Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Greater Than An Angel

Every time Rivka walks by the Beis Medrash of Shem and Ever, Yaakov kicks out. Why? He likes Torah??! O.K. But we know that when a fetus is in utero an angel teaches him the entire Torah. So why is Yaakov trying to escape? [Some people answer that his Rebbe was great but look who his chavrusa was - Esav! But if that were true Yaakov would have kick all of the time - not only when his mother passed by a Beis Medrash.]

The answer is that learning with an angel is GREAT but one thing was lacking - A YESHIVA!!!!!!! NOTHING can compare to the Yeshiva experience. It is even greater than learning from a malach. So if you ever have the chance - learn in a Yeshiva. Even if you work full time, the best place for kvius itim latorah is a Yeshiva. And if you attended a Yeshiva in the past, keep in touch with your friends and Rabbeim from the Yeshiva. If you attended a Seminary - the same idea applies. Nothing can take the place of a Torah institution.

[Based on the Birkas Mordechai Parshas Toldos]

Monday, November 24, 2008

Get To Know Him

Chazal teach us "kol maasecha yihiyu lishem shomayim" - Everything you do should be for the sake of Heaven [Hashem]. The pasuk says "bichol dirachecha dayahu" - In all of your ways you should know Him. Meaning, that everything that you do should be for the sake of Hashem. So what is the difference between the two teachings?

Kol maasecha lishem shomayim teaches that everything you do should be a MEANS to serve Hashem. For example, you should eat in order that you should have the strength to learn Torah afterwards.

Bichol dirachecha dayahu goes even further. The eating itself [which is not a mitzva per se] should be a vehicle that enables you to cling to Hashem. When you eat the food and enjoy the taste, you think to yourself "Hashem Yisborach - you are delicious!!!" "Taamu u'riu ki tov Hahsem" - Taste and see that Hashem is good. Not merely a means to an end but an end itself.

[Based on the Lubavitcher Rebbe in his sefer Likkutei Sichos Parshas Toldos]

This two teachings could [and should!] be applied to all areas of life.

Love and blessings to all!!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

There Is Hope

What's on your mind, if you will allow the overstatement?

Fred Allen

In this generation of TV, movies, internet, video game etc. I often feel that trying to get people to think is a fruitless endeavor.

The solution - Don't give up! As long as the brain cells are in working order there is hope!!

Davening Should Be Smoking

A man was davening with great intensity and suddenly he takes out a pack of cigarettes, waves them and then puts them back in his pocket. After davening his friend asked him what he was doing. He explained: "I was in the middle of davening and then I remembered I have a flight coming up. So I imagined myself driving to the airport, taking my luggage out of the car and going through security.
Then a stewardess asked me if I want to sit in the smoking or non-smoking section. But I couldn't talk because I was in the middle of davening! So I took out my cigarettes and waved them to show her that I want to sit in the smoking section."

In this weeks parsha [perek 24 psukim 64-65] we read that Rivka saw Yitzchak for the first time and asked "Who is that man?" The Medrash says in the name of Rav Huna, that she saw him in the midst of davening and she exclaimed "vadai Adam Gadol hu" - "He is certainly a great man!!"

The most accurate of identifying a spiritual giant is to watch him daven. When a person davens he stands completely in the presence of G-d and his entire being is immersed in the experience. At those moment of connection NOTHING else exists. The soul is floating in the highest realms of Godliness and senses the Divine anxiously listening to every word uttered. When a person davens he stands completely in the presence of G-d and his entire being is immersed in the experience. At those moment of connection NOTHING else exists. The soul is floating in the highest realms of Godliness and senses the Divine anxiously listening to every word that emanates from a heart overcome with emotion, passion and yearning for the ineffable.

Rivka saw that Yitzchak was a Great Man due to his intense prayer. Learning can be learning even if the soul is not involved. A intellectual tour-de-force. Chessed can be done with no feeling at all. But davening is different. If the Neshama isn't completely and intensely involved then it is not davening. It is merely a dry recital of an ancient liturgy.

Let us pray that we learn how to pray.

Love and blessings and a great Shabbos to my sweetest friends!!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Special Visitor

The Rebbe Shlita spoke in Yeshiva today. The shiur is on YUTORAH.ORG entitled "The Tolna Rebbe: Judge Vs. Jury".

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Elyon Al Kol Ha'aretz - Dying With Dveykus

Rav Moshe Tzvi Neriah zt"l [the spiritual leader of B'nei Akiva] passed away on the 19th of Kislev, 1995. I once cut out an article written by Rav Chaim Sabbato Shlita[famous Rosh Yeshiva of Maale Adumim and acclaimed author] describing his final visit with the Rav. I decided to translate it for the benefit of a wider audience. I found it incredibly inspiring and I hope that you do, too.

A small note was hanging on the bulletin board in the Beis Medrash. Rav Moshe Tzvi Neriah needs Divine mercy. We immediately decided - we are traveling to Kfar Haroeh. We arrived in the afternoon and the village was very serene. Trees were seemingly taking their afternoon rest. A Moshavnik riding on a tractor pointed to his house.I recognized it from earlier visits.

