Monday, April 30, 2007

Safedian Inconsistency

The Beis Yoseph rules [simman 8] that if one takes off his tallis with the intention to put it right back on, he must nevertheless make a new bracha when he does so.

However the very same holy rabbi rules [simman 739] that if one leaves his succah with the intention to return immediately, no new bracha is necessary.

Gee whiz. Something here seems inconsistent.

Know Thine Enemy

It is well known that a kohein gadol is only allowed to marry a besulah but not a widow or a divorcee. Why?

The sefer Moshav Zekainim [written by the baalei tosphos] gives a startling answer.
If it would be permitted for the kohein gadol to marry a widow, there is a very real concern that on Yom Kippur when he recites Hashem's holy name, he will think of a certain married woman in whom he is interested, and have special kavana that her husband should die so that he can marry her!!!! Therefore, the Torah forbids him to marry a woman who was already married.

EXCUSE ME!!! The holiest man on the holiest day is going to have such a despicable thought while uttering Hashem's holy name?

YES!!! That is the power of the yetzer hara. Never underestimate his power. Know thine enemy.

He Is A Really Neat Guy Etc. - Answer, Compliments Of Alleyways

Yes indeed, one should compliment his friend. It is a fulfillment of "love your neighbor as you love yourself", [as we saw from the Rambam]. So go around saying nice things to people about themselves or about others. It is easy and it makes people feel good. One well worded compliment sometimes stays with someone for YEARS!!!

Ayyyyyy, the Gemara in Erchin says that you should not compliment others lest it lead to lashon hara??? No problemo!! That Gemara, according to the Rambam, is referring to one's enemy [See Deos 7/4]!!! So if you know that Joe hates Bill [maybe because Joe receives him in the mail every month and it gets really expensive... ba dam chhhhhhh] don't tell Joe what a fantastic guy Bill is. You are liable to get an earful about how much of a jerk Bill REALLY is.

But otherwise - compliment, compliment, compliment!!! Your spouse, your doctor, your grocery man, your mother, your brother, your chavrusa, your roommate etc. etc. etc.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Belief #6 - Reading Apikorsus

Very important! If one would like to increase his level of belief in Hashem one must avoid reading any literature that expresses ideas that are contrary to our beliefs. NOT because they are true, but because people are influenced by what they read and hear. Witness how many people believe that the holocaust never happened, how many people believe that the world is flat and the list goes on and on.

Even if one doesn't completely embrace the beliefs espoused by heretical literature it makes a harmful impression on the mind and soul. [See Rambam, Avodah Zarah 2/2]

If it is necessary for whatever reason - consult a rabbinic authority.

Mitzvos Matter

What happens when we fulfill a mitzva?

The Zohar teaches that there are 248 positive commandments which correspond to our 248 limbs and 365 negative commandments which correspond to our body's 365 sinews.
The practical implication is that every time I do a mitzva the G-dliness that inheres in that mitzva permeates its corresponding limb or sinew. Our body thus becomes a repository for the Divine.

A mitzva is no small matter.

[See the commentary of the Ohr Hachaim Hakadosh on Vayikra 18/4]

A B C One Two Three - The Answer

One should make a bracha before teaching one's child the Aleph Beis. Why?

The Rema [Yoreh Deah 245/8] says that from the age of 3 a child should start learning the Aleph Beis. The Gra explains that his source is the Midrash which says that from the age of 3 a child should start doing mitzvos. From here we can derive that learning the Aleph Beis is a fulfillment of the mitzva of Talmud Torah and not merely a hechsher mitzva [a preparation for a mitzva].

In addition, every letter of the Hebrew alphabet contains many kabbalistic secrets so it is logical to say that studying the letters is a fulfillment of the mitzva of Talmud Torah.

Even if one insists that it is merely a hechsher mitzva, a bracha would still be called for based on the principle that if it is impossible to perform a mitzva without the hechsher mitzva one makes a bracha on the hechsher mitzva as well. In such a case the hechsher mitzva adopts the status of a bonafide mitzva.

[Based on Tshuvos V'hanhagos Vol. 4 Simman 17. See there as to why in extenuating circumstances one need not make a bracha.]

"He's Is A Really Neat Guy.....Woops I Take It Back - He Is Not. I Mean He Is But I'm Not Sure If I Can Say So."

Normally we will ask regarding a certain act if it is a mitzva or not a mitzva. Alternatively we will ask about a different act if it is an aveirah or not an aveirah. Seldom do we ask about the very same act if it is a mitzva or an aveirah.

Here is one such question. The Gemara in Erchin [16] says that one should not praise someone else because it might lead to lashon hara. Yet, the Rambam [deos 6/3] says that if one praises ones fellow man it is a fulfillment of the mitzva of "Love your neighbor as you love yourself".

So should I compliment other people or shouldn't I?

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Sweeter Than Honey!!!

When Hashem gave Moshe the two tablets the Torah uses the term "kichaloso" [See Shmos 31/18] which is related to the word "Kallah". Chazal read the psukim very carefully and were sensitive to the nuances in the text. They noticed this allusion to Kallah and derived a lesson that should be our guidepost for life. [It could also be that they had an oral tradition that this was what the pasuk is teaching us.] If one wants to teach Torah but it is not as sweet as a Kallah to her Chosson on their wedding day, it is better not to say it!!!


Torah MUST be sweet. That is why we daven every morning in the birchos hatorah "v'haarev na" - Lord, make the Torah sweet for us. Please. No other mitzva comes along with such a request.

Friday, April 27, 2007

A,B,C, One Two Three

It is forbidden to learn or teach Torah before one makes Birchos Hatorah. Let's say a father wants to teach his young child the Aleph Beis, is it necessary to make the brachos? In other words, is learning the Aleph Beis considered talmud Torah?

You are the Posek. What do you say?

A Risky Endeavor

There is something that is on my mind that I really want to say.

The problem with the comments section on any blog is two-fold.

1] It is the internet so there are no rules. Anything goes. Nivul peh, loshon hara, leitzanus, heresy, a lack of respect for anything holy, etc. etc.

2] Commenters can remain anonymous, allowing more conveniently for everything listed in 1].

I have observed some other religious blogs and have found in some of them a great deal of 1] [both from the baál hablog and from the commenters]. It is quite disturbing. [I have not seen them all so please don't take it personally if you have one.] I am a Yeshiva Bochur [slighty aged] and strive to have a blog which will reflect the values, rhetoric and general mentshlechkeit promoted by a Yeshiva. The goal of the blog is that it should help bring all of us closer to Hashem Yisborach and his Torah. Period. However, by allowing comments I run the risk of a proliferation of 1].

Yet, I have found all of the commenters to be polite, respectful [even when disagreeing with me, which I think is great - I don't need to be right all of the time] and intelligent individuals!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! And you put up with my jokes! It is hard enough for my family but they don't have a choice. But you come to alleyways willingly!

I love you guys!

Thanks for making this fun!!!!!!!

Good Shabbos

Your faithful servant

Elchanan ben Henna Miriam

Audio Shiur Updates

Tonight a no holds barred shiur was given on Parshas Kedoshim entitled "Up There With G-d" which can be found in the Parsha section. Sometimes I censor myself [for obvious reasons] but tonight I was in an "open" mood. So if you appreciate my openness then you might enjoy it.

With respect to the difficult Ramban that I asked about a few posts ago you can go to the halacha section and listen to the shiur entitled "mitzvas aseh shehazman grama". Also see some answers in the comments to that post.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

How C.B.S. N.B.C. And A.B.C. Found Their Way Into Hilchos Yichud

Recently, while learning the halachos of a Yichud [seclusion] I came across something very interesting. It is pemitted for one woman to seclude herself with two men, on condition that those men are "kshairim" and not "prutzim". What classifies a man as a "parutz"? The Gemara doesn't tell us so it is up to the Poskim to figure it out themselves.

Rav Vosner [Shevet Halevi Vol. 5 simman 202] and Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach [quoted in "toras hayichud"] rule that someone who watches T.V. or movies is a "parutz" because such a person does not appreciate the stringency of laws relating to sexual purity. If he did then he wouldn't watch shows that display scantily clad women and sexually suggestive rhetoric - which is just about every show and movie.

Yichud is forbidden even with two such people.

A sicha of chizzuk was recently given about how to make the most of your time. It was intended to be an adrenline shot to begin the new zman. It can be found in the Machshava section and is entitled "Dying To Live".

Warning: The shiur will be hazardous to laziness!!!

If The Rambam Makes Sense - Why Doesn't He Make Sense : The Answer

The rule that one cannot appoint an agent if they do not have the halachic right to perform the act themselves, applies only where it is necessary to transfer one's halachic right [a sort of power of attorney] to the agent. Example: If the kohanim in the Beis Hamikdash are agents of the non-kohanim they would not be allowed to sacrifice the korbanos on their behalf. A korban needs to belong to the one who brings it and that can only be accomplished if the non-kohanim transfer their right to perform the sacrificial service to the kohen. Since a non-kohen does not have the right to bring a sacrifice in the first place he cannot transfer that right to the kohen. [This compels us to say that the kohanim are the agents of Hashem - see Kiddushin 23b.]

However the case of the sefer torah is different. In such an instance there is no need to pass on one's power of attorney to the agent. The agent - in other words the male - has the right to write a sefer torah for himself. Therefore, it is not a problem for the woman to appoint him as her agent [even though the woman herself cannot write the torah].

That is why the Shaágas Aryeh does not understand the opinion of the Rambam who maintains that women are not obligated in the mitzva of writing a sefer torah. Indeed, they cannot write one themselves but they can appoint a man to do so for them. [Rav Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg Shlita]

Mysteriously Disappearing Shiurim - Where Is Sherlock When You Need Him

To my great dismay I realized that a number of audio shiurim can no longer be accessed. I don't understand why. I would relegate it to the category of "When Bad Things Happen To Good People", but I can't be sure that I am "good" or that what happened was "bad". So instead of philosophising I will fix the problem over the next few days bezras Hashem, making all of the shiurim accessible once again. I am so sorry for any inconvenience it might have caused you. Please tell me in the future if it happens again.

Thank You.

P.S. Those learning Pirkei Avos now might be interested in the two new Maharal shiurim [#14 and #15] that were recently posted in the Machshava section. Although the shiurim are numbered, each one can be listened to and understood without hearing the previous ones.

Bound By Time?

Recently I have been posting about "Belief". However, there is a Ramban that is simply unbelievable! The Ramban says that counting the omer is NOT A TIME BOUND MITZVA and therefore women are obligated just as men are.

Excuse me?????????? In the Torah it says that we count from the second day of Pesach until Shavuous. That seems to be a time period. Yes indeed. This mitzva is bound by time!!!!!!!!!! We cannot count during Teves or Adar. Only during the time period clearly demarcated by the Torah. Not before and not after.

Then again, we cannot properly learn Chumash without the Ramban. We cannot properly learn Gemara without the Ramban. In the Jewish Quarter of the Old City you can't even get a minyan without the Ramban! The Ramban was, as the youngsters say today, "The Man".

So what does "The Man" mean????????

Thank You

The very first words out of a religious person's mouth every morning are "Thank You". The Mussar masters teach that to be a religious Jew means knowing how to say "thank you".

[I am leaving this post short but it encompasses universes. I leave it up to the wise reader to elaborate on the thought.]

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Y?????????????? I'll Tell You Why [See the post entitled Y??????]

There is a Talmudic principle that states that when one appoints his friend an agent, the agents deeds count only if he acted in accordance with the wishes of the sender."Ltkunee shadarteecha v'lo lívusi".

The Rabbi who makes the bracha on the wine under the chuppah is making the bracha on behalf of the Chosson and Kallah. If he makes a shehakol that is not a proper fulfillment of the wishes of the Chosson and Kallah. They sent him to make a borei pri hagofen! Hence in this situation a second bracha is called for. [Unlike a regular case where the shehakol would suffice.]

A VERY clever insight. [Thank you Rabbi Frank]

If The Rambam Makes Sense - Why Doesn't He Make Sense

The Sha'agas Aryeh says that the Rambam's opinion is that women are exempted from the mitzva of writing a sefer torah, but he [the S.A.] doesn't understand why.

The Minchas Chinuch [mitzva 613] asks the following question on the S.A.: The S.A. himself proves from the Gemara that if a woman wrote a sefer torah it is invalid [this point is disputed by the Shach who maintains that a sefer torah written by a women is kosher]. If that is the case how is it possible to obligate a woman to write a torah? If she writes it herself it is invalid, and if she appoints a male as an agent [shliach] to write one for her it is also invalid. There is a well known rule that if you can't do something by yourself, you can also not appoint an agent to do it for you. So how according to the S.A. can a woman possibly be obligated to write a sefer torah.

Which leaves us to wonder, why does the Sha'agas Aryeh not understand the opinion of the Rambam who exempts women from the mitzva of writing a torah. It makes perfect sense?!

Don't Take Yourself Lightly - Everything Is For You!

Anyone who has any degree of familiarity with Jewish sources knows that there are disputes about almost every issue. 2 Jews - 635 opinions. But there are certain truisms that are uncontested. An example of this is the belief that if not for Torah there would be no world. The creation of the world and it's continued existence hinge upon the acceptance of the Torah. So the purpose of the world is the Torah. Right?

Well, not exactly. Eliyhu Ha-Navi was asked the following question [Tanna D'bei Eliyahu chapter 14]. Is the Torah here for the Jews or are the Jews here to keep the Torah. Is the Torah the end [as one with a solid Jewish education might intuitively say] or the means by which the end [i.e. the Jews] can properly function. Hey, let's "cut to the chase", who does G-d love more, us or the Torah? Eliyahu answered that THE JEWISH PEOPLE are the ultimate purpose of creation and the Torah was given to help us fulfill our potential! G-d loves us more than he loves His holy Torah.


And that is why Chazal say [see Psachim 49a] that a Torah scholar is "married" to the Torah. Just as a wife is to be an ezer k'negdo [helpmate] for her husband, helping him achieve his spiritual goals, so too the Torah is a Torah scholar's "wife", helping him achieve his goals.

In our Theocentric religion we must never lose sight of the centrality of man.

[Based on Alei Shor Vol. 2 Pages 19-20]


Tuesday, April 24, 2007


We all know the rule that if one accidentally made the bracha of shehakol on a food or drink that requires a different bracha the shehakol counts and no further bracha is required [or allowed]. One time at a wedding [under the chuppah] the Rabbi made a SHEHAKOL on the wine. Woops. Apparently that should be enough. Too late. However one of the Rabbis present [if I remember correctly it was the great gaon Rav Tzvi Pesach Frank the Rov of Yerushalayim] said that in this instance the shehakol doesn't work and a borei pri hagofen is required.

The question is the second to last letter of the alphabet. Y?????????????

Monday, April 23, 2007

I Am Pro-Choice [With A Thought On Independence On This Israeli Independence Day]

Sweetest friends!!

Help in the dissemination of Torah by voting in the Jewish blog awards. One of my good friends nominated alleyways as best Torah blog. I can't say that it is. But I think that you should vote for someone - people will hear about the blog and learn more Torah. So to CHOOSE your favorite blog go to

As far as the classical meaning of Pro-Choice - I am also in favor. I think that Jewish women should have the choice what to serve their husband and 18 children for dinner. And I applaud all of the courageous Jewish women out there who perform an act that men cannot perform no matter how hard we try - CHILDBIRTH. So next time you come into contact with a Jewish woman - give her the respect that she deserves.

A special thanks to my mother who shlepped me around for nine straight months without taking a break for even one second! Whatever she ate she shared with me. And since that fateful day of October 25, 1971 when I asserted my independence and made my grand entrance into this world - she has been trying to get me to eat more. With very modest success.

Finding Truth

How do we decide what our outlook on any given hashkafic issue. There are two basic approaches. One approach is to look into the Torah and try to extract the Torah's perspective on that issue. Whatever conclusions are reached become one's own attitude. The second way is to develop one's own opinion and then superimpose that opinion on the Torah. The first way is the honest way. The second way is the self-serving way.

May we be fortunate enough to see the world in the same way Hashem [kavyachol] does.

Yitzi, The Chosson, is Gadol Hador. Rivki, The Kallah, Is The Greatest Jewish Woman Since Our Imahos

The halacha is that it is not permitted to excessively praise somebody because it will lead people to speak lashon hara about the person. ["Mr Magnanastein is a generous baál Tzedaka". Man whispers to his friend "Yeah, he might give a lot of tzedaka. But that is because he can afford it. He is a cheat in business! The money he is giving belongs to other people." "A pillar of our community..." "Yeah but he beats his wife". You get the picture.]

You have been to a sheva brachos. The Chosson and Kallah are very often praised in terms reminiscent of a eulogy. Praised is heaped upon them like snow on a building in Alaska. High and plentiful!

How is this permitted?

When Big Bucks Are At Stake -The Answer

Sorry Nicky, you can't ask Mickey!!! Because when Mickey answers you he will not have the proper intent, namely for "toeles" [practical benefit]. His intent will be to malign Ricky, thus rendering his words lashon hara. So you have to find someone else to ask. [Chafetz Chaim klal 4/11]

Second Hand Spiritual Impurity

At my Shabbos table this week a wise guest told me the following story. A well known English musician died of lung cancer. The doctor said that this person had the lungs of a person who smoked two packs of cigarettes a day for many years. However the reality was that this person never smoked a day in his life. The reason his lungs were in such bad shape was because he had been playing music in smokey bars for 30 years.

Moral: If you hang out in smokey bars the noxious fumes are going to adversely affect you. And if we carry that principle over to the spiritual world we learn that if one is living in an environment that is antithetical to Torah values [or in the case of our culture - no values] it will have an effect.


Sunday, April 22, 2007

When Big Bucks Are At Stake

Nicky is considering entering into a business partnership with Ricky. Is it permitted for Nicky to inquire from Mickey - who does not like Ricky - about Ricky's character. Normally one is allowed to hear lashon hara לתועלת - if there is some practical benefit involved [such as a business partnership which will involve a great financial risk]. Does that rule apply in this case?

I Don't Want To Be Reuvain!! - Now I Understand!

I was fortunate that the Almighty sent me to an explanation of the question that was presented in the last post, in Michtav M'eliyahu [Vol. 3 Pages 213-4].

1] Shimon gets Reuvain's mitzvos because of the suffering that Shimon underwent as a result of Reuvain's lashon hara. Suffering is a merit. Clearly the mitzvos that Reuvain has done increased the harm of the lashon hara that he spoke. The more important the person, the more likely people are to believe him. So Shimon suffered more as a result of Reuvain's mitzvos. And that is the reason that Reuvain is credited with those mitzvos that Reuvain has done which contributed to the damage done by the lashon hara.

2] Reuvain loses his mitzvos because they were utilized to inflict harm on Shimon. Had people not considered Reuvain righteous they would not believe the lashon hara that he spoke. A person who uses his mitzvos to hurt someone else, does not deserve those mitzvos.

3] Reuvain gets the sins that Shimon committed does not mean all of Shimon's sins but only that sin of which Shimon was accused. "Kol haposel b'moomo posel". - If Reuvain accused Shimon of wrongdoing it is a clear indication that Reuvain himself is afflicted with the same spiritual malady. Hence that sin is on his record as well.

That is in a nutshell the explanation of Rav Dessler which gives some baffling statements a rational explanation.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Belief #5 - Searching Relentlessly

If someone wants to increase their belief in G-d they must be TENACIOUS about it. It must consume them. "I CAN'T GO TO THE MOVIES TONIGHT - I AM SEARCHING FOR THE DIVINE!" One must purchase books on the topic and then STUDY them. [I especially recommend 5 volumes of Michtav M'Eliyahu among many other excellent books]. There are many people who buy large quantities of books which just sit quietly on the shelf - untouched. [These people are unfortunately "shomer negiyah" with many of their books.]

