Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Yes They Learned Even Before The Internet - And Before The Invention Of The Printing Press - But Today We Have No Excuses!!!

A few excellent "mareh mekomos" that you might find helpful.

1. - for what may be the best Chumash shiur in America!! I love them. Original, insightful and practical.

2. - 11,000 books to be seen and downloaded!

3. - Bar Ilan cd rom goes on line!

4. - a new site started by my old Meshech Chochma [another good mareh makom] chavrusa R' Yaakov Ellis and good friend R' Binyamin Miller [not to say that R' Yaakov is not also my good friend!].

Please daven for Elchanan Dovid Yifrach ben Freeda whose situation has taken a turn for the worse. Thank you.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Zeh Ally? A Mispronunciation

There is a Mitzva from the Torah to assimilate the attributes of Hashem. Just as Hashem is compassionate so too should we be compssionate etc. etc. Among other sources we derive this from a pasuk in this weeks parsha "zeh keli vanvehu" - a pasuk sung during "az yashir".

The question is why specifically during the splitting of the sea did the Jews learn that we must adapt Divine Attributes? It could have been taught at any other time. There must be some connection between the event and the Mitzva.

I saw one of the most remarkable articles in my life on this question in the Pachad Yitzchak - Pessach ch. 56. See there and enjoy!!!!!!

You Give Me 22 Minutes I Can't Promise To Give You The World - I Must Be Honest!!!

News item: Ford Motor Company lost 12.7 BILLION Dollars last year.

Moral: Next time you buy something and then you see the exact same item in a different store for 10 dollars less, don't feel too badly - it's all relative.

[Henry Ford was a virulent anti-semite and Nazi supporter but I don't know if we can see this as Divine retribution as he has been dead for quite a long time. But maybe there is a connection. G-d's ways are inscrutable.]

News Item: Lots of people who were alive and well yesterday are dead today.

Moral: Next time anything goes wrong don't worry about it too much. You won the lottery - You are alive!!!! It is a free, undeserved gift from above. Enjoy!

Hoping that all of your news is good news!!!

Elchanan ben Henna Miriam

Please say Tehillim for Tzvi Mordechai ben Baila Tamar a newborn baby who has just been hospitalized.

Monday, January 29, 2007

The Taming Of The Shrew

The story is told about a woman who was a real shrew. Nobody wanted to marry her until one fellow came around who was willing to marry her. When asked why he explained "If I have a horrible wife I will not be punished in the next world for I will have received my punishment right here and will be able to go immediately to Gan Eden."

It turns out that she was terrific. She was a sweet, kind, caring, loving and doting wife. When asked what caused the sudden change she said "I will not give him the pleasure of going straight to Gan Eden ....."

Moral of the story: Sometimes a person can do many acts of kindness but can- at the same time - hate the receipient of the kindness. Indeed our Rabbis teach us that during the Second Beis Hamikdash the Jews performed acts of kindness for each other and yet the Beis Hamikdash was still destroyed because they HATED each other. Chessed and hatred - not a contradiction.

Our job is not only to be kind to others but to truly love them.

With love and brotherhood to all my sweetest friends

Elchanan ben Henna Miriam

Sunday, January 28, 2007

I Hope That My Kids Don't Inherit Me Anytime Soon

If my Jewish education would have ended at age 5 I still would have known the following pasuk - "Torah Torah Torah Torah Torah Torah Torah Torah tziva lanu Moshe morasha kehilllas Yaakov" [if you sing it, it sounds better]. That means that Torah is our INHERITANCE.

However at the end of the second chapter of Pirkei Avos, Rebbe Yossi says that Torah is NOT an inheritance. So which one is it?


Mazel Tov to R' and Mrs. Ariel Edelstein on the birth of their daughter!

Mazel Tov to R' and Mrs. Noam Kaplan on the birth of their daughter!

Mazel Tov to R' Yaakov Dovid Lyons on his engagement!!

These are three people to whom I owe a tremendous debt of gratitude.

Yidden!!! Keep getting married and having babies. It's the best!!!!!!!!!!

Also I have added some shiurim from the Rebbe Shlita in the Chassidus section. Yet another simcha.

Sorry there are no pictures. I don't know how to do it. I looked for the hole in the computer where you insert the photograph and I couldn't find it anywhere!!! [But I assure you that all of the baalei simcha are very nice looking.]

Love, blessings and wishing you ALL only simchas

Elchanan ben Henna Miriam

Terutz Talk

We asked whether the Yetzer Hara is good or bad and cited seemingly contradictory sources. The correct approach was discussed by my wise friends in the comments section.

We asked if Moshiach is coming suddenly or gradually and cited contradictory sources. Rav Dessler explains that the process that will bring Moshiach is gradual but when the time comes - BOOM!! - it will happen suddenly.

We asked who we are referring to when we say at Mincha "ki shem Hashem ekra havu godel lelokeinu" - When I call out the name of Hashem YOU should ascribe greatness to our G-d. The Magen Avraham says that we are talking to the ANGELS. The problem is that the Gemara says that we no longer say a prayer before we go to the bathroom asking the angels to wait patiently outside , because we no longer have angels accompanying us. My chavrusa Yaakov Dov Slomnicki suggested that maybe for davening only we have angels nearby.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

State of the Union Address

In a previous post I mentioned that Rav Soloveitchik was opposed to womans hakafos. I have a different opinion on the matter. I am in favor of womans hakafos!!!

I believe that a woman should do seven hakafos around a man under a canopy while wearing a white dress and veil over her face! [I am sure that Rav Soloveitchik would agree. He was referring to a different type of hakafos. "Two dinim in hakafos" if you will.]

Which brings me to an important point. I know numerous people who have decided both from an intellectual and emotional standpoint that they have met the right person. Then the Yetzer Hara goes to work: Maybe there is somebody better. Maybe I am making a mistake. His mother can be annoying sometimes. She is a little bit shorter that I imagined my wife would be etc. etc.

Don't get flustered! The Yetzer is just doing his job. You do yours. Ignore him [the Yetzer Hara - not the Chasan]. Relax. Thank Hashem that you found a wonderful person.

