Sunday, April 30, 2017

It's Been Bothering Me So I Will Get It Off My Chest

People don't abuse DRUGS. When they use drugs they abuse THEMSELVES. The drugs are fine. 

Political Commentary

"Hillary stayed with an abusive philanderer for decades in order to become President. Only to lose to an abusive philanderer." 

Keeping Kids On The Derech

Student: Rabbi, if you don't let me miss shiur I'm going off the derech.

 Rabbi: Good. We didn't need you anyway.

I Am A Millionaire!!!

I received an email from a dear reader informing me that the blog has reached one million hits. 

That is a tribute to all of the readers who faithfully visit [especially my mother who accounts for more than three quarters of those hits]. 

Over 99 percent of the readers prefer that I not know who they are and that they read and that is fine too.... If I wrote in order to receive feedback or recognition I would have stopped long ago. 

I am a high school dropout [but I have a GED so don't think that I am not an intellectual. I am so smart I did all of high school in a few hours, together with a roomful of descendents of Cham whose lives matters - especially if you are a sports fan] and never learned how to write so I apologize if my writing is not par up to. And my speling. I hope the profundity of the ideas makes up for my writing deficiencies. If my ideas are not profound and you come hoping that I will write something funny, that is fine too. I don't know how I am going to get a good portion in Olam Haba because I am such an am ha-aretz and lacking in so many areas but the gemara says that to bring someone sad to laughter is a ticket to the Good Place.

רבי ברוקא חוזאה הוה שכיח בשוקא דבי לפט [=רבי ברוקא היה מצוי בשוק של לפט],
הוה שכיח אליהו גביה [=פגש שם את אליהו הנביא].
אמר ליה, איכא בהאי שוקא בר עלמא דאתי? [=האם יש בשוק זה מי שהוא בן העולם הבא?]
אמר ליה: לא.
אדהכי והכי חזא לההוא גברא דהוה סיים מסאני אוכמי ולא רמי חוטא דתכלתא בגלימיה.
[=ראו איש שהלך בנעליים שחורות שלא כדרך היהודים, ושלא הטיל ציצית בטליתו]
אמר ליה [אליהו לרבי ברוקא]: האי בר עלמא דאתי הוא [=זה בן העולם הבא הוא].
אמר להו: מאי עובדייכו? [=שאל אותו, מה אתה עושה שזכית לעולם הבא?]
אמר ליה: אינשי בדוחי אנן, מבדחינן עציבי [=אמר לו, אני משמח אנשים עצובים].

Before agreeing to date me my wife asked the person who set us up if I have a sense of humor. He applied in the affirmative. She SHOULD have asked if I have a GOOD sense of humor and she might well have received another answer. But it is TOO LATE. Anyway - I tell her that she married me for my vast wealth [and may I add - movie star looks].

The basic objective of the blog is to increase knowledge of Torah and human nature, simcha, yiras shomayim and middos tovos.

The real Torah I want to give over is on YUTORAH where there are about 3,500 shiurim that Hashem has given me the honor of delivering. Please listen and "may my lips move in the grave...." [See Bechoros 31b].  

I do all of this with no income [as I have for years] and for that miracle, and for everything else, I thank my Prime Supporter and Helper. The Melech Malchei Hamelachim Hakadosh Baruch Hu. I have found the pasuk אל תבטחו בנדיבים בבן אדם שאין לו תשועה to be a major theme in my life along with ברוך הגבר אשר יבטח בה' והיה ה' מבטחו - The more bitachon we have, the more Hashem will be there for us [as the Sfas Emes teitches]. I cannot even begin to list all of His kindness to me every second of every day of my life. I LOVE you Hashem!!!

I also thank my wife who allows me to spend countless hours in front of the computer [being melamedes zchus that I am not watching] and my sweet children who will often not interrupt when I am in the middle of engaging in various spiritual pursuits [or just sleeping]. 

A special thanks to the sponsors of my digital library which is essential to my private and public learning.

I conclude with thanks to you all and brachos that our spiritual and emotional bond should deepen and that I should be able to give you whatever I can in any way.   

Bi-ahava rabba,



Yom Ha-atzmaut - The Sequel

To clear up a lot of confusion I hear.....

One can believe that the birth of the state is an act of G-d, that it is part of the redemption process, that it was miraculous, that it is a great improvement over what was going on before, love Israel etc. etc. without celebrating Yom Ha-atzmaut. Creating a new holiday in the 20th century without Ruach Hakodesh is a very novel concept.

Again - if you want to celebrate then ENJOY!! Have me in mind. But I hear even intelligent people who assume that if one believes in the G-d of Israel then he or she MUST celebrate the fifth [some years the sixth, this year the seventh] of Iyar. Otherwise the person is a scoffer and denier.

I am not sure about that....  

I Need Lunch

Rabbi Eisenman

Dariush Massachi — an unassuming Persian Jew — was born in Shiraz in 1926. At the time, Shiraz had a strong Jewish community and Jews enjoyed economic and religious freedom.

In 1951, Dariush was introduced to Pari Zahabian, his future wife.

Pari came from a family of goldsmiths. In fact, her last name, Zahabian, meant goldsmith. And although she was only 15, her parents were interested in finding her a frum and stable husband — and Dariush fit the mold.

They married and over the next 20 years were blessed with eight children. Dariush worked hard as a goldsmith and with the help of Hashem was able to provide for his family.

Everything changed with the Islamic Revolution in 1979.

As he spoke only Farsi, and was trained only as a goldsmith, Dariush was hesitant to move his family from Shiraz. But finally, in the early 1990s, Dariush realized that there was no future for his family in Iran. The ability to freely practice Judaism was worth more than all the gold in the world to Dariush.

So in early 1991, Dariush liquidated all of his assets. And then, in the total darkness of a moonless night, Dariush and his family climbed into an unmarked station wagon and, after paying off many officials, crossed the border into Turkey and from there made their way to the United States. They settled in New Jersey and went about raising a Torah family.

Dariush was 65 years old when he fled Iran. In America he spent a good part of his day learning Torah and he was thrilled to be able to guarantee his children an authentic Jewish life. Pari mastered English and eventually became a medical assistant.

Two weeks ago, Dariush, already past his 91st birthday, was required to undergo a serious medical procedure in the hospital.

Due to his age, the procedure required full anesthesia, and the family was worried about their revered husband, father, grandfather, and great-grandfather.

On the day of the procedure, the family sat in the waiting room saying Tehillim. More remarkably, without ever discussing it with each other or with Dariush, every single one of them — including 81-year-old Pari — independently decided to fast and daven until they knew all was well.

The procedure began early in the morning. Finally, in the afternoon, Dariush was wheeled out of the OR and into recovery. As soon as he woke up, Dariush attempted to communicate with the nurse.

In his semiconscious state, and with his broken English, the nurse was having trouble understanding him.

Listening carefully, she heard him say, “Lunch, I need lunch.”

The nurse could not understand why this man who had just undergone a procedure and was still groggy would be thinking of lunch; wouldn’t he want to see his family first?

“I’m sorry, Mr. Massachi, but you are not permitted to eat for another six hours.”

Again Dariush insisted, “Lunch, please, bring me lunch.”

As the nurse began to explain again, Dariush noticed his wife had entered the recovery room.

“Lunch, please bring my wife lunch… she has not eaten the whole day…”

“How do you know your wife hasn’t eaten?”

Dariush looked at his wife before answering the nurse’s question, and he thought about the almost 70 years they’d lived together and all the hardships endured together.

Then he quietly responded, “When you have loved and lived with someone as long as I have, you just know… words are no longer needed. She has not eaten. Please bring her lunch.”

As Pari gazed at her husband, the nurse went to get the meal.

Dariush was right. No more words were needed.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Yom Ha-atzmaut

Image result for picture man israeli flag

For better or for worse, I have a nature where I challenge everything I am taught. That is the nature of Talmudic discourse and I occasionally dabble in the study of Talmud. So here goes....

We were all [probably if you are reading this] raised that Yom Ha-atzmaut is a GREAT day. A real Jewish-Zionistic holiday. Anyone who thinks otherwise is anti-Israel. 

Is that true??

Let me give an example: You want to buy a piece of meat in the store. On the packaging it says that this meat is certified TREIF by the Chazon Ish, the Brisker Rov [Rav Yitzchak Zev Soloveitchik], Rav Aharon Kotler, Rav Moshe Feinstein, Rav Ovadiah Yosef, Rav Bentzion Abba Shaul, The Lubavitcher Rebbe [and every other Chasidic Rebbe], Rav Shach [the two actually agree on this one], Rav Elyashiv, the Steipler, his son Rav Chaim Knievsky and countless other luminaries. However, Rav Tzvi Yehuda Kook, Rav Herschel Schachter, Rav Nachum Rabinovitch, Rav Avraham Shapiro, Rav Aharon Lichtenstein and others say that it is kosher and that one SHOULD eat it. Would you eat it?