Many people in the business world work 18 or 20 hours a day in the search for money. Finding G-d is no less important. And requires no less effort.

אם תבקשנה ככסף וכמטמונים תחפשנה אז תבין יראת ה' ודעת אלוקים תמצא - משלי ב, ד-ה

I Don't Want To Be Reuvain!!

There is a passage in the Sefer Chovos Halevavos [Shaár Hakniah sof perek 7] that is quoted by the Chafetz Chaim that I find both frightening and puzzling. If Reuvain speaks lashon hara about Shimon three things happen. 1] Reuvain loses the mitzvos that he has performed. 2] Shimon receives credit for those mitzvos. 3] Reuvain is also considered as if he committed transgressions [Shimon's?] of which he was innocent. When Reuvain gets to heaven he will be shocked!! He rose every morning for Daf Yomi and finished shas five times. Gone. Never did it. Shimon is the scholar. Gave millions of dollars to tzedaka. Erased from his record. Shimon was the benefactor. Never missed a minyan in fifty years. Nope! That was Shimon, too.

On one hand that is scary [being that we might chas v'shalom be Reuvain]. On the other hand, how can this be understood rationally??? Where is the justice. True, Reuvain doesn't deserve [to paraphrase a teacher of mine from high school] a medal or a monument. But why such a severe punishment that doesn't seem to fit the crime???????!!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Thoughts By The Moonlight

They asked one of the wise men of Chelm - What is more valuable, the sun or the moon? He answered "The moon of course, because it shines at night when it is dark and we need it. But what good is the sun?! It shines when we have broad daylight!!"

On Rosh Chodesh we celebrate the new moon. As we know Hallel is said. But the question is with a bracha or without. [For whatever reason people don't get as heated up about the Hallel issue on Rosh Chodesh like they do with respect to Hallel on Yom Haátzmaut.] That is a major argument. Many Sefardim do not make a bracha while Ashkenazim do. Isaac Dweck [believe me, I made up the name, although I am sure that there are a number of them in Flatbush and Deal] finds himself serving as chazan in a shteibel in Williamsburg. Is it permitted for him to make a bracha, contrary to his custom?

There is a famous responsa in the sefer Chaim Sheál [99] where he rules that he should make a bracha. This is based on a Gemara in Pesachim [106a] where Rav Ashi made the night kiddush during the day because that was the local custom, even though it was contrary to his minhag. [See also Igros Moshe Vol. 2/94 for a similar responsa about Hallel on Pesach Night and Baruch Hashem Lólam amen vámen.]

When Time Stops - And Life Begins

People mistakenly think that "netzach" - eternity, means that time keeps going on and on and on. Billions of years and then much, much more. Incorrect! Eternity means that THE CONCEPT OF TIME IS NON-EXISTENT. That is why eternity is called "yom shekoolo aroch" - a day that is COMPLETELY long. In other words it is long even at the beginning. That is why the pleasure of the world to come is so great. In this world we can only enjoy one second worth of pleasure per second. But in eternity we are continuously enjoying an eternity worth of pleasure. That makes all the pleasure of this world seem downright worthless. So to paraphrase the Mesilas Yesharim: Let's live our lives for the "real thing" - not a cheap substitute!!!

[Based in part on the Pachad Yitzchak on Yom Kippur Maamar 21]

[This is not to imply that we should do mitzvos in order to receive reward. An discussion of the seeming implication of the Mesilas Yesharim that we should perform mitzvos shelo lishmah is beyond the scope of this post.]

Japanese But Jewish

Yarmulke. Pronounced Yamika. Sounds like a Japanese electronics company.

Yet all Jewish males wear one. Or at least they SHOULD wear one! But why? The Gemara says that it gives us Yiras Shomayim - Fear of Heaven. On a simple level the reason is that the yarmulke reminds us that there is a G-d above us. However I saw in the name of Rav S.R. Hirsch a different explanation. There is a halacha that we must have something seperating between our hearts and our ervah [the elastic on underwear suffices]. This symbolizes that we must acknowledge the difference between the more physical and base parts of ourselves and our more spiritual side.

In the same way when we cover our heads it reminds us that there is a seperation and indeed a profound difference between the way we think and the way G-d thinks [kviyachol]. "ki lo machshivosai machshivosaichem". Our purview [range of understanding] is extremely limited. This allows us to accept those parts of life that might seem unfair or don't seem to make sense. Thus the yarmulke engenders a
sense of awe [yirah] for the Divine.

Every morning we say the bracha "oter Yisrael b'sifara" - He crowns us with glory. Some explain that the glory is our yarmulka that is a crown on our heads. With Rav Hirsch's explantion in hand we can appreciate the glory of our yarmulke. Humility is glorious. So is acceptance of Divine decrees.

[What about the ladies. Yiras Shomayim is NOT a time bound mitzva. Why don't they have to wear yarmulkes. Ladies - what do you think. Alleyways needs your feminine input!!]

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

A Shady Action

Anything that one does on Shabbos to contribute to the growth of plants or trees on Shabbos is a transgression of the Av Melacha of Zorea - Planting. Thus, it is forbidden to water the plants, weed the field etc. etc.

How about this: It should also be forbidden to OPEN THE SHADES on Shabbos if the sun will shine on the plants. We all know that sunlight contributes to the growth of plants. So claimed Rav Yitzchak Meltzan who was a World Class Talmudic Scholar. The Ohr Samech Rav Meir Simcha of Dvinsk didn't accept this ruling. Why not? Makes sense to me. [Even if the person doesn't intend to promote the growth of the plants it will happen automatically rendering it a psik reisha.]

A shiur was recently posted in the Halacha section entitled בגדר מלאכת זורע which discusses this question and a great deal more. Check it out!

Dating Internationally

The International Date Line. When I first heard the term I thought that it was a phone number that you call in order to speak to shadchanim who will set you up with members of the opposite gender from all over the world.

Ba Dam Chhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!! [Drum and cymbals sound]

There are many fascinating questions relating to the International Date Line and a vast corpus of literature on the topic. Most famous was the quandry of the Mirrer Yeshiva which was stuck in Shanghai during World War 2. What day is Yom Kippur? The Rabbis who were asked differed in their opinions so some students fasted for TWO days to avoid all doubt!!

There is also much discussion on the related topic of changing time zones. During sefiras haomer the question arises: What does one do if they are traveling from east to west and when they left it was the third night and when they arrived it was the second day. Should they count again? Rav Shlomo Zalman rules [Halichos Shlomo-Moadim Page 356] that one should count that night without a bracha and continue counting on night four with a bracha.

However if one travels from west to east on day three and when he arrived it was day four [but they missed the sunset of night four] on the fifth night he continues counting WITHOUT a bracha. He missed counting on night four and counting on day four
doesn't work in this instance. SEE THERE FOR AN EXPLANATION!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Belief #4: Turning Amen Into A Profound Religious Experience


If you are reading this chances are that you have said it tens of thousands of times. But what does it mean?

The world will experience three major revelations of G-d [what I like to call the "tri-podal revelatory experience". I made that phrase up. Sound good?] : 1] The creation of the world. 2] The giving of the Torah at Sinai. 3] The revelation of Hashem when Moshiach comes.

Amen [which is the root of the word Emunah] is composed of three words. The aleph is "kel" [the name of Hashem], the mem is "melech" [king] and the nun = neéman [faithful].

"Kel" is the name of Hashem which denotes kindness. ["Chesed kel kol hayom" says the pasuk.] Hashem created the world with kindness. "Olam chesed yibaneh". The aleph of amen reminds us of creation.

When Hashem gave the Torah he became our king. We must now follow his decrees. The mem reminds us of the giving of the Torah.

G-d promised that he would bring Moshiach and redeem us. He is neéman - faithful, to fulfill his promise. The nun reminds us of the coming of Moshiach.

So Amen with just three letters encompasses the 3 greatest revelations of G-d in world history.

Not a simple word.

So if our amens are said with the proper kavanna it can be a tremndous boon to our emunah. May Hashem give us the strength to focus on this all important word.


[Based on the Alei Shor page 287- 288]

When Drawing Is Anything But Artistic

News item: Two peanuts were walking in the park recently. One of them was a-ssaulted.


One thing I love about the Torah is it's sensitivity to people's feelings. Everyone knows - if someone embarrass someone else it is akin to actually KILLING them. Why? Chazal explain because when the person is embarrassed the blood is drawn from his face and he becomes momentarily pale.

However according to that logic if someone WOUNDS someone else it should also be akin to killing them because in this instance blood is literally drawn from their body?

Rav Hutner Zatz"l offered a very enlightening explanation: When someone is embarrassed their essential humanity is undermined. In the terminology of Jewish philosophy it is a "pgiyah bétzem tzuras haódom shelo". That can be compared to killing them. So it is not only the drawing of the blood that is so pernicious but the harm done to the person's "tzuras haódom".

Monday, April 16, 2007

When Silence Is A Lie

This dvar Torah was printed in the Algemeiner Journal.

When Silence Is a Lie
In Honor of Holocaust Remembrance Day
By Yosef Y. Jacobson

In Germany they came first for the Communists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn't speak up because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me, and by that time no one was left to speak up.
-- Martin Niemoller

Throughout history it has been the inaction of those who could have acted, the indifference of those who should have known better, the silence of the voice of justice when it mattered most, that has made it possible for evil to triumph.
-- Haile Selassie

As the Jewish world prepares itself to commemorate Yom Hashoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day), to remember the 6,000,000; as hundreds of thousands of innocent black Africans continue to be slaughtered in Sudan and Chad; as Jews in Israel continue to be threatened by nations determined to destroy it, and as abuse and injustice often take root in our own communities due to the silence of good people, a stirring Midrash on this week's portion ought to be reflected upon.

