Revach L'Neshama RSS feed for - Today's Revach Copyright 2007, Revach L'Neshama en-US Revach L'Neshama Logo 144 31 Thu, 23 Oct 2014 03:00:00 -0700 240 Rav Vosner - Tefilas HaDerech Alongside Cities

The Halacha states (OC 110) that Tefilas HaDerech is only said after a traveler leaves his city to embark on a journey of at least one Parsah. It can be said the entire journey until he arrives within a Parsa of his destination. What happens if alongside the highway that he travels, there is always a city within one Parsa? Is he exempt from Tefilas HaDerech because within a Parsa of a city there is no danger?

The Biur Halacha is Misupak and does not resolve this question. However Rav Vosner (Shevet HaLevi 10:21) says that one should say Tefilas HaDerech in this case. He explains that before leaving your city you are exempt because your journey has not yet begun. Within a Parsa of your destination it is already too late because you've already arrived. The entire road in between, is the modern day danger that is the subject of our Tefilah. The fact that the road is within the boundaries of another city does not lessen the danger as your car whizzes right by it, and therefore does not exempt you.

Important Note: We bring this tshuvah as a starting point for discussion and not to convey any halacha. We try to convey the Tshuva to the best of our ability. We admit that our understanding may not be accurate. One should learn the tshuva to verify the accuracy of our interpretation. Please understand that this Tshuva may not be the final word on this topic. One should consult a Rav before drawing any conclusions.

Mon, 08 Sep 2014 03:00:00 -0700
Parshas Ki Seitzei: Rav Yisachar Dov of Belz - The War You Are Guaranteed To Win

כי תצא למלחמה על אויביך

The words Al Oivecha imply that you have the upperhand in the war. How can you have the upperhand before even going out to war? The Sifri explains this pasuk by saying Neged Oivecha, against your enemy. The question remains why does the Torah say Al Oivecha?

The seforim tell us that this war refers to the war against the Yetzer Hara. Rav Yisachar Dov of Belz says that his father took this one step further and explained that aside from the mitzvos and aveiros that every Jew is commanded to keep, each person is given a specific mission in this world. The way to know what your mission is, is by seeing which mitzva the Yetzer Hara fights hardest to keep you from fulfilling. If he can stop you from accomplishing your main purpose in the world he will have won the war. This is what Chazal meant when they said (Pirkei Avos 4:1), איזהו הגיבור הכובש את יצרו, who is the strong man, he who conquers his personal Yetzer.

Although we cannot win every battle in life, if Hashem puts us here to overcome a specific challenge, surely it is a battle we can win, and are guaranteed to win if we do our utmost. This is why the Torah says that when you wage war with all your might against your personal enemy, the victory is assured before you even start.

Fri, 05 Sep 2014 03:00:00 -0700
Shabbos Shoes, Do They Exist? Arizal, Maharal, Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach

Someone asked Rav Shlomo Zalman if one should have special shoes designated for Shabbos. He looked at his shoes and said that he himself doesn't have Shabbos shoes and that on Shabbos he wears the shoes that he uses all week. (Aleihu Lo Yibol OC 192) (Ed Note: It should be noted that Rav Shlomo Zalman may have said this because he felt the person asking could not afford a pair of Shabbos shoes.)

The Maharal (Gur Aryeh - Devarim 8:4) says that while clothing are worn to honor the wearer, shoes do not share a similar status. They are simply worn to protect the feet and are considered a garment of shame rather than honor. He explains that this is why Moshe Rabbeinu was commanded to remove his shoes when walking in a Makom Kadosh, as well as the halacha to do the same when entering Har HaBayis. For this reason after we make the Bracha each morning of Malbish Arumim, thanking Hashem for providing us clothing, we make a separate bracha Sheasa Li Kol Tzarki, (that you provided me with all my needs) thanking Hashem for providing us with shoes.

The Peleh Yo'etz (Levisha) however brings from the Arizal that whoever can afford should have totally separate clothing for Shabbos. Among the articles of clothing listed are shoes and a hat.

Important Note: We bring this tshuvah as a starting point for discussion and not to convey any halacha. We try to convey the Tshuva to the best of our ability. We admit that our understanding may not be accurate. One should learn the tshuva to verify the accuracy of our interpretation. Please understand that this Tshuva may not be the final word on this topic. One should consult a Rav before drawing any conclusions.

Fri, 05 Sep 2014 03:00:00 -0700
Rav Moshe Shternbuch - Driving a Niftar

When they first started placing the Niftar in wagons to take them to the Bais HaKvaros, the gedolim raised a ruckus, since Kavod HaMeis dictates that a Niftar should be carried, just like the Aron Kodesh was carried and not driven in a wagon. Rav Moshe Shternbuch (2:617) says that automobiles are only used when needed to traverse longer distances to the cemetery.