Then, only after the Hakafos, the real work begins - investing heart and soul into making your marriage a successful, Holy, Godly Union.

What Type Of Birthday Cake Would He Eat?

What would happen if a boy became Bar-Mitzvah on Pesach night. Would he be obligated to eat the Korban Pesach? When the Korban is slaughtered [on erev pesach] he is still a minor but when the animal is eaten he is a Gadol.

So asked the Sfas Emes. He didn't have an answer. Do you?

"Knavery And Flattery Are Blood Relations" - Avrohom Lincoln

Goodness gracious!!! We know that the Torah is a Torah of life. We are exhorted "Vchai bahem". Human life supercedes all but the three cardinal sins. A corpse is impure. We vehemently oppose death!!!

How tacken aback I was to see that Rabbeinu Yonah in his classic of Halacha and Mussar "Shaarei Teshuva" [shaar shlishi/188] writes that one must put oneself in mortal danger in order not to transgress the prohibition against flattering the wicked [i.e "Gee Mr. Hussein, you are a really swell guy"]. But it is not one of the three cardinal sins so how do we explain the stringency?

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

I Am In Love !!

With the Sfas Emes.

I pick up the sefer to learn it and I can't put it down!! A real page turner. A thriller. Today the fifth of Shvat is his yartzheit. His Holy Neshama climbs higher and higher in the heavens.

There is nothing more appropriate for his yartzheit than to learn his Torah. So if you are a man [or woman] who is not afraid of getting too close to Hashem open up your copy and LEARN. Or - go to the Parsha section and listen to the Sfas Emes classes of one of his students students students student [i.e. yours truly].

One quick thought from his commentary on Pirkei Avos. "Shimon the son of Rabban Gamliel said - All of my life I have lived amongst the Wise and I have found nothing better for the body than silence."

The Mishna is saying that one has a choice. His bodily desires can dominate or his spiritual yearnings can be at the helm. From Rabbi Shimon we learn that one should silence their bodily desires and allow their Soul to dominate and determine the course of their life.

In our materialistic society how fitting is this message!!

With Love and Friendship,

Elchanan ben Henna Miriam

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

I find it difficult to rely on the Manhattan Eruv

The reason is that I consistently spend Shabbos in Jerusalem. It is very hard to carry in Manhattan while in Jerusalem!

However in the latest Commentator [Y.U.'s student newspaper] there is a shocking revelation. One of Rav Soloveitchik's close students said that the Rov held that Manhattan is a reshus harabbim min hatorah meaning that it is impossible to build an eruv - rendering the present eruv invalid. The reason it is so shocking is that [if I am not mistaken] none other than the Rov's students are the driving force behind the eruv.

So there are a number of possibilities. 1 - They differ with their Rebbe. 2 - He never said it. [Unlikely because we must assume the person who reported the psak is an honest individual.] 3 - He changed his mind.

If someone can clarify this for me I would appreciate it.

What wasn't shocking was that he was stridently opposed to woman's hakafos.

Part 2 - What is in a name

Another lesson from sports.

Hashem dispenses genius and we decide how to develop it.

We can turn into a Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach - or l'havdil Red Auerbach. [No offense Celtic fans but if you are on this blog you appreciate the qualitative difference between what the two men did with their lives.]

But life can throw you a lot of curveballs!!

When I was a child I didn't just like sports. I lived for sports! Now thank G-d I have outgrown it and consider the whole enterprise [following sports - not exercising chas v'shalom which is a great mitzva] a mammoth waste of time. However since it is still in my blood I often think about how it can be applied to spirituality.

A player stands at home plate. His goal - to reach home plate!? Why is he bothering to hit - he is already there? The obvious answer - there are nine men whose focus is on not letting the batter round the bases. The challenge is to overcome them. Only then is reaching home plate significant!!!

Our soul was with Hashem next to His Divine throne. Our goal - to return there after 120 years. But we were already there to begin with - so why bother sending us down here? Answer - it is only significant to be next to Hashem's throne if we overcome all of the obstacles that stand in our way on our rode to perfection.

If we succeed then we have proven ourself much greater than the name of a certain team from California. Angels don't have tests like we do.

Monday, January 22, 2007

An Unparalleled Spiritual Epidemic!

A number of moons ago I wrote a post called "The Summer" expressing my feelings about he internet. "Ayain Sham". Tonight, I had a long conversation with an old friend who works in the internet industry and he told me a shocking statistic. Jews for You Know Who, spend a whopping 85 million dollars a year on internet missionizing, attempting to convert YOU. They are very sly, cunning and deceptive about it so BEWARE of ostensibly "Jewish" sites.

Incidentally, on that note, I read somewhere [I don't remember where] that tens of thousands [I don't remember the exact figure] of Jews converted to Christianity in the last year!!

Lord Save Us - from missionaries!!

Sunday, January 21, 2007

The Rambam Qualifies!

Hi Rav Ally

I saw your post on "Dying to teach Torah". You wrote as follows:
"Problem is that one is NOT PERMITTED to risk ones life in order to keep any Mitzva in the Torah besides the three cardinal sins [See Rambam at the beginning of the fifth perek of Hilchos Yesodai Hatorah]"

It is true that Yesodei haTorah 5:2 limits the hereg ve'al yaavor to the three cardinal sins. However, one halacha later (5:3), Rambam qualifies this with the following:

וכל הדברים האלו שלא בשעת הגזרה אבל בשעת הגזרה...יהרג ואל יעבור אפילו על אחת משאר מצוות

This is all based on Sanhedrin 74a (4 lines from the bottom, which Rambam quotes nearly verbatim, adding in the part about Gezeira being like Nevuchadneztar).

So why can't we simply say that Rabi Akiva defined his time (when the Romans were prohibiting public Torah study, among other things) as a time of gezeirat hamalchut, in which everything becomes יהרג ואל יעבור?

Yaakov Ellis

Dear Rabbeinu Yaakov!!!


From now on when I have a question I don't have to look in the Maharsha - I can just ask you!! See there [Brachos 62] for an additional answer.

But see Eruvin 21b with Tosaphos.


The Prophet Malachi says that the ultimate redemption will be SUDDEN!!! "Upisom yavo l'haichalo haádon asher atem mivakshim".

