Saturday, December 29, 2007

G-d's Coffee

A group of alumni, highly established in their careers, got together to visit their old university professor. Conversation soon turned into complaints about stress in work and life. Offering his guests coffee, the professor went to the kitchen and returned with a large pot of coffee and an assortment of cups -porcelain plastic, glass, crystal, some plain looking, some expensive, some exquisite - telling them to help themselves to the coffee.

When all the students had a cup of coffee in hand, the professor said: "If you noticed, all the nice looking expensive cups were taken up, leaving behind the plain and cheap ones.

While it is normal for you to want only the best for yourselves, that is the source of your problems and stress. Be assured that the cup itself adds no quality to the coffee. In most cases it is just more expensive and in some cases even hides what we drink. What all of you really wanted was coffee, not the cup, but you consciously went for the best cups... And then you began eying each other's cups.

Now consider this: Life is the coffee; the jobs, money and position in society are the cups. They are just tools to hold and contain Life, and the type of cup we have does not define, nor change the quality of Life we live. Sometimes, by concentrating only on the cup, we fail to enjoy the coffee G
-d has provided us."

-d brews the coffee, not the cups........ .. Enjoy your coffee!

Friday, December 28, 2007

Parshas Shemos - "We Are Just Different...Face It!

NOT SUCH A QUICKIE/Funfact : In this week's Parsha is the birth of Moshe Rabbeinu. From a very young age Moshe was protected and cosseted. The first time when this is displayed is when he is discovered by Pharaoh's daughter, Batya.

After Moshe is placed in a basket made of reeds and into the water's of the Nile River, Miriam tracks the basket all the way to the Kings palace. Immediately after Batya picked up the child, Miriam jumped into the picture and alerted Batya that Yocheved, Moshe's true mother, was available to nurse the child through his infancy.

It is dictated in the Shulchan Aruch, that Jewish babies may not be nursed by Gentile woman. The reason is, because their milk is bad for the "Heart and the Soul" of a Jew. The Vilna Gaon commenting on this Law mentions that the source of this is from Moshe Rabbeinu!

We can appropriately assume that Miriam took extra precautions because she understood the capabilities which were infused in Moshe, but not everyone is Moshe?!

Rav Yaakov Kaminetsky Tz"l answers that while educating children, it is of utmost importance to treat every child, like they are Moshe Rabbeinu. The potential of every Jewish child is great and it is our responsibility to guard them.

1:8 "Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who knew not Joseph."

The Medrish Rabba on this pasuk explains the reasoning for why the servitude of the "Jewish" people in Mitzraiyim officially started:

[As a mission to become accepted as part of Egyptian culture Klal Yisrael abstained from performing Bris Milah. They claimed, "If Mitzraiyim doesn't do it, then why should we". Once they stopped doing the Milah, the servitude started.]

A question arises however. Logically it does not make sense that the servitude started because of our assimilation. Wouldn't the Egyptian people feel empowered and flattered by our wanting to be more secular and like them?

Rav Shmuel Wagner Shlit"a of Yeshivas Ohr Yerushalayim answers, when Hashem chose Klal Yisrael to be his nation he dictated that there would always be a separation between the nations of the world and Am Yisrael. If we refuse to come to that realization ourselves then Hashem will intervene and bring it to our realization.

The Kuzari speaks of 4 categories of being:

Domem- Rocks

Tzemach- Plants

Chaim- Animals

Midaber- Mankind

Yehudi- the Jewish people

For this reason Hakodosh Baruch Hu put us in servitude. It was needed, to show us that we were different from the other nations of the world.

Check out the numbers: Jews ranked...
* Number 1 in providing medical advancements that saved American's lives in the last 100 years.
* Number 1 in authorship of both biographical and fictional materials.
* Number 1 in per capita income.
* Number 1 in the creative arts
* Number 1 as educators, (grade school through college level)
* Number 1 in the legal profession
* Number 1 in the banking/investment banking business.
* Number 1 in providing the most charity/philanthropy per capita.
* Number 1 in journalist/media participation.
* Number 9 in military service. (They made the top ten, out of 20 ranked ethnic groups)* Number 10 in athletics. The Jews squeaked into the last top spot with their participation in ice skating, tennis, track and baseball.
* Number 1 in the lowest incidents of anti-social behavior.
Jews commit the least amount of violent crime of any ethnic group. (The best neighbor to have is a Jew)
America has always honored Jews and that is why Jewish representation in Congress is at an all-time high and vastly exceeds their numbers in the population.

Hashem has different ways of showing us that we are different. But Boy o Boy are we ever!


Tuesday, December 25, 2007

This "Holiday" Season

Although the Jewish people celebrate the true festival of lights, often times we feel discriminated (to say the least) during X-mas and (of course) Kwanzaa season. The games,songs and presents of Chanuka which are definitely warm and familiar seem to be incomparable to the joyous and jubilant jingles of the uncircumcised. We feel demeaned and patronized and as a direct reaction we crave for the same artificial love and happiness that their holiday encompasses.

But should we really?

At first glance.....ABSOLUTELY! The puppy is adorable, the children are gleaming with joy, and the bikes are gnarly. Nevertheless we have to realize that there is more to life than attractive lights and a well decorated pine tree. This day will pass and their short lived vacation will be over. They will return to a creedless and meaningless existence while counting to their next vacation. While we on the other hand, continue talking to G-d 3 times a day and anxiously awaiting the coming of the Messiah. We carry with us a rich tradition as the Chosen People. In no way shape or form would we give that up for a few cups of eggnog, gingerbread cookies and an exhibit of lights

Now let me ask you, should we be jealous?

No, but the lights are still gorgeous!
CHECK OUT THE SEFORIM blog for a comprehensive study on "Hilchos" Nittel Nacht!

The following post was taken from Menachem Butler's,
the Seforim blog:

Edmund Wilson, Hebrew, Christmas, and the Talmud

by Elliott Horowitz

As is well known, during the 1950's Edmund Wilson, the great (and perhaps greatest) American man of letters, began studying Hebrew, both in order to read the Hebrew Bible on his own, and in order to write in an informed manner about the controversies surrounding the recently discovered Dead Sea Scrolls. As Shalom Goldman noted in his excellent chapter on Wilson in God's Sacred Tongue: Hebrew and the American Imagination (Chapel Hill, 2004), Wilson "delighted in teasing his Jewish friends" about their having jettisoned their (usually limited) Hebraic learning while he was steadily increasing his. As an example, Goldman cites the Christmas card Wilson sent to Alfred Kazin in 1952, which included (in Hebrew) the words "I shall learn Hebrew," followed by the Wilsonian barb: "I'll bet you can't read this."

If one consults the card itself, reproduced in Edmund Wilson, Letters on Literature and Politics, 1912-1972 ed., Elena Wilson (New York, 1977), it may be seen that before the oddly vocalized words "elmod lashon yisrael," Wilson added, in the same square script, the blessing "barukh ata la-shem" - probably the first time these words (with the actual tetragrammaton) were used in a Christmas greeting.

Readers of the Seforim blog may also be interested in a subsequent letter of Wilson's to the Brooklyn-born Kazin, written from the New Yorker office in October 1954, shortly after the article on the Dead Sea Scrolls was completed.

"I am still struggling in the toils of the three thousand years of Jewish history. Once you get into it, you find there is no easy way of getting out again. Have you ever tried reading the talmud? It is a very strange work - difficult at first to get the hang of - but it exercises a certain fascination. I think that I may settle down to reading it through. There seems to be no other way of really finding out what is in it..." (Ibid., 528).

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Parshas Vayechi - "Everyone Deserves a Chance"

Quickie/Funfact: 47:28 “…and the days of Jacob the years of his life were one hundred and forty seven years”

Normally the Torah recounts the years of a person’s life immediately before or after the persons death. Why by Yaakov does the Torah tell us his age so long in advance before his death?

Rav Moshe Feinstein answers that the Torah is telling us that each day of Yaakov’s life was consistent in terms of his enthusiasm and commitment to Hashem and the Torah. Even through all of the trials and tribulations which he endured (Im Lavan Garti = 613 Mitzvos), Yaakov still managed to remain headstrong in his observance of the Mitzvos. For this reason the length of his life span is told well before his death.

48:14 “But Israel extended his right hand and laid it on Ephraim’s head though he was the younger and his left hand on Menasseh’s.”

