Revach L'Neshama RSS feed for - Section: AVODAH Category:AHAVAS YISROEL Copyright 2007, Revach L'Neshama en-US Revach L'Neshama Logo 144 31 Tue, 07 Dec 2021 03:00:00 +0000 240 Parshas Truma: Rav Moshe Shternbuch - Brilliant Colorful Diversity

Among the layers of the roof of the Mishkan was the Tachash. The Tachash was an animal with brilliantly colorful hide. Unkeles says the Aramaic word for the Tachash is "Sasgona", which the gemara in Shabbos (28a) says means "Sas U'Mispaer" is happy and glorifies itself, "BiGavanim Shelo" in its many colors.

Rav Moshe Shternbuch (Ta'am VaDaas) says that this eludes to the fact that there are many different approaches to Avodas Hashem. Each person has his own path. Not only are these varying approaches not a contradiction, on the contrary, this is the glory of Am Yisroel as every Jew takes their own individual path to arrive at the same point. Everyone excitedly contributes his part and his uniqueness to do the will of Hashem.

Only when the Tachash covers the Mishkan with its dazzling array of colors, and only when we all serve Hashem in peace and unity with our dazzling array of talents and personalities, will the Mishkan be complete and bring Nachas to our Creator.

Thu, 23 Feb 2012 03:00:00 +0000
Reb Yeruchom - Jews of Diamonds and Junk

Imagine a box full of gold and diamonds. Inside this box there is also straw and scraps of paper. If you were to ask someone what's in the box and he said straw and scraps of paper and then you opened it to see for yourself, what would you say about this person? Probably that he is off the wall! How can he say that the box has junk in it when it is full of priceless items? What kind of person sees only junk when there are valuable things inside. A normal person would not even relate to the junk but rather say it is a precious box of valuables, even if the junk is the overwhelming majority and only a few valuables are buried inside.

Similarly says Reb Yeruchom the Mirrer Mashgiach, the gemara says (Eiruvin 19a) that every Jew, even the worst sinners, are full of Mitzvos like a pomegranate is full of seeds. If so when talking or even thinking about another Jew, what fool can think of the bad in him? Are we completely blind to the priceless good deeds that he has done. In the face of those mitzvos, how ridiculous is it to even pay any attention the so called atrocities that he has committed? No matter what, he is still precious and we should look at him in wise manner and stop being fools! (see LiSitcha Elyon, Parshas Vayeitzei - VaYizkor Elokin Es Rochel)

Thu, 01 Dec 2011 03:00:00 +0000
Is Everybody a Donkey?

The gemara (Shabbos 112b) says, "Im Rishonim Bnei Malachim Anu Bnei Anashim, V'Im Rishonim Bnei Anashim Anu KaChamorim V'Lo KaChamor Shel Rebbi Chanina ben Dosa V'Shel Rebbi Pinchas ben Yair", if the earlier generations were like malachim then we are like humans, if the the earlier generations were humans then we are like donkeys and not even the donkey of Rebbi Chanina ben Dosa or Rebbi Pinchas ben Yair.

Why if the earlier generations were human, does that make us donkeys? We may not be as worthy as them but on what grounds do we lose our humanity? Furthermore what does it mean we aren't even like the donkey of Pinchas ben Yair? Is that just to rub it in?

If we look a this Chazal from another perspective maybe we can answer these questions. Maybe Chazal is not telling us who we are, but the effects of the way we view others. What are our expectations of our Gedolim, do we require them to be perfect or do we allow for human frailty?

We all know that each generation is inferior to the generation before, as we move one step further from Har Sinai and the Bais HaMikdash and sink one step deeper into the abyss of the Galus. Chazal may be telling us that if we view the previous generation as examples and standards of what our Gedolim must be, our expectation borders on the impossible, and we will consider all our Gedolim, no matter how big, small by comparison.

If we hold the previous generation on a pedestal and say that they were angels, then the finest of today can be considered model humans. However if our forbears were simply model citizens then we will consider today's greats animals by comparison. And not only that, but we will belittle them even in comparison to the tzidkus of even the donkey of Pinchas ben Yair.

The same holds true when we look at everyone around us. Do we expected refinement and perfection from everyone? If so we will be very frustrated by all the "animals" we need to interact with all the time. If we are more generous and forgiving of the shortcomings of others, we will be less bitter at the world and free of constant critique, making life that much more pleasant.

Mon, 21 Nov 2011 03:00:00 +0000
No Lawyers Conferences In The Midbar In Parshas Nitzavim, Moshe Rabbeinu gathers all of Klal Yisroel before him to enter them into a covenant with Hashem to keep the mitzvos. The pasuk then lists the various segments that comprise Klal Yisroel, including the leaders, the women, the children, and ending with Choteiv Eitzecha the wood choppers and Shoeiv Meimecha, the water carriers.

Rashi in an attempt to explain who these water carriers says that it must be that Kenanim came to Moshe to join Klal Yisroel just like the Givonim did in the days of Yehoshua. Moshe made them wood choppers and water carriers. How does Rashi come to this conclusion? Could they not have been wood choppers and water carriers from Klal Yisroel? It may not be a glorious job but in the absence of foreign workers someone had to do it.

An avreich in the Mir Yeshiva in Yerushalayim suggested as follows. When the Torah categorizes people, it does so by their essence and not superficially. Therefore when the Torah calls someone a water carrier it surely does not mean a member of the Am HaNivchar who happens to bring the water every day. Each and every Yehudi has in him a Cheilek Elokai MiMaal and has the capability to contribute far more than his day job. A Yehudi creates entire worlds with his each and every word of Torah and Tefila, and each and every act of Chesed.

If the Torah calls someone a woodchopper than we can rest assure that it is referring to the Kenani whose contribution to society starts and ends there. It is not a derogatory description, it is the level that the wood chopper has achieved and he will be rewarded for it.

When we look around at the people we are know and are acquainted with, we should not view them as the professions they work at, no matter how prestigious. There is more to a Yehudi than being a banker, lawyer, real estate mogul, or doctor. Those are just superficial terms to describe what they do for a living. It is incumbent on us to look deeper and see the Baal Chesed, the Baal Eitzah, and the Talmid Chochom within.

Mon, 19 Sep 2011 03:00:00 +0000
Rav Yaakov Meir Shechter - Amalek's Big Sin

Amalek is the mortal enemy of Hashem and the Jewish people. What did they do so terrible? The Pasuk says Vayizanev Bicha Kol HaNecheshalim Acharecha (Ki Seitzei 25:18). WHo were these Necheshalim that were attacked?

Rashi says these Necheshalim were the weak ones, the ones who were spit out of the Anan HaKodesh because of their sins. Rav Yaakov Meir Shechter these are the kids on the fringe, the ones that are off the derech and rejected by society.

Amalek started with these kids not the tzaddikim or even the average citizen. Hashem's response is, You started with my children? Now it is war forever until the last Amaleiki is killed! No one starts up with any of my children no matter how far they have fallen!

We should take note as well!

Wed, 16 Mar 2011 03:00:00 +0000
Parshas Mishpatim: Meshech Chochma - Only Tzaddikim Have Enemies

"Ki Sireh Chamor Sonacha Roveitz Tachas Masao" (Mishpatim 23:5). The Torah commands us to help our enemy when is donkey is suffering from a heavy load. In Parshas Ki Seitzei (22:4) the Torah repeats this mitzva but instead of Sonacha or enemy it says the donkey of your "brother". Why does the Torah change from enemy to brother?

The Shnayim Mikra brings the Meshech Chochma (in Ki Seitzei) that explains that an enemy is someone who you saw do an aveira. Only in this case may you hate someone. However this is only if you yourself are a tzaddik. If you are some way imperfect then rather than hating someone else, you must check your own deeds and improve yourself.

The pasuk in Parshas Mishpatim was before Chait HaEigel and therefore it was possible for one Jew to hate another, since most were perfect. However in Parshas Ki Seitzei after Chait HaEigel very few were perfect and therefore everybody was a brother and not an enemy, no matter what you saw him do.

Thu, 27 Jan 2011 03:00:00 +0000
Parshas Bo: Rav Moshe Leib Sassov - I'll Decide Who Is A Good Jew Rav Moshe Leib Sassov says that if a person wants to make sure his day is one filled with Avodas Hashem and avoid aveiros, he should try to make sure his first deed is a good one. Since Mitzva Goreres Mitzva, once you have the first mitzva under your belt, the law of this mishna says that it should continue, as you are already propelled in the right direction. This is Mirumaz in the pasuk (Bo 13:2), "Kadesh Li Kol Bichor", the first action should be designated for Hashem.

However a person may still worry that his first mitzva may not be done wholeheartedly and therefore this plan will not help. Therefore he says, have rachmanus on another Jew. Even if your intention is not pure, the mitzva will still stand tall as you have helped another Jew regardless. This is Mirumaz in the next words, "Peter Kol" to patur yourself from all worries, "Rechem" have rachmanus on a Jew.

Even with this a person may be concerned that the Jew he helped, is not worthy and therefore his mercy was misplaced and not considered a Mitzva. To this says Rav Moshe Leib, we only need to continue the next words of the Pasuk, "BaAdam U'Babiheima" whether he was a worthy man or an animal and not worthy of kindness, "Li", Hashem says, leave that to Me. You will get your S'char either way.

Sun, 09 Jan 2011 03:00:00 +0000
Parshas Lech Licha: Netziv - A Fight Between Brothers

The Torah tells us that there was a fight between the shepherds of Lot and the Shepherds of Avrohom (Lech Licha 12:7).  Curiously at the end of that very same pasuk the Torah adds that the Kenani and Prizi were still living in the land.  What was the fight about and why does the Torah conceal the details?  Why is the fact that the Kenani were still in Eretz Yisroel an integral part of the story?  Why after all these years did this fight cause Avrohom to part ways with his trusted aide and nephew?

Rashi explains that Lot's sheep were grazing on the land of the local inhabitants because as Avrohom's next of kin he considered himself the owner.  Therefore the Torah tells us that it was not Avrohom's land yet and Lot was guilty of theft.

The Netziv has a different approach.  He says that there was a fight, but what it was about was not relevant.  The mere fact that there was machlokes was what troubled Avrohom.  He could not live with that.  Worse yet, Avrohom was preaching a religion of peace and he couldn't even get along with his own nephew, while the idol worshipping Kenani were living peacefully around him and were watching this troubling scene.  Avrohom could not continue his life's work under these circumstances.  Rather that making a Kiddush Hashem he was embroiled in a terrible Chilul Hashem.

Fighting amongst ourselves is a terrible things.  When our hosts in the galus are privy to our fighting and all eyes are on us through the media, it is an unacceptable Chilul Hashem of the worst degree.  The world has become a very small place and we need to realize that the Kenani are BaAretz and are watching very carefully.

Tue, 12 Oct 2010 03:00:00 +0000
A Brother's Shofar Shame Yields Three Shiduchim

In one of the famous Shtieblach in Yerushalayim there are two brothers who run from Minyan
Minyan throughout Rosh HaShanah, blowing Shofar for all the Minyanin. Last year when one of the brothers got up to blow it just didn't come out. He cleaned and banged and tried everything to make his Shofar blast the Tekios to no avail.

The people in the minyan started getting antsy. Slowly there were grimaces and grunts, until the chorus became so loud that his brother blowing nearby had to come in and rescue him. The Baal Tokei'a went home in shame as his brother served double duty, handling all the Shtieblach by himself.

