Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Don't Believe Everything You Read!

Sweetest Friends Shalom!

To err is human. To forgive is Divine. I am human. Please try to be Divine.

In a previous post ["My Zuzer"] I misquoted a ruling of Rabbi Moshe Feinstein. I saw it quoted in a book and didn't bother looking it up in the original. A lesson for all of us. Always check out the original source.

He in fact rules that since Conservative and Reform congregations WILL treat a Sefer Torah with the required sanctity it is PERMITTED to sell it to them.

Just One Person Is All It Takes!

At the end of the second paragraph of Shema, we say "visamtem etc. uchisavtom al mzuzos bisecha." Funny, we start with the plural form ["visamtem, vilimaditem"] and conclude with singular form ["uchisavtom" means that you the individual should write a mezuza. "UchsavtEm" would be plural].


Why does a Jew always answer a question with another question?

I don't know, why?

The Great Gaon Rav Meir Simcha of Dvinsk in his monumental Meshech Chochma at the end of Eikev offers a brilliant explanation. The Torah [The "Topa" in Russian] says that if there is a city of idolators it must be burned and the people are executed [ir nidachas]. However the gemara says that if there is ONE mezuza in town everybody is saved. Both from human and Divine retribution.


So that is what the pasuk is alluding to. "Uchisavtom" - You the individual write [and hang up] a mezuza and in your merit everybody will live - lima'an yirbu yemeichem.


Anyway we also see the power of the individual to bring merit to the greater community.

You should be the one!

Love and blessings!!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

My Zuzer

I am a sofer. No I am not. But let's say that I am. A man walks into my shop and he looks as Jewish as the Pope. On his lapel there is a sticker that says "Paul Christinson, Fargo North Dakota." Now there is surely a lovely Jewish community in Fargo - consisting of the Chabad Rabbi and his wife and children. But no more. Anyway, Paul doesn't look like a Chabad Rabbi and even less like his wife.

So he says "Can I buy a "my zuzer."

"What?", I ask.

"You know, a "my zuzer" to hang up on my door post to guard me from harm."

Uh oh. May I sell it to him?

Answer: I should really try not to. The Maharatz Chayes [simman 32] says that it is forbidden to sell a mezuza or Sefer Torah to a Gentile. If he would get really angry, my advice would be to sell him a beautiful mezuza case without the "Hebrew instructions" that come inside.

Not only that but Rav Moshe Feinstein [Igros Moshe Yo"d 1/174] rules that one should not sell a Sefer Torah to a Conservative or Reform congregation because they might not treat it with the required sanctity.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Yisborach Shimcha Bifee Kol Chai

Sweetest friends!!

In this weeks parsha we read about the mitzva to bentch after eating. "Viachalta visavata uvairachta es Hashem Elokecha" - Eat be satiated and bless Hashem.


But wait! When we bentch we say [before quoting that pasuk] "Yisbarach shimcha bifee kol chai" - "Your name will be blessed by the mouth of EVERY LIVING BEING". Where does it say that every living being blesses Hashem? Only people do?!

Well, there IS an explanation but my daughter is patiently waiting for me to close my computer and leave the room so that she can do the traditional "sponga" - [mopping up].
So I gotta go.

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

Thursday, August 21, 2008

High Up

Everybody knows that a mezuza should be affixed at the beginning of the top third of the door post. But what if it is a really high doorway and the top third is really high up?

You guessed it! Machlokes - also a difference of opinion. Both! Some hold that it should be placed at the top third regardless. Others say that if the door post is really high the mezuza should be placed at shoulder height.

Interesting. I noticed that at Jaffa Gate the mezuza is much higher than shoulder length but seemingly lower than the top third? [I also noticed that at Jaffa Gate there are a lot of money changers. Why? How many money changers do you need?]

Well, bide'eved [after the fact] it is OK.

But if they would ask me ....

Monday, August 18, 2008

Crying For Yerushalayim

Yerushalayim is called the "Mother Of The Jewish People" [Medrash Tehillim 147]. Imagine your saw your mother being beaten, abused and violated by a bunch of punks [G-D FORBID]. You would be so deeply pained and would do everything in your power to help.

