Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Amen! what exactly?

The Gemara (Sukka 51b), while discussing the magnificent architecture of the “Yipolostin” of Mitzraim, mentions that, “Anyone who had never seen [the Yipolostin] structure while it was filled to capacity had never seen the honor of Israel”. After making this unbelievable and sensational statement that acts as a testament to the splendor of this structure, the Talmud proceeds to explain the buildings layout, and the extravagant furnishings that were displayed inside.

While describing the manner in which services were handled in this “basilica”. The Gemara mentions that at times, the congregation was so large, that there were 1.2 million people in attendance! Due to the myriads of congregants in the crowd, many of them could not hear the chazzan at the front of the pulpit.

Being that in those times it was almost impossible to innovate a voice projection system (microphone); a shamesh would stand in front of the crowd and raise a huge cloth when it was appropriate for the congregation to say Amen.

Tosafos D”H V’Keivan, raises an interesting question. If the congregation was so large that they could not hear the words which the Chazzan was saying, then wouldn’t their Amen be an “Amen Yisoma” (only heard others saying Amen but did not hear the bracha itself) (Brachos 47a)? In which case, the Gemara in Brachos says that the punishment for one who says an Amen Yisoma is that he himself will have yisomim (orphans)!

Tosafos answers both in Sukka (51a) and in Brachos (47a), firstly that there is a difference between saying Amen during Torah reading than during Tefilla. Secondly he adds that one need only be afraid of saying an Amen Yisoma if he does not know which bracha he is saying, amen to. But if he knows which Bracha the Chazzan is saying then, the Amen that he says is not considered to be an Amen Yisoma.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Shinui Makom in a Car

Within the context of Hilchos Brachos and the specifics that surround them, many discuss the topic of shinui makom. Much ink has been spilled (Baruch Hashem) on the topic, and as the situational norms change on this topic, so do their applications in Halacha.

A contemporary issue that has risen is the question of whether or not saying a bracha in a car is considered to be a makom kavua. The nafka mina being the moment that one leaves the car. If the car is considered to be a makom, then the moment that one leaves his car, in order to continue his meal/drink he would have to make a new bracha. If the car is not considered to be a makom however, then saying a new bracha upon leaving the automobile would be unnecessary.

We conclude that if the subject began eating or drinking while the car was in motion, he may continue eating once he gets to his target location without the need for a new bracha. This is because eating in a moving vehicle is considered eating without any set place. Halacha would even maintain that he can continue eating, even if, upon making the initial bracha, he had no intention of continuing his meal/snack after reaching his destination.

If however, he began his food in a stationary vehicle, with the intention of finishing his meal while still parked, but nonetheless his meal extends until after the car starts moving again. He may continue eating without having to say a new bracha, as long as he stays in the car. The moment that he leaves the car it would require a new bracha.*

*See the The Daily Halacha Discussion, who quotes the MB 178:42, as explained in B’tzeil ha-Chochma 6:73-74 and V’sein Beracha, pg.148, quoting Harav Y.S. Elyashiv.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Personal Reflection on Israel Shmitta Trip 2008

The three prong objective of active service work, Jewish textual studies and supplementary education while on the Yeshiva University Winter Kollel and Service Corps in Israel was both thought evoking and life altering. Our Rabbi’s teach us that the Torah was given to the nation of Israel on condition that we act and fully embrace its texts. The launch of placing these three objectives together ultimately brought this dream and wish to fruition.

Besides for the mystical ability for this setup to build an uncanny sense of comradery between a group of twenty men, it also reiterated and reinforced that our Torah is not just a book of letters, but that its words are alive. Although the Torah was given thousands of years ago all of its values are as much alive today as they ever were.

