Thursday, December 28, 2006

Happy Yom Haatzmaut!!!!!!!

Please see the comments to the post "I don't say Hallel on Yom Haatzmaut But etc." This is a response.

I know little about medicine. So if I have a medical question I ask a doctor. I know little about law so when I have a legal question I ask a lawyer. When it comes to halacha I feel a little bit more comfortable but still accept my limitations. There are Gedolei Torah in Klal Yisrael. I am not one of them [please forgive me for stating the obvious]. So if there is a halachic question to which I don't know the answer I ask a gadol. I think that everything I said now is difficult to debate [unless you really despise lawyers].

There is an entire sefer dedicated to the question of saying Hallel on Yom Haatzmaut and Yom Yerushalayim most of which I read in my Yeshivat Hakotel days. But I felt myself much to small to decide. So I went to the Gedolim. Of course it is debatable who is a greater Gadol but it seems to me that the Chazon Ish, Rav Tzvi Pesach Frank and Rav Ovadiah Yoseph Shlita are undeniably top caliber [those who have learned their sefarim know what I mean]. They did not say Hallel on Yom Haatzmaut [the first two definitely omitted Hallel and it seems from the teshuva that I will quote momentarily that Rav Ovadiah doesn't either] and so seems to be the consensus of other Gedolei Yisrael. [See Rav Ovadiah's teshuva in Yabia Omer 6\41 where he says that if one wants to there is a heter to say Hallel without a bracha after Aleinu.] There are certainly Rabbonim who paskened that one should say Hallel but they are not as great in Torah as those who don't. And if one can name a first rate gadol who did say Hallel he is certainly in the minority. So if when we have a question in Hilchos Shabbos we follow the rulings of our Gedolim I strongly believe that we should do the same when it comes to this question. For many unfotunately the question is more political than halachic. Politika [in hebrew] shares a gematria with Amalek. I am a-political.

People often confuse the question of whether one should say Hallel with the question of whether ones appreciates the gift of our self-dominion [as flimsy as it may be]. If one doesn't appreciate the fact that we are no longer suffering in Israel under Gentile rule - he is an ingrate. It is better in Israel today in many respects, than it has been in at least two thousand years. Of course one cannot overlook all of the problems but when all is said and done - there is much to be thankful for. So Baruch Hashem!!!!!!!!!!!

But that doesn't mean that one has to say Hallel. That issue is based on various halachic issues that are beyond the scope of this post. So when boys ask me what to do - I tell them to follow their Rebbe [or the Yeshiva if they are Netiv boys]. If they claim that I am their Rebbe [however unworthy I may be] I tell them that I don't say Hallel as my Rebbe [who in my opinion is a baki bchol haTorah kula - including Toras Hanistar] doesn't. This same Rebbe gives strong mussar to the Chassidim that they should appreciate the fact the we have a State.

One more point. It infuriates me when people question the religiosity of those who did not say Hallel. Case in point: The Brisker Rov was a Gaon Olam who had more Yiras Shamayim than just about any other Jew of his time. He was koolo lashem. His dikduk bmitzvos was simply awe-inspiring. He was also a rabid opponent of the State and certainly would have called a bracha on Hallel an issur gamur. One can possibly argue that he was mistaken [if one is big enough to argue] BUT NOT THAT HE LACKED RELIGIOUS DEVOTION. The same goes of the Chazon Ish, The Satmer Rebbe and frankly the entire Charedi world today which suffers a great degree of material discomfort in order to learn Torah and for whom Torah is everything. [Of course not every Charedi Jew is a complete Tzaddik but I for one am impressed by the centrality of Torah in most of their lives.] So argue with their opinion [again, if one has the knowledge to do so] but PLEASE don't cast aspersions on their level of religious commitment.

There is much more to say but I leave it up to the intelligent reader to draw their own conclusions.

With love to all [even though I might just have annoyed you. But of course we remain friends. Friends don't always have to agree. Like sometimes I disagree with my wife until she shows me how wrong I am. She is my Gadol on certain issues].

I am waiting for your incisive comments!!!!!!!!!!