This week's Torah portion relates the tragic episode of the premature death of Aaron's two sons, Nadav and Avihu.

On the day that the Tabernacle in the desert was erected and Aaron's four sons were inaugurated as priests, the two oldest children entered into the tabernacle and did not come out alive (1).

The Talmud (2) relates the following story to explain the cause of their death:

"It once happened that Moses and Aaron were walking along the road and Nadav and Avihu (Aaron's two sons) were walking behind them, and all Israel was walking behind them. Said Nadav to Avihu, 'When will these two old men die and you and I will lead the generation?' Thereupon G-d said to them: 'We shall see who will bury whom!'"

A Cryptic Midrash

Now, this story of Aaron's two sons, engendered a cryptic Midrash. It reads like this (3):

"When Job heard about the death of the two sons of Aaron, he was seized by
tremendous fear. It was this event that compelled Job's best friend, Elihu, to state (4): "Because of this my heart trembles and jumps from its place."

This Midrash seems strange. Why did the Nadan-Avihu episode inspire such profound fear in the heart of Job's friend?

Rabbi Chaim Yosef David Azulaei, an 18th century great sage and mystic known in short as the Chida (5), presents the basis of the following interpretation on this obscure Midrash. He quotes it (6) "in the name of the Sages of Germany."

Three Advisors

The Talmud relates (7) that Job served on the team of advisors to Pharaoh, the emperor of Egypt. The other members of the team were Balaam and Jethro. When the Jewish population in Egypt began to increase significantly, developing from a small family of seventy members into a large nation, Pharaoh, struck by the fear that this refugee group would ultimately pose a threat to his empire, consulted his three advisors on how to deal with the "Jewish problem."

Balaam chose a tyrannical approach. He suggested that Pharaoh drown all Jewish baby boys and force every adult Jewish male into slave labor.

Job remained silent. He neither condemned the Jews to exertion and death, nor defended their rights to life.

Jethro was the only one among the three who objected Balaam's plan of oppression. To escape the wrath of Pharaoh, who enthusiastically embraced Balaam's "final solution," Jethro fled from Egypt to Midian, where he lived for the remainder of his years.

The Talmud (7) also relates the consequences of the advisors' respective behaviors. Balaam was slain many decades later during a Jewish military campaign in the Middle East (8). Job was afflicted by various maladies and personal tragedy (9), while Jethro, the exclusive voice of morality in the Egyptian palace, merited not only Moses as a son-in-law but also descendants who served as members of the Jewish Supreme Court (Sanhedrin) in Jerusalem, loyally representing the Jewish principles of justice and morality (10).

Job's Self-Righteousness

What went through Job's mind after this incident? Did Job consider himself morally inferior to his colleague Jethro who, in an act of enormous courage, stood up to a superpower king and protested against his program of genocide? Did Job return home that evening and say to his wife, "I discovered today that I am a spineless and cowardly politician who will sell his soul to the devil just to retain his position in the government."


Job, like so many of us in similar situations, did not entertain that thought even for a moment. On the contrary, Job considered himself the pragmatist and Jethro the idiot.

"What did Jethro gain of speaking the full truth?" Job must have thought to himself. "He lost his position and was forced to flee. He acted as a fanatical zealot. I, Job, by employing my savvy diplomatic skills and remaining silent, continue to serve as Pharaoh's senior advisor and thus will be able to assist the Jewish people, subtly and unobtrusively, from within the governmental ranks of power." For decades, Job walked the corridors of the Egyptian palace saturated with a feeling of self-righteousness and contentment -- till the day he heard of the death of the sons of Aaron.

Job's Shattering Discovery

When Job inquired as to what might have caused the premature death of these two esteemed men, he was answered with the famous Talmudic episode quoted in the beginning of this essay:

"It once happened that Moses and Aaron were walking along the road and Nadav and Avihu (Aaron's two sons) were walking behind them, and all Israel were walking behind them. Said Nadav to Avihu, 'When will these two old men die and you and I will lead the generation?' Thereupon G-d said to them: 'We shall see who will bury whom!'"

Job was astounded. "I can fully understand," Job said (11), "why Nadav was punished. It was he who uttered these disgusting words. But why was his brother Avihu punished? He did not say anything (12)."

"Avihu?" came the reply. "He was punished because he remained silent (13)."

Because when something important is happening, silence is a lie.

(This essay is based on an address by the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Purim 1971 (14)).


1) Leviticus 10:1-3; 16:1.
2) Sanhedrin 52a.
3) The Midrash is quoted in Nachal Kedumim and Chomas Anach by the Chida (see footnotes 5-6); in the book "Midrash Pliah," and in Pardas Yosef to Leviticus 16:1. - See Vayikrah Rabah 20:5 (and commentaries of Matnois Kehunah, Yefah Toar and Rashash).
4) Job 37:1.
5) 1724-1806. The Chida, author of more than fifty volumes on Torah thought, was one of the great Torah luminaries of his day. He resided in Israel, Egypt and Italy. This year marks the 200 anivversary since his passing.
6) In his book Chomas Anach (However, see there for his refutation of this interpretation). This answer is quoted also in Pardas Yosef ibid and in "Midrash Pliah - Chedah Upelpul."
7) Soteh 11a.
8) Numbers 31:8.
9) See the biblical book of Job chapters 1-2. Job, just like Balaam, received a punishment measure for measure. One cries when he suffers even though he knows that doing so will not alleviate his suffering. Why? Because pain hurts. This keenly demonstrated to Job his state of moral apathy. For if he were truly perturbed by the plight of the Jewish victims, he would have voiced his objection to Balaam's plan even if he thought that protesting it wouldn't bear any results, just as one cries out in pain upon suffering though the cry will not help the situation (See Chidushei HaGriz by Rabbi Yitzchak Ze'av Soloveitchik to Soteh ibid.).
10) Jethro, too, was rewarded measure for measure (see Toras HaKenaos to Soteh ibid.).
11) It is unnecessary to assume that the Chida's intent is that Job actually heard of this Talmudic tradition and posed the following question. As is the case with many Midrashim, certain statements and episodes may be understood symbolically. Possibly, the Midrash is conveying to us its perspective on moral silence by employing the images of Job, and Aaron's two sons, as examples.
12) This question is raised (independently of this entire discussion) in Birchas Shmuel to Soteh ibid.
13) Cf. Eyoon Yaakov to Ein Yaakov Soteh ibid.
14) Sichos Kodesh 5731 vol. 1 pp. 560-568.


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Posted on April 20, 2005

Reprinted with permission 2007 All Rights Reserved. More from

Weddings During Sefirah

We all know that during our time of mourning during sefiras haomer we don't make weddings, get haircuts etc. etc. However there are different customs as to the exact period of this mourning. Some don't make weddings from the beginning of sefirah until Lag Baomer. Others begin on Rosh Chodesh Iyar. One year I received an invitation to attend someone's wedding at the end of Nissan. I was shocked!

Why would someone invite ME to their wedding!! I am not such a great dancer. I am not really a special person. So why would he invite me?! Truth be told I have been working for years on my "Sefardic Woman At The Kotel On Monday And Thursday Rallying Cry" - "LU LU LU LU LU LU LU!" I use it at weddings to gladden the chosson and kallah, but that should not be enough to justify inviting me. So I couldn't understand it.

But there was another reason I was shocked. Obviously the custom of the chosson and kallah was to begin the period of mourning on Rosh Chodesh Nissan. But what about many of their guests who follow the custom to begin earlier? They cannot attend! Apparently.

However Rav Shlomo Zalman ruled [Sefer Halichos Shlomo] that it is permitted to attend a wedding even though during according to one's own custom the mourning customs are in force.

Brachos Galore

A man comes home for work during the Sefirah period and asks his wife "What's for dinner tonight?" She replies, ever mindful of the halacha "Well, last night we had chicken".

That joke is about as old as Sefiras Haomer itself.

Anyway according to the Baál Halachos Gedolos [as understood by the Rosh] Sefiras Haomer is ONE mitzva. Problem is [I bet that you guessed that there would be a problem...] that we make 49 brachos. Since when do we make 49 brachos on ONE mitzva? How about I take my Tallis and make 27 brachas? My Arba Minim and make 38 brachos? You get the picture. It would be cool. We could fill our quota of a hundred brachos very quickly.

That question and much more is discussed in a shiur entitled "All For One And One For All" in the halacha section.

I also recently posted a shiur in that section about the obligation of women to daven. I come out strongly in favor...

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Belief #3 - Chabad House On Mars

Rav Yosef Kahanamen was the Rosh Yeshiva of Ponevezh and a world class Gaon. He also had a sharp wit. The story is told that he was once asked if there was life on other planets. He replied "I don't know for sure but I have a proof that there isn't. Because if there was - the Lubavitchers would have already built a Chabad House there...."

Frankly, the question of life on other planets doesn't impact our lives. Whether or not there is, I am not going to live my life any differently. So I ask, what does matter whether or there is a G-d "up there" somewhere. He exists, he doesn't exist, what's the difference?

The answer is profound. Listen carefully. If G-d exists then EVERY SECOND OF MY LIFE IS FILLED WITH PURPOSE AND MEANING. "Shivisi Hashem l'negdi tamid" - I will place G-d before me ALWAYS. I eat G-d, sleep G-d, talk G-d, go to work with G-d, pay my electricity bill with G-d etc. etc. There is no other reality outside of G-d. There is nothing of value outside of G-d. Everything else is a distraction.

If G-d doesn't exist [G-d forbid..] then NOTHING in this world has objective value. An athiest might decide that he wants to save the whales or the environment but it is only HE who assigned value to his agenda. There is nothing absolute involved. Tomorrow he can decide that he wants all the whales dead and loves pollution. The next day he can decide that he doesn't care after all. And that is his "athiest right". Because NOTHING REALLY MATTERS.

So if one TRULY believes in G-d that means that everything in life is about our service and our everlasting quest to get closer and closer to Him. G-d's existence cannot become [as it has for so many] an abstact question having as much practical signifigance as flying UFO'S and martians sighted in a Burger King in Memphis [they were eating a buger and fries with Elvis].

P.S. A shiur was posted on this topic in the machshava section entitled "Five Paths To Emunah".

Saturday, April 14, 2007

I Have Assets Worth Millions Of Dollars!

Recently an extremely wealthy Jewish couple had a baby. Sadly the baby was born with only 3 fingers on one of it's hands. Which got me thinking. How much would the parents be willing to pay for those two missing fingers? Millions. So I looked at my fingers and said to them "Hey!! You guys are worth millions."

Food for thought.

Love and Blessings,

Ally Gates

Friday, April 13, 2007

Tears Lost In The Ashes Of Europe

This story took place in a large Modern Orthodox synagogue in Manhattan [whose structure and mechitza remind me of a hockey rink. I am not knocking the shul. I myself davened there for many years. But I can't say that prayers there are characterized by great emotion and feeling. Then again how many shuls exist today where there is great emotion and feeling. Anyway, I love hockey.] It was Yom Kippur night. The shul was filled to capacity and as always people were acting with the highest level of decorum. Suddenly an older man started wailing uncontrollably, he was sobbing, moaning and shaking. Naturally the people were very concerned for his welfare. Someone asked him "Sam, is everything O.K.? What's wrong?"

Sam looked at the questioner and said "You know, in the alter heim in Europe before the the war, if one was in shul on Yom Kippur and WASN'T sobbing people thought something was wrong. Today when someone IS in tears people think something is wrong."

Making Your Sefirah Count - Twice - The Resolution

Some Acharonim want to say that the definition of counting is COMPLETE CERTITUDE. One must KNOW what day it is and if one counts out of doubt they have not fulfilled their obligation. That is why there is no counting of two days mi-safek. It also follows according to this line of reasoning that if one counts in hebrew and doesn't understand what they are counting they have not fulfilled their obligation.

However the Baál HaMaor and Ran [who are earlier and more authoritative than the Achronim] give a different answer. They say that if we count out of doubt we will end up counting the last day on Shavuous - and that will cause people to treat Yom Tov lightly. Because if we are counting - it isn't Yom Tov. These Rishonim obviously don't accept the premise of the Acharonim. For a detailed treatment see Yabia Omer Vol. 8 Simman 45 and the many many sources quoted therein.

Belief #2

In light of what we wrote in "Belief #1" we understand that if someone has a question that is bothering them they should realize the limits of their intellect and knowledge. So for instance if one has questions about certain "contradictions" between science and Torah they should remember that their own knowledge of science is [probably] deficient, scientists themselves admit that there are many mysteries which they have yet to uncover, and our proper understanding of the Torah is [unquestionably] deficient. In order to say that "A" contradicts "B" we must fully understand "A" and fully understand "B".

That doesn't mean that we shouldn't try to strech the limits of our intellect to understand as much as we can. But it DOES mean that a question on Torah is not chas v'shalom a refutation of the Torah. I believe that to think otherwise is intellectually dishonest.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Belief #1

The very first step is HUMILITY. Knowing our limits. How can one achieve humility?

Let's say that you wake up one morning and are told that you are slated to give a lecture to post-doctoral candidates from Harvard on the topic of quantum physics. Would you be able to give an informative lecture to this group? How about Zoology? Botany? On how many topics would you consider yourself a world expert. About myself I like to say that I know nothing about just about everything and almost nothing about a few things! And even if I would encompass all of what human beings have discovered to date there would be SO MUCH that I don't know! Scientists don't even fully understand a single cell!!!

I have met people who think they know it all. A-R-R-O-G-A-N-C-E. It gives off a odious smell.

So if one wants to grow in their faith in G-d they must remember - they are very limited.

Which arouses within one a desire to know He Who Is Unlimited.

Making Your Sefirah Count - Twice

A boy was out on a date with a girl. During the date she asked him if he is a decisive person. He replied "Wellllllll, yes and no. I guess."

We all know that people living outside of Israel keep 2 days of Yom Tov because of "sfeika d'yoma" a doubt as to what day it actually is because they did not know when the court in Yerushalayim sanctified the new month. [Today we continue to keep 2 days in order to maintain the custom of our ancestors].

The question is, why don't we count [outside of Israel] 2 days every night for sfiras haomer? We are not sure when the 16th of the month [which marks the beginning of the counting] fell out. So each night we should count both possibilities as we do with Yom Tov.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Belief - Introduction

There is what I consider one of the most serious problems in the Jewish community. Namely - a lack of belief. In G-d, in the Torah, in Rabbis etc. etc. There are many people who wear religious garb but don't believe. They might even live more or less according to Halacha, but they are lacking the basics. Some of them have blogs. On these blogs they try to drag others into the mud with them. They usually remain anonymous but of course they are real people. Some attended Yeshivos and Seminaries [usually not the same person. It is hard to be accepted to both. I am an exception. I have been involved in Torah both in Yeshivos and with Seminary girls. In a professional capacity of course]. They often had negative experiences during the course of their education which of impacts their lack of faith. We are not only intellectual beings. We are also emotional. Much more influenced by our emotions than many would like to admit. Therefore if someone had a bad Rebbe [or father] it makes it very difficult for them to completely accept G-d and his Torah. I generally don't find these people to be genuine truth seekers. They are often sarcastic, cynical and angry. I can't judge such people because Chazal instruct us not to judge others until we step into their shoes. And it is impossible to completely identify with someone else. So I have pity for such people. But they are a sampling of the many people who are possibly outwardly religious but internally have jettisoned traditional Jewish belief. Others have stopped keeping Halacha altogether.

But even amongst those who claim to believe are often shaky in their belief. And even those who are strong and stable, well, belief in G-d is not something that we do and fulfill our obligation like eating a kezais of Matzah or making kiddush. We must always intensify and bolster our belief. So everybody needs chizuk in Emunah. Everybody.

So in the coming period, with the help of the Almighty, from time to time we will try to post different ideas and insights which I hope will help somebody grow in their level of Emunah. Not everything I write will necessary resonate with you personally because different ideas resonate with different people but I hope that some of what I say will help you. Also remember that I am not the final word. If you disagree with something I write it is possible that you are correct and that I have G-d forbid misrepresented the traditional Jewish viewpoint. I will try my best not to make mistakes but I am quite the fallible sort.

One caveat. This will not be an exhaustive treatment. For that I would need many lifetimes! And even then I will not have but scratched the surface. But I will try in a small way to help and enlighten. I would also appreciate your input either via email [] or in the comments section or personally [that's the best]. Thank you.

Love and Blessings

Your faithful servant who rolls around in the dust of your feet [in the figurative sense of course]

Elchanan ben Henna Miriam

Monday, April 09, 2007

A Girl With An Apple

My holy mother shetichye emailed me the following story.

A Girl with an Apple

August 1942. Piotrkow, Poland. The sky was gloomy that morning as we waited anxiously. All the men, women and children of Piotrkow's Jewish ghetto had been herded into a square. Word had gotten around that we were being moved. My father had only recently died from typhus, which had run rampant through the crowded ghetto. My greatest fear was that our family would be separated.

"Whatever you do," Isidore, my eldest brother, whispered to me, "don't tell them your age. Say you're sixteen".

I was tall for a boy of 11, so I could pull it off. That way I might be
deemed valuable as a worker. An SS man approached me, boots clicking
against the cobblestones. He looked me up and down, then asked my age.

"Sixteen," I said. He directed me to the left, where my three brothers and other healthy young men already stood.

My mother was motioned to the right with the other women, children, sick and elderly people. I whispered to Isidore, "Why?" He didn't answer. I ran to Mama's side and said I wanted to stay with her.

"No," she said sternly. "Get away. Don't be a nuisance. Go with your
brothers." She had never spoken so harshly before. But I understood: She was protecting me. She loved me so much that, just this once, she pretended not to. It was the last I ever saw of her.

My brothers and I were transported in a cattle car to Germany. We arrived at the Buchenwald concentration camp one night weeks later and were led into a crowded barrack. The next day, we were issued uniforms and identification numbers.

"Don't call me Herman anymore." I said to my brothers. "Call me 94983."

I was put to work in the camp's crematorium, loading the dead into a
hand-cranked elevator. I, too, felt dead. Hardened, I had become a number. Soon, my brothers and I were sent to Schlieben, one of Buchenwald's sub-camps near Berlin. One morning I thought I heard my mother's voice, Son, she said softly but clearly, I am sending you an angel. Then I woke up. Just a dream. A beautiful dream. But in this place there could be no angels. There was only work. And hunger. And fear.

A couple of days later, I was walking around the camp, around the barracks, near the barbed-wire fence where the guards could not easily see. I was alone. On the other side of the fence, I spotted someone: a young girl with light, almost luminous curls. She was half-hidden behind a birch tree. I glanced around to make sure no one saw me. I called to her softly in German.

"Do you have something eat?" She didn't understand. I inched closer to the fence and repeated question in Polish. She stepped forward. I was thin and gaunt, with rags wrapped around my feet, but the girl looked unafraid. In her eyes, I saw life. She pulled an apple from her woolen jacket and threw it over the fence. I grabbed the fruit and, as I started to run away, I heard her say faintly, "I'll see you tomorrow."

I returned to the same spot by the fence at the same time every day. She was always there with something for me to eat - a hunk of bread or, better yet, an apple. We didn't dare speak or linger. To be caught would mean death for us both. I didn't know anything about her just a kind farm girl except that she understood Polish. What was her name? Why was she risking her life for me? Hope was in such short supply, and this girl on the other side of the fence gave me some, as nourishing in its way as the bread and apples.

Nearly seven months later, my brothers and I were crammed into a coal car and shipped to Theresienstadt camp in Czechoslovakia.