Starting from Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and then following suit at the Tower of Babel, the world has been plagued with strife, the Shmitta “issue” in Israel has proven to be no exception. The nation of Israel is socially, economically, politically and halachikally torn on this topic and briefly having the chance to hear all sides unfold was truly mind boggling. Nonetheless, it seems that the only antidote to this plague and strife is through the mediums in which we utilized during this trip. We were given the opportunity to listen from an American unbiased perspective, as representatives and specialists from different social groups within Israeli society expressed their enthusiasm and personal angst from Shmitta. I found it to be exciting that these members of Israeli society were legitimately discussing and toiling with the proper way to observe this biblical commandment (albeit possibly rabbinic nowadays). This was an inspiring and overwhelming experience that I for one, did not entirely soak up until the trip was entirely over and had already landed back in New York City.

By taking what I gained from this overseas excursion in Israel, and applying it back to my everyday interactions, will provide new light to the way that I study as well as interact with my contemporaries. The greater Jewish community has been blessed with a love and willingness to offer a helping hand. This compassion and sincerity towards others is otherwise known as, Tikkun Olam. While participating on Yeshiva University’s Winter Kollel and Service Corp, I found myself in situations which I had never dreamed that I would ever be in. I was in soup kitchens and warehouses that were donated to enriching the lives of the needy. I helped a woman who had virtually lost her entire livelihood in Gush Katif by partaking in weeding her greenhouses. I picked oranges from a 150 acre orchard that was entirely donated to charity. By having these interactions with the needy it made their predicaments real to me. These experiences humbled the fortunate and made us more willing to give. No longer was the needy woman in the soup kitchen just a story, but she became my story. The second that I helped her she helped me. While fully engulfed in these occurrences the words “kol yisrael areivim zeh ba zeh” rang in my ears. I recalled hearing teachings from my Rabbi’s who said, “Anyone who saves one life within the nation of Israel is as if he saved an entire world”. The amazing part about this adage is that while it is true that we helped many a person, they kindly reciprocated by helping us become better Jews.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Slippery Slope

Most people assume that the listing of the Aseres Hadibros is in order of their importance. Starting with the recognition of G-d and finishing with the prohibition of coveting a friend’s possessions. Rav Shimshon Raphael Hirsch however suggests that the truth is actually the opposite.

The most important commandment was the last commandment, “you shall not covet your neighbour’s wife. Neither shall you desire your neighbour’s house, or field, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbour.” It seems rather preposterous to suggest however, that the last commandment is more important than the first, which is the acceptance of the heavenly yoke.

Rav Hirsch explains that the final commandment is the most vital because unfortunately in life there is a slippery slope. G-d commanded us not to covet our friend’s possessions, but what happens if we do? We eventually will bear false witness against our friends. What happens if we bear false witness against our friends? We will eventually steal. This slippery slope of events will continue until the eventual denial of the existence of G-d.

For this reason, says R’ Hirsch, the observance of the last commandment is just as important as the first one.

Conversations with Rabbi Jacob Weiner on the Parsha

As I was leaving shul on Friday night I was pulled aside by an elderly man by the name of Rabbi Jacob Weiner, who told me a few very interesting Divrei Torah….

At the beginning of this past weeks Parsha it begins with the words, Vayishma Yisro, “and Yisro heard”. Rashi commenting on this pasuk, answers what it was that Yisro had heard; the splitting of the Red Sea and the Jewish war with Amalek.

R’ Weiner however seemed rather perplexed. Why was it that Yisro needed these two event to convince him of the existence of G-d and the Jews being his chosen people? For Yisro, being a very impressionable person, one of these events should have been more than enough?

Rabbi Weiner quickly answered that the answer must have been deeply involved with who Yisro was as a person. Up until this point in his life, Yisro was an idolater. Being that he believed that the world was governed by multiple dominions, he felt that there must have been different heavenly forces that were controlling all events, a god for good and a god for evil.

After realizing that Bnei Yisrael miraculously merited having the sea split in their honor (a good thing) and then after this being maliciously attacked by the Amalakites (a bad thing). Yisro, a man who was on a journey for truth, finally realized that he had to join Klal Yisrael, who had Moshe at the helm, and Hashem in control.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Parshas Yisro - "Seeing it in a Different Light"

QUICKIE/FUNFACT: 18:7 "Moshe went out to greet his father-in-law, and he bowed and he kissed him, and they inquired, one man to the other, about the other's well-being; then they came to the tent."

Rashi commenting on this verse asks, "I do not know who is bowing to whom?" Rashi finally comes to the conclusion that it must have been Moshe who was bowing to Yisro. Still, we are left puzzled and perplexed as to the true identity of the bower!

Rav Shlomo HaKohen MeiVilna says in the name of his father that it indeed must be that it was Moshe who was bowing to his father in-law. His reasoning is because Moshe was ten amos tall. Yisro however, was the height of a normal man (now taller than three amos).

Therefore when Moshe wanted to embrace Yisro, he was forced to bow to him in order to carry out his kiss. For this reason the pasuk does not go through the trouble to specify who bowed to who, it was obvious.

19:9 "Hashem said to Moshe, "Behold! I come to you in the thick of the cloud, so that the people will hear as I speak to you, and they will believe in you, also forever."

An obvious question on this verse however is, why did the Ribbono Shel Olam give the Torah in the midst of a cloud?! Wouldn't it have made more sense for Hashem to give us the Torah in a "great light"?!

Rav Yaakov Kapil Margolis rebuts that in fact it makes perfect sense that Hashem gave us the Torah in a dim cloud. G-d gave man the gift of having five senses. Two of these senses are both hearing and seeing. It is well known, that the moment that one of these senses is stunted the other one becomes dominant or stronger. This is the exact reason as to why a deaf person can see better than a regular person. Or that a blind person can hear better than a regular person.

Therefore, in hope that Klal Yisrael would wholehearted and enthusiastically accept the Torah, Hashem made it possible for them to hear everything unmistakably and clearly. For this reason Hashem said to Moshe, "Behold! I come to you in the thick of the cloud", for once one's eyesight is obscured their ability to hear is enhanced.

(Hadrashas HaRan)There are times when Hakadosh Baruch Hu works in mysterious ways, not allowing us to have an inkling of an idea as to when or where he will help us. It is then, in the darkest of times, when we can have the brightest epiphanies and realizations about Hashem's willingness to help and save his nation.


Thursday, January 24, 2008

Aiding G-d in the Creation of the World

On Friday night it is customary to say, “Vayichulu Hashamayim Vihaaretz” both in shul as well as over a cup of wine. The question is however, why is this paragraph in specific so essential to Shabbos that it has to be said so many times?

The purpose of saying these specific psukim preceding the actually bracha on the wine is because these verses are testimony that Hakadosh Baruch Hu created the world in six days and that he rested on the seventh.

The Zohar on Parshas Vayakhel even goes so far as to say that one, who says these words, has atoned for his sins. It is written in the Or Zaruah, that one says it three times because the word “asher” is written three times in the passage. This “asher” is corresponding to the passage of Parah Aduma which also has the word “asher” written three times. We therefore derive from here that anyone who says “Vayichula” three times will be atoned from all of their sins.

It is written in the Gemara (Shabbos 119b) however, that one who says, “Vayichulu…” has not necessarily atoned for his sins but he has in fact acted as a partner with Hakadosh Baruch Hu in the creation of the world.

It can therefore be seen that saying Vayichulu on Friday night is an extra special prayer that is essential in the observance of Shabbos. It is therefore understandable as to why an emphasis is placed on saying it.

YU Room 101

Baruch Hashem, in Yeshiva Univerisity, there is a phenomenon in that a plethora of young men pile into Room 101, a room directly behind the Main Beis Medrish in Zysman Hall, for afternoon Mincha Services. Unfortunately however, because the room is so small it very quickly gets filled to capacity and forces some to daven outside in the hallway.

A question was once asked to R’ Soloveitchik as to whether or not these people davening outside in the hallway are actually accomplishing Tefilla Bitzibbur.

The question was asked based on the Gemara (Eruvin 92b) which says that a minyan cannot take place in two separate rooms. Nonetheless Tosafos D”H Tisha says that people in the second room may answer during Kadish and Kedusha even if an iron wall is there to separate the two!

Does the Din of Tefilla Bitzibbur go according to the laws of answering kedusha? Or does it go according to being mitztareif with a minyan?