But the Talmud Yerushalmi says that it will happen gradually - "kima kima".

So which one is it - sudden or gradual?

[Of course what REALLY MATTERS is that we should be redeemed already!!!]

Dying To Teach Torah

Rebbe Akiva endangered his life and was eventually killed because he publicly taught Torah. Wow!! Problem is that one is NOT PERMITTED to risk ones life in order to keep any Mitzva in the Torah besides the three cardinal sins [See Rambam at the beginning of the fifth perek of Hilchos Yesodai Hatorah]?

Please help me.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Happy New Year!

Quick quiz!!

What do I mean by the title and what does it have to do with a building stick?

To Love Somebody

Please daven for Yaakov ben Yenta Sarah who has just been diagnosed with cancer.

If you want to be REALLY holy go to and print out their list of sick people - and then daven!!

One time Rav Nevenzahl was at the Kotel [nothing to do with the yeshiva of the same name - and please don't get me involved in politics - once was enough!!]. At one point he said a very very long "mi sheberach" and mentioned name, after name, after name - [all from memory!]. Finally someone became impatient and asked why he has to mention so many names. The Rav answered "Because it is fulfillment of the Mitzva to love your friend as much as you love yourself." [Also you can listen to my shiur in the machshava section entitled "Empathy".]

Good Shabbos to all of my very sweet and holy friends!

Wednesday, January 17, 2007


I am a very emotional person. My usual emotions are happiness and excitement. This story made me cry. But it is imperative to relate it .

Rav Yisrael Zeév Gustman. Anyone who has ever learned Gemara on the highest levels has been exposed to his brilliant Talmudic lectures. At the young age of 21 he was already sitting on the same Rabbinic court together with Rav Chaim Ozer Grodzinski - the elder sage of the generation. He survived the Holocaust. All of the Rabbis of Vilna were pursued mercilessly by the Nazis, humiliated, tortured, then killed. Rav Gustman himself was almost murdered. They beat him, he lost a lot of blood then fainted. The Nazis left him for dead. Baruch Hashem he survived. He hid together with his wife in a pit for a year and a half. But he kept busy. He had a Gemara Zevachim with him which he learned a few dozen times!!

Professer Auman [who recently won a Nobel prize] lost his son Shlomo, in the war in Lebanon [in the early 1980's]. Rav Gustman went to console the mourners and related to them the following:" You don't know that I had a son named Meir'ke. He was a beautiful child. I am not saying that because he was my son. He was really a beautiful child!!"

He turned to the widow, the parents, the brothers and sisters and said:" My son was taken from my hands and thrown on a truck in the "kinderaktion". The wife of the Yeshiva's Meashgiach stood next to me and they took her son as well. She turned to the Nazi and said "Throw me on the truck also." The Nazi answered "Wait lady, your turn will come soon." The screams that emanated from the mouths of the almost dead and living children on the truck were nothing compared to the screams of the mothers.

Ï ruled that everyone must run away from the ghetto, and I also escaped. I told my family [his wife and daughter] I am the officer and you are the soldiers. When I say duck - you duck. They shot at us from six meters away and nobody was hurt."

Rav Gustman then continued relating about life in the ghetto. After his son was killed he took his small shoes in order to sell them when he left the ghetto for forced labor. He succeeded in selling the shoes for flour and carrots. He came back to the ghetto and shared the food with the widow of Rav Chaim Ozer whose stomachwas bloated from hunger. At first she refused to take it and insisted that he give the food to his wife and daughter. Only when Rav Gustman assured her that there is enough for everybody did she agree to take. Rav Gustman himself did not taste the food in order not to fulfill the pasuk "And you will eat the flesh of your sons" [Vayikra 26/29].

Then the Rov sat up and spread out his hands and said "Now I will tell you what is happening in the world of truth. My Meir'ke is saying to Shlomo 'Fortunate are you Shlomo'le that you have merited. I did not merit! I did not have the zchus to endager myself while fighting back against our enemies in order to save the Jewish People. You were zocheh!!!'"

Professer Aumann arose from the ground and hugged Rav Gustman and exclaimed with great emotion " Nichamtani nichamtani!!!" [You have consoled me, you have consoled led me.]

Öne time someone close to Rav Gustman told him that the story about his son, the ghetto and the shoes should be told to every Jewish child in Eretz Yisrael. Rav Gustman turned to his companion and answered with tremendous emotion "I can't. I see those shoes every night before I go to sleep."

[Related by Dr. Feinngold - Rav Gustman's dentist - and printed in the newspaper "Basheva" by Rabbi Eliezer Melamed.]

In a previous post we demonstrated the importance of fighting back with good deeds. Sometimes - unfortunately - we must fight back with weapons, too. Halevai that we should see the speedy fulfillment of the pasuk "lo yisa goy el goy cherev vlo yilmidu od michama."

The Holy Tolna Rebbe Comes To Netiv!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Check it out - it is the first shiur in the Chassidus section!!

Tuesday, January 16, 2007


Something that inspired me. This was written by a young lady named Dania Rosen during the Holocaust.

"I would like to ask of you to take out our vengence against the Nazi's. Build a monument that reaches the heavens. A monument seen by the whole world.

But this monument will not be built from stone or marble but from good deeds ["maasim tovim"]. Because I believe with complete faith that only such a monument will ensure that evil will never again rule the world, and turn it into a living hell."

Words that emanate from a pure, holy Jewish heart - engraved in blood.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Happy Martin Luther King Day!!!!!!!!

Moshe Rabbeinu married a black woman [according to some commentaries]!!!!!!!

Yehoshua married Rachav Hazonnah who had QUITE a checkered past - to say the least. Examples abound.

Moral : People often attach stigmas to certain Jews who are not typical and will refrain from making shidduchim with them on principal. Remember the deeds of our leaders.

One of the biggest Chassidic Rabbeim in America had a relative who married a [I think it was] Japanese Convert to Judaism. Many relatives were furious. This Rebbe gladly attended the wedding. I LIKE Holy Rebbes with an open mind. "Love the stranger for you were strangers in the land of Egypt".

Gut Yontif!!!!!!!!!!!

