Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Chazal And Science

Where they always correct or was it possible for them to err? Is studying "rabbinic science" considered talmud torah? See here. Very interesting....

Smell And Memory

Have you ever noticed that a particular scent can bring forth a rush of vivid memories? The smell of cookies baking might remind you of spending time at your grandmother's house when you were a small child.
Why does smell seem to act as such a powerful memory trigger?

First, the olfactory nerve is located very close to the amygdala, the area of the brain that is connected to the experience of emotion as well as emotional memory. In addition, the olfactory nerve is very close to the hippocampus, which is associated with memory.

The actual ability to smell is highly linked to memory. Research has shown that when areas of the brain connected to memory are damaged, the ability to identify smells is actually impaired. In order to identify a scent, you must remember when you have smelled it before and then connect it to visual information that occurred at the same time. According to some research, studying information in the presence of an odor actually increases the vividness and intensity of that remembered information when you smell that odor again.

What is mamesh pilei plaos is that the Torah says about korbanos [Vayikra 6/ 8] that they are a ריח ניחוח אזכרתה לשם - A good smell a memory before Hashem. And Rabbeinu Bechaye [Breishis 2/ 7] says that smell triggers memory.

ואין כל חדש תחת השמש!:)

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

New Articles

Fascinating article on slavery, here.

On דינא דבר מיצרא when the buyer is an עני, here.

Rav Kook on the avdus in Mitzraim, here.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe on the Rashi in this weeks parsha where Yosef showed Yaakov his "shtar ksuba and shtar eirusin". Amazing. Here.

Vayechi, achdus and Shmitta - here.

The Geula Bi-hesech Ha'daas

There is a statement of chazal that is very troubling. In Sanhedrin [97a] it says that Moshiach comes בהיסח הדעת - when we are distracted, when we don't notice. How can we be בהיסח הדעת? We are obligated to wait for the geula every second??

Explains the Sfas Emes [שמות תרמ"ח if I am reading him right] that we are distracted from the galus because we are so focused on the upcoming geula. Meaning, we have to accept our reality. We are in exile, it is really difficult, but I am not going to lament my difficult situation.

It is like a person being on an airplane on his way to a dream vacation. He may be uncomfortable, he may be nauseuos but he doesn't fret. He accepts his present reality as a given and dreams of those soon to come moments when he is soaking up the sun-and-fun.   

When you think about and anticipate the geula - you change your present reality as well. You become a more spiritual elevated being. You also hasten the redemption.

When you are suffering from difficulties, accept them, and then focus on a better future, you achieve the same results. 

Amazing Research Of The Brain

The ramifications of this article [excerpted from the New York Times] for personal growth are tremendous. Among other things, we have a new peirush of the maamar chazal, גדול שימושה יותר מלימודה - Greater is serving someone than learning from him. When one serves a tzadik he can observe him which has a much more powerful effect than merely book learning.

 Every time the monkey grasped and moved an object, some cells in that brain region would fire, and a monitor would register a sound: brrrrrip, brrrrrip, brrrrrip.

A graduate student entered the lab with an ice cream cone in his hand. The monkey stared at him. Then, something amazing happened: when the student raised the cone to his lips, the monitor sounded - brrrrrip, brrrrrip, brrrrrip - even though the monkey had not moved but had simply observed the student grasping the cone and moving it to his mouth.

The researchers, led by Giacomo Rizzolatti, a neuroscientist at the University of Parma, had earlier noticed the same strange phenomenon with peanuts. The same brain cells fired when the monkey watched humans or other monkeys bring peanuts to their mouths as when the monkey itself brought a peanut to its mouth.

Later, the scientists found cells that fired when the monkey broke open a peanut or heard someone break a peanut. The same thing happened with bananas, raisins and all kinds of other objects.

"It took us several years to believe what we were seeing," Dr. Rizzolatti said in a recent interview. The monkey brain contains a special class of cells, called mirror neurons, that fire when the animal sees or hears an action and when the animal carries out the same action on its own.

But if the findings, published in 1996, surprised most scientists, recent research has left them flabbergasted. Humans, it turns out, have mirror neurons that are far smarter, more flexible and more highly developed than any of those found in monkeys.
The human brain has multiple mirror neuron systems that specialize in carrying out and understanding not just the actions of others but their intentions, the social meaning of their behavior and their emotions.

"We are exquisitely social creatures," Dr. Rizzolatti said. "Our survival depends on understanding the actions, intentions and emotions of others."

He continued, "Mirror neurons allow us to grasp the minds of others not through conceptual reasoning but through direct simulation. By feeling, not by thinking."

The discovery is shaking up numerous scientific disciplines, shifting the understanding of culture, empathy, philosophy, language, imitation, autism and psychotherapy.

Everyday experiences are also being viewed in a new light. Mirror neurons reveal how children learn, why people respond to certain types of sports, dance, music and art, why watching media violence may be harmful and why many men like pornography. [Hmmmmmmmm - the Times against TV, movies and Internet:-)].

How can a single mirror neuron or system of mirror neurons be so incredibly smart?

Most nerve cells in the brain are comparatively pedestrian. Many specialize in detecting ordinary features of the outside world. Some fire when they encounter a horizontal line while others are dedicated to vertical lines. Others detect a single frequency of sound or a direction of movement.
Moving to higher levels of the brain, scientists find groups of neurons that detect far more complex features like faces, hands or expressive body language. Still other neurons help the body plan movements and assume complex postures. [מה רבו מעשיך השם!!]

Mirror neurons make these complex cells look like numbskulls. Found in several areas of the brain - including the premotor cortex, the posterior parietal lobe, the superior temporal sulcus and the insula - they fire in response to chains of actions linked to intentions.

Studies show that some mirror neurons fire when a person reaches for a glass or watches someone else reach for a glass; others fire when the person puts the glass down and still others fire when the person reaches for a toothbrush and so on. They respond when someone kicks a ball, sees a ball being kicked, hears a ball being kicked and says or hears the word "kick."

"When you see me perform an action - such as picking up a baseball - you automatically simulate the action in your own brain," said Dr. Marco Iacoboni, a neuroscientist at the University of California, Los Angeles, who studies mirror neurons. "Circuits in your brain, which we do not yet entirely understand, inhibit you from moving while you simulate," he said. "But you understand my action because you have in your brain a template for that action based on your own movements.

"When you see me pull my arm back, as if to throw the ball, you also have in your brain a copy of what I am doing and it helps you understand my goal. Because of mirror neurons, you can read my intentions. You know what I am going to do next."

He continued: "And if you see me choke up, in emotional distress from striking out at home plate, mirror neurons in your brain simulate my distress. You automatically have empathy for me. You know how I feel because you literally feel what I am feeling."

Mirror neurons seem to analyzed scenes and to read minds. If you see someone reach toward a bookshelf and his hand is out of sight, you have little doubt that he is going to pick up a book because your mirror neurons tell you so.

In a study published in March 2005 in Public Library of Science, Dr. Iacoboni and his colleagues reported that mirror neurons could discern if another person who was picking up a cup of tea planned to drink from it or clear it from the table.

Until now, scholars have treated culture as fundamentally separate from biology, she said. "But now we see that mirror neurons absorb culture directly, with each generation teaching the next by social sharing, imitation and observation."

Other animals - monkeys, probably apes and possibly elephants, dolphins and dogs - have rudimentary mirror neurons, several mirror neuron experts said. But humans, with their huge working memory, carry out far more sophisticated imitations.

Language is based on mirror neurons, according to Michael Arbib, a neuroscientist at the University of Southern California. One such system, found in the front of the brain, contains overlapping circuitry for spoken language and sign language.

In an article published in Trends in Neuroscience in March 1998, Dr. Arbib described how complex hand gestures and the complex tongue and lip movements used in making sentences use the same machinery. Autism, some researchers believe, may involve broken mirror neurons. A study published in the Jan. 6 issue of Nature Neuroscience by Mirella Dapretto, a neuroscientist at U.C.L.A., found that while many people with autism can identify an emotional expression, like sadness, on another person's face, or imitate sad looks with their own faces, they do not feel the emotional significance of the imitated emotion. From observing other people, they do not know what it feels like to be sad, angry, disgusted or surprised.

Mirror neurons provide clues to how children learn: they kick in at birth. Dr. Andrew Meltzoff at the University of Washington has published studies showing that infants a few minutes old will stick out their tongues at adults doing the same thing. More than other primates, human children are hard-wired for imitation, he said, their mirror neurons involved in observing what others do and practicing doing the same things.

Still, there is one caveat, Dr. Iacoboni said. Mirror neurons work best in real life, when people are face to face. Virtual reality and videos are shadowy substitutes.

Nevertheless, a study in the January 2006 issue of Media Psychology found that when children watched violent television programs, mirror neurons, as well as several brain regions involved in aggression were activated, increasing the probability that the children would behave violently.
The ability to share the emotions of others appears to be intimately linked to the functioning of mirror neurons, said Dr. Christian Keysers, who studies the neural basis of empathy at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands and who has published several recent articles on the topic in Neuron.
When you see someone touched in a painful way, your own pain areas are activated, he said. When you see a spider crawl up someone's leg, you feel a creepy sensation because your mirror neurons are firing.

People who rank high on a scale measuring empathy have particularly active mirror neurons systems, Dr. Keysers said.

Social emotions like guilt, shame, pride, embarrassment, disgust and lust are based on a uniquely human mirror neuron system found in a part of the brain called the insula, Dr. Keysers said. In a study not yet published, he found that when people watched a hand go forward to caress someone and then saw another hand push it away rudely, the insula registered the social pain of rejection. Humiliation appears to be mapped in the brain by the same mechanisms that encode real physical pain, he said.

