunity to do an act of kindness)!" he protested.
On that fateful Tuesday morning when the men praying became aware of the evil terrorists, they ran for their lives. Not so Aryeh. Numerous reports have Aryeh screaming at everyone in the shul to run, while he made sure that they could. He hurled shtenders, chairs, siddurim – whatever came to hand – at the terrorists to distract them, at one point physically restraining one of them. There were others who followed his example. After taking multiple blows – some intended for others – Aryeh fell. There is no doubt that he saved people's lives.
There was an unexpected delay when we arrived at his intended burial plot in Har HaMenuchos where Ayreh's daughter, Chaya, is buried. The gaping hole in the ground was not quite long enough. We waited in the dark while the Chevra Kadisha took out their tools, and finally the earth reluctantly took Aryeh back.
Aryeh Kupinsky was indeed a big man. But his heart was ever bigger.

"Greater Are Tzadikim In Death Than In Life"

From an email - reprinted with permission from the sender...

This past Thursday night, I went to Har Nof. Together with countless others from around the country (and perhaps from around the world), I went to mourn with the families of those killed in last week's massacre. 

Much has already been written and told about those who were killed. I did know Rav Kalman Levine Hy"d personally and learned together with him while in Yeshiva, but I don't have much to personally add beyond all that has already been shared by so many others.
I do however, think it is worth relating a small part of what I saw and heard Thursday night while visiting the Levine and Twersky families: 

** Rav Kalman was very careful in his observance of all areas of halacha. This was clear to anyone who knew Rav Kalman and spent time with him. What his children added was that this shouldn't be mistaken for a nervous obsession with "chumros", but rather an excitement to fulfill every mitzva in the best possible way. In fact - this was how Rav Kalman approached every aspect of his life. As one of his sons said - even when it came to something as mundane as purchasing a bell for his kid's bike, Rav Kalman wanted to make sure it was the best and most beautiful bell he could find. He always put in 110% to give his best to life, his family and to Hashem.

** Rav Kalman was unusually careful when it came to his financial dealings with others. When it came time at the end of the month to report his hours to his Kollel in order to collect his monthly check, he would omit the 5 minutes he took from seder to prepare for each tefilla. He wasnt sure if his preparation for tefilla was justified as counting towards his hours of learning and he therefore did not report it with the rest of his hours.
** One of his sons related that as Rav Kalman approached age 50, he would avoid telling people exactly how old he was whenever the subject arose. His family didn't understand why but never thought much of it. This week during shiva they discovered  the reason behind it. The Torah says that a Levi over the age of 50 is no longer suitable to serve in the Beis Hamikdash. As he approached age 50, Rav Kalman was upset by the fact that he would not have the opportunity to participate in the avoda in the mikdash and therefore didn't want to discuss his exact age.  It was similarly related that every morning during shacharis, Rav kalman would run to wash the hands of the kohanim.  He might have been too old for avoda in the mikdash, but he still could serve the kohanim by washing their hands each morning and he literally jumped at the opportunity to do so.

** While I was in the Levine's apartment, Rav Rubin - the rav of the shul where the attack took place - came to be menachem avel. When Rav Rubin sat down, Rav Kalman's son said that the family believed that this was from Hashem and it was Rav Kalman's predestined time to be killed. Rav Rubin immediately interjected that the people in the Beis medrash that day were not just killed. They were offered up as korbanos. Rav Rubin said that this is what Rav Chaim Kanievsky had told him earlier that day (I believe this has since been publicized) - that at least on some level, these korbanos were taken by Hashem as a kapara for our generation to hasten the coming of Mashiach.

** Rav Rubin related how Rav Kalman was literally the spirit of the whole community during hakafos on Simchas Torah. "Without Rav Kalman" said Rav Rubin "we wouldn't have Simchas Torah in our shul". He compared it to the description of the Vilna Gaon who reportedly danced with special energy and fervor during hakafos on Simchas Torah.
** For years, Rav Kalman davened neitz at the earliest possible time in the morning. He was not an active participant in the Shacharis minyan last Tuesday morning, but rather he had already finished davening elsewhere and had to that shul to discuss something with Rav Rubin. He was learning in the back of the shul while the minyan was still going until Rav Rubin was available. His sons related that it was not typical for Rav Kalman to leave his tefillin on after finishing to daven Shacharis. Last Tuesday however, Rav Kalman decided to leave his tefillin on while he went to go speak with Rav Rubin. Rav Kalman was ultimately killed while learning with his tefillin still on.

