Monday, March 31, 2008

Vacation Ruminations

I am deciding where to take my family for Pesach. My first inclination of course is to go to Miami Beach. Spending the Festival Of Freedom on Collins Avenue will be a delight! The food will be plentiful and the sun as bright as ever. And the beach! Ahhhh, the beach!! Nothing like it.

But then I hear that there is a glatt kosher hotel in Cancun, Mexico that has a great Pesach package. Now, I never even heard of Cancun until two days ago and frankly I don't even know if I am spelling it right but if so many people are going it must be good. Plus, I know a few words in Spanish. After all, I spent some time in Washington Heights! Que pasa, mon?

However, it is not so simple! I have the internet! So I go online and I find out that I have attractive offers in Italy, Switzerland, Hungary [returning to my roots], Arizona [where is THAT? I am a native New Yorker, outside of Queens is already like a foreign country...] and the list goes on and on!!!!!!!!!

But wait! "Pesach". Jewish holiday. I am Jewish. Shouldn't I celebrate it in the most Jewish way??! The Rambam was Jewish. He said that it is forbidden for me, a resident of the Holy Land, to leave. The Mishna Brura similarly rules that it is forbidden to leave Israel for a vacation. [For a mitzva some say that one may leave but that is not our topic.]

Maybe, maybe ......... Jerusalem!!!!!!!!!!! Yerushalayim Ir HaKodesh! Yes, what an original idea. So when we sing [THANK YOU MAXWELL HOUSE!] "Lishana Haba'a Birushalayim Habinuyah" we will mean it. "Look Hashem! We are in Yerushalayim now even before it is completely built with your Home in place. Please finish the job!"

That's it. I'm going. Or better - I'm staying. I won't be able to socialize with other peoples wives but I WILL be able to socialize with my own wife! My children won't be able to run around everywhere unsupervised but I will have the opportunity to spend quality time with them in a controlled Torah environment where not only the food will be kosher but the atmosphere as well.

Yes, but what about the 30,000 dollars that are burning a hole in my pocket? Hey, if I want I can share it with families that don't have enough money to buy food and clothing for Pesach. How could I possibly enjoy frolicking in the sun when I know that so many of my brothers and sisters are destitute. So the plans are set.

Can't wait!!!!

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Bad Pitching

Clark Griffith was the owner of Washington's first baseball team, the Senators. He once remarked "Fans like home runs - and we have assembled a pitching staff to please our fans."

Very often we do things that are detrimental to ourselves in order to please the "fans" [parents, friends etc.]. Remember, after 120 years we will become aware that only Hashem's opinion really mattered. So we must act and make decisions accordingly! That is not to say that we should ignore everyone else but that we should not just spend our lives being people pleasers.

If you are one, chances are that you are quite unhappy.

A Tikkun For A Common Sin

We have a tradition that in the time before the coming of Moshiach [today] the sin of hotzaás shichvas zera livatala will become very commonplace. There will be virtually nobody who is free of this sin. The way to fix this is to immerse in mikve. The gemara in Nidda [13] teaches that the Mabul came because of this sin so when one immerses in mikve it is like a mabul and constitutes an atonement.

Another way to atone is to learn Torah which is called by the Rambam "Mei Da'as" - The Waters of Knowledge.

The most important thing is not to get down on yourself. The biggest sin is despair!

[See Tzidkas Hatzaddik 107, 109]

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Giving Generously

"It is explained that all relationships require a little give and take. This is untrue. Any partnership demands that we give and give and give and at the last, as we flop into our graves exhausted, we are told that we didn't give enough."

Quentin Crisp

Sweetest friends! Give and don't expect anything in return. It is simply DIVINE. And when people don't appreciate you then you will know how G-d "feels".

Taking Advantage Of Our Freedom To Choose

Why are Jews so enamored with the concept of "Bechira Chofshis"?

Because it's free.....

The Rambam [Hilchos Teshuva 5/1] says two things. 1] A man has a choice to be a righteous person. That means that he can do the right and virtuous thing in any given situation or the opposite. 2] He also has a choice whether to harness his nature for good or bad. We are not prisoners of our psyche. [Sefer Litshuvos Hashanah on the Rambam]

If we are aware of the fact that at every moment we choose between good and bad [even though we might not be aware], we are more likely to make the right choices.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Source Of Happiness

The great Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard wrote: A man who as a physical being is always turned toward the outside, thinking that his happiness lies outside him, finally turns inward and discovers that the source is within him.

Listen to this man. He knows! Danishes are delicious - especially cheese danishes, yet he teaches us that happiness lies not in something external such as delectable edibles but within ourselves!

The pasuk says: "Tzur livavee vichelkee li'olam" - The rock of my heart and my portion forever. The medrash explains "Who is in the heart of the Jew - The Rock of Israel - G-d Himself."

Another pasuk says "Oz vichedva bimikomo" - Strength and JOY are in His place. In the place of Hashem there is only joy. We can access that place - it is within us.

When Pure Becomes Impure

The highest level of impurity is tumas mes - the impurity of a dead body. This is called Avi Avos Hatumah - the grandfather of all tumah. Why is a corpse so impure?

The holy books explain: A body is a wonderful vessel for the soul. Without a body we can't fulfill mitzvos. When we are alive we celebrate our bodies. But once we die our soul leaves the body and all we are left with is a physical body. What once housed our holy soul is now just a body?! There is NOTHING more impure than that.

If one is alive and lives just for his body then he also reaches high levels of impurity.

We should all merit that our bodies should elevate our souls and our souls should elevate our bodies!!!!!!!!!