Within this episode, Yaakov is lying on his “death bed” as all of his progeny awaits his blessings before his imminent death. Yosef brings his children Ephraim and Menasseh to receive the blessing of their grandfather, Yaakov. Instead of placing his right (stronger) hand on the older Menasseh’s head, Yaakov places it on Ephraim and in turn places his left (weaker) hand on Menasseh. As Yosef stands by, watching on both befuddled and bewildered he watches his father give his sons the famous blessing of, “Hamalach Hagoel…”

As far as the power of the blessings are concerned it does not make any difference whether one is blessed with the right hand or the left hand, especially because Yaakov gave both brothers the same bracha. Regardless, the difference is strictly within who is accorded with the most respect.

Rashi commenting on the Pasuk says that the reason for Yaakov’s decision to do this was because he saw that in the future Ephraim would have a greater lineage than that of Menasseh.

The Gemara in Messeches Sanhedrin 44a says that Menasseh was zocheh to have Yair come from him; a person who was the equivalent to 36 members of the Sanhedrin. Nonetheless, since Yehoshua, who surpassed him came from Ephraim, Ephraim was awarded the honor of having his head covered with Yaakov’s right hand.

But why was Ephraim zoche to having such an amazing descendant?

A story is told of R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach. Every day in his shiur he would delve into the most complicated sugyas and he would give the most complex explanations to his understandings of them. There was a well known rule at the time however, that R’ Shlomo Zalman did not answer any questions on old sugyas during shiur. One day, a young boy raised his hand in the middle of shiur and asked a question on the previous shiur. As the shiur looked on in amazement R’ Shlomo Zalman answered the boys question with a smile on his face, almost as if he was telling the boy that his question was accepted and welcome at any time.

After shiur some of his top students approached R’ Shlomo Zalman and inquired about the boy’s question and why the Rebbi even entertained the idea of answering him?

R’ Shlomo Zalman looked at them and answered that the boy had been in the shiur for a year and until now had never mustered up the courage to ask a question. Had he rejected the question the young student would have been totally discouraged and may have never asked a question again. R’ Shlomo Zalman went against protocol to give this boy a newfound confidence.

The same was with Ephraim, Menasseh’s name was one that reflected the old world, as long as there was some attachment to that world there was a lesser need of a blessing of a sage. Ephraim on the other hand was a representation of the prosperity of the new country for that reason he needed this bracha from Yaakov more than anyone and this is why he was eventually zoche to have a descendant like Yehoshua.

Everyone deserves a chance regardless of their background. All that we have to do is embrace them.


How many tribes are there?!

48:6 “Ephraim and Menasseh shall be mine….but progeny born after them shall be yours”

What is meant by this verse?

Rashi astutely answers that Yaakov had included Ephraim and Menasseh as part of the 12 tribes. Yaakov was telling Yosef that only Emphraim and Menasseh would be included in this count but any of his other children would not be their own tribes but listed as part of Ephraim and Menasseh (specifically when it comes to inheriting land in Eretz Yisrael)

Ephraim and Menasseh were unique children. Much like Yosef they stayed true to their roots and maintained their identities while entrenched in the immoral dissolute of Mitzrayim.

Promise me!

47:31 Why did Yaakov make Yosef swear to him that he would take him bones out of Egypt and give him a proper burial in Eretz Yisrael, does he not trust him? His name was Yosef HATZADDICK!

The Rambam answers that although Yaakov most definitely did trust Yosef he did not trust Pharoah. Yaakov realized that if he made a binding agreement with Yosef it would negate any of Pharoah’s wishes of wanting to bury the Patriarch in Mitzrayim.

Not only that, but Yaakov also wanted his son to be more anxious to fulfill this mitzvah so he made him swear.

We are closer than that

47:29 “Please place your hand TACHAS YERAICHI”

The Netziv commenting on these words mentions that in (Sefer Ezekiel 17:18) it says that the way to make a covenant with a friend was with a high five or shaking hands for it says, “Vihenai Natan Yad”. When dealing with a father and son however it is disrespectful for the son to treat his father like they are best friends. Therefore Yaakov made this covenant by having Yosef place his hand on his yerech.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The 10th of Teves - Lets Party!

Once again the 10th of Teves is upon us and in our cyclical calendar we fast while experiencing the pain and anguish of a lost Temple.

In today’s day and age we have become desensitized to the loss of the Beis Hamikdash. For most, we cannot even minutely imagine a life with the Temple built in its full glory. We can’t picture the hordes of people coming from around the world to bring sacrifices to G-d three times a year.

Nevertheless, the (Gemara Sukka 51b) says, “Anyone who has not seen the Simchas Beis HaShoeva in his days has never seen happiness in his life.” The Gemara then continues to say, “Anyone who did not see the Beis Hamikdash while it was built has never seen an attractive building”.

While learning this Gemara, I was perplexed as to why the Gemara in Sukka juxtaposes these two statements next to each other. Granted the Simchas Beis Hashoeva was a happy occasion…and granted that as an architectural structure the Beis Hamikdash was a masterpiece, but what do they have to do with one another? I would assume that the reason why the event was filled with happiness had nothing to do with the beauty of the building that housed it.

It is written in Pirkei Avos that if “two people sit and proactively learn Torah together then the Shichina dwells among them”. This learning is not restricted to the learning of the texts themself but it is also when the Torah is being practiced. We are taught “Viahavta Lireacha Kamocha” “You shall love you friend like yourself”. Only when we love our friends like ourselves can the Shichina dwell amongst us.

The Gemara (Yoma 9b) says that the Beis Hamikdash was destroyed because of Sinas Chinam, baseless hatred. The Jewish people are one and we all share a common goal. Every person is worthy of respect regardless of their beliefs or level of observance. There is something to be learned from everyone.

I would like to suggest that the reason why the Beis Hamikdash was so beautiful was because of the Simchas Beis HaShoeva, this is why they are juxtaposed to one another in the Gemara Sukka. When Klal Yisrael was respectful to one another and treated each other with the utmost admiration, (like during the Simchas Beis Hashoeva) then there was no building that was more aesthetically and internally beautiful than the Beis Hamikdash. When they didn’t however, then the Shichina could no longer dwell amongst them.

The only way to fix our problem is to realize that we have a problem. The key to true happiness is in the way that we treat others. The only way for the Beis Hamikdash to exist is if we have “happy” events.


Live it up! Have Fun!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Petting a Pet on Shabbos

The Gemara Shabbos 128b says that one is not allowed to move animals on Shabbos. In the Halachik jargon, animals are considered to be like sticks and stones (Muktza Machmas Gufo) which are not permissible on Shabbos. Being that there is no conceivable use for them on Shabbos it is therefore Assur to utilize them.

This ruling is quoted by the Shulchan Aruch O.C. 308:39 and most later poskim, and no distinction is drawn between farm animals and household pets. Some pokim (Kaf HaChaim and others) even include “playful” animals in this prohibition.

Other Poskim however DO make a distinction between farm animals and household pets. Their opinion is that a pet is considered like a household item, similar to a toy or a picture, and therefore is not classified as muktzeh.

A proof for this, is mentioned in the Gemara when talking about when a person’s hands are wet on Shabbos. One of the remedies listed is wiping them on an animal’s tail.

If people choose to be lenient in this matter, they definitely have whom to rely upon(R' SZ Auerbach).

(R' Moshe Feinstein had conflicting views which requires a deeper analysis)

The Mishna Brura 305:70 and the Chazon Ish say that if a pet is in distress, one may be lenient and move it or carry it.

* Nothing that is said in this post should be done LaMaisa without first discussing it w/ an official Rabbinic Authority.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Ask the Rabbi

45:24 “And he told them do not get angry on the way”

Rashi quotes a Gemara in Taanis that says that the Brothers should not stop on the way to discuss Divrei Halacha.

If it is true that the proper understanding of this pasuk is entirely concerned with the brothers learning Halacha then why was Yosef so adamantly against it?

R’ Sorotzkin answers, because they were carrying with themselves a remez to the topic of Eglah Arufa which is what Yosef had last learned with his father. Yosef therefore did not want them to discuss this on the way.

Why then did Yosef not say this straight out? This is very loose language!

Yosef understood that when people learn they often times either have sefarim to refer to or people who they can ask questions to. Only at this point are they able to reach a conclusive end while learning with as little argument as possible.

If they learn on the road however they will continue arguing to no end and they will end out in a skirmish. Yosef is telling them, “don’t argue on the way”, until you get back home and you can discuss these divrei halacha with Yaakov Avinu.

Who Wants Egyptian Wine?

