Friday, October 30, 2009

Avraham And Tzitzis

A beautiful thought on the parsha, here.

Good Shabbos Sweetest Friends!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Love And Kisses

"Yishakeini minishikos pihu" - Kiss me with the kisses of your mouth - Shir Hashirim.

We want Hashem to kiss us. Beautiful! But why kissES - plural. Why isn't one enough?

There are two aspects of the relationship between husband and wife. 1] She is connected to him. 2] She is separated from any other man.

Imagine the scene: Chosson and Kallah in the yichud room. A man walks in and says, "Don't mind me. I will just sit here in the corner and read my newspaper." He sits down and begins humming to himself while reading about the latest "important" sports news. Sorry Charlie, that is not appropriate!

We are married to Hashem. It is inappropriate that anybody else should encroach on the relationship. If there is anything that comes between us, then the relationship is destroyed. Does my TV come between me and Hashem? What about my subscription to Sports Illustrated? Other examples? The intelligent reader knows.

There are two commandments: 1] I am Hashem, 2] Don't have other Gods. Two aspects of the relationship.

Two kisses.

I hope we all remain faithful.

[Based on R' Pinkus' sefer on Chinuch]

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Clinging To The Right Person


The Torah gives only one direct piece of instruction about marriage. "Therefore, a man should LEAVE his mother and father, cling to his wife and they will become one flesh."

The other day I met yet another person who marriage was DESTROYED in no small part thanks to his in-laws. So please! When you get married make SURE to keep both a geographical and emotional distance from the parents on both sides. Respect them, love them, serve them, visit them, pray for them, but remember that your spouse is number one.

Many young men can't distance themselves from their mothers. Gentlemen, sorry! Your mother is already married. You have your own wife. Move on!!

Young ladies, you can still go shopping with mom, but she is now in distant second place. If there is ever a contradiction between your husband and parents the halacha is clear - husband wins!

For parents - if your kids need financial help and you are able and willing to provide, sign checks and then stay out of their business! You think you are helping but more often than not, the opposite is the case. You want to help - keep a low profile. Love them, give emotional support, buy presents for the grandchildren and then go elsewhere. If the kids are old enough to get married, they can work things out on their own. If they need help you can't really help anyway as you are not objective! Let somebody who IS objective help if necessary.

Love and blessings to all!!


For the meaning of life differs from man to man, from day to day and from hour to hour. What matters, therefore, is not the meaning of life in general but rather the specific meaning of a person's life at a given moment.

Viktor E. Frankl

People often think on a large scale - what is my purpose on earth? This is important but ones primary focus should on his purpose at this very minute.

Example: Right now I am davening shacharis - my purpose is to be completely immersed in the tefilla. Then I leave shul and walk home. On the way I see a group of children walking to school. Now my job is to smile and wish them a hearty good morning. Then I eat breakfast. Now my job is to make a bracha from the depths of my heart thanking Hashem for the food and to eat a healthy meal with a dvar torah as a featured event. You get the picture.

Love and blessings!!

PS - If you have not read Dr. Frankl's "Man's Search For Meaning" PLEASE do so - immediately. That is your purpose from the time you get the book in your hands until you finish it....

Monday, October 26, 2009

Where Am I Going?


If you like sfas emes and have trouble with the original you can buy Dr. Leff's book "Emes Ve'emunah".

Parshas Lech Lecha

By Dr. Nosson Chayim Leff
Sfas Emes, Zechuso Tagein Aleinu, Lech Lecha, 5632

The Sfas Emes begins this ma'amar by quoting a question raised by Rashi. HaShem told Avraham to go "to the land that I will show you." Why did HaShem not tell Avraham his specific destination at the outset of his journey? For surely, by reducing uncertainty and resulting anxiety, it would have helped Avraham to know to which land he was headed.

This question is not merely "academic," but rather is of direct practical relevance to us. Chazal tell us that "Maaseh Avos simon lebanim." That is, the lives of our Patriarchs provide a prototype of what we, their descendants, will experience. Thus, each of us will be called upon in his/her own way to undertake a journey similar to that taken by Avraham Avinu, Hence, Rashi's question is in fact very meaningful to us.

So why indeed did HaShem not tell Avraham the destination toward which he was going? Rashi provides an answer to this question. (See his comment on Bereishis, 12:1, dibbur hamaschil "asher ar'eka.") So does the Sfas Emes. As we have come to expect, the Sfas Emes offers us a radically new approach to this question.