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Is Torah Knowledge Everything?

Dear Rav Ehrman

I have always dreamed of marrying a Talmid Chacham. I am presently going out with a wonderful boy who is a brilliant Talmid Chacham. We get along really well, he has a lot of personality and he seems like he will make a great husband.

There is one problem. He seems to have a VERY large ego. Maybe his razor sharp mind and all the kavod he receives in Yeshiva from his Rabbeim and fellow students have inflated his ego.

I would like to hear your perspective on this issue.

Thank you!!


Dear Miriam,

I can't talk about your particular situation because I don't know which boy you are talking about. But I will relate to your situation in general terms.

A prerequisite to learning Torah is humility. It is one of the 48 kinyaneh Torah. Every time we daven we say in Elokai Netzor "My soul should be like dust - open up my heart to Your Torah" implying that humility and the acquisition of Torah are interconnected. In fact as my Rebbe Shlita likes to point out the repository of Torah is not the mind as one would intuitively think, but the heart. A pure and holy heart. Moshe Rabbeinus primary character trait was none other than humility. That is the reason that he is the Rebbe of all Klal Yisrael. Not his intellectual acuity.

Not only must humility precede the study of Torah but the more one learns the more humble one must become.

So what I am saying Holy Miriam, is that all of his Torah is not worth very much if he has an inflated ego!! So it would be worthwhile speaking to people who know him in order to find out if they have the same impression that you do. And if so - maybe he is aware of the problem and is working on it!! Or maybe if he is made aware of the problem [GENTLY!!] he would be open to changing.

With blessings that you should find the perfect person for yourself!!

Your faithful servant

Friday, January 12, 2007

The Yetzer Hara's Identity Crisis

I think it was Charles Dickens who wrote "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times." So which one was it Charlie? [Rare trivia - Charles is my middle name! I would use it more if my first name were Prince.]

The Medrash says [in Breishis Rabba] that the Yetzer Hara is VERY GOOD. But the Gemara in Succah calls the Yetzer Hara "BAD".

I am currently in my twentieth year in Yeshiva and I still have quite an active Yetzer Hara, so please tell me - Is it VERY GOOD or BAD?

Thursday, January 11, 2007

But She Is 70 Years Older Than I Am!

Dear Rav Ally

Question Halacha L'maaseh. There is a 97 year old woman who likes to kiss me when she sees me. Is there any heter for me to allow her to do so?


Dear G.C.

I was recently reading the auto-biography of the former Chief Rabbi of Israel Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau Shlita. It is a fascinating book. He went through the horrors of the Holocaust and lost his family as a young child. He then cane to Israel and was zoche to learn and teach Torah until he was appointed Chief Rabbi. He relates about many interesting events that he witnessed and people he met.

One time he went to meet the Pope. To make a long story short, at the end of the meeting the Pope extended his hand to Rebbetzin Lau. She didn't shake it!! One of the Popes aides whispered something in his ear [to the effect of "Jewish women don't shake hands with men"] and the Pope quickly made a hand movement to save them both from a potentially embarrassing situation.

Rebbetzin Lau has a lot of Yiras Shomayim!!!

She was more concerned with "offending" Hashem than she was with offending the Pope. Halacha is Halacha - even when we are not so comfortable with it.

Any to get back to your question - I asked Rav Nevenzahl Shlita and he said that is forbidden even if the woman is 97 years old. I add a blessing that she should kiss [other women and family members] for many healthy years to come!!

Love and Blessings

Your Faithful Servant

P.S. I know that there are those Rabbonim who permit one to passively allow one from the opposite gender to shake their hand. But not hugging and kissing.

Shmos:A Wicker Basket


Translated by N.G.E.

ולא יכלה עוד הצפינו ותקח לו תבת גמא... ותשם בה את הילד ותשם בסוף על שפת היאר
“She could not hide him any longer, so she took for him a wicker basket … she placed the child into it and placed it among the reeds at the bank of the River.” “Why wicker? R’Elazar said from here we may derive that the property of the righteous is dearer to them than their own bodies. And why do they care so much? Because their hands never touched stolen money.”

This is very difficult to understand! When the gemara says “Why wicker?” it is wondering why the basket wasn’t made of a stronger material. After all, it was meant to protect a baby who had a great future awaiting him, surely his mother wanted to protect him in the best manner possible! Wicker isn’t so strong, why didn’t she use wood which is much stronger? Here she had a special baby who filled the house with light and about whom his sister Miriam prophesied that he would redeem the Jewish People from Egypt. Now she was faced with the risk of losing his life, how could monetary considerations be taken into account? We understand that tzaddikim are sometimes willing to endure minor discomforts rather than incur expenses because whatever they have is theirs honestly and is therefore dear to them , but here is a case of pikuach nefesh! How are we to understand the words of Chazal here?

Further on in the parsha we learn how the baby is saved: ותרד בת פרעה לרחץ...ותשלח את אמתה ותקחה “Paroh’s daughter went down to bathe by the river …she sent her maidservant/ she stretched out her arm and she took it.” Rashi gives two different interpretations for the word אמתה. It could either mean her maidservant or her arm which extended many amos long. The basket was situated quite a distance away from Paroh’s daughter and she was only able to reach it by means of a miracle. Many ask why she even attempted to reach the baby if she knew that her arm wouldn’t be able to cover the distance between her and the basket. She didn’t know that a miracle would be performed for her so why did she even try?

A famous joke is told about a Rebbe who wanted to say Kiddush Levana but it was a very cloudy night and the moon was not visible. Many a great Rebbe in such a situation would wave their hands as if pushing the clouds away and indeed the clouds would miraculously move and reveal the moon. This “small” Rebbe wished to do likewise but first asked someone to bring him a chair to stand on so he would be a little closer to the clouds thus minimizing the miracle. Although this joke mocks Chassidim and their Rebbes’ miraculous powers, we can learn from it how silly we ourselves behave in our own lives believing that we bring about with our own sweat and toil what is really all a gift from Above.