If one or more of the Rabbonim Hamachshirim was your personal rebbi, then you probably would. But wouldn't you feel uncomfortable knowing how strongly all of the gedolim felt that you shouldn't eat it? Wouldn't it give you pause to consider why they rendered this meat treif? 

Now substitute the words "piece of meat" for "celebrating Yom Ha-atzmaut". Whether Yom Ha-atzmaut is a day of celebration is for religious people a religious question. With all due respect to the list of "machshirim", both in number and Torah knowledge, those who were opposed are widely acknowledged as the greater experts in Torah [I think the Rabbonim "Hamachshirim" themselves would admit that]. If they said it is treif then the accusation that by not celebrating one is somehow being an ingrate [as the argument is often made] or religiously flawed is a difficult one to support. 

Rabbi Robert Zion, Rabbi of the Young Israel of Wayne County, is a greater servant of G-d than the Chazon Ish?? He "gets it" but the Chazon Ish [and just about all of the gedolim since] don't?? Yet, a lot of fifth and eighth tier Rabbonim give shiurim preaching that anyone who is not a flag waver is a sinner. 

"Think for yourself" people say. Don't just follow your "gedolim". 

Well, one can think for himself and decide that his doctor is a bigger expert in medicine and follow his instructions. In the same way, one can think for himself and let the experts decide questions in their area of expertise. Gedolim are experts in deciding halacha and minhag. 

But to give a short explanation of their position on one leg: The major reason they were so strongly opposed is because the State is a rabidly secular entity. If someone was a REALLY great guy and saved my life 3 times and sends me a check every month for 10k but ALSO spits on my father and degrades him numerous times a day - I wouldn't like him too much [despite my feelings of gratitude for his help]. We love our Father in Heaven no less than our biological fathers and the trampling of the secular establishment on the Torah on a daily basis [as a secular Jew does - whether he views it that way or not and whether he is guilty or not due to his upbringing] make it impossible to celebrate the day that this secular entity announced their sovereignty. 

So do as you wish - say Hallel, shave, dance, party, wave the flag [if that is your psak] but please, don't accuse those who don't celebrate as you do of being sinners.     

There are hundreds of thousands of people who live in Israel or who love Israel but don't feel bound by Yom Ha-atzmaut as a day of national celebration. 

Friday, April 28, 2017

Loving The Metzora

The Tolna Rebbe Shlita 

Parshiyos Tazria-Metzora appear in Sefer Vayikra among the discussion of the korbanos to teach that the kohen must descend from his lofty, sacred work in the Beis Ha’mikdash to deal with the lowest aspects of the people’s lives, including those of a metzora and zav. Specifically the kohen, who spends his life in the sacred domain of the Beis Ha’mikdash dealing with the korbanos, is the one whom the Torah commands to lower himself and get involved in all matters relating to tzara’as. 

The Torah emphasizes this point buy instructing that when a person has discoloration on his skin, "he shall be brought to Aharon, the kohen, or to one of his sons, the kohanim” (13:2). Rather than simply require the person to come to הכהן”) the kohen”), the Torah requires him to come to Aharon or one of his sons – emphasizing that the greatest kohanim are the ones who must descend from their lofty heights of sanctity to work with this metzora, who has fallen to the lowest depths of impurity. What’s more, while in the beginning of the process the metzora must approach the kohen, at the end, after the metzora is forced to live outside his city, and his infection is then cured, the Torah (14:3) commands,  the kohen must go “outside the camp” to the metzora. The kohen, who normally spends his days engaged in matters of kedusha in the Beis Ha’mikdash, now leaves the camp in order to deal with the needs of a person stricken with the severest form of impurity. The Torah not only requires the kohen to leave the sacred, serene environs of the Mikdash to work with the metzora, but also requires that he do so joyfully. The aforementioned pasuk continues, ”and the kohen sees that behold, the leprous infection on the leper has been cured”. The Pesikta Zutresa, in a different context (Balak 128a), comments that the word והנה connotes joy, as indicated in the pasuk in Sefer Shemos (4:15),  “and behold, he [Aharon] is also going out to greet you, and he will see you and rejoice in his heart”. The kohen is to feel such a level of closeness to the metzora that he experiences genuine joy over the fact that the person’s tzara’as has been cured. The situation of tzara’as is when the kohen’s love for every Jew is manifest. This love does not come to the fore during normal times, when everything goes smoothly and the kohen is together with his fellow kohanim basking in the glory of the Beis Ha’mikdash, but rather when the kohen leaves the Beis Ha’mikdash and goes outside the camp to work with a metzora. This is when his powerful love for each and every Jew is put on full display.

 Although today we do not have metzoraim, we do have many lost souls whom we must all try to bring back. We must show our utmost, genuine love for these individuals, even for those whom we needed to send away so that they would not cause harm to others. Just as the metzora is sent away to isolation, and others must keep a distance from him, and yet the kohen is commanded to love him. Similarly, we must arouse in our hearts genuine love for each and every Jew, even for those who needed to be distanced. The Gemara (Megilla 12b) teaches that HKB”H treats a person the way he treats others, and thus if we show our love even for those Jews who are far and distant, and work to bring them closer, then HKB”H will, in turn, shower us with His love, until the arrival of Mashiach.

Know What You Are Talking About

The majority of this week’s parsha deals with the laws of Tzoraas (commonly translated as leprosy, which in truth it is not). In several places, the Talmud says that Tzoraas comes as a punishment for a variety of sins. The most commonly quoted exposition is that Tzoraas comes as a result of lashon hara [gossip/slander]. Chazal utilize a linguistic exegesis of the word Metzorah [leper] to teach this idea. They indicate that Metzorah is a contraction of the words motzi rah [he spews forth evil].

The Torah teaches: “If a person will have on the skin of his flesh a s’eis or a sapachas, or a baheres, and it will become a Tzoraas affliction on the skin of his flesh; HE SHALL BE BROUGHT TO AARON THE KOHEN, OR TO ONE OF HIS SONS THE KOHANIM. [Vayikra 13:2]. Rashi states: “It is a decree of Scripture that there is neither impurity of affliction of Tzora’as nor their purification except by word of a Kohen.” In other words, even if the Kohen is not an expert in these laws, and even if he does not know what he is talking about (the laws of Tzoraas are indeed complicated and complex), if the Kohen is told by a scholar what to say and he parrots the words of the Talmid Chochom, the blemish is pronounced tahor [pure] or tamei [impure] based on the proclamation of the Kohen, not on the proclamation of the Talmid Chochom who is not a Kohen.

The Rambam elaborates on this principle in Hilchos Tumas Tzoraas Chapter 9 Halacha 2: “Even though anyone is fit to inspect blemishes, purity and impurity (tumah and tahara) depends on the Kohen. How so? A Kohen who does not know what to look for has a scholar inspect (the blemish) and has the scholar instruct him ‘Say it is impure’ and the Kohen says ‘impure’; or the scholar instructs ‘Say it is pure’ and the Kohen says ‘pure’; or the scholar instructs ‘Put him in a suspended state for another week’ and the Kohen puts him in a state of suspension (masgeero) as it is written ‘based on their mouths shall be every fight and every blemish’ [Devarim 21:5]. And even if the Kohen is a minor (katan) or an imbecile (shoteh), the scholar instructs him and he decides whether the person is definitely impure, pure, or suspended further…”

Based on this Rambam, the Minchas Chinuch speculates whether or not the proclamation (based on direction of a scholar) of a blind Kohen regarding a nega would be effective. The Minchas Chinuch discusses the possibility. However, it is implicit in the Meiri and also from Rashi and Tosfos in Sanhedrin 34 as well, that a blind Kohen CANNOT rule on the status of Tzoraas, even if so directed by a Talmid Chochom. This is learned out from the expression [Vayikra 13:12] “l’chol mar’eh einei haKohen” (wherever the eyes of the Kohen can see). Rashi on this pasuk quotes the Toras Kohanim, Negaim, perek 4:4: “To the exclusion of a Kohen whose power of vision is impaired.” Under normal circumstances, it would be obvious to us that a blind Kohen cannot rule on such matters of visual determination. However, in light of the earlier cited Rambam that even a minor or mentally deficient Kohen can rule based on the guidance of a scholar, the exclusion of a blind Kohen is somewhat of a novelty.