At the very least, says Rav Shternbuch, the driver of the automobile should be a Shomer Torah U'Mitzvos and not a goy or michalel shabbos. He brings proof from Yaakov Avinu who gave clear directions as to who could carry his Mittah.

Although when transporting a Sefer Torah we are not particular about having a Jewish driver, that is because the Sefer Torah must be held by someone, making the driver irrelevant as the one carrying it is giving it the honor it deserves. Whereas a mittah is not carried in the automobile by those accompanying it, but rather lying in it, rendering the driver the one doing the actual transport.

Although having a goy drive is not an issur, Rav Shtenbuvh says it is worthwhile to try to arrange for a Shomer Torah to drive in order to give honor to the Niftar.

Important Note: We bring this tshuvah as a starting point for discussion and not to convey any halacha. We try to convey the Tshuva to the best of our ability. We admit that our understanding may not be accurate. One should learn the tshuva to verify the accuracy of our interpretation. Please understand that this Tshuva may not be the final word on this topic. One should consult a Rav before drawing any conclusions.

Thu, 04 Sep 2014 03:00:00 -0700
Parshas Ki Seitzei: Kli Yakar - Makkos, Two Behind and One in Front
ארבעים יכנו לא יוסיף - כי תצא כה:י  
From this pasuk Chazal learn that for violating many aveiros in the Torah, thirty nine lashes are administered. The gemara (Makkos 23b) tells us that the Makkos are given in multiples of three, two thirds on the back and one third on the torso.

The Kli Yakar explains that the Makkos are given to help put us back on the right track. We sin because we forget the essential truths of life. The mishna in Pirkei Avos (3:1) says that by contemplating three basic things, a person will avoid being ensnared in sin. The first is that our humble beginnings are from a putrid drop. This, says the Kli Yakar, is something clearly before us and represents the one third of the Makkos that are given on our front side.

The other two things to consider is where we will end up, that being a place of dust, worms, and maggots, as well the fact that we be called to judgement before Hashem. These two facts are less apparent and are behind us, representing the two thirds of the Makkos given on the back.

Thu, 04 Sep 2014 03:00:00 -0700
Parshas Eikev: Business Partners with Hashem? Any successful businessman with a shred of honesty will tell you that their success can be attributed to tremendous amounts of Siyata Dishmaya. Yet many will proudly share with you tidbits of their own brilliant ideas, strategies, and tactics that contributed to their success.

The Baalei Mussar warn us that this too shows a lack of emunah for we contribute nothing whatsoever, as it is all from Hashem. What about the great ideas? They didn't get there thanks to anything we may have done. These ideas were placed in your head by Hashem just like the ideas that were concealed from us by Hashem, that are only revealed in retrospect which could have earned us great fortunes had we thought of them on time.

We see this clearly in Unkelus's translation (עקב ח:יח) on the pasuk "כי הוא הנותן לך כח לעשות חיל", which Unkelus translates to mean for it is He who gave you the advice to purchase assets.

Fri, 15 Aug 2014 03:00:00 -0700
Maharal: Why Is It All About The Matza?

In the Hagadah we say that the reason we eat Matza on Pesach is because the dough did not have a chance to rise until the Melech Malchei HaMilachim appeared to us and redeemed us. Why is this so integral to the story of our redemption that Matza takes center stage and plays the leading role on Pesach?

The Maharal explains that the whole point of the ten makos and all the miracles in Mitzrayim was to teach the world, and Bnei Yisroel as well, that Hashem created and controls everything that happens in the world. Man is so egocentrical that despite all of Hashem's miracles and all our own shortcomings, we easily forget this point. Without constant reminders we oftentimes believe that we control our own fate and destiny.

So too the Bnei Yisroel in Mitzrayim, despite witnessing all the miracles, at the time of leaving Mitzrayim may have entertained notions that they somehow freed themselves through their own efforts. Therefore Hashem caused them to leave at a time that was clearly not desirable to them. They would have preferred to finish baking their bread before embarking on their treacherous desert trek. Hashem wanted to leave this mark on us for generations and Matza symbolizes what Pesach is all about, belief in Hashem.

Wed, 09 Apr 2014 03:00:00 -0700
Parshas Bishalach: Chasam Sofer & Vilna Maggid - Hashem The Doctor

Hashem promises that even we listen to His commands and keep the Mitzvos he will spare us from the illnesses of Mitztrayim, כי אני ה' רופאך' for He is our doctor (Bishalach 15:26). Why is the metaphor of Hashem as a doctor used to encourage us to keep the Mitzvos?