The small house and garden outside. The courtyard where we sat and listened to edifying talks from Rav Neriah filled with insights and stories. We listened to his talks with great eagerness and the experience was thrilling and uplifting. This is the courtyard where thoughts were entertained that eventually brought to the building of the Religious Zionist Torah world. This time the courtyard was empty. Three simple wooden chairs were standing there and there was a notice attached to one of them on which was written: "We thank you for your visit. It is not possible to visit Abba. Please say tehillim for him as this is part of the mitzva of visiting the ill."

There were a few tehillim books there and we began to say tehillim with heavy hearts. How much we wanted to see him! The Rebbetzin came outside and gave us a drink. We made a shehakol nihiyeh bidvaro and the words took on new meaning. She answered amen and said "There is so much ink left in his pen" [he was a prolific author A.E.]. She lowered her eyes. We started to leave. His son Rav Nachum Neriah [former long time Rebbe in Yeshivat Hakotel A.E.] came outside. "Abba wants to daven mincha as soon as possible. One more tefilla in his lifetime while he still has the chance, maybe you can come into the room."

The room was completely filled with sefarim. Gemara, Halacha, Aggada, Pilpul, Mechkar, Drush etc. I tried to take in everything I was experiencing and felt holiness. Rav Neriah was on a bed in the room, connected to machines. His granddaughter was reading Pirkei Avos to him. "Ben shmonim ligvuros, Ben tishim lashuach ... Ben Bag Bag omer, hafoch bah vihapoch bah dikoola bah." The Rav motioned with his hand as if to say "More, more don't stop!"

We davened Mincha. Rav Nachum Shlita said the silent shmoneh esrei aloud so that his father could whisper along with him. "Rifa'ainu Hashem vineyrafey" the young boys from the Yeshiva were davening intensely. We then read chapters of tehillim with great emotion. "Mimaamakim kirasicha Hashem" [From the depths we call you Hashem].

In the throes of great suffering the Rav had moments of lucidity. On one side of the bed stood his wife with wondrous silence. On the other side stood his son and granddaughter. We stood next to them. There was a shining light in the room and special rays of kindness ["chut shel chessed"] emanated from his face. I said "Orech yamim u'shnot chaim" [long life]. He expended great effort and answered "We will continue, continue to spread Torah and fear of Hashem and we will succeed b'ezrat Hashem. Amen keyn yehi ratzon!" Amen keyn yehi ratzon. It seemed like he dozed off but then one of the Yeshiva boys asked "Niggun?" Rav Neriah with his last remaining strength motioned "Yes". "Which Niggun?" the boys asked. "Which Niggun?" Rav Nachum asked . "Which Niggun?" his wife asked.

Rav Neriah tried without success to hint to us. Then he started softly humming with tremendous internal power "Vi'yedu ... vi'yedu .... vi'yedu ... ki atah shimcha Hashem .... ki atah shimcha Hashem livadecha, elyon elyon, al kol ha'aretz, elyon elyon al kol ha'aretz..." [You should know that Hashem alone is elevated above the earth.] The niggun is soft and sweet and gets stronger and stronger as we go along, filled with faith. The Rav is singing along "Vi'yedu, vi'yedu, viyedu ki atah shimcha Hashem, livadecha ...." The Rebbetzin is holding his hand and singing softly "elyon, elyon al kol ha'aretz." On the other side of the bed stands Rav Nachum, with his eyes closed and sings with great intensity and dveykus "Elyon, elyon al kol ha'aretz." I stood there and was tremendously moved by the power of the moment. The room was filled with holy books. Books, notes as well as medications were still scattered on the wooden desk where Rav Neriah had written countless articles and books.

Rav Neriah, with a shining countenance, gathered all of strength and sang "Vi'yedu .. elyon, elyon al kol ha'aretz." I remembered the saying of our Sages "The Shechina is above the head of the sick person." Little by little, the niggun petered out and the boys became silent.

Suddenly the head of Rav Neriah was lifted up slightly, and his voice was heard "elyon..." and he hints to us to continue. The boys sing this time even more powerfully, with more joy and optimism. The Rebbetzin, with a little smile of encouragement on her face, nods her head. "Elyon, al kol ha'aretz."

I have forgotten all of the events of the outside world and all I can see is the shining face of Rav Neriah as he sings "Vi'yedu ki atah shimcha Hashem, elyon al kol ha'aretz."

Friday, November 14, 2008

The Power Of Kindness

"Kindness has converted more sinners than zeal, eloquence, or learning."

Fredrick William Faber

That was the secret to Avraham Avinu's success in kiruv rechokim. If all religious Jews were as kind as we are supposed to be, there would barely be a non-religious Jew on earth.

Paradise On Earth

Somebody once wrote "He who aspires to paradise should learn to deal with people with kindness".

Avraham Avinu was basking in the glory of G-d. Hashem had appeared to him and he was experiencing [according to the Mekubalim] the bliss of the world to come. What is the world to come if not the infinite pleasure of being in G-d's presence and basking
in his glory.

But then he notices that some guests are coming his way. "WAIT G-D" says Avraham, "I will be back soon but first I must attend to my guests". From here we learn that is greater to attend to guests than to receive the Face Of G-d [Gedola hachnosos orchim yoser mayhakbalas pnei hashechina].