What in fact is the difference between a katan and shoteh on the one hand and a blind Kohen (sumah) on the other? Why must the Kohen see the blemish with his own eyes? I saw an interesting answer to this question from the Tolna Rebbe Shlita. In the Talmud [Sanhedrin 104b], Rava asks in the name of Rabbi Yochanan: Why does the letter “Peh” precede the letter “Ayin” in the third and fifth chapters of Eichah (in which the pasukim are otherwise arranged in perfect alphabetical sequence)? Rava answers that this sequence commemorates the Spies who spoke with their mouths (Peh) that which they did not see with their eyes (Ayin). In other words, they spoke subjectively without basis in what they had actually witnessed.

This teaching is an insight into Lashon Harah in general. Many times, Lashon Harah is a crime of saying something that one has not seen. Typically, with this kind of gossip, a person sees something and then jumps to a conclusion and speaks, not about what he has seen but what he surmises based on what he has seen. Lashon Harah is a crime of letting one’s mouth (Peh) jump ahead of what his eye (Ayin) has seen.

Halevai, we should be able to eliminate all of our gossip. But if we at least accepted upon ourselves to cut back on speaking those things which we have never seen, that would be great progress in our efforts towards Shmiras haLashon [Guarding one’s tongue]. Homiletically, the Tolner Rebbe uses this idea to explain why a Kohen Shoteh can rule on the status of Negaim, but a blind Kohen cannot. We want to send a message that “You have to see it!” If you do not see it, you cannot say “tameh”. A Kohen Shoteh does not have much intelligence, but at least he saw it. That gives him the license to talk about it. A blind Kohen, who does not see the Negah (like most people who speak lashon harah without having seen what they are speaking about), has no license to speak.

[R' Frand]

Appreciating Shabbos And Yom Tov - Criticizers And Slackers

Dear Dr. Yael,

I wanted to share with you a success story about my life. I am originally from Iran and left with my baby about 30 years ago. At that time Khomeini came to power and there was a danger that my husband would be conscripted into the army. We paid someone to take us out. We were a group of frum Jews who left with an Iranian Jewish driver and we made believe we were going on a family trip. He drove us to the border and we were left in a hole in the ground. We had powdered milk and water for our baby and diapers and clothes, but no food for ourselves.

Late that night, the smugglers came with five camels. We traveled through the night and into the morning. At one point, my husband, who was holding the baby, dropped the water bottles. The smugglers were angry that we had not drugged the baby, but baruch Hashem he slept through the night.

When we arrived in Pakistan they gave us bananas and clementines. I will never forget how delicious that fruit was. We stayed in a disgusting hotel for a month until they sent us on to Vienna. On Erev Pesach we moved into an apartment which we then had to clean for Pesach. We had no idea where we would be for the seder.

Baruch Hashem, today I have a large family with married children and grandchildren. We appreciate all the brachos Hashem gave us. Although Pesach is a lot of work for me, as it is for many women, I have a completely different attitude in regards to the Yomim Tovim. We know what it is to literally have nothing and go into Pesach not even knowing if we will have food to eat. I get upset when people complain about the work they have to do before Pesach or not finding the right outfits for their kids etc. Maybe my letter will inspire people to appreciate what they have.


Dear Anonymous,

Your letter inspired me as I am sure it will others.

As a therapist, I am privy to much of the fighting that goes on during Shabbosim and Yomim Tovim. It is sad that people do not appreciate the simcha they can have with family around. When you are brought up with everything coming so easily to you, it is hard to treasure the fact that we can easily buy the food that we need and sleep comfortably in our homes.

Research has shown that during holiday gatherings people often regress to childlike roles. No matter how mature your relatives may be in everyday life, when thrown together in an old, familiar situation, they regress and their “issues” take center stage. Why? Experience has taught them that this behavior succeeds in getting people to focus on them and their agendas, says Stephen R. Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families.

While you can’t control the actions of your role-playing relatives, you can at least control your own reactions. Here, authorities on etiquette and family dynamics offer strategies for handling a table full of problem personalities. 

The “Constructive” Criticizer

Often heard saying: “When I was in your situation, I knew exactly what I had to do.” The offense: Gives you unsolicited advice about everything from raising your kids to raising your hemline. Your course of action: “The criticizer relies on his ability to bait you,” says Sue Fox, author of Etiquette for Dummies. Don’t take the bait: Thank him, point out facts he may have overlooked, and move on. If he keeps offering barbed comments disguised as advice, Caroline Tiger, author of How to Behave, suggests cutting him off with a breezy, “Don’t worry about me – I’m fine!” 

The Slacker

Often heard saying: “Yup, just a sec… I’ll be riiiight in.” The offense: Refuses to help with the cooking, cleaning, childcare, or anything. Your course of action: “Entertain the possibility that this person doesn’t realize anyone needs help, or perhaps he’s worried that if he were given a task to complete, he’d fail,” says Tiger. Give him precise instructions, something like, “David, it would be a great help if you went ahead and started rinsing the dishes. Let me get you an apron.”

Answering a negative with a positive is a great way to stop someone in his or her negative tracks.

Thank you for your letter and I hope that everyone will be inspired to appreciate Shabbos and Yom Tov.

[Jewish Press] 

Thursday, April 27, 2017

The Healing Power Of Hugs

Hillary Jacobs Hendel

One day several years ago, I spontaneously hugged a patient of mine, Gretchen. It was during a moment in which her despair and distress were so intense that it seemed cruel on a human level not to reach out my arms to her, in the event that she might derive some relief or comfort from an embrace. She hugged me for dear life.

Months later, Gretchen reported to me that the hug had changed her. “The motherly embrace you gave me that day,” she said, “lifted the depression I have had all my life.” Could a hug really have such an effect? The notion has stayed with me ever since.

Freud used touch in his early work but later denounced it, citing its dangers in cases of intense transference. Since then, psychoanalysts, lawyers, risk managers and ethicists have advised therapists to avoid touch as part of talk therapy, arguing that it is a “slippery slope.”

The slippery slope argument is well intentioned; no one wants to sanction or encourage inappropriate touching. But the argument arises only because of the lack of a firm theoretical distinction in the psychoanalytic literature between nurturing touch and sexual touch. That distinction is precisely what matters in any thoughtful discussion of the therapeutic use of touch, be it by a psychoanalyst or anyone.

I started thinking about hugs during my psychoanalytic training. Every so often I was assigned a patient who would hug me without warning, either at the beginning or the end of a session. When I talked about this with my supervisors, some suggested that I stop the hug and instead analyze the meaning of it with the patient. Other supervisors suggested the opposite: that I allow it and accept it as part of a cultural or familial custom. Bringing it up, they suggested, could shame the patient.

I remember consulting the ethical guidelines from the National Association of Social Workers and the American Psychological Association. I assumed “Do not touch” was overtly spelled out. I was surprised to discover that those organizations, while expressly prohibiting sexual boundary-crossings, did not expressly prohibit touch.

The nurturing touch is hardly a new idea. In the early to mid 20th century, object relations theorists like Otto Rank, Melanie Klein, Ronald Fairbairn and D.W. Winnicott helped shift the focus of psychoanalysis from Oedipal development to pre-Oedipal development — that of infants and very young children — in which soothing touch plays a critical role. Later on, psychological researchers furthered our understanding of how essential physical touch is to providing comfort and emotional regulation in adults as well as children.

Today, neuroscientists have learned that when humans get emotionally upset, our bodies react to manage the increased energy. These physical reactions bring discomfort at best and at worst are unbearable. What can we do to obtain immediate help when we are distressed so that we don’t have to resort to superficial balms like drugs or psychological mechanisms like repression? What kind of relief is affordable, efficient, effective and nontoxic?

The answer is touch. Hugs and other forms of nonsexual physical soothing, like hand-holding and head stroking, intervene at the physical level to help the brain and the body calm down from overwhelming states of anxiety, panic and shame.

This insight was driven home for me when I underwent training in trauma psychotherapies such as accelerated experiential dynamic psychotherapy (A.E.D.P.) and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (E.M.D.R.). These therapies, which are somatic, or body-related, in emphasis, taught me to make use of my patients’ fantasies and imaginations to help them satisfy unmet needs or regulate their rattled nervous systems. Those fantasies, I have found, are often rooted in physical comfort. I frequently guide my patients’ present-day adult selves to act as their own nurturing mother or father, to offer solace to any suffering “parts” of themselves that need or want hugging and holding.

I also encourage my patients to learn to ask for hugs from their loved ones. A therapeutic hug, one designed to calm the nervous system, requires some instruction. A good hug must be wholehearted. You can’t do it halfway. Two people, the hugger and the “huggee,” face each other and embrace each other with their full bodies touching. Yes, it is intimate. The hugger should be focused on the huggee with purposeful intention to offer comfort. It is literally a heart-to-heart experience: The heartbeat of the hugger can regulate the heartbeat of the huggee. Lastly and very important, the hugger must embrace the huggee until the huggee is ready to let go and not a moment before.

