Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Change Of Venue!!

We have moved!! The explanation is at the first post of the new blog -
New email -

Love And Blessings!!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Oz Vichedva Bimkomo - Strength And Joy In His Place

A post from 3 years ago:

"Doctor, I have a ringing in my ears". "Don't answer" - Henny Youngman. [If his name had been Henna he could have been my mother.]

Get a LAUGH!! [Instead of get a LIFE]

It is healthy! "When we laugh, natural killer cells which destroy tumors and viruses increase, along with Gamma-interferon (a disease fighting protein), T-cells(important for our immune system), and B-cells(which makes disease fighting antibodes). As well as lowering blood pressure, laughter increases oxygen in the blood which also increases healing." Science of Laughter , Discovery Health Website.

"Laughter lowers blood pressure, decrease stress hormones, is a great workout for your diaphragm, abdominal facial , leg and back muscles. It stimulates both sides of the brain to enhance learning." And much much more! [See]

Husband to wife "Close the vindow, it's cold outside." "And if I close the vindow it von't be cold outside?!"

Fast, get a Maseches Taánis! [Get it?] On Daf 22a none other than Eliyahu HaNavi points out to Rebbe Broka [no relation to Tom Brokaw] two men who are going to Olam Haba [this means that they are spiritual people, otherwise there is nothing for them to do in Olam Haba]. Rebbe Broka asks them which Mitzvos they perform? [Apparently they weren't such Talmidei Chachamim, otherwise the reason for their eternal reward would be self-evident.] They answered that they are JOVIAL PEOPLE and they make it their business to gladden the hearts of sad people!! [They also make peace between two people who are fighting.]

Indeed, Rav Chaim of Volozhin was wont to say that our purpose in this world is to improve the lot of others ["lihoeel liachareenee"]. So here is a great Avodah that I highly recommend. Find a Yid [or a Yiddene - depending on the circumstances] and make them happy. Compliment them, tell them what you admire about them, say something to put a smile on their face. By the time a child reaches nursery school, a study has shown, he or she will laugh about 300 times a day. Adults laugh an average of 17 times a day.

There are a lot of people who could use some more simcha - share some of yours. And like all acts of giving - the giver benefits infinitely more than the receiver!

With Love and Simchahood

Elchanan ben YITZCHAK [get it?] Yonah

P.S. And a very happy seventh birthday this week to my son - you guessed it - Simcha!!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Not Enough To Give

"Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.”

Lao Tzu

In Parshas Mishpatim it says that one should help his enemy unload his donkey. The pasuk says "azaov taazov imo" - in the context of the passuk it means "help him" but literally it means "leave". The Aramaic commentary Rav Yonasan Ben Uziel translates that one should "leave" his hatred. In other words, it is not enought to help someone, one should also have positive feelings for him. [Pointed out by Rav Henach Leibowitz ztz"l - the Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivas Chafetz Chaim, which I believe is the last bastion of mussar yeshivos in our world. A tragedy. True mussar has died on a large scale. Some of the Rosh Yeshiva's students were my Rabbeim in my youth. Lucky me!]

The Gemara says that the beis hamikdash was destroyed because of baseless hatred. The Gemara says that the Jews still performed acts of chessed for each other. MIND-BOGGLING! They were involved in chessed while simultaneously hating the beneficiary of the chessed. It is not enough to give.

One must love as well.



Saturday, February 13, 2010

Tzvi Moshe On Mishpatim: Holiness In The Nitty-Gritty

This week’s Parsha is a stark contrast to last week’s. Parshas Yisro is dramatically characterized by its divine special effects, God’s mass-revelation and His giving of the Aseres HaDibros. Mishpatim feels like a cold shower next to Yisro. It deals with the nitty-gritty, intricate laws of commerce, custodial responsibilities and judicial procedure. Mishpatim deals with the most mundane aspects of day-to-day life. It begs the question: What does Hashem want already? Why must He push His way into every detail of my life? How are we supposed to handle the huge emotional drop-off from Yisro to Mishpatim? Hopefully, through a better analysis of the Yisro/Mishpatim transition, we will come away with a clearer and more inspiring understanding of the many details that make up a life that is bonded with HaKadosh Baruch Hu.

