Thursday, May 31, 2007

The Pesach Remains In The Alleyways Of Jerusalem

We know that one must ROAST the Korban Pesach in order for it to be valid. The Gemara teaches [Pesachim 41a] that if one COOKS the Pesach in the hot springs of Tiberias he has nullified this mitzva.

Big problem! The Korban is not allowed to be taken out of the borders of ancient Jerusalem! How did it reach Tiberias? The hot springs of Tiberias are in Tiberias just as The Bronx Zoo is in the Bronx and the New Jersey turnpike is in New Jersey.

So the question is, being that we are not allowed to take the Korban out of Jerusalem, why does the Gemara discuss cooking it in the hot springs of Tiberias?

Love #4 - Apologies

When I was a kid I read the book "Love Story", saw the movie and even read the book about the making of the movie. It was the story of a young man from a very rich, aristocratic, Waspy family who falls in love [hence the name of the book and film] with a poor Italian girl from a broken family. His family was not pleased - to say the least! Anyway to make a long story short the girl gets sick and dies. [That dying scene was sooo moving. I was crying bucketfuls. Not only that but even the cameramen and others in the room during the filming of the scene were crying!!]

The young man leaves the hospital and meets his father from who he had been estranged in the parking lot. The father understood that the girl had died and felt HORRIBLE for all of the anguish he had caused his son. He said to his son "I'm sorry." The son put up his hand as if to say "Stop" and said "Love means never having to say you are sorry". They embraced.

Great flick. Bad lesson. As I once heard from a wise man: LOVE MEANS ALWAYS HAVING TO SAY YOU ARE SORRY!!! Even if you are right. Apologize. Enjoy being wrong. Make the other person feel that they are right. That is soooo mature.

It will improve your relationships. Try it.

New Shiurim

Three new audio shiurim have been posted.

Parshas Behaaloscha - Two new shiurim: "Simcha on Shabbos" and "Bringing Down The Light". [Parsha section]

"Maintaining Our Kedusha" - Some summer chizuk. [Machshava section]

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

I Could - Therefore I Am

There is a well known rule called "arvus". This means that one who is obligated in a certain mitzva has the power to fulfill someone else's halachic obligation. Rebbi Akiva Eiger [Orach Chaim 267] investigated the following question: Can a person who has not yet accepted upon himself the Shabbos, make Kiddush for one who has already accepted Shabbos. He suggests, that even though he has not yet begun Shabbos since he has the option of accepting Shabbos he is considered obligated and can therefore make kiddush for his friend.

From this Rebbe Akiva Eiger, the Imrei Bina [Shabbos 11] extracted the following halacha: A person who lives in Israel and finds himself outside of Israel on the second day of Yom Tov is considered obligated in kiddush to the extent that he could make Kiddush for a Jew who lives outside of Israel and is actually obligated to make Kiddush. Since the Israeli could theoretically decide to remain in Chutz L'aretz which would effectively obligate him in kiddush, he is considered obligated in the mitzva, thus enabling him to fulfill the non-Israeli's obligation. This would be comparable to the case of the Jew who could accept upon himself the Shabbos which enables him to make kiddush for someone else even before he actually does.

However if you think about it, there is a distinction between the two cases and they cannot be compared. What is the difference between them?

What The Universe Was Busy With This Week

Every morning we thank G-d for not being Gentile. I heard that this week the Miss Universe paegent [did I spell that right? I hope not] was shown on television and 600 MILLION Gentiles [I hope that all of the viewers were Gentile] could find nothing better to do with their time other than to watch this "event". I will assume that things have not changed since I was young and Miss Universe is NOT the young lady who proves that she has the most knowledge about how the Universe functions [physics, chemistry, biology, astronomy etc.]. Then I will thank G-d that I have a life. A Jewish life.

Also Torah. A Torah that teaches us the value of modesty. Against a world that rewards people for immodesty.

I also thank G-d that I live in a community where a woman is judged by such things as how much chesed she does and not by the shape of her figure.

Animal Rights - The Answer

The Imrei Emes answered that the pasuk in Bechukosai that implies that people eat first is talking about a case where the food available is FOOD MADE FOR HUMANS. It is forbidden to feed people food to animals, explains the Imrei Emes. However, in the event that the human will not be able to finish the food and it will spoil, it permitted to feed it to animals. So first eat it yourself and then you can feed the leftovers to your animal. "Hey Spot, have some of these pringles. They are DElicious. Betcha can't eat just one."

In Devarim the pasuk instructs us to feed our animals first where we have animal food on hand [in addition to human food].

I must point out that the Ohr Hachaim argues with the Imrei Emes and holds that human food [excluding meat] can be fed to animals. [See Darkei Tshuva Yoreh Deah Simman 60]

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Over 127 Million Reasons To Be Thankful

Something to think about in the morning when you say the bracha "Pokeach Ivrim" - You open up the eyes of the blind.

"Our eye contains about SEVEN MILLION cone-shaped color sensors, bringing us gleaming detail over a huge range of of lighting conditions. Whenever there is insufficient light for accurate color vision, the cone-shaped sensors deactivate themselves and about 120 MILLION rod-shaped, ultra-sensitive black-and-white sensors switch on. Another computer in our optic nerve accepts the signals from these 127 MILLION sensors, recodes them into more compact signals, and shoots the FEW HUNDRED THOUSAND nerve fibers leading to our brain at about a BILLION impulses per second. While all this is going on: the pupil is monitering and maintaining a consistent illumination level within our eye; a stereo focusing system is adjusting focal lengthsfor maximum image sharpness; and a sophisticated image-enhancer is clarifying tiny blurs in our vision caused by motion and/or darkness." [Permission To Believe, Page 48]

If someone were to ask me for a proof that G-d exists I would answer "Eye eye eye." [In a sing-song.]

Tonight a good friend revealed to me that he has been diagnosed with an eye disease called glaucoma. Please daven for him: Aryeh Leib ben Chenya [the "Ch" pronounced like Chaim].

Love #3: One But Seperate

"Therefore man shall leave his father and his mother and cling to his wife AND THEY SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH." [Breishis 2/24]

"Although the act of nurturing another's spiritual growth has the effect of nurturing one's own, a major characteristic of genuine love is that the distinction between oneself and the other is always maintained and preserved." [M. Scott Peck]

On the surface Mr. Peck's [wouldn't it be great if his first two names were Woody Wood] assertion seems to be contradicted by the Torah. But if we look at Rashi on the pasuk we see that he doesn't understand it to be teaching us that a husband and wife are literally one [see there and also see the other major commentaries]. So of course a husband and wife should be super-close and enjoy an intimate spiritual, emotional and physical bond [in that order] unmatched by anyone else. But part of love is appreciating and respecting differences and allowing the significant other to be his or her unique self.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Animal Rights

The Halacha is that first one must feed one's animal and only then can one eat oneself. [Actually it is probably better not to eat oneself. If you do there will be nothing left of you.] This is learned from the order of the pasuk. First it says [Devarim Ch. 11] "I will give grass in the field to your animals", and only then "And you will eat and be satiated." [Brachos 40a]. [Chinuch tip: If you have a child who insists on getting served first tell him that first is for animals. People go second...]

This Shavuos we commemorated the 59th yahrtzeit of the Imrei Emes, Rav Avraham Mordechai Alter Ztz"l the third Gerrer Rebbe [after whom my third child is named. Quick quiz: What is my third child's name?]. He notes that in Parshas Bechokosai [25,6] the Torah teaches us that the produce of the seventh year was given to us to eat "... YOU, your servant etc. and to YOUR ANIMALS..." WOOPS!! Here we are eating BEFORE our animals.

So we must understand. If the order of the pasuk determines who eats first, then why does one pasuk tell us that animals come first while the other pasuk teaches that humans come first.

So animal rights or no animal rights. Which one is it?

For Posterity: The Nafka Mina

[This is a continuation of the post entitled "For Posterity."]

A possible nafka mina between the two ways of understanding the brachos of kiddush would be in a case where the person omitted the bracha on the wine and just said the bracha on the sanctity of the day. If we view them as one unit then he has said nothing and must repeat them both all over again. If the two brachos are two seperate entities then when he realizes his mistake he can say the bracha on the wine and that is enough.

Love #2: Your Wife Is Your Life

Roses are red
Violets are blue
If your make your spouse feel loved
You are a really good Jew

[The title to the post rhymes so I wanted to prove that it is not a fluke and I really am poetic. Yes indeed, I was a poet, and I didn't even know it. I wanted to be a Cantor, but when I sang in shul I heard excessive banter. I wished to become an Engineer, but all of the schooling required instilled within me fear. I will stop, before to your Computer you give a bop.]

A person must learn to love his or her spouse. When dealing with any other person the rule is "Chayecha Kodmin" - your basic needs come first. However, when it comes to your spouse things are different. Your spouses needs are your needs! [This idea will be qualified in a future post, but that is one way of looking at the uniqueness of the marital bond.]

Our Rabbis say that one should love one's wife as much as he loves himself and he should respect her MORE than he respects himself. This requires HARD WORK, NEGATING ONE'S EGO AND SELF-SACRIFICE. But if one is successful in this task then I welcome him to the Garden of Eden right here on earth.

But please, please, don't publicize this post. It will put divorce lawyers out of business. I don't enjoy ruining other people's livelihoods.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Love #1

If someone would ask me to sum up the goal of the Torah in one word I would say - LOVE.

