Saturday, January 30, 2010

BEAUTIFUL Torah From Tzvi Moshe

In this week’s Parsha, the redemption of the Jewish people comes into full focus with the splitting of the sea and the Shirah. Through analyzing the transition from Galus to Geula, the switch from exile to redemption, we will hopefully see how to bring this down to the personal level, and make that same transition in my day-to-day.

The Sfas Emes explains that certain Parshios are uniquely directed at bringing out Galus themes, and there are Parshios that are specifically designed to bring out Geula. Parshas Vayechi is the first, and our Parsha, Beshalach, is the latter. Let’s go deeper into his words.

In order to illustrate the transition we need to start at the beginning of the exile, which occurs in Parshas Vayechi. Parshas Vayechi marks the beginning of the Galus for a number of reasons that we will try to spell out. On the most basic level, it is the point that all of Bnei Yisrael descend into Egypt, and from there they become enslaved.

There is something very interesting about Vayechi in that it is a Parsha Stumah. Parsha Stumah literally means a Parsha that is sealed. A Parsha Stumah is a Parsha where the breaks that are normally present to separate between Parshios are not there in their normal form, and one Parsha flows into another almost as one Passuk would be placed right next to another, forming a lock-down on either side of the Parsha. What are the breaks normally for for? The Midrash tells us that they are Revach L’Hisbonen time to think, digest and ponder about the last idea before proceeding on to the next one. This means that Vayechi, the Parsha that marks the beginning of exile is defined by being sealed off from the ability to think clearly. The Midrash tells us that the Parsha is sealed because the eyes and hearts of the Jews became sealed - the ability to flourish was squashed.

So what went into Galus exactly? The Ohr G’Delyahu explains the words of Chazal that tell us that Mitzrayim was a Galus of the Dibur, of speech. What is speech? The Chovos HaLevavos beautifully tells us that ‘The mouth is the quill of the heart.’ Meaning that which I have inside of me, my thoughts and feelings, are expressed when they come outwardly from my mouth. What Mitzrayim did was take away that ability to express.

Perhaps we can explain then, how these ideas are fully solidified in how Vayechi comes to a close. The Parsha ends with “And Yosef was buried in a coffin in Egypt.” This is the ultimate form of being boxed in. The coffin is a sealed box that has contained finality. In is the axiomatic symbol of the end of this ability to flourish, the grave is the mark of the stopping – of closing in, and this is the final image of Vayechi.

So now we understand exactly what Galus is. The ability to express myself, to think for myself, the ability to flourish on my own - when these are taken away, I’m in exile.

This means that everything that illustrates exile must be present in the total opposite in our Parsha where we get Geulah. We’ll start with the issue of Parsha Stumah. We explained that the Parsha Stumah is the lack of space in the Parsha. And we see how the opposite is obviously present in Beshalach where we have the set-up of the Shirah! The song at the sea is written in such a way that extra space is intentionally put in. Either a wide gap in the middle, or space on both side is present in every line! So if the lack of space is a representation of the lack of free thought, then the Shirah is an expression of free thought on the highest level!

Next we need to address the issue of Dibur going into Galus. If Mitzrayim took away speech, which is the ability to bring my inner feelings out, then the obvious flip-side if the Shirah itself! The song that was sung at the Yam Suf was a spontaneous bursting forth of speech and tune and emotional overflowing all woven together! It’s the highest level of expression!

And what is the opposite of the coffin of Yosef? Perhaps we can say that the parallel is found in Kriyas Yam Suf. If the coffin is the symbol of being boxed in, then it would make sense to say that the splitting of the sea is a clear image of opening up!

Now, in contrast to the crushing experience of Galus, we see that Geula is the ability to open up and truly express myself.

There is an interesting interplay where these two opposite Parshios meet. The Passuk in Tehillim (114:3) says that “HaYam Ra’a VaYanas” The sea saw and if ran away. This is a reference to our splitting of the sea in Beshalach. The question is, what did the sea see? It’s brought down in a number of sources that it saw the Coffin that had Yosef, it saw the bones of Yosef, and that caused it to split open.

It’s unbelievable that specifically the image of being contained and stifled is exactly what caused the sea to widely open up! What does this mean? That the processes of Vayechi, the situations that are the most crushing, are absolutely necessary to get the abilities of bursting forth and opening up that we find in Parshas Beshalach.

We can take this in the direction of a tree. To someone unfamiliar with the processes of planting, describing how a tree comes to be would be very confusing. In order for a tree to grow a seed has to be taken, a hole has to be dug and then the seed has to be buried tightly in that hole. After all that, the seed as to wait and rot underground. Only after all of this does the seed have the ability to sprout above the ground, out from its imprisonment in the soil. If the seed were to remain above ground, it would never be given the opportunity to grow!

The Passuk says in Dvarim (20:19) says, “HaAdam Eitz HaSadeh” ‘Man is a tree in the field.’ This is not just a cute metaphor. This is a reality of the human experience. I need to experience what it is like to be bottled up before I can truly appreciate what it means to be free.