Shemos Rabbah at the beginning of the Parsha connects our Parsha to last week’s through a Passuk from Tehilim (147:19) “Magid D'varav L’Yaakov, Chukav U’Mishpatav L’Yisrael” ‘Hashem relates his statements to Yaakov, His statutes and laws to Yisrael.’ The Midrash explains that the two segments of this Passuk parallel Yisro and Mishpatim. Magid D'varav L’Yaakov - He relates His statements to Yaakov: this is Parshas Yisro (the connection between D'varav and Dibros is blatant). Chukav U’Mishpatav L’Yisrael - His statutes and laws to Yisrael: this is Mishpatim. Let's delve into an explanation of this.

The Sfas Emes raises an interesting point about the Passuk that ties the two Parshios together. We know that our forefather goes by two names: Yaakov and Yisrael. Yisrael is considered the more elevated and exclusive of the two. Thus, if Yaakov is attached to Parshas Yisro and Yisrael is correlated with Mishpatim (in the way that we saw it broken down by the Midrash above) then it would seem that Mishpaim is the loftier and higher of the two!

On the surface, it would seem that this simply couldn’t be! Yisro is Kolos U’vrakim - thunder and lighting! Mishpatim is Bava Kama - it comes across like a monotonous study in Jewish monetary law; how are they even comparable!?

The Mei HaShiloach answers that the greatness of Mishpatim comes specifically from the mundane nature of its laws.(Fasten your seat-belts and crack open a Zohar.) Why is this so? He explains esoterically that Adam HaRishon started off in a different frame of reality then ours, it was more spiritually tangible. Then with Adam HaRishon's sin with the Eitz HaDaas he altered the fabric of his reality, transferring him to a denser, more physical plane, the same framework of existence in which we live today. All of our commandments are designed to bring a Tikun, to do some spiritual landscaping in this world, in order to re-elevate it back to the original state of its existence. It is here where Mishpatim thrives. Because the laws are so down to earth, it affords us the opportunity to infuse God and Godliness back into the very fabric of our degraded physical reality, and from there elevate it back to where it ought to be.

In order to put this into context of the Midrash, let's momentarily digress.

The Passuk in Mishlei (16:32) states “Tov Erech Apayim Mi’Gibor, U’Moshel B’Rucho Mi’Loched Ir.” He who is slow to anger is better than a strong man, and one who is a master of his passions is greater than a conqueror of a city.’

Rav Yisrael Salanter explains as follows: This Passuk has two segments, one greater than the first. The Erech Apayim is slow to anger, meaning he still grapples with his negative attributes. This is a very good level to reach, but at the end of the day, the war still wages on between him and the Yetzer HaRa. He is related to the Gibor,he is strong, but he is not yet defined as victorious. This is not the case with the Moshel B’Rucho - the one who rules over his desires. He has already dominated his Yetzer HaRa and lives an elevated spiritual existence. He is compared to the Loched Ir because he who has really conquered a city dominates its every aspect. A true conqueror comes to know the city’s every convenience store, sewer and back alley. This is true dominance; to have every angle checked.

He goes onto explain that this is the progression from Yaakov to Yisrael. Yaakov became Yisrael when he subdued the angel back in Parshas VaYishlach. Grappling with the angel through the night, Yaakov Avinu finally incapacitates him with a devastating headlock. It is at this point that the angel changes Yaakov’s name to Yisrael: Ki Sarisa…VaTuchal, For you have struggled…and have overcome. Only when Yaakov displayed full dominance over the angel did he become Yisrael.

The connection is as follows: Tov Erech Apayim Mi’Gibor is Yaakov. He is pushing, but the fight has not yet ended. U’Moshel B’Rucho Mi’Loched Ir is Yisrael. He has already covered every corner that there is. This is full dominance; the fight is won.

Perhaps with this idea in mind we can go back to the confusing Midrash. How can we say that Mishpatim is connected to the name Yisrael and is on a higher level than Yisro? Yisro flies in the clouds, and Mishptaim is talking about oxen!

Perhaps we can tie it all together as follows: Yisro, like we said before is Magid D'varav L’Yaakov - Yaakov being the connection to the Gibor, the one who is fighting but still caught in the struggle. The Aseres HaDibros are fundamental – true, but they are still up there in the heavens. They are delivered as ten major concepts that come with divine special effects. But this is not the goal of creation…Mishpatim is. Mishpatim is Chukav U’Mishpatav L’Yisrael, Yisrael being the Moshel B’Rucho, the Loched Ir. Mishpatim gets into every nook and cranny of life in order to allow godliness to fully penetrate reality. This is true dominance, and thus Mishpatim is Yisrael.