We humans, mere flesh and blood are creatures of habit and are deceived by nature and routine. Hashem created nature and we are so enveloped within it that it is difficult for us to see beyond its concealing veil. We see people working, each in his own profession, earning a living. We conclude that each person earns his own keep, some earning more and some less. A talented carpenter for instance, builds beautiful tables and earns a respectable salary of $70,000 a year. He attributes this to his skill and craftsmanship, his unique style and his regular clientele and assumes that business is assured for many years to come. We know however that any number of calamities might befall this carpenter causing drastic changes in his financial situation. War could break out and buying new furniture will be the farthest thing from people’s minds or another carpenter may open shop across the street offering similar tables at half the price and the competition might rob him of all his regular customers. Or he may indeed continue to sell his tables but his house might be broken into or a pipe might burst, costing a fortune to repair. So many things can and do occur and yet we are so accustomed to going to work and receiving our paychecks that we forget that we are not the ones who earn parnasa. We forget that Hashem runs the world down to every last detail.

When one thinks that he controls his life, bringing about desired results with his own efforts, he is being just as absurd as the Rebbe who stood on a chair thinking it would bring him closer to the clouds. We will yet discuss what kind of effort is required of the believing Jew because after all אדם לעמל יולד, man was born to toil , but only after he has established a firm belief in Hashem.

Let us examine Chazal’s approach. וברכך ה' אלוקך בכל אשר תעשה “and Hashem your G-d will bless you in all that you do” Hashem created man to toil so that he would not spend his life being idle. Ever since Hashem told Adam Harishon בזעת אפך תאכל לחם “By the sweat of your brow you shall eat bread” it was decreed upon man to toil but he must remember that it isn’t his toil that sustains him. The toil is what justifies man’s receiving his livelihood from Above because he acted as he was commanded. השקיפה ממעון קדשך מן השמים וברך את עמך ישראל “Gaze down from Your holy abode, from the heavens, and bless Your people Israel” The gemara explains: We did what you commanded us, now You do as You promised. In other words, our toil is to fulfill Hashem’s commandment to love work, be involved in it and not to be a burden on others but then we must daven and hope that Hashem bestows parnasa and blessing upon us. Two people may have similar jobs and invest the same amount of time and effort but one will be successful while the other will not, because it isn’t the effort which brings parnasa rather Hashem.

This is true not only regarding parnasa but about every aspect of our lives.We for instance, would never reach out to grasp something beyond our reach because as human beings placed in this world, we assume that taking something within our reach is natural and attainable while that beyond our reach is unattainable. We are used to stretching our arm and being able to lift something up. We do it so many times a day that we perceive ourselves as the cause for the object being raised. In truth, our reaching out and lifting the object is a wondrous act itself, a true gift from Hashem! It is just as wondrous to pick up ordinary objects within our reach as it was for Paroh’s daughter to reach Moshe from a distance. Do we really think it is more difficult for Hashem to help us reach something further away than it is for Him to help us reach something nearby? They are both wondrous acts performed by Hashem.

Now we return to that with which we began. The Brisker Rav spent his later years in Yerushalayim Ir Hakodesh. He once went to see Professor Tzundak, a well respected doctor. The professor took out a pad of paper to write down his course of treatment but noticed that the Rav had paled considerably and had started trembling. When asked what was wrong the Rav replied: “The paper you are about to write on is hospital stationary, do you have permission to use it also for your private patients?” He didn’t want to be the cause of gezel (theft) even though the paper was worth less than a pruta. We all have heard how careful the Chofetz Chaim was before selling any of his books. He would check each and every page to make certain it wasn’t damaged in any way and he also would never take more than the one ruble he charged per book. The Steipler Rav even in his later years would go over each page of his seforim before selling them. He wanted to be sure that the person buying the sefer would get what he was paying for: a complete sefer undamaged in any way. He didn’t want the money he received to be tainted with gezel even in the slightest. This is what Chazal meant when they said that the property of Tzaddikim is dearer to them than their own bodies. Tzaddikim also have temptations regarding money. Their yetzer also tells them at times that the other person certainly wouldn’t mind or that it is less than a “shaveh prutah”. Amram and Yocheved were tzaddikim who had such an appreciation for “kosher” money and such distaste for dishonesty. This coupled with the clarity that everything comes from Hashem, is what brought them to place their baby in a wicker basket. They knew that placing a three month old baby into the river was going to require a miracle even if they used the strongest materials available. They knew that everything we do in life requires Hashem’s intervention and that using wood instead of wicker would be like the Rebbe attempting to conceal the miracle by standing on a chair, not concealing anything at all. May we all be strengthened in our emunah and not be fooled by routine and may we all merit to see the revelation of Hashem’s glory with our own eyes with the coming of Moshiach speedily in our days.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Parshas Shmos:Chinuch Habanim


Translated by the author of "When I Married Him He Didn't Even Know How To Turn On A Computer - And Now He Has The Worlds Most Popular Blog" Rebbetzin N.G.E

Parshas Shmos is the first of the “Shovavim” parshios. “Shovavim” is an acronym for the names of the parshios from Shmos until Tetzaveh and the weeks during which we read these parshios are an opportune time for doing teshuva as is hinted in the pasuk "שובו בנים שובבים" “Return, O wayward sons” . The Rishonim found hints to the various aspects of teshuvah in each of these parshios and in Parshas Shmos they draw our attention to the בנים, the children, the younger generation whose parents and teachers are responsible for teaching and directing them on the proper derech.

We learn a very important lesson from Moshe Rabeinu, the Jewish people’s first leader. Until this point in the Chumash, the Avos and after them Yehuda and Yosef stood at the head of the familial tribe, whereas now Hashem has appointed Moshe to lead the Jewish people as a nation. This towering leader’s greatness is revealed very early on, even as an infant. The gemara learns from the pasuk: "האלך וקראתי לך אשה מינקת מן העבריות...", “Shall I go and summon for you a wet nurse from the Hebrew women” that Moshe was brought to every single Egyptian woman but he refused to nurse from them because a mouth which is destined to speak with the Shechina (Divine presence) cannot possibly drink impure milk. As it states “To whom shall one teach knowledge? To whom shall one explain a message? Those weaned from milk, removed from the breast?” The Rama codifies this as halacha: “if possible, a Jewish baby shouldn’t be nursed by a non-Jewess because the milk of a non-Jewish woman corrupts the heart.” Some opinions maintain that this halacha is derived from Moshe Rabeinu’s behavior. Just as Moshe refused to nurse from a non-Jewess, so too all Jewish babies shouldn’t nurse from non-Jewesses. The Achronim wonder why this is a necessary precaution for all Jewish babies. Will they all speak with the Shechina? We must assume that every Jewish child has the potential of reaching Moshe Rabeinu’s spiritual level and we never know how high the child will soar. Therefore the parents of Jewish children must ensure that no type of forbidden food enter the mouths of their children even when they are still very young for it may corrupt their heart.