** Rav Twersky's family related that he would not always go to the mikveh before davening in the morning. Last Tuesday morning however, he decided to go to the mikveh before going to daven Shacharis.

** The last words that Rav Twersky reportedly said to his daughter were "Ad bias goel" - A reference to coming of mashiach. This was a somewhat unusual thing for him to say. What is perhaps more notable is what was related by the person who was serving as chazzan in the minyan that morning. Apparently the last words of chazaras Hashatz that were said before the massace began was "Umeivi goel...". Rav Twersky's life indeed ended with the words referencing the "bias goel".

** As he was leaving the shiva house, Rav Rubin told the children that just as a parent leaves a physical inheritance, he also leaves a spiritual inheritance of character traits and Avodas Hashem. And just as physical inheritance is divided among the children, so too the spiritual inheritance can be divided. With so many impressive traits to go around, each child should choose one or two aspects of their fathers life that touched them and spoke to them, and work to become great in these areas, thereby carrying on their fathers legacy.

ובלע המות לנצח ומחה ה' אלקים דמעה מעל כל פנים וחרפת עמו יסיר מעל כל הארץ כי ה' דבר

I add one story: My daughter has a teacher named Rav Neuvort [son of the author of Shmiras Shabbos Ki-hilchaso]. He told the girls that he was planning to daven in that minyan on that fateful morning but he was five minutes late. True to his "yekke" heritage, he didn't want to be late and have to rush through the davening, so he left and waited for the next minyan. His desire to daven properly might have saved his life....


Teaneck Is Nice But ....

In 1913, a colleague of Rav Kook suggested [Igrot R'iyah 2/154] that he go to chutz la-aretz to serve as Rov. Rav Kook was shocked by the suggestion! Chas Vi-shalom!! In his words "וביחוד תמיהני על עצתו לצאת לחו"ל לקבל רבנות, שממש אם יתנו לי מלוא חללא דעלמא בשביל רגע אחד של נשימת אוירה הקדושה של א"י, ולעומת זה אם כל כסף וזהב שבעולם יתנו לי בשביל נשימה אחת של אויר הטמא של ארץ העמים, בוז אבוז להם, זולת אם יזדמן איזה צורך גדול בשביל קדושה כללית, שאז הבטיחונו קדושי עליון שכשיוצאים לחו"ל על מנת לחזור באופן המצווה ע"פ התורה הולך אויר א"י עם הדבק באהבת ידידות קדושתה, ובדרך רוחני גם המקום שעומד עליו יש בו קצת בחינת קדושת א"י, אבל לעזוב את מקום בית חיינו, ולצאת לחו"ל, שדומה כעובד עבודה זרה, תימה אקרא על עצה כזאת שתצא מפי גברא רבה דכוותיה  נ"י

If someone would give me all of the treasures of the world in exchange for one minute of breathing the holy air of Israel or if I am offered me all of the money in the world for one breath of the impure air of chutz la-aretz, I will laugh it away. UNLESS, there is a great need to go for the greater Jewish community, in which case the mekubalim promise that if one goes to chutz la-aretz temporarily if he is so commanded by the Torah, the air of Israel goes along with this person and his love of its holiness, and spiritually speaking the place where he is also has a bit of Eretz Yisrael in it. But to leave the place of our life and vitality and go to chutz la-aretz, which is like serving idols [Ksubos 110], I wonder how such a great person as you can offer such advice....??!

In his halacha sefer Mishpat Kohen [147] he challenges the heter to leave Israel in order to daven at the graves of tzadikim. You want kedusha, he says, stay home!:-)
לרפואת אליענה נעמי בת איילת יוכבד בתוך שח"י


Saturday, November 22, 2014

Rav Kook On Death

From VBM - R' Hillel Rachmani
Writes HaRav Kook - "Death is an illusion, its defilement (tum'a) is its deception; what people refer to as death is actually the epitome of life. Yet through the superficial vision into which man is plunged by following his inclincation, he paints the epitome of life as a dark and dreary picture which he calls death."

If death is good, why then does the Torah fight against the defilement of death? Why is the priesthood commanded to avoid any contact with death? Rav Kook continues:

"The holy priests must shield themselves from this falsehood, so long as this lie rules the world. They must protect their eyes from this vision which engrains this mistake upon the soul, hence they shall not come into contact with the dead, they shall not defile themselves."