Monday, March 24, 2008

A Jew Went Off The Derech And - Unhappy Ending

Anyone who is part of the western world will, in all likelihood, be under the influence of Christian ideas and behaviors. For a Jew this is a very serious problem as idolatry a cardinal sin. One example is Sunday. Most of us are used to the idea that Sunday is a day off. Saturday is the correct day but in our Christian culture Sunday is considered the Sabbath. In fact, there are authorities [such as Rav Moshe Feinstein] who maintain that it is forbidden to give students off on Sunday.

Rav Kook writes with uncharacteristic harshness when critiquing Christianity in many places throughout his writings. It is important to know where we differ so here are a few of Rav Kook's theological and philosophical critiques:

1] They try to perceive of G-d with human understanding which led to a mistaken perception about His nature. According to Jewish tradition G-d is beyond anything we can imagine [eeloo yadatieev hayateev - "If I would know Him I would be Him"] while Christianity cut Him down to size and made a human being out of Him.

2] They stole some of our Holy Sparks and distorted them to create an unclean [the original Hebrew reads "tzinor malei refesh [!!!] shel hanotzriyus shenitlachlicha bi'goyut] religion. What gives it life is its seeming proximity to certain Jewish ideals. From a certain perspective paganism is better because the pagans didn't borrow from the Torah.

3] A misunderstanding of the holiness of the Jewish people. G-d promised that He will never fully reject us as we are His beloved first born son. Nothing - not even sin - can change that.

4] They believe that the physical world is impure and unclean. If you are holy you take an oath of celibacy [called by Rav Shachter a "shvuas sheker"] and become an ascetic. In contrast we believe that our job is to elevate the physical world. If you are really holy you get married and live with your spouse, have a job, fully engage in this world - and everything in holiness.

5] Practical mitzvos: Their "mitzva" is faith while we [li'havdil] have thousands of physical concrete actions that we do in order to connect to G-d. [Similar to #5]

6] Historically, Christianity has been guilty of rabid Anti-Semitism and have spilled oceans of Jewish blood.

7] Repentance: For them it is easy. Confess and you are forgiven. This leads to continued evil behavior. [A Christian woman was once explaining to a friend of mine that when she is intimate with her husband she must go to church the next day to confess her sin - knowing full well that she is going to do it again]. For us repentance means a deep and intense metamorphosis.

8] They believe that man is inherently evil and doomed. They despair of man's ability to perfect himself. We have great faith in man.

These are just some of the points. For more sources see the Tzohar journal teves 5768 page 81. Of course this is not an attack on individual Christians who should be treated with dignity but on the religion from which we must distance ourselves.

I Am Rich! I Must Be Righteous Too

Sometimes a person is going on a certain path in life and things are going his way. He takes this as an indication that Hashem is on his side. This is a critical error!!
Hashem will often lead a person on the path that the person himself wants to follow even if it not the correct path [Makkos 10].

Example: Eliyahu decreed that there should be a drought. Hashem didn't agree with him but still helped him hide from Achav who was searching for him [see Sanhedrin 113].

Another example: Hashem made miracles in order to prove that Rebbe Eliezer was correct in his argument with the Rabbis yet we are told to ignore such miracles and follow the majority [Bava Metzia 59].

The lesson is that we should do what is right and not assume that Hashem is on our side just because we are successful.

[Tzidkas Hatzaddik 64]

Friday, March 21, 2008

Hear Ya Loud And Clear - But Is That Enough?

Dear Alleyways,

I love when people use me for mitzvos! But my question is if one fulfills his obligation to hear the megilla when hearing it through me?

Mike Rofone

Dearest Mike!

There is extensive literature on the question of using of a microphone for reading the megilla [and Torah etc.]. The bottom line is that it is best to stay away it in order to avoid halachic problems. If the only shul in town uses one then a Rabbi should be consulted about what to do.

Love and blessings!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Not Childs Play

The Vilna Gaon says a tremendous chiddush! On the pasuk "Vizichrom lo yasuf mizaram" [9/28] The memory will not case from your seed, he says that this means that children must hear the reading of the Megilla. Wait a minute. We all have a Rabbinic mitzva to train ["chinuch"] our children to keep mitzvos but here we see that there is a Biblical obligation for a minor to fulfill this mitzva. The reason might be that the children were also in danger of being murdered so they too must hear the Megilla in order to appreciate their salvation. However the Rambam writes at the beginning of the laws of megilla "Mechanchim es haktanim" so he holds that a child only has a Rabbinic obligation like every other mitzva. [See Tshuvos Vi'hanhagos 3/229]

Party Hearty

What on earth were the Rabbis thinking when they joined the party that Achashveirosh threw?!

They had good intentions. Indeed the road to ---- is paved with good intentions. They said the following: We must fix the sin of the Jews who bowed down to the idol in the time of Nevuchadneztar. How are we going to do this? We will go to the party but Mordechai will serve us kosher food and drink [as the gemara says "kratzon ish v'ish" - according to the will of Mordechai who was a pure tzaddik] and we will show the gentiles that we are DIFFERENT! We don't eat and drink like the gentiles eat and drink. That will fix our earlier sin!!

Big mistake! Jews may not party with gentiles. Period.

[Based on Reb Tzadok in Machsheves Charutz 17]

On Purim we enjoy holy parties in a pure Jewish way. That is how we fix the sin of the Feast of Achashveirosh.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Kohen Gadol Can't Leave - Why Not? - Answer

The Minchas Chinuch [136] explains that Tosaphos says in numerous places in Shas that when one brings a korban he must remain in Yerushalayim overnight. Since the Kohen Gadol had to bring a korban every day [a minchas chavitin] it follows that he may never leave Yerushalayim. Brilliant! [See the Imrei Baruch of Rav Simon Shlita on this weeks parsha.]