All forms of redemption work like this, both personal and national. When we ask for the Geula in Shmona Esrei we ask, “Es Tzemach David Avdecha Meheira Tatzmiach” Please Hashem, make the sprout of David HaMelech grow forth to save us. And like we explained above, we now know what it means to grow.

When I feel like I’m in a coffin-like situation, I need to know that it is exactly that experience that I’m going to use to split a sea. It is those painful situation, where it seems that I can’t even think for myself anymore, when I feel most bottled up, the most squashed – it is specifically those experience that I need to use as the motivation to flourish. Only after a Vayechi can I get to Beshalach.

B’Ezras Hashem we’ll all be Zoche to this. We have within ourselves the ability to see beyond the narrow frame of reference that only lets me see pain. We need to know that in the bigger picture all that exile-like experience is just pushing us to a the point that I’ll be able to express ourselves at the greatest an highest level. If we can do this there is no doubt we live lives of meaning and fulfillment moving closer to the Creator and ultimately the Redemption!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Belief - My Favorite Topic

An audio shiur on the Parsha given this week, here.

The unedited version of my Dvar Torah that appears in Netiv Aryeh's newsletter.

"Ya gotta believe"

Tug Mcgraw - NY Mets pitcher after winning a big game

Moshe Rabbeinu comes to the enslaved Jews and tells them "Ladies and Gentleman, we are leaving Mitzrayim." Awesome!! And the Jews believed "Vaya'amain ha'am". The Jews believe in G-d and Moshe His faithful servant!! Later in Parshas Beshalach after the Jews see the splitting of the sea it says "Vayaaminu Bashem uviMoshe avdo'' - They believed in Hashem and Moshe. Wait? They already believed prior to this. What changed?

Then at mattan Torah it says "Baavoor yishma haom bidabri imach vigam bicha yaaminu liolam" The Jews had to hear Hashem speaking to Moshe so that they believe in both of them. Hey! They already believed?

Answer: Faith is not like pregnancy. A woman is either expecting or not. Faith in Hashem has infinte levels and is NOT a yes or no proposition. It must constantly grow! That is why the Torah described the various growing levels of faith of the Jews. It is not enought to say "I believe". The question is: Do you believe more today than you did yesterday? Do you learn sefarim that help increase faith? Do you daven to Hashem that he should open your eyes and help you see His light? Or do you engage in acts or have friends that DECREASE faith. Take sin for example. Sin distances one from the Divine light. The more one sins the more he is CONVINCED that Hashem isn't watching. Friends. Are your friends people who live their lives making constant assessments of their spiritual growth or people who live life as if there is no death and no reward and punishment.

Faith in Hashem is HARD work and a lifetime task. One NEVER arrives. There is always more to know, more to believe, more to experience. Indeed the pillar upon which the entire Torah stands is EMUNAH. The Rambam lists it as the first of the 613 mitzvos. "Kol mitzvosecha Emunah" - All of my mitzvos are an expression of faith. ."Tzaddik, said the Navi Chavakuk, Beemunaso yichye." The chiyus, the vitality, of a tzaddik is his faith.

So practically, where do we begin? Sweetest friends - I am glad you asked!! Michtav Meliyahu, Alei Shor, Ohr Yechezkal, Chovos Halevavos, Moreh Nevuchim, Sfas Emes, Likkuttei Torah etc. etc. Then go spend a Shabbos in the presence of a tzaddik. Fast one day to beseech Hashem for Emunah [take it upon yourself the previous day]. Get close to a person who REALLY believes. And don't just have faith! Also, be faithful to the relationship. Your wife [present or future] doesn't want you to have any other romantic interests, so too Hashem doesn't want us to have any other interests in this world besides Him. 'Bichol dirachecha dayahu" . Everything we do is for Hashem.

This will CLEARLY lead us to a life filled with meaning and therefore SIMCHA!!!

2 - 3 - 4 IVDU ES HASHEM ........


Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Ready To Change

Ahhhhhh - PLEASE OPEN YOU HEARTS to words of Rav Shlomo Ben Rav Naftali:

The Torah tells us that, after the Jews crossed through the Red Sea, "the Sea returned to its strength." The gemara says, (Rashi brings it on the verse) do not read it as "strength" but as "condition,". The Red Sea returned to its original condition. Hashem, when He created the Red Sea, made a condition with it that, on the seventh night of Pesach, when the Jews will be by the shores of the Red Sea, the Sea should split open and allow them to pass through.

So, everybody asks, wasn't it when the Sea split open that it went back to its original condition, when it fulfilled the condition Hashem made with it and not when it became water again?

Hashem makes conditions, not only with the Sea. Hashem makes a condition with every person in the world. Hashem tells each person, "There will be one moment in your life when you can save somebody else's life, there will be a moment when you can do the greatest thing, which I created you for, but - you have to be ready to be something else. To go out of your way. Water, to become dry land, to become anything in the world. The deepest secret of life is that, I always have to be what I am, but there are moments I have to be not what I am also.