After thinking for a few minutes the Rav answered that the Din is in accordance with the opinion that it is like answering kedusha. Therefore the Rav paskined that anyone who davens outside in the adjoining hallway can still participate in Tefilla Bitzibbur and does not have to trouble themselves in trying to force into the cramped room. (Also in the Aruch Hashulchan O”C S’55 S’K 23)

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Tu BiShvat

"And there are four New Year dates: - The first of Nissan - New Year for kings and festivals - The first of Ellul - New Year for animal tithes. Rabbi Elazar and Rabbi Shimon say: the first of Tishrei. - The first of Tishrei- new year for calculation of the calendar, sabbatical years and jubilees, for planting and sowing - The first of Shvat - new year for trees, according to the school of Shamai; The school of Hillel say: the fifteenth of Shvat."
Mishna "Rosh Hashana", Ch.1, Mishna 1

Tu Bishvat, the Jewish Arbor day, once again has come and has once again left. Nonetheless, like most holidays in our cyclical calendar, with Tu Bishvat comes a rather peculiar question.

In the above Mishna from Tractate Rosh Hashana, four new years are mentioned. One for kings and festivals, one for animal tithes, one for Tishrei (the actual new year), and one for trees.

One may expect that a new year would be identified by a point in time that represents the climax or at least when things are starting to mature. Why then is it that on Tu Bishvat, trees don’t start growing nor have they reached full bloom? It seems that this day in the year is simply an arbitrary time to identify and establish a holiday for the trees?

I believe that the answer is, that in reality, Tu Bishvat, is a time when an integral development occurs within trees. Granted, this time might not seem to be vital in the trees growth, but nonetheless as we will see in a moment it is imperative. Tu Bishvat is the time when the sap of the trees begins to run. This early step and seemingly meaningless time period in the growth of the tree is realistically a notable time period. Fore if it wasn’t for this elementary stage in the trees development, than none of the remaining advances could occur that eventually would lead to the tree being in full blossom.

The verse says, “Man is like a tree in a field.” In what way is man similar to a tree? Mankind is comparable to a tree, in that we also came from the ground. This time of the year is not only an essential time for the tree but also for the Jewish people as a whole. Just as the sap stirs within the tree during this season, the nishama of a person (which binds the physical and the spiritual) also stirs within mankind to rile up our senses and reenergize us for the rest of the year.

At this point in the year, the hischadshus and adrenaline rush of starting a new year has already worn out and we anxiously anticipate its end. Tu Bishvat however, is a time that has been designated by Hakadosh Baruch Hu for recharging our batteries and renewing the pristine feeling of starting the year anew.

May we take this new strength that we have been blessed with from the Ribbono Shel Olam and use it to bring Klal Yisrael closer to one another. May we see the building of the Beis Hamikdash, soon in our days, Amen.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Let's break the glass

I received this article from one of my Rabbeim, R' Lipman, I found it to be inspiring. I figured that I would share it...

The following remarks were given by Natan Sharansky under the chuppa of his daughter, Rachel, at her wedding last week. (January 2008)

In Jewish tradition after kiddushin and chuppa we take one step back, look at our personal simcha from a broader perspective, and break a glass in memory of Jerusalem. And here I want to say a few words.

This moment takes me back to our chuppa, Avital's and mine, 34 years ago. It was in a small, one room Moscow apartment where four friends held a sheet above our head. The number of guests hardly reached a minyan.

It was the first chuppa in our lives that we ever saw and all that we could do was simply repeat after the rabbi every move and every word - while hardly understanding many of them.

But when it came to breaking the glass, the rabbi spoke about Jerusalem and we became instantly reconnected to our reality. It was so obvious to us that we were in the very last stages, the final meters, of the thousands of years of struggle to return to Jerusalem. And this chuppa, ours, invigorated our determination to win this battle and made us feel powerfully that it was within our reach.

Today, we are standing here: You, Rachel, are the first sabra in the Sharansky family, and you, Micha, the first new immigrant in the Danzinger family. And we are in Jerusalem! The dream has come true.