But wait, not so fast!! The Rebbe Shlita pointed out that it never says that if someone brings a korban he may not leave Yerushalayim that day. It just says that he must sleep over ["linah"] but he certainly may leave for a few hours during the day. Yet the Rambam says that the Kohen Gadol may NEVER leave Yerushalayim. So it is not just about the korban. So our question remains in full force - from where does the Rambam learn that the Kohen Gadol may never leave Yerushalayim??


From Rabbi Yitzchak Alderstein at

Who can console us, for what is beyond consolation? The pictures of the eight kedoshim, the choicest korbanos that Klal Yisrael could offer, haunt us beyond words.

I have forgotten which chronicler of the Churban wrote of his own despair when he witnessed the SS tormenting an elderly Rov in one of the ghettos. Suddenly, one of the soldiers let out a shriek, and all of them let go of the victim. Instead, they turned their destructive attention to a sefer Torah they had discovered, venting their fury upon it.

He found consolation in that. He realized that the Nazis were not waging a war against people and bodies, but against the Torah itself, against G-d Himself. However many bodies they destroyed – and there were millions more to come – , whatever the cause for a period of charon af/ Divine anger, G-d would surely in the end snuff out those bent on snuffing Him out.

The terrorist who carefully cased Yeshiva Mercaz HaRav, an icon for Torah study, carefully aimed five hundred bullets at the heart of Torah itself. The target was more than deliberate. R. Chaim Brisker, they say, held that Amalek was not a particular group of people descended from their ancestors. Amalek is any group that displays the same hatred for G-d Himself. Some in our community have resisted applying the label of Amalek to the Palestinians (since, unlike Amalek, they do have cause, however unjustified, to see themselves as an aggrieved party in a struggle over land). They should now reconsider. The society that preaches martyrdom to children, that rejoices in the street over the deaths of students huddled over sacred texts, that praises death over life – this society has become Amalek.

May we find some measure of comfort in the realization that Amalek has declared war on Hashem Himself, not just us. May He move quickly into action against those who seek to destroy Him, and those who substitute Thantos, god of the jihadists, for the One G-d of the civilized world.

Avrohom Dovid Moses HY"D

Many very special things have been said about the holy martyrs who were brutally murdered at Merkaz HaRav recently. There is a tendency to exaggerate the virtues of people after they die. In this instance NOTHING IS EXAGGERATED. These young men were really special tzaddikim and when Hashem decided that he needs to take korbanos from the Jewish people he took the purest.

This is a description of Avraham Dovid Moses given by his Rebbe, Rav Avraham Kosman [my translation from Bi'ahava Ubi'emunah parsha sheet]:

"When I think of Avraham Dovid I think less of the image of a student and more of the image of an angel [LOOK AT HIS PICTURE! THE GOOD RABBI IS NOT MAKING THIS UP - ME]. His face was so gentle. I will never forget the sweet childish smile that was always on his face. Every question, comment and conversation I had with him was with such softness and pleasantness that I cannot describe in words other than something angelic, pure and genuine that is almost not found anywhere. I remember the very sharp questions he used to ask during the course a shiur. At a time when everybody else would accept what I said with complete agreement he would suddenly get up and say "But HaRav that doesn't ....." Everything with a gentle serene smile. His diligence and assiduousness amazed me. He never complained that the material was too much or too hard, on the contrary he would encourage the other students and tell them that if they take advantage of their time they won't have any problem learning all of the material. And everything was with a smile and a pleasant word, so soft and regal, it was as if honey oozed from his mouth. There are no words to describe the softness and gentleness except with the term "Angelic Countenance" [Ziv Malachi]."

Sweetest friends! How I would love to have met this boy. What a loss for the world! I hope that we can all learn from him to be more gentle and sweet. The world is in desperate need of more such people. Give me a bracha that I should follow his shining example.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Kohen Gadol Can't Leave - Why Not?

The Rambam says [klei mikdash 5/7] that the Kohen Gadol is never allowed to leave the Old City of Yerushalayim - even for a moment. Sounds great to me and I am not even a Kohen. I would LOVE never to leave the Old City! [I like to think that I am "stoned" - Jerusalem Stoned.] But where does the Rambam get this from? There is no such gemara?!

More to come bl"n.

An Interview With Achashveirosh

Vashti refused to come when the King called her. How does this make you feel Achashveirosh? "Mad!!!" "Vichamaso bo'ara bo" - The anger burned inside of him [1/12]. Thank you for sharing your feelings with us, sir. I mean, His Majesty.

In the Medrash, Rav Yochanan teaches us that Achashveirosh remained infuriated from the time Vashti was killed until Esther was taken. A looooong time.

This is consistent with the opinion in the gemara [12a] that Achashveirosh was a foolish king [melech teepaish]. As King Solomon says in Koheles [ch. 7] "Vika'as bicheik ksilim yanuach" - Anger rests in the bosom of the foolish. [Rinas Yitzchak p. 326]

Yes Achashveirosh, you are angry - you are foolish.

Problem is that, well, sometimes maybe maybe maybe we too act foolishly.

Lord save us!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Love and blessings!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Doron: A True Tzaddik

The following story [from R' Lazer Brody] was sent to me by my brother R' Yosef Tzvi "The Passaicer Tzaddik" and my friend R' Chaim Yehoshua Hakohen "The Teanecker Torah Titan". Thanks to both of them.

