Sunday, June 28, 2009

From So Far - Until So Close

It's hard to be humble, when you're as great as I am.

Muhammad Ali

The true way to be humble is not to stoop until you are smaller than yourself, but to stand at your real height against some higher nature that will show you what the real smallness of your greatness is.

Phillips Brooks

What does a person do if he feels no desire to serve Hashem? He's just not interested. He IS interested in a girl [or two], pizza, ice cream, the Yankees and sleep. But learning, davening, kedusha, tahara - he's just not in the mood!

Well, if the person is asking the question that is a GREAT sign! He realizes that he is spiritually ill. That is the first step to health. If he ISN'T asking that is a danger sign. You can't get better if you don't know that you need medicine.

So what should he do??

CRY!! He must admit to Hashem that he is sooooo low and that he wants to FEEL it again. This admission of "lowness" and expression of humilty will arouse heavenly mercy. That is what Dovid Hamelech meant when he said [Tehillim 10/17] "The desire of the humble you have heard, guide their heart, let your ear listen" - or in the original תאות ענוים שמעת ה' תכין לבם תקשיב אזנך

G-d loves the humble whereas the haughty leave an unbearable stench!

The realization of ones smallness will elevate one to great heights.

[See Tzidkas Hatzaddik 135]

Love and blessings!

Friday, June 26, 2009

When Silence Is The Most Powerful Form Of Expression

“We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature - trees, flowers, grass - grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence... We need silence to be able to touch souls.”

Speech is holy.

Hashem created man by BREATHING into him. We use this breath to speak and this speech is a continuation of Hashem's power of speech, as we say in our davening "udvarai asher samti bifeecha" - the words I put into your mouth. [Rav Moshe Shapiro Shlita]

With Hashem's words he created the world and our speech too has the power of creation. We can create good with the right words [torah, tefilla, chesed etc.] and we destroy with the wrong words.

Speech is a potent tool. Just like we don't use a sefer torah to hold a door open, we also shouldn't use our speech for mundane matters. OF COURSE we are not allowed to speak lashon hara or nivul peh but I am talking about a higher level - only speaking when necessary [see Chullin 99a and Tzidkas Hatzaddik 89].

In our generation there is SO MUCH excessive verbiage! People talk and talk and talk and talk.

And then talk some more.

I sit on the bus and can't enjoy a moment of silence [in memory of John F. Kennedy?]. I am compelled to listen to five people sitting around me. She is talking about her latest relationship, he is talking about where he ate dinner last night, she is talking about what the weather might be tomorrow and how her plans to go on a trip will be affected.

Talk shows - talking for the sake of talking. Using and abusing such a special gift.

But silence! Ahhhh silence. When one is silent he can hear the call of Hashem, he can hear the needs of his neshama. He can introspect. THINK! In this world so many people can't think - they are much too busy talking!!

Sweetest friends, let us begin to look more inward - and that is facilitated by silence.

Love and blessings!!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

From Green Bay To Crown Heights

Football is like life - it requires perseverance, self-denial, hard work, sacrifice, dedication and respect for authority.

Vince Lombardi

Vince'le - In my opinion you took football MUCH too seriously. It is really just a game. A violent one at that. But your observation about life is true. Plus, I liked your hats. Perfect for davening back in the sixties when people wore those small brimmed hats.

Today is the Lubavitcher Rebbe's yahrzheit. There is much to say but I will suffice with one story I heard from the Rebbe Shlita [Tolna - not Chabad...]. One time someone was told by the Rebbe to do something. The person claimed that it was too difficult because it was against his nature.

The Rebbe replied "By nature I am an introvert and I have to overcome my nature and appear in public. But I do it."

Some people thrive when appearing in public. The Rebbe, however, felt uncomfortable doing so. For over FORTY YEARS day in and day out the Rebbe had to overcome his basic nature!!


Why? Go with what comes easily?!

No! Life isn't supposed to be easy. Sometimes the will of Hashem is that we should do what is difficult and we must overcome our basic nature. This is called in the Holy Books - "Mesirus Nefesh".

Maybe in the merit of his self-sacrifice he has thousands upon thousands of people who are willing to completely sacrifice their comfortable lives and live under the most difficult circumstances in order to bring Jews closer to Hashem.

Baruch Hashem, in this generation we no longer have to DIE for G-d, but we must learn how to LIVE for Him. A different type of Mesirus Nefesh.

Love and blessings!!