Psychotherapists are understandably enthralled by the discovery of mirror neurons, said Dr. Daniel Siegel, the director of the Center for Human Development in Los Angeles and the author of "Parenting From the Inside Out," because they provide a possible neurobiological basis for the psychological mechanisms known as transference and countertransference.

In transference, clients "transfer" feelings about important figures in their lives onto a therapist. Similarly, in countertransference, a therapist's reactions to a client are shaped by the therapist's own earlier relationships.

Therapists can use their own mirror system to understand a client's problems and to generate empathy, he said. And they can help clients understand that many of their experiences stem from what other people have said or done to them in the past.

Art exploits mirror neurons, said Dr. Vittorio Gallese, a neuroscientist at Parma University. When you see the Baroque sculptor Gian Lorenzo Bernini's hand of divinity grasping marble, you see the hand as if it were grasping flesh, he said. Experiments show that when you read a novel, you memorize positions of objects from the narrator's point of view.

Professional athletes and coaches, who often use mental practice and imagery, have long exploited the brain's mirror properties perhaps without knowing their biological basis, Dr. Iacoboni said.

Observation directly improves muscle performance via mirror neurons.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Drinking Problem

The reason there are two senators for each state is so that one can be the designated driver.

Jay Leno

Believe In Yourself And Hashem

From my archives....

Excerpted from [R' Betzalel Naor].

Ours is an age of lack of self-esteem. we don’t trust ourselves. We want to be protected, for we feel small, afraid, far from the center of spirituality. In being humble, we think we are modest, but really we are weak. In being excessively cautious, we think we are being exceptionally frum, but really we just don’t trust ourselves. We see ourselves as vulnerable enclosures whose boundaries must be clearly demarcated, whose territory must be secured, whose way in the world must be defensive.

“Excessive fear of sin destroys the goodness in a person, and makes of him a lowly creature, who does nothing but lie there, shaking.” So writes Abraham Isaac Kook, in the opening paragraph of Orot Ha-emuna. “A person must believe in his life, in both his physical and moral powers.” The lack of emunah in oneself is the greatest of all the curses in the Torah, “Your life will be in the balance…and you will not believe in your life.” You will be plagued by self-doubt (Your life will be “in the balance”) and lack inner confidence. Because of this inner anxiety, “In the morning you will say, ‘Who will give evening?’ and in the evening ‘Who will give morning?’ “katnut ha-emunah,” “insufficient emunah,” is a lack of confidence in oneself, and “comes from the inability to raise one’s own self-worth to the point of understanding how he is deserving of the Divine Greatness.”
When we believe in ourselves we are not afraid-cautious, yes, but not afraid. And when we are not afraid we can look at the world again, and see in it the kaleidoscopic possibilities of existence. We can look outside, and see beneath the surface. And beneath that surface, we may even find something of ourselves.

 “When a person believes in himself he discovers great contentment in his spiritual endeavors, and ascends upward.’’ In this work Rav Kook explores emunah by comparing and contrasting it with kefirah (atheism, denial), avodah zarah (idol worship), and “minut,” which is the term favored by him to refer to Christianity, and by examining its relationship to the doing of mitzvot, and to general culture.

From these writings there emerges a profound teaching that belief in oneself is conceptually and existentially inseparable from emunah in God. For first and foremost, for Rav Kook, emunah is a state of being. As he writes elsewhere, “Emunah is the most basic self-revealing of the essence of the soul.” And this self-revealing is really the Divine within us made manifest: “Too much fear spoils emunah, because one doesn’t trust himself and his understanding, thereby diminishing his awareness of the Divine spark in his soul.” The essence of emunah is an awareness of the perfection of the Infinite and that “whatever experience of the infinite] enters the heart is but a minute spark of what can be imagined.” Emunah, then, is a self-affirmation in which one experiences one’s own self-revealment as the revealing of the Divine within. Emunah is a state of being.

It follows that emunah is not constituted by an act of “belief” or by a linguistic, cognitive affirmation. The latter are important both as external expressions of emunah, and as a means of bringing to emunah.

But even in their absence, emunah can be alive. And more, emunah can live even where there is no conscious awareness of one’s self divinity and even when one denies the Divine: “Sometimes you will find a kofer with an inner, shining strong emunah, flowing from the source of transcendent holiness, stronger than a thousand believers, who are “small of emunah.” How is this possible? Because “the inner spiritual basis of the holiness of emunah transcends all language.” A kofer can manifest the Divine power of his being even while denying faith with his mouth, and a believer can be lying, shaking with fright, all the while proclaiming his faith through chattering teeth.
Kefrah can itself even emanate from holiness. This can happen for example, when linguistic affirmations are rejected precisely because they are sensed to be inadequate, as but a weak shadow of the power of being. Thus, “there is denial (kefrah) that is like consent, and consent that is like denial.” Inadequate articulations of Judaism may force their own rejection, out of the depths of holiness. If we are to return the kofer to the practice of Torah, our elucidations of Torah contents must be adequate to the power of his being.

Rav Kook’s concept of emunah provides hope for our seemingly faithless world. For, “There are many apikorsim who are deniers, in accordance with the standards of Halacha. However, when we examine their soul we will discover in them a connection to the Divine content, in a hidden form. And that is why in our generation there is a tendency toward merit and kindness even toward absolute deniers.”

That does not at all mean that it does not matter for Rav Kook if you are atheist or believer, as long as the inner emunah manifests its power in you. Far from it. Linguistic affirmations of faith lead in the direction of transcendent truth, whereas protestations of atheism lead in the direction of falsehood and inauthenticity. He who is faithful to conceptual assertions of emunah has a covenant with God that he will merit that emunah which is beyond conceptualization and language. From that high vantage point he will apprehend the correspondence between the elements of the conceptualized emunah and its transcendent counterpart.

Yet sometimes, when we look outside, and beneath the surface, we do see something of ourselves.
Idol worship, too, in its deepest essence knows the power of being of emunah, but covers it over with corruption and evil: “In the filth of avodah zarah great is the spirit of emunah, in its wildness and coarseness, its frenzy and horselike power. Avodah zarah knows the visceral, immediate engagement with the Divine in the world, and total, passionate, self-actualization and self-affirmation.

... To believe that which can be practiced is the special genius of Jewish spirituality. This is the “balance of the Torah” which knows how to weigh the ideals against possibility of implementation.
Emunah is an ineffable state of being. How does it relate to the details of Torah practice? “Emunah is the highest poetry (shira) of the world, with its source in the Divine nature in the depths of the
soul. High poetry is unstructured, without meter and rhyme. It has total freedom of imagination without restrictions. It is a spontaneous outpouring of individual creativity. The Torah is the translation of the higher poetry into measure and beat, into conventions and rules. Torah is the poetry of emunah in its practical rhythm. “There are those filled with the glory of the poetry, who are pained by the restrictions of the practical life, but they accept the yoke of the kingdom of heaven.

But there are also impatient souls “who cannot bear the measure, and they are full of rebellion. But even in this rebellion the Divine pleasantness lives, albeit in an unclear way.”

Rav Kook once wrote  "Just as there are laws in poetry, there is poetry in laws.” When one loves a poem, he does not experience the restrictions of its form. The possibility exists to live a life of mitzvot as a form of poetry.

The poetry of emunah is not to be found exclusively in Torah. It informs every aspect of human endeavor that is “Divine creativity”: “The pure understanding sees the appearance of the Divine in every improvement of life … It is all included in Divine creativity.” The realization of our humanity is included in the power of emunah— “Everything is included in her, and everything exists in her.”
The bifurcation of reality into that which is the Lord’s, and that which is Caesar’s, originates in the anti-life of Christianity which severs the material world from its foundation of holiness. This poison has also infected the body of the Jewish people. For there are those amongst us who in their zealousness to fight evil believe we must suppress science, arts, and political activity because they are not part of the Divine aspect of the world. Hence, “They hate culture, the sciences, and statecraft, in Israel and in the world.” This is a lack of emunah.

The Jewish people excels at integrating opposing forces into a balanced whole, the power of Torah, the power of Tiferet. Therefore we must not stifle any talent, any human propensity, from developing to its fullest. It must first be allowed to exhaust the individuality buried within it. Once its full nature has been revealed and drawn out, then, and only then may the Jewish genius for integration and synthesis, including the rolling back of excessive development, be brought into play. If we impede the power of human creativity in the name of “faith” we sin against emunah.

“The enslavement of human reason and its silencing destroys the world. The holier the source of enslavement, the greater the damage.”

What are we to do? It is not enough for intellect and emunah to dwell side by side within our soul. For we must not allow emunah to settle in a corner of ourselves where our intellectual powers have not reached. Our emunah would then be weak, and not worthy of us. We must unite intellect with emunah, so that in proportion to our intellectual achievement, emunah will be raised up.
“This is true not only of the individual, but also of the nation in general, and of the whole world, in the generality of humankind.”

These are the teachings of Rav Kook in Orot Ha-emunah.

Ask the average modern orthodox person what emunah is and he will say "Belief in G-d". I once was present when a boy heard the word "emunah" and wasn't sure what it meant, so he said "Isn't that the soul" [I guess according to what I copied above he would be correct]. Ask the average charedi person and you would get the same answer. Once a person learns Rav Kook and the many other sefarim that discuss in emunah in detail and at great length, a entirely new world opens up. How sad that the most basic mitzva and the foundation of the entire Torah and all of our existence, remains with the most possible superficial [and misleading] understanding possible.