The MiShuchan Govoa brings from Rav Yaakov Yosef the Maggid of Vilna that this is a Mashal. When we go to a Doctor to cure our ailments, says the Maggid, and he prescribes a medicine we don't ask for an explanation as to how the particular pills will make our pain go away. We accept that there are complex ingredients in the pill that chemically activate our bodies to fight whatever ails us. Similarly when it comes to doing mitzvos we should follow the doctors orders without demanding explanations and acting as the judge and jury to determine its efficacy.

He also brings the Chasam Sofer who brings a similar yet more literal approach. We tend to view all cause and effect in this world as falling into two distinct categories, natural or divine. However the Chasam Sofer says that this isn't the case. Rather every cause and effect in the world is natural and was all part of creation. What we call divine, he calls lacking complete knowledge of the natural.

Just like it is perfectly natural that clouds cause rain, so too is it perfectly natural that worship of Avodah Zara prevents rain. The only difference is that the prior example we understand how it works, while in the latter the cause and effect is hidden from us. If we had complete mastery over the inner workings of nature we would understand why drinking animal blood cuts short our life, why the Parah Adumah purifies us, and what damage we cause ourselves when wearing linen and wool together.

Hashem urges us to follow His directives, for the Master of Creation is the only One fully capable of creating guidelines for the good life. Listen to the good Doctor because only He truly knows.

Thu, 09 Jan 2014 03:00:00 -0800
Driving Tips from Reb Ahare'le of Belz

Someone bought a new car and asked the Belzer Rebbe Reb Ahare'le for a Segula to ensure he will not get into any accidents on the road. The Rebbe offered him two tips. First said the Rebbe make sure you obey all the traffic laws and treat them as you would the Aseres HaDibros. Secondly, said the Rebbe, when you see people walking give them a ride and in the merit of the Chesed you will be protected from any harm. (Shevet HaKehosi 5:241:7)

Thu, 09 Jan 2014 03:00:00 -0800
Rav Ephraim Greenblatt Zt"l: Giving Food to a Non-Religious Guest

The Halacha states that one may not give food to a person who won't make a Bracha. On what grounds do we do so today? Rav Ephraim Greenblatt in Rivevos Ephraim (8:74) brings from Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach that if by refusing to give him food he will hate religious Jews then it is better not to refuse him food. He also brings from the V'Zos HaBracha that a technical way out of this dilemma is to be Mafkir the food before letting him have it, thereby avoiding the prohibition, since it is no longer your food.

All this notwithstanding Rav Greenblatt says it is best to ask him nicely if he would like to make a Bracha, or at least listen to your Bracha and answer Amein.

He also relates the following moving story. He was once in a taxi from Tel Aviv to Yerushalayim and the taxi driver pulled out a bottle of coke and gave him a cup offering him a drink. Rav Greenblatt asked the driver to pull over as he took out a Yarmulka from his pocket and told him he would drink only if the driver also makes a bracha and drinks. Together they made the bracha. The taxi drivers eyes filled with tears and thanked the Rav warmly telling him it was the first time in forty years that he made a bracha. Rav Greenblatt encouraged him to continue.

From here, says Rav Greenblatt, we see that we can influence others and therefore although technically there are ways around this sticky issue, it always pays to gently try.

And who knows better than Rav Ephraim Greenblatt zt"l who served as Rov of Memphis, Tennessee for half a century and gently brought many hearts closer to Hashem. Yehi Zichro Boruch.

Important Note: We bring this tshuvah as a starting point for discussion and not to convey any halacha. We try to convey the Tshuva to the best of our ability. We admit that our understanding may not be accurate. One should learn the tshuva to verify the accuracy of our interpretation. Please understand that this Tshuva may not be the final word on this topic. One should consult a Rav before drawing any conclusions.

Wed, 08 Jan 2014 03:00:00 -0800
Parshas Bishalach: Rav Moshe Shternbuch - The Test of The Mun

When Bnei Yisroel complained that they would die of starvation in the Midbar, Hashem told Moshe that he would send Mun from the sky, "למען אנסנו הילך בתורתי אם לא", to test us if we will go with the Torah or not (Bishalach 16:4). Free food without effort! What kind of test is that?

Rav Moshe Shternbuch explains that people have an alibi for not toiling in Torah study; their time is busy trying to support their family. However when they are blessed with financial success this excuse is no longer credible. The test of the Mun was the test of a life without excuses. With all our physical needs tended to would we the Bnei Yisroel learn Torah or not?

This test was not unique to the Dor HaMidbar. