Friday, January 30, 2009

Don't Get Wasted

"[T]he guilty, secret obsession of early modern society was... the desperate desire to use time well and the pervasive fear that wasted time would waste those who abused it."

Source: Anthony Grafton, Joseph Scaliger: A Study in the History of Classical Scholarship (Oxford University Press, 1983). [Quoted at the bottom of every mail sent by my friend Menachem Butler.]

Sweetest friends, the very first mitzva given to the Jews as a nation is in this weeks parsha - Mitzvas Kiddush Hachodesh. Also known as the mitzva to SANCTIFY TIME. The Torah teaches that TIME IS HOLY!!!

Let's make the most of it. The opportunities are infinite. So is the reward!

Love and blessings. Good Shabbos to all!!!!!!!!!!!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

What Life Asks Of Us

Not Torah but great mussar can be learned from this article that was fit to print. I wish some people would respect Torah Scholars as much as Ryne respects baseball....

Love and blessings to all!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Happy Shevat To All

It is now "Shovevim" [the period of the year when we read the parshiyos of Shmos until Mishpatim]. Many people have the custom to fast during this time [for sins relating to sexual purity]. However, a fast is meaningless unless it was accepted the previous day [preferably during Mincha]. So yesterday at Mincha someone I know accepted upon himself a fast for today - Rosh Chodesh.


That is a no-no. It is forbidden to fast on Rosh Chodesh. On the contrary - one should eat a delicious meal.

The Shulchan Aruch says that in this instance he must gather three people together and nullify the vow with a "pesach" [not the holiday - a familiar term for those who have tasted the delights of Maseches Nedarim].

So fasting is great - but not always.

We should merit to see the ultimate geulah - FAST!!!!!!!!!!

PS - Today is Rosh Hashana for the trees according to Beis Shammai in the first perek of Rosh Hashana - so a Happy New Year to all of my readers who are connected to the ground and bear fruit.

PPS - Is it true what people tell me that the Phoenix Cardinals are in the Super Bowl? When did they move from St. Louis? And how does Louis feel about this?? And how come Phoenix has an "o"?

Monday, January 19, 2009

Here To Stay

A parable given by Rabbi Lau [based on what he heard from Rabbi Dr. Yaakov Herzog]:

Imagine an Olympic aircraft arriving at Athens airport. An old man from the aircraft has received permission to leave the aircraft and sightsee in his home city. This old man has permission from heaven to come and see Athens.

One of the workers at the airport climbs the ladder and asks if he can be of help. “Who are you?” asks the worker. “I am Socrates, the philosopher of Athens.” The worker starts to speak to him, but they have no common language. Oh, they speak Greek, but it’s not the same Greek. It’s not the same language at all. The classic Greek of Socrates and the Greek of today are not the same language.

There is a translator. Socrates asks, “Where is the Acropolis?”

“In Ruins.”

“The Temple of Zeus?”

“There is no Temple of Zeus in Greece. There is a church. A Greek Orthodox Church. But it belongs to Christianity.

“There is no Neptune, no Mars, no Aphrodite, no Helen. Nothing of this kind. Only Christianity.”

“How many countries are under the dominion and control of Greece?”

“None. Greece is a small country in NATO.”

“What are we number one in? Sports? The Marathon? Olympia? Philosophy?”

“No. Just a country.”

Sorry, it is not the same language, not the same religion, not the same power, not an empire at all. The Greece of Komnenos and Papandreou is not the Greece of Socrates, Aristotle or Plato. There is nothing in common. Nothing in common except geography.

An Alitalia flight stops in Fiumicino airport near Rome, and an old guy deplanes. The worker climbs up the ladder. “May I help you? Who are you?”

“Julius Caesar. Veni, vidi vici.”

“May I help you?”

He doesn’t understand the question. The Latin language of Caesar and the Italian language of today are not the same language. Not the same at all.

“Will you take me to the Temple of Jupiter?”

“Who is Jupiter? We have a Vatican here.”