Doron Mahareta of blessed and saintly memory HY"D was one of the eight Yeshiva students that were massacred last week in Yeshivat Mercaz HaRav in Jerusalem.
Last night, I paid a shiva (condolence) call to Doron's family. Every single type of Jew was sitting together, from Ethiopians to Polish Chassidim, from knit kippot to Yerushalmi white kippot, from jeans and sandals to long black frocks. Too bad that it takes a martyr of Doron's magnitude to unite everyone.

One of the rabbis from Mercaz HaRav told me the most amazing story you'll ever hear about Doron's dedication to learning Torah, a story that competes with the Gemara's account of Hillel's near freezing on the roof of Shmaya and Avtalion's Yeshiva (see tractate Yoma, 35b).

Doron wanted to learn Torah in Mercaz HaRav, one of the best of Israel's yeshivas. But, since his early schooling was in Ethiopia, he lacked a strong background in Gemara. The Yeshiva rejected him. He wasn't discouraged. He asked, "If you won't let me learn Torah, will you let me wash the dishes in the mess hall?" For a year and a half, Doron washed dishes. But, he spent every spare minute in the study hall. He inquired what the yeshiva boys were learning, and spent most of the nights and all of his Shabbatot with his head in the Gemara learning what they learned. One day, the "dish washer" asked the Rosh Yeshiva to test him. The Rosh Yeshiva politely smiled and tried to gently dismiss Doron, but Doron wouldn't budge. He forced the Rosh Yeshiva into a Torah discussion; the next day, he was no longer a dish washer but a full-fledged "yeshiva bachur".

On weekends, when Doron would come home to visit his family in Ashdod, he'd spend the entire Shabbat either in the Melitzer Shul or the neighboring Gerrer shtiebel learning Shulchan Aruch and its commentaries. Three weeks ago, he finished the entire Shulchan Aruch and principle commentaries. Doron achieved in his tender 26 years what others don't attain in 88 years. He truly was an unblemished sacrifice, who gave his life for all of us.

I add that our Yeshiva visited Merkaz HaRav last week and we learned that Doron had been successfully tested ON THE ENTIRE SHAS! WOW!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Look At My Beloved Children

Words said at the funeral of Yochai Lifshitz HY"D by his father Rav Tuvia Lifshitz Shlita:

The Mishna Brura ruled that one should not eulogize on Rosh Chodesh and we will follow his ruling.

We, the whole family, Abba, Imma, brothers, sister, Sabba Yisrael, Sabba Uri and Savta Debbie, want to say one word to you - Todah [thanks]. Thanks for what you were for us and gave to us for close to Chai [18] years.

You fulfilled the saying of Chazal [about Shmuel HaNavi]: The man "went up" from his city, he "went up" from his home, he "went up" from [the people who lived in his] courtyard, he "went up" from his city, he "went up" from all of the Jewish people, and all of his loftiness was from himself.

You go up to Yerushalayim Shel Ma'alah [Jerusalem of Above] at midday Friday, all of your life was like Shabbos. There, together with your holy martyred friends, Hashem Yinkom Damom, you will stand to receive this special Shabbos.

This Shabbos they are showing there a coin of fire under G-d's Throne of Glory [it was Shabbos Shkalim and Chazal say that Hashem showed Moshe a coin of fire under his Throne of Glory]. Hashem is coming towards you like a Chosson to his Kallah and he is calling to all of His Heavenly Angels: כד יתבין ישראל ועוסקין בשמחת התורה, קודשא בריך הוא אומר לפמליא דיליה - חזו חזו בני חביבי, דמשתכחין מצרה דילהון ועוסקין בשמחה דילי
When the Jewish People sit and involve themselves in the simcha of Torah, Hashem says to His Heavenly entourage "Look, look at my beloved children who forget about their own distress and involve themselves in My simcha."

My addendum:

We should all know no more distress and Hashem should wipe all of the tears off of our faces and death should become a thing of the past. Remember, this was not only a loss to the eight families and their friends but to all of Klal Yisrael. These children were the best we have and now they are no longer with us.


Shavua tov and tomid bi'simcha!

Friday, March 14, 2008

Remember Zachor

This Shabbos we will read Parshas Zachor. Rav Moshe Shternbuch [Moadim Uzmanim 2/165] says that in order to properly fulfill your obligation you must understand every word of what is being read. For example, what does it mean when it says "Vayizanev bicha kol hanecheshalim acharecha"? If your answer ranges from "I haven't the foggiest" to "Beats me" then you have some homework to do! What about "Vi'atah ayayf viyagaya vilo yarei Elokim" - Who wasn't yarei Elokim, us or them?

I must point out that his point is debatable and not everyone agrees with him but it is certainly the best way to do it.

Another point: Normally it is praiseworthy to read the Torah along with the Ba'al Koreh [S.A. and M.B. 146/15] but for Parshas Zachor one should remain silent and listen [Tshuvos Vi'hanhagos 1/399].

What about Shnaim Mikra Vi'echad Targum for Zachor and the other Parshiyos we read during Adar? Not necessary.

What about women and Shanaim Mikra. Must they do it every week? No. They give birth to our children. Let us be grateful.

What about women hearing Parshas Zachor. Must they? BIIIIIIIIIG argument. Some say that they must because it is not a time bound mitzva. Others say that they don't have to because the mitzva is to remember what Amalek did to us in order to wage war against them and women aren't warriors, so they don't have to hear it. The prevalent custom is that they do hear it.