The Sfas Emes notes that the journey on which HaShem had commanded Avraham to embark was spiritual as well as geographical. And, continues the Sfas Emes, the uncertainty caused by the lack of vital information -- in this case, not knowing where he was going -- was an essential feature of that journey.

Why so? Because knowing where one is going gives a person a sense of autonomy and control over his life. By contrast, the Sfas Emes tells us, an intrinsic part of a righteous person's journey through life is the willingness to do only the will of HaShem. That is, by freely willing giving up our autonomy and control, we become, in effect, instruments to realize the ratzon (will) of HaShem in this world.

The Sfas Emes continues with a paradox. We sometimes ask: What does HaShem want from us? The Sfas Emes informs us that, only when we give ourselves up totally to do HaShem's will -- regardless of what His will is -- and therefore have no need to ask the question (of what HaShem wants from us), only then does HaShem reveal His will -- i.e., what He wants from us!

(Please go now to the Sfas Emes for 5634, paragraph1, where the Sfas Emes extends this analysis.) The Sfas Emes there quotes the first Medrash Rabba on the parsha. .. In turn, the Medrash there cites a posuk in Tehillim (45:11): "Hear, O maiden, and see, and incline your ear.

At first sight, this posuk seems to be totally irrelevant to this discussion (and to Parshas Lech Lecha as a whole). But wait! When I was a youth, I was taught that when a sefer quotes a posuk, always look it up to see the entire posuk. Applying that rule in the present case, we find that the posuk (of which the Sfas Emes had quoted only a fragment) continues: ". . . forget your people and your father's house."

As you see, this posuk is in fact speaking to a person facing an ordeal similar to the ordeal that Avraham Avinu experienced. For Avraham, too, was told to forsake his people and his father's home. It would be easy to underestimate the nisayon that the command "lech lecha" posed for Avraham. These days, Avraham Avinu's home would be called "dysfunctional" ; for he and his father -- a purveyor of idols -- were in conflict on some basic issues. The people of Avraham Avinu's homeland were similarly unsupportive. Thus, they looked on with complete equanimity when Avraham was thrown into a fiery furnace. Nevertheless, Chazal reckon "lech lecha "as one of the ten nisayonos that Avraham had to confront.

Continuing, the Sfas Emes applies the first part of the posuk -" Hear, see, and incline your ear" -- in that context. That is, strive -- with all of your faculties -- to come closer to HaShem. Further, the Sfas Emes notes that the sequence in the posuk seems to be out of proper order. For, if the posuk was referring to our achieving better cognitive understanding-i.e., knowledge- of HaShem, the correct sequence would be:first, "Incline your ear" and only then, "hear." The posuk's sequence is "out of order" only if we read it as a command to gain greater cognitive knowledge of HaShem. The Sfas Emes notes that the posuk's actual sequence makes perfect sense if we view it as an injunction calling upon us to employ all of our faculties -- in whatever sequence -- in developing our relationship with HaShem.

The Sfas Emes elaborates further on the thought that what is most important in life is the striving to come closer to HaShem. In fact, he goes so far as to say that our yearning to approach Him gives HaShem more joy than the knowledge of Him and the Torah that we actually obtain! The Sfas Emes piles paradox upon paradox. Thus, he tells us that through our striving -- not through our cognitive capacity -- we do, in fact, attain a better intellectual understanding of HaShem.

The Sfas Emes proceeds to present the possibility of a beneficent, upward spiral. That is, through an act of will -- our yearning ("teshuka") to come closer to HaShem -- we also achieve cognitive progress ("hasaga"). And then the upward spiral continues. (By implication, we also face the possibility of, chas veshalom, a self-sustaining downward spiral, a so-called vicious cycle. The Sfas Emes is too gentle to mention this other option.)

Summing up, we can say that the Sfas Emes is telling us that the way HaShem made the world, we should be aware at the outset that we will not get the answers to all our questions. Further, this is a view of life which sees us constantly in motion. There is no menucha (repose) in this world. What we have instead is constant yegiah (striving).

The Sfas Emes continues with a quote from this parsha's Medrash Rabba. The first paragraph there compares Avraham's journey to that of a person who is moving from place to place, until he encounters a "bira dolekes" -- a palace in flames. Said the traveler: "Is it possible that no one is in charge of this palace?" Whereupon, the Master of the palace spoke to him and said: "I am the Master of the palace."

