Saturday, June 21, 2008

Parshas Shlach - "D.N.A of Gossip"

QUICKIE/FUNFACT: Q: Why does the Torah teach us the seemingly irrelevant and meaningless fact that they called the place from where they took the cluster of grapes, NACHAL ESHKOL? (13:24)

A: The Sforno teaches that the Canaanites were the ones who called the place NACHAL ESHKOL when they saw the spies taking the cluster of grapes. They were astonished to see how amazed the spies were to see these large clusters since, in actuality, there were clusters like these all over the land. Thus, this seemingly meaningless occurrence actually teaches us that the land of Israel was filled with these oversized clusters of grapes.

* Courtesy of Rav Dov Lipman Shlit"a

(Bamidbar 13:1) "Vayidaber Hashem El Moshe Leimor, Shlach Licha Anashim V'Yasuru es eretz Kina'an…"

"And Hashem spoke to Moshe saying, send, for yourself, men, and have them scout the land of Cana'an..."

Rashi on the introductory words of this weeks Parsha famously explains that the reason why the story of the miraglim (spies) is juxtaposed to the story of Miriam's tzaaras is to show that these men did not learn from the story of Miriam and that there exists an issur (prohibition) of lashon hara. It seems from this that because they were punished, there must be some sort of a chiddush in the laws of lashon hara that was learned from the story of Miriam that was otherwise not known. The question is however, what was this chiddush?

Rav Shimon Schwab Zt"l points out that It is known by all that the mitzvah of lashon hara is one that exists between man and his friend. And that at the root of this prohibition lays the reason that the negative words that have been spoken about any given subject are bound to hurt them and cause them damage. Therefore if someone were to speak Lashon Hara about a rock or another inanimate object they would not be performing Lashon Hara because there would be no pain experienced by a rock.

The aforementioned was the understanding of the miraglim. They felt that there was no prohibition in speaking negatively about eretz kina'an because it was nothing more than a land or sticks and stones. What they failed to realize however was that they should have learned that this was not allowed from the story of Miriam. Miriam felt that because Moshe was an "Is Anav MiOd – a very humble man" that her words would not affect him. In essence she was talking about a rock. Her mistake was that she was talking about an object of kiddusha (holiness). The chiddush of lashon hara which can be learned from Miriam is that even when you have an inanimate object, if it is infused with holiness it is forbidden to speak negatively about it. The meraglim failed to learn from the story of Miriam and thus miscalculated and assumed that Eretz Kina'an was just a land. They should have realized that the land was infused with holiness and that speaking negatively about it would only bring them sorrow and pain.


Sunday, June 15, 2008

Parshas Beha'aloscha - "Living it Right"

QUICKIE/FUNFACT: Why does Moshe initially describe the journey of the Jewish people to Israel as a NESI'A (NOS'IM ANACHNU) and then switch to calling it a HALICHA (LECHA ITANU) when imploring Yitro to join them on this journey? (10:29)

A: The Kli Yakar explains that NESI'A connotes a complete break from where one has been with no ongoing connection to the origin of the trip. HALICHA implies that a connection and relationship remains with that original location. The Jewish people were not rooted anywhere and were not going to maintain a connection of any kind with the desert when they settled Israel. Therefore, their journey is called a NESI'A. Yitro, however, would be leaving his homeland and his people. He could not be expected to simply forget Midian and start completely anew in Israel. Thus, his trip would be a HALICHA as captured by Moshe saying LECHA ITANU.

- Courtesy of Rabbi Dov Lipman Shlit"a

In this weeks Parsha, Moshe Rabbeinu approaches (kiviyachol) the Ribbono Shel Olam and admits to him that he can no longer lead Klal Yisrael alone. As a response to Moshe's plea, Hashem tells him to gather 70 wise men (zikainim) in front of the Mishkan and there Hashem will give them all Ruach Hakodesh, so much so that it was similar to that which Moshe Rabbeinu had (I'm not sure because I think the Gemara in Sukka says that its impossible to have as much Ruach Hakodesh as Moshe Rabbeinu – Aspaklaria Hameira…).

Suddently all at once all of the zekainim received a vision from Hashem in front of the tent of meeting. Interestingly however, two people from the nation of Israel who did not attend this gathering also received this vision. Their names were Eldad and Meidad.

Rav Shimshon Raphael Hirsch points out that being appointed to an important position is not delegated based on a previous stead that may have been held. If a person is deserving of attaining Ruach hakodesh then he will receive it. He does not have to be a Rov or a Rosh Hayeshiva.

Eldad and Meidad were simple Jews who lived lives as true Torah Jews. As a reward they were given the uncomprehensible gift of prophecy.