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Please Help Me:For Crying Out Loud

We must take the Holy Man at his word. Rashi says that he tries to explain the simple meaning of the text. Pashut pshat. Sometimes, though, he says things that seem to conflict with this claim.

In this weeks Parsha when Yoseph was united with his long lost brother Binyamin he cried. We can understand the strong emotions he felt at this moment. But our Rebbe [Gemara Rebbe, Chumash Rebbe, Nach Rebbe] Rashi says that Yoseph cried over the destruction of the Mishkan and the two Batei Mikdash - which would take place many years in the future!! Why is that the simple meaning of the pasuk.

Please help me.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Please Help Me:Even though I Don't Say Hallel On Yom Haatzmaut - I Am Thrilled To Be Here

I love living in Israel!!! Even though I still haven't figured out how they are able to get milk into those sealed bags. Still, I get a mitzva every second I am here. I once heard that when Rav Nevenzhal flies to America he gets a seat at the back of the plane so that he stays in Israel for the additional second. Since I generally try not to believe fairy-tales I approached the Rav and asked him myself. And it's true!!

The Gemara in Sotah [14] asks why Moshe wanted so desperately to enter the Land. And the Gemara answers that he wanted to enter the land in order to fulfill the Mitzvos dependent on the land ["mitzvos hatluyos baáretz"] such as trumos and maasros. I have a more basic reason to enter the land - namely to fulfill the mitzva of living in Israel. So why did the Gemara not mention that reason? [In fact many try to prove from this Gemara that there is no mitzva to live in Israel. But I don't accept that position. I am a Tolna Chossid - not a Satmar Chossid.....].

Please help me.

Failed Relationships

I am not a professional psychologist but I have spent many years closely observing relationships. One of my conclusions is that the most common pitfall in any relationship is CONTROL. Husbands try to control wives, wives try to control husbands, people dating try to control their partner so that they should conform to their expectations, parents control children, teachers control students etc. etc.

Examples: Boy meets girl. Boy likes girl. Boy wants to marry girl. Problem - She is very religious and keeps halacha and is growing daily but at the PRESENT MOMENT she doesn't follow everything the boy expects her to follow. [The converse also happens - boy not religious enough for girl.] So instead of allowing her to grow at her own pace or ending the relationship [legitimate if she doesn't meet his standards] he pressures her to be what he wants. IT ALMOST ALWAYS [if not always] BACKFIRES. NOBODY LIKES TO BE CONTROLLED.

Another example: Parent has picture of what they want their child to become [e.g. Doctor, Lawyer etc.]. Child wants to be something else [eg. Yeshiva Rebbe, Kollel Fellow or in non-religious circles - actor, musician]. Parent forces child to follow parents path using many forms of manipulation [monetary, intense pressure, threats, old fashioned guilt] until child complies.

I am a parent myself. Of course a parent must gently guide the child. But as the child grows up they must be given the leeway to make more of their own decisions. How many boys in yeshiva are torn asunder by their intense desire to learn more against the strident opposition of their parents. The parents insist "You don't know what makes you happy. We know". Really?? Does the parent think that their parents know what is better for them? This also happens to 25, 30 and 40 year old "children".

Examples of the "control" phenomenom abound but I will suffice with the two aforementioned examples to which I am so often a witness.

So, if you are in a relationship where someone is trying to control you [you probably are] be assertive while at the same time polite and VERY RESPECTFUL and take your indepedence back. We are servants of G-d only. And if you involved in a relationship where you are trying to control someone else - step back and give them the freedom to be themselves. They will be much happier. And so will you.

As the Kotzker Rebbe famously put it [in a similar vein] : If I am I because I am I and you are you because you are you - then I am I and you are you. But if I am I because you are you and you are you because I am I - then I am not I and you are not you.

Note:I am not referring to anyone in particular. I am just bemoaning a general phenomenon of which I believe people are not sufficiently aware. Also most "Controllers" only have the best of intentions and don't even realize what they are doing. My goal is to help people improve their relationships. Not to have people get angry at me "Who's he calling controlling?!".

I would be interested in hearing your insights.

Love and Blessings!!!!!