Furthermore, Miriam’s approaching Paro’s daughter offering her a Jewish wet nurse was an act of mesirus nefesh for in doing so she revealed the baby’s Jewish identity, endangering his life. Some commentaries bring this as a proof that Miriam was a prophetess who knew that Paro’s daughter wouldn’t harm the baby, yet the act itself, simply understood, was nonetheless one of self sacrifice. Moshe Rabeinu’s refusal to nurse from a non-Jewess was also an act of mesirus nefesh. From such a home, a home of mesirus nefesh for halacha, emerges a leader of Moshe’s stature, leader of the Jewish people and prophet whose level of prophecy was attained by no other. Every Jewish mother should keep this in mind when feeding her child, ensuring that only permitted food enter its mouth so as not to diminish the baby’s future chances of speaking with the Shechina.

Elisha ben Avuya best exemplifies the outcome of not being careful in this area. The gemara tells us how Elisha ben Avuya (also known as Acher) went off the derech. Tosfos cite various Tanaic opinions as to why this happened. R’Natan said: “when his mother was pregnant with him she would pass by Avoda Zara and would smell it.” This is very surprising for we know that one who unwillingly commits an aveira is not held culpable, (אונס רחמנא פטריה) If she passed by a house of idol worship and the odor filtered into her nostrils involuntarily, it is inconceivable that her fetus would be punished for this. Rather it must be that when Elisha ben Avuya’s mother smelled this forbidden odor she had two options: to enjoy the smell or to be repulsed by it, concentrating on its idolatrous source. She chose the former, reasoning that once she already accidentally smelled it why not enjoy it? Enjoying the smell however, affected her fetus, injecting it with the pernicious poision of heresy which lay dormant in him for many years only to one day surface and lead him astray from all that is holy until he became the infamous “Acher”. Another opinion regarding the cause of Elisha ben Avuya’s religious downfall is that his mother wasn’t careful enough not to eat any forbidden food during the time she nursed him. This source also demonstrates how a person’s spirituality can be affected even so early on in life. Thus we have seen the tragic results of a baby who was exposed to impurity on the one hand, and on the other hand the awesome heights achieved by one who as a baby was exceedingly careful to avoid such an exposure.

There was once a distinguished Chassidic Rebbe in Eretz Yisroel whose daughter rebelled, having been drawn to the kibbutz ideology. Her father realized that there was no stopping her from going in that direction yet made just one request. “I can’t force my lifestyle on you” he admitted “but I ask that when the day comes and you decide to marry, please keep the laws of Taharas Hamishpacha (family purity). How do I justify my request? By using your very own reasoning. You have reached the conclusion that one should “live and let live”, allowing each individual to choose his own path in life. If you do not keep Taharas Hamishpacha then you are denying your children the opportunity to choose their own path. For if they should ever desire to return to their roots, they will be considered spiritually blemished because their mother didn’t keep these laws.” The daughter consented and kept Taharas Hamishpacha even on the kibbutz. The interesting end of the story is that her children did eventually do t’shuva, returning to the ways of their grandfather.
A research was once done on prematurely born babies. These babies, all under a month old and still incubated were divided into two groups. The parents of the first group were asked to come three times a day and try to bond with their babies as much as possible, smiling and talking to them just as the parents of a full term baby would. The parents of the other group were of the opinion that there was no point in visiting a baby in an incubator who wouldn’t notice them anyway. These parents didn’t make the effort to bond with their babies daily. The families of all the babies were visited at a later stage and it was discovered that those children who did receive love and warmth during that first month spent in the incubator had a calmer childhood and a warmer, healthier relationship with their parents than the other children had. The research intended to prove that even during the first month of a baby’s life there is significance to parental love and affection. Chazal teach us that even a fetus in its mother’s womb can be affected so profoundly as to have considerable ramifications many years later.

Later in our Parsha we are told that Hashem wished to kill Moshe for being negligent regarding his son Eliezer’s bris. Targum Yonasan teaches us that Moshe Rabeinu, prior to his marrying Tzipporah, swore to Yisro that he wouldn’t circumcise his first son and would sacrifice him to Avoda Zara, while his second son he was permitted to circumcise. This is learned from the pasuk: "ויואל משה לשבת את האיש" for the word אלה always refers to an oath. According to this Moshe is held culpable only regarding Eliezer’s circumcision and not Gershom’s for he was forced to swear regarding Gershom’s but his negligence regarding Eliezer’s was inexcusable. The Chizkuni cites a midrash which claims that the punishment came as a result of negligence regarding both children’s circumcision. Now that Moshe was negligent regarding Eliezer’s bris we can’t be sure that at the time of Gershom’s bris the only deterrent was Moshe’s oath to Yisro. We suspect that maybe there too there was an element of negligence.