“What is a Vatican?”

“It’s a church. Another religion. Catholicism. There is a Pope from Germany. Yesterday he was from Poland. Not an Italian. No Jupiter.”

“The Coliseum?”

“It is in ruins.”

“Gallia — later-on France — still belongs to Roma?”

“Not at all. France is Chirac. Rome is Parodi. Yesterday Berlusconi.”

“What are the countries that are under our control? Abyssinia? Angola?”

“None of them. Italy is also a state in the Allies of NATO.

“What are we number one in?”

“No field of expertise. The Rome of Caesar and the Rome of Fellini are not the same.”

So these two personalities come to visit their own home cities. But it was not the home as they knew it.


Near Tel Aviv an El Al plane lands. An old man stands up and waits at the door. A worker from Ben Gurion Airport sees a man with a white beard. He climbs up the ladder. “Shalom Aleichem,” the worker says.

The man answers, “Aleichem Shalom.”

“It’s an honor to meet you,” says the worker.

“I am Moshe,” the old man says.

“I am also Moshe,” says the worker. “I was born in Tbilisi, in Georgia.”

“And I was born in Egypt.”

“Did you visit Israel before?”

“Unfortunately never.”

“So it’s not your homeland.”

“It is my homeland. I received a promise from the Almighty to give it to you. Are you Jewish?”

“Of course I’m Jewish. Ani Mosheke m’Gruzia.

“May I ask you a favor?”

The worker says, “Whatever you want.”

“I have come to sightsee. I have 24 hours to visit Israel and I didn’t have a chance to take tefillin with me. Do you know where it’s possible to get tefillin?”

“Tefillin? I’ll give you mine.”

“You have tefillin?”

“Of course I have tefillin,” and he shows them to him. “Only half an hour ago I finished davening Shacharis.”

“And you also have a tallis with tzitzis?”

“Of course.”

“Tallis? Tefillin?”

“Here we have a synagogue. Even three. In the new airport. Three synagogues in the terminal. You want to daven nusach sefard, ashkenaz, chassidim, misnagdim? All the words that Moshe told us 3,300 years ago are here before our very eyes.”

And the old man kisses the mezuzah. He wrote it.

The Torah is forever. Everything else is a passing fancy.

Let us quote Pascal: "It is certain that in certain parts of the world we can see a peculiar people, separated from the other peoples of the world, and this is called the Jewish people . . . This people is not only of remarkable antiquity but has also lasted for a singularly long time . . . For whereas the peoples of Greece and Italy, of Sparta, Athens and Rome, and others who came so much later have perished so long ago, these still exist, despite the efforts of so many powerful kings who have tried a hundred times to wipe them out, as their historians testify, and as can easily be judged by the natural order of things over such a long spell of years. They have always been preserved, however, and their preservation was foretold . . . My encounter with this people amazes me".


Saturday, January 17, 2009

Judging Favorably

Something I found illuminating. And this, inspiring.

Friday, January 16, 2009


Little Rachel's grandmother from her mother's side came to visit. Rachel said "I am so happy you came!"

"Why?" asked Grandma.

"Because I get to see Daddy do a trick".

"What trick?"

"He said that when you come he is going to climb the walls".

How did Moshe relate to his father-in-law?

Moshe is told by Hashem to redeem the Jewish people. He answers [according to the medrash] "Can't do it yet. Got some business to take care of first". What business? He first has to go back and say goodbye to his father-in-law Yisro. Why? Because "haposeiach pesach lachaveiro nafsho chayav lo". Yisro opened his house to Moshe. From Moshe's perspective he owes Yisro HIS LIFE! Not because Yisro saved his life [on the contrary - Moshe saved Yisro's daughters], but because Yisro hosted Moshe.

What a way to look at the obligation we have toward those who opened their homes to us. And what a great lesson in the importance of hachnosos orchim.

[The Alter Of Slabodka Rav Nosson Tzvi Finkel Ztz"l]

Good Shabbos Sweetest Friends

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Humility At The Bush

It ain't the heat, it's the humility.