WE WANT MOSHIACH NOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Playing Hockey With A Baseball Bat

When I was young and foolish [I am no longer young...], I considered studying Talmud in university. I am glad I didn't! I once saw somebody compare the study of Talmud in university to the study of Talmud in Yeshiva to the difference between a doctor performing an autopsy [- university] or operating on a live body [- yeshiva].

In Yeshiva, Abaye didn't SAY - he is SAYING.

In university, what Abaye said is part of Jewish history.

In Yeshiva the meaning of a Rambam is a matter of life and death ["ki heim chayeinu"].

In a university it is [at best] a matter of academic import, but has no practical value.

In Yeshiva, Maamad Har Sinai was 3,300 years ago and continues to reverberate until this very day.

In university, Maamad Har Sinai might or might not have happened - it doesn't really matter. Whatever you believe is fine - as long as you don't tell other people what you think they should believe.

Don't get me wrong - there are matters of methodology where the university approach has validity [such as the examination of alternate texts or the study of history to better understand the reality ["mitzeus"] of ancient times], but after all is said and done, if one wants to study Torah - Yeshiva is the place to go.

There ARE great Torah scholars in the academic world but the ultimate goal of Torah study is Yiras Shomayim (see Shabbos 31a at the bottom of the page) - and THAT you won't find in university [by their own admission].

Here is an EXCELLENT critique of academic Torah study. Well said!!

Love and blessings and see ya in Yeshiva!!!

PS- No offense to my good friend R' Menachem and others [such as Rav Prof. Twersky who was a Chassidishe Rebbe, Lamdan par excellence, and Prof. of Jewish studies at Harvard] who are university trained and much greater Jews than myself.

Unrelated; On Yutorah we have a series of shiurim on Sefer Shmuel explaining pshat, Chassidus, Mussar, Halacha etc. Here is a sample of the latest.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Seeing The Light

Born to be wild - live to outgrow it.

Lao Tzu

As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being.

Carl Jung

Sweetest friends Shalom!!!

The pasuk says "Adam ayir pere yivaleid" - Man is born as a wild donkey. So if you see someone acting like an animal it is because he was born that way.

A GREAT Yid came to the world named Rav Yisrael Salanter. He tried to spread the message that we must work our entire lifetimes to change our basic nature. Unfortunately, he is all but forgotten. If people are working it is usually not on their middos but at the office. Working at the office is important! But a person can be a Harvard trained lawyer and live like an animal. Eat like an animal, have relations like an animal, get angry like an animal etc. etc.

We have been blessed with an entire literature designed to guide us in the herculean task of character improvement. Some of the suggested books: Messilas Yesharim [of course], Shaarei Tshuva, Chovos Halevavos, Alei Shor [Rav Volbe], Daas Chochma Umussar [Rav Yerucham Levovitz] and the latest hit "Da Es Atzmicha" [now translated into english as "Know Yourself" - I think].

I am looking for good Jews who are involved in internalizing the content of these brilliant sefarim filled with deep psychological insight for the purpose of self-perfection. Once I find such people I would like to go to them for berachos because they are HOLY!! Such people make great spouses, friends, workers and members of the community.

Once somebody starts learning more and more mussar he begins to understand how many flaws he has in his character and how much he must improve. When he starts making changes, his life becomes so much more meaningful. Until that time a person is living in darkness - and when he sees the light [after the 120 mark], it is too late.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Living Your Dreams

Live out of your imagination, not your history.

Stephen Covey

The Holy Books explain that dreams are from the realm of imagination ["dimyon"] and not from one's intellectual faculties ["sechel"]. Yosef Hatzaddik had a ROUGH life [see the famed best-seller "The Bible"], but he never became depressed. He had dreams and was just patiently waiting for them to come true. In the end they did!!

Sweetest friends - if you dream and believe in Hashem and the capabilities with which you are endowed, your dreams might too become fulfilled. Don't let the rough times get you down!!

Love and blessings!!!!

Unrelated PS- Recently I saw that there is a professional ballplayer named "Hasheem". I don't know what his middle name is but if his parents are already going in that direction may I humbly suggest "Yisborach".

I shouldn't make fun - MY name sounds very much like that of a certain arab deity .....

Friday, June 19, 2009

A Timely Message

Lost time is never found again.

Benjamin Franklin

Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you.

Carl Sandburg

Until you value yourself, you won't value your time. Until you value your time, you will not do anything with it.

M. Scott Peck

The Holy Mashgiach Rav Yerucham Levovitz Ztz"l [d. 1936] was once ill so he went to the doctor. The doctor told him that he must not learn for a while! He needs to rest and go to a concert. So Rav Yerucham followed the doctors orders and went to a concert. He left in the middle. He explained that watching people wasting their lives made him more sick than he was before!!