The paradox of hugs is that though they are quintessentially physical, they can also be enacted mentally. I often invite my patients, if it feels right for them, to imagine someone they feel safe with, including me, holding them. This works because the brain does not know the difference between reality and fantasy in many ways.

Gretchen, for example, sometimes feels small and scared. I know her well, so I can tell just by looking when she is being triggered into shame. To help her feel better, I intervene using fantasy. “Gretchen,” I say, “can you try to move that part of you that’s feeling shame right now to the chair over there?” I point to a chair in my office. “Try to separate from that part of you,” I continue, “so you can see it from the eyes of your present-day calm and confident self.”

I gesture with my hands to convey a part of her coming out of her body and joining the two of us on the chair a few feet away. Gretchen visualizes in the chair the shame-filled part of her — in her case, her 6-year-old self. In this fantasy, Gretchen hugs and soothes the 6-year-old. Sometimes, however, that 6-year-old wants me, not Gretchen’s adult self, to hug her. I invite Gretchen to imagine that I am hugging the girl. In this way, I “pretend hug” many of my patients without actually touching them.

I still have my Freudian-trained self sitting over my shoulder, judging the use of “real” hugs in treatment. So even when I think a physical hug would be therapeutic, I continue to rely on fantasy. And ultimately, I believe it better for the patient to learn to self-soothe, and that is an ability that fantasy cultivates.

But sometimes, as in Gretchen’s case, actual touch changes something deep. It seems, at those times, that there is no substitute for the real thing.

Nissan Reuven ben Felice Feiga Gittel

Please daven for him. He has undergone many many very difficult trials. 

The Source Of Parnassa

The last section of Parshas Emor discusses the Mekallel, the man who cursed the Name of Hashem. After describing the man’s crime, the instructions from Hashem for punishment, and the execution of that punishment, the section closes with, “Uvnei Yisrael Asu Kaasher Tzivah Hashem Es Moshe,” “And Bnei Yisrael did according to what Hashem commanded Moshe” (24:23). This seems quite redundant; the Pasuk already described how Bnei Yisrael performed the prescribed punishment of stoning! What does this Pasuk add to our understanding of the story?

Another question arises from a Midrash about the motivations of the Mekallel. The Midrash comments that what drove the Mekallel to “go out” (24:10) and curse the Name of Hashem was the previous section about the Lechem HaPanim. The Torah states that the Kohanim eat the Lechem upon removing it from the Shulchan a full week after it is placed there. According to the Midrash, the concept that the Kohanim were serving Hashem with cold, stale bread was so upsetting that he was moved to commit his crime. This, too, seems very strange – how could such a seemingly small issue drive someone to such a severe offense?

The Tolna Rebbe Shlita answers both questions by explaining the Midrash allegorically. The Mekallel was not upset about bread in the literal sense. Rather, he was troubled by the symbolism of the bread. Throughout Tanach and the Midrash, bread symbolizes Hashem’s providing us with Parnassah, sustenance. The Lechem HaPanim is one manifestation of this symbolism. Indeed, the Gemara (quoted by the Rambam as practical Halacha) states that because the Lechem HaPanim is the vehicle of Hashem’s sustenance to Bnei Yisrael, the Kohanim who remove the old bread must simultaneously slide the new bread on so that there will not be a break in the “conduit.” It was this concept of Hashem’s Parnassah, the idea that Hashem is personally and actively involved with providing for His creations, that bothered the Mekallel. He believed that the bread was cold and stale, i.e. there was no such involved, loving connection with Hashem. What he failed to recognize was that, as Chazal say, the bread stayed warm and fresh from week to week, i.e. this close relationship does exist. It was this philosophical error that caused the Mekallel to commit the offense that he did.

Finally, the Pasuk concludes by saying that “Bnei Yisrael did as Hashem commanded.” Despite the presence of such a strong challenge to the idea Hashem’s influence in the world, Bnei Yisrael remained steadfast in their belief in Hashem.

May we always know where our parnassa comes from!!!

Rabbi Nisson Wolpin z"l

BROOKLYN - Rabbi Nisson Wolpin, z”l, a pioneer of Torah journalism who worked closely with gedolei Yisrael for decades in his position at the helm of the Jewish Observer magazine, was niftar late Monday night, 29 Nisan. He was 85 years old.

When Rabbi Wolpin was initially approached by Rabbi Moshe Sherer, z”l, and Dr. Ernst L. Bodenheimer, z”l, to become editor of the Jewish Observer, he was reluctant to leave what had been a very successful career in chinuch. Yet, when he put the matter before Harav Yaakov Kamenetsky zt”l, the Gadol encouraged him to accept the offer, telling him, “You will still be working in chinuch,” albeit for a different age group. It was with that earnest sense of responsibility that Rabbi Wolpin approached the task of stewarding the magazine, ensuring that its content was professionally presented, engaging, and an accurate reflection of hashkafos haTorah.

“He was an ish emes, who looked for the truth and would not budge from it,” his brother Rabbi Dovid Wolpin told Hamodia. “He had a very sharp mind and was not a naïve person in the least, but he was completely mevatel himself to daas Torah; he accepted what the gedolei Yisrael had to say and accepted criticism graciously because he really meant all that he did l’shem Shamayim.”

Nisson Wolpin was born in 1932 in Seattle, Washington. His father, Reb Efriam Ben Tzion, z”l, a hailed from the city of Pinsk, Belarus, and had studied in Yeshivas Yitzchok Elchonon, then on the Lower East Side, before accepting a position as a melamed in Seattle. His mother, Mrs. Kaila Wolpin, a”h, was born in Ukraine and immigrated to the U.S. with her father who led a shul in Brownsville for many years.

In those days, Seattle did not yet have a Jewish day school, and so the Wolpin brothers attended public school by day and studied in a Talmud Torah in the late afternoon. Despite the limited hours of operation, the Talmud Torah offered a serious atmosphere for learning and catered to many frum families. Among young Nisson’s rebbeim was Reb Baruch Shapiro, z”l, a talmid of the Rogatchover Gaon, zt”l, and the Ohr Somayach, zt”l.

At 15, Rabbi Wolpin was enrolled in Mesivta Torah Vodaath where he spent many years engaged in tremendous growth in Torah and yiras Shamayim. The menahel Harav Shraga Feivel Mendlowitz, zt”l, emphasized hashkafah and duty to Klal Yisrael, and the young talmid from Seattle was deeply influenced. The message and ruach of Mesivta Torah Vodaath played a significant role in determining Rabbi Wolpin’s life’s mission. He also formed long-lasting bonds with both Harav Yaakov Kamenetsky, zt”l, and Harav Gedalia Schorr, zt”l.

In 1952, Rabbi Wolpin joined a small group of elite talmidim of the yeshivah who traveled to Los Angeles to strengthen a mosad that was founded by Harav Simchah Wasserman, zt”l. Upon his return, he joined Bais Medrash Elyon in Monsey where he studied together with many future gedolei Yisrael and prominent marbitzei Torah.

He married Devorah Cohen, the daughter of Reb Mayer, z”l, and Mrs. Yospa Cohen, a”h, who then lived in Ottawa, Canada. The couple spent a short time in Williamsburg where Rabbi Wolpin worked as a dorm counselor in Torah Vodaath and later moved to Scranton, Pennsylvania, where he taught in the local day school.

Knowing Rabbi Wolpin’s merits from his time together with him in Bais Medrash Elyon, and noting his success as a mechanach, in 1958 he was asked by Harav Yehoshua Geldzheler, zt”l, to join Yeshivas Ohr Yisrael, the cheder the latter founded in Forest Hills, Queens.

In 1970, Rabbi Wolpin assumed the position of editor of the Jewish Observer under the auspices of the Agudath Israel of America. “The JO quickly became the flagship publication of the Torah world, and thousands of Jewish families awaited its arrival each month to read the guidance of Gedolei Klal Yisrael, and the thoughts of its many accomplished writers,” said the Agudah in a statement mourning Rabbi Wolpin’s petirah. “Under Rabbi Wolpin’s discerning and demanding eye, the periodical became the archetype of Torah-hashkafah married to excellent writing. That remained the magazine’s standard over the nearly 400 issues it published.”

He gave many long and late hours to the publication working with his staff of writers, editorial board, and gedolei Yisrael with whom he was in constant contact for guidance on the magazine’s content. Writers who worked with Rabbi Wolpin recalled that his editorial comments on submissions were insightful and he found ways to skillfully and subtly emphasize the message of the article.

His prominent position and access to the leaders of Klal Yisrael did not change Rabbi Wolpin’s low-key personality.