How tragic that we are not educating our children to live lives of depth and profundity. A person who plumbs the depths of spiritual concepts and internalizes them loses interest in Facebook, The New York Post and Mets and the other havolim of this world. In the charedi system, students achieve a sophisticated understanding and approach to the laws of a cow that gores an ox but when it comes to the bread and butter of his basic existence, he is mostly in the dark. One can only appreciate the darkness after he has seen light. In the modern orthodox system the student is generally in the dark about the cow and the ox as well, more busy with hockey and coed activities.

Am I wrong?? Is anybody going to try and change this reality?

Sunday, December 28, 2014

New Article on Parshas Vayechi

An extensive discussion here of Malchus Yisrael including the Chashmonaim. Breathtaking...:-)


Shalloom sweeetest friendds!!:-)

I wanted to take this opportunity to wish mazel tov to a few beloved friends who had smachos - and their simcha is my simcha and all of Klal Yisrael's simcha!!

Rav Yitzchak and Tova Rosenfeld on the birth of their twins Avraham and Naomi. MAZEL TOV-MAZEL TOV!!!!!! OOODLES OF NACHAS!!!!:-)

R' Zevi and Batsheva Reinetz on the birth of their daughter Emunah Tamar. They should have tremendous simcha from all of their children!

Rav and Mrs. Daniel Edelstein on the birth of their son! He should be a tzadik like his father!:-)

R' Chanan Yosef [Scott] Hoberman and Sara van Bemmelen on their wedding. The kallah, in addition to getting a GREAT chosson, also wins the "name of the year" award. May they enjoy a lifetime of bliss!

R' and Mrs. Eliezer Pollack on the birth of their 3rd boy. A hat trick!! My parents also started with three boys. I was the third. May this baby be much much better than I and give his holy parents lots of nachas:-)!

R' Yair Hillman and Shira Fox on their marriage. May they enjoy unlimited spiritual joy for many years to come.

R' Akiva Maresky and Shira Berger on their marriage. May the simcha continue for many years to come!!!

Simchas by ALL OF US !!!!:-)

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

New Article

Parshas Va-yigash - here.

As a concession to my infatuation with the sefer Minchas Chinuch, a new section has been added to plumb the depths of his Torah. Sweet.

A "myse-she-haya" section has also been added. This week - a peek into the world of souls.


Rav Hutner on Chazal being in favor of home schooling:

R. Hutner delivered a Yiddish address to a conference of educators;  The gemara (Bava Batra 21a) credits R. Yehoshua ben Gamla with saving Torah in Israel by establishing teachers for children. Before this innovation, fathers taught sons, but this ultimately left some children without a teacher.  R. Yehoshua’s enactment enabled universal education. 
Many utilize the example of R. Yehoshua to show the progressive nature of the Jewish community. Long before other cultures, we pushed for universal education. R. Hutner, however, contends that R. Yehoshua ben Gamla’s decree reflects a necessary evil and a deviation from the original norm in which parents instructed children.  Receiving Torah resembles receiving life and nourishment; ideally, one receives these things from a parent. R. Hutner compares R. Yehsohua ben Gamla’s enactment to a law that all fetuses should receive their nourishment from an incubator. Surely we would see something wrong in such a law!
From this perspective, the professionalization of education brings about certain dangers.  Perhaps some educators will simply fulfill their function and earn a living rather than bring life to their students.  Recalling this idea helps educators do their job.  Those who remember their historical role as a substitute for parental teachers will not fall into the trap of adopting a purely professional role. 

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Becoming A Nation

What is a Jew? A "Goy plus"? Or something completely different?

All of our time in Mitzrayim in a new light. Scintillating!!:-)

אַל תִּירָא מֵרְדָה מִצְרַיְמָה [מו ג].

"צורתם של ישראל צריכה להתברר, אם האנושיות הכללית של תוכן האדם עומדת היא בה בצביונה כמו שהיא אצל כל העמים, ועליה נבנתה הצורה הישראלית המייחדת אותה, או שמעקב עד ראש הכל הוא מיוחד. לבירור זה צריכים להשתמש במקורות שונים: תורניים, שכליים, הסתוריים, רזיים, הופעיים, שיריים, ולפעמים ג"כ פוליטיים ואקונומיים. נראה הדבר שמקודם נערך הדבר שצורת האדם תשתלם בכללותה, ובתור תוספת ויתרון יגלה על האומה המיוחדת רוחה המפואר בהדרת קודש. אבל נתקלקלו העניינים ורוח האדם שקע כ"כ בכלל, עד שלא היה החול יכול להיעשות בסיס לקודש אלא א"כ יקלקל אותו, והוכרחה גלות מצרים לבא בתור כור הברזל, שצירפה את צד האדם שבישראל, עד שנעשה לבריה חדשה, וצורתו החולית נטשטשה לגמרי. והוחל גוי פעם אחת ע"י הגרעין האנושי לצורה שמראש ועד עקב כולה ישראלית, יעקב וישראל"
[מרן הראי"ה, 'שמונה קבצים', קובץ א פסקה תשיא].

Did The Greeks Really Contaminate All Of The Oil?

The gemara says that the Greeks defiled ALL of the oil in the heichal [beis hamikdash]. So how does the gemara turn around and say that they found a vial of pure oil when it JUST SAID that they defiled ALL of the oil?

I have read this gemara about 10,000 times and never thought of that question.

But the Sfas Emes did [5633]!

2 answers.

1] Maybe they found the pure oil buried underground, so it was not in the heichal.

2] Hashem created a new miraculous oil after the Greeks defiled everything. This would also answer the question, why 8 days when the miracle was really only seven days [because they found enough for the first day, it was the last seven that were miraculous]? But now we understand that the vial that they found was a miraculous vial of oil.

זאת חנוכה

The eighth day of chanukah is called וזאת חנוכה based on the words we read in the Torah. But there is more. The Greeks didn't get to the pure vial of oil that had the seal of the kohen gadol. The kohen gadol goes into the holy of holies בזאת יבוא אהרן אל הקודש. AH! There is the זאת again. Chazal say that בזאת "with this" is referring to the BRIS MILAH. In the merit of bris milah Aharon entered the holy of holies. The bris is performed on the ... 8th day!

Seven is nature. There are six directions in the physical world: Up, down, north, south, east and west. The internal point of our physical reality is the seventh dimension. That is Shabbos and Shmitta - the seven that gives nature its existence.

Eight? Eight transcends nature. In the merit of bris milah, called "os bris kodesh", Aharon entered the holy of holies. The Greeks were able to defile all seven dimensions of nature. But the eighth, that level of kohen gadol, of the holy of holies, of bris milah, the Greeks couldn't touch.

This generation has suffered an assault on the kedushas ha-bris. The billboards, television, movies, internet etc. etc. puts us all in a very precarious situation. It has been said that one stroll down a New York City street poses more challenges to a Jew than he had in 70 years of life in a Polish shtetl.

What should we do? This זאת חנוכה we should try to merit our own entry into the holy of holies by guarding the bris.

So guys - keep your heads in Torah, chesed, tefilla, family and parnasa. Be too busy for your yetzer hara. When we go on vacation the yetzer goes to work.

Ladies - You probably just want to look good and have no evil intentions to entrap unsuspecting men in sin [if you read this blog... Not every woman is such a tzadekes]. But due to chemicals Hashem put in the male body in order to ensure the propogation of the species, when a guy sees you he is liable to lose ALL of the spirituality he might have acquired. The midda is called "yesod" which means foundation. If there is no foundation there is no building. By focusing on your internal world you help others focus on there own.

That makes the world a more spiritual place filled with light. When then Kohen exited the holy of holies his face was shining.

[Based in part on the Maharal]

Yaacov And Christopher

The Cohen family was on very good terms with their Roman Catholic
neighbors, the O'Briens. In fact, little Yaakov Cohen and Christopher
O'Brien from next door would play together from time to time. Or at
least they used to.

Well, one late December's day, Duncan O'Brien came storming in to the
Cohen's house holding poor Yaakov by the ear. "Your son is not going
near my Chris again; he just has no respect for us and our religion!"

"What's the matter; what did he do?" inquired Mr. Cohen. "I'll tell
you" said Duncan "he saw our Christmas tree and started making fun."

"Really, what did he say?" continued Mr. Cohen.

Duncan said, "He saw our tree and started asking all sorts of
ridiculous questions - which kinds of pine trees can be used for a
Christmas tree? What's the minimum required height? How close to the
window does it need to be? Do too many decorations render it unfit?
What if it's under a neighbor's balcony?!"

Monday, December 22, 2014

New Article

Here including הערות from the Rebbe Shlita!

Friday, December 19, 2014

New Articles

Mikeitz here.

Chanukah here.

מצר המנבח here.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Good Excuse

"Two wrongs don't make a right, but they make a good excuse."