The Kohanim remind us of the correct perspective on death. By distancing themselves from the dead and its defilement, they protest against our mistaken view of death. Death is not bad, but rather, it is the epitome of life.

This approach is the exact opposite of that of Rav Soloveitchik z"l and his "Halakhic Man": for him, death is feared and reviled. Through learning the laws of mourning, the approach of Brisk attempted to give death objectivity, in order to free themselves from the fear of death.

The Nazir, editor of Orot Ha-Kodesh, organized Rav Kook's philosophy in this order on purpose; the initial shock of chapter 40 will enable us to appreciate the contents of chapters 41 and 42, in which we discover that the resurrection of the dead is the holy of holies, transcending the greatness of death. Death functions as a necessary transition to the ultimate level.

In chapter 41, Rav Kook writes (ibid.):

"The fear of death is a general sickness of man, a function of sin. Sin created death. Repentance is the sole cure to obliterate death from this world."

Because of sin, man views death as final. This is readily understandable - when man is engulfed in a world of materialism, death represents to him the final end. What is perplexing, however, is Rav Kook's statements about sin having created death. If death should be understood as the epitome of life, then, on the contrary, the original sin of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden created life!

We seem to have discovered an internal contradiction in Rav Kook's approach to death. On the one hand, chapter 40 tells us how "great" death is. Yet, on the other hand, chapter 41 relates to death as a blemish, the product of sin.

To resolve this contradiction, we must skip to a paragraph in chapter 42 (ibid.), where Rav Kook describes the level of man before and after the sin in the Garden of Eden. Before the sin, man lived on the supreme level of the unity of body and soul. The taste of the tree was like the taste of the fruit. Then, man's sin separated the body and the soul.

It is important to distinguish between three different stages: this world, the world of death, and the resurrection of the dead. Our three stages represent the levels of the secular, the holy and the holy of holies. Our view of death (the holy) depends on our point of departure. If we look down upon death from the stage of the resurrection of the dead (the holy of holies), death indeed is a retrogression. However, if we look up at death from this world (the secular), we see death as a progression. In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve existed on the supreme level of the holy of holies, the level of the resurrection of the dead. When they sinned and introduced death into the world, the reality of death was a tragic retrogression. Thus we have resolved the contradiction we encountered in Rav Kook's writings.

Friday, November 21, 2014

New Shiur

Sfas Emes on this weeks parsha, here.


The Bechora And The Splitting Of The Sea

לזכות רבי משה גבריאל בן יהודית
ורבי צבי משה בן שרה לאה
The Gemara’s comments in Masekhet Bava Batra (16b) stating that Esav was guilty of heresy.  The Gemara reached this conclusion on the basis of Esav’s reaction to Yaakov’s request of the birthright: “Lama zeh li bekhora” – “What do I need the birthright for?” (25:32).  The word “zeh,” the Gemara posits, refers to the belief in God, as indicated in Benei Yisrael’s song of praise sung  after the miracle of the sea, in which they exclaimed, “Zeh Keli” – “This is my God” (Shemot 15:2).  It stands to reason that Chazal here seek to draw an association of sorts between Esav’s disinterest in the birthright and the miracle of the sea, and the question naturally arises as to the nature of this connection. 
The Tolna Rebbe Shlita suggested that the point of connection can be found in the well-known comment of the Midrash (cited by Rashi there in Shemot) concerning the revelation beheld by Benei Yisrael at the time of the miracle of the sea.  The Midrash comments that even the simplest, lowliest members of Benei Yisrael beheld a prophetic vision that surpassed the visions seen by Yeshayahu and Yechezkel.  Benei Yisrael – the entire nation – was elevated at that moment to the stature of prophets.  This was possible despite the fact that, as numerous sources indicate, Benei Yisrael at the time of the Exodus were idolaters, and Kabbalistic tradition describes how they were submerged in the “forty-nine gates of impurity.”  Their low spiritual stature at the time they left Egypt did not preclude the possibility of their becoming prophets less than a week later.  Even though they had been worshipping idols for decades, they were nevertheless capable of raising themselves to the point where they were deemed worthy of a prophetic vision. 
This was Esav’s “kefira” (“heresy”).  The Gemara there in Bava Batra relates that on the day Esav sold the birthright, he had committed the most grievous sins – murder and adultery. In response to Yaakov’s request of the birthright, Esav reflected upon his prospects of fulfilling the duties of the firstborn, which would entail tending to the sacrifices and the service in the Beit Ha-mikdash.  He immediately concluded that “lama zeh li bekhora” – it wasn’t for him.  There was no possibility that he, after the crimes he had committed, could ever become worthy of such a lofty position or capable of tending to such important responsibilities.  Esav denied the message of “Zeh Keli,” that God endows us with the ability to draw close to and communicate with God despite our past mistakes and failures.   
We must never think “lama zeh li bekhora,” that we are unworthy of serving the Almighty because of our shortcomings.  Chazal remind us that we are all able, and expected, to work toward improving ourselves and elevate ourselves, regardless of what we have done or not done in the past.  Just as Esav could have still become worthy of the birthright after the offenses he committed, we, too, are able to rise to greatness regardless of our past failures. 
Rav David Silverberg