Sweetest friends - time is a great gift. But once you lose it, it never returns.

Carpe diem - Seize the day!!

Love, blessings and a Great Shabbos!!

A good shiur on dealing with kefira given by the genius of my high school class.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Strengthening Faith

As your faith is strengthened you will find that there is no longer the need to have a sense of control, that things will flow as they will, and that you will flow with them, to your great delight and benefit.

Emmanuel Teney

Every tomorrow has two handles. We can take hold of it with the handle of anxiety or the handle of faith.

Henry Ward Beecher

Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase.

A Man

Sweetest Friends Shalom!!!

The first and most important of the 613 Mitzvos is belief in G-d. People think that this mitzva is like Kiddush - you do it and you are yotzei. Finished! "I believe, there is nothing else to talk about! Let's move on to other things."




We must constantly learn about Hashem and deepen our faith in Him. Just as He is beyond infinite, so too learning about Him is a never ending [and constantly rewarding!] process.

For that we have BOOKS. Sefarim kedoshim. Examples: Tanach with commentaries, Agadata and medrashim with commentaries, Moreh Nevichim, Kuzari, Maharal, Rav Kook, Michtav M'eliyahu to name just a few.

Time is running out beloved friends - we must get moving!!

Side benefit - believing is much cheaper than a psychologist. And more effective!

Love and blessings!!!

PS - Mazel Tov to my good friend R' Yitzi Jacob and his Mrs. on the birth of their holy son!!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Chassidim And Chassidus

Two recent immigrants from Haiti are walking in midtown Manhattan and they see men with long side curls, long black coats and black hats. So one fellow asks his friend "Who is dem guys?" His friend answers "Ha-ssidem". So he replies "I see dem too, but who is dem guys?!"

It is good to learn Chassidus because Chassidus talks a lot about Hashem. My very good friend Rav Moshe Tzvi Weinberg, [the "Bergenfielder Tzaddik"] gives lovely, inspiring shiurim in Chassidus and here is one.

Also, here is a shiur about whether there is a mitzva for children to die al kiddush Hashem, given by someone very close to me.

Love and blessings!!!

A few mazel tovs to my friends [and of course their wives] who recently had babies: R' Noam Kaplan - a girl, R' Yaakov Ellis - a girl, R' Shalom Yitzchak Chaim Dworken - a boy, R' Meir Dov Berman -a boy. MAZEL TOV TO ALL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Glory Fades

The Gemara at the end of Kiddushin says that learning Torah is AWESOME! Why? Amongst other reasons, learning is so great because even when we get old and the [internal] plumbing doesn't work so well, we walk slowly, the ears don't process sound as they once did and the stamina goes down - we can still enjoy a daf gemara or a vort of the Kli Yakar. I have seen this so many times. People who grow old and their lives are filled with meaning because they are learning - and people who are bored out of their brains and are just passing time until ..... [What do I say about cemeteries? People are dying to get in.]

I used to be a professional athlete [then my alarm went off and I awoke from my slumber]. The problem was that as my skills began to deteriorate and I could no longer play as I once could - it was depressing!! But if you have Torah - that lasts forever [literally!].

I recently saw a powerful article with this important mussar haskel.

Baruch Hashem shesamta chelkeinu miyoshvei Beis Hamedrash vilo miyoshvei kiranos!!!

Love and blessings to all!!

Friday, June 12, 2009


Our present time is indeed a criticizing and critical time, hovering between the wish, and the inability to believe. Our complaints are like arrows shot up into the air at no target: and with no purpose they only fall back upon our own heads and destroy ourselves.

William Temple

William - GEVALDIK!!!

I don't know who you are [although I pray three times daily for your speedy rebuilding]
but you are perfectly describing the Jews in the desert. Read Sefer Bamidbar! All of this complaining just backfired. We should have believed more in Hashem and then we wouldn't of had to complain so much. In the end we just destroyed ourselves.

Sweetest friends, the lesson for life is obvious. If you want to be happy, spend your time appreciating your blessings and you won't even realize what you lack. You will be sooooooo busy SERVING HASHEM BI - 2, 3, 4 IVDU ......

Love and blessings to all.

Good Shabbos!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

A Thought For Behaaloscha

A nice thought for the [American] Parsha.

And yet another BEAUTIFUL idea on why we eat fish on Shabbos.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Peace Talks

The concept of two people living together for 25 years without a serious dispute suggests a lack of spirit only to be admired in sheep.