Speaking The Language

From my archives:-)
In parshas Mikeitz we read that the Sar Hamashkim came before Paroh who was befuddled by his dreams and offered relief. When he was in jail, Yosef proved very helpful with dreams.ושם איתנו נער עברי עבד "And there was there with us a young man, a Hebrew, servant .....; and we told him, and he interpreted to us our dreams; to each man according to his dream he did interpret."  
Rashi explains that his intentions were really to "shtuch" Yosef and besmirch his name. When he said "a young man" he meant that he is foolish. When he said "a Hebrew" he meant that he doesn't even speak Egyptian. When he said "a servant" he meant that there is no way that he will ever become king because servants may not rise to a position of royalty.  
A number of questions:
1] If the Sar Hamashkim was trying to impress Paroh with his ability to help him and find a dream solver, why was the deeper meaning of his words that Yosef is really worthless? It was the opposite of his intentions. He was trying to convince Paroh that this person can help him and yet all of his words were a double entendre. The undercurrent was that Yosef doesn't know what he is talking about. Weird....
2] The Sar Hamashkim said that there is no chance that Yosef can become king because he is a slave. What put in his brain that Paroh would want to appoint him king. Did he have ruach hakodesh?? Do birds read Shakespeare??
3] He said that Yosef doesn't speak Egyptian. For goodness sakes - Yosef obviously spoke to the Sar Hamashkim and Sar Ha-ofim when he interpreted their respective dreams. What language did he speak to them in  - Yiddish?? Of course he spoke to them in their native Egyptian tongue so what sort of bubbe-myses was he telling Paroh?? Yosef was appointed the head over the house of the Sar Hatabachim - the chief butcher. He was involved in buying and selling food so of course he spoke Egyptian. This was a poor, easy to uncover falsehood. He could not have been that stupid... [Although one should never underestimate the dimensions of human stupidity - עפ"י איינשטיין]
The approach of the Rebbe Shlita:
Many foreigners know English from a dictionary or from a course they took. They can translate all of the words they hear. But you can always tell that they are foreigners because they don't understand the nuances of the language. It is quite entertaining to hear someone speak a language you know as a native and he only knows as a foreigner. A group of kids from camp Sdei Chemed once went into a fast food place in Israel and one of the kids demanded a "kelev cham". Now in English, that is the right way of saying it. "Hot dog". But in Hebrew they don't say that. Somebody was once trying to describe what a good head his son has. He said "Ha-rosh shel haben sheli - ain zman" - My son's head - there is no time. What did he mean?? In Modern Hebrew there is an expression used when something is really awesome: "חבל על הזמן" meaning, literally "it's a waste of time". This person misused the expression and said "ain zman" which in Modern Hebrew implies "there is no time...." To really master a language is to know the slang, the context of word usage etc. etc.
Yosef knew Egyptian - but as a foreigner. He didn't WANT to master the language because a language carries with it an entire cultural milieu. A language is, very subtly, a philosophy, an attitude, a perspective on life [this is a very deep topic expounded upon by masters of the psyche]. If you fully integrate into a society and adopt their form of speech, there is already a degree of cultural assimilation, whether we are aware or not. [This explains the insistence many have until this day to speak Yiddish. Hence born and bred Americans who have never been on foreign soil who speak English as if the just arrived for the first time yesterday. I once asked someone in Williamsburg for directions and he painfully tried to tell me in Engish where to go. "Ahhhh-yaaahh - Eden Peles? Yaaawww. Take a shaaarrrrp rrrriiiight [hard "r"], den go like dis [moving his body] den der, der is ahh bildin' daht is next to vere you is goin'. Eden Peles, yaaawwwww?" "Yaaawww":-)] Yosef wanted to have NONE of that. He learned Egyptian because he had to get by, but he didn't want to culturally assimilate. He didn't want to speak colloquial Egyptian.
The pasuk says in Tehillim in reference to Yosef in Mitzraim שפת לא ידעתי אשמע The language that he knew [אשמע] he didn't  want to know properly [שפת לא ידעתי]
That is what the Sar Hamashkim meant when he said that he doesn't speak the language. And since Yosef doesn't speak Egyptian properly and the Paroh dreams in Egyptian, Yosef won't FULLY understand the meaning of the dreams. He added that Yosef can't be a king, telling the king that since a king dreams in the context of a king's frame of reference, there is no way that Yosef will fully comprehend the meaning of the dreams.
What was he trying to accomplish? He knew that Yosef can interpret dreams well, but since there are things he can't fully grasp, Paroh would appoint him [i.e. the Sar Hamishkim] as a top aide. It was all about elevating his own personal status. Yosef was just a puppet in his eyes to be used in order to catapult himself to power. His job was to serve wine so he was the master of knowing people's secrets [when the wine comes in -  the secrets come tumbling out] and he felt that he could really be a great asset in Paroh's court.  
Rashi writes "ארורים הרשעים שאין טובתן שלימה" Cursed are the evil ones for they can't even properly do a good deed, even when on the surface it seems like they are. He didn't have the ayin tova to just tell Paroh what a great dream interpreter Yosef was. He had to imply that he really "doesn't get it".
The message is, of course, that Yosef didn't want to assimilate.
That of course is the message of Chanukah all well. Rashi in Daniel says in the name of Josephus that anyone called by a Jewish name in the time of the Greeks was killed. [The Rebbe Shlita once received a kvittel - "Steve ben Helen"]
Only in the galus of yavan do we find a concept called "misyavnim" - Jews who were "Greecified" while we don't find that in the galus of Persia [for example] there were מתפרסים - wanna be Persians [See Pachad Yitzchak מאמר ה].
Rav Kook ztz"l in his Mishpat Kohen writes that a seven armed candelabra was a Greek symbol and that is why we celebrate 8 days of chanuka - so that our menorah won't have seven arms [even though the miracle was only seven days because they had enough oil for the first day and the miracle was that it remained burning an extra seven].
The Bnei Yisaschar writes that ראש השנה is the same gematria as מתתיהו [the Kohen Gadol of the Chashmonaim]. This can be explained by the Shem Mi-shmuel [Rosh Hashana page 45] who says [based on the gemara] that on Rosh Hashana we are judged by how much we are separate from the gentiles. That of course is the lesson of Chanuka - to be different and not to assimilate.
Yosef withstood the test. He came before Paroh and said "בלעדי אלהים יענה את שלום פרעה" -  It is not me - only Hashem can answer Paroh. He spoke like a Jew. In fact, our Rabbis teach us that he was freed from jail on Rosh Hashana. This is the day when we must prove our Jewishness. It is interesting that in Kabbala sfarim [such as Bat Ayin] it says that on  Chanuka our judgement for the previous year is sealed. For on Chanukah, the question of whether we are Jews or Hellenists [or Americanists] is decided and that is how the judgement also started on Rosh Hashana. [See also the Sfas Emes Mikeitz תרמ"ד]
May we all have an uplifting shabbos filled with light and true Jewish joy:-):-)
[Based on a shiur by the Tolna Rebbe Shlita on the second night of Chanuka תשעד.}

Video You Shouldn't Miss

Chanuka is a good time to hear about chinuch.... here.

Hearing Vs. Seeing

by Rabbi Mordechai Greenberg, Rosh Yeshiva, Kerem B'Yavne - Shabbat Bi-shabato

"And Yosef said to Pharaoh, G-d told Pharaoh what He is doing... G-d showed Pharaoh what He is doing" [Bereishit 41:25,28]. Rashi comments: "In the seven good years G-d told Pharaoh, because He was close by. And in the seven bad years He showed Pharaoh, because He was very far away and the correct verb is to show." Rashi is teaching us that for a simple and nearby thing talk is sufficient but for a faraway and exalted object hearing is not enough, and it is necessary to see.
On Purim the miracle of salvation was plain for all to see. Haman wanted "to destroy, to kill, and to eradicate" [Esther 3:13]. But things "were turned around" [9:1], and the Jews were saved from death and allowed to live. The miracle was clear and definite, and therefore reading out loud is enough. The mitzva of the day is to read the Megillah, while most of the people listen attentively and pay close attention. On Chanukah, the mitzva involves looking – "We do not have permission to use the lamps, only to look at them" [prayer after lighting the Menorah]. "One who sees a Chanukah lamp must recite a blessing" [Succah 44a].
The struggle between Yisrael and Greece was not for the bodies of the Jews but for their spirit. Rav Kook wrote, "The root of the miracle of Chanukah was meant to show the unique merits of the Holy Spirit which exists within Yisrael, and the fact that this is the basis for the physical existence but does not depend on it." And that is why the miracle occurred with the oil and not with the Menorah [which was defiled], and why the people at the time used a Menorah made of iron. In material things it is possible at a time of dire need to "make do" with a modest fulfillment of the goals. This is not true for the oil, the spirit, which must be at its best possible state.
To understand this principle is not an easy task. Why don't people in general base their lives on the spirit? "Only an erroneous illusion views exalted nobility in a desolate way and sees all the agitation of life as being settled and built-up, but this is one of the most comtempt falsehoods in the world." [Orot Hakodesh, volume 2, 310]. The physical world appears to us to be stable and more massive than the spiritual and abstract world. It is therefore necessary to expend a lot of energy to convince us that the spiritual world is the essence of existence.
What the Greeks saw as most important was a culture of materialism, the external view, and the human body. Therefore, they said, "Write on the horn of an ox, 'We have no part in the G-d of Yisrael" [Bereishit Rabba 4]. The ox is a symbol of Yosef – "Glory will come to the firstborn of his ox" [Devarim 33:17]. Yosef represents the external side of things. He knows seventy languages, he masters the economy, he curls his hair. Greece wanted everybody to be just like him. They wanted the people to follow the path of Yosef, basing their lives on the material and not the spiritual. The victory of Yisrael over Greece is a victory of light over darkness, of the spirit over the material. To extol this event by telling and listening is not enough, it is necessary to incorporate the sense of sight. And therefore the mitzva of the holiday is to light the lamps and look at them.
This concept appears in the Haftarah that is read for Chanukah. The prophet wants to strengthen the recognition that "not by the military or by strength but only through My spirit, that is what G-d says" [Zecharia 4:6]. In order to do this, it is necessary to show a vision of the Menorah, and it would not have been enough to tell the prophet about it. He must be able to say, "I saw a Menorah of pure gold... And He said to me, What do you see?" [4:2]. Since the matter is "far away and exalted," just hearing about the events is not enough.

The Barking Foe - חשד And כבתה

Regarding the previous two posts, I received a communication from Rabbi David Silverberg that ....

A] The צר המנבח can be the yetzer hara [Rav Shlomo Fischer Shlita] or Amalek [many others - sources are marshaled for both assertions]. After they are discarded אז אגמור בשיר מזמור חנוכת המזבח - the third beis hamikdash will be rebuilt.