One authority brought up an interesting point. If only those who wage war must hear Parshas Zachor then Kohanim should be exempt because they don't go to war either. In fact Kohanim must hear it. But why?

You can mull that one over on Shabbos.

Have a sweet one!

Love and Blessings to all!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

For Those Who Use Their Sense Of Hearing For Spirituality

For anyone to whom I am indebted because you listen to the shiurim that Hashem puts in my mind: There are many shiurim on alleyways and on about Purim. [If you ever ask me for a favor and I say that I can't do it, remind me that you listen to the shiurim. It will be hard for me to refuse....]

Also if you go to the Parshas Hashavua section of Yutorah [Vayikra] you can listen to two shiurim that I gave about the massacre at Merkaz Harav this week. I give klal Yisrael a bracha that no more such shiurim should be necessary. I hope that the shiurim help elevate you.

"Nor bi'simcha Tyere Yidden!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" [Only with happiness precious Jews]

Wisdom That Cannot Be Acquired At An Ivy League University

I know a Jewish man who hails from Riverdale. He is from a prominent family and is a brilliant guy!! He received an almost perfect score on his SAT's [1590. I personally didn't get one answer wrong on my SAT's. My secret? Didn't take it...], studied at Princeton [a true Jewish Prince] and then received a PERFECT score on his LSAT'S and attended Harvard Law School. Ahhhh, "Yiddeshe Nachas"!!

He then worked at a high powered law-firm before deciding to enter the world of politics. He loved going after white-collar criminals. He was determined to make a change and inject more morality and honesty into the public sphere. A man on a mission. Well spoken, handsome and an all around impressive figure.

Then he was elected Governor of New York. Mazel Tov! What is next? The White House maybe?! The sky is the limit. [I don't know what the big deal is with getting to the White House. Paint your house white and you can have one, too.]

And then CRAAAAAAAAAAAAASH!!!!!!!!!!

Ya know, King David was on to something when he said "Reishis chochma - yiras Hashem" - The beginning of wisdom is fear of G-d. A person can be brilliant, articulate, charismatic and talented and yet live like an animal. No, worse. An animal has no control over himself. He lives on instinct. A human being who doesn't exercise his ability to restrain his impulses is far inferior. We must START with fear of G-d. Afterwards some good may come from fancy degrees.

PLEASE DON'T GET ME WRONG. I am not gloating over the moral failings and public humiliation of another person. I just want to use his story as a reminder that for a Jew, success is not defined by the measure of power he wields or by the dimensions of his bank account but the by degree of godliness and sanctity with which he conducts his life. Everything else is secondary. Too many people that I know worship professional success as the end all of life. That is a critical error.

I give him a heartfelt bracha that he should see the light of purity and holiness and return to his roots. Then he will be truly wise.

Love and Blessings to all!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

A Valuable Lesson From Haman

"Greed is a bottomless pit which exhausts the person in an endless effort to satisfy the need without ever reaching satisfaction."

Erich Fromm [If he would have been an Orthodox Jew his name would have been Erich Frum]

The gemara in Chullin [139] wonders where we find an allusion to Haman in the Torah. The gemara answers that after Adam ate from the tree of knowledge, G-d said "Did you eat from the tree I told you to avoid?!" as it says "Hamin Ha'aytz..." ["Hamin" sounds like "Haman"].

Excuse me, but that seems very strange. Is this a word game? Haman - Hamin? And what on earth is Haman doing in Gan Eden - he belongs in Gehinnom!

The Rebbe Shlita explained as follows: Adam was in Gan Eden and had millions of trees to choose from. He was told "Eat from all of the trees. Enjoy! Just refrain from eating from one tree - the Tree of Knowledge. Don't worry though, you have everything you need. It is only one little tree." Adam didn't listen and he HAD to eat from the forbidden tree. Unbelievable.

Haman was on top of the world. He had political power, gozillions of dollars, a large family, he was invited to a special party with the king and queen and everybody was bowing down to him [see 5/11,12]. He lacked nothing. Except one thing. One "lousy Jew" refused to bow down to him. So what Haman - so Mordechai won't bow down to you. What's the big deal. You have everything. Get a life, dude!! Nooo, not Haman. He couldn't enjoy anything as long as he lacked one small thing. "Vichol zeh ainenu shaveh lee" - It ain't worth nuttin' if Mordechai won't bow down to me [5/13]. Everything but one tree - Adam. Everything but one Jew - Haman.

Now we understand the gemara in Chullin! "Haman" - "Hamin". Not merely a play on words but rather a much deeper connection.

Let us be happy with what we have. We don't want Haman to be our guide.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

When Color Doesn't Matter

I love her!



Truth is, I would dress up as Queen Esther on Purim but I just am not into the cross- dressing thing. The Rema in Shulchan Aruch says that it is halachically permitted on Purim for a man to dress up as a woman but this Rema is very problematic and many argued with him on this point. And frankly, even if it were permitted I still wouldn't. It is just not my style. But I am still a major fan. She came in the clutch. She took control! Then she disappeared into the background in the spirit of the modest Jewish woman. When needed she will do anything to help but when her job is completed she will fade modestly into the horizon. Ego inflation, self-aggrandizement - not our heroine! Her very name means "hidden". The holiest things are hidden - the Holy of Holies, our souls and Hashem himself. [See Maharal Nesiv Hatzniyus]

One noteworthy point about Esther. Chazal say that she wasn't physically appealing! She had sort of a greenish complexion and wasn't, naturally speaking, such a pleasure to look at. Men like their money to be green - not their women.... Yet Achashveirosh chose her over all of the other women. Why?? Achashveirosh wanted a Beis Yaakov girl?