After blowing shofar for the last minyan, the Baal Tokei'a made his way straight to his brother's house to cheer him up after his humiliating experience. He told his brother that it could happen to even the most experienced Baalei Tokei'a and there was nothing to be ashamed of.

His brother shrugged it off. He told him that while humiliation is the most difficult thing in the world to deal with, he is accepting it B'Simcha. "You my brother" he said, "have three older unmarried children in your home. I am giving you my zchus of accepting my shame with love. In that merit your three eligible children should all be zocheh to meet zivug this year."

Last week the third of the three children became engaged. U'Mi KiAmcha Yisroel!

Sun, 05 Sep 2010 03:00:00 +0000
Alter Of Kelm - Are You A Failure When It Comes To Kiruv?

Do you wonder why some people are zocheh to be Mikarev everyone they meet and every time you try to be Mikarev a friend, acquaintance, coworker, or family member you fail?  The Alter of Kelm says a comforting vort for all of us kiruv failures.

The Torah says that when someone persuades others to worship Avodah Zara he gets Skila.  כִּי בִקֵּשׁ לְהַדִּיחֲךָ, because he tried to drive you away from Hashem.  The Alter says that even if he is unsuccessful and you do not budge from your dveikus in Hashem, still the person who try to persuade you is put to death by Skila just for trying.

We know, says the Alter the Mida Tova Miruba MiDas Puraniyos, the measure of reward for good is greater than the measure of punishment for bad.  This means that if you try to draw someone close to Hashem but do not succeed surely your reward is great.  Keep trying and hopefully one day you will succeed!

Sun, 08 Aug 2010 03:00:00 +0000
Rav Zushya of Anipoli - Why It Pays To Give Tzedaka To Suspicious Collectors
We are bombarded day after day by people collecting tzedaka.  Many of them have dubious claims, and some have been collecting every Monday for the emergency heart transplant that they need to have for the past 35 years already. Why should we give them?

The Gemara in Kesubos (68b) says that we must thank the Rama'im, those people who collect money as if they are poor, since if not for them we would be punished for not giving Tzedaka as the pasuk says (Parshas Re'eh 15:9) וְרָעָה עֵינְךָ בְּאָחִיךָ הָאֶבְיוֹן, וְלֹא תִתֵּן לוֹ; וְקָרָא עָלֶיךָ אֶל-יְהוָה, וְהָיָה בְךָ חֵטְא, you will cast a bad eye on your poor brother and not give him.  He will call out to Hashem and you will have sinned.  SInce there are so many cheats we can always use that as a defense of our stingy behavior.

The gemara (Bava Kama 16b) says that Yirmiyahu davened to Hashem that he should only send unworthy beggars to the people who persecute him, so that even if they want to do a mitzva, they will give money but not even have the Zechus of Tzedaka to protect them.  Rav Zushya of Anipoli asks how could Yirmiya who loved and cared so deeply for Klal Yisroel ask for such a terrible thing from Hashem?  Why would he be so vengeful?

He answers that Hashem pay us Mida K'Neged Mida.  If Bnei Yisroel, who were facing destruction, would act mercifully only with people who really needed and deserved help, then Hashem would also only save those people who really deserved to be saved.  What would then become of the sinners who persecuted Yirmiya?  His solution was to have them give Tzedaka to undeserving people, this way he can daven to Hashem that just like they pitied undeserving people, so to Hashem should pity them although they are not worthy of any mercy.  This ploy by Yirmiyahu was meant to provide a safety net for his tormentors, and not Chas V'Shalom to seal their fate for death.  This shows you the true Ahavas Yisroel of a Navi!

We don't want Hashem making ugly faces when we come around asking for something, so why not show Hashem that one not need be deserving to get a smile and some change from us?

We ourselves are not expert face readers so it would be foolish to take a look at someone and judge his integrity and authenticity.  Besides do you really believe he is living it up on your account?  Somehow I don't think we'd want to switch lives with anyone who ever came to collect.  Moreover there must be a few true tzadikim in the mix and surely there will be a great Tvia on us in Shamayim for emotionally hurting a great tzaddik.  For some small change for each person, isn't foolish to miss out on a great mitzva.  Look at it as investing.  If you give out 10 dollars, even if nine are a waste of time, the 10th can be worth millions!  Sounds like a great investment to me.

Just this morning I overheard two people in Shul saying that it must have been a good year for a specific person who comes around collecting every Thursday.  Since he didn't come this week he must be away on vacation they surmised.  Normally I don't mix into other people's conversations but this time I turned around and told them that I know this person personally (after checking him out myself) and he happens to a great tzaddik whose life is dedicated to helping and collecting for others.  He not only collects but makes them food and takes care of their needs, all this while being an extraordinary Masmid who sits and learns a full day. 

With Tzedaka you never know.  Give it a shot.  All it takes is a dollar and dream!  

Thu, 05 Aug 2010 03:00:00 +0000
Moroccans & Chasidim, Litvaks & Teimanim - Why All The Hate?
Despite that we are all one nation and all children of Avrohom, Yitzchok, and Yaakov, and despite that we all serve a single Father in Heaven, there is often times visible friction and tension between us.  How could this be?

Reb Yaakov Kloizner says in the name of his Rebbi, Rav Shraga Feivel Mendelowitz, that in each and every place Klal Yisroel travels to in the Galus, we unfortunately soak up the atmosphere and to a degree take on that culture.  In every American Jew there is a Shtikel American Goi.  In every French Yid there is a bit of a Frenchman and so on and so forth.  

As Yidden, says Rav Shraga Feivel, we have no differences and are completely B'Achdus with one Lev pointing to Avinu SheBaShamayim.  However the Spanish Goi in us has a natural rivalry with the Russian Goi, and that is where the hate comes from.  The more of these feelings we have the more it is a sign of the Goi we have become.

Without getting into the spiritual genetics of the matter, this point is simple.  Because our Torah is seen in different light in different places where different issues arise, each Galus shapes the Golim Lfi HaMakom and Lfi HaZman, depending on the specific set of challenges in that place and time.  Clearly our dress and dietary habits reflect those of our hosts.  These differences are all exterior and are the flashpoint of rivalry to the naked eye.  Inside we are all one and the same.  We all have a Neshama that comes from the same source, and we have 248 Eivarim that yearn to do the same Remach Mitzvos.

The Jew in us has no walls separating each of us from every other member of Klal Yisroel.  Contrary to popular belief that Jews always fight, the more Jewish we become, the less we will fight.

Mon, 28 Jun 2010 03:00:00 +0000
Bilam Loves Our Shuls
Bilam left us with many beautiful brachos.  However, says the gemara (Sanhedrin 105b) they all reverted to curses except for Mah Tovu Ohalecha Yaakov.  This bracha, which means that there should always be many shuls, remained.  Why?

One of the Meforshim (I cannot remember which) say B'Derech Drush, that the reason Bilam's brachos did not last is because he was not Echad B'Lev V'Echad B'Peh.  What he said was not what was in his heart.  A Bracha like that has no Kiyum.  When he saw all the multitude of shuls by Bnei Yisroel, he liked that very much.  He was thrilled that Bnei Yisroel were not capable of having a single shul where all of Klal Yisroel davened together B'Achdus.  He was very happy to see a constant splintering of shuls due to machlokes, leaving a bunch of small minyanim without Rov Am.  The Bracha of Mah Tovu was something that Bilam said with his mouth and meant with his whole heart.

On the day that this bracha is finally reversed as well and we all come together in one Shul in unison and glorify our Father in heaven who loves us all and wants us to love each other, surely our tefilos will be answered.  Then we won't have any need for Bilam and his brachos.  All the evil will dissipate and we will rejoice with the Melech HaMoshiach BB"A.

Thu, 24 Jun 2010 03:00:00 +0000
Rav Shloime Volbe - 60 Seconds Of Unparalleled Rishus
We all like to help others especially in their time of distress.  As Maaminim Bnei Maaminim we genuinely understand that the world is a very small one and no distance or obstacle can prevent us from helping a Yid in despair.  We need not be in contact with the person, know them, or even be in their proximity.  We can help them in the best possible way by offering a tefila or a Perek Tehilim and beseeching their's and our father on their behalf.

The only thing that prevents us from doing that is the old concept of out of sight and out of mind.  We don't see these people suffering and our hearts are hardened by the sheer number of stories we hear on a regular basis.  Our senses are dulled.  This may be a valid but weak excuse for not taking a proactive stance every time we hear of another person's tzara.  However in one scenario the great Mashgiach Rav Shloime Volbe Zt"l calls this pure Rishus.  

The Holchei Nesivos quotes him as follows.  "There is a Rishus in each and every person who does not think. When someone is B'tzara or sick and we need to say Tehilim, the Chazan approaches [the Amud] and immediately we think, "Oy! Here comes the nudnik again to make us crazy with his Tehilim."

The Chazan finishes the Perek before we even have a chance to overcome this [bad] feeling and to start saying with Kavana.  How delighted we are when his tone of voice rises with the closing words of the Perek.  And what pain do we feel when his tune leads him right into the next perek!

This is an unparalleled Rishus.  If only we thought a bit on the poor fellow lying in his bed and suffering, our Tehilim would look totally different"

We are all appalled at the stories during the Holocaust where a deal was struck with the Germans to save Jews for a relatively small amount per head.  Yet many American Jews sitting safe and sound in their own homes treated this with apathy and did not come through like they could have leading to the slaughter of many Jews who could have been saved.

Forget about taking the initiative to open a Tehilim when hearing of someone's tzaar, if the Chazan is saying Tehilim and we are uninterested are we not as guilty as those who turned a deaf ear to an appeal for money.  We are worse because it doesn't even cost us a single penny.  Unlike their money which they could have justified would go to naught at the end, we know for certain that not one word of Tehilim is said in vain. 

Kudos to the individuals and groups of women who clutch their Tehilim near their hearts and beseech Hashem for all of Klal Yisroel.  Even in our busy days us men are also given our chance.  When the final Amein is said in Shul and we are racing out the door, we should stop for a moment and invest a few moments that will make all the difference.

Wed, 16 Jun 2010 03:00:00 +0000
Parshas Korach: Rav Shimshon Pincus - If Korach Is Not Completely Swallowed Up
Moshe Rabbeinu tells Korach that if he is right, Hashem will create a new phenomenon and the earth will open its mouth and all the sinners will be swallowed.  If not, then we know that Hashem did not send Moshe.  Where did Moshe get this idea from?

Rav Shimshon Pincus explains that the Torah tells us (Korach 17:5), "V'Lo Sihiyeh K'Korach ViChaAdaso", we should not engage in Machlokes like Korach.  The gemara (Sanhedrin 110a) says that if you enter a Machlokes, you are oveir a Lav.  This issur, says Rav Shimshon, applies to both the side that is right and the side that is wrong.

Therefore he says, if the side that is right can win the machlokes unequivocally and unanimously, then he should do so.  However if the side that is wrong refuses to yield and the argument continues, then even if you are right you must be Mivater and drop the machlokes.  Not doing so would constitute an issur.  Unfortunately in every machlokes the latter is always the case and the side that is wrong does not yield. 

This explains what Moshe Rabbeinu told Korach.  If Hashem creates an unprecedented Miracle and the argument will become null and void through the absolute demise of the other side, then it will be clear that I am right and you are wrong.  But if you are still around in any shape or form and continue to argue, then I will need to concede and end the machlokes even though I am right.  And so it was.  The earth opened up and the machlokes disappeared!
We should not expect any such miracles in our own lives.  We should make our point and move on, even if we are 100% right and the other side is 100% wrong, which is never the case.