Sweetest friends! Yerushalayim is constantly being violated. This means that we should be in PAIN! Also, there is something that we can do! When we daven for Her, we can try to shed a tear.

בכו תבכה בלילה

Friday, August 15, 2008

Guardian Angels

One day, Yaakov, who lived in South Africa, traveled out of his home city. He had already reached his destination when his car's motor began to make strange noises. He managed to park the car on the side of the road before the motor conked out entirely.

He attempted to restart the motor again and again to no avail. He was located in a deserted industrial zone, where very few cars passed by. He called a service which fixed cars, but he knew they would take a long time to show up.

Yaakov waited and waited, and meanwhile dusk was approaching. He looked at his watch and realized that it wouldn't be safe to wait there anymore. He would have to make his way to the main street and hail a taxi.

The closest main street was an hour and a half away. He would have to hurry so he could reach the main highway before it became dark. Walking in the dark in the deserted areas of this city was extremely dangerous, especially in this particular area where there had been many muggings and murders in the past. Yaakov locked his car and began walking.

As he was walking, Yaakov wondered whether he would ever see his car again. He knew the criminals in the area would not let an abandoned car sit for long. As he was pondering his car's fate, he looked up and saw a giant black man approaching him from a distance with a menacing look of hatred on his face. Yaakov's blood froze, and he began shaking from fear. Visions of the violent acts which had taken place in this location in the past flashed before his eyes. He made an intuitive decision to continue walking rather than turning around and fleeing, realizing that he would not be able to outrun the huge man. The distance between them was too close, and he did want not to provoke the man if he had no intention of harming him.

The black man drew closer, with clenched fists. The dark street was completely empty. Yaakov continued walking, his whole body shaking from fear. He knew that a Jew is never alone, and he began mumbling pessukim of Tehillim. "My help comes from Hashem, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot stumble, He will not slumber, your Guard. Hashem is your Guard, Hashem is your shelter at your right hand...Hashem will guard you from all evil." "Hashem is my refuge.. no evil will befall you, and a plague will not approach your tent. Because He will command His angels to guard you in all your ways."

The man approached closer, and stared at Yaakov with a murderous gaze. But....he passed without touching Yaakov. Yaakov breathed heavily and continued reciting Tehillim. Finally he reached the end of the street and began running towards the main street. Within a few minutes he was in a taxi on the way home. He arrived home, still pale and trembling from his ordeal, and related to his family what he had gone through.

The next morning, Yaakov opened the newspaper and his blood froze once again. A picture of the black man from the night before stared back at him from the front page. The front headline announced a murder which had taken place the previous evening in the city's industrial zone. The black man in the picture was the main suspect, and the police were asking anyone who recognized the man or had seen him in the area where the murder took place to come forward to testify.

Yaakov began trembling again as he looked at the picture. It was definitely the man he had seen the night before, and for some reason had been spared from his murderous hands. Later that morning, he went to the police station to testify. His testimony was taken very seriously, and the fact that his car was found in the area was proof of his testimony. It was determined that the man in custody was the actual murderer. After all the details were recorded, Yaakov had a request for the policemen before he returned home. He asked them to ask the murderer why he had continued on his way when he had passed him, and refrained from harming him, only to harm someone else. The police officers and Yaakov approached the cell, and the officers opened the door. They asked the murderer, "Do you recognize this man?" The murderer answered, "I think so. Wasn't this the Jew who I saw last night walking in the industrial zone?"

The police officers said, "Why didn't you harm him? It was totally deserted there."

The murderer answered, "If we had been alone, I wouldn't have hesitated to harm a Jew, but we weren't alone. Two armed guards were walking with him, one on the right and one on the left. How could I have gotten close to him?"

(This story was told over by a Rosh Mesivta in Ohr Somayach in Johannesburg, South Africa, who had previously lived in Cape Town where he has heard the story from "Yaakov" himself.)

(Niflosav Livnei Adam)


The Road To Serenity

"G-d, grant me the serenity

to accept the things I cannot change;

courage to change the things I can;

and wisdom to know the difference."