Friday, December 22, 2006

Please Help Me:I Want To Invest In Oil - Answer

Some answer that the decree of the Rabbis was never meant to apply to a Mitzva transaction.

One can also answer that the law that money doesn't acquire was enacted to benefit the buyer as [we learn in Bava Metzia] but in our case it is to the buyers benefit that money should acquire and therefore it does.

An Open Letter To A Friend

Dear Sia"ch Ben Mordechai Gedalya

You have a dream but are experiencing repeated setbacks. You were always a serious student of Chumash. Look at Yoseph. He had dreams but also experienced repeated setbacks. But he never fell into the doldrums. Because he never stopped believing that his dreams would come true. And you know the end.

Your dreams will also come true. But only if you continue believing in them. And in yourself.

Good Shabbos and Chodesh Tov!!!!!

Love Ally

I Am A Pro-Semite

Jews are the best!! Yesterday I wrote about Tomchei Shabbos of the Old City. Today I received a call from a very fine Talmid Chacham who wants to help financially and otherwise. A future father-in-law of a Netiv Aryeh boy wants to wire money immediately. Other people have expressed interest.

This certainly won't make it to the headlines of the morning paper. That unfortunately is usually reserved for people who break the law. But to my mind it is by far the most newsworthy event of the day.

It should be a merit for our holy nation. While our enemies figure out new and original ways to kill us - we are busy giving away hard-earned money to people in need.

מי כעמך ישראל גוי אחד בארץ

Good Shabbos!!!!!!!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Saving Ones Own Life: Tzedooki Tzedooki Tzedooki!!!

Tzedakah tatzil mimaves - Tzedaka saves from death.

The Kabbalists teach that it also saves one from Gehinnom. Imagine if one were told that G-d forbid they must undergo a very painful operation without anasthesia. The only other option would be to give a few dollars to charity. If they choose the second option - no operation and no illness. Which would we choose?

I personally have never given one dollar of my own to tzedakah. Because all of "my" money is really Hashem's money that He gave me in order to better serve Him. It is EASY giving away money that belongs to someone else!

But the best reason to give tzedaka: Because it is the right thing to do. It shows that we care about others. It is an act of Godliness. We don't just give but we are happy to do so. It is a zchus!

Recently a friend and I decided to start a Tomchei Shabbos organization to provide poor families in the Old City with food. No such organization exists even though there are DOZENS of families that need. Example: I have a good friend who just had his seventh child [his wife also helped...] but he can't afford to move out of his ONE BEDROOM APARTMENT. You read correctly. However since our funds are so limited he didn't even make the list of the needy. Many people say - get a job!! Stop learning in kollel. Kollel is in my opinion a beautiful concept. Learning Torah Lishmah, no degrees, no kavod etc. etc. However in most of these families either one or both parents work. But it is not enough to feed their families. Some people say: So don't have so many children!!! Please forgive me but I lost 6 million relatives a few decades ago so I am absolutely THRILLED every time a Jewish child is born. I personally would love to have 20 of my own if Hashem were willing. [I would actually like to have 6 million but I would feel really rotten if I forgot some of their birthdays].

Well, back to Tomchei Shabbos. We ran out of money already so this Thursday there will be no distribution.

So, if you wish to "make partner" in this worthy cause [the Chasam Sofer says that the poor of Jerusalem take precedence over others] please don't hesitate. And if you don't give to us - give to someone in need. You won't regret it.

With love and blessings for health and wealth and very long lives to all of my dear friends

I remain faithfully yours,

Elchanan ben Henna Miriam

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Please Help Me:Hamivarech es amo yisrael bashaaaameeen!!!!

We say Hallel during davening on all the holidays: Pesach, Shavuous, Succos, Purim, [Yom Haatzmaut?]. Why does the Rambam skip over Hilchos Tefillah and the laws of all the Moadim and WAITS until hilchos Chanukah to teach us the laws of Hallel?

Please help me.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Great Chanukah Torah [Can be read while eating latkes]


Chanukah:A Broken Heart

Before leaving the city of Shchem, Yaakov Avinu told his sons: “Discard the alien gods that are in your midst; cleanse yourselves and change your clothes”. Which avoda zara was in their midst? Rashi explains this to refer to avoda zara that was taken from the people of Shchem along with the spoils. When the sons of Yaakov plundered the city they also took avoda zara, possibly without even being aware that these were items used for idolatry.