Note a key feature of this Medrash. Standard hashkofo (Torah doctrine) infers the existence of God from seeing the world in harmony and rationality. Here, however, Avraham encounters HaShem in a context of destruction and irrationality! Further, this picture of the world in flames is much closer to the reality of which we hear when we listen to the daily news than a well-ordered, harmonious world.

We conclude with a non-pshat that the Sfas Emes presents in the name of his grandfather. The Chiddushei HaRim reads the word dolekes" in the Medrash just cited as being used in the same way that the root DLK is used in Bereishis, 31:36, that is, "in motion." In other words, the Sfas Emes is telling us that Avraham Avinu recognized that the world - including ourselves -- is constantly in motion, trying to reach an equilibrium of menucha. But, in fact, no such point of repose exists in this life. Instead, we have constant motion -- either coming closer to HaShem or, chas veshalom, moving in the opposite direction.

Friday, October 23, 2009


Sweet Torah from the R' Shlomo Carlebach Torah newsletter:

Rebbe Nachman on Joy

Ah, this is very beautiful. Listen to this…

If I look sad, what happens to the person sitting next to me? They feel a
little bit uncomfortable. Why do they feel uncomfortable? Even if they love
me a lot they'll overcome all those uncomfortable feelings and just say,
“You know, I got to stick it out, he's my friend. I've got to stick
around while he's crying.” But this doesn't go, right.

And imagine I'm sitting here and mamish laughing like the holy Ropshitzer
Rebbe. Laughing my head off. So everybody will feel so comfortable. Why?
It's very simple. Imagine if someone would let me look down into the abyss,
to the abyss of the abyss. It’s very uncomfortable, frightening.

So the truth is, when you see a person who is sad, at that moment you're
mamish confronted with nothingness. You see that this person is just
struggling between being and non-being.

Imagine if you see me standing with one foot on the roof, and the other
foot is just about, gevalt, you know, hanging down over the edge. I can Gd
forbid… You say, “Listen, do me a favor. You make me nervous, you may
be the greatest acrobat in the world, but just put your second foot on the
ground. I'm afraid to see it. Or if you want to do it, I just don't want to
see it.” So when someone is so sad…

You've got to realize, it’s the same thing with Gd. When I'm walking
around sad, you mamish make Gd uncomfortable. I mean, Gd says, “Listen, I
love you. I'm your Gd, I signed a contract on Mt. Sinai, I promised you,
I'll stick it out, I will be with you, but I really don't feel comfortable
with you.

I'll tell you something very very deep. Imagine, when you smile you're
filled with joy. Then when you look at somebody, mamish they look back at
you. When you mamish cry, they can't really look back at you. Mamish, they
try, but they can't look back at you. Like, to say, “We cried eye to
eye.” It just doesn't go. You can smile eye to eye, but you can't cry eye
to eye.

So, you know, we know this world is just a little mirror of heaven. You
have to realize, it's very beautiful when you cry, but it's not really. You
make Gd feel uncomfortable about it. It’s not so good.

Crying with being or crying with nothingness

It depends how you're crying, you know. You can cry with being, or you
can cry with nothingness. I'm not talking about crying in general. I'm
talking about atzvut, this dead kind of sadness.

Listen, On Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kipper we're crying all the time. It's
the holiest tears.

Imagine if someone will come up to you and say, “You know, I love you
so much, really I want to be the greatest friend to you.” crying while
he's saying it, you know, it will open your heart in a thousand ways. But
if someone comes and cries and says, “You know, I was in the beauty
parlor, sniff, sniff, and they treated me, boo hoo, and I overpaid five
dollars extra, boo hoo hoo.” You know, what do you feel then? Oy vey. And
even if this woman is your mother, right? And you really love your mother,
but you just can't stand it. You say, “Oy vey,” and you pat her on the

There is a very big difference between crying before somebody and crying
about something. If I'm crying before Gd, it's the holiest thing. Maybe
He's crying with me. But if I'm crying about something and I'm telling it
to Gd, it’s not so good. I got to cry before Gd.

G-d smiles back at you

But anyway, the most important thing is, you have to know; if you're
shining here below, Gd is shining.

He says, if you smile down below here, then Gd smiles back at you from

Something very holy going on between you and Gd.

Atzvus or merirus

The word sadness is not a good translation. The word Atzvus is, you're
sitting there moping away.