“Uliaviv shalach kazos, asara chamorim nisiim mitov mitzraim” 45:23

'And to his father he sent like this: ten he-donkeys laden of the best of Egypt"

Chazal says that mitov mitzraim is referring to “old wine”which is something that old people enjoy.

Why is old wine seen as something that old people enjoy?

The Baal Tiv Gitten says that Wine is the one and only thing that gets better when it is older rather than younger. Therefore elderly people like old wine because it speaks well for them (the wiser the greater).

The Kihilos Yitzchak asks, why is old wine considered to be the greatest commodity of Mitzraim, it seems that the Egyptians did not know anything about this?! Yaakov was seemingly better off getting his Wine in Eretz Yisrael!

In Sefer Isaiah it says that Mitzraim is called Rahav – which means arrogant (gaaiva), this is because the Egyptians were always entrenched in their own desires and riches this made them baalei gaaiva.

The Gemara in Bava Basra (98) says that the wine of an arrogant person will become vinegar. This is why Mitzraim does not have good wine and Kol Shekein that they do not have aged wine.

For this exact reason Yosef sent Yaakov aged Egyptian wine. He wanted to show his father that he had not learned from the ways of the Egyptians.

This is also why this wine was valuable, because nice wine was hard to come by in Egypt because it would become vinegar because of their arrogance.

The Torah Temima however say that the reason why the wine was so valuable was because when people drink wine they like to drink stuff that is older than they are. This is seen in Megilla (12) by the feast of Achashveirosh, “Viyayin malchus rav” – everyone drank wine that was older than them in years. Therefore it was impossible to find wine that was older than Yaakov in Eretz Yisrael because at that time Yaakov was 130 years old, and Chazal tell us that at that time rain only fell once every 70 years in Eretz Yisrael. This is why Yosef sent Yaakov old wine from Egypt.

5 = 1... only on Purim!

After meeting with Yosef, Yosef gives his brothers all gifts to bring home. He gives all of the brothers Chalifos and Simlaos and then he gives Binyamin, 300 kesef and 5 dresses. These 5 garments/suits are nirmaz to a time when someone from Binyamin’s tribe would be destined to wear 5 Garments: Mordechai, wore the Kings royal garb; Techeiles, Vichor, Viateres zahav gidola, Vitachrich Bootz, and Argaman.

Q: Why didn’t Yosef even think about the possibility that the brothers would get jealous again like they did with him?

A: the Gr”a answers that in reality although Yosef gave Binyamin garments they were collectively worth just as much as the single garments that were given to the rest of the brothers.

Q: If they were all worth the same amount then why not give Binyamin 1 or all of the tribes 5?

A: Because like the earlier Nivua which Rashi discusses when Yosef cries on his “shoulders” because of the Beis Hamikdash, Yosef was hinting to another event that would eventually happen in Jewish history; Mordechai and Esther in Shushan.

I Missed You

In this weeks Parsha we see the reuniting of Yosef and Yaakov after 22 years of separation.

The pasuk says, (46:29,30) “Yosef harnessed his chariot and went up to meet Israel his father, to Goshen; and he appeared to him, fell on his neck, and he wept on his neck excessively. Then Israel said to Yosef, I can die this time, after my having seen your face, because you are still alive.”

In Meseches Brachos( 58: ), as well as in the Tur Shulchan Aruch Siman 225 it says that if someone sees his friend after not seeing him for 30 days he should say a Shehechiyanu. If he hasn’t seen him for 12 months then he should say a “baruch michayei mesiim” because he is elated to see him after not seeing him for such a long time. All of these brachos should be said with shem and malchus as well.

If a person receives a letter from a friend who he has not seen for over a month, there are those Achronim who hold that a Shehechiyanu is required. The Mishna Brura paskins that safek brachos lihakel. By michayei meisim however, everyone agrees that a baruch michayei meisim is not said, if he had heard from him within the year.

The reason for this is written in the sefer chiddushei agados which says that the entire reason for why the bracha of michayei meisim is said is because every year people are judged between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur to see whether or not they will live or die. Therefore if one does not see someone from one Y”K to the next then a aruch michayei meisim is definitely in order but if one hears from him then it is not in order because the din is understandable.( According to this if someone does not see his friend for even 10 days from before R”H to after Y”K of the same year he would have to say a baruch michayei meisim)

This din does not differ whether it is for a man or a woman. If one is elated to see his/her friend then a bracha is in order. A man however only makes this bracha on his wife, mother, sister, and daughter. If this is true then for a woman then it would follow a similar scale; husband, father, brother and son.

The Mishna Brura says that if someone goes over 12 months without seeing a friend then a “baruch michayei meisim is said and not a shehechiyanu”. If one sees a “Chacham mei chachei Yisroel” then one should say on him, “asher chalak mikivodo lireiav” in addition to a michayei meisim and a shehechiyanu if you hadn’t seen him within 30 days.

If someone had never seen his friend and their relationship is entirely dependent upon being a “penpal”. After seeing them for the first time a bracha is NOT said. This because your relationship is not dependant on a personal relationship. Only once they become accustomed with each other’s physical appearance only then is a bracha said.

The Pri Megadim says that if a someones wife gives birth while he is in midinas hayam then after seeing the child for the first time a shehechiyanu / baruch michayei hameisim is said because you are immediately elated to see your own child.

The Ben Ish Chai says that a person should never say one of these brachos with shem hashem or malchus and the Kaf HaChaim says, that if one is in such a town where they are not noheg to say this bracha then they should say shehechiyanu without shem hashem and malchus and should say “baruch michayei meisim in his heart. This same thing applies with a new kid who is born to a man in a place where they are not noheg to say the bracha. He should eat a new fruit and have the baby in mind when eating the fruit.

R’ Ephraim Greenblatt says in his sefer, “Rivivos Ephraim”, that never in his life had he ever seen anyone say these brachos on seeing a person a new after not seeing each other for a while. He suggests that the reason for this is because people do not know how happy they have to be to see a person in order to say these brachos!

Parshas Vayigash - "Name That Tune"

Quickie/ Funfact - "And Yisrael settled in the Land of Mitzraim in the land of Goshen". Obviously Yaakov was going to be in Mitzraim why do we need this to be repeated?

Rabbi Moshe Feinstein answers that while he was in "gaalus", in Mitzraim, Yaakov wanted to make sure that his family would not mingle with the Egyptians. He realized that as a result of mingling the "Jewish" cause would be lost. Therefore while he had to be in Mitzraim, he made sure to settle in Goshen, an alienated place.

Earlier this week I was talking to my good friend R' Moshe Yosef Schertz Shlit"a and this is what came out of our conversation…

At the end of last week's Parsha the Torah left off discussing the tragic discovery of a royal goblet in the sack of Binyamin. Yosef, knowing well that Binyamin was his brother, takes Binyamin prisoner because of "his" criminal act. At the beginning of this week's Parsha, Yehuda approaches Pharoah with a request; that Binyamin be left unharmed and returned back to his family.

It seems however that Yehuda makes this request not only for the good of Binyamin and Yaakov but in fact to salvage his own Olam Haba.

Fore it was written in (43:8-9), "…send the lad with me, and let us arise and go, so we will lie and we will not die, neither we nor you nor our children. I will guarantee him; of my own hand and you can demand him. If I do not bring him back to you…then I will have sinned to you for all time."

Rashi commenting on the words, "I will have sinned to you for all time" says, that Yehuda was willing to forfeit his "Olam Haba".

(44:18) "Vayigash Eilav Yehuda, Bi Adoni…" "Then Yehuda approached him and said, if you please my lord…."

The (Gr"a) Vilna Gaon, commenting on this first Pasuk of Parshas Vayigash makes a very interesting observation. He says that Yehuda's motives can be detected through the cantillation notes of the pasuk itself!

"Kadmah VeAzlah Revii Zarkah Munach Segol"

"Got up and went, the fourth (Yehuda) who threw away rest eternal"

Yehuda went to save the life of his brother because he knew that if he did not return Binyamin safely; his Eternal life would be in permanent jeopardy.

In Parshas Lech Lecha we discussed what makes our stay in Olam Haba most enjoyable. The Slonimer Rav says that, yes, it is true, we will all merit to get Olam Haba but the way that we anticipate it while alive is what will make it most enjoyable

Yehuda's wishes and motives were not uncanny or selfish but in fact they were correct and admirable. So much so, that they are hinted to in the way that we sing the beginning of the Parsha.


Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Tefilla L'ani Ki Yatof

The term Atifa refers to covering of ones head during davening. The Rabbi’s deduced this requirement from verse, “Tefilla L’ani Ki Yatof”, although the term Tefilla is general for Shmona Esrei we nevertheless extend this obligation to everything that has the status of Dvarim Shebikdusha.

The Achronim quote a dispute from the Teshuvas Hageonim on whether or not the 13 middos of Selichos are considered to be Dvarim Shebikdusha or not. Nafka mina’s in this case would include whether or not people would have to stand as well as doing Atifa while reciting the 13 middos.

The only exception to this rule of Atifa is during the recital of Krias Shema. Although this is most definitely considered to be a davar shebikdusha, the Gemara (Brachos 10b) derives from the verse “Uvelechticha Baderech” that Shma may be said in an informal manner, thus eliminating the need to stand while reciting it, and according to R’ Chaim Soloveitchik this includes Atifa!

R’ Yosef Dov Soloveitchik held that the saying of Shema in an informal manner is not only permissible but is a complete fulfillment of “Koreh Kidarko”.

Therefore practically one should cover their head for Kadish before Barchu, remove the covering for Shema, and then cover their head again for Shmone Esrei.

* Nothing that is said in this post should be done LaMaisa without first discussing it w/ an official Rabbinic Authority.

Kol Yisrael Areivim Zeh BaZeh

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Something That Santa Cannot Appreciate

As Chanuka ebbs away it is important to reflect and realize what the importance of Chanuka really is.

The Ba”Ch says according to the Maharam that there is no mitzvah of simcha on Chanuka. However there is on a mitzvah of simcha on Purim.

What intrinsic difference is there between these two holidays that demands that we celebrate them in different ways?

The Ba”Ch answers, that on Purim our primary sin was that we drank and celebrated at the party of Achashveirosh therefore we now have a chiyuv of simcha and seuda to counteract our original sin, by putting the same amount of zest into a kadosh seuda.

By Chanuka however we do not have such an obligation. Instead we have a chiyuv of hallel vihodaa. The reason for this is because we were nisrashlu biavodam, we were faulty in our service to Hashem. Ultimately we were chozer bitshuva and this is why Chazal specifically instituted that Chanuka be a time of hallel vihodaa. Similar to the story of Purim, the same way the kilkul was biavoda so was the yomtov.

In the end of Meseches Kiddushin the Gemara brings up individual stories about Talmidei Chachamim who were on the verge of committing the gravest immoral sins but instead, at their lowest moments turned everything around by re channeling their emotions to the Torah and Hashem.

The pitfalls of our generation are not necessarily because of new challenges but because of our inability decipher between what is acceptable and what is not.

Hopefully we can take with us the story of the Chashmonaim, who took their initial lapse of avodah to heights that were initially unconceivable.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Oil Shortage

It is very interesting that the Greeks in particular were responsible for the desecration of the Beis Hamikdash.

The word Heichal in gematria = 65, and the yavan = 66. The malchus of Yavan had an extra strength that allowed them to overpower the Heichal.

When they desecrated the Heichal they davka desecrated the oils that were there. Why?

The Maharal answers, that it is because shemen is distinct to kedusha. Raaya ladavar is shemen hamishcha (shmos, 30:26-33) knowing this well they made it their mission to entirely desecrate all kedusha that the beis hamikdash inhibited.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Parshas Mikeitz - "When Opportunity Knocks"

Quickie/Funfact: This week’s Parsha, is one with many themes and scenes. One of the scenes illustrates Pharaoh, acting frightened after having dreamed that 7 stout cows are eaten by 7 skinny cows.

The question is however, what is it about this seemingly tedious dream that scared Pharaoh so much?

Rabbi Shimon Schwab answers that the entire Egyptian royal philosophy was that the mighty are supposed to be sustained off of the weak. This dream therefore shook Pharaoh to his core, because it was contrary to his entire belief system.

Another Quickie/ Funfact: Q: Why did Pharaoh change Yosef’s name to Tzofnas Paneach?

The Lubavitcher Rebbe answers, that when the Chief Butler told Pharaoh about Yosef, the butler referred to him as a Nar (a lad). Thus implying that he was immature and unfit for a high position. After having a face to face encounter with Yosef however, Pharaoh comes to his own conclusion, that in reality Yosef was the right man for the job and thus names him Tzofnas Paneach – “Explainer of hidden things”.

If one were to meticulously follow the course of events that lead Yosef to the viceroy-ship, it is seemingly phenomenal that he managed to fight his way all the way to the top of society. Fore after his initial sale and assumed death the brothers give up all hope and assume that Yosef had eventually died as a result of their actions.

Therefore after observing the trials and tribulations that Yosef went through it seems miraculous to learn that he ended out on top.

How did he manage to pull off such a feat?

The Lubavitcher Rebbe answered in one of his Likutei Sichos that, Yosef, a virtuous man, dreamed about working in the field with his brothers. Pharaoh however, a depraved man, imagined and had dreams that had no effort at all.

The Gemara [Yerushalmi] Orlah 1:3 as well as in the Gemara Megilla 6b, emphasize that all matters of holiness require time and effort. Therefore when people dedicate time to arduous work, they have the promise of success that, “you labored (and therefore) you discovered”. In fact following the pattern of “maalin bakodesh viein moridin” (always ascending when dealing with matters of holiness)a person is even capable of achieving far more than he invested.

In the story of Yosef and his journey getting to the top, he lived by the truism of “Adam laamal yulad” – man was born to work. Paving his own path to success he stopped at no obstacles. He was therefore the paradigm of an achiever by making the appropriate recourse when opportunity knocked.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Turkey Anyone?

Much like many other holidays that we have had recently (see Thanksgiving), Chanuka, is a Holiday that is dedicated to the expression of hodaa/thanks to G-d. This hodaa is one that is expressed out of appreciation for the benefit that was received as a result of the Jewish victory over the Hellenistic influences of society at that time.

It is then only appropriate that after receiving a present from someone else, to reciprocate by thanking them for giving you the gift.

But we must ask, “What makes this holiday any different than any other holiday, let alone any other day?!”

Secondly, there is little to no mention of Chanuka at all! From where can we possibly derive that Chanuka has this unique characteristic that is defined by giving an extra thank you to Hashem?

Rav Yitzchak Hutner ZT”L answers that indeed there is one place where we the miracle of Chanuka is mentioned. In davening! After reciting “Modim”, the blessing of thanks, it is customary both on Purim and Chanuka to mention “Al Hanisim” (some say it with a tune others don’t). There is a clear distinction however, between the concluding content of the Al Hanisim on Purim and that on Chanuka.

On Purim, only the details of the miracle are depicted. Similarly, on Chanuka, the details of the Chashmonayim’s victory over the Yivanim are also mentioned. But while concluding the prayer it ends by saying, “They added these days to give thanks and to praise your great name”.

(Gemara Shabbos 21)Regardless of how subtle and how unobtrusive it is, this concluding line hits us hard; don’t forget to say Thank you!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Chanuka = Sufganiyot?

(I believe that I heard this from R’ Meir Goldvicht Shlit”a but it is possible that I heard it elsewhere…)

Chanuka - As the days lead up to this holiday, kids anxiously await the lighting of the first candle and the festivities that follow. In short, it is family time, when relatives both close and distant come together to celebrate our spiritual victory over Hellenism. Objects and delicacies are also used and eaten to extenuate certain events which are also celebrated during this holiday.

Whether it be playing dreidle or eating latkes, it is understood by the masses as to why these practices are done, but one practice in specific is not understood by a majority of the Jewish population.

Jelly Donuts or "Sufganiyot" – Why is it customary for Jews around the world to indulge in these delicious pastries on Chanuka?

Upon being asked this question, Rav Shlomo Zalman Aurbach quoted a gemara (Avodah Zara 52b) that states that upon the Chashmonaim’s victory over the Greeks, they re-entered the Bais HaMikdash in order to clean and purify it from the various Hellenistic impurities that were placed in Temple. They were successful in salvaging and purifying everything except for the stones of the Alter and were forced to bury them.

Donuts are eaten on Chanuka because after eating Donuts an "Al HaMichya" blessing is said. While reciting this blessing after food, we ask Hashem to rebuild Yerushalayim and the Bais HaMikdash. Unlike Bircas Hamazon however, we do not only ask for the rebuilding of the Bais HaMidash but we specifically ask for rachamim (mercy), "Al Mizabachacha" “on your Alter” which was lost during the story of Chanuka.