* Picture from

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Shavuos - "The Beautiful Flowers"

The Holiday of Shavuos is well known for many things. One of which is its many names. Whether it be known as Zman Matan Torateinu, Yom Habikurrim, Chag HaKatzir, Atzeres or Chag Hashavuos it is ubiquitously known as the time when the Torah was given to the Jewish people.

One of the many customs which are preformed on Shavuos is to decorate ones home and Synogogue with greenery and flowers:

What on earth do greenery and flowers have to do with the giving of the Torah?

The Mishna Brura 494:10 replies that the custom serves to recall Mount Sinai which was surrounded by foliage, as it is written “Even the flock and the cattle may not graze facing that mountain.” The Bnei Yissochor writes that it is customary to “prepare roses and other fragrant plants for Shavuos and also to decorate the Torah scrolls with them.” He quotes the following midrash as a source for this custom:

As time passed a King came to inspect and orchard and found it in ruins, covered with thorns and thistles. As he was about to command his men to chop down and destroy the desolate ruins, the king spotted one beautiful rose among the thorns. The king took the rose and smelled it, as his spirit was restored. He said, “Because of this one rose, the entire orchard will be saved.”

Similarly the world was created only for the sake of Israel. Twenty six generations after creation, Hashem looked down on his world to evaluate what had become of it: He saw that twice people had been destroyed by water and that plenty of other terrible things continuously were occurring in his world. His world was very much deserving of destruction and renewal once again. But then Hashem looked down again and he saw is one rose, Israel, and smelled its fragrance when they willingly accepted the Ten Commandments. His spirit was restored when they proclaimed, “We will do and we will listen.” Hashem declared, “In the merit of this rose, the orchard shall be saved. In the merit of the Torah and those who study it, the world will be saved” (Shir HaShirim Rabba 2:3)

As we look around our homes and communities during this beautiful Shavuos season we can look at the beautiful plants as a symbolism not only of what Har Sinai looked like when we got the Torah like what the Mishna Brura suggests but as a direct correlation to Am Yisrael’s willingness to study and live by Hakodosh Baruch Hus Torah.

- I saw this in Artscroll’s, Shavuos – Its Observances, Laws and Significance


Friday, June 6, 2008

Anonymous On The Parsha

Anonymous Anonymous said...

נָשֹׂא אֶת-רֹאשׁ בְּנֵי קְהָת מִתּוֹךְ בְּנֵי לֵוִי לְמִשְׁפְּחֹתָם לְבֵית אֲבֹתָם
(במדבר )
There is an amazing occurrence involving this weeks Parsha. Naso is the longest containing 176 Pesukim. The longest Perek in Tehillim has 176 Pesukim, and Baba Basra, the longest Masechta in Shas, has 176 Dafim. What is the significance of this recurring number? Rav Isbeeז"ל answers there are 22 letters of the Aleph-Beis. This number represents Torah. The natural world (Teva) is always in sevens: there are seven days of the week, there are also Shivas Minim, seven continents, seven notes on a musical scale, and last but not least, the seven seas. Accordingly, eight always represents the world beyond nature (L’maaleh Min HaTeva). Now we uncover the secret of the number 176. When you take the Torah (represented by 22) and multiply by L’maaleh Min HaTeva (numerically 8) it equals 176. Through this number, Hashem is showing us that the Torah is above other studies, it is L’maaleh Min HaTeva.