Wed, 09 Jun 2010 03:00:00 +0000
If Only Everything Was As Easy As Hagba A traveler wandered into Brisk late one night and while all the homes were dark, one home had a light shining in the window.  He made his way to the home and after knocking was and was greeted by the Brisker Rov who lived there.  He asked if he can stay for the night and the Brisker Rov who was known for his chesed was delighted with the opportunity to accommodate.  He quickly sprung into action to bring food, make a bed, and cater to his guests every need.

Realizing that he was dealing with the famed Brisker Rov himself, the guest could not allow the Brisker Rov to lower himself to serve him.  He vehemently protested and would not let the Rov engage in any Tircha on his behalf.

The next day in Shul the gabbai noticed the guest and was going to give him an aliya as was customary for guests.  The Brisker Rov went to the Gabbai and told him not to give the guest and aliya to the Torah but rather he should give him Hagba'as HaTorah.  The Gabbai obeyed the Brisker Rov without questioning this odd request.

After the guest was called for hagba and was about to pickup the Sefer Torah the Brisker Rov made his way to the Bima and stopped the guest from picking up the Torah.  "Don't be Matriach yourself" said the Brisker Rov, "it is quite heavy!"  "But is not a Tircha" protested the guest. "it is a Zchus."  "And so is serving another Jew and doing the Mitzva of Hachnasas Orchim", said the Brisker Rov delivering the punch line.

There are many exerting exercises that we happily do without complaining.  We consider them a privilege.  When it comes to doing a favor for another Jew even if it takes time and effort, we should view it in the same light.  It is a privilege and an honor, so indulge yourself with a smile!

Tue, 01 Jun 2010 03:00:00 +0000
Parshas Bahaloscha: Rav Yaakov Kaminetzky - A Slap To The Shechina

Hashem tells Moshe after he davens on behalf of his sister Miriam who spoke Lashon Hara about him, that she must be in isolation for at least seven days.  Why?  The pasuk says that if her father was angry with her she would need seven days isolation, so surely when one  provokes Hashem's  anger one should deserve isolation .  Rav Yaakov Kaminetzky asks why the whole drasha?

Rav Yaakov says that this pasuk is teaching us a very important lesson.  After the incident when Miriam was punished with tzoraas, Aharon asks Moshe to forgive her.  Aharon makes no mention of Hashem since he thought that since this was a Chait Bain Adam LaChaveiro all you need for tshuva is your friends forgiveness.  Moshe then asks Hashem to remove her tzoraas. Moshe's tefilla to Hashem is a obvious demonstration of his wholehearted forgiveness of his sister .There would be good reason to assume  that there is no need for her to continue to suffer.

Hashem's response is that her offense was not only perpetrated against Moshe but also against Hashem.  Each person is a Tzelem Elokim, and any infraction towards another person is also a sin against Hashem in whose image the person was created.  This is why Hashem tells Moshe by invoking the anger of the Shechina, that she must still be punished because the aveira was not towards Moshe alone.

Taking this a step further, although Rav Yaakov clearly does not say this, maybe we can say that Bain Adam LaChaveiro is really just another form of an aveira towards Hashem.  When we harm our friends, it is the Tzivui of Hashem that we have violated.  The only difference though between this and Bain Adam LaMakom is that the subject matter of the infraction is a live human being.  This complicates the situation enormously because a human is dynamic and not static.  Any interaction we have, either directly or indirectly, is subject to deep sensitivities that we will be held accountable for.

Maybe the Mishna in Yuma (85b) alludes to this way of thinking when it says that for Aveiros Bain Adam LaChaveiro, Yom Kippur is not Michaper until your friend forgives you.  Clearly the Mishna understood that the real kappara comes from Hashem whose words you have not heeded.  The only catch is that you must first reverse the damage and at least attempt to make amends with your friend  so that ultimately he is no longer  angry with you.  

Based on this way of understanding we can understand why you must only ask your friend forgiveness three times and it also explains how we can obtain forgiveness from those who are no longer alive.  The Mishna then ends with the famous Rebbi Akiva who tells us that only Hashem can cleanse us.  Ashreichem Yisroel!

Wed, 26 May 2010 03:00:00 +0000
Whose Blood Is Redder? If someone were to point a gun at the Vilna Gaon and tell him that he either kill you or he will be killed, the halacha (YD 157:1) is clear.  The Vilna Gaon would need to accept death rather than commit murder.  Is there a pasuk that teaches this explicitly?  No, says the gemara (Sanhedrin 84a), it is simple logic.  Who is to say that Hashem prefers the Vilna Gaon to remain alive rather than you.  The Vilna Gaon doesn't have the right to make that claim, so he cannot pull the trigger on you.

While the gemara doesn't use this specific example, it doesn't make any distinctions based on who observes more mitzvos, or who is more vital to the world and the entire future of Klal Yisroel.  We are all in the same category no matter how important we are or aren't.  No matter how productive our life has been or hasn't been.  No matter how many mitzvos we have or haven't done.

Why is this?  Maybe we can explain as follows.  What happened in the past is over and sealed away in the annals of history.  The only consideration before deciding who lives and who dies is the actions and decisions we make today.  While it is safe to assume that the Vilna Gaon will have a far more productive day than you and I, that may not be the way Hashem sees thing.  We all have our mission and we all have our Nisyonos.  Each person's job is to pass his Nisayon.  Everyone is judged within himself and not compared to others.  We have no idea which success in a Nisayon gives Hashem the most satisfaction.  Maybe in my case, Hashem is just eager to hear me make my Brachos with Kavana or control my anger.

The lesson here is very clear.  No one can look at his friend and declare himself more worthy of life or more worthy in Hashem's eyes.  Even if you were more worthy yesterday, which you really have no way of knowing, tomorrow is a new day and one person's value can soar while the other one's value plummets.  Let's not play Hashem.  Let's respect each person for who he is and what he has the potential to be... in Hashem's eyes. 

Mon, 03 May 2010 03:00:00 +0000
Parshas Kedoshim: Chiddushei HaRim - Did Hillel Forget V'Ahavta L'Rei'acha Kamocha?

A Nochri came to Hillel telling he wanted to learn the Torah very easily and quickly.  Hillel told him "D'Alach Sani L'Chavrach Lo Sevid" whatever he doesn't like, he should not do to his friend.  (Shabbos 31a).  The Chidushei HaRim asks why didn't Hillel tell him what the Torah says, "V'Ahavta L'Rei'acha Kamocha" (Kedoshim 19:18).

He answers that the highest level of righteousness towards another that the human mind an fathom, is not to harm your neighbor.  To understand that there is an obligation to "love" each and every person no matter what, is beyond human comprehension, unless you live Tachas Kanfei HaShechina.  In order to draw this Nochri near to Hashem, Hillel needed to start with a concept that he was able to grasp.  Once he did that and was drawn Tachas Kanfei HaShechina then Hillel could teach him the superhuman obligation of V'Ahavta L'Reiacha Kamocha. 

The Mitzva of V'Ahavta is not simple and doesn't make any logical sense.  However we live Tachas Kanfei HaShechina and therefore we have the capability to grasp it.  Now its just a matter of mustering up the will and strength to actually do it.

Fri, 23 Apr 2010 03:00:00 +0000
Rav Menashe Klein: The Four Sons Are All Echad The Hagada lists the four sons, Echad Chochom, Echad Rasha, Echad Tam, Echad SheEino Yodei'a Lishol.  Rav Menashe Klein asks shouldn't it say Echad, Sheini, Shlishi... instead of Echad for each one?

He answers that Baal Hagada is teaching us a very important lesson.  Each person whatever he is, has a Neshama that comes from Hashem, a Cheilek Elokai MiMaal.  Each person comes directly from Hashem who is Echad.  They are all special.  There is no Rishon, Sheini, Shlishi no matter what they look like.  They all need to be treated as number one.

Sun, 21 Mar 2010 03:00:00 +0000
The Smooth Road To Rock Bottom

"HaBa Litaher Misayim Lo HaBa Litamei Pos'chin Lo", if someone comes to purify himself Min Hashamayim they help him and if he comes to make himself unclean the gate of tumah are opened for him (Shabbos 104a).  There is special Siyata Dishmaya for those seeking to rise higher and things fall into place with divine ease.  Similarly someone on a spiritual spiral downward also has Siyata Dishmaya that will help him unimpeded on his descent into the abyss.  

Rav Chaim Zaitchek (Ohr Chodosh Parshas Ki Sisa) says that Rav Shmuel Weintraub the Rosh Yeshiva of Novhardok Pinsk Karlin asked, it is very nice that Hashem helps someone looking to climb higher spiritually, but what is the Chesed in helping someone who is falling to allow him to fall even further?  Is it not bad enough that as a punishment for his bad choices he receives no divine help to stop him in his free-fall and put him back on the right track, but must Hashem open up the doors for more tumah?

He answers that this too is Chesed Hashem.  Many people will not have any remorse or regret until they have hit rock bottom.  Even as they descend into the great depths of moral turpitude, they steadfastly and stubbornly cling to their false rationale.  It is only when there is no further to fall, and the decay of their ways finally comes back to kick them, do they look up and see that they are sitting in the dark and the light is far above.  Only then do they begin their slow ascent out of the darkness and climb painfully back to the light.

Many times, says Rav Zaitchek, this only happens after a lifetime of living a lie.  It takes years and decades for them to slowly fall until they reach the end of the road and contemplate a change of heart.  By then they are already old and have wasted their lives.  Even if they were to make a complete turnaround, their best years are behind them and pain of the wasted life is too much to bear.  

Often we see that Hashem with his incredible Chesed puts the sinners on a fast track to the bottom.  To us it may look cruel and illogical that someone can fall so far so fast, but ultimately this is for his own good and it will quicken his journey back to the top.  Trying to stop them from falling when it is divinely inspired might be like standing on the train tracks before a speeding locomotive as nothing can stand in their way, although surely it is incumbent on us to try.  But console yourself with the fact that it is a round trip, and the quicker they reach their dead end and realize that they have gone totally astary and have gotten nowhere, the quicker they will turn around and come back.

Sun, 07 Mar 2010 03:00:00 +0000
Martin Grossman O"H - Special Zchusim, Special Lessons When I heard in passing that a Jewish inmate was scheduled to be executed in Florida, it did not really grab my attention.  Then my wife mentioned that some prominent Gedolim had taken up the case and asked the tzibbur to petition the governor on his behalf.  It surprised me, but despite my doubts about Jews making lots of noise on behalf of a self admitted murderer, I took the call seriously and started to write.  Although it was hard to think of anything to write at first, as I wrote it became increasing easier until by time I was done I was passionate for the cause.

This reminded me of a famous lesson taught by Rav Eliyahu Dessler in Michtav MeiEliyahu.  Love is about loving ourselves.  The reason why we love others is that we have invested our energies in them so that they become an extension of ourselves.  Then loving them becomes easy.  The more you give to the people around you, the more you love them.  So there I was after fifteen minutes of writing, totally changed in my view of Martin Grossman who now suddenly had a special place in my heart.  But why was Martin Grossman so fortunate to have evoked this burst of passion when there are many other Jews waiting for us on death row?