Similarly, a man at war is permitted to take a woman from amongst the enemy captives and marry her on condition that she first undergoes a process which includes removing her clothing of captivity. The Chizkuni explains that the woman worshipped idols in these clothing and he compares this to Yaakov’s commanding his sons: “change your clothes” also within the context of removing idolatry.

These sources may serve as a justification for the custom amongst Chassidim to cherish a tzadik’s garment, wearing it on special occasions to increase the kedusha at these auspicious moments. I once attended a chuppa at which the chosson was wearing a strange, old kappota which someone said had belonged to a famous tzaddik. A rav standing nearby commented disparagingly about Chassidim making tzaddikim’s clothing into avoda zara. It was then that I quoted the above Chizkuni inferring that if idol worship “sticks” to the idol worshipper’s clothing, how much more so the kedusha of the tzaddik involved in the holy service of Hashem must stick to his clothing.

Yaakov’s sons fulfilled their father’s command: “They gave Yaakov all the alien gods that were in their possession… and Yaakov buried them…”

In Al-Hanisim we say ופנו את היכלך וטהרו את מקדשך .Why did the Beis Hamikdash require purification? Which impurity called for eradication? The gemara explains that the Greeks, upon capturing Yerushalayim, entered the Beis Hamikdash and used the mizbeach for avoda zara rendering it prohibited for use in the Beis Hamikdash. The gemara asks how this was possible since we know that one cannot effect a prohibition on property that does not belong to him and after all the mizbeach belonged to the Jewish People and not the Greeks! The gemara answers by citing a pasuk from Yechezkel: "ובאו פריצים וחללוה" “and lawless people came into it and profaned it”. Rashi explains that when the idolaters entered the Heichal, all the keilim inside lost their kedusha, enabling the Greeks to acquire them. Once the mizbeach was in the Greek’s possession they were capable of transforming it into avoda zara. How then were the Chashmonaim going to purify the mizbeach? Could it be broken by a Goy and then be rebuilt? After all we know that if a Goy breaks his avoda zara, he is demonstrating distaste for it, implying that he no longer believes in it and therefore his act of breaking it nullifies its status of avoda zara. The gemara rejects this option because the mizbeach must be built with whole stones and not broken ones. Then the gemara suggests breaking the mizbeach to nullify the avoda zara and then smoothing the broken edges to ensure that each stone would be whole. The gemara rejects this also, because the Torah commands us “…an alter of stones; you shall not raise iron upon them”. So the only solution was to bury the stones of the mizbeach and find new ones, which is exactly what the Chashmonaim did. Whole smooth stones were to be found in the rivers so when the Chashmonaim came to rebuild the mizbeach, it was no simple matter. First they had to dive underwater to find stones which would be appropriate in size and shape and then the stones had to be brought to Yerushalayim. All this had to be accomplished as swiftly as possible lest the korbanos be delayed any longer. This entire, most miraculous process is encompassed in the phrase ופינו את היכלך וטיהרו את מקדשך a prerequisite for the more well-known miracle of והדליקו נרות בחצרות קדשך.

We too must go to great lengths to purify ourselves. Each and every one of us has some hidden impurity. Sometimes it is so well hidden that it goes unnoticed. Any thought, desire or action that contradicts the will of Hashem must be removed from the “heichal” of our hearts. Chazal refer to the Yetzer Hara as a fly that sits in the cracks of one’s heart. It seeps down through the cracks and settles deep down inside a Jew’s heart. Yaakov Avinu wished to ascend to Beis-El, but he sensed that something was amiss. His sons had intended to destroy the city of Shchem and all its impurity, but some of this impurity clung to them. Just as Yaakov’s sons only detected the avoda zara once they searched for it, so too the evil within us will surface only if we search for it.

The days of Chanuka are days of light and kedusha during which all neshamos, even the lowest of them, can achieve higher spiritual heights. We should take advantage of this special time of year!