But, forget about time schedules. People have soul-schedules also. What's going on today with our establishment? According to their schedule, the way the world is today doesn't fit in. So, they just ignore it. For instance, during the Holocaust, they didn't do anything, right? Because it was not in their schedule. Twenty years later, now, it's part of their schedule to talk about it... In the sixties we lost thousands of kids to drugs. They didn't talk about it because it was not on their agenda. What's going on in Eretz Yisrael now? They all talk about the Arabs. What about inside? We are losing our kids, thousands of kids, but it's not on their agenda.

How about changing? From ocean, become dry land! Be something else.

When you love somebody very much, what is the acid test? If you really love somebody - are you ready to change for that person, even for just a moment?

The gemara says that finding your soulmate is like crossing the Red Sea. Everybody asks, why does Hashem call out, forty days before a person is born, who his soulmate is? Because, for two people to find each other and live together, everybody living on their schedule all the time, they will never make it, right? I am I, and you are you. Unless they are like the Red Sea. When Hashem created the Red Sea, at that time, He put in the condition that there will come a moment that it will have to stop being a sea and become dry land. But this is a heavenly power. You cannot do it after you have been created. It must come from before. Because change is the hardest thing in the world. That kind of change is not from this world. It's as deep as when Hashem created the world. Therefore, when a person is born, a condition is already made that you will marry this Chanele, but, for this Chanele, I want you to change a thousand times.

Now I want to go one step deeper. Why does the Torah say that the Red Sea went back to its original condition? Here is the deepest Torah in the world. What happens to you if you refuse to change? You know what happens to you? You might say: "Okay, at least I am what I am." But, really, you are nothing. You know what the Torah says? When was the Red Sea really a sea? After it was ready to change. When are you really what you are? Only if you can be anything for somebody you love. And, when the Sea returned to its original condition, suddenly, it was really a sea, a real sea. Now its water was really water. When Mashiach is coming, "kamayim layam mechasim" (as water covers the sea) - the waters of the Red Sea, such deep waters, waters that are ready to change to save peoples lives.

Sunday, January 24, 2010


SWEETEST FRIENDS!! To put a smile on your face to begin the new week, an email I received from a VERY beloved friend:

Funny story I thought you would appreciate: The guy who works with me, Mike (I’ve told you about him in the past)… 25 years old, considers himself a Unitarian even though his mother is a Jew, his mother's mother is a Jew etc. etc. He goes to church and the whole deal, but he went on birthright a few months ago and he loved it. Anyhow … he heard about the story of the 20 yr. old guy who put his tefillin on in an airplane today and caused a bomb-scare. So Mike says to me… “Tefillin? What are those??” I explained to him what they were and he responded: “Really, is that something new?” I told him that it’s a pretty fundamental part of Judaism, to which he responded with complete seriousness: “Can’t be! I’ve never seen my Grandma wearing them!”

Maybe we can be mekarev a Jew this week. They need it.... The mishna in Pirkei Avos says to "love Jews and bring them close to Torah". Rav Tzvi Yehuda Kook used to point out that it doesn't say "love Jews IN ORDER to bring them close to Torah". No! Just love them for who they are and automatically they will return to Torah.

Ahhhh yidden - we need more AHAVA!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Tzvi Moshe Kantor On Renewal

This week’s Parsha is very detailed, covering a whirlwind of topics. We will, B’Ezras Hashem focus on the issue of Kidush HaChodesh. The Passuk says, “HaChodesh HaZeh Lachem” ‘This month shall be for you.’ There is a deeper insight brought down in a number of sources: instead of reading the word Chodesh as ‘month’, read it instead as Chidush - “HaChidush HaZeh Lachem”, ‘This renewal shall be for you’. We will try develop a better understanding of what Hischadshus is, and from there walk away with a powerful outlook onto how to always have the ability to Mechazek, to empower ourselves to constantly serve HaKadosh Baruch Hu at the highest level possible.

There is a concept in Jewish thought that everything is combined in the head of the matter. The root of any bodily process, or any action is rooted in my head. In terms of more esoteric thought, any minor detail is a segment of the major concept. The name of any Parsha contains all the issues that the Parsha deals with. The word Bereishis, the first word of creation, contains the whole universe in it, and there are many other examples of how this plays out.

The first Mitzvah given to the Jewish people as a nation is Kidush HaChodesh. Thus, on some level whatever the essence of Kidush HaChodesh is, has contained within it the essence of every Mitzvah.

To understand how this works we need to do two things. First, we need to understand the Tachlis of any Ma’aseh Mitzvah, the end-goal of any action that Hashem commands us to do. Secondly, we need understand the various nekudos, the multiple details that define Kidush HaChodesh. After we understand both sides we will be able to plug them into one another and come out with a clear understanding.