Yogi Berra

The time has come to redeem the Jewish people from Egypt. Hashem appears to Moshe at the Burning Bush [that's "the heat"] and says, in effect, “Moshe, you’re the MAN!! You get the merit of redeeming the Jewish people from servitude”. Wow! What a great career opportunity. King, Prime Minister, President and Miracle Man all in one. In the modern world of politics we know how much effort is invested by the various candidates to convince people that they are the IDEAL candidate. Promises are made, hands are shook, babies are kissed, all for the golden opportunity to LEAD. Here, Moshe gets the job handed to him on a silver platter - by G-d Himself. What an honor [or "honour" if I may wax English for a moment]!

“Wait”, says Moshe. “Not me!” If not you, then whom? “Bee A-donai, shlach na bi‎’yad tishlach – Please G-d [Moshe pleads!], send whomever you will send”. Moshe makes a cryptic statement. To whom is he referring? Who SHOULD Hashem send?

Well, here the Sages get involved and offer various explanations. Rashi says famously that he is referring to his older brother Aharon. A medrash suggests that he is referring to Moshiach. Another medrash says that he means Eliyahu Hanavi. All distinguished personalities. We can still understand Moshe on some level. The aforementioned individuals are more suitable for the job, claims Moshe in his great humility. Humility yes, but within the realm of human comprehension. [Now we got humility. Thanks Yogi!]

But then we move to the Ramban. [Please sit down as you are reading this. The shock may be overwhelming.] The Heilige [“holy” in the vernacular] Ramban says that Moshe essentially said as follows: “Ribbono Shel Olam, EVERY SINGLE JEW IS MORE SUITABLE THAN MYSELF FOR THIS TASK. It doesn’t matter whom. Yonah the Plumber, Kobi the cab driver, Itzik the guy who stands behind the counter at the falafel store, Yankel the laundry guy. Every Jew is more worthy than I". This is a display of humility that is beyond belief. Moshe wasn’t joking, he really meant it.

It is this same Ramban who writes in his famous letter that I must try to discern in every person how he is superior to me. “Vi’chol adam yihiye gadol mimcha bi’aynecha”. This obligation applies not only to tzaddikim like Moshe Rabbeinu but to each and every one of us. An honest look will reveal that in fact every person we meet IS superior to us in some way.

The Holy Tolna Rebbe Ztz”l of Bayit Vegan was once at the Kotel Ha’maaravi with his grandson [liheebadel bain chayim lichayim], the present Rebbe, Mori Vi’Rabi Shlita [from whom I heard this story on numerous occasions]. On his way out the Rebbe Ztz”l spotted a Jew whom he recognized. The following dialogue ensued [approximately]: “Shalom Aleichem!!” The man answered “Rebbe, if you would know what a Rasha I am you would not greet me like that”. The Rebbe replied “What are you talking about? You are a better Jew than I am!” “Rebbe, I was recently released from jail for committing a horrific crime”. “You are still greater than I am”, the Rebbe insisted. “I don’t believe you”, the man said. “Well, then I will prove it to you. I am going to swear at the kotel!” Now, the Rebbe suffered from terrible pains in his legs. His doctor said that he had never seen such diseased legs in his life. He was also very old at this time. The people accompanying him tried to dissuade him, but he wouldn’t hear of it. He proceeded to embark on a painstaking walk from the parking lot all the way back to the kotel. When he finally arrived he said “I swear [!] that Ploni ben Plonis [he said the man’s name and mother’s name] is a better Jew than I am”. Only then did he slowly return to the parking lot. The man looked on in disbelief.

Now, I know many people who were personally acquainted with the Rebbe, have studied much about his life and I would be hard pressed to name anyone in this generation who reached his level of righteousness - yet he genuinely thought that this criminal was superior to himself. This, sweetest friends, is the middah of Moshe Rabbeinu.