A. P. Herbert

I have learned that only two things are necessary to keep one's wife happy. First, let her think she's having her own way. And second, let her have it.

Lyndon B. Johnson

In every marriage more than a week old, there are grounds for divorce. The trick is to find, and continue to find, grounds for marriage.

Robert Anderson

Chazal felt that divorce is generally a bad idea. It messes up the kids [I've seen it a thousand times!] and causes great anguish to all. That is the idea behind the kesuba. Divorce will cost ya. I was reminded of this when I saw the following article. So something good has come out of this financial downturn. [Of course I am not referring to those cases where divorce is necessary.]

The Torah teaches that we ERASE THE NAME OF HASHEM to bring peace between man and wife. That shows how critical it is.

May we all be zocheh to be married in PEACE.

Monday, June 08, 2009

When Enough Is Enough

Sent to me by my beloved friend Yosef Ezra ben Esther Jaspan.

To Forget Or Not To Forget?

"Man is a messenger
who forgot the message"

Sweetest friends Shalom!!

In Parshas Shlach we read about the spies who were supposed to report back to the Jews about the Land of Israel. Instead of doing what is right and encouraging the Jews to enter the Holy Land they said "Sorry fellas, it can't be done".

They were supposed to be messengers representing G-d but instead rebelled against Him. We, too, are entrusted with special tasks to fulfill on behalf of G-d. Sometimes we forget.

A friendly reminder.....

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Back Home!!

"At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person.
Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us."

"To educate yourself for the feeling of gratitude means to take nothing for granted, but to always seek out and value the kind that will stand behind the action. Nothing that is done for you is a matter of course. Everything originates in a will for the good, which is directed at you. Train yourself never to put off the word or action for the expression of gratitude."

"Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity.... It turns problems into gifts, failures into success, the unexpected into perfect timing, and mistakes into important events. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow."

I have returned Baruch Hashem from my two day excursion to the U.S. The Shulchan Aruch rules "Mefarsimim Osei Mitzva" [one should publicize those who do mitzvos] so I feel an obligation to thank all of those fine people who gave me rides: Yoni Wachspress, Michael Simons [who drove me past the old Yankee Stadium, known as "The House That Ruth Built" - how apropo! This was two days after we read Megillas Rus, which concludes with the birth of King David and his Malchus - Malchus Beis Dovid "The House That Ruth Built"!!!], Chaim Laufer, Dori Binyamin Levin, Yoav Goldstoff and a nice black man who drives a cab for a living [he looked at me funny when I asked him at the end of the ride "kama ze oleh?"]. Also many people offered me rides and that was greatly appreciated as well [especially Jonathan Weitzman].

The greatest thank you goes to Avraham Yitzchak Jaspan [HECHAA'AAASAN] and Yosef Ezra Jaspan who organized everything. They were exceptionally concerned with my well being and it was touching. I hope that I can somehow repay all of the kindness bestowed upon me.

It was also GREAT seeing so many friends.

Also, since my home is in Israel, I had no place to sleep, so I had to spend two nights sleeping in Central Park! Fortunately, my parents have an apartment there so I was much more comfortable than I would have been had I slept on a park bench. This is in addition to hosting me [free of charge!!] for the first 16 years of my life in their home. My mother gets an added thank you for shlepping me around for nine full months until I was ready to make my grand entrance. [What is interesting is that people tell me that I haven't gained much weight since then :).]

A major Mazel Tov to Avraham Yitzchak and Hila Jaspan, Shalom Yaakov [a VERY precious Neshama] and Rachel Hopkowitz [whose wedding I attended on Monday night in Staten Island] and to my old friend Michael Eisenberg whose son Yeshayahu was Bar-Mitzvahed this past Shabbos in Yerushalayim [with the famous Miami Boys Choir star and old MTA classmate Jonathan Paley davening a beautiful Mussaf]. As a child I spent many a Shabbos afternoon at the Eisenberg's and they always treated me so nicely.

In addition, I want to thank all of the people who approached me and told me that they visit alleyways and listen to my shiurim on YUTORAH. It is a great source of chizzuk knowing that people are benefiting in some way from the efforts and time I invest in trying to inject some spirituality into our material world. Sometimes I get an email, phone call or meet a person who gained something from me and I must tell you that it is a tremendous source of simcha and reinvigorates me.

So, to rephrase a famous expression "If you have something nice to say - say it!" This applies to anyone and everyone. We don't realize the power of our words.

"Maves Vi'chaim Bi'yad Halashon".

Love and blessings sweetest friends!!!!!

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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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