How often do I feel like I’m getting bogged down by one Halacha after another? It seems to be a never-ending matrix of laws and sub-laws that sneak their way into every facet of my life! When does it end already? Does Hashem really care how I get out of bed in the morning? (Or if give that guy/girl a high-five... I mean, it's just a high-five!)

Gevalt! What a flawed perspective! It’s mammash just the opposite. Baruch Hashem that He has given me the opportunity to infuse His will into everything… EVERYTHING! It doesn’t matter if it’s a bull, pit or a how I tie my shoes - Hashem has blessed me with the opportunity to elevate the whole universe through that which seems so mundane. Through my actions I perfect the fabric of reality; what a responsibility and an honor that is! Halacha is not a nag, it's an empowerment! I really need to snap out of it and realize that HaKadosh Baruch Hu has given me these opportunities because He loves me and wants me to be part of an elite unit of creation-perfectors.

B’Ezras Hashem we should all be Zoche to this realization. We want to really be able to feel our Chibur, our connection to Hashem down to the most minute detail of how we tie our shoes. This is a life that is fully invested in a relationship with HaKadosh Baruch Hu - and that is the best life that there is. If we can do this there is no doubt we will live lives of meaning moving closer to the Creator and ultimately the redemption!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Extremely Thought Provoking

I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice! And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.

Barry Goldwater

Thoughts on extremism, here.

Good Shabbos Sweetest Most Beloved Friends!!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Burning And Building

Today I saw something beautiful in the sefer Mishmar Levi on Temurah in the name of the son of the Brisker Rov: It says in the Gemara in Taanis that we fast on the 17th of Tammuz for a number of reasons. One of them is that a certain Greek ruler named Apostomos burned a Sefer Torah. But wait a second! Every word of Torah we learn is a mitzva [Vilna Gaon] so when we read this Gemara we are rewarded for learning Torah!!

So Apostomos tried to burn the Torah and in the end he created more Torah!!

Vinahafoch Hu!!

They tried to destroy and in the end they build!! I often think of this idea as I watch our "cousins" toiling day and night to build the JEWISH STATE for the JEWS!!

May all evil be speedily transformed into good!!

Love and Blessings!!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Last Chance

SWEETEST FRIENDS - I'm reprinting a old post from a few years ago from the beginning of Adar. So if you are depressed, you must know - this is your last chance. In a few days it is ALL OVER. Happiness will reign as Adar enters next sunday night. As part of my preparations I have been giving a series bs"d on "Ad Di'lo Yada" - here is # 4. The first three are also on Yutorah.

"Wear A Smile And Have Friends, Wear A Scowl And Have Wrinkles. What Do We Live For If Not To Make The World Less Difficult For Each Other" [G. Eliot]

That's it. It's over.

Anyone who is: dejected, depressed, despondent, disconsolate, melancholy, downcast, sad, forlorn [two lorn + two lorn], low, in the doldrums, gloomy, disheartened, discouraged, grieving, sorrowful etc. etc. etc. No more.

IT'S ADAR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

FREILICH, TYERE YIDDEN! [I won't overwhelm you with all of the synonyms for happy, joyful, merry, jovial, elated, cheerful, jocular, buoyant, exhilarated etc. etc.]

A sign we put on the wall in the childrens bedroom:


It doesn't cost anything, but it's worth a fortune
It enriches the receiver, while not impoverishing the giver

There is no person so strong
who can exist without it

There is no person so powerful
For whom a smile will not add

There are some tired people that in order to enable them to smile at you

Because -

There is no person who is in need of a smile
as much as a person who is unable to smile.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Blocking The Doorway

Sent by C.A.F. [who confirmed the veracity of the story] - thank you!!

There was a woman who could not have children for 3 or 4 years. She wanted to go to the arizal's mikvah in Tzfat but it is for men only. So she and her husband went and he blocked the entrance way and made sure no men were in there and she dunked three times.

They had triplets!



Another mai'seh shehaya: It is Erev Rosh Hashana and the Yerushalayim mikva is PACKED! There is a big 6 foot 5 inch chossid with "gekreizelte payis" [long flowing sideburns] on his way to the mikva. His hand is covering his arm. Suddenly he slips and falls to the ground - revealing a TATOO on his arm. Everybody stops and stares at him in disbelief. Not a common site at the mikva. Suddenly a small, slight, frail old man, about 5 feet tall, approaches him and offers his hand to help him up.