I was told by the Pnei Menachem זצוק"ל [the Gerrer Rebbe] that as a child he received a book of mishalim (parables) from his father, Rav Avraham Mordechai of Ger זי"ע. The book related only the meshalim themselves and the reader was left to figure out the nimshalim. From time to time his father would inquire which of the stories he had read and what lesson he had gleaned from it. One of the meshalim told of a Poritz whose daughter was soon to be wed. The upcoming wedding was the talk of his estate as the preparations intensified. Everyone planned to attend the wedding and of course to bring a gift. There was a Jew on this estate who was faced with a terrible dilemma. He couldn’t afford to bring the Poritz an expensive gift, yet by bringing anything too simple he might be insulting the Poritz and risking his life! After pondering his situation for a while, the Jew found a brilliant solution. He entered an expensive store and asked if perhaps they had a broken set of dishes and if so to please wrap it up in the nicest wrapping paper. The storekeeper was surprised at this peculiar request but did indeed have a broken set of dishes and wrapped it up for the Jew. The Jew hoped that the Poritz would assume that the Jew had purchased an exquisite set of dishes which had broken on the way home from the wedding. He was feeling quite triumphant with his clever ruse until the following day when he was summoned by the Poritz, yelled at and thrown into prison for the tremendous chutzpa of bringing a broken set of dishes – each broken piece wrapped individually!

The Pnei Menachem asked his father for the moral of this story and this is what his father explained. When Dovid Hamelech commends a broken heart, he is referring to a truly broken heart, genuinely contrite and seeking Hashem’s closeness not a preplanned broken heart, where each piece is individually wrapped. Only a truly broken heart loves Hashem.

Let us all use these special days of Chanukah to search our hearts and cleanse them, bringing us closer to Hashem. There is one specific spiritual malady which I would like to address, namely the radio. We are exposed to the culture of the nations by whom we are surrounded and it filters into our lives more than we realize. We have grown accustomed to hearing things on the radio which should repulse us but no longer do. We listen to the news and occasionally to the music broadcasted before and after the news, forgetting that our young innocent children are also listening. We are allowing a foreign culture to seep into our own homes.

The Greeks intended to darken the hearts and eyes of the Jews. They weren’t trying to destroy our bodies, they were even willing to leave the physical structure of the Beis Hamikdash intact. They were waging a war of a different nature, aiming to conquer our souls by corrupting us with their culture. Let us not be defeated and in the merit of our spiritual preparations may we grow closer to Hashem with the help of the glowing lights of Chanuka.

This article was translated by a woman who is too modest to allow me to mention her name. But suffice it to say that when she is not translating and learning she takes exceptionally good care of my children and personifies the middos of our foremothers [and Four Mothers]!!

Monday, December 18, 2006

Should I wear a costume on Chanukah

How did Haman make it into "Maoz Tzur"? Maybe we should sing about the Maccabees [the cohanim - not the ball players] on Purim, confess our sins on Shavuous, and dance at Rebbe Shimon Bar Yochai's grave on tu b'shvat!!

Also what is the meaning of רוב בניו וקניניו על העץ תלית
- why would we hang Haman's possessions on the tree. I am happy that we got him and his sons! But why do we have to hang his sofa and closets?

Please help me.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

What is Hanukah? Answer

My friends have urged me to write answers to the "Please help me's". So sometimes, if I have an answer, I will provide an answer although of course there can be multiple answers. Full disclosure:Many of the questions and answers are not my own but what I have seen and heard.

I think Rashi [shabbos 21] was bothered by our Chanukah question - see his words. I understand him to be answering that the gemara knew all along what chanukah is but the question is: Many miracles transpired - the war, the candles etc. Which miracle in particular prompted the Rabbis to institute a new holiday. The gemaras answer - the candles.