First let’s try to analyze what the Tachlis is of any Ma’aseh Mitzvah. There is an interesting Zohar that says that the six-hundred-and-thirteen Mitzvos are really TaRYaG Itin six-hundred-and-thirteen pieces of advice to bring Hashem more into my life. The definition is brought one step further by the Ramchal who explains that Mitzvos accomplish something called Zichuch HaGuf, purification of the body. By doing a Mitzva I bring more Ruchnius, more spirituality into my skin-cells, I bring more Kedusha, more holiness into my bones. I accomplish what many sfarim call Emunas Eivarim, I bring faith into my limbs. In essence, Ma’aseh Mitzvah equips me with a spiritual enhancement; Mizvos bring me to a higher quality of life, a loftier state of being.

Now we can move on to the second segment. We need to spell out the essence of Kidush HaChodesh. On the technical level the Mitzva of Kidush HaChodesh empowers the supreme-court to set exactly when the first day of the next month will be based on a recognition of the new moon. This is extremely important because it gives the court the ability to determine when any holiday will fall out. Let’s explain: if there is a holiday scheduled for the fifteenth, like Pesach for example, then determining when the first of the month is, effectively determines when the fifteenth will be. So Kidush HaChodesh is comprised of two parts: The first is the court pointing its finger to the moon and saying, “Hey! It’s new!” The recognition of renewal. The second is how, due to our recognition, how the month will play out.

There is powerful idea from Rebbe Nachman that we need to analyze. He says if I ever want to empower myself to serve Hashem better and to be closer to Him all I have to do is put myself in the mindset that I’ve never served HaKadosh Baruch Hu before. ‘I have to get up and do this Mitzva like it’s the first one I’ve ever done in my whole entire life!’ This is the Hischadshus, renewal, that we spoke about in the very beginning. I as a Jew have the constant power to refresh and to innovate to a whole new Avodas Hashem.

To tie all these ideas together we will use the parable of a soldier. Let’s take a low-ranking soldier; he peels potatoes. Let’s say after some time he does a meritorious act, gets a badge, and gets promoted to a combat soldier. He is on some level the same guy, but through this action he’s totally evolved as a soldier. Through his deeds he is changed on a number of levels: other people will look at him differently, he is going to look at himself differently, he is going to have bigger and better roles to play, and he is going to have better tools to carry those jobs out. Due to his merit, he is holding by a totally different place now.

Let’s tie this in with what we have said about Mitzvos. My Ma’aseh Mitzva, like we said before, changes the quality of my existence. But in context of all of this, I’m not just better, I’m a qualitatively different person before and after my Mitzvah, I’m now equipped with greater potential than I had a moment ago. I’m totally transformed!

This explains what we saw from Rebbe Nachman beautifully! Of course this is the first mitzvah I’m ever doing. Since my last Mitzvah, I’m a totally new person, and thus this is the first mitzvah I’ve ever done in this lifetime! It’s a totally new experience - like the soldier, I seem the same, but my spiritual responsibilities and capabilities are totally new! Now, after just one Ma’aseh Mitzva, I’ve moved into a new state of being. I’ve transformed myself, and through this I’ve given myself the ability to be even better. Like the soldier, I get new weapons, new tools, a smarter outlook and most importantly, more is expected of me.

Now we can plug it all back to Kiddush HaChodesh! The two parts of Kidush HaChodesh, (noticing the renewal and moving into the outcome) are the same two segments that are in every mitzvah! My ability to renew myself, and through this enter into a new level of holiness with all of its advantages parallel Kidush HaChodesh beautifully!

But the question is, how does this affect me? The answer is simple. Any time I’m stuck in a bad place with my Avodas Hashem, I’m literally only one Ma’aseh Mitzva away from a totally new life! I have to know that I can totally turn things around with just one Mitzva, that’s the most empowering things – the ability to totally shift into a new life is only one Mitzva away. I messed up this morning? Yesterday? This year? What if I’ve being messing up my whole life? Who cares? I'm starting again right now.

There is so much we can take from this. If we truly undertake this mindset, the cognizance of the fact that I really can always turn thing around, then there is no limits to the amount of growth we can achieve in our Avodas Hashem If we do this, then we will truly be able to live lives of meaning, lives of real happiness, lives of fulfillment, moving closer to the Creator, and ultimately the REDEMPTION!

A shiur that fits in well with Tzvi Moshe's beautiful words, here.

Darkness That Is Light

The latest in Thursday night mussar from your faithful servant.

Love, Blessings and a BLISSFUL Shabbos!!!!!!!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Make Others Feel Special

"I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Ahhh sweetest friends!!

Can you remember an experience where someone made you feel reeeeeally rotten? Of course you do!!

What about a time when a person made you feel like a MILLION BUCKS? Of course.

Well I have some news for you - YOU HAVE THE SAME POWER OVER OTHERS! This is what the pasuk calls "Maves vichaim biyad halashon" - You have the power with your tongue to make or break someone else. How often do we use this power? NOT ENOUGH!!!

So we can start today [myself included]. Think of ways to speak and act in such a way as to make others feel GREAT. It is not so hard and it is free!!! But in order to do so one must open his heart. People are CLOSED UP and this prevents people from touching others in a deep way.