B]   The Sha'arei Teshuva (673:12) cites a ruling from the Shevut Yaakov (3:48) whereby this halakha has application even in cases of a house with but a single entranceway.  The Shulchan Arukh (O.C. 673:2) rules that if one's Chanukah candles were extinguished before they had burned for the minimum required duration, one is not required to rekindle them (provided that they had initially been lit with enough oil or wax to burn for the minimum duration).  The Shevut Yaakov claims that while one need not rekindle the candles in such a case, he must leave the candles near the entranceway until the minimum required period has passed, so as to avoid suspicion.  In his view, just as the Sages required lighting candles in all entranceways to avoid suspicion, so did they require leaving the remnants of one's candles after they have been extinguished, lest pedestrians mistakenly conclude that the individual has neglected the mitzva.

Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (as cited in Halikhot Shelomo) disputed this ruling of the Shevut Yaakov.  He understood this requirement to light at a second entranceway as applying only at the time of lighting itself.  The obligation of Chanukah candles requires pirsumei nisa, publicizing the miracle, and for this reason one must light in a manner that achieves the greatest publicity and avoids any possible impression that candles were not kindled.  Chazal required lighting in the second entrance as part of the obligation of pirsumei nisa, which applies only at the time of lighting, and not thereafter.  Hence, one is not bound by this halakha once he had already lit the candles, even if they were prematurely extinguished.

Rav Shlomo Zalman suggesting applying this theory concerning the requirement to light by the second entrance to resolve a difficulty raised by the Beit Yosef (O.C. 671:8).  The Gemara in Masekhet Berakhot (8a, 61b) establishes that one should not pass in front of an entrance to a synagogue during services without stepping inside, as this gives the appearance of disinterest in participating in the service.  If, however, the synagogue has several entrances, one may pass by an entrance, as people will grant him the benefit of the doubt and assume that he will be entering through a different entrance.  Why, the Beit Yosef asks, do we not apply the same rationale in the context of Chanukah candles?  Why do we not trust that people will assume the individual has lit Chanukah candles by the second entrance?

Apparently, the halakha concerning Chanukah candles differs because of the interest in achieving maximum pirsumei nisa.  Even though most people would give the benefit of the doubt, as we assume in the case of walking past a synagogue, the prospect of some pedestrians entertaining fleeting suspicions regarding the individual's candle lighting suffices to mandate lighting in the second entrance.  Since this requirement stems from the strict demands of pirsumei nisa, we are more rigorous in insisting upon avoiding misperceptions than in other similar contexts, such as passing by a synagogue during prayers.

Yes חשד Or No חשד?

The gemara says that if one has two entrances to his courtyard, he must light in both of them for if he lights in only one entrance, people who pass by the second entrance will [mistakenly] suspect him of not lighting. In order to prevent חשד - suspicion, we require him to light in both places. So we see that we are concerned with חשד - [mistaken] suspicion.

Why then is the halacha that כבתה אין זקוק לה - If the candles extinguish, he is not required to rekindle. Why not? What about the חשד of people who see an unlit menora?? 

Who Is Our Barking Foe??

In "Maoz Tzur" we say לעת תכין מטבח מצר המנבח - When You will have prepared the slaughter
for the barking foe.


מצר המנבח - כלומר "כלב". ראה דברי החיד"א ז"ל עה"פ [במדבר לב מב] "ויקרא לה נבח בשמו" שהמדבר לשון הרע מתגלגל בכלב. ואפשר לפרש כוונת הזמר כאן על פי המדרש ויקרא רבה סוף פל"ג ומובא ברש"י [קהלת ח, ב] על מאמר חנניה מישאל ועזריה לנבוכדנצר [דניאל ג טז] ואמרין למלכא נבוכדנצר, שאמרו לו, את מלכא עלינו במסים וארנוניות אבל על זה שאתה אומר לנו לעבוד עבודה זרה את נבוכדנצר את וכלבא שווין. ואיתא שם שמיד נבח נבוכדנצר ככלב עיין שם
ספר ברכת אברהם על חנוכה
So the "barking foe" is Nevuchadnezzar who was called a "dog" by Chananya Mishael and Azarya...

Monday, December 15, 2014


Rav Tzvi Moshe on Chanuka here.

Rav Shmulie's drasha for his son's bris, here. MAZELLL TOOOOVVV:-).

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Good Vocabulary

90 year old Saul Epstein was taking an oral exam in his English as a Second Language course. He was asked to spell "cultivate," and he spelled it correctly. He was then asked to use the word in a sentence, and, with a big smile, responded:
"Last vinter on a very cold day, I vas vaiting for a bus, but it vas too cultivate, so I took the subvay home."

The Wrong Man For The Job

Two men, Chaim and Yankel, applied for a job. Both applicants having the same qualifications were asked to take a test by the department manager.
Upon completion of the exam both men only missed one of the questions. The manager went to Yankel and said, "Thank you for your interest, but we've decided to give Chaim the job."
Yankel replied, "Why? We both correctly answered nine questions. I believe I should get this job especially because I have been out of work for much longer than Chaim."
The manager said, "We made our decision not on the correct answers, but on the question you missed."
"How could one incorrect answer be better than the other?" asked Yankel.
"Simple," said the manager. "Chaim put down on question #5, 'I don't know,' and you put down, 'Neither do I.'"

Things People Say

1] "I couldn't make it."

Oh yes you could. You CHOSE not to make it for any of a number of reasons. Funny how nobody ever misses their own wedding or their child's wedding. We all have priorities and choose what is more or less important.

2] "I have no time."

You have PLENTY of time. 24 hours a day, just like everybody else. We all choose how to spend our time and act according to our choice. Nobody is forcing us to do anything [unless you are reading this from jail or are a slave in an Arab or African country].

3] "I am too busy, so I can't."

No you are not. You choose with what to be busy. [This is a variation of number 2]. Some people are too busy working so they have no time to learn. Some people are too busy learning so they have no time to work. Some people are too busy outside of the house so they have little time for their families. Other people are the exact opposite. Some people never return phone calls while others always return phone calls. The former values other people's needs less while the latter values other people's feeling more [this often but not always the case]. Most of us choose to return phone calls to certain people while for others we are too busy. No?

We all choose what and whom is important or less important for us.

4] "I forgot."

You don't forget to get dressed in the morning. You don't forget to turn the key in the ignition before you drive. We forget what we want to forgot. NOBODY [except Alzheimer patients or old people] forgets what is really important to them. When a student would say "Rabbi, I forgot about the shiur/chavrusa etc.", I had a different perspective. You WANTED on some level to forget. I keep forgetting to make a dentist appointment which costs me money I don't really have and pain I don't want to experience but I never forget to eat breakfast or put on my glasses. I enjoy eating and seeing so I don't forget:-).

5] "We'll be in touch."

One hears that a lot but it really is often a polite way of saying "goodbye". Most people are "too busy" to keep in touch unless they have a special reason to do so or are bored. Fact.

6] "Nice to meet you."

I have heard that many times but I often get the sense that people don't really mean it and it's just a polite way of saying hello upon being introduced to a new person. You can often see it in their tone of voice, body language or facial expression [most communication is non-verbal].

7] "Hi, how are you?"

People say this as they walk by and don't wait for an answer. If they get an honest answer they will have regretted asking in the first place. So the persons job is to smile and say "great, how are you?" If they are more frum "Baruch Hashem, how are you?" An answer exceeding the two word limit is not acceptable ["Baruch Hashem", "Great" etc.]

8] "I have to run."

No you "choose" to run but it wouldn't be polite to say "I am bored with this conversation and have far more important things to do." 

9] [To a fundraiser] "I can't right now."

Generally, the person can. Really. If something is important enough then we find the money. He can skip the Ranger game and give the hundred and fifty dollar ticket value to this asker. He can write a post dated check based on next month's pay check. He can give at least something small. And sometimes he has hundreds of thousands or more in the bank and just doesn't want to part with even a fraction of it unless he has to....

10] "I hate the scene."

So why are you always part of it?

11] "It's fine"

Nothing could be less fine.

12] "I'm OK".

You are really not.

13] "I just saw this email".

Strange. When the email is important to you - you literally answer within five seconds because you have a blackberry or iphone like eveyone else. But when it is not - two weeks later you say "I just saw this". Odd:-).

14] Add your own examples.

SWEETEST FRIENDS!!! The goal of this post is NOT to find fault with other people. Many will say that my words are unduly harsh. I agree. They are:-). I used this format and language to bring home a point, which is this: Being polite is important but it can hurt others when people say things that they don't really mean. It would be an almost edenic world where you could feel that every individual you meet has your best interests in mind no less than his or her own [as per the famous biblical precept of "Love thy neighbor"]. Often the feeling one gets is that it is a dog-eat-dog world where people are watching out for themselves and those they care about and everybody else is just here if some personal benefit can be extracted from them.

There are Baruch Hashem many, many wonderful emes-dike baalei chesed out there. Our job is to try to "emes-ize" and "chesed-ize" ouselves to the point that we habitually ask people how they are and REALLY CARE to listen what the answer is without playing with our phones in the middle, because who knows - maybe someone more important will call or email.

I hope the message is clear and that the device and langauge I used were appropriate and beneficial.

The bottom line is that Torah is mamesh the SWEETEST.      

Light To Eject The Darkness

As has been noted by many people - the Internet, even those sites run by "Orthodox" people, poses numerous halachic and hashkafic problems. One glaring issue is the amount of lashon hara, which is compared by chazal to murder [among other 'delightful' deeds]. Bloggers LOVE to harp on the latest scandals and to analyze and re-analyze, until the next exciting juicy scandal arises...