דבר אל בני ישראל ואמרת אלהם איש או אשה כי יפלא לנדר נדר נזיר להזיר לה'
(במדבר ו:ב)
The Torah describes a Nazir as one who separates himself from worldly pleasures, specifically refraining from consuming wine products and haircutting, in order to attain an elevated spiritual level, greater Kedusha. The Gemara in Nedarim, addressing a person seeking spiritual ascension through acceptance of optional fasting, writes כל היושב בתענית נקרא חוטא. It would seem natural for a person climbing the spiritual ladder to take an active role in reaching his goal of spiritual growth, why then, does the Gemara view it so negatively? The Ostrovtze Rebbe provides profound insight into the true intent of the Gemara's statement. The Gemara is not condescending to one who seeks spiritual elevation through abstinence of worldly pleasures. The words are כל היושב literally translated as “one who sits,” meaning he tortures himself needlessly. He is physically refraining from Hashem’s gifts, yet since the message is not absorbed, is considered spiritually inactive, a יושב. Only in such a case is the Gemara critical and stating that he is נקרא חוטא.
שְׁלֹשִׁים וּמֵאָה הַקְּעָרָה הָאַחַת כֶּסֶף וְשִׁבְעִים הַמִּזְרָק הָאֶחָד כֹּל כֶּסֶף הַכֵּלִים אַלְפַּיִם וְאַרְבַּע-מֵאוֹת בְּשֶׁקֶל הַקֹּדֶש כַּפּוֹת זָהָב שְׁתֵּים-עֶשְׂרֵה מְלֵאֹת קְטֹרֶת עֲשָׂרָה עֲשָׂרָה הַכַּף בְּשֶׁקֶל הַקֹּדֶשׁ כָּל-זְהַב הַכַּפּוֹת עֶשְׂרִים וּמֵאָה.
The Torah tells us that each Nasi brought a set of gifts to the Mizbeach. For what reason does the Posuk mention only the Keilim that held the gifts but omit the seemingly more essential contents of these containers? Furthermore, conversely, regarding the ladles full of קְטֹרֶת that the Nessim offered, we find explicit mention of the contents of the ladles! What is the reason for this apparent dichotomy? The answer requires a brief refresher in Hilchos Kodshim. There is a Halacha instructing that anything made hekdesh/consecrated must be offered on the same day. Violation of this edict results in Lina and the expired offerings become Pasul. Accordingly, the Brisker Rav directs our attention to the גמרא שבועת דף יא. stating that the din of Lina does not apply to the consecration of incense. Knowing this, the Nessiim were not hesitant to preload the incense into the ladles. However, as the Nessiim correctly suspected, Hashem dedicated an entire day to the gifts of each Nasi. Had the Nessiim arrived all at once with their gifts prepackaged, all of the offerings except for those of the one Nasi awarded the first day would fall into the category of Lina and consequently become Pasul. With this in mind, they arrived with the containers for their gifts but left the gifts separate. Only when it was their special day for presenting gifts did they add the gifts to the baskets they had prepared prior.

Parshas Naso - "Humility is the Key"

I hope that you all had a great week. My apologies for not getting a Dvar Torah out last week. It was kind of crazy around here and Bli Neder I will try not to make a habit of it. At any rate, this week was one of celebration and Mazel Tovs for our readers! I would personally like to wish a Mazel Tov to Andy and Samantha Van Houter upon their Wedding AND to Dovi Lamet and Ilana Singer, Michael Schertz and Yael Koenigsberg, and Saul Haimoff and Sara Rosengarten upon their engagements.

Here is a little something...

QUICKIE/FUNFACT: This parsha begins with the census of the family of Gershon. Why was the family of Kehat, a younger son, counted before Gershon who was the first born?

The Kli Yakar answers that G-D wanted us to learn that honor is given first and foremost to those who are involved with Torah, even if they are younger. Thus, G-D gave the responsibility of carrying the Aron which represents Torah to Kehat, a younger son, and then counted that younger son before older sons to teach us the honor due to those involved with Torah.

- Courtesy of Rabbi Dov Lipman Shlit"a

Bamidbar 7:12 "Vayihi Hamakriv bayom harishon es korbano Nachshon ben Aminadav L'Mateh Yehuda"

"And it was the one who brought the sacrifice on the first day was Nachshon ben Aminadav from the Tribe of Yehuda"

In the above Pasuk the Torah oddly chooses not to preface the calling of Nachshon ben Aminadav by calling him a Nasi. Why is this? Rav Shimon Schwab suggests that the reason may be because Elisheva, Nachshon's sister was mourning the loss of her sons, Nadav and Avihu. For this reason the Pasuk chooses not to show the greatness of Nachshon ben Aminadav and lists him as a simple person from the tribe of Yehuda. In addition, we can now understand why the pasuk says "V'karbano" in the adjoining area to show us that Nachshon was clearly in pain for his sister's loss and therefore did not feel the simcha in the bringing of his korban.

The Tur writes that the Torah prefaces all of the Nasiim with the name Nasi except of Nachshon ben Aminadav because he was from the tribe of Yehuda. This gesture was symbolic of Nachshon or the entire greater tribe of Yehuda who both now and eternally will be held in high regard by society and that they will have to teach themselves to be humble. For we see in (Shmuel 1 17:14) "David hu hakatan – David he is the smallest." Even though he was the King!

We learn in many places that a humble person is not considered humble because of his actions but because of his inner self. Nachshon ben Aminadav did not see himself as a Nasi, even though he most definitely was. He saw himself as a simple man from Yehuda even though he was realistically one of the most powerful people in Am Yisrael.


Monday, June 2, 2008

Last Bear Minyan

Bear Minyan - Hatzlacha vBracha

May 30, 2008

To the Bear Stearns Minyan, one last time:

After two great years at the Bear, and having been observant for about the same amount of time, I have chosen to exit galus and the world of gashmius (at least temporarily) in order to immerse myself in the ruchnius that I hope to find at Ohr Somayach in eretz Yisroel. I had been planning to go learn at some point, and despite having had a potential opportunity to go over to JPMorgan, the events that took place in mid-March made my decision that much clearer. Not only has Hashem provided me with the ability to go learn but he has blessed me with a “scholarship” care of JPM.