But if we are here already, in the unified capital of the reborn Jewish state, what is the meaning today of breaking the glass? What is the dream we still yearn for? What is our - your - challenge?

When I compare your chuppa and our chuppa, I think that the challenge which you face is much more difficult. Our aim was so simple and so clear. We had to win the battle and nothing could deter us.

Today, on the one hand you have to be builders and guardians of Jerusalem, and at the same time guardians of the idea of Jerusalem. You have to physically build the earthly Jerusalem and keep alive the power, energy and uniqueness of the heavenly Jerusalem.

The power of unity, and connection to the generations of our people is in heavenly Jerusalem, of Yerushalayim shel ma'ala.

THE TWO of you met a year ago and immediately starting talking, and haven't stopped talking till today. And it was clear to all of us who enjoyed watching the beauty and intellectual and spiritual power of your talks that this union was made in the heavens.

Now that you are turning this union into a material and physical one and building your home in Jerusalem, keep the spiritual power of this past year throughout your life.

For Baba Ida, your birth, Rachel, was the most powerful proof of our victory over our enemies. She wanted to send your picture to the whole world, but first and foremost to the enemy.

I am sure that for Savta Ida and Savta Grace - who was excited to get the news of about the impending wedding just before she left us - as well as for all the generations of the Danzinger, Horowitz, Sharansky, Stieglitz and Milgrom families - this chuppa is their victory. It is the victory of all the generations who were true to the Jewish people's oath of Jerusalem.

Now let's break the glass.

Parshas Bishalach - "Who's the Conductor?"

Over the past week I have had the Privilege along with a group from Yeshiva University to learn about the halchakic, social, economical, and political aspects of Shmitta while interacting with Israeli society.

A side aspect of the trip has also been dedicated to placing an emphasis on Community service. While on one of our community service trips, I found a Parsha sefer that was written by a Rav from Kfar Roeh. I think that the following dvar Torah will prove to be a meaningful lesson in life as well as lend me the opportunity to reflect a bit about the Shmitta trip.

14:10 “Pharoah approached; the Children of Israel raised their eyes and behold!… Israel was very frightened; the children of Israel cried out to Hashem”

14:13 “Moshe said to the people, “Do not fear…”

It seems that the world as we know it today is filled with worries. An entire psychological language has been instituted, dedicated strictly to various anxieties that people have developed. Words like claustrophobia and agoraphobia have surfaced to describe these fears in short terms.

University studies have shown that 4 out of every 5 people have had anxiety attacks. 40% of these people have these attacks seemingly baselessly and 30% worry about things that they have no control over.

To express this on a more personal level, a story is told about a young girl who was calmly and rather peculiarly sitting alone on a train. Noticing the abnormality of the situation, one of the ticket collectors approached her and asked, “little girl, you are so young and inexperienced on the railways but you nonetheless look so calm and composed, how are you not troubled or anxious about the long journey which you are about the embark on ?” With an honest twinkle in her eye, the little girl responded, “my father is the conductor of this train; I trust that he will take me from station to station carefully and safely.”

For this exact reason Moshe Rabbeinu said, “Do not fear…” as the Egyptians quickly came in suit. Moshe was telling Klal Yisrael that although on the surface level, their lives may seem to be in danger; Hashem was the conductor of their procession. Their trust in Hashem should be as secure and sure as that little girl who sat on the train both careless and protected. Emunah is the medicine to all of our worries.

King David wrote in his book of psalms (27:1), “Hashem is my light and my savior…for what shall I fear”

While commentating within the context of Shmitta, the Sforno says, that Shmitta is not only a year to allow the land to lay fallow but it is also an opportunity for us as Jews to sit back and introspect on the six years that just passed, as well as, to make the proper preparations for the next six years that are to come.

While speaking to various figure heads in Israeli society whether they were entirely secular and only cared about the welfare of the country or to Haredi Rabbanim who saw the utmost importance in not desecrating the exact virtuous words of the Torah. It was clear that they shared one common goal which was that of maintaining a tradition in the observance of the Sabbatical year. While on the trip we continuously heard speakers talking about the economic state of Israel. Many of them mentioned that by completely allowing the land to lay fallow they would be putting the economy of Israel in jeopardy not only for this Shmitta year but also for the rest of time. So instead of totally getting rid of the halachik aspect of the issue they fully embraced it and placed Hashem and his Torah at the top of their priorities, hoping that as a result they still may be able to salvage the economy of the State.