"Don't return," I told the girl that day. "We're leaving."

I turned toward the barracks and didn't look back, didn't even say good-bye to the girl whose name I'd never learned, the girl with the apples.

We were in Theresienstadt for three months. The war was winding down and Allied forces were closing in, yet my fate seemed sealed. On May 10, 1945, I was scheduled to die in the gas chamber at 10:00 AM.

In the quiet of dawn, I tried to prepare myself. So many times death seemed ready to claim me, but somehow I'd survived. Now, it was over. I thought of my parents. At least, I thought, we will be reunited.

At 8 A.M. there was a commotion. I heard shouts, and saw people running every which way through camp. I caught up with my brothers. Russian troops had liberated the camp! The gates swung open. Everyone was running, so I did too.

Amazingly, all of my brothers had survived; I'm not sure how. But I knew
that the girl with the apples had been the key to my survival. In a place
where evil seemed triumphant, one person's goodness had saved my life, had given me hope in a place where there was none. My mother had promised to send me an angel, and the angel had come.

Eventually I made my way to England where I was sponsored by a Jewish charity, put up in a hostel with other boys who had survived the Holocaust and trained in electronics. Then I came to America, where my brother Sam had already moved.

I served in the U. S. Army during the Korean War, and returned to New York City after two years. By August 1957 I'd opened my own electronics repair shop. I was starting to settle in.

One day, my friend Sid who I knew from England called me. "I've got a date. She's got a Polish friend. Let's double date."

A blind date? Nah, that wasn't for me. But Sid kept pestering me, and a few days later we headed up to the Bronx to pick up his date and her friend Roma. I had to admit, for a blind date this wasn't so bad. Roma was a nurse at a Bronx hospital. She was kind and smart. Beautiful, too, with swirling brown curls and green, almond-shaped eyes that sparkled with life.

The four of us drove out to Coney Island. Roma was easy to talk to, easy to be with. Turned out she was wary of blind dates too! We were both just doing our friends a favor. We took a stroll on the boardwalk, enjoying the salty Atlantic breeze, and then had dinner by the shore. I couldn't remember having a better time.

We piled back into Sid's car, Roma and I sharing the backseat. As European Jews who had survived the war, we were aware that much had been left unsaid between us. She broached the subject, "Where were you," she asked softly, "during the war?"

"The camps," I said, the terrible memories still vivid, the irreparable
loss. I had tried to forget. But you can never forget.

She nodded. "My family was hiding on a farm in Germany, not far from
Berlin," she told me. "My father knew a priest, and he got us Aryan

I imagined how she must have suffered too, fear, a constant companion.
And yet here we were, both survivors, in a new world.

"There was a camp next to the farm." Roma continued. "I saw a boy there and I would throw him apples every day."

What an amazing coincidence that she had helped some other boy. "What did he look like? I asked.

He was tall. Skinny. Hungry. I must have seen him every day for six months."

My heart was racing. I couldn't believe it. This couldn't be.

"Did he tell you one day not to come back because he was leaving Schlieben?" Roma looked at me in amazement.

"Yes," That was me! "

I was ready to burst with joy and awe, flooded with emotions. I couldn't
believe it. My angel.

"I'm not letting you go." I said to Roma. And in the back of the car on that
blind date, I proposed to her. I didn't want to wait.

"You're crazy!" she said. But she invited me to meet her parents for Shabbat dinner the following week. There was so much I looked forward to learning about Roma, but the most important things I always knew: her steadfastness, her goodness. For many months, in the worst of circumstances, she had come to the fence and given me hope. Now that I'd found her again, I could never let her go. That day, she said yes. And I kept my word. After nearly 50 years of marriage, two children and three grandchildren I have never let her go.

Herman Rosenblat Miami Beach, Florida

My addendum: The Gemara [as understood by one of the Acharonim] says that one area of life in which the hand of G-d is most apparent is the matching of couples. Here is a beautiful and touching example of this phenomenom.

When Gelt Is A Person's Whole Velt [World]

To continue the thought of the last post.

You can check it out. Interview psychologists and ask them if rich people are generally happier. Of course they aren't! On the contrary there are many very busy psychologists and psychiatrists, and who can afford them? People with money. Do rich people have happier marriages? No way! Are wealthy people more content? Not a chance! See the very first essay in the Michtav Mi'eliahu ["Strive For Truth" in english]. A classic!

So I must make myself clear. Having money does not NECESSARILY mean that one will miserable but it certainly does not guarantee happiness. The secret is to keep the materialistic part of life in its proper perspective. Money is not everything. That may seem simple to you but most people live their lives and make decisions based on the premise that money is what life is all about. And "He who dies with the most toys - wins". And I say that he who dies with the MOST toys loses - the MOST. Get it?

Sunday, April 08, 2007


An old Jewish man falls off a ladder while putting in a light bulb. He is flat on the ground unable to rise. A medic comes and puts a pillow under his head. The medic asks him if he is comfortable. He answers "I make a living." [If you didn't get the joke you are probably under 30].

Idols are called "sadness". "Atzabayhem kesef v'zahav". "Their sadness is gold and silver". Today many people worship money. They are convinced that it will make them happy. Wrong. It will make them more comfortable - but not happy. Happiness comes from a sense that one's life has purpose and meaning. From deep emotional bonds that one develops with other people, namely - love. From a feeling of fulfillment in whatever one is doing in one's life. And the greatest of all - a connection with the source of all love and happiness - "Rachmana" - G-d Himself!

Why Don't We Lash? - Answer

There is a fundamental distinction between the two cases. When one buys chametz on Pesach the act of buying is the cause of the Averah [which is the owning of chametz].
When enters the Beis Hamikdash empty handed the act of entry is NOT the direct cause of the Averah rather the fact that he doesn't bring a korban. [Rav Avraham Zilberstein]

Think about it. I saw two more answers as well.

Pessach:Our Miraculous Redemption


[Translated by Mrs. Nechi Ehrman, author of: From Bar Ilan University to the world of Chassidus and Ultra Orthodoxy - My Path Back To Sinai]

We answer the child’s Ma Nishtana with the following passage: "עבדים היינו לפרעה במצרים ויוציאנו ה' אלוקינו משם ביד חזקה ובזרוע נטויה. ואילו לא הוציא הקב"ה את אבותינו ממצרים הרי אנו ובניניו ובני בנינו משעבדים היינו לפרעה במצרים. ואפילו כלנו חכמים, כלנו נבונים, כלנו זקנים, כלנו יודעים את התורה, מצוה עלינו לספר ביציאת מצרים. וכל המרבה לספר ביציאת מצרים הרי זה משובח."

“We were slaves to Paroh in Egypt and Hashem Elokeinu took us out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. And if Hakadosh Baruch Hu hadn’t taken our fathers out of Egypt, then we and our children and our children’s children would be enslaved to Paroh in Egypt. And even if we all are smart, and all wise, and all elderly and all know the Torah it is still a mitzvah for us to tell about Yetzias Mitzrayim. And the more we tell the more praiseworthy we are.”

We will begin by raising a number of questions regarding this passage from the Haggadah, and we will try בעז"ה to answer them all by developing a deeper understanding of what transpired at Yetzias Mitzrayim.

The first part of “Avadim Hayinu” is found in Parshas Vaeschanan. The pasuk there is: “…We were slaves to Paroh in Egypt and Hashem took us out of Egypt with a strong hand. Hashem placed signs and wonders, great and harmful, against Egypt, against Paroh and against his entire household, before our eyes.” The term “outstretched arm” is found in Parshas Vaera: “…I shall redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgements.” There is an additional pasuk in Parshas Vaeschanan that mentions the outstretched arm: “Or has any god ever miraculously come to take for himself a nation from amidst a nation, with challenges, with signs, and with wonders, and with war and with a strong hand, and with an outstretched arm , and with greatly awesome deeds, such as everything that Hashem, your God, did for you in Egypt before your eyes?” Why did the author of the Haggadah choose to omit the phrases “with great judgments” and “with greatly awesome deeds” which were each juxtaposed to the phrase “outstretched arm”, the former in Parshas Vaera and the latter in Parshas Vaeschanan? Later in the Haggadah the author does mention “with great awe”, so it seems that he deliberately omitted it in “Avadim Hayinu”- why?

The Haggadah explains יד חזקה, “a mighty hand” to refer to macas dever , the fifth plague inflicted on the Mitzrim, where all the livestock of the Mitzrim died and not one animal belonging to a Jew died . Macas dever seems to be the least harmful of all the macos because it struck the Mitzrim’s animals and not their bodies. Why then would the Haggadah define “a mighty hand” as macas dever?

“And if Hakadosh Baruch Hu hadn’t taken our fathers out of Egypt, then we and our children and our children’s children would be enslaved to Pahro in Egypt.” How can we proclaim this with such absolute conviction? Have we not seen numerous nations achieve freedom in unexpected turn of events? Governments do rise and fall and countries have changed hands over the years, is it truly unfeasible that we would’ve eventually left Egypt even if Hashem hadn’t taken us out with such grand miracles? Would we really still be there today?

“And even if we are all smart…and all know the Torah, it is still a mitzvah for us to tell about Yetzias Mitzrayim.” Why would we think that he who is smart would be exempt from telling about Yetzias Mitzrayim? This is a mitzvah from the Torah, one of the 613, why should a chacham be exempt? Is a talmid chacham exempt from the mitzvah of Kriyas Shema or Teffilin?

The Haggadah explains ובזרוע נטויה , “an outstretched arm” to mean a sword. This is puzzling because not one of the ten macos involves a sword! To what is the Haggadah referring?

Now that we have raised all these questions, we will try to deepen our understanding of Yetziyas Mitzrayim and this new insight will help us answer our questions.