He also had a tatoo on his arm. He points to the number engraved by the Nazis and says "Dos is meine gehenom, un dos is deine gehenom. Lameir geyen tzo mikva". This is my hell and that is your hell. Let's go to mikva.

Sweetest most beloved friends!! Everyone has their own gehenom. The great ones are able to help others overcome and vanquish their demons. It requires sensitivity and care.

May we be equal to the task!!

Love and blessings!!!!

Communication Without Connection

I once heard a good line. We live in a generation where there is communication without connection. Email, facebook, cellphones, text-messaging etc. etc. But there is something that pains me. People aren't really connecting in a deep way. Would you "date" a potential spouse on facebook? OF COURSE NOT! [By the way - great date idea. Bring "dates" and eat them!! But first, talk about bug-checking and guys, if she cares and checks her fruits - MARRY HER!! Well, also make sure you like her. What's worse than finding a worm in your apple? Finding half a worm...]

Would you marry a guy you know from g-chatting? [Is that what it is called? I heard someone say that last week.] No way Jose!! Even if his name isn't Jose but Yossi you wouldn't marry him. It is a superficial form of communication!!

No, no sweetest friends, I am not saying we should ignore all modern forms of communication, but that we should use it properly. It is definitely convenient and has many advantages including saving time.

Some suggestions:

1] When you talk to someone [on the computer, phone or otherwise] try to talk about deeper more spiritual matters. Time is a priceless commodity, use it well. Chazal say that one must have friends - "Friends or Death", but true friendship is one based on emotional and spiritual connection - not meaningless discussions about the weather.

2] When you are with a friend - TURN OFF YOUR CELLPHONE! It is annoying when it rings and rude when you interrupt a conversation to answer it. Even when the phone isn't ringing the very fact that it is on means that the one holding it is not really with you. Of course there are exceptions to the rule but in my opinion that is the rule. On a persoanl note: When I am talking with someone and they answer their phone [this has happened to me about 10 million times] I wonder "I know that I am not important but why does he have to make me feel that way?!" When the phone rings in my home and I am talking to my wife we don't answer [generally]. Who could be on the phone that is more important than my wife?? I only have one!! Frankly - every person we are with should be made to feel that he is THE MOST IMPORTANT IN THE WORLD. Chazal teach us that one of the questions asked when we meet Hashem is "Did you make your friend feel like a King/Queen?" Would you answer the phone during a meeting with a King? President? Even a Mayor? Why does your friend deserve less respect?

3] Some people find it easier to open up on a computer. But if possible, true connection should be achieved face to face. It is important to look a person in the eye and show that you care and are listening with rapt attention. Shlomo Hamelech could have asked for anything and he asked for a "LEV SHOMEA" - A listening heart.

4] If you receive a phone message or email try to answer promptly. If someone wants to contact you, getting in touch with them has a Jewish term - "chessed". Rav Noach Weinberg was one of the busiest Jews alive. He once became furious with a student who didn't return someone else's call for 48 hours. He boomed "I ALWAYS return a call within 24 hours!! That is the beginning of Ahavas Yisrael." [As I am typing this I am listening to a eulogy of Reb Noach and heard the story from the Talmid. What Hashgacha!]

5] Don't spend too much time communicating with the world. If you are a male - you have a BIBLICAL COMMANDMENT to learn every free minute. And many other mitzvos. If you are female - there is also much Torah to learn, Tanach, Mesilas Yesharim, Pirkei Avos etc. etc. And there is chessed to do. And there is time to spend alone involved in introspection and relaxation.

6] Before making a phone call, sending an email etc. you can ask yourself - is this what Hashem wants? Will it bring another person [or you] simcha, or aliyah in Avodas Hashem?

When the first man went up to the moon, they interviewed the great Ponovitcher Rosh Yeshiva Rav Kahanaman ztz"l [d. 1969] and asked him what he thought. He answered "A man can reach the moon, but lev el lev lo naga'u - people's hearts are no closer." I fear that today people are further than ever.

May we merit to truly connect to other. That is the secret of Jewish survival. When Haman's decree to destroy the Jews was proclaimed, Esther's response was "Lech knos es kol hayehudim" - Gather together all of the Jews.

Amen keyn yehi ratzon!!!

Monday, February 08, 2010

Spiritual Ultrasound

A great mai'seh I heard from one of the boys in Yeshiva tonight!