This one micro controversy that troubles Israeli society is a paradigm of that which divides them.

Regardless, Emunah in Hashem will always reign supreme. The Shmitta year will end soon and the controversy will subside, at least until next time. The Jewish people however, will always exist for the rest of time.

Parshas Bo - "BiRov Am Ceremony"

Quickie/Funfact: (Shemos 10:1) "Hashem said to Moshe, Come to Pharaoh, for I have made his heart and the heart of his servants stubborn so that I shall place these signs of mine in his midst."

Something seems rather peculiar as to the reasons for why Hashem hardened Pharaoh's heart. Granted that Pharoah was a true megalomaniac "at heart", but why was it that Hashem truly hardened Pharaoh's heart.

Rav Avigdor Nevintzahl Shlit"a, Chief Rabbi of the Old City of Jerusalem, answers by giving 2 reasons. The first can be seen in the Rambam (Hilchos Teshuva 6:3, Shmoneh Perakim Chapter 8) which says that Hashem hardened the heart of Pharoah, so that he could punish him for the evil dealings in which he inflicted on Klal Yisrael. The hardening of his heart forced Pharoah to continue in his evil ways and as a result more punishments were inflicted on him and his servants.

The Second reason as to why Hashem chose to harden the heart of Pharaoh, had nothing to do with Pharaoh or the Egyptians, but it was for Klal Yisrael. 10:2 "and so that you may relate in the ears of your son and your son's son that I have amused myself with Egypt and My signs that I placed among them – that you may know that I am Hashem." The essence of the mitzvah of, Sippur Yitzias Mitzraim, is the education of the generations that are to come.

(Shemos 10:9-11) "Moshe said, "with our youngsters and our elders shall we go…Not so, let the men go now…to serve Hashem"

The Chasam Sofer has a very interesting and captivating way of learning the discourse between Moshe and Pharaoh. He observed that the early philosophers, as a mission to try to achieve complete nirvana and closeness to G-d, would flee from their metropolises and the confusion of society and dwell in nature.

The Torah however dictates the opposite. The Torah tells us that the essence of true closeness to Hashem only comes when one is with a group! (Gemara Pesachim 91.) For this reason we see that one cannot slaughter the Korban Pesach, for a single person.

Now that we understand the ways of the philosophers and the ways of the Torah, we can better understand the discourse that happened between Moshe and Pharaoh.

Pharoah was telling Moshe, that it was ok for the men to go into the wilderness in order to offer sacrifices and to introspect, but the woman and the children had no need to go with them!

Moshe Rabbeinu however responded in 10:26 "And our livestock, as well, will go with us - not a hoof will be left…to serve Hashem." This is because through having the multitudes of men, women, children and animals (BiRov Am Hadaras Melech!) together Is the most appropriate way to serve Hakadosh Baruch Hu.


Wednesday, January 9, 2008

The Real Garden of Eden

The following is a piece on Eretz Yisrael that I found on, by R' Zevulun Charlap Shlit"a:

"Right at the beginning, in the story of cre­ation we are told: “and the L-rd G-d took Adam and placed him in the garden of Edento work it and to watch over it” (Breishis: 2:15). Rashi citing the midrash understands the word, Va Yikach - he took, to mean, He took him with pleasant words and coaxed him to enter the garden. And my grandfather o.b.m.,as I am quite sure oth­ers before him, asked: why was it at all necessary to coax him to come. Wouldn't anyone jump at the opportunity of entering Eden accompanied, by G-d? My grand­father answered that, indeed, Adam had to be persuaded - had to be wooed hard, to enter, Paradise, here on earth, because he
didn't want to leave Eretz Yisrael - the Land of Israel where he and Eve were
originally formed out of the earth of Mount Moriah, which was destined to
become the site of the Holy Temple, and which tran­scended even Gan Eden. The
Garden of Eden was outside the biblical boundaries of Israel. To him that
sacred soil upon which he was created was more precious than Paradise itself
and incredibly stands above it in the hierarchy of place.”