Ok, perfect, we now understand why it is appropriate to eat donuts on Chanuka,but why specifically jelly donuts?

The Gemara in Sotah answers that from the time when the Bais HaMikdash was destoyed, the taste of fruits has never been the same. Therefore to commemorate the loss of the Bais HaMikdash and the Mizbei’ach we add fruit jelly to our donuts.


What Chanuka means to them

Chanuka is upon us and it is a time to recognize our victory over the Hellinists and their cohorts.
Here is a little snippet of information that I never knew about Chanuka that I found on another persons blog. This is definitely worth sharing....

"Chanuka -a Swahili word that means lighten up! get into action! Complain less and Act more."

Have a Happy Chanuka!

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Is Tefilla Deoraisa or Dirabanan?

I hope that everyone had a restful Shabbos.

This is a Chaburah that I heard this past week from Rabbi Josh Blass:

There is a famous Machlokes, Rambam vs. Ramban on whether or not Tefilla is DiRabanan or Deoraisa.

(Rambam Hilchos Tefilla 1:1) Is of the opinion that because of the words “…BiChol Livavchem…” it must be deoraisa. Its practicalities however remain dirabanan.

(Ramban) Holds that the entire category of Tefilla is a rabbinic decree. Although he agrees to the textual source for Tefilla within Shma he says that these words are strictly an Esmachta Bialma and nothing more. To strengthen his point, the Ramban adds the source of a Baal Keri who is not allowed to say Shema but still may say Tefilla. This therefore must connote that the obligation to pray is strictly on a rabbinic level.

The Shulchan Aruch sides with Rambam and says that there is a Biblical obligation for woman to pray. Most commentaries say that the obligation for woman is still purely dirabanan.

In a famous (teshuva) responsum from the Shaagas Aryeh, he concludes that although tefilla is rabbinic in origin (like the Ramban) there are still certain times in which the Ramban would admit to the Rambam that Tefilla would be deoraisa. An example of this would be if it was an Eis Tzara (Time of Sorrow) .

Rabbi Soloveitchik says on this that the Rambam would say that it is always an Eis Tzara therefore the obligation is biblical in nature.

Another example of an exception in which the Ramban would agree that there is an obligation to daven would be in the mitzvah of HaKel.

Interestingly the Ramban would also agree in the following case. The Gemara in Brachos/Gittin says that if there are only 9 there preparing for a Minyan and the 10th is an Eved (slave), you may free the slave in order to make the Minyan. Many of the Rishonim go up in arms on this topic. How can we do this?! Freeing an eved is an issur dioraisa?! We answer that the Aseih of davening in a minyan (DiRabanan) is stronger than the Lo Sasei of freeing slaves (DeOraisa). We see from here that being mikadeish shem shamayim trumps a Biblical Obligation.

Q: What is a difference between the Rambam and the Ramban (Deoraisa or Dirabanan)?

The Gemara in (Brachos Daf Chuf.) says that women, slaves and children are patur from Kriat Shma but nevertheless are chayiv in Tefilla! The Gemara meantions that the reason for this is because “Dirachmei Ninhu” – “They also need mercy”.

Q: Why does the Gemara say that this is so pashut that women are chayiv in Tefilla?! It certainly is not!

Tosafos answers that I would have thought that it is a “Mitzvas Aseih Shehazman Grama” nevertheless woman are still chayiv because of “Rachmei Ninhu”.

Rashi however, disagrees and says that the only reason why she is patur is by deoraisa but if it is dirabanan then even if it is a mitzvas aseih shehazman grama she is still chayiv!

The Maharal explains the Chiluk between Rashi and Tosafos by saying that only Hashem has the ability to release people from the shiibud (servitude) of mitzvos not the Chachamim.

The Rambam however has a girsa of Pshita because he holds that it is a dioraisa not because it is “dirachmei ninhu”. Therefore of course she is chayiv it is not timebound!

Now that we have established that woman are chayiv to daven, the question is what are they chayiv to daven?

If it is deoraisa then they have a chiyuv once a day. If it is dirabanan then the chiyiv is 3 times a day.

Halacha Limaasah à(Shulchan Aruch S’ Kuf Vav) waman are obligated in Tefilla because it is not time bound. The( Mishna Brurah) woman are chayiv in shacharis and mincha but not maariv because it is a reshus (“optional”- woman were never mikabel).

- Maariv is Reshus: What does this mean?!

Rashi – optional

Tosafos- mandatory but another mitzvah trumps it

If the Rambam is right then the Magen Avraham says based on him that woman only have to daven one time a day. This service must include Shevach, Bakasham and Hodaa (Praise, Requests, and Thanks).

Q: What about Maariv and Musaf?

Rav Ovadia Yosef says that if you go like Rashi and the Ramban that Tefilla is Dirabanan then Maariv is mandatory for woman as well.

Q: What about Musaf?

The Ramban and the Bisamim Rosh say that a woman was never obligated to bring a korban tzibbur therefore woman are exempt from this.

Nevertheless, most people rely on the Magen Avraham for their psak when it comes to woman and Tefilla. People should teach their daughters that Tefilla is not a zero but it is in fact a chiyuv deoraisa for them and that it should be taken seriously from day one.

When the Gemara in Taanis answers that the true avoda is one from the heart, people must realize that this is not something that is unique to men but it is in fact equally as important to woman aswell……Drachmei Ninhu

Friday, November 30, 2007

First PETA convention

How was it that the Achim could have actually taken part in such a grave sin like Ever min HaChai? They were not Amei HaAretz, they were the Gedolei Hador!

Yosef and his brothers obviously had 2 separate definitions of what constituted the issur of Ever min HaChai:

a. Brothers – Eating from the animal after it was shechted but moving a little is alright because this is the law for Jews

b. Yosef – We are still Bnei Noach and because of this we must abide by their laws. This means that we are only allowed to eat from the animal when it entirely STOPS moving.

(Gemara Brachos)After G-d changed Yaakov’s name to Yisrael, we see that unlike Avraham and Sarah his new name was just added onto his old name. Sometimes he was Yaakov and other times he was Yisrael.

The tribes had 2 different within their history. They were Bnei Yaakov which included all of Yaakov’s sons and then they were Bnei Yisrael, which was minus Levi and Yosef and in their place there was Efraim and Menashe.

This distinction is essential to the accusations in which Yosef put forth to Yaakov. During this episode in which Yosef accuses the brothers of eating from the live animal, Yosef is of the opinion that because Efraim and Menashe have yet to be born, the tribes cannot be distinguished as Bnei Yisroel, therefore eating from the animal while it was still moving was a complete issur!

The Brothers however, felt that because Yaakov’s name had been changed after his skirmish with the Malach of Esav they WERE ALREADY Bnei Yisrael.

For that reason, we see that the Brothers were not idiots being malicious and insensitive. But they had methodically and systematically thought out every decision which they had made, this included the eating of the “live” animal.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Parshas Vayeishev - Patience is a Virtue

This week’s Parsha has an especially nostalgic sentiment to it, in that I learned it for the first time in 4th Grade with R’ Mordechai Zucker Shlit”a. We learned it with a distinct jingle that I will never forget.

I hope that everyone had a restful vacation. Just in case you did not have time to prepare a vort for Shabbos here is a little something…

Quickie/Funfact: It is stated in the second pasuk of this weeks parsha,

Breishis 37:3 “This is the history of Yaakov; Yosef at the age of seventeen years, would tend the sheep with his brothers, and the lad was with the sons of Bilhah, and the sons of Zilpah, his father's wives. Yosef brought back bad reports (Dibatan Ra'ah) about them to their father.

Rashi remarks on this verse that Yosef’s reports on his brothers was not just a simple tattle but he was in fact, telling his father that his brothers were taking part in a grave sin. One of cruelty and insensitivity. A sin so cruel, that it is listed as one of the seven mitzvos of Bnei Noach. They were eating the limb of a live animal!

The Question is however, how did Rashi know that this is what Yosef had told his father? The Baal Haturim answers, that the Gematria of “bad reports (Dibatan Ra'ah)” is the same as, “They were eating the limb of a live animal (Shehem achlu Ever Min Hachai)”.

As a result of the relationship of Tamar and Yehuda, two beautiful boys are brought into this world. A peculiar event happens during their births however. As the “first” child Zoreach, sticks his hand outside of the womb Yehuda ties a rope around his wrist anticipating the baby’s birth. Suddenly and amazingly Zoreach pulls his hand back into the womb and out comes the real first born son, the father of the Messiah himself, Peretz.

Rabbi Yaakov Kaminetsky in his work, Emes LiYaakov, tells us that this story is not just a paranormal occurrence, but in fact has a message that we all can carry with ourselves for the rest of our lives.

Often times we jump to conclusions and are disappointed when our initial expectations do not come to fruition. This story with Zoreach and Peretz is telling us that the Messiah will come, but when we least expect it. We might assume that because of certain events in the world or in history that the Mashiach is on the horizon. The truth is however that this is in Hashem’s hands to decide not ours. Patience is a Virtue.

The Brutal Truth

My friend sent me this article that he found on, and Boy O Boy is it true:

A few years after I was born, my Dad met a stranger who was new to our small Texas town. From the beginning, Dad was fascinated with this enchanting newcomer and soon invited him to live with our family. The stranger was quickly accepted and was around from then on.

As I grew up, I never questioned his place in my family. In my young mind, he had a special niche. My parents were complementary instructors: Mom taught me good from evil, and Dad taught me to obey. But the stranger...he was our storyteller. He would keep us spellbound for hours on end with adventures, mysteries and comedies.

If I wanted to know anything about politics, history or science, he always knew the answers about the past, understood the present and even seemed able to predict the future! He took my family to the first major league ball game. He made me laugh, and he made me cry. The stranger never stopped talking, but Dad didn't seem to mind.

Sometimes, Mom would get up quietly while the rest of us were shushing each other to listen to what he had to say, and she would go to the kitchen for peace and quiet. (I wonder now if she ever prayed for the stranger to leave?)

Dad ruled our household with certain moral convictions, but the stranger never felt obligated to honor them. Profanity, for example, was not allowed in our home... not from us, our friends or any visitors. Our longtime visitor, however, got away with four-letter words that burned my ears and made my dad squirm and my mother blush.

My Dad didn't permit the liberal use of alcohol. But the stranger encouraged us to try it on a regular basis. He made cigarettes look cool, cigars manly and pipes distinguished. He talked freely (much too freely!) about sex. His comments were sometimes blatant, sometimes suggestive, and generally embarrassing.

I now know that my early concepts about relationships were influenced strongly by the stranger. Time after time, he opposed the values of my parents, yet he was seldom rebuked... and NEVER asked to leave.

More than 50 years have passed since the stranger moved in with our family. He has blended right in and is not nearly as fascinating as he was at first. Still, if you could walk into my parents' den today, you would still find him sitting over in his corner, waiting for someone to listen to him talk and watch him draw his pictures. His name?

We just call him, "TV."

And the stranger has a wife now. We call her "Internet."

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Who knew the power of a few words

There is a machlokes between the Mechaber and the Gr”a as to what level of learning one is allowed to do before saying Bircas Hatorah:

The Mechaber says that Thinking is not like Speaking (Hirhur Lav Kidibur dami) therefore as long as one does not speak in Torah he does not have to say Bircas HaTorah. The Gr”a however says, even thinking is not allowed.

There is a story that is told about the Gr"a. (The Gr"a once went against his own psak and thought in Torah before saying Bircas Hatorah, because of this he forgot everything he ever learned ...)

Nevertheless we see that the Mechaber says in a few Sifim later that writing down Torah is not allowed! Earlier the Mechaber said that as long as one does not speak in Torah he does not have to recite Bircas HaTorah. We see now however that the Mechaber is contradicting himself by saying that if one writes Torah he is Chayiv in Bircas HaTorah, how can this be?

The answer is that these 2 comments by the Mechaber are not soter each other at all. According to his reasoning the reason for why a person would be chayiv in Bircas Hatorah once it has been spoken or written is because now it is available to the world. When Torah is being thought about however, the only one who it is available to is the thinker.

R' Gedalia Anemer Shlit"a talked about this (within the context of Shomea Kioneh) last Pesach in his Shabbos HaGadol Drasha. Often times we neglect the laws and rules of Shmiras HaLashon. When things are written we rationalize that because they never officially left our lips all is well and more. The truth is however, that when something is written it may be more available to the world then it could have been had it left your mouth.

In Shul Dvar Torah - Parshas Vayishlach

Today in Shul, Rabbi Tzvi Klugerman gave a Dvar Torah about Yaakov. He commented that all of the forefathers had run ins and stories with angels. Avraham in his tent, Yitzchak at the akeida. Yaakov however, seemed to have a little bit more contact with the angels than the other two.

It seems that Yaakov utilized or had a keen awareness of Angels more than anyone else in his time. We see this first with his dream on Mount Moriah, where he lays to rest and he has a dream that entails a ladder that a has angelic creatures traveling up and down the steps. Yaakov even seems to have a relationship with them on a more personal level. We see this in the first Pasuk of Parshas Vayishlach , according to Rashi’s explanation of the verse it says, “Then Jacob sent angels ahead of him to Esau his brother…”. Yaakov seemed to have such a close relationship with the angels so much so that he could tell them to do things for him.

If this is so, then why didn’t he have an Angel fight the battle with Esav’s angel? This would have saved him time and of a considerable amount of pain

It seems that we can learn a lot on a personal level from this happening. It is true that Yaakov could have sent an Angel to fight his battle. He instead made the executive decision that this battle was something that he had to do alone.

Yaakov was teaching us that our biggest battles must be fought by ourselves without any armies or supporting casts. Often times we are so busy, that our responsibilities and true priorities take the back seat to whatever is most convenient for us at the time. Yaakov is telling us that this is a terrible misconception.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Parshas Vayishlach - "You Gotta Feel It Man"

To all of you who did not have time to prepare a Dvar Torah.....

(Breishis 32:5) "I have lived with Lavan, and tarried until now"

Rashi cites the famous Chazal that the word "Garti" (I lived) has the numerical value of 613, indicating "I lived with the wicked Lavan, nevertheless I observed the 613 Commandments, without learning from his evil ways."

Rav Ruderman noted the apparent redundancy in Yaakov's message to his brother, Eisav.

If Yaakov had already sent the message "I observed the 613 Commandments," what is added by further stating "and I have not learned from the evil ways of Lavan?"

Rav Ruderman Zt"l, taught that the inference to be drawn, is that one can observe the 613 commandments and, nevertheless, learn from the ways of a Lavan. Even within the context of a fully observant life-style, a person can wind up looking like a Lavan. Even when an individual's actions are technically permissible, the person may still be acting like a Lavan. A person can live an indulgent life-style -- one that may not technically deviate from the letter of the Law, but one, which is totally foreign from the spirit of the Law.

Therefore, Yaakov clarified: "Not only have I observed the letter of the 613 commandments, I have also not learned from Lavan and have even continued to observe the spirit of those laws."

The concept that there can be a dichotomy between someone's religious life and his social life, that glatt Kosher applies only to what I put in my mouth but not to what I see or how I act or dress, is wrong. It is a violation of "I have not learned from his evil ways".


Happy Thanksgiving

Here is something a little different...

As most and hopefully all of us know, today is Thanksgiving Day. A day which many, both secular and religious, take out of the year to give thanks, to G-d. This sounds awfully familiar however. When else do we Jews, set aside a period of time which is dedicated to introspection and giving thanks?

Besides for three times a day when we say, "Modim" the answer is the year Shmitta. The Shmitta year is a biblical law in which the land of Eretz Yisrael, is allowed to lay fallow and uncultivated every seventh year. The Sforno says that the Shmitta year is more than just a time of abstaining from agricultural pursuits but it is also a time for introspection, meditation and the study of Torah.

During this Thanksgiving year and on this day, take some time aside to introspect and appreciate how fortunate we are.

P.S. What is this weeks Parsha? Vayishlach?

Parshas Vayeitzei - "Got Water?"

To all of those who are studying hard for midterms, BEST OF LUCK! In case you didn't have time to prepare anything for Shabbos here is a little something.

Quickie/Fun Fact: Q: Breishis 28:11 says, "And he [Jacob] arrived at the place and lodged there because the sun had set, and he took some of the stones of the place and placed [them] at his head, and he lay down in that place". Why does this Pasuk say the word "makom/place" three times?!

A: The Baal HaTurim answers that the Pasuk says the word "place" three times to foreshadow that in the future Klal Yisroel will come to that very spot three times a year on the Shalosh Rigalim.

Parshas Vayeitzei starts with the Pasuk, "And Jacob left Beer Sheva, and he went to Haran."

Rashi asks a famous question on this pasuk. Why does the Torah explicitly state where Yaakov left and where he was going? We know where he was coming from, the Torah says in last week's Parsha!

Rashi answers that the departure of a Tzaddik from a town has an effect on the society in which he leaves. Often times a Tzaddik has an aura of truth and piousness that exudes an immense amount of reverence. After residing in society for an extended period of time he has an enormous amount of influence that molds his surroundings. Such a departure has detrimental effect on the remaining inhabitants.

If it is true, that when a pious person departs a place his presence is eternally missed, then why doesn't the Torah mention this by Avraham and Yitzchak when they departed their hometowns?

The Kli Yakar, a 15th Century Torah Commentator answers, when Avraham and Yitchak departed their hometowns, they brought with them "their societies". They brought their entire families and all of their righteous students. There was no one in their hometowns that after their departures would have even remotely missed them. By Yaakov however, when he left Be'er Sheva, alone, he was leaving a town where Talmidei Chachamim and Scholars were greatly appreciated. It is therefore understandable that Yaakov's leaving for the people of Be'er Sheva was something to bemoan.

Rav Asher Balanson Shlit"a (Rosh Kollel of OJ) once said in one of his famous Friday morning shiurim, that a lot is said about a person when they get emotional about something. If a person gets excited about mundane materialistic things, chances are that their priorities are probably within that same frame of mind. If person gets upset about missing a family simcha or a chavrusa chances are that those things are what the dearest to them.

After the death of the great Torah Scholar Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Aurbach Zt"l it is said that 300,000-500,000 came to his funeral to lament over klal yisroel's great loss.

The Gemara states that Ezra Hasofer made a takana that Klal Yisroel were going to read the weekly Torah readings on Mondays and Thursdays. The reason behind his Takana was because just like a person cannot go three days without water he also cannot go three days without Torah.

The Torah adds the detail that Yaakov left Be'er Sheva to show that although he was going to Haran to find a wife. The town of Be'er Sheva was losing its prime source of "water"/Torah, Yaakov Avinu.


Parshas Toldos - "Clothing alone does not make the man"

Recently a few of the readers have told me that before Shabbos, unlike their days of youth, they have limited time to sit and read divrei Torah. NO FEAR. For this reason I will start this week with a short fun fact that I tripped upon after reading YU's "Einim LaTorah". This week's long featured Dvar Torah titled, Two Boys, One Unfortunate Path, the highly acclaimed author gracefully quotes a Rabbi Shimshon Raphael Hirsch (Breishis 25:27) that discussed the importance of "Chanoch LaNaar Al Pi Darko" – educate the youngster according to his own way.

In a totally unrelated topic, it seems that a few pasukim earlier while commenting on the physical appearance of Esav and Yaakov (Breishis 25:24) the pasuk says , "When her term to bear grew full, then behold! There were twins in her womb."

This word, behold, tells us that something is of the unexpected. We would expect that based on the description in character of both Yaakov and Esav that their physical appearances would not resemble one another in the slightest. Rav Hirsch explains that because of the word "behold" we must say that in fact their physical appearances were identical! And that the only difference in their appearance was that Esav was almost entirely physically developed at the time of his birth.

The Sefer, Sas Anochi Al Imrasecha Kimotzei Shalal Rav (what a mouthful!) asks, why did Hakadosh Baruch Hu make Yaakov and Esav fight in the womb? The Yeshuos Malko answers that by the fact that Yaakov was holding onto the ankle of Esav, they must have shared a placenta/amniotic sac. Medically, twins that share a placenta are destined either to be identical or Siamese. For this reason Hashem made them move around in the womb to prevent them from being Siamese.

Therefore we must say that Yaakov and Esav were identical twins!

For those of you who are staying in for the long haul below is this weeks food for thought.

If we were to treat this week's Parsha like a movie of sorts we very easily would come to the conclusion that Esav was a bad guy and that Yaakov was good a good guy. Nevertheless, after taking a closer look we see that Esav had one mitzvah down pat. He was seemingly impeccable at the mitzvah of honoring his father.

The Midrash Rabba says that R'Shimon ben Gamliel bewailed the fact that although he served his father for his entire life his actions did not measure up to even one percent of what Esav did for Yitchak. When Esav would serve his father he would put on his finest clothing while helping his father with all of his needs.

R' Shimon ben Gamliel could not have put on his finest clothing as well?

The truth is that he also may have put on his finest clothing to serve his father but the uniqueness of Esav's avodah was that he held a certain sensitivity and emotion while helping his father.

(Gemara in Yoma 47a – for Dovi!) Story with Kimcha who merited having all of her sons serve as High Priests because she never let the walls of her house see her hair.

Many woman make it their life's mission to be modest, very few merit to have all of their sons grow up to be High Priests?!

Rabbi Frand explains that many times we do mitzvos, but totally miss the point when it comes to having the proper mindset while doing them. Our emotions are supposed to be joined with the action at hand. Only then can the action and the intentions work harmoniously together.

The Gemara Brachos 17a says that a person who learns Torah "Shelo Lishma"- Not in the name of G-d, it would have been better had he not been created. Tosafos on 17a asks, "Is there not a Gemara on 50b that says that someone who learns not in the name of G-d ultimately will come to learning in the name of G-d?!" He answers that it all comes down to your initial intentions while learning in the first place. If a person's initial intentions while doing the mitzvos are entirely focused on how others will view them then there logic is skewed.

We must make it our responsibility to do the mitzvos with the right intentions and just because we might have the right clothing this doesn't necessarily mean that it makes the man.


Parshas Chayei Sarah - "Be All That You Can Be"

This time last year I was in Chevron for Shabbos...if anyone has a leftover ticket to me....I'll take one way also.

Just in case you need something to say at your Shabbos table...

Breishis 23:2 "Sarah died in Kiriat Araba which is Chevron in the land of Canaan; Avraham came to eulogize Sarah and to bewail her."

At the beginning of this week's Parsha we hear of the death of our foremother Sarah. In response to the death of his wife of many years, Avraham lets out a cry.

(Fun Fact) It is written in the Medrish Tanchuma, that Avraham Avinu's cry consisted of the words of Eishes Chayil. Only from here do we have the beautiful and sweet words that we sing at our Shabbos tables every Friday night.

A question that one may ask from the simple reading of this pasuk is, why is there such an emphasis on "bewailing HER", everyone cries when they have a loss their family?

Putting this question aside for a moment….

Fast forwarding in the Parsha, Eliezer has been sent on a mission by his master Avraham to find a wife for his son, Yitzchok. Avraham gives Eliezer 2 primary guidelines for finding the appropriate spouse for his son. The guidelines are simple; Yes Haranites (if that is what they are called) and NO Caananites!

What is it about the women of Haran that differs from women of Canaan? And why did Eliezer make up a test for the girl?

It is written in Hadrashas Haran that a person's middos are genetic; Avraham avinu knew that the middos of Haran were faultless. Avraham, however, wanted to test their middos so he devised a test. He did not only want a girl who was going to simply abide by the law, which was characteristic of the girls of Haran, but he wanted a girl who without ever being asked would make herself acquiescent to the klal, someone out of the norm.

When Rivka gave water to Eliezer, she gave it wholeheartedly and enthusiastically almost as if the entire reason why she had drawn it in the first place was for Eliezer. Before Eliezer could offer her the nose ring and bracelets and say, "will you marry Yitchak", Rachel goes another step further and does something that only maybe a Veterinarian would do; she sensitively and appropriately feeds the animals.

(Gemara Shabbos 33b) When R' Shimon Bar Yochai was coming out of the cave he saw that a man was carrying myrtle braches. Upon inquiring as to why he was carrying these branches, the man answered proudly, that the branches were for Shabbos. Only at this point was R' Shimon bar Yochai able to re-reenter society.

Nowhere in the 4 books of the Shulchan Aruch does it say that we have an obligation to buy flowers for Shabbos. R' Shimon bar Yochai was elated to hear that this Jew was going out of his way just to glorify Shabbos. Avraham Avinu was telling Eliezer, the only person who would be fitting for Yitchak is someone who goes above the norm; someone who is modest and has middos.

Now we can answer the question as to why the Torah puts emphasis on Avraham specifically bewailing HER:

When most people lose a loved one, they tend to cry because THEY have lost. Avraham however was crying because SHE had lost. No longer did Sarah have the ability to practice Hachnasas Orchim with vigor and love as she used to. Avraham forgot about himself and his own needs. All that he wanted to do was care for the person who was lacking. Again, a trait, that was atypical.