There is a very basic difference between Klal Yisroel’s redemption from Mitzrayim and all other nations’ release from servitude to another nation. While other nations might have been freed physically, it took many years thereafter until they internalized their freedom emotionally, being able to feel free and act free. A very painful example of this from our own history would be those Jews who survived the Holocaust. They may have physically been freed from the death camps but after witnessing so much murder and torture and losing spouses, children, friends and family members they suffered for many many years after the war ended. They relocated themselves geographically but not emotionally. Their souls were still tormented by the memories of their horrible experiences. Can you call that freedom? The African Americans in the United States were freed from slavery and eventually even achieved equal rights yet to this day they don’t enjoy complete emotional freedom. The trauma of slavery doesn’t disappear so quickly, if at all.

The Jewish People’s redemption from Mitzrayim however, was of a completely different nature. We lived in Mitzrayim for a very long period of time and suffered there from backbreaking labor and harsh decrees. The Medrash depicts our physical enslavement, how Jewish babies were used in place of bricks, how we worked from morning until night and how we were beaten severely. Along with this came an emotional enslavement and our spiritual decline to the forty-ninth level of impurity. From this low level Hashem redeemed us in such a manner that left no trace whatsoever of anything we had endured! We didn’t need years of rehabilitation nor was there any remnant of the weak state in which we had been. All at once Hashem brought us to the level of : “…and the Children of Israel were going out with an upraised arm” Rashi explains: with great and famous might. Hashem transformed a downtrodden and humiliated nation into a proud and mighty nation with no trace of their long years of slavery. This transition was a true miracle in itself. Now we understand why the Haggadah chose to insert יד חזקה “a mighty hand” and זרוע נטויה “an outstretched arm” into the passage of “Avadim Hayinu” (and omitted the phrases “great judgements” and “greatly awesome deeds”). It is specifically יד חזקה and זרוע נטויה that express this unique miracle.

Understanding Yetziyas Mitzrayim in light of this new perspective helps answer the rest of our questions as well. If Hashem hadn’t taken us out in such a miraculous way, then even had we eventually been freed from Mitzrayim, we and our children and our children’s children would bear deep emotional scars. Man can free the body, but only Hashem can heal the soul.

An additional transition transpired at this time, our transition from impurity to purity. The Mitzrim did everything in their power to lower our spiritual level. “Or has any god ever miraculously come to take for himself a nation from amidst a nation…” Yalkut Shimoni comments: What does this mean “a nation from amongst a nation”? Like someone who extracts a fetus from within an animal, so Hashem took Yisroel from Mitzrayim as it says "והקרב והכרעיים". We were so intertwined with the Mitzrim that removing us was comparable to extracting a fetus out of an animal. The Medrash continues: It doesn’t say “a nation (עם) from amongst a nation (גוי), rather גוי מקרב גוי to teach us that just as they were uncircumcised so too we were uncircumcised, and just as they grew their hair long for idolatrous purposes so we too grew our hair long for idolatrous purposes. And therefore according to midas hadin (the strict letter of the law) there was no justification for redeeming us ever. Our spiritual state was so bad that the Malach Samael asked Hashem why we merited miracles after having worshipped idols. On the 15th of Nissan we left Mitzrayim and on the 6th of Sivan we already received the Torah at Har Sinai. We went from the 49th level of tumah to the greatest spiritual heights in such an amazingly short time! Hashem Himself took us out for only He could separate us from the Mitzrim, physically, emotionally and spiritually so quickly, leaving no emotional scars or spiritual impurity within us. Only Hashem could take us out like removing a fetus from an animal, without leaving a trace of its having been there.

Although the plague of dever was the least harsh of all ten macos, it is used as a definition for יד חזקה “a mighty hand” in the Haggadah because it demonstrated most clearly the vast difference between Jew and Mitzri. It is specifically with regard to macas dever (and macas arov) that the pasuk emphasizes Hashem’s discrimination between Jew and Mitzri although throughout all ten macos the Mitzrim were the ones afflicted and the Jews were spared. The Ramban explains that the Jews’ animals and the Mitzrim’s animals were all standing together and there was one sole difference between them namely monetary ownership by Jew or Mitzri. So when the animals belonging to the Mitzrim all died and those belonging to the Jews didn’t die, the miracle was all the more obvious.

We had asked why the Haggadah defined ובזרוע נטויה “and with an outstretched arm” as a sword. A sword symbolizes a sharp, clean cut – the Gemara calls a sword סכינא חריפא , a sharp knife. When Hashem pulled Klal Yisroel out from within the Mitzrim it was like the clean, clear slice of a sword separating the two nations, leaving no trace of Mitzrayim in us. We became a completely new entity, having shed our forty-nine levels of impurity and now soaring to the highest heights.

When telling the story of our redemption from Mitzrayim, we are obligated to begin with disgrace and end with praise in order to clearly express the physical and spiritual transformation that occurred. Had we been freed in a natural course of events, like other nations throughout history, then maybe those more learned and more knowledgeable of our history would be exempt from retelling the story of our redemption. But since we were freed in such an unnatural, miraculous manner, it is incumbent on the talmidei chachamim to retell the story and it is they, with their knowledge and depth, who will best comprehend the miracle in all of its depth.

Let us keep all this in mind as we sit at the seder table and speak of Yetziyas Mitzrayim. Each of us becomes a מספר and as Chassidus explains, the word מספר has the same root letters as ספיר a sapphire. When one tells the story of Yetziyas Mitzrayim properly, he shines like a sapphire and instills in the listeners precious light. May Hashem help us receive all the הארות and may our countenances shine to ourselves and our families and may we merit to see miracles as our forefathers saw when they left Mitzrayim. Amen Ken Yehi Ratzon.

My addendum: For a nice picture of the Rebbe Shlita [and many other Gedolim] you can go to The comment that was written there is true.

The Secret Of Keeping A Secret

Happens all the time. A tells B "It's a secret. I will tell you if you promise not to tell anyone." "OK!" Then B runs to C and tells him the same thing before divulging the secret. C runs to D and tells HIM the secret [possibly leaving out the part about not passing it on]. Within a day or two EVERYBODY knows. And it started out a secret!!

The Medrash [Tehillim 114] says that one of the merits in which the Jews left Egypt was that they didn't divulge secrets. Wow. Today? Well you are Jewish, you decide. [My own opinion is that there are communities in which almost everybody knows almost everything. And there are communities in which things remain private. And of course it varies from individual to individual].

I know that it is difficult to hold on to a juicy piece of information and refrain from sharing it with anybody. What I do is very simple. When someone shares with me private information I try to immediately put it out of my mind. This way I have no Yetzer Hara to share it with anyone else. It works for me.

That is my secret. I give you full permission to share it with anyone else!

Friday, April 06, 2007

Why Don't We Lash?

The Rambam rules [Chametz Umatza 1/3] that if one bakes or buys chametz on Pesach he receives malkos because it is considered a "lav shyesh bo ma'aseh". Even though the transgression is the fact that he has chametz in his possession [which is not a maáseh] and not the fact that he baked it, nevertheless since the averah came about as a result of an action it is considered a "lav sheyesh bo maáseh". Hence the malkos.

The Rambam [same gentleman] also ruled [Chagigah 1/1] that if one enters the Beis Hamikdash on the Regel without a korban chagigah he does not receive malkos because it is a "lav she'ain bo ma'aseh". The transgression is being in the Beis Hamikdash empty handed [v'lo yarau panai raikum] and the state of being is NOT a maáseh.

True. But the state of being came about as a result of a ma'seh [i.e. coming in to the Beis Hamikdash]. This man should get malkos also?

Gentiles Doing Biyur Chametz?! What's The Point!! - An Answer

There is a famous discussion in the Acharonim as to whether the mitzva of Hashbasas Chametz is to actively rid oneself of one's chametz or perhaps the mitzva is not having chametz in one's possession - but according to the latter approach there is no mitzva to actively rid oneself of chametz [thus if one has no chametz in one's possession there is no mitzva to purchase some for the express purpose of destroying it].

If we accept the latter approach then there is no problem to tell a Gentile to do the job, even in the absence of the law of agency. Shlichus is needed in order to perform a positve act. But here the mitzva is fulfilled by not having chametz - regardless of how it is done.

When We Run Out Of Cash

Hi, my name is Brad. I went off to college in the fall and boy was it fun! The parties, the new friends that I made, the interesting courses I was taking. It was a blast. I knew that my folks missed me and wanted to hear from me but frankly I was much too busy to call them. But then it happened! I ran out of cash. What was I to do now? I was compelled to call my Dad and ask him if he could wire me some money. Then I realized that my Dad is smarter than I thought! He is quite loaded [not like a revolver. Like a CEO]. He could have given me enough money to last me for the whole year but then he knew that he would never hear from me. So he purposely gave me limited funds [and no credit card] so that I would keep in touch. My Dad loves me. He wants a relationship with me.

People think that we turn to G-d because we have troubles. But the opposite is true. We have troubles so that we should turn to G-d. The means are the troubles. The end is that we should develop a relationship with G-d. He wants to hear from us and if everything is going smoothly and according to plan [OUR plan] he would never hear from us. So he creates situations which compel us to turn to him.

When the Jews were exiting Egypt they had the sea on one side and the Egyptians pursuing them on the other side. They were trapped! Excuse me but could G-d have not arranged for a smoother exit? The Medrash explains that G-d wanted to hear from us.
As the Pasuk says "VaYitzaku" - They screamed to Hashem. That is what Hashem wanted. Had they turned to Hashem without the emergency situation it would never have been necessary to be placed in mortal danger. But human nature is such that we don't feel a need to connct to our source when things are going well. [And that is why our mothers- Sarah, Rivka and Rachel, were barren. Hashem desires the prayers of the righteous. And if kids would come easily, that intensity of prayer would be lacking.] But then we are missing the point of life - relationship. Hashem wants [kviyachol] relationship.