I have an uncle buried on Har HaMenuchos who died without children.  Every year on his yahrtzeit, my neighbor, who teaches in a Yeshiva for weak bochurim, brings a Minyan with us to his Kever to say Tehilim and Kaddish.  The dream of each one of these bochurim is to be accepted into a normal mainstream Yeshiva.  When we arrive at the Kever my neighbor gives a whole speech about what a special tzaddik this man was, and how if the boys daven they will surely get into Yeshiva.

I always try to hold my chuckle as he goes on and on in a most sincere manner.  This year I finally said to him, "Reb Chaim, did you know my uncle, because I did and I have no idea who you are talking about.  Don't you think you are getting carried away?"  His answer was serious and straight forward, and he said to me, "If this man has the zchus that every year bochurim pour their hearts out at his kever on his yahrtzeit, he must have done something good.  And by the way, I don't know if it is their tefilos or his intervention, but most of them get in to Yeshivos at a higher percentage than the rest of the boys in our Yeshiva."

The gemara in Shabbos (32a) tells us, "Migalgilin Zchus Al Yidei Zakkai".  If a zchus is coming to the world, it is done with a righteous person as the intermediary.  I don't know much about Martin Grossman other than small bits reported by the media, but the one thing he managed to do in his final days was to unite Klal Yisroel in an all to infrequent showcase of achdus and Ahavas Yisroel.  Many people leave machlokes and hate behind in their wake.  Martin left Ahavas Yisroel.  How many of us would love to leave the world in such grand fashion.

Why was he different than any of the other Jews sitting on Florida's death row?  Only Hashem knows.  The one thing we do know for sure was that Martin Grossman did something right to merit the desperately need zchus of Achdus and Ahavas Yisroel that he brought to Klal Yisroel.  Migalgilin Zchus Al Yidei Zakkai.

Besides for the one time show of Ahavas Yisroel, the lesson and the legacy of Martin Grossman is far more powerful.  It is a lesson on how easy it is to create a feeling of true Ahavas Yisroel.  All you need to do is, "do it".  With a little smile, a nice word, a tiny favor to the person who for whatever reason you don't take an interest in or you don't like, poof! just like that you can develop feelings for him.  If you don't believe me ask any of the people who lifted a pen, a telephone receiver, or the cover of their laptop for a Jew convicted of murder on death row.  Let's try to focus on our Ahavas Yisroel.  Do a small act L'Iluy Nishmas Michoel Yechiel ben Avrohom O"H because through him we learned the way.

Sun, 21 Feb 2010 03:00:00 +0000
Parshas Mishpatim: Rav Itzele Blazer - Sorry But The Animal Will Just Have To Wait There is a mitzva to help another Jew, even your enemy, load up his donkey.  There is also a mitzva to help him unload his donkey when it is suffering under its load.  The gemara Bava Metzia (32b) says that if you see both your good friend struggling to unload his donkey and your bitter enemy wanting to load up his donkey, you should help you enemy first and then your friend.  The gemara says the reason for this is so that you can subdue your Yetzer Hara who wants to fan the flames of hatred, even if your actions are justified based on the Torah.

Rav Itzele Blazer of Peterburg, the Talmid of Rav Yisroel Salanter, says that what is mind boggling about this gemara is that the gemara says that this course of action is correct even according to those who hold the Tzaar Baalei Chaim is assur Min HaTorah.  So we have here on one side a suffering donkey whom the Torah requires you to help coupled with a Mitzva of helping your friend unload his donkey, and on the other side an enemy with a package that needs to be loaded.  This seems like a no brainer.  Leave friends and enemies aside, the poor donkey should get the help and the enemy can wait his turn since his mitzva is balanced by the mitzva to the friend.  Lets also remember that the enemy is not someone who you simply don't like, but rather someone who does aveiros and your hate is rooted in a love for Hashem.  Yet the gemara says that precisely now is the time to teach your Yetzer Hara a lesson.  Is now really the right time?  Can't the lesson wait until the Donkey is relieved?

Rav Itzele says that we see from here that subduing your evil inclination is the most basic personal need of man.  One must ask, how can we kill and animal in order to eat a hearty meal, isn't that Tzaar Baalei Chaim?  What about skinning it for hide and fur?  All these things are permissible because animals are create for man's utility.  It is only assur to cause Tzaar Baalei Chaim when their pain serves no human need.  Our first and foremost human need, and our entire purpose on this earth, is to wage war with our Yetzer Hara.  In this case when you have a point blank shot at the enemy, and you have a chance to eradicate hate between men, the animal must wait even if it is accorded protection by the Torah itself.

Thu, 11 Feb 2010 03:00:00 +0000
You Don't Need To Be The Chozeh Of Lublin To See A Star The Chozeh of Lublin was said to have been able to see from one end of the world to the other. We can't see more than a few feet in front of us, or could we?  

Well, the circumference of the world is about 25,000 miles, meaning that the furthest point away from us is only half of that.  Granted there is a horizon, but we don't even see nearly that far.  The moon which we easily see, is ten times further at nearly 250,000 miles, depending on time and season.  The sun is 93 million miles away or 370 times further than the moon and we have no trouble seeing that.  We can even see with our naked eye a star named Deneb which is 3200 light years away or 18 quadrillion miles (17 digits).

So the question is why can we not see even miniscule distances on earth, and why was the Chozeh able to?  I think we can all answer this question fairly easily.  Have you ever been really frustrated looking for something at home or in the grocery, that was right in front of your eyes?  Why didn't you see it?  Because eyes don't act in a vacuum.  They are connected to a brain.  In order to see, the eye must look and the brain must perceive.

We can all see Hashem's presence in everything with our eyes.  But it won't help if we are looking but not seeing.  Eiynayim Lahem V'lo Yiru, you can have eyes that don't see anything.  It takes the Kedusha of a Chozeh to see the light emanating from every action and every part of the Bria.  But that just isn't us.

However there are things that cast a bright light much closer to home that we don't really have any excuse not to see.  We should easily be able to see the brilliantly lit neshamos of the people around us.  Everybody we know or meet has surely done enough good to make their holy neshamos light up an entire universe.  How strange that often we only notice the few specs of dirt that they have accumulated and manage not to notice the incredible light that emanate from them.

We could easily see the glow of a person passing us in the street or the new face in Shul, at the feeling that someone cared enough to say good morning or hello.  We can't possibly miss the burning sensation of our children who feel neglected by a person so integral in their lives, when our busy schedules leave them off our agenda for extended periods.  We shouldn't miss the searing fire that we set off in the people closest to us, including our spouses, with some of our actions and behaviors.  

We may not be able to see around the world, but because we are capable of seeing things quadrillions of miles away, we should really open up our eyes to the things that are even brighter than a star and right under our nose.

Wed, 03 Feb 2010 03:00:00 +0000
A Billionaire's Priorities - Rav Moshe Saba Z"L

A caption written under a picture of Moshe Saba whispering into a Bar Mitzva boy's ear at a family Bar Mitzva just before he was tragically killed, says that he told the Bar Mitzva boy that although we have lots of money we must keep our priorities straight. 

Although until the tragic accident most of us may or may not have heard of him, there was a lot to read about in the wake of his death.  True the media is not the best place to pick up information, but nevertheless there were some really inspiring things written that can only make us ordinary people blush with shame.

Moshe Saba supported thousands, not only the needy but he was a tremendous benefactor of Torah.  Incredible amounts of Torah and Chesed surely escorted him to Shamayim.  Although his schar is incomprehensible, such deeds will never impress us struggling working class people.  Rightly or wrongly (probably the latter) we will always think, so what.  If we had that kind of money we'd do even more.  Why do the wealthy think they can buy their way into Olam Haba and still have a good time down here, while we struggle?  (Obviously we've never been tested with wealth, but that won't change our mindset.)

What we could relate to was the fact that he was not only a Baal tzedaka but also a Ben Torah and a Ben Aliyah.  I imagine as billionaire communications and TV mogul there would be meetings and phone calls that would keep him up until all hours of the night.  Surely a man of his stature had an overwhelming amount of social functions that occupied his time late into the night on a regular basis.  Yet he was a fixture at the Vasikin minyan.  How many of us wake up late because we stayed up a bit past our bedtime for any trivial cause? 

Hear how much money he had and see pictures of him, then listen to tales about his Sidrei Limud and his dedication to them.  My goodness!  He even learned more Torah every day than I do?  How embarrassing!  And how many important meetings do I have?  Maybe once every month or two.  Not only a seder in the morning and the night, but he even gave Shiurim.  Could I do that?  What do I know?  What could I teach about?  Truly embarrassing!

One time on his way to his evening Chavrusa he heard that there was an earthquake in a region where he had many cellular antennas.  The financially losses could have been a severe set back.  Surely his managers needed him then, like never before.  Yet as he entered the Bais Medrash he turned off his cellphone and tuned out to enter a different world.  What about us who after years of being rebuked, are first starting to understand that Shmoneh Esrei is not the time to check who is calling?

One of the difficult business decisions he needed to make in his life was giving up an ownership stake in an Israeli TV station after the deal had been completed and was just waiting for his signature.  This was not an ordinary business investment.  TV was his core business and he had a chance to expand his empire beyond his local borders, and in no better place than Eretz Yisroel.  He believed his ownership could make a difference for the better.  Yet when his Gedolim felt otherwise, after much inner turmoil he submitted himself to their will.

We all talk about priorities but often we miss the mark.  We like to believe the areas that we are naturally strong are the most important priorities, and why not, it certainly suits our interest.  Moshe Saba could have easily rested on his laurels, feeling good about the vast amounts of tzedaka and chesed he generously dispensed.  But he was smart enough to live with the truth.

The gemara Shabbos (31a) says the first question they ask you in Shamayim is Nasasa V'Nasata BeEmuna.  People translate this to mean did you deal honestly in business.  Only after does Hashem ask about your Torah learning.  This is a perplexing question to ask first.  Why are we so concerned with business dealings?  Sure there are lots of potential aveiros involved, but why those first.  Why not did you watch your Kashrus or did you plant wheat in your vineyard?

Maybe the answer lies in the mistranslation.  Hashem does not ask Nasasa V'Nasata Btzedek or U'BiYosher, did you deal righteously and fairly, rather BeEmuna with faith.  Did you live your life as if you were the master of your financial destiny, or did you understand that everything you have is from Hashem.  This is a fundamental question that tells a lot about if we succeeded in our earthly mission, and rightfully is the opening shot across the bow.  Only after setting the record straight comes the question of how much Torah did we learn.  Not how much did you delegate and how much did you support, but how much you actually learned.  Sure they will get to that as well, but if it was truly important to you, you wouldn't leave it for others.  Was it a permanent feature in your day and in your life, or was it lower down on your list and you only learned when all the important matters were taken care of? 

There is nothing more painful than arriving Shamayim after playing out your life's mission on earth in a manner that you deep down knew was not your true mission, but looked kosher enough so you convinced yourself otherwise.  Regardless of how many good deeds you did, the full weight of the truth and your failure to live up to it will hit you like a Mack Truck the instant life ends. 

What Moshe Saba had in mind when he reminded his nephew about priorities is not something that we can know.  The one thing we can know is that in practice, despite all the distractions and all the responsibility he carried, he had his priorities straight.  Surely upon his arrival in Shamayim, Moshe Saba got off to a good start, and cleared the very difficult opening hurdle, even before the Heavenly Court's Chief Financial Officer was brought in to testify.  Moshe Saba's life, his modesty, his generousity, and his dedication to the Klal is surely an inspiring example for the wealthy.  But more than that his life was an example to you and me.  It is an example that we all need to learn from because it is a lesson about priorities and not about money.  And we can all use a refresher course every now and then, especially from a man who can deliver the message in a most powerful way.