Live life in such a way that even the undertaker will be sorry to see you go.


Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Get To Know The Most Important Person In Your Life

"As human beings, our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world as in being able to remake ourselves."

Sweetest friends!!!

Some people spend large amounts of time reading newspapers in order to know what is happening in foreign countries when they don't even know what is happening in their own hearts. Shouldn't one get to know oneself first?

The FIRST rule of character development [known in the yeshivos as "mussar"]: KNOW THYSELF!!

Love and blessings!!

Monday, January 18, 2010


Appreciation is a wonderful thing: It makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well.


Make it a habit to tell people thank you. To express your appreciation, sincerely and without the expectation of anything in return. Truly appreciate those around you, and you'll soon find many others around you. Truly appreciate life, and you'll find that you have more of it.

Ralph Marston

SWEETEST FRIENDS!!! I truly appreciate those holy souls who sent money to help Bentzi. THANK YOU and may Hashem pay you for your kindness ten thousand fold!!

Love and blessings!

Latest marriage shiur, here.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Tzvi Moshe On Parshas Vaera

In this week’s Parsha we begin the processes that bring the Jews towards redemption. Hashem tells Moshe “V’Hotzeisi Eschem MiTachas Sivlos Mitzrayim,” ‘And I will take you out from under the burdens of Egypt.’ When we delve deeper into what Sivlos really are, then B’Ezras Hashem we will come out seeing how it is both the essence of, and the end of slavery; and through that we will also learn how to liberate ourselves.

Our Passuk says “V’Hotzeisi Eschem MiTachas Sivlos Mitzrayim” and goes on to list the other forms of Hashem saving us including “V’Hitzalti Eschem Mei’Avodasam ‘I will save you from your servitude.’ “V’Gaalti Eschem B’Zroa Netuya” ‘I will redeem you with an outstretched arm.’ And “V’Lakachti Eschem Li La’Am” ‘And I will take you for a nation." And with this we arrive at four separate expressions of redemption: V'Hotzeisi, V'Hitzalti, V'Gaalti, V'Lakachti

But after listing these four aspects the Passuk continues: “Vidatem Ki Ani Hashem Elokeichem HaMotzie Eschem MiTachas Sivlos Mitzrayim” ‘And you will know that I am Hashem your God who was Motzei you, who took you out from the Sivlos of Mitzrayim.” Seemingly this Passuk is odd. This type of getting to know Hashem is directly connected to the first of the four expressions we mentioned above. The previous Psukim listed of four different type of ways Hashem will save us, yet we will only know Him through the first of those four? Why do we only arrive at a knowledge of Hashem in the manifestation of V'Hotzeisi? As the one who took us out from the Sivlos. What about the others? Let’s address some other issues and come back to this at the end.

The term Sivlos is used elsewhere as well. The first time that Moshe and Aharon attempt to speak to Pharoh (5:1-5) they request that Pharoh give the Jews a small vacation to go and serve Hashem in the desert. Not only does Pharoh say no, but he also takes issue with the fact that Moshe and Aharon approached him in the first place, ‘Why do want to disturb the masses from their work? Lichu L’Sivloseichem! Get back to your own work!’ Pharoh ordered Moshe and Aharon to get back to their personal Sivlos, their personal burdens. Rashi is driven to point out that Pharoh was talking about their personal chores in their homes. Afterall, Moshe and Aharon were part of Shevet Levi who were not subject to the slavery.

The Nesivos Shalom asks on Rashi, how can Lichu L’Sivloseichem be a reference to chores around the house? Silvos means burdens and subjugation! We say it in connection to slaves, not regarding taking out the garbage.

The explanation is that the slavery of Mitzrayim was two-fold. We know about the backbreaking physical labor, but there was a second aspect. This is the Ruchani, spiritual enslavement. What does this mean? Mitzrayim is the source of all Tumah, it is the symbol of all spiritual contamination and impurity. The Tumah of Mitzrayim permeates the air, it settles in the dirt and makes it’s way into the minds of all those who are present in the land. There was nowhere to turn, no escaping its influence. It even entered the home-life of the Jews.

When Pharoh said Lichu L’Sivloseichem, he was talking about the spiritual aspect. He was talking about the burden of the inescapable effects of Egyptian culture. Pharoh says to them, “Go home! There is plenty of spiritual suffering for you there.”

What comes out of what we have said is that real Sivlos, real burden and subjugation comes as a result of being stuck in a lifestyle I cannot escape. Just like we saw in Egypt; It can get me in the craziness of the outside world, and even make creep into my personal space. When my surroundings are not what I want them to be, and I feel helpless - this is Sivlos, this is real Galus.