We must love G-d. I receive phone calls from young ladies [or their representatives] inquiring about boys who attended the Yeshiva. They about his character, learning, future plans etc. But I am never asked if he loves G-d. I don't think that the reason is that love of G-d is not quantifiable, because questions are asked about other areas of life that are similarly not quantifiable. The reason is that love of G-d is off the map. It is almost never discussed, analyzed or focused upon. It is for the perfectly righteous. Like fasting behab or dipping in the Mikve 310 times.

Not so!! It is an obligation that applies to each and every one of us!!! We say it at least three times a day. "Váhavta es Hashem Elokecha."

Let's try to work on it. For some pointers I would recommend the "Chovos Halevavos" in the "Gate Of Loving G-d".

In our next "Love" post we will talk about other types of love.

Friday, May 25, 2007

The Philosophical Implications Of Putting On Your Pants In The Morning

In this parsha we learn that a person who sins unintentionally is obligated to bring a korban. The question is, why is such a person guilty? The sin was done unintentionally, unwittingly, accidentally and by mistake!! Cut the poor guy some slack!!

When was the last time you left the house without your pants on? [Please forgive me for asking such a personal question.]



Oh, you are female. You wear a skirt. A long, modest skirt. You don't wear pants. G-d bless you!!!

O.K., Males, what about you? Do you ever leave the house wearing a skirt, or in your boxers? Never, right?! Why not?

Have you ever "accidentally" drank liquid laundry detergent instead of your morning orange juice? No. Why not?

Have you ever mistakenly, without thinking, deposited food in your nostrils [very close to your mouth are they] instead of the usual place. No way, Jose!

The reason is of course, that certain actions go so much against our natural instincts that it is simply inconceivable that we should err in those areas.

Sin should be similarly inconceivable. We must be instinctively distant from sin. When we do sin, albeit unintentionally, there is still some degree of guilt. Hence the Korban.

Good Shabbos My Sweetest Friends

Love and Blessings from the ancient, holy, City of Jerusalem

Elchanan ben Henna Miriam

Love - The Preface

"All ya need is love bum tam bum bum, all ya need is love, love is all ya need." [The Beatles]

Well, you also need at least bread and water. Also a nose. Very hard to function without a nose. A digestive tract. Really need a digestive tract. I personally would find it difficult to manage without one. [By the way, did you know that it is 30 feet long!! I am only about five ten and somehow the Good Lord has manufactured within me a tube much longer than any room in my apartment. My wife and 4 children also have one {Baruch Hashem}, so that is 180 feet of "tract". Yet, we all fit comfortably into my small living room.] So love isn't ALL we need.

But they had a point, those Beatles. Love is crucial. Everybody is looking to love and to be loved. So in the coming future I will bézras Hashem devote a number of posts to this crucial topic. Stay tuned.

So thank you John, Paul, Ringo and .... and.... Goodness gracious, who was the fourth Beatle? Well, I often lament the fact that I forget Torah, so at least I can be comforted in the knowledge that I forget irrelevant things as well.

P.S. Quick trivia: Who was the Beatle who lived across the street from me and was assassinated on December 8, 1980? [Did I give it away?]

Thursday, May 24, 2007

For Posterity

Today I received a letter from my 8th grade Rebbe in Manhattan Day School, Rabbi Chaim Gold Shlita. He sent me a chiddush which I would like to record here for posterity.

In Pesachim [114a] there is a dispute between Beis Hillel and Beis Shammai. Beis Hillel maintain that when making kiddush one must first make the bracha on the wine and only then make the bracha on the sanctity of the day. Beis Shammai argues and says that the bracha on the wine is made second.

In support of their position Beis Hillel marshals a very strong proof. There is a Biblical [see Zevachim 89a] pricinciple known as "Tadir V'sheaino Tadir, Tadir Kodem". [Whatever is more frequent is done first.] The bracha on wine could be made daily whereas Shabbos only comes around weekly. So it must be that the bracha on the wine is made first! How would Beis Shammai defend their position? The Gemara doesn't tell us.

Rabbi Gold suggests as follows: Rav Y.B. Soloveitchik said in the name of his grandfather Rav Chaim [in a different context] that according to Beis Hillel the bracha on the wine and the bracha on the sanctity of the day are TWO SEPERATE ENTITIES ["shtei cheftzaos shonos" in Brisker terminology], the former is a "birchas hanehenin" and the latter is a "birchas hamitzva". That being the case, the rule of "Tadir ..." would apply.

However, according to Beis Shammai, in the context of Kiddush the bracha on the wine is no longer merely a birchas hanhenin but adopts the status of a full fledged bircas hamitzva, as both brachos are considered "Shirah Al Hayayin" [see Pesachim 106]. If so the two brachos are considered ONE ENTITY ["cheftza achas"]. Beis Shammai would claim that when dealing with one entity composed of two elements the rule of "Tadir" is not operative.

Rabbi Gold mentioned a possible nafka minah between these two understandings of the two brachos of kiddush. Can you think of any? I will reveal what he said in a future post.

Special Opportunity

Sweetest friends!!

If you ever studied at Yeshivat HaKotel/Netiv Aryeh chances are that you learned from HaRav Podolsky. You almost certainly know that he is now in Shomayim basking in G-d's glory.

But his SEVEN orphans aren't basking!

On the Netiv website you can find all of the information about contributing to the fund set up for his children. To date ONLY A SMALL SUM OF MONEY HAS BEEN DONATED! Hashem loves orphans. Hashem also has special love for those who help orphans. May Hashem take care of you and your family in the merit of your generosity.

I am not asking you to give. I am asking you to take. You will be receiving a lot more than you will be giving.

Love and Blessings



The purpose of Galus is to spread us out among the Gentiles who remind us [not always so pleasantly] that we are different. It is not enough anymore for us to feel Jewish by having our own land, now we must feel Jewish by keeping Mitzvos and seeking out other Jews and building communities. [Rav Kook - Ayn Ayah, Shabbos Vol. 2 Page 2.]

So those who still live outside of the Holy Land must remember that they have important work to do until they are lucky enough to return home. Many people aren't aware of this task and choose to mimic the surrounding culture. We must constantly remind ourself that we are different and be proud of it!

Preventing Conflict - Answer

One simple answer is that the Noda BiYehudah said that there is no OBLIGATION to visit one's Rebbe on the holiday but would admit that it is a mitzva. If one does not do so then he has not done anything wrong but doing so would be very praiseworthy. That is why we find in the Gemara that Rabbis who lived after the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash fulfilled this mitzva.

[Tzitz Eliezer Vol. 17 and numerous others]

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Preventing Conflict

The Noda BiYehuda [94] said that after the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash there is no longer a mitzva to visit one's Rebbe on the holiday. [In my previous post I mentioned a differing opinion]. The Kava D'Kashyaysa [question 81 at the end] asked a vey strong question. The Gemara [10b, and see Chagigah 3a] relates that a number of Amoraim fulfilled this mitzva well after the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash.

The Noda BiYehuda knew that Gemara. The Noda BiYehuda knew every Gemara! How does his opinion not conflict with that Gemara?

Sneak Preview

You are invited. Netiv Aryeh, Shavuos night, 2:30 AM. A shiur that I am presently preparing will be delivered. Can't make it? I am really sorry. So here is a sneak preview.

The Gemara in Rosh HaShana [16b, today someone told me that he thought that this was merely a Chassidic custom. No sir!] says that a person is OBLIGATED to see his Rebbe on Yom Tov ["lihakbil p'nei Rabbo biregel"]. Many hold that this applies even in our day and age. Many say that women are obligated as well.

Bottom line: Great thing to do! I, im yirtze Hashem, am planning to go all the way to Tolna to fulfill this important [some say Biblical] mitzva. Fortunately for me, Tolna has been transplanted from the Ukraine to the Lower East Side and now to the Bucharim section of Jerusalem.

[For a comprehensive survey of this toic, see Encyclopedia Talmudit, erech Kavod Rabbo, Os Heh.]

If you don't have a Rebbe - then the best advice in the world that I can offer you is to find one! It doesn't matter if he is Chassidic, Litvish, Black Hat, Y.U. grad etc. But he must be a loving, caring G-d fearing Talmid Chacham!

Chag Sameach Beloved Friends!!!

Monday, May 21, 2007

"Sure Pop, But Give Me Your Credit Card"

The Halacha is that when honoring one's parents the money need not come from the child. If a parent wants the child to feed him or her - it is the parent and not the child who must foot the bill. "Mishel Av" - it is called by our Holy Talmud. [Even though "Michelle" would more likely be the name of the "Aim".]

Wait a minute!! Come Succos time, I must spend up until a fifth of all of my money [which would come to about $2.50] to acquire an esrog. For that matter, to fulfill any mitzvas aseh, one must spend up until a fifth. [To refrain from transgressing an aveirah one must spend EVERYTHING. Hey, I know people who will do an aveirah and PAY for it.]

Why is the mitzva of honoring one's parents different and no outlay of the child's funds is necessary? It is a mitzva to honor one's parents and it should be no different from any other mitzva.

Who Has More Fun

"It's better to laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints - the sinners have much more fun" - Billy Joel.

"Do not envy men of evil and don't desire to be with them" [Mishlei 24/1]

Billy - you sing nonsense! [Ally - you spent your childhood listening to nonsense!]