There are two kinds of sadness. There is merirus, which is bitterness,
which is living sadness. Bitterness is, ‘I wish I could do better.
Gevalt, why didn't I do better?’ It’s, 'I didn't do it right. Why
didn't I do better?’ Just knowing I didn't do good enough, I'm sad. This
is a living sadness. And then I walk out from there and I want to do

And then the deepest thing is, the Baal Shem Tov says, the difference
between merirus and atzvus says is very simple. If, after you cry, you see
another person, do you love them or do you hate them? If you cry, and it's
a living kind of cry, then every person looks so beautiful to you. You
think, ‘I'm not so beautiful, but he or she is so beautiful.’ I'm so
happy with them. But if you have this dead kind of sadness, then everybody
looks ugly to you.

You've seen sometimes you cry, you look out the window and see all those
disgusting creatures walking down the street. So with this kind of crying,
Gd can't look at you either.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

No Commentary Necessary

“Most people live, whether physically, intellectually or morally, in a very restricted circle of their potential being. They make very small use of their possible consciousness, and of their soul's resources in general, much like a man who, out of his whole bodily organism, should get into a habit of using and moving only his little finger.”

William James

Cheshbon Hanefesh

"And there was night and there was day".

"And G-d saw that the light was good".


The Mesilas Yesharim stresses that EVERY JEW must take time daily to evaluate whether he is living up to his potential. We must not allow the fast pace of life obfuscate our true purpose. The truth is like a bright light turned on after one sat in the dark for an extended period of time. At first it is very uncomfortable but after one adjusts he realize how much it adds to his pleasure and to his ability to see things as they really are. Then he wonders why he was willing to sit in the dark for so long.

Love and blessings!

Monday, October 19, 2009

A Sure Thing

Sweetest friends Shalom!!

Recently I posted a request to donate money in order to help with the marriage of a young man whose father died tragically young. I received a positive response from approximately 4 [!] people. This leads me to believe either 1] that the readership of alleyways is much smaller than I thought [I always assumed that there must be at least 10 people besides my mother who read this...] or 2] there are MANY other worthy causes and people give to those. I am not so arrogant to think that what I am collecting for is more important than any other tzedaka. If I were arrogant then I would never be able to fall asleep at night - it would be impossible falling asleep in a bed with an arrogant person [a baal gyva in the vernacular]. I could move to a different place but it wouldn't help, he would just follow me...

I would, however, like to thank those kindhearted people who DID open their wallets and especially the person who thanked ME for the opportunity to take part in this mitzva. I feel VERY uncomfortable collecting tzedaka [even though b"h it is not for me] and expression of appreciation eases much of my discomfort. You should know how much you gladdened the family of the orphaned chosson [whom I love very much so you also gladdened me].

Also, I would like to remind all of my sweetest friends that the ONLY money that you ever spend that is guaranteed to last FOREVER is money spent on a mitzva - particularly tzedaka. There are many people who WISH that instead of their money disappearing in the stock market it would have translated into food on the table of the poor. So in this shakey market it is worthwhile investing in a "sure thing".

Love and blessings to all of my friends - Rachmanim Bnei Rachmanim!!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Now Is The Time!

"Time is what we want most, but what we use worst."

William Penn

According to the Sforno and Vilna Gaon the very first thing Hashem created was TIME. "Bereishis bara Elokim" - [First] He created the beginning. Before creation time didn't exist.

One of the biggest problems in modern society is that people have so much free time and don't know how to use it properly. Chazal say that one should do teshuva ONE DAY before death but since he doesn't know when that day is - he should do teshuva today.
This means that we should live every day as if it is our last!! If we do that, our time wil not be wasted and we can meet out Maker as Avraham Avinu did - "ba bayomim" - he came will all of his days completely taken advantage of [I don't think I am allowed to end a sentence with the word "of", but my high school English teacher died long ago - and took her red pen with her, so I will allow myself the pleasure. One more time! Of. That was fun!].

The pasuk says "Vi'ata" - and now. Chazal explain "Vi'ain ata ela lashon teshuva" - "Now" denotes teshuva. Don't wait until tomorrow - today will then be gone forever.

Love and blessings sweetest friends!!!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Transcending Death

"Death must be so beautiful. To lie in the soft brown earth, with the grasses waving above one's head, and listen to silence. To have no yesterday, and no tomorrow. To forget time, to forgive life, to be at peace.”

Oscar Wilde

Sorry Oscar - death stinks [literally and figuratively]!

We weren't supposed to die. "Vi'atem hadveikim bashem elokeichem CHAIM koolchem hayom" - Those who are attached to Hashem remain forever alive. After the sin of Adam we found ourselves detached from the source of life - that is why we die. Removing the fruit from the tree causes the fruit to wilt. So too, we found ourselves removed from our source and we must eventually wilt. [See Maskil Lishlomo on Parshas Bereishis]

There is only one solution. To grab the aitz hachaim - the tree of life.