Now that we have established that Sivlos is the essence of suffering, we can see how it also the root of the way to bring about suffering’s end. The Sfas Emes totally redefines the Passuk in an unbelievable way: “V’Hotzeisi Eschem MiTachas Sivlos Mitzrayim” So far our translation has been, ‘And I will take them out from under the burdens of Egypt.’ While Tachas literally means ‘Under’, it is used elsewhere in Torah to mean ‘Due to’ or ‘Because.’ Secondly, the word Sivlos, ‘Burdens’ has the same root as the word Lisbol, meaning to endure, it is also connected to Savlanus, meaning ‘Patience.’ He goes on to say that we can read the following into the Passuk: “V’Hotzeisi Eschem MiTachas Sivlos Mitzrayim” ‘And I will take the Jews out because of the point of their patience for Egypt.’ If they are fed up, then I’m taking them out.

Let’s explain the words of the Sfas Emes: In last week’s Parsha it says (2:23) ‘VaYizaku’ the Jews made an outcry, and then in the very next Passuk, only after they mamesh cried to HaKadosh Baruch Hu did He begin to set in motion the events that led to their freedom. The Jews were fed up with the spiritual situation that they could not escape, so they cried out, they protested, they said ‘We’ve had enough!’, and with that Hashem began to take them out. The whole Geula can only begin once we recognize and protest the fact that there is a problem with our spiritual situation. This has to come from our efforts.

Let’s remind ourselves of our original question: If the Psukim list ‘V’Hotzeisi, Hitzalti, Gaalti, and Lakachti’ then why do the Psukim continue “Vidatem Ki Ani Hashem ELokeichem HaMotzie Eschem MiTachas Sivlos Mitzrayim” ‘And you will know that I am Hashem your God who took you out from the Sivlos of Mitzrayim.”

Now we can answer our original question beautifully! We can only really relate to and know that which we forge for ourselves! And thus it was our protest that brought about V’Hotzeisi Eschem MiTachas Sivlos Mitzrayim. It is this that leads us to Vidatem Ki Ani Hashem ELokeichem HaMotzie Eschem MiTachas Sivlos Mitzrayim. The relationship in which I get to know Hashem is only going to be the one that I forged for myself.

The fact that I can stand up for what I truly believe, in a society that screams the total opposite is the beginning of my own personal redemption.

All to often I ask myself, ‘What can I do to change my reality?’ If I’m stuck in this situation, what can I do if I feel helpless? The answer is that I can choose not to accept it! The moment that I protest to myself that my current situation is not holy and is not getting me closer to Hashem, then I’ve already taken the most important step to getting myself out. I just need to remind myself to take that first step, the one that can be the hardest.

It’s very easy to get caught up in status-quo. To just go along with life and not stand up for myself is the easiest way out. But when I look around the world it become so obvious to me that taking the back seat will never solve anything. It is my ability to be aware of my surroundings that separates me from the rest of the world. The world moves at such a rapid-fire pace that I'm never never given a moment to think, the ultimate Lichu L’Sivloseichem. But the moment I tap into my ability to protest is the same exact moment I begin my own personal redemption.

B’Ezras Hashem we should all be Zoche to this. We need to empower ourselves not be okay with things just the way they are. If we can do this there is no doubt we live lives of growth, purity and meaning, moving closer to the Creator and ultimately the REDEMPTION!

“If ever there is tomorrow when we're not together.. there is something you must always remember. You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. but the most important thing is, even if we're apart.. i'll always be with you.”

Winnie The Pooh

A sicha given on Parshas Vaera, here. [It has nothing to do with the quote. I just saw it and HAD to post it.]

LOVE, BLESSINGS AND A BLISSFUL SHABBOS [or if you prefer "SHABBAT". The ikker is that it be blissful].

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Sweet Bentzi

Recently, a concert took place to raise money for Bentzi Gottlieb. Here is a link that was sent by a special Neshama A.F. A BIG thank you.

Have tissues handy before clicking!

His full name is Yehuda Bentzion ben Naomi.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Paris 1939

In fourth grade of the heilige [that is where I learned how to read Hebrew. How USEFUL!!] Manhattan Day School I had a beloved Rebbe named Rabbi Asher Heber. I was delighted to come across this video.

Love and blessings!!!

Sunday, January 10, 2010


By nature I am a very talkative person. But life has taught me that there are few experiences in life more rewarding than LISTENING! We have two ears and only one mouth [maybe] so that we should listen double the amount we speak.

How do we listen properly??

Listen [!] to Dr. Carl Rogers:

Can I let myself enter fully into the world of his feelings and personal meanings and see these as he does? Can I step into his private world so completely that I lose all desire to evaluate or judge it? Can I enter it so sensitively that I can move about in it freely, without trampling on meanings which are so precious to him? Can I sense it so accurately that I can catch not only the meanings of his experience which are obvious to him, but those meanings which are only implicit, which he sees only dimly or as confusion? Can I extend his understanding without limit?

Maybe if we would listen more to others then, midah kineged middah, Hashem would listen to our tfillos.

Love and blessings!!

Friday, January 08, 2010

Calling People Names - From Tzvi Moshe Kantor

In this week’s Parsha, we fully enter the Galus. On this level, Egypt is the prototypical exile: a frame of reference for other national and personal exiles throughout history. Hopefully, we will discover the essence of what it means to descend into a difficult situation and what we can do to come out on top.