Thursday, November 20, 2014

What It Feels Like

Couldn't resist one more....

Miriam Epstein is making scrambled eggs when her husband Moishe bursts into the kitchen.
"Careful," Moishe cries. "Careful! You’re cooking too many at once. Too many! Scramble them! Now! We need more butter. They’re going to stick! Careful! Now scramble them again! Hurry up! Are you crazy? Don’t forget to salt them. You know you always forget to salt them. Use the salt. Use the salt! The salt!"
Miriam turns to Moishe and asks, "What is wrong with you?"
Moishe calmly replies, "I wanted to show you what it feels like when I’m driving."

Kiddush Club

David Goldberg had never celebrated Shabbos before but he was invited by his observant friend Moishe to shul for the Shabbos Project. Moishe took him to the “Kiddush Club” where they proceeded to have a number of l’chaims – scotch, bourbon, wine – you name it.

Moishe was trying to explain to David some of the many laws relating to Shabbat when David said, “I’ll admit – I don’t fully understand all of the laws of Shabbos yet, but there’s one law that makes perfect sense.”

“What’s that,” asked Moishe.

“No driving on Shabbos!”


Sarah was getting ready to go out on a shidduch date. She called her friend Rachel.

“Hi Rachel, I’m about to get picked up for my date, can you call me in a half hour just in case it’s going bad? If you hear in my voice that it’s not going well, tell me my grandmother is not feeling well. Thanks.”

David picked Sarah up and sure enough, the date wasn’t going well. Half an hour into the date, Sarah’s phone rang.

“I’m sorry David, but my grandmother’s not feeling well and she’s asked me to go home and check on her.”

“No problem!” said David with a big grin. “In a few more minutes I was going to have a leak in my apartment!”


After a lengthy hiatus from posting audio shiurim - we have returned!!

Here is a sweet explanation of a song we sing every shabbos and [probably] never knew what it meant [or even thought about it].

Here is a deep explanation of Yitzchaks special connection to the bris.

Both are based on the Toirrahhhh of Rebbe Leibele Eiger!:-) Tune in....

The Tragic Life Of Michoel Peschkowsky

This essay and any mitzvos or positive thoughts that result, should be a zchus for the speedy refua shleima of a sweet little girl whom I love very much, Eliyana Naomi bat Ayelet Yocheved who has yet another surgery for a lymph node biopsy coming up. PLEASE DAVEN!! Bi-toch shear cholei yisrael.

Mike Nichols just died in his Manhattan home and that is a tragedy. Possibly, in some weird way, a greater tragedy than what just happened in Har Nof. Let me explain, but first some background.

Mr. Nichols was an American film, theatre and television director, producer and comedian. To commemorate his loss, the marquee lights at Broadway shows will be dimmed for one minute.

He was not born a "Mike Nichols"-  he was actually born a Mikhail Igor Peschkowsky on November 6, 1931 in Berlin, Germany, the son of Brigitte (née Landauer) and Paul Peschkowsky, a physician. His father was born in Vienna, Austria, to a Russian Jewish immigrant family. Nichols' father's family had been wealthy and lived in Siberia, leaving after the Russian Revolution, and settling in Germany around 1920. Nichols' mother's family were German Jews. In April 1939, when the Nazis were arresting Jews in Berlin, seven-year-old Mikhail and his three-year-old brother Robert were sent alone to the United States to meet up with their father, who had fled months earlier. His mother eventually joined the family, escaping through Italy in 1940.