Well, in a sense, yes. Some of the other woman were externally more beautiful but Esther possessed a special quality that they all lacked - charm, known as chein [2/15]. EVERYBODY liked her. You couldn't help it. In modern hebrew they say "maksima". Esther was super-duper maksima. Now remember, Achashveirosh was a hairy disgusting monster. According to Chazal he was thrilled with Haman's plan. Nazi! Hamas! Techinah! And Esther had to be intimate with him. Yichee!! Gross! Yet Esther overcame her extreme feelings of revulsion and remained the most pleasant person to be around. She probably had a kind word and a smile for everybody. Why? Because she knew that she was part of G-d's plan and she was determined to be the best possible emissary. Yes, even though she would rather have been elsewhere, to say the least.

The lesson for us: Whatever situation we are in we must be pleasant and kind to all. Just because we might be suffering doesn't mean we must inflict our pain upon others.
Esther was able to overcome her natural feelings because she had a sense of mission. We also have a mission. To be kind, compassionate and loving to all - even when we are not in the mood.

I give ALL OF US a bracha that we should be equal to the task - Amen ken yehi ratzon!!

Love and blessings!!!!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Celebrating Peace

When was the "Battle of Purim"? On the 13th of Adar. When do we celebrate Purim? On the 14th of Adar when we RESTED from our enemies. In Shushan they waged war for an extra day and only rested on the 15th. That is why we celebrate Purim on the 15th in walled cities.

When do we celebrate Chanukah? On the 25th of Kislev when we rested from our enemies AFTER the battle.

The lesson: We don't celebrate wars - we celebrate not having to wage war! [Based on the words - I think - of Rav Yaakov Katz Shlita].

Why do we anticipate Moshiach? To avenge our enemies? "No", says the Rambam! We anxiously await the arrival of Moshiach because then we will finally be able to serve Hashem in peace and quiet. No more wars, no more bloodshed, no more problems. Just a page of gemara with its commentaries.

I CAN'T WAIT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

We Are Simply Miraculous!

"It is difficult to make predictions. Especially when they are about the future."

Achashveirosh made a decree allowing the Goyim to completely obliterate the Jews. The decree was never rescinded! It still hovers over us to this day. The decree was made by the "Melech" and we all know that Melech is an allusion to the King of the Universe. The Medrash says that the decree was signed and sealed in Heaven. A decree promulgated by the King with his "ring" [taba'as] cannot be rescinded [Heard from Rav Moshe Schapiro Shlita]. Maybe the word "taba'as" is an allusion to nature - teva. G-d, generally, doesn't suspend the laws of nature. They remain permanently in force. Therefore, naturally speaking, we were done. Finished. Caput. Finito. Goners. Outta here. So our existence until this very day is nothing short of miraculous.

What DID the Melech say? OK, Yidden. You may defend yourselves [See Chapter 8]. Meaning that until now we had no right to defend ourselves!! Sounds like the UN. "You Israelis have no right to defend yourselves. Your job is to help your enemies kill you." The more things change, the more they stay the same.......

Here we are, the letters are sent out proclaiming that the Jews have the right to defend themselves. What would you do? I would prepare for war and be afraid! The Goyim still have the right to kill us. What is going to be??

What in fact did the Jews do? They celebrated!! Before the actual victory. A little premature, no? Celebrate after the victory, guys!!

Answer: The Jews saw that Mordechai had ridden on the king's horse, was given Haman's home, that Esther was queen, that they were given permission to defend themselves etc. Meaning - the tide had turned. G-d was on our side!! And if G-d is on our side, well, then victory is assured. If victory is assured then we may celebrate even before the actual victory.

"Vi'ani bichasdicha botachti" - I had trust in Your chesed, [so even before I actually experience it] "Yagel leebee bishuasecha" - My heart REJOICES in Your salvation .

May we see Hashems salvation speedily in our days!!

Love and blessings to all!!!!

Monday, March 10, 2008

Opening Our Hearts

Thousands of people have been streaming into my building since Motzaei Shabbos to console the Lifshitz family who is mourning for their son Yochai HY"D who was murdered in the massacre in Yeshivat Merkaz Harav on Thursday night.

Wow! It is so touching to see how much people care. People are not faking it, their hearts really go out to this family who has suffered such a painful loss. I don't know why Hashem allowed this to happen. But one thing is for sure. NOTHING, NOTHING, brings Jews together like a tragedy. When things are going well people don't seem to care as much. There are many places in Chazal where we are taught that all G-d wants is that WE CARE ABOUT EACH OTHER. That is what tragedy accomplishes. Achdus - Unity. How sad that we can't muster the same amount of care and concern on a daily basis.

Everybody lacks something. Everybody enjoys loving and being loved. There is SO much that we can share with others. Do an exercise. Make a list of people who you believe really feel empathy for you, how many people would do ANYTHING for you, how many people lose sleep at night over YOUR problems [outside of your immediate family]. If there are three or more people on the list, consider yourself like an undercooked piece of meat - rare.

Of course, our job is not to judge others, but to perfect ourselves. So here goes:

Example 1: I often hear from single people who are dying to get married that their married friends DON'T CARE. They are too busy to set them up. Sometimes a suggestion is made and the single person waits anxiously for weeks until the married person gets back to them. When their patience runs thin they finally call themselves only to find out that "Oh, I forgot." Did you forget, dear married person, about your single status back when you were alone? Love your neighbor as you love YOURSELF. KAMOCHA! Kamocha mamesh! There are many people who are alone and it is likely that we can help them. It just takes effort.