The Passuk says, “V’Eleh Shemos Bnei Yisrael HaBaim Mitzraima Eis Yaakov Ish U’Beiso Bau.” ‘And these are the names of Bnei Yisrael who came to Egypt with Yaakov, each man with his household.’ There are a few issues in this Passuk that we will raise and then hopefully answer them all through one fundamental idea.

The first question is in the words of the Passuk itself: Why does the Passuk contain both the names Yaakov and Yisrael? We know that the names carry different connotations, so what is the Passuk trying to tell us by bringing both?

There are two other general questions that we also need to address. First of all, if our Passuk is dealing with Inyenei Galus, issues pertaining to exile, then why is the title ‘Shemos,’ ‘Names’?

On a second very general level, we need to analyze what exile is. What is its purpose? Seemingly it is reciprocation for sins: we do bad stuff and then Hashem punishes us, right? But it can’t be that simple. If it is only that, then we are left with a very fundamental problem with a Midrash in Bereishis Rabba. The Passuk says “V’Ha’Aretz Haysa Tohu VaVohu V’Chosech Al Pinei Tihom” ‘And the land was in chaos and empty, and darkness upon the surface of the depths.’ The Midrash says that each of these descriptions parallels an exile that the Jews will experience. ‘Chaos’ is Babylonia. ‘Empty’ is Persia. ‘Darkness’ is a reference to Greece, and ‘The Depths’ is talking about Rome. If exile is only a response to sin, then how can the exiles be programmed into the creation story before we could even commit the Aveiros needed to bring them on? It’s not fair!

The Nesivos Shalom explains that to think that Galus is merely a response that comes about as a result of sins is a fundamental mistake. Galus is an opportunity. It gives us the ability to undergo purification. To enter a difficult situation and come out better from it is much better than to just stay okay. And this is built into the fabric of creation from the start! It is true that we sin and that this causes punishments to come our way, but the ability to overcome all sorts of exiles and tests (personified by the various exiles) is something that we, on both the personal level and as a people, have engrained within us, and we need to go through these refinements to come our better on the other side. Every different Galus calls upon the Jews to tap into a new Avodah, a new style of service of Hashem. And, by going through these various stages of development, we are able to reach the end of the Passuk we quoted above from Bereishis, “V’Ruach Elokim Mirachefes Al Pinei HaMayim” ‘And the spirit of Hashem was hovering over the surface of the waters.’ The Midrash over there continues that “Zeh Rucho Shel Mashiach” this is the ‘Spirit of Mashiach’ Meaning that in the same way that going into exile is built into the fabric of reality - so is us defeating it and coming out on top of it.

To answer our other questions, (Why is our Parsha called ‘Names’? And why are both Yaakov and Yisrael mentioned in the Passuk?) we need to ask another question: What is a name? In Emunas Itecha, Rav Moshe Wolfson explains that a name is a definition of one’s personal Avodah. A name is an external title labeled onto one’s internal identity. Every person with his unique way of relating to his name has his own Avodah because no two people are living the exact same situation in this world. Each person has his own Tafkid, a specific task that he needs to accomplish, and only he, with his name, with his title, can accomplish that mission. Let’s take this a step further before we answer the second question.

The Sfas Emes points out a few nuances in the Passuk. “V’Eleh Shemos Bnei Yisrael HaBaim Mitzraima Eis Yaakov Ish U’Beiso Bau.” ‘And these are the names of Bnei Yisrael who came to Egypt with Yaakov, each man with his household.’ If you read the Passuk carefully it is only the names which went into the Galus, not people! “V’Eleh Shemos Bnei Yisrael HaBaim Mitzraima.” Another important nuance: While we translate Eis Yaakov to mean ‘With Yaakov’ it does not necessarily have to mean ‘with’; rather, Eis can mean ‘as.’ They seventy people that descended to Egypt, into the exile, Eis Yaakov, as Yaakov, deeply connected to what Yaakov is all about. And Yaakov personifies the ability to penetrate through all the exteriors and see the deep truth in everything. Throughout every exile, Yaakov is still connected to the end-goal of Rucho Shel Moshiach. This aspect never goes into Galus

What does this mean? Maybe we can explain that the name of our forefather, Yaakov, is a connection to the internal aspects of any given matter. Between Jews, Yaakov is Yaakov Avinu. We are part of a special club called Beis Yaakov, Kehilas Yaakov. Yaakov is what binds us together as a people; the way we relate to ourselves on the internal layer. Yisrael on the other hand is the relationship to the external world. This is what we put on the banners when we travel in the desert as Machaneh Yisrael. To the nations we call ourselves Am Yisrael. Yisrael is the way we as a group relate to the rest of the world. And this comes out in the Passuk beautifully! “V’Eleh Shemos Bnei Yisrael HaBaim Mitzraima” The children of Yisrael (the external layer) went into a new situation of Egypt. This part of the Jews went into exile. But “Eis Yaakov” the part of us where Yaakov remained Ish U’Beiso Bau, totally bound as a family proceeding to the end-goal. The ability to see what the real purpose of the world is never goes into exile.