The Serenity Prayer

Sweetest friends!! Do you want to be happy? Stop trying to change [also known as "control", but "change" sounds nicer] people around you. You become an "Adam Hashalem" [complete person] yourself and that will make a far greater impression than trying to impose your viewpoint upon others. Let people be who they are. I often repeat to myself a line that was told to me by a friend who was studying social work, "Accept the patient as he is." Everyone is a LITTLE bit meshuggena, so let them be! We are just people. Fallible and at times even foolish.

Accept the patient as he is.

By the way, "the patient" includes ....... you. Accept yourself as being imperfect. Then get to the business of trying to perfect yourself.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Swearing Can Be A Good Thing - A "Shavuos" Thought That Has Nothing To Do With Cheese Cake

Interesting dispute. In this weeks parsha it says [6/13, love the chapter and verse!] "ubishmo tishavea" swear in His Name. The Ramban say that there is no mitzva to swear in G-d's name. The pasuk is WARNING a Jew that when he swears it should be in G-d's name and not in the name of idols. He intends to argue with the Rambam who says that there is a MITZVA to swear in the name of G-d when necessary [in court, for example].

See the wonderful "Som Derech" [Page 36] from the late Rosh Yeshiva of Chevron, Rav Broide, who points out a seeming contradiction in the Rambam.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

You Live In A [Potential] Beis Hamikdash, Mr. Cohen

Rav Yochanan, relates the Medrash [Vayikra 22], would make noise before entering his home. Why? Because it says "Vinishma kolo bivo'o el hakodesh" - He would make noise when entering the holy. In fact the gemara elsewhere [Pesachim 112] says that everybody should knock before entering.

Who is this pasuk talking about and in what context? It is talking about the Kohen Gadol entering the Holy of Holies on Yom Kippur [he had bells on his garment that made noise]. What does this have to do with us??

From this we see, said the Alter Mi'Slabodka the Giant of Mussar Rav Nosson Tzvi Finkel, that every person can elevate himself to the level of a Kohen Gadol on Yom Kippur and that every home can be on the level of the Holy of Holies.


Monday, August 11, 2008

Tisha B'av Kasher Vi 'Sameach??

This evening [Motzaei Tisha B'av] I heard in the name of Rav Soloveitchik that just as on Pesach night one should relate the story of Yetzias Mitzraim and study with his children, so too on Tisha B'av one should study [Tisha B'av topics] with his children.

Where did he get that from? Maybe just as on Succos we sit in a Succah, so too on Tisha B'av. Or just as on Chanukah we light candles so too on Tisha B'av! Or just as on Purim ....


However The [aforementioned] Rav [known affectionately as "The Rav"] was a Torah Titan and I [a Torah Lilliputian] am sure that there is something behind his statement.

I thought that maybe he was referring to the Chazal on the pasuk in Eicha [3/15] "Hisbiyani bimirorim [like maror] hirvani laana" that every year the first night of Pesach falls out on the same day of the week as the night of Tisha B'av. This is quoted by the Rema in the laws of Pesach. So we see a connection between Pesach and Tisha B'av.

But I ask you my beloved friends - What did Chazal mean to teach us when they found an allusion to Pesach in Eicha?? [Full disclosure - I once heard a whole shiur on the topic from the Rebbe Shlita.]

Friday, August 08, 2008

Looking Inside

The Beis Hamikdash is really no big deal! It's just a building!

Hey, I didn't say that - Rav Chaim Volozhiner said it. He explained that until we build the Beis Hamikdash in our hearts the external edifice has no significance. When we are filled with pnimius [internal spiritual depth] then the Divine presence will rest in the Beis Hamikdash and it will be the Home about which the Neviim prophesied. We don't just want a building - we want a holy, Godly building. That is created by us.

A lot of young men of Yeshiva backgrounds are looking for a wife. What is the primary concern? Is she pretty. Pretty isn't the word. Many boys are looking for "movie star" looks, models, pop your eyes out!

That is a proof! A proof that the Torah that they have learned is an superficial Torah. That is why they are looking for superficialities. A boy who has learned properly knows that although beauty has its place and cannot be completely ignored, there are other more important considerations when choosing a wife. As long as he doesn't find the young lady [please excuse the word - all Jewish girls are beautiful] ugly, he should consider marrying her. Does she have good character? Bad character is a lot uglier than any physical blemish.