The Bear mincha minyan was really my first regular minyan and it provided me with much inspiration. The whole concept was foreign to me. The idea that a few dozen men at a major financial institution would take time out of their busy schedules and express their gratitude to Hashem, in a conference room within the building no less, was a big motivator for me. Moreover, nobody was talking, rarely were there any cell phone interruptions, and some were even able to achieve serious kavanagh. Thank you to everyone who davened for inspiring me with your tefillah.

While I sympathize with those who lost money and jobs, we know that everything happens for a reason and it will all work out for the best. That being said, the collapse of BSC provided a great deal of mussar to all who wish to see it. There are some employees who gave their heart and soul to the company for many years, and some lost thousands or even millions of dollars (Jimmy literally lost a billion!) – they learned the hard way that money is fleeting. Still there are others who were with the company for only a few months who will receive a nice severance package and have already accepted offers elsewhere at higher salaries. There are those, who because of the extraordinary amount of time that they spent at the office, missed out on many milestones (birthdays, weddings, etc.), and lost it all. And there are those who were just in the right place at the right time. And of course there are stories of everything in between. There are no accidents. Hashem is in charge of the world. Sometimes when we are in certain situations it is difficult to have a clear perspective. In the business world it is so easy to get caught up in the day to day and to lose sight of what really matters This experience has truly served to clarify for me the idea that the only “things” that are timeless are the mitzvahs that we do and the tzedakah that we give in olam hazeh. Bear Stearns will soon be a distant memory but hopefully this lesson will remain with us.

There is a famous story of an extraordinarily wealthy man who wrote two wills. When he passed away his children were instructed to immediately open will #1 and then 30 days later to open will #2. Will #1 indicated that the man’s last wish was to be buried in his favorite pair of socks. The chevra kadisha informed the children that this would not be possible. The children pleaded, informing them that their father was a very powerful man who had given a substantial amount of tzedakah throughout his life. They asked, “Do you know who our father is?” Still, the chevra kadisha told the children that it was not halachically permissible. They informed the children that the dead could only be buried in a white kittel. The children sadly buried their father unable to fulfill his final request. After 30 days had passed will #2 was read to the children. “By now children, you have buried me without my socks. I want you to realize that no matter how many millions of dollars you accumulate in your lifetime, you cannot even take your socks with you to the next world.”

There was once a man traveling through Europe in the 1800’s. He came to the town where the Chofetz Chaim had lived. The traveler stopped in to meet the great Talmid Chuchum. When he arrived at the house, he saw that the Chofetz Chaim lived in a tiny home. He knocked on the door and when he looked inside he saw a nearly empty one-bedroom apartment. The traveler asked the Chofetz Chaim, “aren’t you the great Chofetz Chaim? How can you live like this? Where are all of your possessions?” The Chofetz Chaim turned to the traveler and posed the same question. “Where are all of your possessions? All you have with you is a suitcase.” The traveler answered, “Well, I am just passing through,” to which the Chofetz Chaim responded, “I too am just passing through.”

These are old stories but their messages are powerful. It is of course important to make a living and support a family but it is also important to learn Torah b’yom u b’layla, to treat others with respect, to be a Kiddush Hashem and to always act l’shaem shemayim. As I have been inspired by everyone at the minyan, and certainly affected by the events that have transpired at Bear, I hope that you are all inspired by the messages that Hashem sends us on a daily basis and that you continue to strive to achieve a true closeness to the Rabbeinu shel Olam.

Nachum and I had a brief conversation with our CEO, Alan Schwartz, in the elevator on the way to Mincha yesterday. We invited him to daven with us though we conveyed our feelings that maybe our prayers for the well-being of Bear Stearns had not been received in the way that a lot of people had hoped. He had a meeting to attend but he left us with some great mussar. He said something along the lines of ‘don’t worry fellas – your prayers are being answered – we just don’t know how.’ Now I don’t know if he has been meeting with a Rabbi over the past few months or if it was just the power of the pintele Yid but I thought it was a great attitude reflecting on what has no doubt been the most tragic part of his career. Hashem sends us messages all the time and from the most unexpected places.

A big hakores hatov to Andy on behalf of the entire minyan for all his hard work and for being our shaliach mitzvah. By the way, if you have noticed that Andy hasn’t been around as much lately it is because he has been spending his mornings learning in Yeshiva. Yafeh!

Hatzlacha vBracha!

Robert Savit

Vice President

Bear, Stearns & Co. Inc.

You are Sorely Missed!

You are Sorely Missed!