“Being an editor is not an easy job, but he was consistently held in high regard and loved by the many people he worked with,” said Rabbi Dovid Wolpin. “He was willing to do what he needed to to fulfill the mission of the magazine. But, as public of a job as that was, he did whatever he could to stay out of the lime light. It’s a very unusual combination.”

The Wolpin home had open doors to many in need of a warm meal, a kind word, or a bed to sleep in. Many individuals and families were touched deeply by the quiet chassadim of Rabbi and Mrs. Wolpin.

Since leaving his position at the Jewish Observer in 2008, Rabbi Wolpin began spending the vast majority of his time in the beis medrash, learning with various chavrusos. In 2010, the Wolpins moved to Eretz Yisrael where several of their children live.

The levayah was held on Tuesday in Yerushalayim and kevurah took place on Har Hazeisim.

Rabbi Wolpin is survived by, ybl”ch, his wife Mrs. Devorah Wolpin; sons, Harav Rafael Tzvi, Harav Moshe Yaakov, and Harav Yitzchok Dovid; daughters, Mrs. Henny Storch, Mrs. Miriam Baumel, Mrs. Rochel Lobenstein, and Mrs. Sarah Bromspeigel; as well as by many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Yehi zichro baruch.



Some people only remember only one thing about Rabbi Wolpin - he didn't write a eulogy of Rav Soloveitchik in the Jewish Observer that was befitting a true gadol. 

Of course that is silly. One can't ignore 85 years of life and focus only on one article and to make that a person's legacy. That is small minded. But people often tend to be small minded... 

One other point - Why did Rabbi Wolpin have to believe that Rav Soloveitchik was a gadol? Why does everybody have to accept other people's gadol as being a gadol?? Of course it is forbidden to disgrace a talmid chochom but apparently Rabbi Wolpin believed - as does the most of the Charedi world - that Rav Soloveitchik erred on key isues of hashkafa and therefore was not deserving of the eulogy he would have written for - let's say - Rav Aharon Kotler. Is it forbidden to believe that someone is incorrect if many of the greatest Rabbis of the recent generations disputed him? [They did offer a eulogy for him which is not done for the vast majority of charedi rabbonim who pass on but nobody mentioned that]. 

I am not here to judge who was right [because I am a nobody] although I will say that I  personally am not comfortable with some of Rav Soloveitchik's positions. The position of other great sages are easier for me to swallow on various issues. Does that make me an evil or stupid person? I hope not. 

My point is that we must listen to Chachmei Yisrael but are not obligated to accept the position of every Chacham on every issue. That would be impossible. And if we chose to follow a certain gadol or certain group of gedolim we are not obligated to accept other gedolim as being our guides. So respect - of course. But if someone doesn't accept MY gadol, it is not necessarily a lacking in his Avodas Hashem and I don't have to accept his gadol.    

"והאמת והשלום אהבו!"

Make Someone's Life Easier

Say Thank You

Believe In Yourself

Rabbi Frand 

Bamidbar is known as the Book of Numbers [Chomesh HaPekudim] because it begins with a census of the Jewish people and then there is another census in Parshas Pinchas, towards the end of the sojourn in the wilderness.

In this week’s census, there is a pattern that repeats itself in the enumeration of all the sub-families of the various tribes. The very first time this pattern is introduced, Rashi cites a Medrash – in connection with the sub-family of Reuvein’s son Chanoch [Bamidbar 26:5]. The Torah refers to the family as “Mishpachas HaChanochI. The name of the head of the family is prefixed with the letter Hay and followed by the letter Yud. These two letters (Yud-Hay) represent the name of G-d which thus surrounds the family name.

According the Medrash cited by Rashi, the nations of the world would mock the Jews’ insistence on tracing their lineage to specific family divisions: “Why do these trace their ancestry by their tribes? Are they under the impression that the Egyptians did not have their way with their mothers? If the Egyptians ruled over the Israelites’ bodies, how much more is it true that they ruled over their wives?”

Therefore, the Medrash continues, “That is why the Holy One, Blessed is He, placed His Name upon them – with the letter Hay on one side of the family name and the letter Yud on the other side, to say ‘I testify about them that they are the children of their fathers.'” This is also stated clearly by Dovid HaMelech [King David] “Tribes of G-d (Yud-Hay), a testimony for Israel” [Tehillim 122:4].

G-d testifies, as it were, that Klal Yisrael remained pure and unadulterated in all their years in Egypt.

But let as ask ourselves a question: Is it realistic to expect that this will convince the Gentiles? The Gentiles are clearly not going to be convinced by the formulations: “HaChanochI”, “HaPaluI”, “HaChetzronI” that the lineage of the Jewish families was untainted. So who is the Torah trying to impress here?

Furthermore, the Chasam Sofer asks – if this formulation is supposed to testify that there were not any extra-marital relationships amongst the Jewish people in Egypt, then why was this type of formulation not used in the first census at the beginning of the Book of Bamidbar?

The Sefer Heimah Yenachamuni from the present Tolner Rebbe Shlita of Jerusalem has an approach which answers both these questions. Rav Weinberg prefaces his discussion by referencing the Talmudic analysis [Sanhedrin 107] of Dovid HaMelech’s prayers for forgiveness after his “sin” with BatSheva. The Talmud expounds on the pasukim [verses] in Tehillim which allude to those prayers [Tehillim 119:13-14]:

Rav Dostai of Biri expounded: To what is Dovid comparable? To a Kusi merchant (who lures customers into buying more than they were expecting to buy, by selling them a little bit at once and then convincing them to buy more and more). Dovid first said “Shgiyos mi yavin” (who can discern mistakes) and G-d told him that unwitting mistakes are forgiven. Then he continued “m’nistaros nakeyni” (from unknown sins cleanse me). G-d told him those too were forgiven. Then Dovid proceeded “Gam m’zeydim chasoch avdecha” (also from intentional sins spare Your sevant). This too G-d forgave him. Dovid then said “Al yimshelu bee” (Let it be Your Will that the Rabbis not talk about me (negatively for my actions)”. G-d granted him this request as well.

Rashi in Tehillim explains why Dovid HaMelech is compared to a Kusi peddler. He gives an example. It is like someone comes to the door and asks for a glass of water. The house owner readily agrees to this request. Once he drinks the glass of water, he asks for a piece of onion, and then when that request too is granted he asks for a little salt to go with the onion. Next he asks for a slice of bread to go with the salt and onion so that he will not be eating such sharp foods by themselves on an empty stomach.

This is the parable. Had he asked for the bread right away, the homeowner would have turned him down for making an unreasonable request. So he began with a very innocent request and worked his way up gradually, making it hard for the homeowner to say no at any point in time. So too, Dovid initially only asked for forgiveness for unintentional sins. Then he worked his way up to the intentional and more rebellious sins. But in climbing up this ladder of requests, the biggest thing that Dovid asked for is that the Rabbis not disassociate themselves from him because they considered him to be a sinner. This was the ultimate request. That request too was granted.

The Tolner Rebbe Shlita asks why Dovid was so worried about this. In answering the question, the Tolner Rebbe makes a very important point regarding human behavior. The point is that if a person considers himself in his own eyes a sinner and a spiritual midget, then he is easy pickings for the Evil Inclination. A person should never look at himself as though he is wicked. If he considers himself to be a “rasha” [wicked] then the Evil Inclination can come to him and say “What do you care, you are a “rasha” anyway!?” There is nothing wrong with a “nobody” sinning! Everyone must have a sense of self-worth.

If a person believes in himself, if he looks at himself as an important person and as a ‘Ben Torah’ and as a ‘Talmid Chochom,’ then he will yell at himself “How can I do this!?” If one sees himself in his own eyes like he is the dregs of society, then that is how he will act. He is easy prey to fall even further, because there is nothing to restrain him.

This is how the Tolner Rebbe explains Dovid’s plea to the Almighty. After he received atonement from the Almighty, he was worried about one other thing. He said, “People will no longer look at me as a righteous person, as a man of integrity. If they are going to view me in that way, it will have an effect on me. I too will look at myself as if I am wicked!” Therefore, after he achieved forgiveness on all levels of iniquity — be they unintentional or intentional or rebellious – he said “Please one more thing: Let the Rabbis treat me with respect, so that I will be able to treat myself with respect!”

With this preface, the Tolner Rebbe explains the Medrash regarding Klal Yisrael. We asked, “What difference does it make to the nations that the names of the families of Israel are surrounded by the letters of G-d’s Name as testimony to their purity?”

The answer is that in fact it makes no difference to the nations of the world. But it will make a difference to the Jewish people! It is important for us to know and to have Divine Certification that we are not illegitimate. We should know and appreciate the fact that our lineage is pure.