Mon, 25 Jan 2010 03:00:00 +0000
Do You Really Believe You Know When The Jar Is Full? Here is new twist on an old story.  A professor comes into class and lays a large glass jar on his desk.  He then takes out a three large rocks and puts them in the jar filling it to the top.  He turns to the class and asks, "Is the jar full?"  "Yes" comes the overwhelming response.  "Really?"  He then takes out a bag of small stones and pours them all into the jar, as they settle between the larger rocks. "Is it full now?" "Yes, now it is full", screams the class.  "Really?"  He then pours a full bag of sand into the jar.  "Is it full now?"  By now the class is completely silent as the professor then pours a glass of water into the jar.  "Now the jar is finally full" said the professor.

Often times where hear something that someone did and we are quick to condemn them.  After all we know the story, and it is obvious that they deserve our scorn.  But first think for a moment.  Hearing the deed (usually fifth hand) is merely the large rocks.  It doesn't really tell the whole story, or fill the jar so to say.  The smaller rocks are the details that we didn't think we needed to complete the picture.  Even after hearing the details, we still don't know the background, which is the sand that finds room for itself between the small rocks.  What was going on at the time?  What other side factors were involved?  What pressures were they under, whether financial, social, or physical?  Even if we knew all that we still have no right to condemn. 

Each person's actions are based on there predisposed character, as well as the sum total of their millions of little and big life experiences.  Were you with this person every step of the way?  Even if you were, the Mishna in Pirkei Avos (5:17) tells us, "Arba Middos B'Yoshvim Lifnei Chachomim", four people can hear the same lesson from the wisest of teachers and can still walk away with four completely different messages from it.  Do you know what lessons were taught to them and how?  Was their impact muted by the contradictions they later witnessed?  Were these messages received in a clear manner or as mixed messages?  Do you know the impact of all the individual disappointments and successes in their life?  Do you know the pain they carry in their heart?  Sure none of this is an excuse to do the wrong thing, however to condemn is to say that we know all this and if it were us it could never have happened.  And how do we know this?   Our limited information does not make up the tip if the huge iceberg that this person is carrying around their neck.

"Al Tadin Es Chavercha Ad Shetagia Limkomo", do not judge your friend until you are in an exact similar position, say Chazal (Pirkei Avos 2:5).  Unfortunately we understand that to mean that we may judge our friend if we assume we understand his position.  But this can never be, as no two people are even remotely alike if we look at their multiple layers.  This goes beyond the insanity of judging someone you just met or only viewed from afar, based on what they said, or worse yet merely by the way they carried themselves or the way they dressed.  This even applies to a sister or brother, a son or a daughter, or even a friend who you grew up with and were inseparable from for the last 30 years.  No one knows enough to ever condemn.

Read the newspapers or listen to the gossip and you probably don't have the barest of facts straight.  But even if you know first hand, what do you really know?  "HaYotzer Yachad Libam HaMeivin El Kol Maseihem", He who created their heart and their personalities knows the nisayon that He puts us up against.  We are quick to believe that we see a full jar, but only Hashem knows when the jar is really full, so leave it up to Him.

Sun, 17 Jan 2010 03:00:00 +0000
Parshas Shemos: Rav Eliyahu Meir Bloch - Who Is Bnei Yisroel Incorporated? Moshe who was the Chief of Staff of Paroh's house, goes out to the field to see the situation of his brothers first hand.  He saw a Mitzri hitting a fellow Jew and decided to kill.  Because of this lonely act he was almost killed and was forced to flee Mitzrayim.  Moshe was a powerful influence in Mitzrayim having lobbied and won a weekly day of rest for Bnei Yisroel.  He was also the future Go'el.  Why would he risk everything to stop one Jew from being hit when this was commonplace all over Mitzrayim?  Should he not have thought of the long term repercussions and acted in a more level headed manner to make a bigger impact in the future?

Rav Eliyahu Meir Bloch (MiShulchan Gavoa) says that these calculations are right and are fine.  But the second Moshe would have decided to hold his guns, he would have no longer been Moshe Rabbeinu.  Moshe Rabbeinu became a manhig and got to where he got because of his incredible concern for each and every Jew without regard to consequences, diplomacy, and politics. 

A true leader is so concerned with each and every person that this person doesn't outweigh the bigger picture, he is the whole picture.  If you are not willing to save the individual, don't expect to be given the task of saving the entire nation.  A true manhig can miss a big rally where thousands of people are waiting to hear his thoughts because he found a child crying in the street on his way there.  Serving the "entire nation" means serving 600,000 individuals and not only Bnei Yisroel Inc.

Fri, 08 Jan 2010 03:00:00 +0000
Rav Chaim Zaitchek: The Paradox & Pain Of A Thank You My Rebbi once said that if someone greets you with a sour face in the morning, don't be so egotistical to think that you are the only one in world on his mind.  He bad mood probably has nothing to do with you so there is no need to take offense. 

What really boggles the mind of Rav Chaim Zaitchek though, is how could it be that although Hakora HaTov is such and important Middah, people avoid it like the plague.  They stay as far away from their benfactor as possible.  They avoid his presence at all costs.  Shouldn't they run after the person who has helped them and try to be grateful?

He explains that by definition we owe a debt of gratitude to someone who helped us when we needed something.  We were in a bad spot and couldn't get out until this person came along.  While there is great appreciation for the person who helped us, this appreciation comes with a vivid flashback to our predicament.  People do not want to remember the bad times and that is precisely what our benefactor's presence forces upon us.

With this he explains how Paroh and Mitzrayim who owed their entire existence to Yosef and Bnei Yisroel could not only conveniently forget Yosef, "V'Lo Yada Es Yosef", but our mere presence and the bad memories it invoked because a thorn in their size.  Instead of appreciating us, our sight was repulsive to them until they eventually took all their fury out on us.

So next time someone who you did a tremendous favor for keeps a cool distance from you, don't be furious be understanding.  Give him his space and know that the further he stays from you, the bigger favor you must have done for him.  Most of all, if you want him to be your friend, forget the incident and don't keep reminding him about it.

Sun, 03 Jan 2010 03:00:00 +0000
Rav Nosson Of Breslov - Why Do The Candles Disappears? There is a Machlokes between Bais Shammai and Bais Hillel whether we start with eight candles and take one away each day or we start with one and another one each day.  Rav Nosson of Breslov asks, since the miracle was greater every day why would Bais Shammai that we light fewer candles?

Rav Nosson answers that we know Shammai's middah was Din.  A person cannot get more than he deserves.  This Shitta was the driving force of him throwing out the three people seeking geirus but asking for more than they can have specifically to learn only Torah SheBichsav, to learn the whole Torah on one foot, and to be a Kohen.  Hillel on the other hand was the middah of Chesed.  Chesed means giving someone more than he deserves.  In the above cases that meant the time and patience to set them straight.

The light of Chanukah is the Ohr HaGanuz, the hidden light of the Torah.  This light is reserved only for tzaddikim.  Yet on Chanukah Hashem lets it burn for all to see. Each day the light gets brighter with the intensity of the Nes.  Shammai held that as the light gets brighter we must hide it from the undeserving therefore each day we light one less candle.  Bais Hillel however makes no connection between how much light we see and how much we deserve.  Therefore as the lights burn brighter each night, Hillel holds that despite our lowly stature, we too may light an extra light and enjoy the special light of the Shechina.

The lesson for us, says Rav Nosson, is that in this world we pasken like Bais Hillel and we must share our love an our light with even the sinful and undeserving.

Sun, 13 Dec 2009 03:00:00 +0000
Tzedaka Tatzil MiMaves Oh how we all wish we were had enough money to solve the world's problems.  We learn from our grandfather Avrohom Avinu that a person's mission in this world is to give and give some more.  We look at all the big givers and dream that we had control over those amounts of money.  The zechusim!  The satisfaction!  Why does Hashem not funnel his earnings through our trusty hands?  Rosh HaShana approaches and we are looking for zechusim to bring to court with us.  If only we had some hefty receipts and pictures of smiling orphans that we can show the judge.  Oh how fortunate we would be!

Rav Shimshon Pincus tells a beautiful Mashal about our job in this world.  He often described how a Roman official was taken on a tour of the Bais HaMikdash and was incredibly impressed with everything he saw.  Until... he got to the Mizbei'ach.  He was explained that a fire comes down from Shamayim that constantly burns on the Mizbei'ach.  Then why, asked the minister, do the Kohanim bother putting wood on the Mizbei'ach if Hashem has the situation under control.  Is that not unbelievably arrogant?  That an all powerful Hashem extends a partnership agreement to a mere mortal, was a concept that he could simply not fathom.

Hashem is a locomotive moving the world down its tracks, says Rav Pincus.  We are like a fly who lands on the back car of the train and push with all our might.  Are we the one making the train with its tons of cargo rumble towards its destination?  Of course not!  Nevertheless Hashem says you stand on the back car and push.  Push with all your might and I will consider you My partner!  Indeed very hard to understand.

In Hashem's eyes the difference between a rich man donating an entire building to a Yeshiva and a poor man parting with a few dollars is negligible.  Could a strong fly brag to a weak fly that he has pushed the locomotive far more than him?  Hashem runs the world and decides which money is going where and we are all flies vying for the honor to help Him "push".  Hashem needs no one's help.  He needs us little flies to stand on the back and give it our all.  The work and sweat pushing with all our might.  That is all that counts.

Life is all about giving, say the Baalei Mussar.  In this world we view money as the most prized possession so giving it is the ultimate giving in our eyes.  But that is just a big misconception.  Opportunities to give money come around very infrequently compared to the amount of giving we can do on a daily basis.  If we spend our lives wisely it can be a non-stop "give-fest".  You can give sympathy to those in pain.  You can give a listening ear to those who need to be heard.  You can give attention to the neglected.  You can give encouragement to those who are down.  You can give a smile to your neighbor or to the unappreciated checkout clerk.  You can bother to say hello to the nameless man you pass every day.  You can give some of your thought to the problems of others.  The Tomer Devorah devotes an entire Perek to explaining how we can do Chesed with Hashem.

There is so much more to giving than writing a check.  You can start from the moment you wake up, with a smile to your spouse (or even before that to a screaming child), until you go to sleep with a bedtime story for your child.  Tzedaka Tatzil MiMaves.  Why?  Because moment of taking is not a moment worth living.  You can take when you are dead too.  But giving can only be done by someone very much alive.  A moment of giving is moment of life.

May we all be zocheh to be written in the book of life this Rosh HaShanah.  The book of real life!

Sun, 13 Sep 2009 03:00:00 +0000
Our Heros Over The Hudson? The flip side of Lashon Hara is Chanifa, flattery.  Speaking highly of people undeserving and holding them up as examples of tzidkus is not only a big aveira, but people who do this will sit right alongside the group of Baalei Lashon outside the camp when it comes to greet the Shechina because that are just as unwanted.

In a tragic accident on Shabbos, in broad daylight over the Hudson River, three Jews were killed when their small plane crashed into a sightseeing helicopter.  Some of frum media covering the story spoke about them in glowing terms reporting their honesty in business, philanthropy, and active involvement in their community and Synagogue.  This was met by people screaming that they were Michalilei Shabbos and others screaming back that we cannot be judgmental or "holier than thou" and Halevai all Shomrei Shabbos should be honest in business.