At the beginning of Parshas Bereishis, Rashi answers the reason for why the Torah starts with Parshas Breishis and not the mitzvah of Rosh Chodesh. He says that it is because Hashem wanted to give us a deed to the land of Israel.

As a follow up question to this, many commentators ask, beautiful, we now have a deed to Eretz Yisrael! But why do we need all of the "stories" of Avraham, Yitzchak, the Shivatim and Moshe this is all seemingly extraneous? The answer is simple. We are supposed to learn from our forefathers that living our lives strictly by the book is unacceptable. The key is to go beyond the call of duty.


Parshas Vayeira - "NO FEAR"

This week's Parsha happens to be my Bar Mitzvah Parsha.I thought about saving some time and just sending out my Bar Mitzvah Speech but, I didn't write any of it and I figured that doing that would be a tad dishonest.

Here is just a few words in case you need something at the table....

While reading this week's Parsha the following instance stuck out in my mind:

Imagine the scene; Avraham Avinu arrives in Gerar with a fabulous entourage. He is held in such high international regard that he even had the opportunity to meet with the provinces King, Avimelech. After a very brief discourse with the King, Avraham tells Avimelech that Sarah is his sister.

So deeply infatuated with Sarah's beautiful looks, Avimelech sends his men to bring Sarah to him, in hopes of possibly initiating a relationship. After Sarah's arrival and settlement in his ornate palace, the King has a dream from Hashem telling him to stop in his tracks. Sarah had been falsely identified as Avraham's sister and is in fact was his lawfully wedded wife.

וַיֹּאמֶר אֲבִימֶלֶךְ, אֶל-אַבְרָהָם: מָה רָאִיתָ, כִּי עָשִׂיתָ אֶת-הַדָּבָר הַזֶּה.

וַיֹּאמֶר, אַבְרָהָם, כִּי אָמַרְתִּי רַק אֵין-יִרְאַת אֱלֹהִים, בַּמָּקוֹם הַזֶּה ; וַהֲרָגוּנִי, עַל-דְּבַר אִשְׁתִּי

Befuddled and bewildered as to why Avraham lied, the king inquires and asks, Breishis 20:10, "What did you see that you did such a thing? Avraham responds, Breishis 20:11"Because there is no fear of G-d in this place and they will slay me because of my wife."

When Avraham was visiting Pharaoh in Egypt, the hearth of immorality and witchcraft, (Tractate Kiddushin 49b) it was justifiably understandable that he would lie and tell Pharaoh that Sarah was his wife in fear of being killed. In Gerar however, one of the most civilized societies, Avraham should have had no such worry?!

The Malbim answers with an eye opening answer. Avraham Avinu was telling AviMelech that, "Gerar is an incredibly upstanding and noble society. Culturally and philosophically they are seemingly unmatched but all of this means nothing. As long as man is dictating the law, it can never be set in stone. The only law that will eternally have force is Divine Law. Therefore, I must lie to you when it comes to matters such as these."

Within the context of this Malbim, Rabbi Frand tells the following story: While sitting with a group of leading Rabbi's from his generation, Rav Elchonon Wasserman delivered over this Malbim. He told it over in regards to what can happen in Germany in the decade immediately prior to the rise of Nazi power.

The other Rabbis scoffed at him and said "Not here. Never Again! Germany is a country of laws, moral standing, and is technologically advanced"

Yes, Germany was a country of laws. In 1933, one of the first laws that the Nazis passed was a law against cruelty to animals. Gypsies should not be allowed to perform with dancing bears. Why? Because it was not right for the German people to stand idly by when innocent animals were taken advantage of and perhaps not cared for properly. Those were the "laws" of Germany. A mere five years later there were different "laws" in Germany.

The phenomenon of a judicial system that does not abide by the divine law is that the wrongdoings of yesterday become the acceptable of today. An act that used to be called murder is now a medical procedure known as euthanasia.

Avraham tells Avimelech that, yes, his people are cultured but if lust or some other motive gets in their way nothing will stop them from satiating their desires.


Parshas Lech Lecha - "Can you feel it?!"

Wow!, What a week. This was definitely a packed one. I figured that I would send you guys a Dvar Torah just in case you feel an itch for a vort.

This week in YU we were fortunate to have The Rishon LiZion, Sfardic Chief Rabbi of Israel, Rabbi Shlomo Amar Shlita come and speak to us on the topic of the intricacies of the Shmitta year.

Before the much anticipated shiur, Rabbi Zevulun Charlap, Dean of RIETS gave a brief but powerful introduction for Rabbi Amar. He began the introduction with the following Dvar Torah.

The first Pasuk of לֶךְ-לְךָ states,

א וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה אֶל-אַבְרָם, לֶךְ-לְךָ מֵאַרְצְךָ וּמִמּוֹלַדְתְּךָ וּמִבֵּית אָבִיךָ, אֶל-הָאָרֶץ, אֲשֶׁר אַרְאֶךָּ.

1 And Hashem said to Avram, "Go forth from your land and from your birthplace and from your father's house, to the land that I will show you.

Rashi , Commenting on the first pasuk says, 1. Go forth.לֶךְ-לְךָ, for your benefit and for your good, and there I will make you into a great nation, but here, you will not merit to have children. Moreover, I will make your character known in the world. — [from Rosh Hashanah 16b.]

Therefore, when Hashem tells Avram to "Go Forth…to the land that I will show you [Eretz Yisrael]" Hashem is telling Avram that it is for his own personal benefit. The reason for his leaving was for his enjoyment.

Within this context the Gemara Messeches Rosh Hashana (28b) quotes Rav Yehuda as saying, "You should not blow the Shofar of an Olah, if you did however you are still Yotzeh. You should not blow the Shofar of a Shlamim, if you did however you are still Yotzeh." The Gemara follows this statement with a question.

If an Olah and Shlamim are Hekdesh(designated for use in the Temple) then how are we allowed to use these Shofars for blowing on Rosh HaShana?! The usage of these Shofars should most definitely be prohibited on all accounts?!

The Gemara answers that it is permissible to blow these Shofars because Mitzvos Lav Lehenos Nitnu, The Mitzvos were not given for our pleasure. Therefore we have not desecrated the property of the Temple.

In conjunction with this Gemara in Rosh Hashana we now have a great question on our Rashi here in לֶךְ-לְךָ. If Mitzvos were not given for our benefit than how can Hashem say that the mitzvah of going to Eretz Yisrael was for Avram's benefit? Avram has to leave because Hashem told him to, not because it was for his pleasure?!

Rabbi Charlap's father offers the following answer; there are two different kinds of enjoyment. There is a physical enjoyment which can be received from doing mitzvos. Hashem gives us mitzvos and although we may inadvertently derive benefit from performing a mitzvah, this isn't why were given the mitzvah because Mitzvos Lav Lehenos Nitnu. Then there is the physical enjoyment that one gets from doing Kiyum Hamitzvos (inherently performing the mitzvah) which we are supposed to derive benefit from.

Rabbi Charlap explained that it wasn't that a physical enjoyment was derived from Avram's travel to the land of Canaan and this is why he went; on the contrary, it was a tenuous journey.Rashi is telling us that Avram derived an immense amount of pleasure and benefit from the Kiyum Hamitzvah itself. By the fact that he was given the opportunity to do the mitzvah of listening to G-d he derived benefit.

On this note, the Gemarah in Messeches Sanhedrin states that everyone has a portion in the world to come. So the question that one must ask is, than what makes one person's plot bigger or more enjoyable the next? The Nisivos Shalom (Slonim) answers, that it is the difference between an animate and an inanimate object. If we don't pro actively derive enjoyment in the Kiyumey Hamitzvos, then we will get reward, but we only have minimal enjoyment out of it because we won't know how to appreciate the glory of the next world. But, if we enjoy ourselves and truly wholeheartedly accept the mitzvos upon ourselves then our experiences in Olam Haba will be riveted with excitement.

Often times we look at our obligation to perform the mitzvos as burdensome. After taking into account all that our busy lives have to offer, the mitzvos seem like a trouble. The truth is however, that our perspectives are skewed by the numerous responsibilities that have been thrown in our direction. Having the ability to perform the mitzvos is really an opportunity. Like in the case of Avram, Hashem always gives us the opportunity to enhance our experiences in the next world but in the end it all comes down to how we play our cards.

Have a Fantastic Shabbos!

You are Sorely Missed!

You are Sorely Missed!