"Aitz chaim he lamachazikim ba".


Live and learn. Learn and live.


Good Shabbos to my beloved and sweetest friends!!!


Thursday, October 15, 2009

In The Beginning...

Genuine beginnings begin within us, even when they are brought to our attention by external opportunities.

William Throsby Bridges


We have been through soooo much in our lives. Bereishis teaches that you can start all over.


Love and blessings!!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Just You

Related Rav Moshe Tzvi Neriah about Rav Kook:

I merited seeing him at his time of joy on Simchas Torah afternoon. There was an elevated spirit at his table and much lively singing. Suddenly he arose and starting pacing the room while singing the song of the Baal Hatanya [from Tehillim 73, 25] with great emotion: "Mi li bashomayim, vi'imcha lo chafatzti ba'aretz - Ich vill nicht hoben dem oilam hazeh, ich darph nicht hoben dem oilam haba, nor dir alein, nor dir alein." [I don't want this world, I don't need the next world. Just you alone Hashem, just YOU!!!]

[Oros Hatefilla page 29]

Oy sweetest friends, we need more people who are intoxicated with Hakadosh Baruch Hu!!!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Together Forever

"Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”

Helen Keller

Chazal say that the reason we have Shmini Atzeres is because Hashem enjoyed our company so much on Succos, he wants one more day together with us. "Kasha alai preidaschem" - It is difficult to separate from you.

The question is obvious - we are just prolonging the inevitable! The day after Shmini Atzeres we must go back to the drudgery of daily life and Hashem will miss out on our company [kviyachol]. So how does it help to have that extra day??!

Here we see the genuis of our Sages. They determined that Simchas Torah should occur on the same day as the biblical Shmini Atzeres. If we have Torah - then we NEVER separate from Hashem. That connection is sustained for an entire year. As the medrash says on the pasuk "Vayikchu li Terumah" - "Kviyachol nimkarti ima". When you get the Torah, it is a package deal. I come along, too!!

[Based on Rav Hutner ztz"l in the "Pachad"]

Love and blessings!!

Thursday, October 08, 2009

A Shiur Opposite The Kotel

A shiur from last Hoshana Rabba, here. High and holy! What is tefillah?

[As I write I am working on this years shiur.]

Love, blessings and a SWEET Shmini Atzeres/Simchas Torah!!!!!!

Friday, October 02, 2009

A Hug From Above

His left is under my head and his right hugs me. – King Solomon, Song of Songs.

Your left should push away and your right should bring close. – The Talmud Sanhedrin.

The high holy days are the left – we push ourselves away and tell G-d how far we have strayed. We have to think in a deep way how distant we are from Him. "Under my head" – deep in my mind, I realize how distant I am. But the left hand is weaker than the right hand. So we are not lost G-d forbid! The right hand of Hashem comes and HUGS US!!!

That is the Succah. Hashem invites us into His home after we have undergone the purification process of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur.

THAT is the paradox. The moment we realize how far we are from kedusha – we become close again.

Sweetest friends – we have a herculean task ahead of us. We must be happy for 8 consecutive days, for every second of every day. But we can be successful, knowing that Hashem LOVES us and desires our closeness.

Chag Sameach!!!

Based on the sefer Likkutei Torah of the Alter Rebbe ztz"l.

A shiur you may enjoy, here

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Backwards Or Forwards?

“The most unfair thing about life is the way it ends. I mean, life is tough. It takes up a lot of your time. What do you get at the end of it? A Death! What's that, a bonus? I think the life cycle is all backwards. You should die first, get it out of the way. Then you live in an old age home. You get kicked out when you're too young, you get a gold watch, you go to work. You work forty years until you're young enough to enjoy your retirement. You do drugs, alcohol, you party, you get ready for high school. You go to grade school, you become a kid, you play, you have no responsibilities, you become a little baby, you go back into the womb, you spend your last nine months floating..."

Sweetest friends - the Torah perspective is: Life is great! Everyday you grow learn and become wiser. Then after hard work and having overcome many obstacles a person has the honor of leaving this impure world of falsehood and living on in a pure and perfect world, basking in the glory of Hashem and enjoying the fruits of his labor.

Life is not about partying. Hard to swallow such a notion in our hedonistic, materialistic society.

Love and blessings!!

Powered by WebAds
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.
My profile