It is NOT better to "laugh with the sinners."

Sinners have bad marriages [they cheat on their wives]. It's not fun to have a bad marriage.

Sinners have dysfunctional families [bad marriages and divorce result in dysfunctional families]. It's not fun to have a dysfunctional family.

Sinners get in trouble with the law. Jail isn't fun.

Sinners are despised by many. It's not fun being despised.

Sinners have many character defects. Yes indeed, the Rambam says that a character defect is a sin. [Obviously nobody is perfect. But the "Saints" work on themselves.] It's not fun being a tempermental person. Or a envious person. Or a lazy person. Or a person who is consumed by physical desires that can never be satisfied. Not fun is an understatement. Frankly it makes a person miserable!

Sinners die. Sometimes young. No Billy, not "only the good die young." Sinners die young sometimes too. Heck, we all die young. Whenever I die, as far as I'm concerned, I'll be too young. After sinners die they have to face G-d. That can't be fun.

You know what? If any of us could choose between being a Jewish "Saint" [what we call a Tzaddik] who went to the gas chambers at a young age with "Shema Yisrael" on his lips and a Nazi Sinner who killed, tourtured and maimed, but lived until a ripe old age - we would all choose the former. No contest.

So I hope to become a Tzaddik. That in my mind would be the most fun. In this world and the next.

Sunday, May 20, 2007


A tremendous Mazel Tov to my beloved friends Mordechai Lerner and Gavriella Pike on their engagement. They are two very special people who have overcome many obstacles in life in order to reach this special day.

Happily enough, they will be getting married as well, bézrat Hashem.

My heartfelt bracha is that everyone "in the parsha" should SPEEDILY find their zivug! '

No my dear friends. No, no, no. It is NOT good for man [or woman for that matter] to be alone.

Hilchos Dating: An Alleyways Exclusive

There is no Hilchos Dating in the Shulchan Aruch so I have the opportunity to add my two cents [I hope what I say is worth more].

Hilchos Dating ["Tamar'iut] U'bo Zayin Simmanim - Kiminyan Sheva Brachos

Simman Aleph: Don't answer your cellphone on a date. It is impolite and sometimes downright rude. Besides the lack of respect such action exhibits to one's partner, it is also not beneficial to oneself. What in the world can be more important to you than determining with whom you are going to spend the rest of eternity!! Your complete focus must be on the other person. Calls can wait. [Rema - One notable exception would be a Doctor or Medic who might be needed for an emergency. You should also answer if you have an especially nervous mother. This should be explained to the date accompanied by an apology "Sorry, it's my Mom. She can't fall asleep unless I pick up and tell her that I am still alive."]

Simman Beis: If the other person is waiting for an answer as to whether the relationship will continue - don't make them wait. It is uncomfortable and nerve-wracking.

Simman Gimmel: [For young ladies] The societal norm is that the boy picks up the girl. Please don't make him shlep around too much. He has to get up early tomorrow for minyan and work/yeshiva/otherwise. If he lives in Brooklyn and will pick you up in Staten Island, don't ask to go somewhere in Conneticut.

Simman Dalet: [Particularly for young men] Remember, she is probably quite nervous and ill at ease. She doesn't have the self confidence [yet] to truly believe that she is a special daughter of Hashem. Make her feel good. Actively listen when she speaks. Make sure that she is not hungry or thirsty and if she is insist on buying her something. If she objects, tell her that it is an honor! After all the nice things that you have heard about her [and having met her and seeing that they are true] it would give you distinct pleasure to pay. It is boring [you say] always spending money on yourself. You don't have to take her to an expensive place. Even a slice of pizza or a bottle of juice could be enough. [Make sure that you learn the sugya of Hilchos Birchas HaPizza. She'll be awfully impressed].

Simman Heh: Be yourself! Many people don't believe that others would like them if they discovered their true selves. It is not true. As the refrain from a song from the 80's goes: "I love you just the way you are."

Simman Vav: Consult with older and wiser people about your relationships. Try to avoid taking counsel from your single friends. They have never been married so their scope is limited. Not every married person is the right person either. So make sure that it is someone who knows what they are talking about and won't lead you astray.

Simman Zayin: Avoid dark secluded places. Always remain in the public eye. We are all human. Vehamayvin yavin.


Saturday, May 19, 2007

Mostly Should Be Enough - Answer

Every little bit of shchita is considered shchita. However, in order to be considered a kosher shchita, a minimal shiur of the majority of two simmanim is required. Two simmanim is the complete shiur but the principle of "roobo kikoolo" allows us to suffice with a majority of two.

Hotzaá is different. We cannot say that Hotzaá has been done until the ENTIRE object is transferred to the second domain. Moving part of the object is not called a "semi-hotzaá." It is meaningless until everything is transferred. Here the shiur DEFINES the melacha. Until the whole shiur is reached nothing has been done.

In the shchita case, we say that shchita has been done from the very first cut. A KOSHER shchita is not accomplished until most of the two simmanim are cut. But unlike hotzaá, we can talk about shchita even before the requisite shiur is reached. That is why most of the two simmanim are enough.

[Rav Scheinberg and "Not So Old And Always Wise" in the comments section.]

Friday, May 18, 2007

Mostly Should Be Enough

There is a well known principle in halacha called "roobo kikoolo" [most is like the whole thing]. For example, when slaughtering an animal the shochet must cut two simmanim [two pipes, the kaneh and veshet - the food pipe and wind pipe. Shochtim don't smoke pipes - they cut ém]. If the majority of both simmanim were cut that is enough.

The Gemara in Maseches Shabbos [Perek Hamatznia] says that if one transfers part of an object from the private domain to the public domain, it is not considered Hotza'a until the ENTIRE object is moved to the public domain.

As they might have said in the park where I played ball as a kid "Yo babeh, why not?" Roobo kikoolo is the operative principle! [Somehow I doubt many of the "ballers" knew what roobo kikoolo is.] It should suffice if MOST of the object is in the public domain in order to constitute an issur of Hotzaá?

How To Commit A Large Number Of Transgressions All At Once - Answer

There is a difference between Shabbos and stealing. Melacha on shabbos is determined by the object. Was this object cooked or detached etc. So each shiur is a distinct transgression.

Whereas with respect to stealing the transgression is the damage or harm done to the victim. Gzeilah is one of the 24 primary damages [enumerated in the first perek of Bava Kamma] and the issur is determined by the fact that damage was done to the nigzal. In our case only one act of damage was perpetrated against the victim [and it is not relevant that five prutos were stolen].

Rav Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg Shlita

P.S. If I am not mistaken there is a very interesting article in the latest Beis Yitzchak on the topic of "Ribui B'shiurim". If it was printed please tell me. I have no access to it.

Nice - But Too Late

Something that has irked me for a loooong time.

After someone passes on everybody gathers and talks about what a WONDERFUL person he or she was!!

Hey!! Why wait till he drops? Tell him while he is is still alive. Let him enjoy the sweet feeling of being appreciated. Everyone needs some measure of admiration and approbation. It is like oxygen for the spirit.

Another point. If you tell a person that he is, for example, generous, then he will begin to act more generously. A compliment is a way to change someone's self-perception which in turn will change his behavior. [I have this weird, inexplicable urge to spell behavior like a Brit. So here goes. Behaviour. Thanks for indulging me. I have really nice trousers. But I no longer wear trainers. I really enjoy drinking tea in Boston. It reminds me to be a proud American free to spell behavio[u]r as I wish.]

It emerges then that by withholding complimentary words until after someone is gone, we are in fact stunting his emotional and spiritual growth.

One more thing. It's free!! But it is worth a great deal more than many things which cost us a great deal of money. So please compliment effusively. It will make the world a happier and morally greater place.

With Love and Blessings

Elchanan ben Henna Miriam

P.S. Great shalom bayis tip. Try complimenting your spouse hourly [at least]. Call from work to do so. See magic!!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Jewish Math

After writing the post about "Crastinating" I was reminded of the following story which I heard from the Rebbe Shlita.

The Imrei Emes (son of the Sfas Emes and leader of the Gerrer Chassidim from 1905 until 1948) once arranged to meet with another Rebbe at a certain time. The other Rebbe arrived FIVE minutes late. The Imrei Emes, who had been waiting with a number of Chassidim, was displeased ["makpid" in the vernacular]. "You wasted an hour of our time!"

"What do you mean?! I was only five minutes late!"

"Yes, but there are 12 of us waiting for you. 12 times 5 is 60. A complete hour!"

Which got me thinking.

If one speaks loshon hara to a group of 12 people, it is considered 12 seperate pieces of loshon hara. If the loshon hara is about a group - then multiply the number of people listening by the number of people spoken about - OUCH!

On the positive side - if one teaches an hour of Torah to ten people it was really ten hours of Torah. BIG STUFF!

That is the "Coach HaRabbim" the power of many people. [No relation to Coach Harabbim (pronounced with a guttural "H" and an Arabic accent) who is a Muslim volleyball coach at the University Of Iowa. I made that up.]

We can influence the masses. Let's do it!!

How To Commit A Large Number Of Transgressions All At Once

There is an argument amongst the Rishonim with respect to the prohibition of "marbeh b'shiurim". If one cooks food on Shabbos which equals the amount of one grogeres [dried fig] he has transgressed one prohibition. But what if there are two figs worth of food in the pot? Has he done two aveiros? Three figs = three aveiros? That is "marbeh b'shiurim."