Receiving the Face of G-d is SIMILAR to Paradise. Receiving guests and doing chesed IS Paradise.

This requires much elaboration - but I will leave it to the intelligent reader to think about it.

Good Shabbos Sweetest Friends!!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


Recently, Shabbos Parshas Noach, I was asked to give a shiur in a certain place. What should the topic be? I asked myself. A Minchas Chinuch? A Shev Shmatsa? Naaaaah. I wanted the people to be interested and unfortunately in many places such topics just don't fly.

Then Hashem sent me the answer. The Beatles! "Imagine". The Generation of the Tower [Dor Hahaflaga]. Let me explain.

"Imagine there's no heaven
It's easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky

Imagine all the people
Living for today...
Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too

Imagine all the people
Living life in peace...
You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will be as one

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world...
You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will live as one"

Imagine, no heaven! All there is, is this world filled with disease, sadness, death, hardships, pain. Nothing more. Eat, drink and die. Oy Reb John, don't you realize [well now you do...] that over THERE is the real world. Eternal bliss! All the pleasures of this world are less than a drop of water compared to all of the seas and oceans on this planet.

"Nothing to die for." If it ain't worth dying for - it ain't worth living for. When we sit down and learn a daf gemara we know that we would DIE for this gemara [if necessary]. It makes the learning experience so special.

"And no religion too." Life is SO empty! The only thing that has ABSOLUTE meaning is religion. Everything else is just contrived meaning. Example: It is SO IMPORTANT that the Yankees win. Why? Because some idiot [i.e. me] decided that it is important. So I spend a hundred bucks to go to the game [and schlep my kids along] so that I can scream "Go Mantle Go!! [Is Mantle still playing?] But if you think about it - who cares?!!! It is just a stupid game. But G-d [Lihavdil] - ahhhhh, eternal, immutable meaning.

"And the world will be as one." IMPOSSIBLE! World history has proven that it is not happening. The Dor Hahaflaga tried but - no sale. Since then wars, wars, wars. You need to take a lot of foreign substances [a.k.a. drugs] in order to envisage such a reality.

But Moshiach. Ahhhh, the Messianic vision. G-d intervening and sending his anointed messenger to redeem mankind. True peace. True togetherness.

Can't wait.

כי אז אהפוך אל עמים שפה ברורה לקרוא כולם בשם ה' ולעבדו שכם אחד - צפניה ג ט

Monday, November 10, 2008

Limited Hospitality

Shabbos is a great host. When Rosh Chodesh falls out on Shabbos, she gives Rosh Chodesh the rights to Mussaf. When Yom Tov falls out on Shabbos - she gives the whole davening to Yom Tov. When Yom Kippur falls out on Shabbos - she even gives up her 3 meals on behalf of Yom Kippur. But when Tisha B'av falls out on Shabbos - "NO, NO, not by me", says Shabbos Kodesh. "I cannot host ANY sadness!!!" So we push it off until Sunday.

You can't allow yourself to be a host for sadness either!

Tamid Bi'simcha sweetest friends!!!!!!!!!!!!

[Rav Simcha Bunim Mi'pshischa]

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Going Nowhere Fast

When you don't know where you are going, any which way will get you there.

Lewis Carroll

Many people I know suffer form a lack of direction. They WANT to learn but never seem to get anywhere.

The solution is simple. Make a PLAN! What you are going to learn in what period of time. Then set aside time daily to fulfill your plan. Let NOTHING get in your way. Obama calls you to consult about a crucial issue. "Sorry Barack'l - I am in the middle of a seder. Call me back in a half hour." Your friend invites you to a Knicks game. "Sorry, ever since Ernie Grunfeld retired I don't go to games anymore. I want to see a Yid in uniform! [Or at least a coach with a biblical name.] Show the Goyim that we can shoot the rock, also. Besides, I learn an amud of gemara a day two times, and they called the game for exactly the time I learn!"

Did I say that the solution is simple? Simple to say - challenging to implement.

Shavua Tov sweetest friends!

Friday, November 07, 2008

Before Nefesh B'Nefesh

Something to think about over Shabbos.

Everybody knows that Hashem commanded Avraham to go to the Land of Israel and he went.


At the end of Parshas Noach [at that point of the parsha it is hard to pay attention. We are already sooo exhausted by the Mabul and the Tower] we read that Terach was on his way with his family [including Avraham] to Israel.

What was HE thinking?

Good Shabbos, Good Shabbos!!

Open Your Ears

At the beginning of this weeks parsha suddenly Hashem speaks to Avraham and tells him to go to the land He will show him. How come the Torah doesn't tell us any praise of Avraham to explain how he merited that Hashem appeared to him??

The Sfas Emes answers: Hashem didn't speak to Avraham alone. In fact He spoke to everyone, but AVRAHAM WAS THE ONLY ONE WHO HEARD THE CALL.


Hashem is calling out to you as well. I promise you.

But do you hear Him?

The best way to hear Him is to stop listening to others who drown out his message.

Love and blessings sweetest friends!!!

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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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