Nichols became a naturalized citizen of the United States in 1944 and attended public elementary school in Manhattan (PS 87). After graduating from the Walden School, a private progressive school on Central Park West, Nichols briefly attended New York University before dropping out.

Nichols was married four times. His first wife was Patricia Scott; they were married from 1957 to 1960. He was married to Margo Callas from 1963 to 1974, producing a daughter, Daisy Nichols. His third marriage, to Annabel Davis-Goff, produced two children, Max Nichols and Jenny Nichols. They were divorced in 1986. He married ABC World News anchor Diane Sawyer on April 29, 1988.

Among Nichols' personal pursuits was a lifelong interest in Arabian horses. From 1968 to 2004, he owned a farm in Connecticut and was a noted horse breeder. Over the years, he also imported quality Arabian horses from Poland, some of which later resold for record-setting prices.

In his career he was involved in many many incredibly successful film and show productions. I will not bore you or me with the details.

Herein lies the tragedy. This Jew, just barely saved from the claws of the Satan [Hitler yimach shmo] and his aides lived his life in the make believe world of entertainment, being around fake, addicted [drugs, alcohol, you name it], egomaniacal people. He had the standard, show business [at least] four wives [some or all not Jewish] but no real meaning. Unless you consider Arabian horses "real meaning".

Then he dies and to remember him, the lights will be dimmed at Broadway shows for a minute.

How deep....

The people who were murdered in Har Nof lived every second of their lives with tremendous spiritual depth. They all married only one woman each [to the best of my knowledge] within our faith and had stable families. These people were heroes in their lives and in their deaths.   מי כעמך ישראל גוי אחד בארץ !!

What is being done in THEIR memory? Here is a translation of a letter [posted on cross-currents - and thanks to D.R. for the link] that is being posted around Yerushalayim, signed by the widows:

We turn to acheinu Bnei Yisrael wherever they may be. Let us all come together to increase the rachamei Shomayim shown to us! Let us all accept upon ourselves that we will increase love and brotherhood – between each person and his fellow, between community and community, between major group and major group.

Our request is that every individual should see to it to accept upon himself on Erev Shabbos Parshas Toldos, to sanctify this coming Shabbos as a day of ahavas chinam. It should be a day that we refrain from all kinds of divisive conversation, lashon hora, and rechilus.

This will be a great uplift to the souls of the heads of our families who were slaughtered for the holiness of His Holy Name.

May Hashem look from above, see our affliction, wipe away our tears, and say, “Enough!” to our sorrow.
May we merit to see the arrival of Moshiach Tzidkeinu, speedily in our days – Amen, Amen.

Signed with a broken and crushed heart:
Chayah Levine and family
Breina Goldberg and family
Yaakovah Kupinsky and family
Bashi Twersky and family

I believe that their loss should be mourned but their lives should be celebrated. The legacy they left will continue forever to bring more Light into all of the Olamos.

As for the tortured soul of Michoel Peschkowsky-  may Hashem have mercy.... His life and legacy were great tragedies. Who will say kaddish for him? Who will learn mishnayos? Or start a chesed fund?

Bilam cried תמות נפשי מות ישרים - Let me die the death of the righteous, the Avos. One cannot die the death of the righteous if he lives the life of a Bilaam. But if one lives the lives of Rabbis Levine, Goldberg, Kupinsky and Twersky then he can truly die a מות ישרים

זכותם יגן עלינו.

A Eulogy For HaGaon HaKadosh R' Moshe Twersky ztz"l

This is a hesped delivered by HaRav HaGaon R' Zev Klein Shlita who has been a Rebbi in Toras Moshe [where HaRav HaGaon R' Moshe Twersky ztz"l Hy"d also taught] for about 20 years and before that taught me quite a bit and I was a ben bayis in his home before I got married when we were both living in Maalot Daphna.

Divrei hisororos in light of the tragedy

It’s not my place to be maspid the choshever niftar, but I would like to share some of my hergeshim that I have been having these past couple of days.

The truth is this is a tragedy almost beyond comprehension. Here in yeshiva we are feeling the loss of an unbelievable person our rebbi and colleague Harav Hagoan Reb Moshe Twersky zatzal zichron tsaddik v’kodosh livrochoh, not everyone deserves the title of Kodosh, but as it has been said he was a kodosh already m’chayim.