With this approach, the Tolner Rebbe answers the question of the Chasam Sofer – why did they not need this same thing in the census at the beginning of Bamidbar when they first came out of Egypt? It is because if the Goyim came to that first generation that left Egypt and told them “Your mothers were unfaithful!” those who heard such charges would have dismissed them outright. “I know that is not true. That is baloney!” In that first generation, that which the Goyim might have said would not have had an effect.

But now, 40 years later, that generation is all dead. The new generation that is coming into Eretz Yisrael had no first-hand knowledge of what transpired in Egypt. A little voice might go off in their heads when they hear allegations that their mothers were dominated during the years of slavery by Egyptian masters and plant seeds of doubt: “Maybe they are right. Maybe I am illegitimate. Maybe we do not possess the pure lineage tracing back to the Patriarchs that we think we possess.” That would have a very negative effect on their self-perception and self-image.

Therefore, G-d testified: Perish the thought. Not true! G-d surrounded each family patriarch with the letter of His Divine Name to personally testify, as it were, to the purity of their lineage. For it is very important for each and every person to appreciate the greatness of who he is and who he comes from. The more a person realizes who he is and believes in himself and considers himself to be a Ben Torah, the more he is protected from the wiles of the Yetzer Hara

In The End - You Suffer Alone - Social Responsibility

Rabbi Pinchas Winston

THE END, YOU suffer alone. That was one of the last Facebook postings of a young mother of six children who took her life this last Shabbos. Her marriage had failed and ended in divorce. After suffering for years, she shot herself while in her parents’ home, with five of her children in the house at the time.


A gross understatement.



The woman had been religious with a Charedi background. She grew up in a world in which suicide is VERY extreme and far more rare an occurrence than in the secular world. Suffering or no suffering, one’s life is not theirs to take. Doing so, in most circumstances, is considered a sin.

Therefore, once upon a time, a Jew who committed suicide was not allowed to be buried in the main part of a cemetery. Today, because of all the insanity in the world, the halachah is usually more lenient and people are considered less responsible for the tragic act.

Nevertheless, suicide is still quite taboo, almost on par in Charedi circles with taking someone else’s life. For a religious Jew to carry out such an act of finality, they have to have been desperate, VERY desperate.

After all, for a secular person, suicide just means the end of their pain. Suffering terribly, that is more important to them at the time than the family and friends they might end up leaving behind.

I did not understand what that might be like until about 10 years ago when I herniated a disk. The pain was incredible, over my entire body, and relentless. I could not find ANY relief at all, even after taking the strongest pain killers I could get my hands on. I could not imagine living the rest of my life like that. I could not enjoy any good I had at the time.

Nevertheless I had hope. It could take time, more time than I could handle, but eventually the pain would subside. Eventually I would heal, b”H, even to the point that I would forget about the pain I once had.

What about the people for whom this would not be the case? What about the people who suffer emotionally, something that is much harder to solve and which does not self-heal so easily? How could they be expected to put up with such agonizing pain day-after-day, year-after-hear? What hope do they have to carry them until the situation improves?

There is always hope. The problem is not the lack of hope. It is being unable to find it or believe in it when the pain is excruciatingly distracting. We’ve all seen how our minds can take pain and multiply its negative meaning. We’ve all blown situations out of proportion, only to find out later that the crisis was not as hopeless as we had been led to believe by our panic center.

For the person suffering, this does not seem the case. They see themselves, in extreme cases, as dying emotionally. Taking their own lives is just a way of bringing the physical reality in line with the psychological one. They are very wrong, but they can’t see that while alone and drowning in the darkness.

For the person who suffers alone, there is truly tragic pain.

Someone told me shortly after the news hit Facebook, that he was amazed by the response of those who had seen the woman’s previous postings. He was stunned, he told me, at how many people wrote that the “writing had been on the wall” that she would kill herself. Apparently they had seen the potential for her to commit such a desperate act, and were not surprised that she actually carried through.

The person said to me, “If they saw the signs that she was suicidal, why did they not do something about it?”

In all fairness, I do not know who did what when to try and help the woman out. Perhaps some people did respond to her silent scream for help. Perhaps efforts were made to help her cope with her pain and survive her situation. From the fact that she complained about suffering alone makes me wonder if people made enough of an effort to save her life.

What happened represents a failure for mankind. Social media, for all of its attendant ills, provided an opportunity for people to know about someone else’s extreme pain and death wish, and to do something about. It provided a unique window to another person’s inner being, and a rare opportunity to save a life. Nevertheless, the life was lost just the same.

Ironically, this happened during the week of THE parsha that address THIS issue. The Torah says:

And the person with tzara’as, in whom there is the lesion, his garments shall be torn, his head shall be unshorn, he shall cover himself down to his mustache and call out, “Unclean! Unclean!” All the days the lesion is upon him, he shall remain unclean. He is unclean; he shall dwell isolated; his dwelling shall be outside the camp. (Vayikra 13:45-46)

And call out, “Unclean! Unclean!” [This teaches that] one should make his distress known to many, so that many pray for mercy on his behalf. (Moed Katan 5a)

This is amazing. Even though the Metzora spoke loshon hara and brought his suffering on himself, still others must take note of his plight and pray for his mercy! The Torah says that he must live in isolation for his sin, and yet the community must NOT exclude him from their prayers!

If this is true for the sinner, how much more so must others take note of the suffering of the innocent? How much more so must people have mercy on them, and do whatever they can to ease their pain and save their lives, and the lives of all whom they affect.

Only God can judge the person who has taken his or her own life. He will also judge, however, all those who let it happen. It may turn out that the sin of those who could have helped but didn’t, will be greater than the sin of those who could not have helped themselves.


Tchiyas Hameisim

Rabbi Frand 

I saw the following in the Sefer of the Tolner Rebbe Shlita in the name of the Chiddushei HaRim. Chazal point out the grammatical problem with the pasuke “Az yashir Moshe u’Bnei Yisrael es haShirah hazos l’Hashem” [Then Moshe and the Children of Israel WILL sing this song to Hashem] [Shmos 15:1], which seemingly is speaking in the future tense, when in fact the past tense should have been employed in describing what took place. The Rabbis cite this pasuk as one of the Biblical allusions to the Resurrection of the Dead (Techiyas haMeisim).

Why here? Why is specifically this used to provide a hidden allusion to the concept of Techiyas haMeisim in the Torah?

The Tolner Rebbe answers this question based on a second question. If you study the text of the Shira, you see that the opening pasukim speak of G-d in the third person: “A horse and its rider He threw into the sea”; “Pharaoh’s chariots and army He cast into the sea.” Then, suddenly in pasuk 6, the style switches and G-d is addressed in the second person: “Your right hand, Hashem, is majestic in might;” “…You devastate your opponents; You send forth Your wrath…”

Why does the Torah switch from third person to second person? The Zohar states that Klal Yisrael went through a transformation here. The transformation was that they started Kriyas Yam Suf with a basic belief (Emuna) in the Master of the World. However when they experienced Kriyas Yam Suf and they saw the Revealed Hand of G-d, their belief changed into a reality! [The Rabbis comment that a common handmaiden on Yam Suf saw visions greater than the great prophet Yechezkel.] Previously, belief was just a concept. It was “third person” (detached). By the time they experienced Krias Yam Suf and saw the Hand of G-d, it was a reality: I can point: This is my G-d.

If that’s the case, at this time Klal Yisrael was devoid of Emuna. There was no question of belief anymore. It was reality. The Master of the Universe said “I want to still give you the opportunity to believe – to use faith to believe in something you have not yet witnessed! What’s that? Techiyas HaMeisim – the fact that everyone will die but everyone will also come back!” That was not yet reality, it was still in the realm of Emuna.

When BELIEF in the Almighty was no longer possible because it became REALITY, the Jewish people were given the promise of Resurrection (Az Yashir Moshe U’Bnei Yisrael…) to provide them with a concept about which they could have Emuna (belief).

People say "seeing is believing". That is not true. If one sees he doesn't have to believe. To believe is NOT TO SEE and to still believe. 

A second answer to this same question comes from the Belzer Rebbe, zt”l, cited by Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetsky. When the Belzer Rebbe tried to gather his people together after World War II, he saw that the Chassidim — most of them Holocaust survivors who had lost large portions of their families — were in no mood to sing Zemiros on Shabbos.

The Belzer Rebbe posed this question to his Chassidim: Why specifically now at the time of the splitting of the Sea were the Jewish people taught the Biblical allusion to the concept of Resurrection (Techiyas haMeisim)?

The Belzer Rebbe explained: Realize that when the Jewish people sang the Song of the Sea, the entire nation was not present. How many people did not survive the enslavement of Egypt? How many survivors had lost the majority of their families in Egypt who had never lived to see the day of the Exodus? According to Chazal, 80% of the Jews died in Egypt. It is safe to say that everyone who did make it out of Egypt had lost relatives and could not therefore fully celebrate the miracles they were witnessing at that time.