The victims of the crash may or may not have been Tinokos Shenisbi'u and may not be accountable for there actions.  But do they get instant admittance to Gan Eden because their dramatic plane crash received front page coverage all over the media?  Does that make them big tzadikim?  What would we say if their car turned over on a side road in the Catskills?  No one was up there with them during their last moment on earth and they may have had hirhurei tshuva which will surely help them before the Bais Din Shel Maala but will their choice to play it straight in business, (which incidentally is seen by many people as a very effective business strategy or believe it or not some people are straight by nature),  going to earn them many points, maybe or maybe not.  Hashem does not accept bribes.

In more tragic recent events, the frum community has been hit by a wave of financial scandals that cause a true Chilul Hashem.   Has our guilty conscious caused our self esteem as a people to sink to such low levels that anyone honest in business is a hero regardless of whether he is Michalel Shabbos or not?  Because of five, ten or even ten thousand frum crooks can we not find true heros within our own community?  Is every Ben Torah who works for an honest living, yet keeps his priorities in order also a suspected thief now?   Why are we so quick to defend Michalilei Shabbos and give them the benefit of the doubt without thinking twice about slandering our neighbors.  

The great tzaddikim  loved every Yid, frum or not.  But don't compare their love for a frum jew to that of a non-frum jew, as the fools and people who like to distort the truth would lead us to believe.  Don't hide behind the banner of Lashon Hara when it is convenient for you.  The Tomer Devora says that we must love every Yid in our heart like a brother and even more.  We must cry for them and daven that they will return to the right path.  Rav Moshe Shternbuch says that our love for Jews who have strayed should be done in quiet manner and with a stern outward appearance to show our disapproval.  Praising their actions and excusing their ways is an attack on Hashem as it weakens our core emuna.

If we really cared for the victims of the crash we'd wouldn't paint them as tzadikim, but we would do what a man I once had the zechus to speak to, did.   He hung around a Bais HaKvaros near Tel Aviv and when he saw a non-frum levaya he would ask lots of questions about the niftar then after getting the complete picture he would organize Mishnayos for them.  He had some amazing stories about some of the worthy, unsung, and trapped Neshamos that he was able to elevate.

Talk is cheap.  Let's not talk Ahavas Yisroel let's do it.  If you need role models look around near you and discover the tzaddik living next door.  Stop looking at the fault of your neighbor and find the one thing that you can emulate.  Surely there must be something they do that you can marvel at.  Imagine they exploded over the Hudson and look past their other faults.  The Hudson victims were not role models for the frum community in their lifetime, and they were not heros in their death.  They may have been worthy people but we cannot deduce that from the information we know.  

All that being said, if you really care it would be very nice to do something L'Iluy Nishmasam (I will post their full Jewish name if the email I sent to their "Synagogue" requesting their full Jewish names is answered.)  I volunteer to learn Masectos Bava Kama .  Anyone who cares to join is welcome to  join and post their contribution below be it Tzedaka, Mishnayos, or a resolution to be more more honest in business.

Thu, 13 Aug 2009 03:00:00 +0000
Rav Shlomo Volbe - A Smile Can Bring The Galus To Its Knees The whole world exists, says Rav Volbe, on the smile of Hashem, His He'oras Panim.  We say in Shmoneh Esrei, "B'Or Panecha Nasata Lanu Hashem Elokeinu... U'Bracha, ViRachamim, ViChaim, ViSholom", with the light of Your face, kviyachol, You gave us... blessing, mercy, life, and peace.  In Birchas Kohanim the brachos also revolve around this same theme, "Ya'er Hashem Panav, Yisa Hashem Panav...".  On the opposite side we know that when there is Hester Panim, when Hashem hides His face, our fate becomes one of terrible tragedy and misery beyond comprehension.

The same thing, says Rav Volbe, applies to people.  Within a person lies a treasure house of Bracha that is given over to the next person through his smile.  The main power of a person is to gladden and light up the people around him with his warm smile.  From the earliest age a baby can discern between various expressions.  Smile at a month old baby and it will coo in delight.  Make an ugly face and the baby is sure to break out into tears.  A child that is raised without a smile will not grow, just as a plant will not grow without sunlight.  Who knows, asks Rav Volbe, if the smile is not more critical to its development than food?

A student needs the smile of his rebbe, and a child the smile of its parent.  Every person needs the smile of his friend, neighbor, and acquaintance.  Even parents and teachers are infused with life by the smile of their charges.  This is all that we daven for from Hashem, and it is what we should give to others.  Your neshama is a Cheilek Elokai MiMaa'al and your smile in a small way gives Hashem's Heoras Panim to another.  We all need to be on the receiving end of a warm smile to survive and to grow.  

The Bais HaMikdash was destroyed because of Sinas Chinam, the terrible Hester Panim among people which led to Hester Panim from Hashem.  Let us all try, during this terribly sad week as we see Hester Panim all around us, to shine some of Hashem's light on the world.  Let's make a an extra effort to smile at our children, our friends, and people in the street even if it is totally out of character for us.  From of all the ingenious schemes that our busy minds devise to try to bring the ultimate geula, who would of ever thought that we can melt the long, bitter, and cold galus with but a warm smile?

Sun, 26 Jul 2009 03:00:00 +0000
A Relationship With The Seret Vizhnitz Rebbe Kindled By A Ski Trip The Makor Baruch once traveled to Switzerland to raise money for the yeshivah which his father, the Seret-Viznitzer, had established in Chaifa. Two Seret-Viznitzer chassidim who lived in Switzerland accompanied him on his fundraising rounds.  

One day, they passed one of the largest and well-established banks in Switzerland, and one of the Swiss chassidim decided they would enter the bank.  “Come, we will try to allow the Jewish bank manager, Dr. Koshland, the merit of tzeddaka and supporting Torah.”  They entered the bank, and the chassid who knew Dr. Koshland introduced the Makor Baruch.  “Please meet the son of the Seret-Viznitzer Rebbe.  He has mosdos in Chaifa and he came to Switzerland to collect money for the yeshivah…”

As soon as the bank manager heard the name of the Seret-Viznitzer Rebbe, he excitedly arose from his chair and said, “You want to tell me about the Seret-Viznitzer Rebbe?!  You want to tell me?  I’ll tell you who he was!”

The three men were shocked.  How in the world did the bank manager know the Seret-Viznitzer Rebbe?  The bank manager sat them down and told them his story.

“Years ago, I traveled on vacation to Davos on a skiing trip.  One morning in Davos, I went to the small shul to daven Shacharis already dressed in my ski clothes, in order to save time.  An elderly man greeted me warmly with ‘Sholom Aleicham’.   

“I was surprised by the warm greeting from a total stranger.  I said, ‘Kavod Harav, I think you’re mistaken.  I don’t recognize you.  Maybe the Rav meant to greet someone else?’

“’I didn’t make a mistake!’ the Rav said, who was none other than the Seret-Viznitzer Rebbe who was in Davos recuperating from an illness.  ‘I’ve been here a long time, and I’ve never seen you.  You must be new here and you deserve a Shalom Aleicham.  No?’

Dr. Koshland continued his story.  “This greeting impressed me greatly.  I thought to myself, ‘When in our generation does an elderly honorable man greet a young man – a total stranger?’ When I returned from my ski outing that day, I saw the Rebbe sitting on a bench.  I approached him and inquired about his welfare, and he answered me warmly, as if I was his closest friend.  From then on, I maintained a close connection to the Rebbe.  I sought his advice often, and from then on I arranged my trips to Davos when I knew the Rebbe would be there as well.”

The two Swiss chassidim were astounded by the bank manager’s story.  However, the Makor Baruch was not surprised by the story.  He was well aware of his father’s habit to greet all Jews warmly, thereby fulfilling the words of Chazal to be the first to greet each person.  One warm greeting to the bank manager had spurred a close relationship with the Rebbe which lasted for decades.

Sun, 28 Jun 2009 03:00:00 +0000
The Alter Of Kelm Pays A Heavy Price With A Smile Rav Simcha Zissel (The Alter of Kelm) and another famous Rav were traveling together when they came across an inn.  The proprietor of the inn came running out excitedly screaming "the great Rabbanim are here!"

She led them into the inn and prepared for them a hearty meal.  During the meal she sat with them and recounted to them in great detail about how her fruits were blossoming and the calves were growing, as well the welfare of her ducks and chickens and her onion and potato harvest.  

The other Rov did not pay much attention to her idle chatter and looked into a sefer as she spoke.  The Alter of Kelm on the other hand paid careful attention and interjected from time to time with questions and comments.

When they were about to leave and offered to pay, the hostess refused their payment saying that it was a great honor for her to serve them.   After they left the Alter asked his companion, "Are you not worried about stealing since you ate and did not pay?"  Surprised he reminded the Alter that she refused to let them pay and that the honor was her payment.

"True" said the Alter, "But if you noticed she was flattered by all the attention she received while telling her stories.  This was her payment.  You by not listening did not pay anything!" (Holchei Nesivos - Rav Yitzchok Ovadia)

Surely the Alter of Kelm who was "Kulo Torah" would have gladly paid the price of the meal in order to learn as did his companion.  What he didn't trade for the opportunity to learn a Blatt gemara, was the chance to make another Jew feel important.  For him that was worth the precious time that he spent listening to farm life from another Jew.

Tue, 16 Jun 2009 03:00:00 +0000
Satmar Rebbe - I Am A Person, Not Your Mitzva Once when the Satmar Rebbe was leaving the hospital after an illness, a very pushy person insisted on helping get his coat on.  The Satmar Rebbe told him that he doesn't need his help, although he really did.  When asked for an explanation he said that this person does not want to help an old weak Jew, rather he wants the Mitzva of Bikur Cholim, and I am not a Cheifetz Shel Mitzva.

I was reminded this story this morning when driving with my neighbor, who I happened to find at the bus stop.  He thanked me for stopping for him and I told him he'd probably be better off on the bus since the car's air conditioner wasn't working.  He told me better to travel with a good heart than a good air conditioner.  I (only half) jokingly disagreed.

This led to a discussion about the prevailing attitudes of people towards the mitzva of Chesed and Bein Adam L'Chaveiro in general.  Is it done first from the perspective of serving Hashem and fulfilling His commandment by being nice to the next person just like if I eat matza, or do I have an over abundance of Ahavas Yisroel and I want to make people happy as well as my creator, which are one and the same?

When I got to the Bais Medrash it took me a while to get our conversation out of my head and start learning, but when I finally opened the gemara I got a real treat.  The gemara (Gittin 6b) says that there are three things a person must say in his house on Erev Shabbos.  Was the Ma'aser separated, was the Eiruv set, and light the candles.  Rabba bar bar Channa says that you must say it nicely so that people will listen.  Rav Ashi says I never heard that Rabba bar bar Channa said this, but I always said it nicely anyway because it seemed logical.  

The Maharsha asks, didn't Rabba bar bar Channa also do it for the same logical reason?  What was Rav Ashi trying to say?  He answers that Rabba bar bar Channa was concerned that if he did not talk nicely, the members of his household would be scared of him, and even if they didn't take care of these three things they would lie about it rather than incur his wrath.  Then he would eat food that was forbidden, carry in places where he shouldn't, and the candles would be lit after Shkia.  Rav Ashi came and said that he didn't think of all these problematic ramifications, but he spoke nicely because it is logical that is the way you are supposed to talk people, even without all the calculations about which issurim you will be oveir.