וזה בדרך אפשר. וכבר כתבו שעל כל טיפת דיו של רש"י צריך לשבת שבעה נקיים ושהוא מתרץ חבילות של קושיות במילים ספורות

Saturday, December 16, 2006

The Opening Of The Jewish Mind:Part 2

The point of the previous post was as follows. Everyone is closeminded AND openminded. We just choose where to open and where to close. Example : Many parents are open to allowing their children to attend Penn or Princeton - but not Ponovitch. Maryland - but not Mir, Boston University - but not Bais Yaakov. Many are open enough to go to a movie or the theatre - but would never consider attending a Rebbe's tisch. People don't think twice when buying a Sports Illustrated or Time Magazine but would never think of buying a Jewish Observer. This must be understood before we make value judgements with respect to what to accept and what to reject.

Now a value judgement! When I was growing up I found that most TV shows and movies revolved around a certain three letter word that ends with an "x" [not fox]. And violence. Study after study has proven that exposure to the media is linked to increased violent and aggresive behavior, early onset of sexual promiscuity, increased high risk behavior, alcohol and tobbaco use etc. etc. These studies don't emanate from Lakewood or Williamsburg but from Non-Jewish academics. If you don't believe me google "harmful effects of television" and see for yourself. And since I am very closeminded when it comes to allowing my children to watch peole having intercourse - I don't have a TV! What responsible parent would approve? Some parents say that they monitor their kids. Impossible. Did it work in your home? And if I lived in New York I wouldn't allow the New York Post in my home because of the pornographic pictures. [Then again if I lived in New York - I would make Aliyah.]

The internet is also replete with filthy material. But if one has a kosher homepage [I recommend Alleyways] and uses it only for Torah or business or to access information, it is possible to avoid the filth. [Not that I think that ideally a person should have internet. I think that they should consult with their Rav]. With respect to TV, movies and most newspapers - it is impossible to avoid. [Some would claim that there is nothing worthwhile in the popular media, but since that is debatable I won't make that claim. But all would agree that there is a large degree of harmful material.]

One more point. The media doesn't claim that they are trying to impart positve values. They admit that their purpose is to ENTERTAIN. And therein lies the danger. V'dai l'mavin.

Anyway I have to run. It is motzaei shabbos and I am going to my beloved Rebbe's Tisch. When I was a child my saturday nights were usually spent watching "The Love Boat" "Fantasy Island" and "Saturday Night Live". And no, I don't miss Eddie Murphy.

Love and blessings from God's backyard!!!!!!!

עבדו את ה' בשמחה

Elchanan ben Henna Miriam

Friday, December 15, 2006

What is Hanukah? And when are we going to tell the world that they are spelling it without the first letter

The Gemara in Masseches Shabbos has a long involved disscusion about the Halachos of Chanukah and after everything asks the following question : "mai Chanukah" - what is Chanukah. Isn't it strange that this question isn't asked at the outset. The Gemara is assuming all along that we know what Chanukah is and then asks what Chanukah is?

Please help me.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

The Opening Of The Jewish Mind

Dear Rav Ally

I love Alleyways. The shiurim are wide-ranging deep and always fun!!

But something bothers me. I don't mean to be disrespectful - but why are you close-minded. I like movies, television newspapers etc. etc. I think one should be more open-minded.

Again, thanks for the shiurim and may Hashem grant you many many Talmidim and Talmidos who are inspired by your Torah - on-line and off.

Love S.B.T.

Dearest S.B.T.

Thank you for your kind words. And for your frankness.

I AM open-minded. I am open to holiness, purity, love, happiness, care, feeling the pain of others, communal responsibility, kindness, assimilating into oneself Divine Attributes etc. etc.

Intellectually I also think one should be broadminded. Not to learn Gemara alone. One should learn Minchas Chinuch, Shev Shmatsa, Avi Ezri, Avnei Nezer etc. etc. etc. Rishonim and Acharonim, Chassidim and Misnagdim, Ashkenazim and Sephardim, Mussar and Machshava and even some history.

No my sweetest friend [and if you know S.B.T. he IS sweet] one should not be close-minded. But sometimes when we open our minds too much - we close it.

Love and Bleesings from Yerushalayim!!!

[Note:I am indebted to Rav Shlomo Aviner who opened up my mind to this definition of openness in a piece I read years ago.]