In Parshas Korach Moshe states: "לא חמור אחד מהם נשאתי ולא הרעתי את אחד מהם" “I have not taken even a single donkey of theirs, nor have I wronged even one of them” Rashi cites the midrash explaining that Moshe, when traveling with his family from Midyan back to Mitzrayim, didn’t take a donkey from B’nei Yisroel rather he took his own. How indeed could Moshe have taken a donkey from the Jewish people if he was still in Midyan? Maybe the Tanchuma meant that upon returning to Mitzrayim, Moshe could have requested reimbursement from B’nei Yisroel for his traveling expenses but he chose not to. On a deeper level R’Menachem Mendel of Riminov explains that it was important to Moshe Rabeinu not to take anything from the people, just as this would be important to Shmuel Hanavi. Abaye said, or if you wish you may say it was R’Yitzchak who said: one who wishes to derive benefit from the kindness of others may derive such benefit, as we learn from the practice of Elisha (who accepted lodging from the Shunamite woman). But one who does not wish to derive any benefit from the kindness of others need not accept such benefit as we learn from the practice of Shmuel Haramasi (who was careful to never rely on others for his needs) as it is stated: “And his return was to the Ramah, for his home was there” And R’Yochanan said that in all the places that Shmuel visited, his home was with him (for he brought with him whatever he might need so he wouldn’t need to take from others) R’Mendel differentiates between the manhig, the leader of the nation, and the tzaddik hador. Each has a different task to fulfill and therefore their behavior differs. Moshe Rabeinu and Shmuel Hanavi were leaders. They both knew that in order to maintain authoritativeness and objectiveness in their leadership they must never benefit even slightly from the nation’s resources. The tzaddik’s task is of a different nature thus entitling him to be supported by the people. Therefore at the very onset of Moshe’s leadership, as he began his role as leader, Moshe conveys this message to his family. We are now embarking on our first mission for Klal Yisroel and we are not taking anything from them. We will not be traveling in a fancy company car rather on our old trusty donkey. I was chosen for this position in order to be subservient to the needs of the people and not for any personal benefit.
The gemara relates that Yehonasan was asked how it came to be that he, Moshe Rabeinu’s grandson became a priest to Micha’s idol. “Do you not descend from Moshe…? He replied to them: I received this by tradition from the house of my grandfather לעולם ישכור אדם עצמו לעבודה זרה ואל יצטרך לבריות Indeed a man should give himself out to avodah zarah and not subsist on charitable donations of other men. And he (Yehonasan) interpreted this aphorism literally, he understood it to justify involvement in the actual service of idols. But in truth when Moshe said “avodah zarah” he meant avodah, work, which is zarah, foreign or unfamiliar to the person… When Dovid Hamelech saw that Yehonasan was exceedingly fond of money, he appointed him overseer of the royal treasure houses as the pasuk states: “And Shevuel the son of Gershom the son of Moshe was overseer of the treasure houses.” Was Shevuel his name? Was it not Yehonasan? R’Yochanan said: The pasuk calls him Shevuel because he returned to Hashem with all his heart.”

How did Dovid Hamelech notice that Yehonasan was fond of money? Moshe’s grandson Yehonasan when choosing a means of livelihood could have understood his grandfather’s words “avodah zarah” to mean a job which is foreign to you (i.e. beneath your dignity). Since he instead chose to interpret the term “avodah zarah” literally (idol worship) we are compelled to reach the conclusion that his understanding was motivated by a love of money. One may suggest another explanation. Perhaps when Moshe Rabeinu left Midyan with his own personal donkey, in order to convey to his family the message of not taking from the nation’s money, his newborn son Eliezer was still young enough to absorb this idea but it was lost on his older son, Gershom (who would later be Yehonasan’s father) because he was not circumcised. We have already seen how seemingly small things deeply affect a child expressing themselves only years later, in this case we see it only a generation later when Gershom’s son misinterpreted Moshe Rabeinu’s lesson and became a priest to avodah zarah.

In Seder Hadoros we are told that R’Chaninah ben Dosa was a gilgul of Eliezer the son of Moshe Rabeinu. R’Chaninah ben Dosa was a model of one who is satisfied with little, subsisting on only a very small amount of carobs from one erev Shabbos to the next. This is the midah (character trait) which Moshe Rabeinu wished to instill in his children as they left for Mitzrayim. Eliezer indeed absorbed and internalized this message but Gershom did not. Once again we see the affect of those small things which may seem small and insignificant to the parents, yet are magnified and dominant in the child’s life even though we may only see the harmful effects much later on.

It is incumbent upon us as parents and educators to internalize this and be extra careful regarding anything related to our children’s chinuch. We mustn’t make incorrect decisions while thinking “he’s still so young” rather we must realize that any divergence from halacha may chalila affect the child emotionally or spiritually later on in life. May Hashem help us succeed in this important task of raising children to Torah and Yiras Shomayim and may they grow to be a source of pride and joy to Klal Yisroel and bring Mashiach Tzidkeinu bemheira beyameinu Amen.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

I must repent : Please Help Me!!


No despite the late [or early] hour I have not mistaken Teves for Tishrei. But in fact there is a Biblical Commandment to repent and confess every day [and every minute] of the year. [Lamdonim, please don't try to Minchas Chinuch me.]

Yes, even in the dead of winter when the Inbal is half empty and the famous Jerusalem sun is on vacation. So I was thinking. What do we mean when we say על חטא שחטאנו לפניך באונס וברצון

I understand the vidui on purposeful aveiros but why on "ones". We all know that "ones Rachmana patrei".

Please help me.

Who Are YOU?

When begin our Shmoneh Esrei at Mincha and Musaf with the pasuk "כי שם ה' אקרא הבו גודל לאלוקנו"
When I call out the name of Hashem, YOU should ascribe greatness to our G-d."

Who are we talking to?

Please help me.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Why did the chicken cross to the other side of the road?

Woops!! I think I messed up the joke.

Anyway, with a heart filled with joy it is my pleasure to report that due to the extreme generosity of a few individuals Tomchei-Shabbos/Zichron Esther has already raised enough money to provide 2+ chickens weekly for 9 Old City families for almost a whole year!!!!!!!!!!!!!! This week distribution will begin, im yirtze Hashem. The families are extremely grateful!

Our goal is to provide complete Shabbos meals for all approximately 40 needy Old City families. [Our ultimate goal is to end world hunger. But as Rav Volbe teaches in Alei Shor - one must start with more modest goals, otherwise he is liable to give up before he starts.]

If you would like to donate, my good friend R' Ariel Edelstein [] has graciously [without being asked!!] offered to accept the donations and pass them on to me. He is also a human calculator who saves me the trouble of having to make calculations

Important note: Nobody connected to us is taking any salary G-d forbid. We don't need or want any money from this. We are trying to keep our overhead to the bare minimum - in the meantime zero. So if you are donating, you should know that you are getting the maximum out of your tzedaka dollar. Also, we are in no way connected to the Yeshiva. We accept and are willing to provide both for Yom Haatzmaut Hallel sayers, Tachanun sayers and even those who shorten the davening by skipping both. [JOKE!!!]