In har nof we are experiencing a multiple tragedy, besides Reb Moshe there are three others, Reb Kalmen Levine who is actually a former talmid of the yeshiva, who the Rosh Hayeshiva told me that when he was in L.A. he was instrumental in taking him from Kansas city with a traditional background, into becoming a true ben Torah in the fullest sense of the word, a baal yiras shamayim, his tefilos on a regular day where like those we experience during the yomim noraim, his hasmada and bakoshas hoemes where almost unparalleled, and he was always happy. Reb Aryeh Kopinsky was a tremendous baal chesed, we just made a ouf-ruf he offered to put out all the yerushalmi kugel and stam help out with all the serving, which he did graciously, he had a freezer gemach and did all the schlepping by himself. Reb avrohom Goldberg was a baal habos but a Toradike baal habos, who was makdish most of his time to learning, he had a seder every afternoon in our shul learning meseches menachos.

The question is how do we deal with a tragedy of this magnitude, how do we come to terms with it. The idea has been expressed that apparently there was a need for korbonos tzibbur and we all know that a korbon cannot have a “mum”, a blemish. So therefore Hashem took those without “mumim”. But what does it mean that they were “korbonos tzibbur”, one idea might be that their p’tirah is a kaporoh for the tzibbur, and who knows what terrible gezeirah might have been averted. When I was sitting shiva for my daughter Sara a.h. someone mentioned a story from the Chafetz Chaim, his beloved son-in- law Reb Hirsh Levenson was niftar at a very young age, the Chafetz Chaim’s daughter was inconsolable, ”why my husband”? she asked, the Chafetz Chaim told her “If I would say that because of your husband’s death a third of klal yisroel was saved would that console you? She was consoled. We don’t know Hashem’s cheshbonos, but who knows how many lives were saved.

There is perhaps another nekudah, people are nisorer only when something totally out of the ordinary occurs. Hashem wants us to wake up!!!!!!! Do teshuva!!!!! I once heard b’shem Moron Hgoan Rav Elyashev z’tzal that there doesn’t have to be just one message, everyone knows what he has to do.  Unfortunately sometimes we are sleeping so heavily thet we need a very loud alarm clock in order to wake up.      

 When I was sitting shiva, my sister said over a story heard from “Doc.” Greenwald from Monsey. When Rav Shneir Kotler zatzal was sick the family was very disturbed, so they sent Doctor Greenwald to eretz yisroel to ask the Harav Yisroel Abuchatzera, otherwise known as the “Baba Sali” what is really going on, why is this happening? He was maskim to reveal it with one condition, that he repeats it to no one, he protested “they sent me to find out”, he answered  “I guess you are not maskim, have a nice day”, b’dless breirah he was maskim. He said afterwards that after what he was told there were absolutely no questions!!!! And he felt bad that he promised not to reveal what he heard, because it would have helped so many people that have to deal with a tragedy.

Haran Shmuel Yaakov Burnstain spoke today in Har Nof, he mentioned the Gaon’s pshat in the medrash by the עשרה הרוגי מלכות when the malachim cried “זו תורה וזו שכרה Hashem said that he will return the world to תוהו ובוהו, the Gaon explains that Hashem was saying that it was all “oisgecheshbent” from the time of brias haolom, moshol with the tailor that the only way to prove that he didn’t steal material was to undo the whole garment. 

There are a few nekudos that I saw in my dear friend Reb Moshe that I would like to share with you. I once heard a story that Harav Ruderman said about Reb Aron Kotler, that every time he met him (I think they would meet once a year by the Aguda convention) he saw that Reb Aron he has shteiged since the last time that they met. That is an awesome statement, people have a tendacy to plateau, they will work to get to a certain madreigah and that’s it, for some who reached the dargos of Reb Aron, to be able to noticeably shteig is unbelievable. I think we can say the same about Reb Moshe, he never “sat on his laurels” always looking to shteig. I think his brother-in-law Reb Eliyahu Feldman once told me that every tekufah Reb Moshe would be working on some other aspect of avodas Hashem.

It was mentioned by the levaya that he went to Manchester for the yomim noraim to be with the Manchester Rosh Hayeshiva Harav Segal. I remember that around 27 years ago when I was learning by Reb Aba’s, there was a tekufah that I learnt with Reb Moshe 2 sedorim a day (plus daf yomi before or after vasikin), during ellul Rebetzin Twersky called me begging me to let her husband go to Manchester for the yomim noraim, she said that when he came back the year before he was on such a madreiga that you “poshut” couldn’t talk to him “b’mili d’almah”.