There is a very line between the two and if Chesed is done right than these two essentially become one and the same, it is just a question of the starting point.  However done wrong or only getting it half right will leave you being thrown out by the Satmar Rebbe and any other person you try to earn your Olam Haba through.  In fact you may be in for a shock when your accommodations upstairs are in a completely different neighborhood than you anticipated.  On the other hand being nice without knowing that it is the Tzivui Hashem also leaves you far short of where you could be by keeping this in mind.

Everybody can use a little extra help.  If people are declining your assistance too often or they take you up on it but don't seem all that grateful, and you are wondering why the world does not appreciate or think that you are the Ba'al Chesed you believe yourself to be, then take a long hard look at yourself in the mirror.  Maybe then you will see what others see with a quick glance.

Thu, 04 Jun 2009 03:00:00 +0000
Achdus At Har Sinai, Why Weren't People Fighting For Front Seats? "Vayichan Sham Yisroel Neged HaHar" Bnei Yisroel arrived in Sinai and encamped before the mountain (Yisro 19:2).  Rashi says that the pasuk chooses the singular form "Vayichan" because they were K'Ish Echad B'Lev Echad.  When there is something big that everyone is vying for it usually brings out the the competitive nature of people.  How is it that as Bnei Yisroel stood at Har Sinai with each one hoping to get the greatest portion of Torah and while seeing their peers ahead of them, they did not display any resentment inwardly or outwardly.  How did they remain united and harmonious?

The Yeina Shel Torah brings from the Imrei Yosef that the Yerushalmi in Nedarim (9:4) says that when your right hand accidentally hurts your left hand, the left hand does not take revenge since you are the same person. Similarly say the Yerushalmi when on Yid does something bad to another it is pointless to get upset.  You are both one, and you will only be taking revenge on yourself.  That is why Rashi says "K'Ish Echad", if you understand that you are one person, then "B'Lev Echad" you will have achdus since you will realize the silliness in taking revenge.

He brings another answer from the Nachal Kedumim who says that the key to Achdus is Anava, humility.  It is only haughtiness and arrogance that causes a person to take revenge or be upset.  "How dare he, I will show him".  When Bnei Yisroel came to Har Sinai they were astounded that this low mountain was the one that Hashem chose to give the Torah on.  When they learned that it was Har Sinai's humility that earned it this great honor, they absorbed the lesson very quickly.  They realized that the way to receive the most torah was not to fight for it but on the contrary to concede it to others.  "Vayichan Sham Yisroel Neged HaHar", when they stood opposite this humble mountain and saw the glory it earned, then they too acted humble and then an air of Achdus and harmony reigned among them.

Mon, 25 May 2009 03:00:00 +0000
Rav Moshe Shternbuch - A Lesson On Loving Another Jew We all know the Mitzva of V'Ahavta L'Rei'acha Kamocha.  Rav Moshe Shternbuch points out some very interesting revelations about this mitzva based on the words of the Rishonim.  Some are obvious but overlooked and some are quite novel.

The Rambam says that you must love "Kol Echad V'Echad", each and every Jew.  The main mitzva according to the Rambam is to seek the good in them and speak about it before others.  That means every single person regardless of what segment of society they belong to.

That which the gemara says you may hate those who do aveiros, is only after you have rebuked them.  Since we do not know how to give tochacha, as the gemara says in Eiruchin (16a), we have no permission to hate even a person who is Chayav Misa for his aveiros.  In fact the gemara says in Sanhedrin (52a) that we must choose the easiest possible method of putting a person to death with the torah guidelines as part of the mitzva of V'Ahavta.

The Smak says that the aveira of "Lo Sisna Es Achicha Bilvavecha" means hating in your heart even if you show friendship outwardly.  This is important to know because often we put on a friendly face for Resha'im and in our hearts we hate them.  Rav Shternbuch says that based on this Smak we must do the exact opposite.  We must outwardly show contempt and distance ourselves from their ways, but on the inside we must love them and do everything possible to help them in any way.

Wed, 29 Apr 2009 03:00:00 +0000
"Ha Lachma Anya": Rav Moshe Shternbuch - Now You Invite Guests, After Kiddush?

In the opening of Magid we start with Ha Lachma Anya where we mention the bread of affliction that we eat and then we go on to invite guests to our Seder.  Isn't this a strange time to invite our guests?  The streets are empty,invitation who is still waiting for an invitation?  Besides, we've already made kiddush.  Shouldn't we invite our guest before kiddush... and karpas... and yachatz?

Rav Moshe Shternbuch answers that the guest are already sitting at our table but they feel really badly about what is going on.  They were invited for the Seder by a man who is also poor.  He sits Seder night with "poor man's bread" on his table.  Chazal instituted Ha Lachma Anya to allay the fears of our poor guest.  We tell him that we are not poor.  The poor bread is simply a remembrance to the days when we were in Mitzrayim.

We then tell him that we have plenty of food to go around and enough to feed him as well, without giving up our own rations.  Therefore, "Kol Dichfin Yeisei V'Yeichol" all the hungry guests are welcome to eat in comfort. 

To top it all off we tell him that he should not feel like a pauper at the rich homeowner's table.  "Hashata Avdei", we are all really slaves in this galus.  "L'Shana Haba B'Arya D'Yisroel", next year we should all rejoice together in Eretz Yisroel.

Amazing, says Rav Shternbuch, is the sensitivity of Chazal to make our guest feel welcome and at home!

Tue, 24 Mar 2009 03:00:00 +0000
Rav Shimon Schwab - Sensitivity Even To The Worshippers Of The Eigel As Moshe came down from Har Sinai, Yehoshua tells him "Kol Milchama BaMachaneh," I hear the voice of war in the camp (Ki Sisa 32:`17).  To this, says the Yerushalmi, Moshe answered, he doesn't know the difference between noises, how can he lead a nation of 600,000 people?

Rav Shimon Schwab asks what is the connection between differentiating noises from afar and leading people?  He answers that Yehoshua knew the noise was that of wild partying and drunkenness.  However he thought that it was the result of a war of rebellion against Hashem. Moshe's tells him "Ein Kol Anos Gevura... Kol Anos Ani Shomei'a".  This is not the sound of rebellion rather it is the cry from pain of a broken heart.  It is the drunkenness of a people who think that they have been abandoned in the barren wilderness by their leader who will not return.  Out of despair and hopelessness, they are drinking away their troubles.

Moshe chastises Yehoshua and says that if you are going to lead the nation, you need to distinguish between people who sin out of rebellion and get intoxicated with their arrogance, and the lost souls who sin out of pain and hardship whose soul cries for help.  These are the people that can one day return, if you recognize their plight and help them.

Thu, 12 Mar 2009 03:00:00 +0000
Who Are You Sending Mishloach Manos To? There are two reasons given for Mishloach Manos. One is to make sure your friend has food to eat for his Purim Seuda so he can rejoice as well. Considering a bag of Dipsy Doodles and a Coke is standard fare today and not a juicy rib eye steak (which it should be see Rav Moshe Shternbuch - What Mishloach Manos Need To Look Like), let's hope that the main reason is really the second one. That being to increase friendship, Marbeh Rei'us.

Although the Mitzva of mishlaoch manos requires us to send to only one person, we all have long lists of friends and family that we send to. That is wonderful. But let's look a the people not on our list. They are the people we snub because we may not like them, or we feel they are not in our "league", or those that we had some sort of altercation and want to show them our displeasure with them.

These very people are the best people we can send mishlaoch manos to.  This will be yotzei Mehadrin Min HaMehadrin. This year impress your friends, family, and neighbors with your very cute Mishloach Manos. But do the right thing and send the most valuable Mishloach Manos of them all. Be marbeh rei'us. It will be the mishlaoch manos that makes Hashem's top ten of the year.

Thu, 19 Feb 2009 03:00:00 +0000
Rav Noach Weinberg Zt"l & Ybcl"c Rav Elyashiv Shlit'a - Returning Lost Sheep "Ki Sifga Shor Oiyivcha Oy Chamoiroi Toi'eh BaDerech Hasheiv Tishivenu Loi", when you chance upon the lost sheep of you nemesis or his donkey, return it to him (Mishpatim 23:4). Hashavas Aveida means more than lost sheep and other material possessions, says Rav Elyashiv.  It also refers to another kind of Aveida, that of lost souls.  Just like there is mitzva to announce a lost item and restore it to its owner, so too every single person is obligated to help a lost soul "M'Bnei Tzion Yayekarim" from the precious Jewish children, find their way back into the fold.

Not only someone who has wandered away, but also someone who has been rejected by society.  Like the pasuk says in Ki Seitzei (22:1), "Lo Sireh Es Shor Achicha... NidachimV'His'halamta Meihem", do not see your brothers ox... cast out and you will ignore them.  Everyone, regardless of where he is or how he got to where he got, must be returned to his father in Shamayim.

The gemara says (Makos 24a) that Rav said, "I am scared of the pasuk [in the tochacha Bechukosai 26:38] "Va'avaditem BaGoyim", you will be lost among the nations."  Rav Papa consoled him and said, "maybe it means like a lost item that is looking to be found, like it says on the pasuk (Tehilim 119:176) Ta'isiK'Seh Oveid Bakesh Avadecha", I have gone astray like a lost sheep, seek your servant."  Rav Elyashiv explains that finding your inanimate object is difficult because it just sits there and doesn't help you find it.  A sheep that is separated from the herd, on the other hand, is much easier to find as she sits crying in her solitude, and so badly wants to return to the herd.  She is begging to be sought..

Deep within our lost brothers and sisters their souls cry to be found.  This makes them the easiest objects to find.  Like Rav Noach Weinberg zt"l would say, each one of us has an obligation to go out there and help them.  We can all do it, we only have to really want to.  He claims we can all do a better job than him, and boy what a job he did!  Everything we manage to do is with the help of Hashem.  Do you not think Hashem will help you return his precious children to him?

Sun, 15 Feb 2009 03:00:00 +0000
Kiryat Ungvar, Ramot, Jerusalem - You Can Count On Your Sister

(Submitted by an appreciative mother) "Bizchus nashim tzidkanios shehayu be'oso hador..." Rabbi Avira

While our husbands are away during the day, hard at work or hard at learning, it's kind of up to us women to handle other mitzvos including taking care of the home, raising the kids and believe it or not, looking out for those around us, in other words - Ahavas Yisroel. Although I am sure many communities have this as well, since this was the first time I myself had experienced what I am about to tell you, after living in three other frum areas prior to where we live now, to me this is very special and worth writing about.

Is it surprising to hear that when a woman gives birth, the local N'shei (bless their hearts) arranges meals for a week for the woman and her family? Probably not. But what really amazed me was when one of the neighbors was on bed rest, one of the women here arranged for daily, weekly, meals from anyone who could and would help. So there we were, several families, of all the various charedi sectors, pulling together to help a fellow Jewish mother in need. Every one of those mothers found the time among her extremely busy scedule (some were even working moms who barely had time to cook their own family's meals!) to make sure the family of the ill woman was cared for.  And this went on for weeks.