The Rashba [Chullin 14] says that no extra biblical prohibitions are involved since only one action is being performed. The Ran [Beitza Perek beis] begs to differ and claims that every shiur of grogeres constitutes a seperate issur dioraisa.

The Ran is problematic. If one steals from 5 prutos from someone else the halacha is that he has done only one aveira. But if the Ran is correct then the thief should be guilty of five issurei dioraisas?

How would the Ran resolve this question?

I love language.

For me, English is a second language [that explains my faulty grammer]. My first language was baby talk. I loved it! "Ga Ga" had a multiplicity of connotations. So simple to say and yet so rich with meaning.

What I love most about language is the liberty I take in making up new words. My high school English teacher would often scold me for various offenses [she was right] but I no longer have to worry about what she will think of me. For one, I am no longer in high school. Secondly - she is dead.

This is what I worked out with a friend: A person should not procrastinate [defer action]. But one should also not antecrastinate [take action too early]. Rather one should crastinate [take action in the proper time].

It takes a lot of wisdom to know how to be a successful crastinater. When to get married, when to speak to somebody about a sensitive issue, when to move residences etc. etc.

Chazal say that Bat-Sheva really was destined to be with King David - he just jumped the gun. Adam really was supposed to eat from the tree of knowledge! However he was meant to wait until Shabbos and he ate on Friday. Examples abound.

That is the meaning of the traditional Jewish blessing "Bsha'a Tovah" - everything at the right time.

Think about how this applies to your life.

It does.

For whatever reason my email address which used to appear on my profile is no longer there. A conspiracy theory is circulating. I won't bore you with the details.

So for anyone interested it is and my telephone number is 02-6289148 and 646-461-1628. I am not such an important person, so I return all calls and emails. I hope that I never become an important person.....

With blessings and abiding friendship

Elchanan ben Henna Miriam

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

A Blessed Day Is Near

In our shmoneh esrei we say "baruch atah Hashem BONEH Yerushalayim" - Blessed are you Hashem who IS BUILDING Yerushalayim [present tense]. It would have been more appropriate to say "yivne Yerushalayim" [future tense]. Yerushalayim will be built in the future?!

The commentaries explain that in fact Yerushalayim is in a constant process of being built. Every prayer is a stone, every act of care displayed towards a fellow Jew is another brick. Soon, please G-d, we are going to have the whole thing!! Jewish dominion over Yerushalayim is one significant step in this process.

The "Lev Chaim" [Vol.2 Simman 42] says that when Moshiach comes we will make 5 blessings upon seeing him. Here they are [preceded of course by "Baruch atah ... haolam"]:

1] Go'al Yisrael.

2] Shehechianu V'kiyimanu etc.

3] Shecholak Michachmaso Liraiav.

4] Shecholak Mikvodo Liraiav.

5] Chochom Harozim. [Bracha said upon seeing 600,000 Jews]

To paraphrase a line from a popular movie in the 1990's: Wish for him and he will come!!

Alleyways Goes Vocal

Audio shiur update:

In the parsha section two shiurim on parshas Bamidbar were just added. I enjoyed them. I hope you do too.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Yom Yerushalayim

Today is Yom Yerushalayim. I get excited on this day because for the last 16 years I have been living in the Old City of Jerusalem and I LOVE it. I do my best never to leave, even overnight. The Midrash compares Jerusalem to our mother. I feel eternally connected to Jerusalem as to a mother. I would not have had this merit if not for the great miracles of 1967.

"Yerushalayim is surrounded by hills and Hashem surrounds His people forever" [Tehillim 125/2]. Rav Yechezkel Abramsky ztz"l [he was a Rav in Russia, then served as a Rabbinic Judge in London and at the end of his life moved to Israel and lived in the Bayit Vegan neighborhood of Jerusalem] explained that just as it is completely obvious that Jerusalem is surrounded by hills, so too it is equally clear and obvious that Hashem surrounds and protects Jerusalem.

We feel it daily. Hundreds of millions of hostile Arabs against us, a corrupt and often inept government on our side - and yet we remain strong and safe in Jerusalem.

May we see the complete rebuilding faster than you can say "Hey, wasn't that plowshare a sword just a second ago?!"

If The Succah Needs A Mezuza, It Isn't A Succah?! - Answer

I once borrrowed my Rebbe's copy of the Kaba D'Kashyasa and saw that he wrote the following answer: What defines a succah as a temporary dwelling is the schach. That is why it may have solid permanent metal walls. The schach cannot be susceptible to tumah.

As far as the laws of mezuza [and tzaraas] are concerned the WALLS are the determining factor. If the walls are permanent then one must place a mezuza and the house would be susceptible to tumas tzaraas.

That is how you can have a kosher succah that is obligated in mezuza and susceptible to tumah. Temporary, not susceptible to tumah schach, coupled with permanent walls.

The Rebbe Shlita concluded his short note with the word "U'pashut".

Just When You Thought That Eating Cheese Cake Was A Simple Matter

Shavuous is coming up!! That means that a "delicious" question presents itself: What bracha do we make on cheese cake?

Answer: It depends.

If it there is no crust and the flour in the cake is only there to keep it together ["lidabek"] then the bracha is shehakol. [Of course the same would apply if it was baked without any flour.]

If there is a very thin crust then the bracha is also shehakol.

If the cake was baked with a significant amount of flour then one makes a mezonos.

If there is a large crust that was baked together with the cheesy filling then one makes a mezonos.

If the crust and filling were baked seperately and then combined one makes a mezonos, eats a little bit of the crust, followed by a shehakol and consumption of some of the cheese filling.[Based on Piskei Tshuvos Page 818 and Vzos Habracha Page 250 in my edition.]

When in doubt you can take a cookie and make a mezonos [don't forget to eat it]. Then, have a glass of milk preceded by a shehakol. Now you can enjoy the cheese cake in good conscience. If you are overweight, have in mind to transfer the extra poundage to yours truly. I am told by my mother that I need it.

Conclusion: Eating cheese cake requires vast halachic and culinary knowledge.

Monday, May 14, 2007

If The Succah Needs A Mezuza, It Isn't A Succah?!

Recently I introduced [to those unfamiliar with it] the Sefer Kava D'kashyaisa. Here is question 88.

The halacha is that a succah must be a temporary dwelling [diras arai] and if it is a permanent dwelling [diras keva] it is disqualified.

In contrast to succah, the obligation to place a mezuza on a house applies only if the house is a permanent dwelling [Rambam Hil. Mezuza 6/1]. Similarily, a house can become tamei with tzaraas only if it is a permanent dwelling. [See Rambam Hil. Tumas Tzaraas 14/6]

We now must understand the opinion of the Rabbis who say that one must place a mezuza in quarters that function all year round as a house and before succos the ceiling is removed and schach is placed down. The obligation of mezuza applies even on succos when the area functions as a succah. [See Pischei Teshuva Y"D 286/13]

But if it is necessary to put in a mezuza that means that the succah is a permanent dwelling and can become tamei with tzaraas, and we know that if a succah is susceptible to tumah it is not a kosher succah [See Mishna, Succah 1/4]?

So how is a succah that is obligated in mezuza considered a kosher succah. Such a succah has the status of a permanent dwelling rendering it susceptible to tumah, which is disqualifies it as a kosher succah.


Pro-Choice [The Right Choice]

Are children a burden? YES, I answer emphatically!

So, is a wallet STUFFED with hundred dollar bills. But we are willing to bear such a burden. With great joy.

Ladies, isn't it burdensome to wear a diamond necklace that is absolutely STUNNING? With beautifully set diamonds, some of which are the size of ice-cubes [if you like that style. But you can choose any such necklace that is to your liking]. But they don't melt! Wouldn't it be easier to have nothing weighing down your neck. But you will manage.

Children are a burden. But they are the greatest blessing on G-d's wonderful planet. When G-d tells both Adam and Noach to have children the pasuk says "He BLESSED them saying, be fruitful and multiply." Witness people who are unable to have children. They will spare no expense and anguish [both physical and emotional] in order to conceive.

But having children is not only a blessing. It is also a commandment. It is our obligation to form a partnership with G-d in the creation of a human being.

Very often young, frum couples wish to postpone this blessing/obligation. Halachically this is problematic, to say the least [barring extenuating circumstances]. But putting that aside, I think that such an attitude betrays a lack of appreciation of the centrality of child-bearing in the life of a Jew.

I don't think that the question should be "Should I have a child while earning my degree?" but "Should I get earn my degree while having a child?."

Bearing children must be a "no brainer" as they say today. Nothing else on Earth can compete with the meaning that having children adds to one's life. Not a degree or a job or financial concerns that in my experience [in today's day and age in our communities] are always blown out of proportion.

One more point. Have you ever met a Jewish mother who expressed regret at having a child?! "Melvin, I wish that you were never born. Then I could have spent more time playing bridge with my girlfriends and less time taking you to the playground."

Children are the BEST. But we can't ever forget those who happily make so many sacrifices for their children. The parents. But let's call a spade a spade. Who is ALWAYS there for the child?

The mother.

So thanks Mom. I love you.