We are presently at war with our enemies. We need every zchus we can get. Chazal say in the Talmud Yerushalmi, that in the time of King Achav, despite the fact that Jews worshipped idols they didn’t fall in the battlefield because there was peace amongst them. The way to achieve this peace is to view every Jew with Moshe Rabbeinu’s perspective. Honestly and sincerely viewing every Jew as superior – and then making him feel that way. According to another Chazal [quoted in the sefer Reishis Chochma] one of the questions we will be asked after 120 years is "Did you make your friend KING over yourself ["himlachta chavercha alecha"]. Every Jew a King [or Queen of course]. This approach should be zchus for all of klal yisrael until the day when we see the fulfillment of the bracha “Vinosati Shalom ba’aretz ushichavtem vi’ain machrid”. Amen keyn yehi ratzon!!

Good Shabbos Beloved Friends!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Constructive Fear

"According to a study conducted, the greatest fear amongst Americans is the fear of public speaking. The second greatest fear is the fear of death. That means that the average person would rather be IN the casket than talking about someone else lying in the casket."

Many people I know don't like to think about death. They push it back to the deepest recesses of their minds and try to avoid dealing with it. This is a serious problem. It is only through the knowledge of the constant possibility of ones own demise that he can truly begin to live.

Our Sages put it best "Repent the day before you die. IIIIIIIIIIIII [to be said in a sing-song], you never know when you are going to die? Exactly, do teshuva today. It might be your last."

With blessings that Hashem should give you looooooooooooooooooong life and that you should have the wisdom to take advantage of every moment.


Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Divinity Of The Torah

"All Jews have a portion in the World to Come ... [except for] .. someone who says that the Torah was not written by G-d." [Sanhedrin 90a]

"He disgraces the word of G-d" - this is one who says that even one sentence from the Torah is not from G-d. [Sanhedrin 99a]

"These people have no portion in the World to Come and are cut off forever because of their wickedness .... Someone who says that even one pasuk from the Torah is not from G-d." [Rambam Teshuva 3/8. See also Rambam Avoda Zara 2/2]

In light of the foregoing this caused me great anguish. What bothers me more is the fact that according to "The Commentator" about 140 young men who sit in the Beis Medrash went to participate.

Sunday, January 11, 2009


A link sent by Rav Chaim Yehoshua Hakohen Austein Shlita of a shiur delivered after the Mumbai massacre. Thank you R' Chaim!

Hashem Yinkom Domom!!!

Saturday, January 10, 2009


A Jew from the West Coast of the US is looking for a phone chavrusa in the sefer Bnei Yissaschar. If you are interested please email me:

Friday, January 09, 2009

Be Strong!!

This Shabbos I am making a siyyum!!! Mazel Tov to me! Mazel Tov to you also! You, too are making a siyyum. I am referring of course to Sefer Bereishis.

When we finish [how can that be if we have never been to Finland? Every Finish person I know is from Finland!] we will say "Chazak Chazak Vinischazeik" ["my mother baked a chocolate cake" is a later addition]. Why do we say this phrase??

I thought to suggest the following: The phrase is taken from a pasuk [Shmuel Beis 10/12] where Yoav tells the Jews before they fight against Ammon "Be strong and let us strengthen ourselves [chazak vinichazeik] for the sake of our people and for the sake of the cities of our G-d." Maybe we are saying "We just finished a book of Torah. That is WONDERFUL. But we must not forget about Am Yisrael and Eretz Yisrael. The true realization of Torah is when Am Yisrael is keeping it in Eretz Yisrael. The Holy Triad: Toras Yisrael, Am Yisrael and Eretz Yisrael!! "Our people and the cities of our G-d."

See a different approach here from the Holy Rav Ozer Shlita. And once I am already sending you to graze in "foreign" pastures - check this out. Awesome!

Good Shabbos beloved friends!!

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Cold - But Pure

Snow!!!!!!!! I love snow!

I also love mikva! Ahhhh to be pure!