Min HaMetzar, karasi kah - From my troubles I call out to Hashem. The troubles are there so that you should call out to Hashem. That is the purpose. Hashem doesn't enjoy watcing us suffer. On the contrary, Chazal teach that He suffers along with us. But it is necessary. Otherwise we would simply forget about him. And is worse than any other tzara.

The ME Generation

A man once came to his Rebbe and said "Rebbe Rebbe I need Parnassa!", "Rebbe Rebbe I need good health!", "Rebbe Rebbe I need a shidduch for my daughter!". After listening to this man go on for a while the Rebbe said "Have you ever stopped thinking about what you need in order to consider what you are needed for."

The great Austrian Psychologist Victor Frankl [whose approach, called Logotherapy, focused on finding meaning in one's life in order to help deal with depression] put it well when he said "Ultimately, man should not ask what the meaning of his life is, but rather he must recognize that it is he who is asked."

In other words the focus should not be on oneself and the fulfillment of one's personal needs and goals but on something greater and larger than himself. I feel funny writing such an idea. People, I suspect, will think that I am crazy [confirming what they might have suspected for quite a while]. The western mind is trained to instinctively be concerned with one's own personal goals and aspirations so the notion that one should strive to transcend them sounds [almost?] silly.

But that is the truth. And the truth must be stated. It's not about ME. It's about G-d, the Jewish Nation and The Redemption of Mankind. The BIG things. And all some people can think about is their stock portfolio or their basketball team or what they should have for lunch. And all some parents can think about is "Will my son get rich?". "Will my daughter marry a boy who is from a wealthy family?" Smallmindedness. In a world where one can aspire for so much more.

Such Clothing One Can Purchase At Sym's - Where An Educated Jewish Consumer Is Our Best Customer

In the last post I talked about how Yerushalayim has been enclothed with Jews over the holiday. Now I would like to discuss for a moment how Jews should enclothe THEMSELVES on Chol Hamoed.

There are three opinions that I have seen in the Poskim [See the beginning of Simman 530 in the Shulchan Aruch and Sefer Chol Hamoed K'hilchaso page 10] .

1] One must wear Yom Tov clothing, which should be even finer than one's Shabbos clothing.

2] One should wear one's Shabbos garb. It is not necessary according to this opinion to wear Yom Tov clothing.

3] The most lenient opinion: One need not wear Shabbos clothing but one should still get more dressed up then one would on a regular weekday.

In other words there is no basis in Halacha for wearing weekday clothing on Chol Hamoed.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Can't Buy Such Clothing At Sym's

I am so happy!!!

Before the holiday started I thought that ALL of the Jewish people would be spending Pesach in Florida. But since I live at the entrance to the Jewish Quarter of the Old City I am lucky enough to have seen MILLIONS of my brothers and sisters passing by my building today [the first day of Chol Hamoed]. Yidden are coming to Jerusalem!!!!!

I cannot help but be reminded of a lovely idea of Rav Kook that can send chills up one's spine. In Lecha Dodi we say "התנערי מעפר קומי לבשי בגדי תפארתך עמי"
"Shake [talking to female - i.e. Yerushalayim] off you dust, arise, clothe yourself [female form - again talking to Yerushalayim] with your garmants of glory, my nation." Rav Kook noted that it should say "livash" [male form] because the one who is clothing himself is the nation - male form. So Rav Kook explains that it is not the nation that is clothing itself with it's garments of glory but rather Yerushalayim [and that is the reason it says "livshi" in the feminine]. And what are the garments of glory of Yerushalayim - my nation!!

My wife added that this explains why Yerushalayim is called naked when the Jews are exiled [See Eicha 1/8].

So we put on our beautiful Yom Tov clothing and so does Yerushalayim - US!!

Monday, April 02, 2007

The Children Of Israel

A child says to his mother "Is it true that the Children of Israel were enslaved in Egypt?". "Yes". "And then Hashem miraculously split the sea for the Children of Israel?". "Yes". "And then Hashem gave the Torah to the Children of Israel." "Yes".
"And then Hashem brought the Children of Israel into the Land of Israel?". "Indeed".
"So Mommy, what were the adults doing when all this was going on with the Children?"

Seder night is for the Children of Israel. Today childrens minds are so contaminated by TV, Internet, Newspapers etc. etc. it is CRUCIAL to fill their minds with Faith in G-d, positive values, and a sense of history. So when you are sitting at the seder find a kid and talk to him. Skip the fancy gematrias and tell him or her about the basics!!!! Hashem took us out of Egypt to keep mitzvos [as Rashi says on the pasuk "baavoor zeh"]. You have an important task. You are an EVED Hashem. But it is a fun avdus. To be an eved means that we don't have a life outside of our service of G-d. That means that everything we do has a higher purpose etc. etc. etc.

Chag SAMEACH V'kasher To All Of My Good Friends!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Sunday, April 01, 2007

When A Discussion Of Dyin' Teaches Us How To Live

There are many "Dayanu" Jews walking around. They might marry Jewish and go to shul on occasion [e.g. Yom Kippur or to network]. But that's enough for them. Others basically keep mitzvos but not too much. Can't be extreme. So you will never see them in shul during the week nor will they ever be caught awake with an open sefer. Keeping kosher [at home] and putting on Tefillin daily is enough for them. Many people have their own personal "Dayeinu" level. I will do so much for G-d - but no more.

When we say the Dayeinu at the seder what we are saying is that we were satisfied with what we had. But Hashem in his infinte kindness wanted to bestow upon us more and more spiritual blessings. And more. We have enough G-d. No! More.

That is what we have to give ourselves and those around us. More. Even if one feels "Dayeinu". Daf Yomi - add a chazara. Or maybe a half hour a day of Gemara Biíyun [for those in the working world]. Doing another act or two of chesed a day. Show a Jew the beauty of Shabbos. The list goes on and on.

In the business world nobody says "Well, our company has made enough money this year so everyone can take a three month vacation". What? If there is even more money to be made - go for it. [That is not my personal attitude, just the prevailing one. Maybe that is why I am not in business...]

The same applies to spirituality - GO FOR IT. AND THEN GO FOR MORE. Don't sit on your laurels. [I also don't recommend sitting on a bed of nails but that is not our topic.] There is a lot to accomplish down here.

Something to think about when you are singing "Dy dy yainu dy dy yainu dy dy yainu dayeinu dayeinu".

Gentiles Doing Biyur Chametz?! What's The Point!!

The Magen Avraham [446/1] says that if one finds Chametz on Yom Tov it is permitted to ask a Gentile take it and throw it into the river. Even though it is a problem to tell the Gentile to touch the Chametz as it is Muktzeh, nevertheless it is permitted in this instance because it is a mitzvah to discard the Chametz. [Shvus D'shvus {Amirah Lákum u'muktzeh} muttar B'Makom Mitzvah]

Rebbe Akiva Eiger challenges the Magen Avraham. We have a rule that there is no rule of agency regarding Gentiles ["ain shlichus Lákum"]. That means that one doesn't fulfill a mitzvah if they allow the Gentile to discard the chametz. So in a word, what does the Magen Avraham mean? There is NO mitzvah involved when one asks a Gentile to discard the Chametz.

Faulty Faith

Ask ten Torah observant Jews if they believe at least nine will answer "Of course". But it isn't so simple.

Avraham certainly believed "U'matsasa es livavo neéman liphanecha" [Nechemiah 9/8] - G-d found Avraham's heart FAITHFUL. And it wasn't easy "V'he'emeen Bahshem vayachshiveha lo tzedaka" [Breishis 15/6] - G-d really appreciated the great accomplishment that Avraham achieved with his faith [See Rashi there]. YET, Avraham's faith was found lacking. Hashem promises to give his children the Land of Israel and Avraham asks "Bameh aida?" [15/8] How do I know that the promise will be fulfilled? Hashem answers "Avraham!! The entire world stands on my word and you don't believe what I tell you?!" [Pirkei D'Rebbi Eliezer 48]. And the consequences were severe - 400 years in Egypt [Nedarim 32a].

400 years pass and the pasuk says "Vayeamain haám" [shemos 4/31] - the nation believed. Then the 10 plagues took place that strengthened not only their faith but even the Egyptians believed "It is the finger of G-d" [8/15]. Still the Jews did not reach a level where they could sing to Hashem proclaiming their faith until the sea split "Vayaameenu bashem" - They [finally, really] believed in Hashem. And because of this Emunah they could sing [Mechilta].

After the splitting of the sea they arrived at Mount Sinai united as one person, meaning that the high level of faith that they had achieved as individuals was now compounded and thus intensified. The the heavens opened up and Hashem revealed Himself "Anochi" - Hi guys, it's me, Hashem! Then the Mishkan was built and "Hashem's glory filled the Mishkan" [Shmos 40/33]. That's a pretty high level of belief, right?

Yet, Hashem sadly informs us "For 40 years I quareled with one generation and I said that they are a people of erring heart and they didn't know my ways" [Tehillim 95/10]. Yes we say the pasuk on friday night at the beginning of kabalas shabbos with a lilting tune. So inspiring and uplifting. But what it means is that the Jews pretended as if there was no real G-d. After everything they had experienced!!

What about Moshe, he definitely believed, right? Of course! "Bichol beisi neéman hu" [Bamidbar 12/7] - He is the biggest believer around. G-d spoke to him "Face to face" [Shmos 33/11], they was never in the past and can never be in the future a Jewish Prophet like Moshe [Dvarim 34/10]. And what does the pasuk say about Moshe "Yaán lo HEÉMANTEM bi" [Bamidbar 20/12]. He lacked Emunah!!

So of course on a basic level Avraham, the Jewish people in Egypt and Moshe Rabbeinu believed in Hashem. But on their level a higher more profound faith was called for. And because they didn't meet the expectations they were guilty of a lack of faith.

So for us the lesson is that we must not merely believe, but constantly deepen and intensify our belief. And it is NOT easy. [Based on the teachings of the Alter M'Slabodka]

Good luck!!

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Segula - 40 days at the Kotel

About me

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