“To understand the unyielding love of knowing Jews to Eretz Yisrael you have
to be weaned on that sure sense that it supersedes even the Garden of Eden. At
one time, when continents separated the Jew from the Land, he/she instinctively
knew with every fiber in his/her being that Eretz Yisrael and all that is
implicated in the idea and reality of Zion redeemed, is more and better even
than Paradise! This was the mainstream yearning of Jews since G-d commanded
Abraham the first command­ment to our founding patriarch - Go to the land I
will show you...and be a blessing.”

Yaaleh Viyavo

Although Rosh Chodesh was yesterday, I saw an interesting Halacha that I wanted to share:

The Jewish religion has been blessed with the opportunity to speak to G-d three times a day (Shacharis, Mincha, and Maariv). There are days however, where we have the privilege to be in prayer more than 3 times a day. These days are of course the Yomim Tovim and alike that demand that we pray the additional prayer of Mussaf (redundant).

One of these days is the holiday of Rosh Chodesh. Rosh Chodesh was the first commandment that was officially given to Klal Yisrael. Moreover 2,000 years later, in Eretz Yisrael, during the Syrian-Greek persecution, Rosh Chodesh was one of three commandments that the persecutors deemed to be prohibited in practice. The other two being the Sabbath and Circumcision.

Due to the holiday’s uniqueness at its core, in praise and thanks to G-d, we add Yaaleh viyavo during the Shmoneh Esrei and an extra prayer after Shacharis known as Mussaf.

Halacha dictates that if one forgot to say Yaaleh Viyavo during the Morning Prayer he must return and repeat the Shmoneh Esrei.

What would be the case however, if one remembered that he did not say Yaale Viyavo for the Morning Prayer after already reciting Mussaf?

The Chofetz Chaim says in his work the Mishna Brura (422:4), that one should repeat the Shacharis Shmoneh Esrei while stipulating (before hand) that in case the Shmoneh Esrei is not obligatory that it be considered a Tefillas Nidavah, a voluntary blessing.

Monday, January 7, 2008


Brooklyn, NY - Rabbi Refoel Shmuel Birnbaum, zt'l, passed away today. The Jewish world has lost one of the greatest sages of our time. The levaya will take place 8:45AM Monday morning at Mir Yeshiva 1795 Ocean Parkway.

Mayor Bloomberg issued the following statement: "Today we lost Rabbi Shmuel Birnbaum, who led the Mir Yeshiva for nearly 50 years and built it into one of the largest centers for Torah study in the world. A Holocaust refugee who, as a young man, sought shelter in Shanghai from Nazi persecution, Rabbi Birnbaum's love of learning and wealth of wisdom will live on through his tens of thousands of students worldwide. May his family be comforted among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem"

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Barukh Hashem

The Mechaber says in the context of Hilchos Chazaras HaShas that after the name of Hashem is said in a bracha the congregation should say out loud the words, “Baruch Hu U’mivorach Shmo”.

On this the (Gr”A) Vilna Gaon, comments and says that one should not say “Baruch Hu U’mivorach Shmo”, rather he should remain quiet until the end of the bracha, and then say Amen.

R’ Soloveitchik quoted the Sefer Nefesh HaChaim as a possible reason for why “Baruch Hu U’mivorach Shemo” should not be said.

The Rav said that every time that we mention the name of Hashem in prayers, the reference is entirely made on the characteristics of Hashem, not Hashem “himself” (biatzmuso). This is why we say in kedusha, “Nikadesh es Shimcha…” in Birchos Krias Shma, “Es shem…” and in Kadish, “Yihei Shmei Rabba…” The reason for this is that it is impossible to give praise and to "someone" that we don’t have the slightest recognition of.

By praising the name (shem) of Hashem however, we are recognizing individual characteristics and happenings that we are aware of.