There is quite a bit of hatred as well. A person who identifies with Chabad might hate non-chabad while a non-chabadnik will revel in debasing the Rebbe ztz"l and his followers. A "modern orthodox" identifying Jew will hate the more charedi type, who in his mind is close-minded, anti-intellectual, fundamentalist fanatic who just can't see the Light of reason. He just follows his rabbis without thinking for himself. The charedi will sometimes view the more modern Jew as a "neo-goy" with a yarmulke on his head. Soooooo much sinah and condescension.

There is also the issue of מראות אסורות. It is forbidden for a male to look for even a second at a woman who is not dressed in accordance with the laws of modesty and the Internet has forbidden images wherever you go [except I assume at the site of the neturei karta but I would avoid that for other reasons...]. It is not a simple matter. Many people are desensitized but even after a person decides that it is OK and "it doesn't affect him", it remains forbidden according to halacha.

Another problem is heresy. Sooo much apikorsus and many people aren't equipped to deal with it. The apikorsim are often angry ex-frum people with a chip on their shoulder, nebuch-nebuch. Sometimes they still identify as orthodox but are really not religious according to halacha. The wine they touch is forbidden to drink and they have all the halachos of non-religious Jew, but unlike the non-religious Jew they have no excuse of תינוק שנשבה.

A different issue is ignorance. So much written out of ignorance and innocent people swallow it up. "But he is a rabbi so he must know!" A piece of paper that says that one has smicha is no guarantee against ignorance. It just means that he passed a test on a very very small part of shulchan aruch.

I have sources and quotes for everything I wrote but I will suffice with the general idea without getting into specifics. Halevai that all people should be true mevakshei Hashem and only use the meduim of the Internet to spread light, joy, depth, intense spirituality and not darkness.

I try hard to build an oasis of kedusha admist the mabul of its opposite. I can't say whether I am successful and will leave that up to Hashem to decide but I try my best.

On the topic of heresy and ignorance I would like to touch upon something an orthodox-identified writer presented to his readership. I won't repeat what he said or chas vi-shalom use his name because it is not about him but about the idea/s he spreads. Here is a brief response.

There are two parts to Torah. There is the "revealed Torah", Toras Ha-nigleh, and there is the hidden Torah, called Toras Ha-nistar or Kabala. Both are integral parts of the Torah. There is a great deal of discussion regarding who is worthy of studying the hidden Torah which appears in maseches chagiga and many many other sources since then but it is part and parcel of our tradition according to ALL opinions. Saying "I am a rationalist" doesn't give one a heter to deny the importance of studying Toras Ha-nistar. The Rambam was a "rationalist" and talks about Torah Ha-nistar quite a bit [see Yesodei HaTorah].

In our days we were zoche to the light of the Baal Shem Tov. What he and his followers did was bring the light of kabbala down to earth so that even the masses can touch and appreciate it. A person who learns a chasidishe sefer is not instantly transformed into a mekubal but he or she does become more spiritual and more connected to places beyond the confines of our material world. There is no chasidish sefer that doesn't touch upon Toras Ha-nistar. Some mussar sfarim do as well. The mekubalim teach that mesilas yesharim, written by the great mekubal Rav Moshe Chaim Luzzato, appears on the surface to be a simple sefer for the masses but it really envelops the deepest kabbalistic concepts and puts them into simple language. What ben or bas Torah hasn't ever learned mesilas yesharim? Rav Yerucham Levovitz, the famed mashgiach of the bastion of "rationality" and "cold intellect", the Mir Yeshiva, gave talks that were filled with kabala as we see from his sfarim which record those talks. Ditto Rav Yosef Leib Bloch, the Telzer Rosh Yeshiva and Rav Hunter, a talmid of Slabodka and later Rosh Yeshivas Mesivta D'rabbeinu Chaim Berlin. Rav Dessler was giving talks in deep kabala in Ponivitch - another bastion of mussar and intellect. Even the father of Modern Orthodoxy, the towering Rav Y.D. Soloveitchik, often used kabala sources in his drashos [and see here].

The Zohar says that before moshaich comes, there has to be a reawakening of kabala study. Rav Kook in his Oros Hakodesh talks at great length about the necessity of studying kabala - it is required reading to see what Maran said in his "Holy Lights".

Here is a passage from a letter he wrote and another from his Oros HaTorah:
כל מי שהוא מוכשר לעסוק בפנימיות רזי תורה הוא מתמלא יותר מאור החסד של תורת חסד ועליו החובה לעסוק בתיקון נפולים ובקירוב רחוקים. אורות התורה י טו - אנו רואים שכשמביטים על העולם לשפטו מצד ההשפעה של הנגלות שבתורה לבד בלא השפעתה של תורת חסד הנובעת ממקור ההשכלה האלהית הצפונה מתגדלת מאד מדת הדין שנאת הבריות ויאוש מכל צד. ואין דרך לעמוד במעמד נפשי מתובל בקדושה בדור שפרצות רבות מזדמנות בו כי אם בהצטרפות של הדיקנות העולה מהשפעתה של התורה הנגלית עם חסדה ואור פניה של התורה הצפונה שאז מתמזגים החסדים והגבורות ביחד ובאים לידי מתוק    
His words are too beautiful to translate [which would constitute "literary manslaughter" if I may coin a term] and I urge you to try to understand the original.

The call of the day is to learn not only halacha and gemara but deeper, hidden wisdom as well. It could be Maharal, Sfas Emes, Shem Mi-shmuel, Michtav Me-eliyahu, Nesivos Shalom or any sefer that brings the light of Toras Ha-nistar to the world and your soul will soar.

Chanuka, the holiday of Light, is the BEST time to start:-).

לזכות שמואל אלכסנדר בן נעכא גיטל לברכה והצלחה בגשם וברוח

Friday, December 12, 2014


"Everything we see hides another thing, we always want to see what is hidden by what we see."

What Type Of "Neo" Should You Choose

I thank my beloved friend R' Noam Mishkoff for sending me this link about neo-hisnagdus.

I say as follows - אלו ואלו דברי א-להים חיים. Chasidim say on the pasuk לא תעשון כן לה' א-להיכם - Don't say כן this is the only way to serve Hashem. When you choose a spouse, you go for someone with whom you click. In the same way, when deciding your derech in Avodas Hashem, see what clicks for you, what Rebbi you click with, what type of learning works for you etc. etc.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

A Safek Tzadik

לזכות רבי משה גבריאל בן יהודית לברכה והצלחה וכל טוב סלה!

There is a mitzva to judge favorably - בצדק תשפוט עמיתך. If the person is a tzadik then he must be judged favorably even if it is a remote possibility that he is innocent. If he is a beinoni then he must be judged favorably only if it is at least 50-50 or more in his favor. If it is a far shot that he is innocent then it is correct to judge him favorably but not obligatory. If he is a rasha then there is no mitzva to judge favorably.

What is the halacha if you are in doubt as to whether he is a tzadik or beinoni and you have a case where it is a far shot that he is innocent? If he is a tzadik then you are obligated and otherwise you are not. What do you do?

Apparently, because of safek di-orasia li-chumra you should judge him favorably. On the other hand it is safe to say that MOST people are NOT tzadikim so maybe you can follow the majority and not judge him favorably. "Go after the roiv", they say in Lakewood! Nu - a dilemma...

What about an instance where you are in doubt as to whether he is a Jew or a goy. Again - the majority of people aren't Jewish so maybe you can follow the majority and there would be no obligation. But this is only if you saw him on the street where he is considered פרוש and the rule is כל דפריש מרובו פריש [when something separates you assume that it separated from the majority] while if you see him at home he is קבוע and we know that כל קבוע כמחצה על מחצה דמי [any doubt that arises in it's permanent place is considered an equal 50-50 proposition. Why? Maybe for another time:-)].

What do you think?

[Rav Avraham Genechovski ztz"l]

Watching TV

This is a very amusing audio clip. How often does it happen that the rabbi is arguing in favor of owning and watching television and his students are arguing against?! Here it is from about 19:20 to 25:00.  Rav Ovadiah whom he quotes calls it a breach of tzniyus, moshav leitzim etc. etc. He feels that his opinion is as valid as Chacham Ovadiah. [His rebbi having a TV in the 1950's is not a proof:-). TV has changed quite a bit since then]. Having world class doctors who daven mincha is also not a proof that one should own a TV.

[This is not meant to be disrespectful. The speaker's daughter set me up with my wife who bore me 6 children. I have only nice things to say about him, his daughter, my wife and almost all human beings. I will let you decide whether TV is a good thing:-). I link this because it is novel and raises an important point. I am sure many of my readers own TV's and we remain friends].

Judge The Person

A boy once came to the Chazon Ish and asked if it is proper for him to pursue a shidduch with a girl who went to a more "modern" school [this was in 1952 and there was no local Beis Yaakov for her to attend].

The Chazon Ish answered "Are you marrying the school or the girl?"

This works two ways. Just because a boy or girl goes to a good school doesn't mean that they are so terrific themselves. The Mir has good guys and the Mir has more "bummy" guys. Michlala produces great girls and they also produce girls of a lesser quality [not that I have ever met one but that is the reality...:-)]. Judge a person more for who they are. The school they attended is just one small piece of the puzzle.

I know a chasidish guy [hat, beard, gartel, the works] who in his innocent youth attended Camp Lavi. He wouldn't go back there but he feels that it didn't affect him too terribly in the long run....

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Fixing What Is Wrong - Stay For My Birthday

From my archives....