Sunday, May 13, 2007


O.K. here is the scene. You are a single guy [ladies please make everything I say gender appropriate for yourselves] and someone suggests a girl for you. She is pretty, intelligent [and some say pretty intelligent], has lots of personality, is modest [in dress and character], comes from a super family [rumor has it that her father owns a few dozen buildings in Manhattan. He also never misses a day of Daf-Yomi. Even more significant - he has never been arrested for tax evasion, money laundering or otherwise]. "Ala mailois" as they say in Yiddish. Sounds great!

Just one thing. She is, well, like, an idolater.


Yes, yes. You heard correctly.

Still interested?

The Zohar and the Rambam both say [independently - the Rambam never saw the Zohar] that if one gets angry it is like worshipping idols. She gets angry sometimes. No big deal? Yes big deal!!

My personal problem: I am already married to a very pious woman. I have to make sure that her husband is not akin to an idol worshipper.

Not a simple task.

Jewish Geography

The Wailing Wall. The Western Wall. The Kotel Hamaaravi. The Koisel. Call it what you want, but one thing is for sure - Jews have been praying there for many, many years, while hoping that one day soon they will be able to serve Hashem in the Beis Hamikdash.

Where was the Beis Hamikdash? Right where the Temple was. In the exact same spot! Yes, but where was that? I will be Jewish and answer a question with a question. Why is this information important? Answer: Because when we daven at the Wall we must face the place where the Beis Hamikdash once stood.

This is where it gets complicated. Some people hold that the Mikdash stood where the Al-Aksa mosque currently stands. According to this opinion we must angle ourselves to the left when we daven. However others maintain that the Mikdash was in between the Al-Aksa mosque [on the left] and the other mosque [on the right. For lack of a better name I'll call it "Achmad Jihad"]. According to this opinion we should face forward when davening.

The Tshuvos V'hanhagos [Vol. 3 Simman 39] prefers the latter understanding.

True Kindness

There is a strange expression that we all use. "Gemilus Chessed." Chessed is kindness. Gemilus means to "wean" which is defined as "withdrawing from something." What does weaning have to do with performing kindness?

From here we learn what true kindness is. Helping somebody in such a way that he will no longer need kindness. Example: Giving them a job so that he will not need to ask for charity. Teaching someone to drive so that they willl no longer have to ask for rides. So in effect we must learn to WEAN people off kindness. There are some people who enjoy helping others and would prefer that the other person continue to need help. That is not the Torah way.

[Rav Moshe Schapiro Shlita]

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Implied Or Explicit

Have you seen my socks?

When I saw the following question I jumped out of my socks!! I don't have an answer.

The Mishna Brura [489/33] says that if one forgets to count the Omer at night he can still count during the next day [without a bracha].

The Shaar Hatzioon [also written by the Chofetz Chaim, no. 43] tells us that this halacha can be INFERRED from the Rambam. The Rambam rules [Tmidim Umusafim Ch. 7] that if one reaps the Omer offering during the day it is kosher. So, says the the Shaar Hatzioon, since the Torah relates the counting of the Omer to the cutting of the Omer, if the cutting can be done during the day, it makes sense that the counting can also be done during the day.


The problem is that the Rambam writes EXPLICITLY [Ch. 7 Halacha 23] that the Omer can be counted during the day. So why does the Chofetz Chaim have to INFER this halacha from the Rambam if he says it explicity?! [The question is asked in Aliyos Moshe, Page 136]

Friday, May 11, 2007

Walking The Walk After Talking The Talk

"Im Bichukosai Talaichu" - If you walk in my statutes. Rashi explains that the pasuk is telling us that we must toil in Torah. But why "talaichu" - "walk"? We "sit and learn" we don't "walk and learn"?

According to Chassidus the lesson is that even when closing our books, we must continue to walk , act and live according to the principles of the Torah which we have learned.

"Im Bichukosai TALAICHU"!!

Good Shabbos!

Heart And Mind

Rebbe Elazar Ben Arach was a greater scholar than all of the sages of his time combined!! [See Avos 2/12] Boy, could he learn. Phenomenal!!!

Was it merely intellectual prowess? No sir! He had a GOOD HEART. [See Avos 2/13] One of the prerequisites for excellence in Torah is a good character. That is why we are supposed to spend the 49 days before the receiving of the Torah improving our character.

Good Shabbos My Beloved Friends!!!!!!!!

[Based in part on Alei Shor]

Standing Tall

Tonight a shiur was given connecting Shavuous and this weeks parsha. The issue of humility and self esteem was discussed. I enjoyed it. I hope that I was not alone!

The shiur can be found in the "Chagim" section and is entitled "Shavuous: Standing Tall".

Save A Rabbi From A Holy Roaring Lion - Answer

Rav Elchonon Wasserman explained the Raavad as follows [Kovetz Hayaros 40]: It is impossible to wear the priestly garments without wearing shatnez. The avnet is made from shatnez and there is no way around it. We can therefore posit, that the wearing of shatnez is not merely overridden [is that a word? If it wasn't, it is now. Welcome to the english language "overridden"!] by the mitzva of wearing the priestly garments but becomes completely permitted [in Talmudic terminology the issur of shatnez in this case is not just "dchuyah" but rather "hutrah"]. That is why the bigdei kehunah can be worn even when the kohein is "off duty".

Tzitzis CAN theoretically be worn without shatnez. Therefore, when the Torah permitted us to wear tzitzis with shatnez, it was done with some reservation ["dchuyah"]. This means that only when a mitzva is actually being fullfilled can one wear tzitzis with shatnez. But at night when there is no mitzva, it is forbidden.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Torah U'Madda

Fred Hoyle, an English astrophysicist once said "There is a coherent plan to the universe, though I don't know what it's a plan for."

Excellent!! The job of science is to demonstate how the world has order. However it leaves us clueless as to the purpose of that order.

That is where the Torah makes her grand entrance. Torah is purpose. Torah is meaning.

Thanks Freddy!

Vote For Torah

If you have a minute,please go to and vote for your favorite Torah blog. Since the voting began, numerous people who never heard of alleyways have discovered us. So be a partner in the dissemination of Torah and vote. [It really doesn't have to be alleyways. Whomever you vote for will be a vote for Torah.]

Reminds me of the old joke about the shul Rabbi who was ill in the hospital. A number of the congregants came to visit him. One of them said "Rabbi, good news!! The board has voted by a count of 9 against 6 to wish you a speedy recovery."

How Are Jewish Hands Akin To Plants? They Both Need To Be Watered

Yesterday someone asked me a very interesting question. We know that there cannot be an chatzitza [interposition] on one's hand when he washes Netilas Yadaim. What about a splinter?

Answer: If it protrudes from the skin then it is a chatzitza. If it is embedded in the skin then it is not a chatzitza. [But it is not very pleasant.]

While we are on the topic: If a fingernail is mostly detached then it is not a chatzitza. But if it is partially detached [but mostly connected], then it is.

Cream: If it is a thick cream it is a chatzitza. A liquidy cream is not.

Rings: If a woman removes her ring when she does her work then it must be removed for netilas yadaim. But if she keeps it on all the time then it need not be removed.

The bracha of al netilas yadaim should be made BEFORE the drying of the hands.

There is no mitzva to shpritz the person standing next to you with the water on your hands.

Don't Be Quick To Ascribe Mistakes To Great People

I am infatuated with the Sfas Emes. Rabbi Yehuda Aryeh Leib Alter [died in 1905 at the age of 59] was a standout Chassidic Rebbe. His Torah's are deep and delicious. When he was 19 [!!!!] and his grandfather R' Yitzchak Meir passed away, the Chassidim wanted him to take the mantle of leadership. He refused and instead followed the Alexander Rebbe. When the Alexander passed away four years later he could no longer refuse and he led tens of thousands of Chassidim until his passing. His mastery of Torah wes legendary. He left manuscripts on all of Shas, Rambam etc. etc. But almost everything was lost in the embers of the Holocaust. Baruch Hashem we still have his commentary on Chumash, Pirkei Avos and a few masechtos [don't try learning kodshim without him].

In his commentary to Parshas Bechukosai [תרל"ה ד"ה ורדפו]he says a delightful idea. The Mishna that stresses the importance of arguing for the sake of heaven [machlokes leshem shomayim] and the mishna that stresses the importance of gathering for the sake of heaven [knessiah leshem shomayim] are juxtaposed. That teaches us that when we argue the ultimate goal should be a greater unity. Lovely.

Problem: If you look in Pirkei Avos you will see that they are not juxtaposed [nor are they next to each other]!!!


But c'mon, there must be some explanation. Someone challenged the Tolna Rebbe many years ago with this error that does not befit someone of the Sfas Emes' stature.

The Rebbe Shlita answered that if you look in AVOS D'REBBI NOSSON you will find that the two mishnyaos are in fact right next to each other.


P.S. I am already anticipating that someone will challenge the title of this post by demonstrating that even great people have made mistakes. Indeed, nobody is perfect. But we should not be QUICK to assume that a gadol made a mistake. Sometimes it is the critic who is mistaken. והמבין יבין

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

The Best Things In Life Are Free: G-d, Love .... And Torah

New Audio Shiurim:

1] Tolna Rebbe on how a Jew eats [and why people die young] - Positively enlightening. First shiur in the machshava section.

2] "Stranger" - How to feel close to Torah. Machshava section beneath the eulogy of Rav Podolsky.

3] "Shalom Shalom" - Rashi says that saying "Shalom" and greeting others is a bad thing. This seems to fly in the face of what we all know that saying shalom is a great thing! Find out what Rashi means. Right next to "Stranger" in the machshava section.