Monday, December 11, 2006

What's In A Name

When my first son was born I had this great idea to name him Herman in honor of my favorite novelist Herman Wouk. And Berman in honor of my favorite sportscaster Chris Berman [somehow I didn't think that Chris is an appropriate name for a future Talmid Chacham. I would have to call him "X" as in X-mas]. Hence his name would be Herman Berman Ehrman. I resisted the urge to name him after Ethel Merman, as well.

I ended up naming him Shmuel. [I have a wonderful wife. She has opinions on such matters.]

In our tradition white symbolizes purity. Why then is Lavan- a deceitful and dangerous [yesh lél yadi lehara imachem] individual - called "White".

Please enlighten me.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Lights In A Dark World

I am a lucky person. I was born to wonderful parents who not only provided me with my material needs but also ensured that I should receive a proper Jewish education. And when they felt that I needed reinforcements they brought someone to my house to learn more Torah with me. [I often think that if I would have payed more attention I would have benefitted so much more from the experience. But I was too busy. I was training my future job. Professional athlete!!]. They insisted that I stay a second year in Yeshiva in Israel. [It has been a loooong year].

My parents showed me the beauty of Shabbos as our Shabbos table was filled with delicious food, guests of all types would honor us with their presence and zemiros and divrei Torah were the norm. All areas of my observance until this very day are impacted by the wonderful home in which I grew up.

Not everyone has it so easy. This past week I met two people [no connection between the two] who greatly inspired me. One we will call Joey. Joey was brought in a completely irreligious home. However, we cannot say that his father was derelict in his duty to give his child a Jewish education. Joey's father is not Jewish. Yet when Joey was in eleventh grade he decided to attend Yeshiva. No support [financial or otherwise] from his parents. But Joey wants Hashem. He has to overcome many hurdles daily but he still perseveres. A number of times a week Joey sits in on my classes - but he has taught me more than I can ever teach him.

The other person is an extremely gifted young woman who we will call Rochelle [not her real name]. Rochelle's parents were raised in Commmunist Russia and still believe that G-d is a relic of the past and religion the opium of the masses. She decided - to her parents dismay - to observe the Torah. Without going into detail it is VERY difficult. But she personifies the indomitable Jewish spirit by keepng Mitzvos under such difficult conditions. What is more amazing is that she maintains an extremely close personal relationship with her parents [particularly her mother]. I firmly believe that as she actualizes her desire to further her Jewish education her parents might very well follow along. Communism lasted only 70 years. The Torah is eternal.

These two young people serve as a source inspiration to me, showing that in this world of crass materialism, the Jewish soul shines brighter than ever. I hope you are inspired as well.

Happy Chanukah!!!

Love and Blessings to all!

Friday, December 08, 2006

כח הפה

Recently a boy told me an amazing story. His grandfather was raised an Orthodox Jew but dropped his observance in his 20's. When this boy was about 13, he made an off-hand comment which went approximately as follow: "Grandpa, why do you bother going to shul on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur?! You don't keep the Torah anyway so your prayers are not sincere!"

Within two weeks his Grandfather became a FULLY OBSERVANT JEW and remains that way until this day [daf-yomi included]. Why? His grandson's comment.

Do I recommend that one speak that way to his parents or grandparents? G-D FORBID! One should speak only with respect and complete derech eretz.

But to me it illustrates THE POWER OF WORDS. Words are potent.

מוות וחיים ביד הלשון

Thursday, December 07, 2006

But I Grew Up A Mets Fan

Please forgive me if you don't like it but it popped into my head today.


Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Learning from the skin of a pig filled with hot air


Many of us have heard that refrain many times. Surprisingly I think that there is a great teaching in this gallop to six points.

Yaakov is on his way to meet Eisav and he sends him the following message: עם לבן גרתי - I have lived with Lavan. Rashi notes that if you scramble the letters גרתי - you get תרי"ג and what Yaakov was saying was that he managed to keep all תרי"ג mitzvos. And Rashi adds that not only did I keep mitzvos in Lavan's home but לא למדתי ממעשיו - I didn't learn from his [evil] deeds.