The year is about 1991. His father was close to the Lubavitcher Rebbe and one Sunday he went with his mother to get a bracha. The Rebbe gave them a dollar. Then called them back and gave two more. She was at the beginning of her pregnancy at the time but unbeknownst to them she was carrying ....... triplets.

The boy who told me the story is one of them.

Love and blessings!!!!

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Charming And Sweet

Well, I was on the radio on Friday and have but one regret. I forgot to plug my new book "7 Habits Of Highly Ineffective People". But I guess it is apropo because one of them is "missing opportunities" - which I did. :)

In this weeks parsha we read that the Jews "encamped" next to the mountain. The Torah uses the word "Vayichan". The Chassidim intepret this to mean "chen" - charm. In order to receive the Torah the Jews had to be "charming" to each other.

That reminded me of the saying of Chazal "Kol Yisrael areivim zeh la'zeh", which literally means that we are all responsible for each other. But it can also mean "All Jews must be sweet [areiv is sweet] to each other." That is our job in life. To be charming and sweet.

Love, Blessings And Gut Voch to all!!!

Friday, February 05, 2010

Cherry Coke And Nestle Crunch

From a parsha email from my friend Eytan Menachem Hakohen Austein:

I was sitting in seder today, minding my own business, trying to learn with my chavrusah, when all the sudden, one of my shana alef friends walks over to our table and starts singing. He asked me join in...why not? So we start dancing and singing to that song everyone knows; the tune of Adon Olam, with the lyrics of "I don't know why i share my lunch, with cherry coke and nestle crunch..." Fun for the whole family. Right? Wrong! In the middle of our little party, one of my rabbeim from last year sees me and yells across the entire beis medrash, "Austein! Stop singing and start learning!" I immediately smiled, assuming that he was joking. As I waited for his smile, it didn't come. Picture this scene; its embarrassing as anything. And so as everyone in the beis medrash stopped learning and looked right at me, I suddenly began to feel as small as an ant. It's no coincidence that this week's parsha shows the exact mussar that my rebbe was trying to teach me. He wanted to convey the message that learning time is for learning, and it should be done whole-heartedly and with a passion, or if you're yeshivish, with "a bren". Bnei Yisrael accepted the Torah ki'ish ecad, bi'lev echad, together, but they also accepted it under circumstances that are described as loud and noisy: the intense thunder, lightening, Hashem's voice...every time we learn, we are supposed to learn "Ki'nisi'nasam" as it [the torah] was given to us: with noise, excitement, enthusiasm!

This weeks sicha.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

What On Earth...


Nachum Segal is broadcasting from Netiv Aryeh tomorrow and I, little me, has been chosen to say a three minute dvar Torah at about three o'clock Israel time. Now here is the problem: WHAT ON EARTH SHOULD I SAY? I have never been on the radio before [except maybe for those silly call in sports radio shows as a kid]. I AM NERVOUS! My friend and Rebbe Rav Tzvi Shiloni has been telling me for years that I should have a radio show - so here it is, 3-4 minutes. Or maybe I should just keep going until they force a commercial on me :).

You may call with suggestions: 646-461-1628 or email me at

Badly In Need Of YOUR Tefillos!


Thank you!!

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Student Forever

I LOVE Judaism! Imagine a Professor of Higher Mathematics from M.I.T. who wrote 25 books with the GREATEST chiddushim in Mathematics. You ask him when you meet him what he does and he says - "I am a student of wise men". NO WAY!! "I am a Professor of Higher-Fancy-Shmancy-Mathematics at the most High-Falutin' University in the world." That is what he would say.

What is the greatest Torah Scholar called? A "Talmid Chacham". A student of the wise or wise student. No matter how much you learn you never cease being a student!! I have friends who are Rabbeim and teachers. I am not. I am happy to be a student. Fortunately I am surrounded by students just like me. They are much younger than I but it doesn't bother me. I enjoy their innocence, enthusiasm and excitement.

May we always remain eager to learn!!

The Value Of Life

An interesting article brought to my attention, here.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Buy Reb Shlomo - And Be Inspired

Sweetest Friends!!

The Yu Seforim sale is underway. I am listing two of my favorites [besides the old-fashioned Shas and Poskim]: "Reb Shlomo" - [The Biography of Rav Shlomo Friefeld] and "Holy Brother" [about Rav Shlomo Carlebach].

If you bought one of the seforim and liked a story - email me and tell me which!!!

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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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