Now we can answer all of our questions! Based on how we have explained the essence of a name and the essence of Galus,everything makes sense! Let’s crunch: a name is a definition of my Avodah, and the purpose of a Galus is to refine and purify the Jewish people on their way to Rucho Shel Moshiach, and Yisrael is the way relate to the outside world. With this in mind, it makes sense that the NAMES of YISRAEL went into Galus. But the binding factor of YAAKOV did not. The Jews needed to refine a new aspect of their Avodah, the way that they operate in the world – their names. The external layer of what a name is goes through the refinement of exile, but the manifestation of Yaakov penetrates right through!

Let’s explain what this means for me on the practical level. The fights of Olam HaZeh are endless. The way I serve Hashem in this world is never going to be able to remain static. I’m going to be constantly challenged. Just when I get comfortable, the world is going to send me a new Galus, a new curve-ball and I'm going to have to switch it up and find a new Derech of Avodas Hashem to deal with it. A renewed focus on a Mitzva. A fresh perspective. A new favorite piece of Tefila. The more I refresh, the better off I'll be. The aspect of me that is Yisrael is going to go through constant modification. Every situation demands something different of my name. But simultaneously an internal part of me is Yaakov. I know that everything I’m doing is channeled towards bringing me closer to my Father in Heaven, and no external situation can change that! My head is always in the right place irregardless of where my physical body is. I’m always connected to something bigger no matter what my surroundings may be. No matter where I am, as Yisrael I’m going to have to draw upon a new, refined type of Avodah, a new strength from within me… but if I also remain connected to my inner Yaakov, always focused on the end goal of closeness to Hashem, I’ll always be heading in the right direction. No situation will ever hold me back. If we can do this, we will B’Ezras Hashem move closer to the REDEMPTION!

Holy Shovevim

The Torah teaches in Parshas Shemos that the Jewish midwives were told to abort the babies. The Pasuk relates "Vatichayena es hayiladim" - they gave life to the children. The simple meaning is that they refused to carry out the evil decree but Chazal add that they actually gave the babies life by providing sustenance for them.

Why was this necessary?

The Rambam says that to fix an aberration one must go to the opposite extreme. The midwives saw that this was a time of extreme cruelty so in order to combat this they acted with extreme kindness. [Pardes Yosef]

This time of year is called "Shovevim" [the first letter of the parshiyos Shemos until Mishpatim]. The Mekubalim teach us that this is a time to fix sins relating to sexual impurity [thoughts, seeing and worse]. We live in the most sexually decadent generation in history. I believe that this means that we must be EXTREMELY careful in matters relating to inter-gender interactions.

Examples: My friend's wife in NOT my friend. Polite - of course, but not friendship. We love EVERY Jew but this love must be expressed appropriately.

Magazines or newspapers that have immodest pictures or stories should be MUKTZA. I am aware that this excludes almost all of them but avoiding them will only enhance our purity.

Some people get upset at mechitzas at simchas. There are definitely great poskim who say that they are not necessary. But in our "dor parutz" wouldn't it add kedusha?! Does mixed seating add kedusha?

Add your own examples!


Thursday, January 07, 2010

New Shiur

A new shuir on marriage, here.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Had To Get This Off My Chest

As I was typing the previous post I was listening to a "shiur" given by a Rabbi where he compared having a car to watching television as we have to sanctify both. A car can be used to go to shul so it is positive. A TV is also a good thing if used properly.

I am obviously missing something! What on TV brings one closer to Hashem or adds kedusha? I once heard this same person say that one should go to the theater. Is the theater HOLY? Has something changed sinced I was immersed in western culture. Do they now promote only positive, wholesome values? Are all of the women dressed according to the standards of Jewish law?

I try to keep an open mind but this is a hard one for me. Was the Chofetz Chaim missing something because he never saw reality TV? I, Baruch Hashem have never seen such a show either. If I am missing something that will enhance my Avodas Hashem - PLEASE enlighten me!

People say the silliest things sometimes. May the Good Lord save me from such a fate.

PS - This is obviously not meant as a personal attack against the aforementioned speaker. That is why I didn't mention his name. If you know who I am referring to - please don't share your knowledge.

Fake Plants

"My fake plants died because I did not pretend to water them."

Mitch Hedberg

This is a world whose essence is falsehood ["alma di'shikra"]. The holy books exhort us to differentiate between truth and falsehood. A key: If what one is involved with will last for less than hundred years then it is not real, compared to things in life that will last for eternity. OF COURSE one should earn a living and take care of this worldy needs but one should never get carried away.

A mitzva is FOREVER!!

Love and blessings!!!

Friday, January 01, 2010

Two Audio Shiurim On Contemporary Events

Some words on sad current events from Rav Twersky Shlita.

Some more from yours truly.

Good Shabbos 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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