4] Smoking Mountain: Understanding the three realms of kedusha, what is the relationship between mount sinai and shmitta etc. Parsha section - Parshas Behar.

Save A Rabbi From A Holy Roaring Lion

The Gemara teaches us that even though normally one is not allowed to wear shatnez, that rule is suspended in the case of tzitzis. The mitzva of tzitzis overrides the prohibition of shatnez [עשה דוחה לא תעשה]. What about nighttime? At night we are exempt from the mitzva of tziztis. Would it be permitted to wear tzitzis that contains shatnez at night? The Raavad maintains that it is forbidden. There is no mitzva presently in force to override the prohibition. Rabbeinu Tam argues and says that it is nevertheless permitted.

The Shaágas Aryeh [simman 30] roared as follows against the Raavad: You [the Raavad] rule that a Kohein is allowed to wear the priestly garments [which contain shatnez] even when NOT performing the priestly duties.

Uh oh!

There is no mitzva presently in force to override the prohibition of shatnez. Yet you still permit the kohein to wear shatnez. Why is that any different from tzitzis at night which you forbid?

Please save the Raavad.

The Limits Of Kingship

The Halacha is that when one says the word "Echad" in Shema, his intention should be that G-d is King of the heavens, the earth and all four directions.

Reb Yisrael Salanter added that crowning G-d over the heavens, earth and all four directions is much easier that crowning G-d as King over yourself. Let G-d rule the world. Just leave ME alone.....

A wise man, that Reb Yisrael!!!

What Would Ricky Henderson Say? He Made A Living Off Stealing - Answer

What would Ricky Henderson say? He probably would tell you that Talmud was never his best subject. But, he was once playing in Yankee Stadium and he saw a Jewish fellow with a beard. Ask him.

Thanks Rick.

Anyway the Tolna Rebbe suggested as follows [this is my understanding of what he wrote very succinctly]: There is a rule that whenever the Rabbis make a decree they model it after Biblical law [כל דתקון רבנן כעין דאורייתא תקון ]. This would only apply to a decree that is purely Rabbinic and not based on the Torah. [I add that the rationale would be, that the purpose of the rule "kol ditikun" etc. is to strengthen the Rabbinic law. That is only necessary when the law has no biblical basis. But if we know that the Rabbinic law is rooted in the Torah, it is solid without any outside help. Hence, we don't need to model it after the Torah law. But see Sdei Chemed Vol. 3 page 317 and on.]

Lulav on the second day [and on] is based on the Torah commandment of taking lulav on the first day. Therefore, the Torah rule of disqualifying a mitzva habaá b'aveirah would not apply.

Kriah, however, is purely Rabbinic in nature. Hence, the rule of כל דתקון דרבנן כעין דאורייתא תקון would apply and a mitzva habaá báveirah such as ripping a stolen garment would be disqualified [as it would with respect to a Torah law].

I must add that at least two of the answers in the comments section were also offered up by various Talmudic Sages, so kol hakavod to the commenters!

P.S. Baseball is weird. They give people rewards and call them "King" ["Stolen Base King"] because of their success at gezela. I was always taught that stealing was wrong.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Transforming Your Car Into A Mitzva-Mobile

When I first came to yeshiva almost two decades ago, I was lucky enough to have a very special Rebbe named Rav Chaim Flom. He had a very unique mitzva which he performed with great frequency. He would stop his car at bus stops and ask if he could give anyone a ride. Many years ago he estimated that he has given over TEN THOUSAND people a ride in his car. [Today I would guess that he is well above thirty thousand.]

Rabbi Flom is not a cab driver. He is a Jew who wants to help others. Today I was reminded of him. I was walking while laden with packages in the sweltering heat and I was thinking to myself: "I got a long way to go....." Then a man [who recognized me from Tolna] stopped and offered me a ride. MESSIAH!!!!!!!!!!!!! The whole ride was two minutes but boy did it help!

So next time you are driving and have room in your car - stop and offer a someone a ride. YOU DON'T HAVE TO GO OUT OF YOUR WAY FOR THEM. You can drop them off on your way, bringing them closer to their destination.

If you are worried about terrorists disguised as Jews - give them a quick quiz. Say something like "lecha dodi.." and if they finish it off they are Jewish. But sometimes they are so obviously Jewish [e.g. woman in tichel in religious neighborhood accompanied by three little children with peyos], that there is nothing to fear.

Try it. I think you will like it.

What Would Ricky Henderson Say? He Made A Living Off Stealing

There was a tiny little shtetl in Poland called "Kintzk". It was about as large as an Olympic Size swimming pool. But there was a towering Torah giant who dwelled therein named Rav Yoav Yehoshua Weingarten. He was a Chassidic Rabbi and a student of the Avnei Nezer. His two famous works are "Chelkas Yoav" and "Kava D'Kashyasa". The latter is a collection of 103 [gematria of kav - which is a measurement] "bomb kashas". They aroused quite a stir in Europe and spawned an impressive amount of literature. Here is question 96 for the Torah Scholars who visit Alleyways to ponder.

The Shulchan Aruch [749] rules that if one uses a stolen lulav on the second day [and on] he has fulfilled his obligation. The rationale is that the mitzva of lulav on the second day is only Rabbinic and Tosaphos maintains that with respect to Rabbinic mitzvos there is no problem of "mitzva habaá baáverh" [a mitzva that is generated by an averah].

However in the laws of kriah [rending one's garments upon hearing about the passing of a relative, Yoreh Deah 340/29] he rules that if one rends a stolen garment he has NOT fulfilled his obligation. Hey!! What's the problem?! Kriah is only a Rabbinic mitzva.

[It goes without saying that it is forbidden to steal but the question is if one did steal can he fulfill his mitzva with the stolen object. That is the seeming contradiction pointed out by Rav Weingarten.]

When The Torah Is Lifted It Is aBOWt Time

When the sefer Torah is raised ["hagbah"] the halacha is that we are supposed to see the letters on the Torah and BOW DOWN [134/2]. The latter is generally not done.

The Holy Klausenberger Rebbe ztz"l [Divrei Yatziv 1/66] suggests that maybe bowing must only be done on Simchas Torah when a special hagba is done with the Torah facing the congregation [as opposed to a regular hagba where the Torah faces the Magbia]. Alternatively, maybe we don't bow down anymore because the Gemara says that we are not experts in "chaseiros and yeseiros" [such as extra or missing vav's and yud's]. Therefore we don't want to bow down before a possibly invalid Torah.

Bottom line: Bow!! [See Har Tzvi from Rav Tzvi Pesach Frank 1/64].



Elchanan Ben Henna Miriam

Monday, May 07, 2007



Send Your Memories

Anyone who has memories or thoughts about Rav Podolsky ztz"l should send them to They are planning to make a booklet for his children so they will know in the future who their father was and what he accomplished in his life.

Dry Bread Can Be Delicious!!!

"Better a piece of dry bread with peace in it than a quarrellous house filled with meat." [Mishlei 17/1]

So many people spend 10,12,14 hours a day ensuring that there will be meat in the home but don't have a few minutes to ensure that the house will be filled with peace, serenity and warmth.

My advice:

1] Get rid of the T.V.

2] Don't bring newspapers into the home [if you need to know what is going on in the world you can listen to the radio for a few minutes a day. "You give us 22 minutes, we'll give you the world"].

3] Try to get a job that has normal hours. Even if the pay is not tops.

Now what are you going to do? Spend time with other family members!! I never met a person who said "I love my dad, he is always up on current events". "I have a great mom, she never misses an episode of ..." "My husband is terrific, whenever I want to speak to him he is reading the sports section".

Spouses and kids need time. Not only quality time but quantity time!!

All of the money in the world will not make a person happy if his family life is dysfunctional.


Hilchos Slicing

Many people have the custom to slice off the end of the challah and avoid eating it. Rav Chaim Knievsky Shlita who is undoubtedly one of the most knowledgable Jews on earth offers the following source for this custom:

Yes, indeed. There is none! In his father's home [The Steipler Gaon] the end of the challah was eaten, and he was a VERY religious man.

However there is an authoritative source for the slicing of the foreskin off a baby boy.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Can Kohanim Eat On Yom Kippur? - Answer

Rav Elchanan Wasserman [Kovetz Shiurim Pesachim 197] explains that the law that a sacrifice must be kosher [min hamuttar liýisrael] means that the food itself must be intrinsically permitted. But if the food is only forbidden for an external reason such as Yom Kippur ["yoma ka-garim"], it may be brought as a korban.

Getting High In Shul

The Gemara in Maseches Shabbos [11a] clearly states that the shul must be the tallest building in town. The Shulchan Aruch [150/2] codifies this ruling. Yet, I am not aware of even one shul anywhere which meets this standard. Why don't we keep this halacha??

The sefer Orach Neéman suggests that the reason the shul must be the tallest building is because that is considered the most beautiful. However, in our day and age when a building's beauty is not measured by it's height but by other standards, it need not be the highest. But according to this understanding the shul must be the most beautiful in town. I am not sure if that is always the case.

Saturday, May 05, 2007


This is a reprint of a post from last June which I fell all the more acutely after having recently lost two good friends to cancer.