May I combine my two loves and dunk in a mikva of snow? The Beis Yoseph says that I may. However the Rema says that some are machmir to wait for the snow to melt. [See Yo"d 301/30 and a lengthy discussion in Rav Ovadia's Taharas Habayis Vol. 3 Page 319]

Just one thing. If you accept the ruling of the Beis Yosef, DON'T bundle up before going in. And it's COOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOLD.

But ya know - if a few mishigene Chicago Bears fans can do it [these shirtless maniacs always get on TV when it snows] - I can do it!

Monday, January 05, 2009

Sunset And Face Falling

Today I was in shul for mincha and by the time the chazzan finished his repetition of shmoneh esrei it was already past shkiyah. So he skippped Tachanun and said kaddish. After davening somebody approached him and complained "Why did you skip Tachanun?!" [Wow! Somebody complained about SKIPPING Tachanun. For many, this is reason enough to throw a kiddush.]

"After shkiyah we don't say Tachanun" was the answer.

"Yes we do."

Who is right?

Jewish answer - both of them!!

The Mishna Brura rules [in Hilchos Nefilas Apaim] that one should say Tachanun after shkiyah. However Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach and Rav Eliashev are quoted in Ishei Yisrael as saying that minhag Yerushalayim is to skip Tachanun after shkiyah. [See also the Mishna Brura with the comments of Rav Nevenzahl.]

Friday, January 02, 2009

Coffee And Wine

Something funny I saw.

You're Drinking Too Much Coffee When:

You ski uphill.

You speed walk in your sleep.

You answer the door before people knock.

You sleep with your eyes open.

You just completed your third sweater today, and you don't know how to knit.

You grind your coffee beans in your mouth.

You have to watch videos in fast-forward.

You can type sixty words a minute with your feet.

You don't sweat, you percolate.

People get dizzy just watching you.

People can test their batteries in your ears.

Your birthday is a national holiday in Brazil.

Your Thermos is on wheels.

You can outlast the Energizer Bunny.

You don't even wait for the water to boil anymore.

You don't tan, you roast.

You soak your dentures in coffee overnight.

You think CPR stands for "Coffee Provides Resuscitation."

In this weeks parsha Rashi says [45/23] that Yoseph sent to Yaakov [not coffee] but wine, which is very popular with the elderly ["daas zekeinim nocha heimenu"].

Wine gets better with age ONLY if the original wine is of fine quality. But if the wine starts out inferior then it will get more sour with age. So, too, a person. If when he is young he is of fine quality he will get better with age. Otherwise, the older the ....

[R' Shlome'le Alter quoted in Ma'ayana Shel Torah]

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Poor Substitutes

Sweetest Friends, the Pledge Of Allegiance in Yeshivish from Chaim Weiser's book "FrumSpeak": "I am meshabed myself, b'li neder, to hold shtark to the siman of the United States of America and to the medina which is gufa its tachlis; one festa chevra, b'ezras Hashem, echad ve'yuchid, with simcha and erlichkeit for the gantza oilam." [For those who don't remember the original: "I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands: one Nation under God, indivisible, With Liberty and Justice for all."]

Chazal tell us that on the 8th of Teves three days of darkness descended upon the world because King Ptolmey forced the Rabbis to translate the Torah into Greek and that was as bad for the Jewish people as the sin of the Golden Calf, for the Torah cannot be properly translated. [והיה אותו יום קשה לישראל כיום שנעשה בו עגל שאינה יכול להתרגם כל צרכה]

What is the comparison between the sin of the Golden Calf and the translation of the Torah? The Jews made the Calf because they wanted a substitute for G-d. ["Aileh Elohecha Yisrael"] Poor substitute! So too, when the Torah was translated it was a very poor substitute for the original. The light of the Torah can only be found in its original holy tongue.

The contemporary ramifications? Translations may be helpful but there is no substitute for the original. [See a lengthy halachic article on the permissibility of translations in Techumin 17 - I think. You'll be surprised how problematic it is.]

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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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