Example 2: Money. I cannot understand! I am thick! There are soooooo many Jews who are fabulously wealthy. Loaded!!! There are soooo many other Jews who are destitute. People don't have enough money to cover their basic needs. Shoes, groceries, dental work etc. How does a Jew with a feeling heart go to sleep at night knowing that he has so much more than he needs in the bank while others are so desperately in need. And Jews have feeling hearts. That is for sure.

Come to 5 Ohr Hachaim Street in the Old City and watch how pure hearted Jews cry over the loss of a complete stranger. If we can care about a complete stranger and his suffering family we can certainly care for the people we know. People aren't "too busy" to make a shiva call. Why then, are we "too busy" to do a favor for a friend or even for our own parents or children. If we want to make a mourner feel good, why don't we also strive to make a stranger feel good by simply saying "Hello", "Welcome to our shul" "Good Morning" - add a smile and you have a recipe for true Jewish virtue.

Don't only kiss a Sefer Torah. Kiss a Yid. He is much holier.

We should know no more sorrow!!!

Love and blessings

Elchanan ben Henna Miraim

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Thoughts On The End

What happens to us when we die?

I don't know. I have never died before. But I look into our sources and find out from people who had a tradition about such things. They told us what will happen so that we can prepare while we are still here.

The Zohar [Vayechi 218b] says something amazing. In this world we cannot see G-d and remain alive, "Ki lo yirani ha'odom va'chai". When we die we SEE G-D! That means that we see the unadulterated Truth. This world obfuscates and beclouds the Truth and it is only after we die that can we finally perceive absolute reality. [See Rav Desslers eulogy of Rav Isser Zalman Meltzer in his Sefer Zikaron, page 172]

Yochai, Yochai, my sweet friend. You are in such a world right now. You are experiencing bliss unimaginable to anyone constrained by the physical barriers of this world. King David SANG to G-d when he thought of the day of death. SONG and DEATH? What is their to sing about?? Cry yes. I have cried so much since I found out what happened to you. But to sing? This Shabbos I sang because the halacha says that one must be happy on Shabbos, but believe me my heart was not into it. Rav Kook [you studied in the Yeshiva that he founded!] explains [Ayn Ayah Brachos 1 page 51]
that when King David thought about how a person goes from the darkness of this physical world to the serenity and light of the world to come he was moved to SING G-d's praises. Wow! A human being can reach such exalted heights. That IS something to sing about.

I think about where you are now and the lessons I must learn. When a Jew confronts tragedy he must learn and grow from the experience.

What does G-d want? What matters to him? What doesn't He care about? What is His value system? He didn't keep it a secret. "Thus said Hashem: Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom, let not the strong man boast of his strength, let not the rich man boast of his wealth. But let the one who is praised boast of this: that he understands and knows me, for I am Hashem who administers kindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth FOR THESE THINGS I DESIRED, declared Hashem." [Yirmiyahu 9/22,23].

What? Hashem doesn't care about a college degree?? No! I am sure that Yochai is not being asked to present a degree. What about money? Hashem doesn't favor the rich? The famous? Professional athletes? No! That is all part of this "Alma Di'shikra" - World of Falsehood. All he cares about is what type of person you were. Kind? Ahhh, that Hashem likes. Kindness! Learned? Yes, indeed! That is how we "understand and know Him ".

Yochai [and I am sure that the same is true of the other kedoshim] lived a G-dly life , filled with Torah and mitzvos. He died a death that merits him a place in Gan Eden that even the holiest tzaddikim cannot reach. He died because he was a Jew, not just a Jew - a Ben-Torah, while learning Torah. The Arabs know that the heart of the Jewish people is the Yeshiva. Without Torah we are not a people. That is why they shot him mercilessly [and the bullets pierced his pure heart].

May we also live lives of truth and may Hashem console his family and all of the families of the pure neshamos that are so sorely missed in this world.

Shavua Tov sweetest friends and Tomid Bi'simcha - even in the face of sorrow!

Friday, March 07, 2008

The Saddest Erev Shabbos Of My Life

Some people wonder: How is it that the Torah commands us to KILL Amalek? Isn't that barbaric?

I just returned from the funeral of my upstairs neighbor Yochai Lifshitz HY"D. He was a gem of a boy. Sweet, good-natured, unassuming, always running to a shiur or to a minyan.

He was sitting and learning in the Beis Medrash of the Yeshiva but they were setting up for a Rosh Chodesh party, so he went to the library to learn.

Then a student of Amalek went and cruelly murdered him together with seven other innocent precious souls. There are many others who are rejoicing over this tragedy.

Now I understand.

Timche es zecher Amalek!!!

We should merit to see the coming of Moshiach and Tchiyas Hameisim speedily in our days!

[Note: The mitzva cannot be fulfilled today because according to the Rambam we need a king but I am talking philosophically. We also don't know who really descends from Amalek. We don't kill ANYONE - except in self-defense.]

Hashem Yinkom Domom!!

"Though I forgive, I shall not forgive their bloodshed when Hashem dwells in Zion." [Yoel 4/21]

Maybe Hashem forgives other sins, but the sin of spilling the blood of holy Jewish Yeshiva students in Yerushalayim in their Yeshiva building will never be forgiven.

Hashem will avenge their deaths!

This should be the last tragedy that we see before the coming of Moshiach.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

War Has Broken Out!!!!!!!!!!!

"A war doesn't only determine who is right. It also determines who is left."

I have a custom. After every learning session is over I hug my chavrusa. Am I strange? Yes, but that has nothing to do with why I maintain this practice.