Moshe Rabbeinu told them “It is time to sing.” But they responded, “Sing? How can we be happy? Eighty percent of Klal Yisrael is missing!” Moshe then explained that we have an allusion to the resurrection of the dead from this very place in the Torah: We will get your relatives back! The knowledge that the dead will rise and come back is very consoling.

Not long ago, I read the story of a woman who lost her only son in the War (Shalom HaGalil) in Lebanon. She was inconsolable. She refused to go to any family simchas. She would only go to funerals. She was a widow who lost her only son, “what joy is there any more in life?” She once went to a family levaya. A woman accompanied her to the cemetery. Following the burial, they stopped at the grave site of Reb Aryeh Levine (The Tzadik of Yerushalayim: A Tzadik In Our Time) to say Tehillim. On Reb Aryeh Levine’s tombstone, she saw the following written: Anyone who comes to pray at my grave should first say ‘I believe with a complete faith that Resurrection of the dead will transpire when it is the Will of G-d, blessed be He that this will happen.’ The woman read that and it touched a chord. Suddenly, it became a reality to her that “one day I will get my son back.” From that moment on, she began to live her life again because the hope that there will be Techiyas haMeisim consoled her.

Last Sunday, I had to fly to St. Louis for a wedding. I was sitting in the aisle seat with the seat next to me empty. The window seat was taken by an older woman with a box of tissues. She kept on blowing her nose. I was thinking to myself “I am going to catch a cold after this flight.” The plane took off and I noticed that the woman was wiping her eyes also. I thought to myself, maybe she doesn’t have a cold, she’s crying!

The stewardess came down and sat in the middle seat and started talking with her, at which point the woman broke down and cried loudly. The stewardess tried to console her. Apparently Southwest Airlines was alerted that this woman had some kind of problem. The stewardess left. The woman continued to cry the whole time.

I said to her, “This is none of my business, but what is bothering you?” She told me, “I found out this morning that my daughter was killed in a car crash and I am on the way to her funeral. My only other child, my son, was killed in Iraq two months ago!” She was inconsolable. I asked her, “Is there anything I can do for you?” She said, “Just pray for me.”

The knowledge of “From here there is a Biblical allusion to Techiyas HaMeisim” – the idea that one day we will again see the relatives whom we so dearly miss, is a very consoling thought. That is what rejuvenated the Belzer Chassidim who were Holocaust survivors and that is what consoled the woman at the grave site of Reb Aryeh Levine — one day she will see her son again and she can therefore go on living her life.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

How Do We Kasher?

Rabbi Kaganoff

Question #1: Underwent a Grilling

Shmuel, planning a bein hazemanim camping trip, asks:

“Is it possible to kasher a treif grill?”

Question #2: Planetary Kashrus

Dawn e-mails me the following question:

“Whenever I call my rabbi about a household kitchen mixup, he asks me whether the offending vessel was used for either dairy or meat in the last twenty-four hours. Twenty-four hours is the approximate time it takes for the earth to rotate on its axis, so that every part of the planet, except for the areas near the poles, experiences day and night during that time. How does that affect whether my pot is kosher?”

Question #3: Roommate Ruckus

Chaya, who already knows that she needs to change her living arrangements as soon as practical, calls: “In a fit of anger, my roommate deliberately made one of my pots non-kosher. May I eat the food that I cooked before I found out that she treifed up the pot?”


After the Bnei Yisroel’s spectacular and miraculous victory over the nation of Midyan, they were issued instructions regarding the booty that they had just acquired: Concerning the gold and the silver; the copper, the iron, the tin and the lead: any item that was used in fire needs to be placed in fire to become pure – yet, it must also be purified in mikveh water. And that which was not used in fire must pass through water (Bamidbar 31:22-23).

This posuk introduces the concept of kashering vessels. The Torah assumes that when a utensil is used to cook food, some of the food is absorbed into the walls of the pot, and this residue continues to impart flavor. Therefore, equipment that was used to prepare non-kosher food must be kashered before it can be used. To the Bnei Yisroel in the desert, this meant that the spit or gridiron grates recently “acquired” from the Midyanites had to be kashered. For the contemporary Jew, this means that the built-in grill in the backyard of his newly purchased suburban home must be made properly kosher before he uses it.

Ke’bol’o kach polto

How does one remove the remaining residue? The instructions the halacha provides create a hierarchy of kashering, called ke’bol’o kach polto – the same way a vessel absorbed non-kosher substance is the method used to kasher it. Utensils that were placed in the fire itself must be kashered by heating them in fire. Thus, a spit, grill, or similar appliance, which absorbs food directly through fire, requires kashering by burning in fire, libun. Those utensils used to cook in water or other liquid must be kashered by boiling them in water. Therefore, a pot or similar cooking equipment may be kashered by bringing the vessel to a boil, a process called hag’alah. Hag’alah will remove completely what was absorbed by cooking, but will not remove everything that was absorbed through grilling (Taz, Yoreh Deah 121:7; see Pri Megadim, Orach Chayim 452:4 in Mishbetzos Zahav).

Libun versus hag’alah

Most late authorities understand that the dissimilarity between libunand hag’alah is because the two methods of kashering operate in different ways. Libun removes the non-kosher residue by burning it, similar to the way we destroy the last remnants of our chometz before Pesach. The spit or grill may now be used for your kosher barbecue, because the residual flavor from the non-kosher meat has now been completely consumed. (Note, however, that several rishonim appear to understand this topic differently.)

On the other hand, hag’alah, boiling, kashers by removing the residue rather than destroying it in situ. Whatever taste of non-kosher food remained in the pot has now been dissolved and nullified in the water (Shach, Yoreh Deah 121:17, quoting Re’ah; see also Pri Megadim, Orach Chayim 452:4 in Mishbetzos Zahav; Shu”t Igros Moshe, Yoreh Deah 1:60).

Therefore, libun could be used on an item requiring hag’alah, since it will satisfactorily burn up any residue. However, an appliance that requires libun cannot be kashered with hag’alah, since this does not remove completely whatever was absorbed when the non-kosher food was broiled.

Thus, the answer to Shmuel’s question whether one can kosher a treifgrill is affirmative. The halacha is that one heats the grill until it glows or sparks, which is called in halacha ‘libun chamur.’

Nosein taam lifgam

To explain the background to the rest of our opening questions, we need to address a different aspect of this halacha. The Gemara quotes a dispute between tana’im, the Torah scholars of the era of the Mishnah, regarding the following question:

Often, the flavor that a food provides is nosein taam lifgam — which means that the non-kosher food provides a less than appetizing flavor into the kosher food. Is something that is nosein taam lifgamprohibited? Rabbi Meir contends that, since the Torah requires that the Bnei Yisroel kasher whatever equipment they acquired from the Midyanites, all flavor is prohibited, whether or not it is appetizing.

Rabbi Shimon disagrees, contending that the Torah prohibited only the appetizing flavor of non-kosher substances. In his opinion, the Torah did not prohibit using equipment that was once used for non-kosher when the flavor imparted does not enhance the finished product. Such a taste is called pogum (Avodah Zarah 67b).

Don’t cry over spilled vinegar

Following this latter opinion, the Mishnah (Avodah Zarah 65b) rules that if non-kosher wine vinegar spilled into hot beans, one may eat the beans even though one can taste the vinegar! This is because your favorite cookbook does not suggest adding vinegar to the beans you are cooking, and for a very good reason – the taste of cooked beans is not enhanced by vinegar.

How do we rule?

The Mishnah (Avodah Zarah 65b) rules that nosein taam lifgam is permitted, and this is also the conclusion of the Gemara in several places (Avodah Zarah 36a, 38b, 39b, 65b). A less than appetizing flavor is not included in what the Torah prohibits. The Shulchan Aruch(Yoreh Deah 103:1-2) also rules this way, writing the following: “Any item that imparts a pogum taste does not prohibit its admixture, even if the item itself is very tasty, but it adds an ill taste to the food in which it is now mixed. This ill taste does not require that it be completely spoiled until one is disgusted to eat it. Even if the added substance creates only a slight distaste, the mixture is permitted. However, there is an opinion that this is permitted only if one mixed a small amount of prohibited food into an amount of food greater than it. But if the prohibited substance is greater, or even if the two are mixed fifty-fifty, we do not say that nosein taam lifgam is permitted, unless the food is completely spoiled and no longer fit for human consumption.”

Why is it pogum?

Why would good food impart distaste to other food? There are several ways this could happen. One is that the tastes of the two food items do not enhance one another. Although the Mishnah and Gemara choose other examples of this, think of the child who decided to squeeze a pickle into his apple sauce. Pickles taste good and apple sauce tastes good, but the combination…

Milk and orange juice

Many years ago, I happened to be at a meeting of prominent rabbonim in which one of the distinguished attendees raised the following question: How could one drink orange juice together with a fleishig meal? The same bottling equipment used to fill the containers of orange juice could be used to fill containers of milk!