In other words - don't look for chitzonius, look for pnimius. Don't look at her body - look at her soul. [Yes, I also know the gemara that says you should look at her before marriage - once!]

The primary ingredient of the Beis Hamikdash is the pnimius - so too in our homes that constitute mini Batei Mikdash, the primary ingredient must be pnimius. If she has pnimius - the boy will find her beautiful. As Rav Shlomo Aviner [some of whose ideas I borrowed for this post] put it "You don't love your wife because she is beautiful, she is beautiful because you love her."

Maybe Hollywood has had more of an influence on Jerusalem than vice versa.

So guys, let's learn from the girls. They don't care nearly as much about the way we look as we do about the way they look. That is why they remain happily married to us even after our hair falls out and we get fat - and when we have a beard during the Three Weeks. Imagine being married to a girl who grows a beard during the Three Weeks.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Is Fit To Print, Fit To Read

Is it permitted to read a newspaper on Tisha B'av?

It is forbidden to learn Torah on Tisha B'av [except for certain sections such as Eicha and parts of Yirmiyahu etc]. The reason is that Torah makes one happy "pikudei Hashem yesharim mesamchei lev". This would certainly not apply to newspapers. Au contrair [did I spell that right?], newspapers are quite depressing. The Mordechai says that one shouldn't "hang out" on Tisha Báv. But the reason given by the Beis Yoseph is not because one might forget about the aveilus but because it might lead to levity.This would also not apply to reading a newspaper.

Rav Ovadiah Yoseph Shlita rules [Chazon Ovadiah page 315] that according to the strict letter of the law it is therefore permitted to read a newspaper on Tisha B'av. However it is preferable not to do so as the Machzor Vitri writes that one shouldn't be involved in dvarim btailim on Tisha B'av. It is better to learn permitted Torah or to read a book about the Holocaust.

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Fixing The Heart

The gemara in Nedarim says that the reason that the first Beis Hamikdash was destroyed was because the Jews didn't say birkas hatorah. The Ran explains that despite the fact that they learned, they didn't appreciate the VALUE of Torah. Torah was interesting but not worth a bracha.

The gemara in Yoma says that the second Beis Hamikdash was destroyed because despite the fact that the Jews performed acts of kindness they still hated each other.

The common denominator is that DOING what is right is NOT ENOUGH. There also needs to be appreciation. Appreciation of the value of Torah and appreciation of the value of our fellow man.

Hashem doesn't just want our deeds. Hashem, kviyachol, wants our HEARTS!!!!

P.S. The answer to "Faulty Analogy" is given by willworkforfood in the comments to that post.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Find Out!

Why is Hashem crying??

Go out YUTORAH.ORG and find out. [By the way, the picture next to the title of the shiur is not me. See there and you will know what I mean.]

Monday, August 04, 2008

Faulty Analogy

There is an opinion that one is allowed to eat meat leftovers from Shabbos during the nine days. They prove this from the gemara that says that according to the opinion that an animal could be eaten without proper shechitah in the desert, the Jews were allowed to eat the leftovers from the desert even after arriving in Eretz Yisrael [where they were now obligated in shechitah and the meat should be forbidden].

What is wrong with this analogy??

Sweetest Friends: For those who want to surf in Kedusha. Check it out. Thanks to Rav Chaim Yehoshua Hakohen for the tip.


Mazel Tov to my beloved friend Yakira Atara Jaspan!!!!!!!!!!!

I am so excited that I will kiss her when I see her!

No, no, no. Don't worry - Ehrman is still Frum.

Yakira was born last week.

A special Mazel Tov to his parents Yoseph and Ariel. [Yoseph will probably get one, too .]

Of course, we must not forget both sets of Grandparents who are "first-timers".

May Yakira see the Beis Hamikdash before she sees her first birthday!!!!!!!!!

Friday, August 01, 2008


The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one's own country as a foreign land.

Gilbert K. Chesterton

In this weeks parsha we read about the travels [massa'os] of the Jewish people. Everywhere we went in accordance with the command of Hashem. This is so that when we arrive in Eretz Yisrael we will continue to follow his commands. Eretz Yisrael does not belong to us. It belongs to Hashem and was given to us as a CONDITIONAL gift.

I hope that we get it back soon.


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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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