I have a problem. Cancer. Don't worry about me. I am healthy Baruch Hashem. But many, many people are suffering from this horrible illness. So horrible that Jews refer to it euphemistically "Yenna Machala" "The Big C" etc. Too horrible even to pronouce - and people experience this Gehenom as a daily reality. Good people. Tzaddikim. Children. Sweet innocent children. In the Holy of Holies there were two cherubs who had the face of children. Children are the Holy of Holies. And they suffer so. Holy jewish mothers. Metaphorically compared to the Shechina Hakedosha. Instead of sending off their little angels to school in the morning with a kiss and hug they languish in a hospital bed. Unsure if they will be alive for their children's weddings - or next birthday.

My heart is breaking. If you have a heart of flesh and not of stone so is yours.
What can we do?

My Holy Rebbe The Tolna Rebbe Shlita related the following story. About 10 years ago the Gerrer Rebbe Rav Pinchas Menachem Alter Zatzal went to the Kotel to daven. He went at a time when he thought that his chassidim would not be there so that he would not be mobbed. It didn't help. People recognized him [with the preponderece of Rebbe cards it's hard to remain anonymous...] and crowded around him to request brachos. He patiently listened to each and every supplicant. Most people gave him the name of cancer patients for whom to daven.

During the car ride home the Gerrer Rebbe repeated the names he had just heard [and there were many!!!] beseeching Hashem for a Refuah Shleima. Then he turned to the Tolna Rebbe and said :" Do you know why there is so much cancer in the world? Cancer can start with one tiny cancerous cell. All the surrounding cells are perfectly healthy. Then the cancer begins to spread and afflicts the healthy cells. Jealousy works the same way. One person feels jealous about his friends success and then destroys him with negative feelings and Ayin Raá. I FEAR THAT UNTIL WE RID OURSELVES OF THIS SPIRITUAL MALIGNANCY THE PHYSICAL MANIFESTATION WILL CONTINUE TO RUN RAMPANT".

I could never make such a claim but the Gerrer Rebbe who had Ruach Hakodesh [documeted but not our topic] could and did. "Ayin Hara motzi es haodom min haolam". Kipshuto.

Something to think about next time you are inclined to feel jealous.

Instead we can try to have an Ayin Tovah. "Isn't it wonderful that so and so is so wealthy/ found such a great shidduch [even if I am single!!!]/has everything going for him" [or so you think]/ etc. etc.

Number two - Cry. [If your are male it might be more difficult, but it can be done.] Hashem loves our tears. He counts them. Believe that your tears can alleviate pain better than any pain-killer. They heal. Doctors are only fallible human beings. Hashem can do the job with ease. But, kvyochol, he needs our tears first. Then the doctors will be successful. If we don't cry when the choleh is still alive then ... well I've attended far too many funerals and oh how the tears flow. Like waterfalls. Hashem Yerachem.

One more thing. As long as you and your loved ones are healthy - appreciate it .
It is a gift too often seen as such only after it is lost.

Best of health to all of you!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Love and Blessings

Elchanan ben Henna Miriam

Maybe It Is Better Not To Ask - My Suggested Answer

This is my understanding of the Halacha [but ask a posek to be certain. If I am wrong - please tell me].

If one is curious as to whether or not a shiur was interesting - it is better not to ask, as this might lead to unnecessary lashon hara.

If one wants to know in order to achieve a practical benefit [such as attending the shiur in the future] I would suggest that he ask what was said at the shiur. By the content of the reply and the level of excitement exhibited by the replier one can usually determine if it was a good shiur or not.

If I were asked such a question I would be Jewish and answer a question with a question - "Why do you want to know?" If he answers "Just curious", then I would answer something positive which is also true, such as "Very engaging delivery" or "I could tell that he really prepared well. I should learn from him to prepare as well." [The shiur was given on a very shallow level but I will keep that information to myself.]

If the questioner wants to know for some practical benefit [such as attending in the future] I would say "What are your other options if you don't attend?" If the answer is "Learn with a chavrusa", I would answer [if the shiur was in fact inferior] "You could definitely benefit from the shiur but I think that you would get more out of a chavrusa".

Friday, May 04, 2007

Frozen Kallah - No. Frozen Challah - Yes

One of my favorite marriage tips is that one should look for a kallah who is a warm person.

What about your challah. Is it O.K. for your challah to be cold? Why not?! Of course it is fine. But what about a FROZEN challah. We must have two challahs for each of the two Shabbos meals ["lechem mishna"]. Is it permitted to use frozen challahs right out of the freezer? They are not edible!

Also, the halacha is that frozen meat is muktza on Shabbos. So maybe frozen challah is muktza, too.

Answer [in Haitian]: No muktza mon. Can use for lechem mishna mon. [Indeed, I add, we eat the lechem mishna in memory of the mon.] No problem. [See Tzitz Eliezer Vol. 14 Simman 40. Full disclosure - I am in LOVE with the Tzitz Eliezer. My wife knows and has been very accepting.]

Good Shabbos my beloved friends!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Eulogy for Rav Podolsky

A eulogy for Rav Podolsky was given tonight in the yeshiva. It is the first shiur in the machshava section after the list of the Rebbe's shiurim. I humbly recommend it.

It's downstairs neighbor in the machshava section was also just posted. It is entitled "Raw Desire" and is based on the Sfas Emes in Parshas Emor.

Also if you go to you can read a post about Rav Podolsky along with a fine story about the meaning of suffering from my friend R' Shlomo Hubscher.

Interestingly enough only about five or ten minutes before I learned of the passing of Rav Podolsky I posted the piece about dealing with suffering. After I heard the sad news I once again became aware of the age old truth: It is much easier to deal with suffering when you are not! The real test comes when suffering becomes a reality in your life. That was the difference between the writing of the post [when I was doing just dandy] and a few minutes later. Hashem should give you, me and all of us the energy to continue living b'simcha, no matter what happens! But He should make it easier by loading on the simchas. A good friend asked me how the funeral was. I assured him that his wedding was much more fun.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Can Kohanim Eat On Yom Kippur?

I feel close to the great Rabbi Chaim Attar [1696-1743] author of the Ohr Hachaim on the Torah. My street is named after him and his shul is only seconds away from my apartment. [I grew up right off Central Park West. But I know nothing of the life of Mr. West and am baffled as to why his parents would name him "Central Park".]

In Parshas Acharei Mos [16/29] the Ohr Hachaim explains that one might have a notion that Kohanim would not have to afflict [refrain from eating etc.] themselves on Yom Kippur. In order to disabuse one from such a notion the pasuk went out of it's way to teach us that even Kohanim are commanded to afflict themselves on Yom Kippur.

Strange!!! Why would one possibly think that kohanim are not obligated to afflict themselves. Why should they be different from everyone else??

The great Polish Gaon Rav Meir Don Plotzki in his Kli Chemdah [one of my favorite sfarim on the Torah. If you don't have it - buy it!!!] explains that there is a rule that sacrificies must be permitted for consumption. Unkosher or otherwise forbidden animals are not allowed to be brought as sacrifices ["min hamuttar lýisrael"].
So I would have thought [please read with talmudic sing-song. Sing-song - sounds like a chinese name] that the kohanim are allowed to eat the sacrifices in order to make them permitted for consumption and thus permitted for sacrifice - comes the pasuk [excuse the bad english] to teach us that it is nevertheless forbidden even for the kohanim to eat!!!

But the question then arises. How are the sacrifices of Yom Kippur valid even though they don't fulfill the requirement of "min hamuttar lýisrael". If nobody is allowed to [theoretically] eat a sacrifice it is not kosher?!

Torah Is Poison


Hey, I didn't say it. The Gemara said it [Taánis 7a]. If one learns Torah for the wrong reasons [e.g. to make someone else look foolish] it is poison.

If one learns Torah for the right reasons [e.g. to cling to the Creator, to fulfill His will] it is an elixir of life. There is NOTHING better. Nothing.

Torah study is like medication. If you follow the doctors orders it will bring healing. But if one ignores the doctor's orders it can kill him chas v'shalom. [See Maharsha in Taánis 7a].

Praying For Success in Torah Study

There is a special prayer that is said upon entering the Beis Medrash to study Torah. There is another prayer that is said upon leaving. [The Aharonim add that even if one learns at home, he should still say it at the beginning and end of his learning]. These prayers are not merely customary but obligatory [Shulchan Aruch 110/8]. For whatever strange reason many people don't seem to say these prayers. There is no reason not to say them. In many gemaros you can find the prayer on the inside cover. Many Batei Medrash have a plaque on the wall with this prayer.

The prayer said upon leaving the Beis Medrash especially resonates with me. It is a nightly reminder what a meaningful life I am lucky enough to live.

Maybe It Is Better Not To Ask

"So, how was Rav Ally's shiur?" one student asked another, out of curiosity.

Is such a question permitted? Isn't that INVITING lashon hara. "Boooooooooring". "Torture". "I think he should go into business and leave the Yeshiva." [Little do they know that I have the business acumen of a giraffe. But I get the point.]

So can we ask such questions?

Holiday Activities

In this weeks parsha we read "Moshe told to the Jewish People about Hashem's holidays." [Vayikra 23,44]. [Although, if you attend an Orthodox synagogue it will probably be read in Hebrew.]

The gemara derives from this pasuk that we must learn the laws of every holiday on that holiday [Megilla 4a]. Elsewhere the gemara teaches us that we must learn the laws of the holiday 30 days before the beginning of the holiday [but not on the holiday itself]. So which one is it? On the holiday itself or 30 days before?