A different prominent rav responded by asking the questioner when was the last time he had added milk to his orange juice? When the entire audience grimaced at the thought, the rav noted that this is exactly what the halacha calls nosein taam lifgam. Milk does not enhance the flavor of orange juice, and, therefore, even if a container of orange juice was filled using equipment that previously had bottled milk, the finished product is perfectly kosher and pareve.

Same day

Here is another application of nosein taam lifgam that is very common. The Gemara states that the absorbed residual flavor remaining in a pot provides a good taste only during the day the food was prepared, which is called ben yomo. Afterwards, this taste spoils and becomes nosein taam lifgam. Residual flavor in a pot the day after it was absorbed is called eino ben yomo. On this basis, food prepared in a non-kosher pot when it is eino ben yomo is kosher (Avodah Zarah75b; Rambam, Hilchos Maachalos Asuros 17:2; Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 103:5; 122:6). We will discuss shortly why we are not permitted to use this pot.

Meat and milk

The rule mentioned above also applies to a mixture of dairy and meat. Mixing dairy and meat together usually provides a good flavor, and it is therefore prohibited. However, if the fleishig pot that cooked the milk was not used the same day for meat, and milk was cooked in it, the meat flavor imparted to the dairy product is nosein taam lifgam. Although the pot must be kashered, since it now contains both milk and meat residue, the milk cooked in it remains kosher.

Stories from the Talmud

The Mishnah rules that it is permitted to purchase vegetable oil or honey from a non-Jew (Avodah Zarah 35b, 39b). The Gemara asks why this is so – should we not be concerned that these foods were prepared in the gentile’s non-kosher vessel? If so, we should be concerned that the oil or the honey have absorbed non-kosher flavor.

To this question, the Gemara answers that we may assume that the non-kosher flavor in the pot will be nosein taam lifgam in the oil or honey (Avodah Zarah 36a, 39b). The rishonim explain that the reason the oil and the honey are both permitted is because the possibility exists that when the non-kosher pot was used to heat the oil or the honey, it may not have been a ben yomo. Furthermore, the possibility exists that the non-kosher food previously cooked in the vessel gave the oil or honey a less appetizing flavor (Tosafos, Avodah Zarah, 38b s.v. Iy; Shu”t Harivash #28). Therefore, there is a sefeik sefeika, meaning that there is more than one reason why something may be permitted, such that sufficient reason exists to permit it.

What is the same day?

What does the Gemara mean when it says that residue from cooking of a previous day no longer tastes good? Is there a timetable whereby we know how long it takes for the residue in the vessel to spoil? As Dawn noted in her question above, “Twenty-four hours is the approximate time it takes for the earth to rotate on its axis, so that every part of the planet, except for the areas near the poles, experiences day and night during that time. How does that affect whether my pot is kosher?”

The answer is that there is a dispute among rishonim how much time it takes for the residue to spoil. According to some opinions, spoilage happens overnight, but does not require 24 hours (for example, Rashi, Avodah Zarah 67b). According to this opinion, because of nosein taam lifgam, min haTorah a pot used for meat one day may be used for dairy the following morning.

Other rishonim contend that nosein taam lifgam occurs when the vessel or the pot was not used to cook or warm food for 24 consecutive hours since the food was prepared (Tur, Yoreh Deah 103). The Shulchan Aruch follows the latter opinion (Yoreh Deah, 103).

It dawns on Dawn

With this background, we can now answer Dawn’s question:

“Whenever I call my rabbi about a household kitchen mixup, he asks me whether the offending vessel was used for either dairy or meat in the last 24 hours… How does that affect whether my pot is kosher?”

The answer is that once twenty-four hours have passed since the last use of this pot, the flavor that is absorbed is nosein taam lifgam and does not prohibit the food that is prepared subsequently in the pot.


There is one major exception – in which a food item that would otherwise be considered pogeim, now adds a positive taste, and therefore the food prepared is prohibited. A pungent item, davar charif, absorbs and transmits flavor in ways that more bland items do not. When a davar charif herb or spice is prepared, the pungency of the food transforms the nosein taam lifgam absorbed in the vessel into a good-tasting product. For this reason, the Mishnah (Avodah Zarah35b) prohibits using a slice of a highly pungent food item called chiltis obtained from a non-Jew, since it may have been sliced with a gentile’s non-kosher knife. The sefeik sefeika mentioned above regarding vegetable oil and honey does not apply, since the pungency of chiltis enhances the taste of the non-kosher residue.

What is chiltis?

Rashi explains it to be laser. The Latin name for this very strongly-tasting herb is laserpitium, which was also sometimes called silphionor silphium.

I have seen other commentaries identify chiltis with a different ancient herb called assa foetida, also called “devil’s dung,” because of its extremely powerful odor. Neither silphium nor assa foetida are commonly used in flavoring today, because the modern palate prefers the tastes of other spices. Nevertheless, many spices and herbs are considered devarim charifim, but we will leave that discussion for a different time.

Non-kosher pots

We concluded above that if someone cooked food in a pot that had been used more than 24 hours ago to cook non-kosher food, the food that is now cooked remains kosher. At this point, one could ask the following question: If we determine that a pot has not been used for the last 24 hours, should we not be able to use it to cook kosher food, even if we know it was used to ccok non-kosher food previously? After all, once 24 hours has passed, whatever non-kosher food was absorbed becomes nosein taam lifgam.

The answer is that Chazal forbade using this pot because of a concern that one may make a mistake and use it within 24 hours of it being used for non-kosher. The Gemara calls this gezeirah kedeirah eino ben yomo mishum kedeirah ben yomo, a decree on a pot last used a day earlier because it will lead to using a pot that is ben yomo (Avodah Zarah 76a).

Intentional misuse

What is the halacha if someone knew that Chazal prohibited using an eino ben yomo treif pot, but decided to cook in it, anyway? Is the food that he produced not kosher?

Let me explain the question. In many situations, if a non-kosher substance became mixed into kosher food, the finished product may be used because of a halachic principle called bitul, which means that the non-kosher product was nullified or neutralized.

On the other hand, there is a halachic principle that ein mevatlin issur lechatchilah, one is not permitted to take a non-kosher substance and nullify it. Bitul is a concept that is applied only after-the-fact, be’dei’evid.

What if someone used an eino ben yomo treif pot without kashering it? Is the food prohibited because of the principle of ein mevatlin issur lechatchilah? Similarly, we can ask regarding someone who intentionally used an eino ben yomo dairy pot to cook meat or an eino ben yomo meat pot for dairy. The pot certainly will now require kashering. The question is whether the food is permitted.

The question is: When Chazal prohibited use of an eino ben yomo, did they only prohibit using the pot, or did they rule that the residue in the pot is considered a prohibited substance. If they ruled the former, then food prepared in such a pot is permitted. If they ruled the latter, then someone who intentionally used the pot, knowing that it was prohibited to do so, was attempting to nullify a prohibited substance, and, because of ein mevatlin issur lechatchilah, the product is prohibited.

This matter is a the subject of a dispute both among the rishonim and among the acharonim. According to the Rashba (Toras Habayis, 4:3, 4:4) and the Chamudei Daniel (quoted in Darchei Teshuvah 122:26), the food is prohibited. The Rashba states that product cooked intentionally in an eino ben yomo treif pot is prohibited because of ein mevatlin issur lechatchilah. However, the Rambam and the Shulchan Aruch imply that the food is permitted, and this is the way Rav Moshe Feinstein rules (Shu”t Igros Moshe, Yoreh Deah 2:41).

Roommate ruckus

At this point, we can discuss Chaya’s question. “In a fit of anger, my roommate deliberately made one of my pots non-kosher. May I eat the food that I cooked before I found out that she treifed up the pot.”

The answer is that provided the pot was not ben yomo, Chaya may eat the food and serve it to guests. Even according to the Rashba, who rules that someone who intentionally used a non-kosher pot makes the food non-kosher, this would not apply to Chaya, who was not trying to violate any ruling of Chazal. Unfortunately, if her roommate really made the pot non-kosher, Chaya will need to kasher it before she can use it again. Although someone suggested that she boil her roommate in the pot, there are probably more effective ways for Chaya to deal with her difficult living situation.


This article has provided a small introduction to some of the ideas of kashering, particularly to the concepts of libun and hag’alah. We have not yet dealt with several other types of kashering, including iruy, kli rishon, and miluy ve’iruy, all of which we will need to leave for a future time. We should always hope and pray that the food we eat fulfills all the halachos that the Torah commands us.