In this weeks parsha we read at the beginning: "Yosef was pasturing the sheep with his brothers and he was a youth with Bilhah's sons and Zilpah's sons, his fathers wives."
Rashi explains that the words והוא נער "he was a youth" mean that he was acting like a youth. He would beautify his eyes and his hair.
First of all - Is that what we are supposed to know about Yosef Hatzadik? That he was vain and would spend time prettying himself up??? He is the one called in Kabala "Tzadik yesod olam" - His righteousness made him the foundation of the world.
Second question - How do the words והוא נער  connect to the rest of the pasuk - "with Bilhah's sons and Zilpah's sons, his fathers wives"?
Before Yaakov died he also mentioned the eyes and hair of Yosef. בן פורת עלי עין - he is above the evil eye. ולקדקד נזיר אחיו - He was a Nazir who grows his hair long. Here Yosef was complimented with his eyes and hair. Earlier on it seemed not to be complimentary - it is not fitting that a tzaddik should be overly concerned with his physical beauty. What is going ON here?
The Sfas Emes explains that it is foolish to understand this Rashi simply. There must be more. We will follow that line of thought...
The explanation is as follows. There are two paths in serving Hashem. One] To first focus on fixing the evil and then doing what is good סור מרע ועשה טוב  Two] To first focus focus on doing what is good and automatically the bad will fall away.
Yosef felt that the first way was the right way. The Chiddushei HaRim explains that the hair is called מוסרות הגוף they represent "handles of physicality". Yosef was busy fixing his physicality. First he fixed what is not pure and then he focused on what is pure. When he was born he was called Yosef for two reasons. אסף השם את חרפתי - Hashem gathered in my disgrace. That is removing oneself from evil. The other reason is יוסף השם לי בן אחר - Hashem should add on another son. That is adding good and pure.
Yosef felt that Yaakov should first bless his older son Menashe who represents removing the evil as the pasuk says נשני אלקים את כל עמלי - Hashem helped me forget the toil of my father's house. Only then should he bless Ephraim who represents doing good כי הפרני אלקים - Hashem made me fruitful.
The Zohar says that Rochel and Leah were completely righteous. Bilha and Zilpa were Baalos Teshuva. The children of Rochel and Leah focused on the good because they were complete tzadikim. Yosef connected to the children of Bilha and Zilpa because their avoda was to first fix the bad. That is what the pasuk means when it tells us והוא נער את בני בלהה ואת בני זלפה he was a lad fixing the physicality together with the children of Bilha and Zilpa whose avoda was to fix the bad.  
At the end of Yaakov's life he blessed Yosef that he had fixed eyes בן פורת עלי עין - good holy eyes. He also fixed the hair and everything attached to the body and became a nazir. That is why later in the parsha when Yosef was in jail  Rashi says [39/6]  that Yosef was מסלסל בשערו. That means to elevate the hair. The Zohar says that one should take his payos out from behind his ears and Hashem will hear his prayers. That is elevating the hair. [Rashi also says that he was a ruler and ate and drank. He felt that he had ruled over his yetzer hara and could elevate all of the physicality]. First he fixed the evil and then he could focus on the good.
There is an argument how to light chanuka candles. Beis Hillel says in ascending order. First day  1 candle, second day two candles, then 345678. Beis Shammai says to light in descending order, first day 8 candles, then 7, then 654321. According to Beis Hillel we focus on doing good, adding light and the darkness will fade away. Beis Shamai says to start with 8 to burn away the evil. Then seven to burn away the remaining evil. We rule like Beis Hillel meaning that one must focus on the good and the evil will fall away. חנוכה - ח' נרות והלכה כבית 
It is the 19th of Kislev, a Lubavitch holiday. A myse: There was once a Jew who was in Crown Heights exploring Yiddishkeit. He decided he couldn't stay because the chasidim didn't respect Yoshke and he was a great admirer of Yoshke [!]. He was convinced by Rav Yoel Kahn to see the Rebbe before he leaves. He went to the Rebbe and explained that he couldn't stay because in Crown Heights they don't respect his hero....
The Rebbe answered "But how can you leave? It's my birthday soon and everyone is going to be celebrating! Please stay for my birthday party".
He stayed.
His children and grandchildren are shluchim..... The Rebbe avoided the bad, appealed to his nicer side and we have the fruits.
Sweetest friends - let us stop criticizing our children and spouses. Focus on their good and the bad will disappear.
[Based on the Sicha of The Tolna Rebbe Shlita, this past Thursday night]
A beautiful week and freilichin chanuka!

Seeing The Needs Of Others

"We can't see the needs of others as long we are looking through the lens of our own needs."

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

African Christians And The Tefillin Wearing Reform Lady

This is a true story that took place in the 1970s. Rabbi Dr. Nahum Rabinovitch, then Principal of Jews College, the rabbinic training seminary in London where I was a student and teacher, was approached by an organisation that had been given an unusual opportunity to engage in interfaith dialogue. A group of African bishops wanted to understand more about Judaism. Would the Principal be willing to send his senior students to engage in such a dialogue, in a chateau in Switzerland?

To my surprise, he agreed. He told me that he was sceptical about Jewish-Christian dialogue in general because he believed that over the centuries the Church had been infected by an antisemitism that was very difficult to overcome. At that time, though, he felt that African Christians were different. They loved Tanakh and its stories. They were at least in principle open to understanding Judaism on its own terms. He did not add, though I knew it was in his mind since he was one of the world’s greatest experts on Maimonides, that the great twelfth century sage held an unusual attitude to dialogue.

Maimonides believed that Islam was a genuinely monotheistic faith while Christianity in those days was not. Nonetheless, he held it was permitted to study Tanakh with Christians but not Muslims, since Christians believed that Tanakh (what they called the Old Testament), was the word of God while Muslims believed that Jews had falsified the text.

So we went. It was an unusual group: the semikhah class of Jews College, together with the top class of the yeshiva in Montreux where the late Rabbi Yechiel Weinberg, author of Seridei Esh and one of the world’s foremost halakhists, had taught. For three days the Jewish group davened and bentsched with special intensity. We learned Gemara each day. For the rest of the time we had an unusual, even transformative, encounter with the African bishops, ending with a Hassidic-style tisch during which we shared with the Africans our songs and stories and they taught us theirs. At three in the morning we finished by dancing together. We knew we were different, we knew that there were deep divides between our respective faiths, but we had become friends. Perhaps that is all we should seek. Friends don’t have to agree in order to stay friends. And friendships can sometimes help heal the world.

On the morning after our arrival, however, an event occurred that left a deep impression on me. The sponsoring body, a global Jewish organisation, was a secular one, and to keep within their frame of reference the group had to include at least one non-orthodox Jew, a woman studying for the rabbinate. We, the semikhah and yeshiva students, were davenning the morning service in one of the lounges in the chateau when the Reform woman entered, wearing tallit and tefillin, and sat herself down in the middle of the group.

This is something the students had not encountered before. What were they to do? There was no mechitzah. There was no way of separating themselves. How should they react to a woman wearing tallit and tefillin and praying in the midst of a group of men? They ran up to the Rav in a state of great agitation and asked what they should do. Without a moment’s hesitation he quoted to them the saying of the sages: A person should be willing to throw himself into a furnace of fire rather than shame another person in public. With that he ordered them back to their seats, and the prayers continued.

The moral of that moment never left me. The Rav, for the past 32 years head of the yeshiva in Maaleh Adumim, was and is one of the great halakhists of our time. He knew immediately how serious were the issues at stake: men and women praying together without a mechitzah between them, and the complex question about whether women may or may not wear a tallit and tefillin. The issue was anything but simple. [R' Dr. J. Sacks]

Very touching. May I express my reservations? [Putting aside the issue of the debatable issue of whether religious Jews should engage in "an unusual, even transformative, encounter with the African bishops, ending with a Hassidic-style tisch during which we shared with the Africans our songs and stories and they taught us theirs. At three in the morning we finished by dancing together." Hassidic style including African songs and stories. Hmmmmm.]


Where do we draw the line? Let us say that she insisted on being chazan? Are we going to embarrass her and say that this is an Orthodox minyan and women don't serve as chazaniyot [how PATRIARCHAL and REGRESSIVE:-)!!]. Let us say that after davening, due to the feeling of camaraderie and brotherhood, the men started back slapping and hugging? She also wanted some hugs. Are we going to embarass her and not touch her just because she is female? What, does she have the "cooties" [an imaginary disease we made up when we were children]?

Would we also allow a woman to use the men's restroom for fear of offending her? What about a guy using the women's room. He would be thrown out on his head!

Embarassing a person is compared by Chazal to killing them but it is not REALLY killing them. We don't have a halachic principal that not embarassing someone overrides the whole Torah [as we do about murder]. We must do everything in our power not to insult someone but I really think that there are limits.

To be honest - she doesn't have a monopoly on hurt. If I were there I would be insulted that she is imposing her religious beliefs on the Orthodox group in an offensive way. I find Reform Judaism offensive. They have taken our holy Torah and distorted it, changed it and cut it down to size. I would be willing to die to uphold the Torah and they wantonly disregard the most basic laws. When they sin - it is as if I am sinning, according to my belief system. It is very hurtful when someone causes me to sin. So must we allow ourselves to be offended and not say anything in order to avoid offending others.

This is what I would have done. I would have asked her to come to a corner to speak with me. Then I would have delicately told her [Reb Linda?] that she is free to act as she wishes but since we are following Orthodox rules - we would all be much more comfortable if she would stand separately from the men [if it is not a shul no mechitza is required]. All of us are not used to davening with a woman among us. Is that OK?

I don't think that it would have caused an international incident.....

What do you think?