Rav Yitzchak Hutner Ztz"l [Sefer Zikaron printed in his memory, page 349] explains that there are two different types of learning. There is learning as "mishpat" - learning in order to know what to do. There is another type of learning - learning as "chok". Learning for the sake of learning.

30 days before the holiday there is a mitzva to learn in order to know how to follow the laws pertaining to the holiday.

However, on the holiday itself we learn as "chok" - to engrave ["lachkok"] the light of Torah that relates to the kedusha of that particular holiday on our hearts. This type of learning has it's own form and timetable. It can only be done on the holiday itself.

"How was your chag?" people ask each other. If we want to be able to answer -"uplifting, inspiring and elevating" there is no other recourse other than to learn the masechta and halachos relating to that holiday. The goal of any holiday is to be a greater person at the end of the holiday than we were at the beginning. HOLIDAYS ARE NOT JUST ABOUT FOOD. Food is terrific. Sometimes, it even tastes good! But a Jewish holiday is also a singular opportunity to reach spiritual heights otherwise unattainable.

For that we need Torah. Holiday Torah.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

A Case Of Mistaken Identity

I once gave a drasha somewhere and one of the people present thought that I spoke well so he approached me and made the bracha of "shechalak michachmaso liraiav" [blessed are you G-d who has doled out his wisdom to those who fear Him].

I did NOT answer amen!! It was bad enough that the man uttered a blessing in vain. I didn't want to compound the sin by saying amein in vain. [ By the way: Does one make a bracha on the fluid he is receiving through an I.V.? No! It would be a blessing in "vein". Ba dam chhhhhh]. If it had been Purim I would have understood but Purim was far behind us ......

The Shulchan Aruch unequivocally rules [224/6, based on Brachos 58a] that if one sees a Torah scholar this bracha should be recited. Many later sources rule that in our day and age the bracha should not be recited [See Tzitz Eliezer 14/37]. The reason is that we cannot be sure who fits into the category of "Torah scholar."

However in the Piskei Tshuvos [Vol. 2 Page 896] we learn that there are those who still say the bracha. One big Rabbi made the bracha on the Chazon Ish. Another Rabbi made the bacha on the Rogochover. Yet another made the bracha on the Brisker Rov, Rav Yitzchak Zev Soloveitchik.

I am not a posek but I feel more comfotable with the latter approach. I would rather not make an explicit halacha in the Shulchan Aruch obsolete. Today we have amongst us Talmidei Chachamim who know EVERYTHING! Cold. [And even when it is warm]. These same people have also mastered Kabala [which according to some is a prerequisite for making the bracha]. One such example would be Rav Shlomo Fischer Shlita. Another example: Rav Ovadiah Yoseph Shlita.

Halacha L'maasah? Ask your Rav!

Safedian Inconsistency - The Answer

The obligation of sukah is different than the obligation of tzitzis. One is obligated to sit in a sukah all seven days. Therefore, if one temporarily leaves the sukah it is not considered a "hesech hada'as" and upon returning no new bracha is necessary.

Tzitzis is an obligation only when wearing a garment with four corners. The moment the garment is removed the obligation is over. When one puts on the four cornered garment anew, a NEW obligation devolves upon the wearer, thus mandating a new bracha.

[Rav Eliashiv Shlita - See also the answer given by my brilliant friend Will in the comments section]

Torah And Tefillah

The Gemara [Niddah 70] teaches that there are two ingredients to success in Torah study. 1] Study Hard 2] Pray hard that your study bears fruit.

Torah and prayer are interdependent. That is why King David - the author of tehillim, the classical text of prayer - was born on Shavuous, the day of the giving of the Torah.

Torah and prayer descended from heaven in tandem.

[Heard from Rav Moshe Shapiro Shlita]

A Sad Night In Jerusalem

It is 3:00 AM and only a little while earlier I returned from Rav Podolsky's funeral.
As difficult as it is for me to get to sleep normally, tonight it is an impossibility. Here are a few inadequate words in his memory.

"Hashem said to Moshe, Say [Emor] to the Kohanim .... and tell [vómarta] them, each of you shall not contaminate himself to a [dead] person among his people."

Rashi [together with everybody else who reads the pasuk carefully] is bothered by the tautology [seeming redundancy]. It would have sufficed if the pasuk would have said "Say to the kohanim, each of you" etc. Why does it repeat "and tell them" after it already said "Say ..."

Rashi [based on the Chazal] answers that the "two sayings" are teaching us that Moshe should first tell the the Gedolim, the adult kohanim, who should in turn convey this lesson to the ketanim, the child kohanim. This teaches that adult kohanim are not allowed to cause the children to become contaminated. "lihazhir gedolim al haktanim" - literally "to warn the adults about the children".

Chassidim have another translation of Rashi. "Lihazhir" can also mean "to shine". The gedolim have to shine to the ketanim. The adults must set an example for the young. To inspire. To galavanize to greater heights in the service of Hashem.

My Rebbe and friend HaRav Lipman Asher Podolsky ztz"l was a shining light. Even when he was ill and wracked with pain he would still greet me with a shining countenance. A warm smile followed by a welcoming "Shalom Aleichem". When I visited him in the hospital shortly before his petirah he had almost no energy left. He still managed to greet me warmly with a handshake after which he fell back asleep. That was the last time I was zoche to see him awake.

Rav Podolsky shined to his many many students [myself included]. With his inspiring words of mussar. With his caring and devotion. With sincere yiras shomayim coupled with the joy that he radiated.

He was an accomplished Talmid Chacham, musician, artist, writer and above all a personification of all of the ideals of Torah and derech eretz of which he taught his students. All of the gifts that Hashem gave him were used in His service.

There is so much to say but the wound is still open and my sense of pain and loss are simply overwhelming.

I loved Rav Podolsky and will sorely miss him together with his special family and countless talmidim.

We will continue to follow his example of avodas Hashem b'simcha until the ultimate simcha of the coming of moshiach, the cessation of death and the wiping off of tears from our faces. bmhera byameinu amen.

Or as Rav Podolsky famously used to conclude his shiurim "We should all be zoche to live life as it should be lived".

Yehi zichro baruch.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

When It Hurts

Everybody suffers. Allergies, the flu, irritable bowel syndrome, cavities, an annoying roommate, traffic jams and worse chas v'shalom. But everybody has something. It is just a question of WHAT we have but no one lives a completely idyllic existence.

This is called yissurim. Yissurim are supposed to bring us to dvekus - clinging - to Hashem. Which thoughts engender dvekus?

1] Believe that everything that happens is from G-d.

2] Divine judgement is precise. Everything is doled out by G-d with the most exact measurements. We get no more or no less than we deserve.

3] Everything that happens is for the best. If things would be otherwise it would be terrible.

It isn't easy to have such thoughts. But it is very rewarding. In this world and the next.

[Michtav Méliyahu Vol.3 Page 240]

"I Hope I Get An Upgrade On My Flight To Israel"

It is well known that there is a concept called a mitzva and a concept called hechsher mitzva. A mitzva is an act such as having children which is INHERENTLY a mitzva. A hechsher mitzva is an act that facilitates a mitzva. An example of this would be marriage [according to some, others maintain that getting married is a mitzva]. Marriage facilitates the mitzva of having children.

A hechsher mitzva can sometimes adopt the status of a bona fide mitzva. When? In a case where it is impossible to fulfill the mitzva without the hechsher. In such an instance the hechsher mitzva is "upgraded" to a mitzva. [Tosaphos Yeshanim ksubos 31, Piskei Tosaphos Zevachim 69]

Sometimes it is not clear if an act is a mitzva or a hechsher mitzva. Living in Israel is a mitzva. What about TRAVELING to Israel in order to live there. The "nefesh b'nefesh" flight. Is it a mitzva or merely a hechsher mitzva?

You guessed it. Machlokes. The Tashbetz holds that even the trip to Israel is a mitzva. The Rashbash says that the trip is merely a hechsher mitzva. Once you arrive the actual mitzva begins.

Rav Shlomo Yosef Zevin the great gaon and editor of the Talmudic Encyclopedia had trouble understanding the Rashbash. How can he say the the trip to Israel is only a hechsher mitzva. It is impossible for a person living outside the land to fulfill the mitzva of living there without first taking the trip. That means that traveling to Israel MUST be a bonafide mitzva and not merely a hechsher [based on the priciple we mentioned before]. So how can we understand the Rashbash.

Please help Rabbi Zevin [and me].

P.S. There is another interesting machlokes. Does traveling have one or two l's. Traveling or travelling - you make the call.

Angry People

Mishlei is a book filled with wisdom written by a VERY wise man.

"Better to live in the desert than with a woman of contention and anger". [21/19]

Sound advice. If you are single and you hear that a young lady has issues with anger - don't marry her. Escape to the desert [Arizona?] if necessary. But have mercy on yourself. Contentious and angry people are a not so sweet taste of gehinnom in this world.

If you are already married to such a person then my counsel would be to smile a lot and speak softly. "A soft reply turns away anger, but a galling word incites anger" [Mishlei 15/1].

Newly Posted Audio Shiurim

Greater Than Angels - Lower Than Animals - Mussar category

Brotherly Love #17 -Seminary Girls category

Parshas Emor - Kiddush Hashem - Parsha category

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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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