When Hashem rebukes Miriam for The possuk says:

לא כן עבדי משה בכל ביתי נאמן הוא פה אל פה אדבר בו ומראה ולא בחידת ותמנת ה' יביט ומדוע לא יראתם לדבר בעבדי במשה:  

I think that the Ran in Droshos Haran explains that when it says meaning of “neeman” is what the possuk says afterwards, במראה ולא בחידה” the idea that Moshe Rabeinu had nevuah “b’aspaklaryah hameirah” as opposed to the other Nevi’im that their nevuah had to be interpreted. That’s what it means “neeman” that there was no misinterpretation of the rotzon Hashem. I think the same could be said about our Reb Moshe, his avodas Hashem was crystal clear, no personal negias guiding him or misguiding him, just pure “rotzon Hashem”. The way to get to that is maybe explained at the end of the possuk, “"בעבדי במשה that Moshe Rabeinu what the quintessential “eved Hashem”, the definition of an eved is that everything he does is for his master, that’s his whole existence, one who exists for his master has that quality of communication. That was Reb Moshe totally dedicated to avodas Hashem לית מגרמי כלום

He was never in a rush, never did things with “beholoh” “bilbul hadas”, especially when it came to mili d’shmaya, everything was done deliberately. If he ever came late to the minyan I never saw him rushing with hanachas tefilin, rushing thru p’sukei d’zimra in order to make tefilah b’tzibbur, he just davvened like he always did, deliberately. I used to wonder why he wasn’t makpid to start shemoneh esrei with the tzibbur so that even if he finished after the “shatz” got to kedushah it wouldn’t be a problem that he started knowing that he will miss kedushah, than I noticed that when he davvened downstairs by the first minyan he would come upstairs for kedushah, so than there is no problem starting late.  

Some would say that Reb Moshe was unemotional, I would say he was in control of his emotions. At my son’s chasuna last week we danced together in the middle with tremendous hislavus and simchah, the guys couldn’t believe it, but the truth is that it wasn’t shver at all, that is what had to be done at that time. The day after the chasuna he came over and gave me “ah breitah” mazal tov with a huge smile, wishing me all the good things.        

Shlomo Hamelech says in koheles טוב ללכת אל בית אבל מלכת אל בית משתה באשר הוא סוף כל האדם והחי יתן אל לבו: we have to realize that we don’t live forever, it could happen to anyone any time.

The gemara in Maseches Shabbos says as follows:

תנן התם רבי אליעזר אומר שוב יום אחד לפני מיתתך, שאלו תלמידיו את רבי אליעזר וכי אדם יודע איזהו יום ימות אמר להן וכל שכן ישוב היום שמא ימות למחר, ונמצא כל ימיו בתשובה. ואף שלמה אמר בחכמתו "בכל עת יהיו בגדיך לבנים ושמן על ראשך אל יחסר". אמר רבן יוחנן בן זכאי משל למלך שזימן את עבדיו לסעודה ולא קבע להם זמן, פיקחין שבהן קישטו את עצמן וישבו על פתח בית המלך אמרו כלום חסר לבית המלך, טיפשין שבהן הלכו למלאכתן אמרו כלום יש סעודה בלא טורח, בפתאום ביקש המלך את עבדיו פיקחין שבהן נכנסו לפניו כשהן מקושטין והטיפשים נכנסו לפניו כשהן מלוכלכין, שמח המלך לקראת פיקחים וכעס לקראת טיפשים, אמר הללו שקישטו את עצמן לסעודה ישבו ויאכלו וישתו הללו שלא קישטו עצמן לסעודה יעמדו ויראו. חתנו של רבי מאיר משום רבי מאיר אמר אף הן נראין כמשמשין, אלא אלו ואלו יושבין הללו אוכלין והללו רעבין הללו שותין והללו צמאים, שנאמר כה אמר ה' הנה עבדי יאכלו ואתם תרעבו הנה עבדי ישתו ואתם תצמאו הנה עבדי ירנו מטוב לב ואתם תצעקו מכאב לב.

 I think Reb Moshe embodied this chazal, he wasn’t caught off guard, he was preparing for this moment every second of his life.

 If we try to take on some of these things that were mentioned here, it will be a tremendous zchus for the niftar, and more important it will be a zchus for us.

Reb Moshe should be a meilitz yosher for his wonderful family, for his talmidim, for the yeshiva and for the whole .עולם התורה