I have a few questions. 1- Is Yaakov bragging? Uncharacteristic. 2 - Why should Eisav care if Yaakov kept mitzvos. Eisav wasn't of the more pious. 3 - If Yaakov said that he kept all of the mitzvos it is self-evident that he didn't learn from Lavan's deeds so why did he add that detail.

I think what happened was that Yaakov was trying to calm Eisav so that Eisav should not kill him. "Don't worry dear brother that I am coming to wage war against you and I will rely on the great merits that I have to defeat you. Because I am not so meritorious. I lived with Lavan for 20 years and even though I remained "frum" I didn't learn from Lavan the most important lesson. How to get excited about mitzvos to the same degree that he gets excited about aveiros!! לא למדתי ממעשיו הרעים - I didn't learn from his evil deeds, even though I should have. Lavan performs aveiros with such fire and enthusiasm. My mitzvos unfortunately lack the same quality. So don't worry, I am not the tzaddik that you think I am. Hence I am not coming to kill you so lets make peace".

Do we get as excited about davening -a chance to converse with G-d himself!!! - as we do about a fourth quarter touchdown?
Where are the high-fives and backslaps after we learn a daf Gemara? So if you write a check for tzedaka, maybe you should pour some champaign over your head in celebration. After all we all believe that in the bigger picture spirituality is what really matters. Much greater than winning a superbowl.

So maybe there is something to learn from football about Avodas Hashem. And from Lavan. מכל מלמדי השכלתי!!!

והאש על המזבח תוקד בו -מבעיר השפת אמת שהכוונה לכהן .האש יקדה בתוך הכהן. והלוואי שנזכה

Good Shabbos Sweetest Beloved Friends!!

[Based in part on the words of Rav Meir Shapiro zatzal of Yeshivas Chachmei Lublin in pre-war Poland]

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Please Help Me:I Want To Invest In Oil

When one is a guest for Chanukah the halacha is that he gives the host a little bit of money through which he acquires a portion of the oil and when the host lights the guests obligation is fulfilled.

However the halacha is that money does not acquire movable objects [such as oil]. If so how is the guest yotzei???

Please help me.

Please Help Me:Mercy, Mercy!!

I like bentching!!

I know that for many bentching ranks as low as Tachanun ["Would you like some bread?" "No, don't want to bentch"]. But for me bentching is special. The way I see it is that starving to death would be AWFULLY unpleasant. To say the least. So bentching is my way of thanking G-d that he prevents me from starving. And that he gave me a wife who is such a good cook. And that my digestive system works. And that my taste buds function properly. A very dear friend who was sick [today b"h he is well] related to me that for a time he lost the ability to taste food. Taste buds are great. And that I am priviliged to live in Israel and Yerushalayim [at the same time!!!] etc. etc. Also, I ALWAYS know the tune.

But recently I noticed something strange, we repeat "Rachamim" . Why - הוא יגמלנו לעד לחן לחסד ול ר ח מ י ם

לרוח הצלה וכו' פרננסה וכלכלה ו ר ח מ י ם

Monday, December 04, 2006

Please Help Me:My Name Is Aaaaairman

In Rashi in this weeks parsha he quotes the famous aphorism "Ächaron acharon chaviv" [last is best]. If your name is Zysblat this can only serve to make you feel great!

But - 1 The gemara in numerous places [e.g. Yevamos 2b, Bava kamma 17b] says that first is best!

2 What is the logic. Why should last be best??

Please answer first. That would be best.

Please Help Me.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Please Help Me:I Want To Keep My Shirt On!

Any mitzvos aseh from the Torah requires us to spend only up to one-fifth of our money. So if one has five hundred dollars and the cheaapest pair of teffilin costs two hundred dollars one is exempt from the mitzva of teffilin!!!

Curiously, in order to light Chanukah candles - a Rabbinic mitzva - one must spend everything, even to sell the shirt off his back!!!

The reason given is that lighting Chanuka candles involves pirsumei nisa. Very nice, but it is still not as important as a Biblical mitzva. So how does this D'rabbanan achieve a higher status than any D'oraisa?

Please help me.

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About me

  • I'm Rabbi Ally Ehrman
  • From Old City Jerusalem, Israel
  • I am a Rebbe in Yeshivat Netiv Aryeh.
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