In general, I have not found that women in my neighborhood distance themselves from neighbors of different sects (Chassidish, Litvish, Sefaradi), Ramot really is a very united neighborhood, Baruch Hashem. Yet here, the women don't just "getting along", they look out for each other as though they were truly sisters - as should be. We really do need to remind ourselves constantly that we are all one, Hashem's children, brothers and sisters. I believe that if we constantly force ourselves to picture other Jews as our siblings, this will help us to love each other as we love our siblings. Those of us who have siblings that have gone in completely different directions than we, have different tastes and opinions, but still when we all get together for family gatherings, the love conquers all, know just what I mean.

Sun, 25 Jan 2009 03:00:00 +0000
Antwerp, Belgium: Streets Paved With Diamonds As a child growing up in America we always laughed at the idea that in Europe they used to think the streets of America were paved with gold.  What a naive and silly thought.  Yet when I grew older and became acquainted with people from Antwerp, Belgium, it didn't stop me from forming the belief that the streets of Antwerp were paved with diamonds.  Everyone I met came from extremely comfortable families who were all in the diamond business.

The reality always was quite different, but especially today as large foreign companies have taken over the diamond trade.  In Antwerp like everywhere else there are wealthy Jews and Jews who struggle to make ends meet.  But there is something very unique about Antwerp that although I can't say I have seen it first hand, but it definitely is consistent with the little I have seen in my visit there.  I want to share with you the following letter that was sent by a reader.

He writes, "I liked your article. As someone who lived in a number of places around the world, I'll tell you something I find unique to Antwerp. In a small geographical area, Antwerp is home to about 20.000 Jews. About half are not Shomer Shabbos, a quarter are Chassidim, from Satmar to Lubavitch and from Vizhnitz to Belz.  The rest are a mix of Litvaks, Mizrachi, and regular heimish - yes it still exists here. Yet it is very common to see Vizhnitz, Belz, and Bobov Chassidim sitting together in Chabad house for a farbrengen, and a Satmar speaking in Yiddish to a non frum man (many here speak Yiddish) as friends, and everyone will come together to a hall to cry for 8 dead children from Merkaz Harav in Israel, or 6 dead in Mumbai. Antwerp's 'achdus' is very unique."

So as it turns out, I was right in my assessment after all.  The streets of Antwerp are paved with diamonds.  Real diamonds, that is, Yidden whose achdus makes them shine like a perfectly cut stone in a beautiful setting.   Diamonds that Hashem is proud to wear in his crown.

Mon, 12 Jan 2009 03:00:00 +0000
Snuffing Out Your Competition?

There were two competing factories in Israel who fought for dominance in their particular market.  They were the only two producers of the products they made.  One of the factories was located near the northern border of Eretz Yisroel and the other in Emek Yizrael. 

During the early part of the second Lebanon war in 2006 the factory near the northern border was hit by a katyusha rocket and production ground to a halt due to the damage to the factory's infrastructure, let alone the danger of continuing rocket assaults.  This was a severe blow to a factory fighting for market share with a tough competitor.

The two owners did not know each other personally, they only knew of each other through the marketplace and the customers whom they competed for.  The owner of the damaged factory was shocked to receive a phone call late one night from his competitor whom he had never spoken to before.  His competitor offered him a proposition.  He said that since his factory only worked the daytime shift, he is offering the owner of the northern factory to bring his people to Emek Yizrael and produce over there, until his factory is functional once again.  This way he can continue supplying his customers with the goods they ordered, and desperately need.

Instead of taking advantage of his competitors downfall, this non-religious Jew opened up his arms to rescue his rival.  When interviewed on the radio and applauded for his remarkable kindness and sacrifice he commented, what else does one Jew do for another in times of trouble?

Umi K'Amcha Yisroel!

Mon, 05 Jan 2009 03:00:00 +0000
A Leftover Chanuka Donut Every Yom Tov has its special mitzva that keeps us on our toes and costs us a lot of money to be Mikayem with all its Hidurim, like matzos on Pesach and esrog on Succos.  I always wondered why for Chanuka all the Machmirim seem to be fast asleep at the wheel.  Where are the $200 bottles of the finest olive oil?  Then I realized that I am looking in the wrong place.  Instead of keeping a sharp eye on the oil section at the local grocery, I should be looking instead at the bakery right across the street.  There is where you will find all the good Jews lining up to sample the latest and greatest Sufganiyot in there new styles, colors, and tastes.  Like chocolate creme and Bailey's liquor, creme vanilla and lemon-lime milk, white chocolate and caramel.  Let's not forget the glazing and the toppings.

None of us necessarily like every donut, but boy do we enjoy the spectacle of a glorious display of colors and textures.  We may not go for the the Brazilian donut with white chocolate, coconut milk and Kahlua filling topped with Belgian chocolate and coconut, but we are happy to have it in the collection as the harmony of scents give off its delicious fragrance that is unmistakably Chanuka.  You may think it odd to have marzipan, halva, rock candy, and M&Ms inside but you certainly don't begrudge the bakery for making it.  To prove this in Eretz Yisroel, Angel's bakery alone bakes over a quarter of a million donuts a day on Chanuka so they must be doing something right.

Maybe aside from over indulgence there is a message here.  We are a nation of Sufganiyot.  We come in all shapes and sizes.  We are Asknenazim, Sefardim, and Chassidim.  But that is just the basics like say jelly, custard, and chocolate.  Each one of these major flavors has a myriad of choice within it.  There are some we really like and some we like less.  We can identify better with people with similar backgrounds and cultural upbringings.  But Am Yisroel is a diverse group after being spread out through the Galus to all corners of the world.  We each have our own mihagim and hashkafos.

Just like with donuts some people may look good on the outside but when you bite into it you are disappointed to find out that it has less filling than you expected.  Some are even old fashion donuts and in your perception their trademark donut hole is just a big ripoff while they view filled donuts as modern day imposters Still we respect these donuts and even enjoy them because after all it is still a donut and that is the Mitzvas HaYom.

So if you are a lemon meringue man and you bump into a pistachio donut walking down the street, be kind and be nice.  Maybe even smile, since after all he is still a donut, even if he is not your particular flavor.

Tue, 30 Dec 2008 03:00:00 +0000
A Little Orphan And A Big Hearted Community Last Motza'ei Shabbos the famed tzaddik and inspirational speaker from the Mir Yeshiva, Rav Binyomin Finkel received a request he couldn't refuse, although he was hoping to spend the night home with his family.  It was from a representative of the Toldos Avrohom Yitzchok community. 

For those who haven't heard of them, Toldos Avrohom Yitzchok is a Yerushalmi group based in  Mei'ah She'arim.  They are a poor group and although very commendable that they stick to their principles, it doesn't help financially that their ideology prevents then from accepting any money from the Israeli government.  They need to raise enormous amounts of money for their many Mosdos including their educational institutions, which also do not accept the funds that all other educational institutions in Eretz Yisroel rely on to survive.  They also raise money for hachnasas kalla, food for the poor, as well as for medical emergencies and other disasters that take their toll on a large community.

In every society their are the downtrodden and forgotten people, the widows and orphans.  With all the problems facing society and the limited resources with which to deal with them, the widows and orphans who have no one to fend for them usually end up on bottom.  Not in Toldos Avrohom Yitzchok.  The caller that Motza'ei Shabbos asked Rav Finkel if he would speak at a Shabbos retreat that was organized to give these young orphans a break from the pressures of everyday life, and let then enjoy themselves in an atmosphere of tranquility, where they don't stand out.

A request like this, Rav Finkel could not refuse.  So he agreed to travel an hour each way and return home in the early morning hours, just to help lift these children's' spirits.  When he got there he wanted to speak about how Hashem knows the needs of each individual, and even when someone is dealt a blow by Hashem it is measured precisely and not an ounce more is given to him.  He wanted to bring this out from Yosef's journey down to Mitzrayim in a caravan of fine smelling spices despite all the trouble he had gone through.

As a prelude to his thought, Rav Finkel asked the children if they knew why Hashem went through the trouble of sending an unusually a fine smelling caravan to take Yosef to Mitzrayim.  One little orphan boy raised his hand and said, "Yosef suffered so much, 'at least that' Hashem did for him".  Words from a little orphan boy that can break your heart.

An orphan's life is very difficult as they cope with the loss of their financial and emotional pillar of strength.  This is doubly difficult in a society that has many needs and vitally few resources.  Yet  the good people of Toldos Avrohom Yitzchok who themselves have nothing, answer the cry of the orphans and say "At least that".  It is because of this attitude that it seems like the entire Toldos Avorohom Yitzchok community is up early every morning, fanning out across Yerushalayim collecting in every shtiebel, for widows, orphans, and sick parents with lots of children.

May we, who have it so good comparatively speaking, learn the valuable lesson that the poor community of Toldos Avrohom Yitzchok teaches by example.  We should stop looking up at the people who have more and focus our attention looking down at the people who have less.  We should open up our wallets, and even more so our hearts, and give without any chesbonos, even if it is difficult.  We should say to ourselves "at least that". Mi K'Amcha Yisroel!

Wed, 17 Dec 2008 03:00:00 +0000
The Beauty Of Being An Unaffiliated Jew I have come to the conclusion that the world I grew up in doesn't exist anymore and nothing can replace it.  Back then we were just plain heimish.  Baalei batim worked by day and battled in Shul with their Rov over a mishnayos or gemara at night and were very proud of what they were.  People were warm and unassuming.  The older folks were simple but real symbols of emunah in its purest form.

Society seems to have become polarized and everyone needs to fit into a specific group.  Each group creating their own distinguishing characteristics.  After I got married and started raising a family I spent many years trying to figure out which group I am part of.  Because I went to Litvishe Yeshivos I was sure I was Litvish.  But over the years I found that I needed something that the Litvishe world did not offer me.  So naturally I started exploring Chassidus, hoping to find traces of things I warmly remembered from my past.  I didn't change my exterior appearance, but I frequented chasidishe shuls and read more chasidishe seforim.  I checked out many different Chasidusses and after trying to squeeze a square peg into a round hole for a number of years I finally gave up.

So I've contented myself with being a plain old fashion unaffiliated Jew.  In an era where we compete to come up with the newest chumra and hottest new mitzva to outdo the rival group, I think I found a sweet spot.  Society seems to be very active around me, yet I sit in the eye of the storm enjoying the sun.  Since I don't belong to a group I have none of the pressures of competition. I don't need to come up with new innovations, nor do I need to put down the ones that a rival group has come up with before "we" could think of it.

I just sit back and enjoy seeing the beauty in each and everyone of them and judge them on the merits.  It doesn't cost me any money or pride, so why not.  It is a nice position to be in and it can really bring you to Ahavas Yisroel.  I have been fortunate to travel to many places around the world and seen radiant Jewish Neshamos in a multitude of places.  There is so much good all around us.  Each group has its strong points and does wonderful things that we can learn from, if we weren't busy watching with a suspicious eye... so why bother?

With our new column we'd like to take you on a tour of Klal Yisroel and point out some beautiful sights.  We will keep our eyes wide open for brilliant rays of light in a variety of places.  If you yourself see something that is worth reporting, share it with us.   Let's focus on the good and create a true "Aguda Echas La'asos Ritzoncha B'leivav Shalem" consisting of Sefardim and Ashkenazim, Chasidim and Misnagdim, Yerushalmis, Parisians, New Yorkers, and the rest.  When we as a nation of individual groups see our own group as just one piece of a big jigsaw puzzle instead of the one and only group, we will be zocheh to reveal the whole picture, the picture of a world of Moshiach.

Mon, 08 Dec 2008 03:00:00 +0000