The Yahrtzeit Of An Irreplacable Giant

This Friday is the yahrtzeit of Maran HaRav Hutner ztz"l. He has been one of the most profound influences on my life and thought. When he left the world a void was created that has never been filled. No sefer of his genre has yet to come anywhere close to equaling his Pachad Yitzchak and the sense of loss grows as I realize this more and more. He was at once a tremendous gaon filled with yiras shomayim, ahavas Torah and an oved Hashem with "da'as". Many people serve Hashem but they often just parrot what they see and that results in many behaviors that lack "da'as" [I will not give examples for fear of offending:-)]. He was also a dedicated Rebbi who was filled with love for his talmidim. That is a common cliche, but with him, as expressed in his sefer of correspondence "Igros Uksavim", it was a living reality. One must not just love his talmidim, one must know HOW to love his talmidim. He had a special hakpada on kavod hatorah and kavod talmidei chachomim which is something else that we sorely lack today in many cases [I will again not go into detail וד"ל]. I collected some old posts with anecdotes about him that I saw on the uberdox blog. For his Torah, you are welcome to learn his sfarim and/or hear the shiurim of yours truly....

 Before shofar blowing (right before musaf) on Rosh Hashana, Rav Hutner once asked a student in the yeshiva to go check on another student who was in the dorms due to an illness. Of course the student went to check on his ill friend. After davening he returned to let the Rosh Yeshiva know about his sick classmate. As I heard it, the bochur asked Rav Hutner about the halachic problems of missing shofar on Rosh Hashana. Rav Hutner replied, "Do you think that on Rosh Hashana, Hashem sees any difference between mitzvos bein adam l'chavero and bein adam l'makom?"
As yeshiva was let out late one afternoon, several boys were standing in front of Chaim Berlin as the Rosh Yeshiva and his wife left the building and walked toward their car (which was waiting for them). One boy opened up the front door of the car for Rav Hutner and then opened up the back door for the Rebbetzin. Rav Hutner looked at the the young man, tapped his cane on the ground (for effect) and said, in perfect Oxford English, "What, pray tell, do you think you are doing?" The boy replied, "I just wanted to open the car door for the Rosh Yeshiva". Rav Hutner then said, "What makes you think that I don't want to sit with my wife? Remember this: No one or nothing ever comes between a husband and a wife".
He never forgot the private individual; he gave of his soul to others and not just his time. Once, someone asked him for a decision in a complicated personal matter, and after a long while Rav Hutner told him he still did not have an answer. He explained: "In my Chumash it says, `Love your neighbor as yourself.' This commandment requires a man to relate to a question from another as if it were his own question, and how he would behave in such a situation. True advice comes only from such empathy. You turned to me in your time of trouble, but it takes time until I can bring myself to live in your situation."

Once, an avreich came to ask advice for a cure for the despair that bothered him in his avodas Hashem. Rav Hutner explained the difference between pain and despair: "Despair is being tired of living. Become alive and automatically there will be no place for despair! You can either emphasize the recognition of despair, or arouse the vitality that comes from faith in the holiness of a Jew in any situation that might be. If you live with this foundation of faith you will become living person!"

What Songs Are Heard In Your City?

Li-rifuas Tsiporah bas Shaindel and Gittel Tovah bas Yocheved and HaRav Moshe Tzvi ben Freida Simcha bitoch shear cholei yisrael

In our mussaf-rosh-chodesh davening we say מזבח חדש בציון תכין וכו' ובשירי דוד עבדך הנשמעים בעירך האמורים לפני מזבחך - .... And the songs of Dovid that are heard in your city, said before your mizbeach.

1] "Said before your mizbeach" is referring to the songs of the Leviim. What does it mean "The songs of Dovid that are heard in your city"?

2] Why do we mention the "hearing" before the saying?

3] Why is it לשון הווה - present tense, when it refers to the future?

4] Why don't we mention this "song" on shabbos rosh chodesh and on yom tov etc.?

5] We conclude אהבת עולם תביא להם וברית אבות לבנים תזכור - Eternal love you will bring them and the covenant of the Avos remember for the children. How does saying these "songs" bring eternal love and a memory of the ברית אבות?

עי' הערות של הרב אלישיב סוכה נ"א, פחד יצחק קו' ירח האיתנים מאמר י"ג, תפארת שלמה פרשת ויחי, סידור עולת ראיה, אור שמח כלי המקדש ג, ב ספר שירת שמואל סי' ס"ד ועוד ועוד

Monday, December 8, 2014

New Articles

1] Parshas Vayeishev here.

2] The sugya of שתי בנותיך לשני בני בפרוטה - the machlokes of the tosfos and tosfos rid, the maharit and avnei miluim, the chazon ish and reb shmuel rozovsky - and more, here.

3] Assorted passages from Reb Tzadok Hakohen on dreams - here. 

שמעו ותחי נפשכם

This Erev Shabbos is Maran Harav Hutner's yahrtzeit. A collection of recordings of his shiurim here.


I apologize if you don't understand yiddish.

Elyon Al Kol Ha-aretz

Rav Moshe Tzvi Neriah zt"l [the spiritual leader of B'nei Akiva] passed away on the 19th of Kislev, 1995. I once cut out an article written by Rav Chaim Sabbato Shlita [Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivat Maale Adumim] describing his final visit with the Rav. I decided to translate it for the benefit of a wider audience.

A small note was hanging on the bulletin board in the Beis Medrash. Rav Moshe Tzvi Neriah needs Divine mercy. We immediately decided - we are traveling to Kfar Haroeh. We arrived in the afternoon and the village was very serene. Trees were seemingly taking their afternoon rest. A Moshavnik riding on a tractor pointed to his house.I recognized it from earlier visits.

The small house and garden outside. The courtyard where we sat and listened to edifying talks from Rav Neriah filled with insights and stories. We listened to his talks with great eagerness and the experience was thrilling and uplifting. This is the courtyard where thoughts were entertained that eventually brought to the building of the Religious Zionist Torah world. This time the courtyard was empty. Three simple wooden chairs were standing there and there was a notice attached to one of them on which was written: "We thank you for your visit. It is not possible to visit Abba. Please say tehillim for him as this is part of the mitzva of visiting the ill."

There were a few tehillim books there and we began to say tehillim with heavy hearts. How much we wanted to see him! The Rebbetzin came outside and gave us a drink. We made a shehakol nihiyeh bidvaro and the words took on new meaning. She answered amen and said "There is so much ink left in his pen" [he was a prolific author E.E.]. She lowered her eyes. We started to leave. His son Rav Nachum Neriah [former long time Rebbe in Yeshivat Hakotel E.E.] came outside. "Abba wants to daven mincha as soon as possible. One more tefilla in his lifetime while he still has the chance, maybe you can come into the room."

The room was completely filled with sefarim. Gemara, Halacha, Aggada, Pilpul, Mechkar, Drush etc. I tried to take in everything I was experiencing and felt holiness. Rav Neriah was on a bed in the room, connected to machines. His granddaughter was reading Pirkei Avos to him. "Ben shmonim ligvuros, Ben tishim lashuach ... Ben Bag Bag omer, hafoch bah vihapoch bah dikoola bah." The Rav motioned with his hand as if to say "More, more don't stop!"

We davened Mincha. Rav Nachum Shlita said the silent shmoneh esrei aloud so that his father could whisper along with him. "Rifa'ainu Hashem vineyrafey" the young boys from the Yeshiva were davening intensely. We then read chapters of tehillim with great emotion. "Mimaamakim kirasicha Hashem" [From the depths we call you Hashem].

In the throes of great suffering the Rav had moments of lucidity. On one side of the bed stood his wife with wondrous silence. On the other side stood his son and granddaughter. We stood next to them. There was a shining light in the room and special rays of kindness ["chut shel chessed"] emanated from his face. I said "Orech yamim u'shnot chaim" [long life]. He expended great effort and answered "We will continue, continue to spread Torah and fear of Hashem and we will succeed b'ezrat Hashem. Amen keyn yehi ratzon!" Amen keyn yehi ratzon. It seemed like he dozed off but then one of the Yeshiva boys asked "Niggun?" Rav Neriah with his last remaining strength motioned "Yes". "Which Niggun?" the boys asked. "Which Niggun?" Rav Nachum asked . "Which Niggun?" his wife asked.

Rav Neriah tried without success to hint to us. Then he started softly humming with tremendous internal power "Vi'yedu ... vi'yedu .... vi'yedu ... ki atah shimcha Hashem .... ki atah shimcha Hashem livadecha, elyon elyon, al kol ha'aretz, elyon elyon al kol ha'aretz..." [You should know that Hashem alone is elevated above the earth.] The niggun is soft and sweet and gets stronger and stronger as we go along, filled with faith. The Rav is singing along "Vi'yedu, vi'yedu, viyedu ki atah shimcha Hashem, livadecha ...." The Rebbetzin is holding his hand and singing softly "elyon, elyon al kol ha'aretz." On the other side of the bed stands Rav Nachum, with his eyes closed and sings with great intensity and dveykus "Elyon, elyon al kol ha'aretz." I stood there and was tremendously moved by the power of the moment. The room was filled with holy books. Books, notes as well as medications were still scattered on the wooden desk where Rav Neriah had written countless articles and books.

Rav Neriah, with a shining countenance, gathered all of his strength and sang "Vi'yedu .. elyon, elyon al kol ha'aretz." I remembered the saying of our Sages "The Shechina is above the head of the sick person." Little by little, the niggun petered out and the boys became silent.

Suddenly the head of Rav Neriah was lifted up slightly, and his voice was heard "elyon..." and he hints to us to continue. The boys sing this time even more powerfully, with more joy and optimism. The Rebbetzin, with a little smile of encouragement on her face, nods her head. "Elyon, al kol ha'aretz."

I have forgotten all of the events of the outside world and all I can see is the shining face of Rav Neriah as he sings "Vi'yedu ki atah shimcha Hashem, elyon al kol ha'aretz."