There is one time in the Torah however, when Hashem himself is said to be kadosh. This is in the words, “Vikidashti bisoch Bnei Yisroel”?! The obvious answer to this concern is that in this Pasuk HaKadosh Baruch Hu is talking about himself. Of course HaKadosh Baruch Hu could say this about himself.

This idea can be evoked even more so from the first psalm of the Hallel Prayer. We start the prayer by saying, “Haliluka Halilu es shem Hashem, Yihi shem Hashem Mivorach” We see from this verse that the only time when Hashem can be praised is if it is in the context of his name, NOT “biatzmuso”!

Therefore it is improper to say, “Baruch Hu Umivorach Shemo” because one is not only praising Hashem’s name but Hashem “biatzmuso”.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Parshas Va'eira - "It is all in how you say it"

I would formally like to thank my dear friend Tzvi Simpson for hosting me this Shabbos. He is a great friend and an Ish Emes.

Also my apologies on getting this post out a little close to Shabbos. I will try to the best of my ability to be a little bit more punctual when it comes to posting Divrei Torah . The following is something that I heard from Rav Greenwald Shlit"a.

QUICKIE/FUNFACT: What was the big deal about Moshe Rabbeinu being Aral Sifasayim? People have speech impediments and they overcome them! Why was Moshe so concerned?

Rav Yonasan Eibushnitz answers that the leaders of every generation reflect the generation in which they lead. If a leader is seen to be subpar, then followers are surely destined for failure. On the other side of the coin however, if a leader is presentable and a sociable orator then he sheds a light over his pulpit that people from the outside can surely see and revere.

Staying within this theme of Moshe having some sort of a speech impediment, how is this possible? If one were to take a very simple look at the Torah they would see that the 2 words, "Vayidaber Moshe", show up quite a bit! From a birds eye view it seemingly makes very little sense to say that Moshe Rabbeinu had an inability to speak and express himself clearly.

The Rashbam (grandson of Rashi), a Biblical commentator and Talmudist says that it was not that Moshe Rabbeinu had an inability to orate, but it was simply that he was uncomfortable presenting himself in the language of Egyptian. Although Moshe was indigenous to the land, he had left the country too early to truly acquire a true grasp of the language.

Surely, however, the Rashbam's commentary on these words cannot stand ground. Fore although Moshe may not have acquired a grasp of the language, this should in no way prevent him from presenting himself publicly in front of Pharoah.

Also curious about the verbiage, "Aral Sifasayim" the Maharal offers his own pshat: When man was created Hashem "implanted" inside of him/her a Ruach Chayim, flesh and bones. Like we see in our daily lives, our physical and spiritual sides conflict with one another and cause an inner strife. This interaction between our spiritual and physical selves can be seen in no better way than through our 5 senses. Touch, is entirely physical. Seeing/thinking is entirely spiritual. Speech however is a mixture between the two. When one speaks, the interaction between the trachea, teeth and vocal chords is entirely physical nevertheless the sound that resonates and that leaves the mouth is entirely, "Ruchani". Therefore, when the Torah says that Moshe was Aral Sifasayim, this is not suggesting that Moshe Rabbeinu was lacking in anyway, Chas Vishalom! The Torah is telling us that Moshe was entirely spiritual!

Moshe was so spiritual that almost automatically if there was an argument between his inner selves, the spiritual side would win! His vocal chords simply did not work because Moshe was not as physical as the rest of us.

The Ran however takes the words, Aral Sifasayim in a totally different direction. He suggests that Moshe Rabbeinu, was specifically chosen to be the conduit to bring the Torah to Klal Yisroel. People cannot relate to a flawless leader. Moshe's speech issues were in essence to comforting them. It let Klal Yisroel know that Moshe also was human. Only after coming to this realization could they all sing in unison, "Moshe Emes ViToraso Emes".

Regardless of how it may be seen at first glance. The words, "Aral Sifasayim" no longer suggest that Moshe lacked in his leadership abilities but conversely suggest that he had all that it took to be the true leader of Klal Yisroel.


You are Sorely Missed!

You are Sorely Missed!