Also we are working on making donations tax deductible but that will take time.

If anyone would like to help in non-financial ways please contact me and I might just take you up on it.

Love and Brotherhood

Elchanan Ben Henna Miriam

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Letting your fingers do the walking

Rabbi Yehuda Halevi waxed poetic when he wrote "I am in the west but my heart is in the east". In a similar vein I can proclaim - I am in the east but my PHONE is in the west.

My number is 1-646-375-4088. Often people say "Sorry for bothering you...." If it was a bother I wouldn't publicize my number. I like people - particularly Jews. So don't feel badly if you call.

With thanks to Alex Bell and Bill Gates - and of course Hashem [I still can't get over the miracle they call telephone]!!!!

Your faithful servant

Elchanan Ben Henna Miriam

Friday, January 05, 2007

"I am the dumbest guy in my shiur" - A letter to an anonymous friend

Dear Shloime,

Please stop telling the girl you are going out with how much of an idiot you are, how inadequate you are, how unintelligent you are and in general what a loser you are. If you keep it up she will start believing you!

It is a common phenomenom amongst people who have self-esteem problems. But is is very damaging. A girl wants to marry a boy whom she admires and can look up to. By constantly drilling into her head all of you real and imagined deficiencies you are jepordizing your chances of marrying her.

Maybe she loves you [as the old song goes] just the way you are.

I do.

Keep in touch!!

Your trusted servant,

Elchanan ben Henna Miriam

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Disappearing Brachos

In Parshas Vayechi [48/15] it says that Yaakov blessed Yosef saying .....
But if you look at the pesukim there is NO bracha given to Yoseph. Where did the bracha disappear to?

Please help me.

Hallel on Rosh Chodesh:Answer

I searched and found that Rav Yitzchak Zev Soloveichik answered as follows: Lighting the Menorah on Chanuka is inherently a mitzva and not a minhag. Just in the context of a shul it is merely a minhag. But "býesodo" it is a mitzva. Hence a bracha is in order.

In contrast, there is no basis "in mitzva" at all to make a bracha on Hallel on Rosh Chodesh. It is purely minhag. Hence a bracha is not called for.

See the sefer "Ner Ish Ubeiso" for more explanation.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

"Let's Boogey"

Dancing - Rikud.

R' Dovid'l Mitolna explains that the word Rikud can also mean "sifting". Just like when sifting flour we seperate between the good and the bad - so too when we dance we elevate ourselves above our impurities.

A Holy Rikud.

A Jewish Rikud.

A message for the holiday of "New Years".

ברוך הוא אלוהנו שבראנו לכבודו והבדילנו מן התועים ונתן לנו תורת אמת וחיי עולם נטע בתוכנו

Even The Chaon Ish Made A Bracha On Hallel On Rosh Chodesh

Since the theme recently has been Hallel I thought that I would share with you the following query. The Mechaber rules in the Halachos of Rosh Chodesh that Hallel should be recited on Rosh Chodesh without a bracha. The reason is that Hallel on Rosh Chodesh is only a custom and we don't make a bracha on a minhag. [Ashkenazim don't follow this ruling and make a bracha even on Rosh Chodesh.]

However the Mechaber also rules that one makes a bracha on the lighting of the Menorah in shul. However, the lighting of the Menorah in shul is only a custom. There is no source for it in the Gemara. So according to the Mechaber's principle [in Hilchos Rosh Chodesh] one should not be permitted to make a bracha.

Please Help Me.

Monday, January 01, 2007

For Crying Out Loud - An Answer

My Rebbe pointed out a Medrash in Seder Olam that says that before the meeting between Yoseph and Binyamin about which the Chumash relates - they previously conducted a secret meeting. Hence when the pasuk says that Yoseph cried when he saw Binyamin it could not be referring to the natural emotion he felt after not having seen his brother for so many years. That is what compelled Rashi to explain that Yoseph cried over the destruction of the Batei Mikdash.

In general it is worthwile to take note of all the places where Rashi seems to offer an interpretation that is far from the simple meaning and to understand why. Because as I noted, Rashi himself says [in Beraishis 3/8] that his intent is to explain the simple meaning of the text.

Why Yeshivat Netiv Aryeh Says Hallel On Yom Haatzmaut!!! [Alternative Title:2007 Or 1984 - What Would Reb Orwell Say?]

Sweetest Friends!!!!

An event has transpired that cannot be described as cataclysmic by any strech of the imagination but is nevertheless noteworthy.

A Netiv Aryeh graduate was not happy. He understood from my last post that I was saying that in Netiv Aryeh, Hallel is not said on Yom Haatzmaut. He called the Rosh Hayeshiva Shlita to complain. The Rosh Hayeshiva was not happy. I was then called in for a meeting with the Rosh Hayeshiva in order to be reprimanded. I was not happy.

I will let you decide for yourself if there was any such implication. However I must clarify. In Netiv Aryeh, Hallel is said on Yom Haatzmaut!!! And for a very good reason. Because so ruled the Rosh Hayeshiva. Period. So if one is a student in Netiv Aryeh he says Hallel on Yom Haatzmaut. Five exclamation points.

Generally speaking these posts do not represent the viewpoint of the Yeshiva. I try to present dvar Hashem as I see it. It is in no way connected to the Yeshiva. So if one has issues with what I write, it should in no way reflect negatively on the Yeshiva.

On a personal note - I don't want to use this blog as a platform to get fired from a job that I immensely enjoy. So if you don't like me for whatever reason and would like me to be fired - call me up and I will try to appease you. If you have criticism of anything I write - you can post a comment and set me straight. I want to find the truth on every matter relating to the spirit and would be honored if you would help me see the light. And in general the halacha says that if you have a gripe against someone you are obligated to first approach them directly before complaining to a third party. Otherwise there is a problem of a certain prohibition about which the Chafetz Chaim famously wrote.

With Love and Blessings To All

I Remain Your Humble Servant

Elchanan ben Henna Miriam

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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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