Chazal liken a chavrusa to a war, even when the participants are a father and son or a Rebbe and student. Torah study is the tenacious pursuit of truth that must be acquired at all costs. No holds barred. This is a matter of life and death!

Ahhhhhhh, but after the chavrusa is over, we love each other again. We are on the same team. Ted Turner used to enjoy calling the Atlanta Braves "Americas Team". Well, we are both on Hashems team!! We helped each other achieve a common goal. I really love the guy I that just destroyed a minute ago.

Hence the hug!!

[See Kiddushin 30b]

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Empty Declaration? Making It Real

Ki hem chayeinu vi'orech yameinu"- Torah is our life and the length of our days!! "Toireh is a-les" - Torah is everything. Everybody who davens maáriv makes this declaration nightly!

Many people say this and miraculously don't learn! And many people DO learn but find every excuse not to do so. Why?

Because it is not enough to say it! That is why we continue "U'vahem nehege yomam valaia" - And about [Torah] we will meditate day and night". We have to DEMONSTRATE that Torah is our life by learning every available second.

[Heard from Rav Aharon Kahn Shlita in his wonderful eulogy for Rav Shmuel Birnbaum on]

Career Guidance

DANGER: Rabbis and educators with faulty character! If someone is going to teach other people Torah, he BETTER have sparkling middos!!

Otherwise he does more harm than good. Better if becomes a computer programmer.

[Chazon Ish, Emunah U'vitachon Chapter 4/16]

P.S. If one is already a Rabbi/Educator and knows that his character leaves much to be desired, he should engage in a strict regimen of Mussar and/or Chassidus until he sees a change for the better.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

My Dad Is A ... What Is A Child To Do? - Answer

The bottom line is that one is PERMITTED to tell potential clients to stay away from the crooked father. By telling them, the son is preventing his father from sinning. We are all commanded to do what we can in order to save another person from sinning. That also explains why Rochel was allowed to tell Ya'akov that her father was dishonest [a "Ramai"]. She knew that he would try to cheat Ya'akov and she was trying to prevent him from doing so.

In a similar instance Rav Eliashiv ruled that a daughter whose father [a doctor] was stealing equipment from the hospital was obligated to say "Dad, you taught me that it is forbidden to steal and I am going to report you if you don't return the stolen equipment." Then she must carry through.

See Sefer Chasidim Simman 1087 and Chashukei Chemed - Megillah 161-164.

It goes without saying that everything written on this blog is to expand our knowledge and not to pasken halacha. If you have a practical question, consult with a Rav.

Monday, March 03, 2008

The Cure For Jealousy

Are you jealous of someone you know? He is earning a six-figure salary and you can barely make ends met. He is such a genius and excels in his learning and you struggle just to understand the simple pshat in the gemara. She is married and expecting her second child already and you are still looking for a husband [and last night you had another lousy date. He was SOOOOO weird!]. She is so pretty and talented and you don't perceive yourself as having similar gifts.


Let us read a poem and forever obliterate those poisonous feelings of jealousy. [Remember, you are poisoning YOURSELF!]:


WHENEVER Richard Cory went down town,
We people on the pavement looked at him:
He was a gentleman from sole to crown,
Clean favored, and imperially slim.

And he was always quietly arrayed,
And he was always human when he talked;
But still he fluttered pulses when he said,
"Good-morning," and he glittered when he walked.

And he was rich—yes, richer than a king,
And admirably schooled in every grace:
In fine, we thought that he was everything
To make us wish that we were in his place.

So on we worked, and waited for the light,
And went without the meat, and cursed the bread;
And Richard Cory, one calm summer night,
Went home and put a bullet through his head.

Edward Arlington Robinson

Tyere Yidden [Precious Jews]!!!! Remember, you NEVER KNOW what is going on in someone else's life! You never know how he is feeling deep inside and what his battles and struggles are. One thing is for sure. It is never as it seems to an outside observer. Everybody has difficulties and challenges. If Hashem sent you certain problems then deal with them but don't look enviously at anyone else. You wouldn't want his problems.

I remember one person whom I envied. He had it all!! It was only later that I learned that he had spent been institutionalized in a psychiatric facility on a number of occasions, that his marriage was in shambles and much, much more. Foolish I was.

And foolish is jealously.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

"My Dad Is A ....." - What Is A Child To Do?

I went out and bought batteries. Unfortunately they weren't included.
Steven Wright

A young man is in a bind. His father is an insurance agent and makes his living quite dishonestly [he also sells dead batteries, on the side]. Is it permitted for the son to tell potential clients to stay away because of his fathers crooked ways? [His father obviously won't listen to his son and cease from his behavior.]

Normally we know that it is permitted to relate lashon hara for "to'eles" [practical benefit] - to save someone from harm and the like. If you are helping somebody then your speech is not "ra" - evil. On the contrary, it is good! So of course the son should speak up!

Not so simple. Rav Nissan Kaplan Shlita [Kovetz Kol Torah Nissan 5761] notes that we only find that it is permitted to speak lashon hara for to'eles. But in our case there is also the issue of honoring parents. That is NOT overidden for to'eles. There is also a prohibition of "Arur makle aviv vi'imo" - Cursed is one who disgraces his mother or father. Telling people that his father is a crook is definitely a disgrace to his father. So in our case apparently it would be forbidden to say anything.

However we find in the gemara [13b] that Rochel told Ya'akov that Lavan is a cheat. We see that a child may speak negatively about a parent for a practical benefit. So maybe in our case it would be permitted for the son to warn potential clients.

To be continued....

Shavua Tov!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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About me

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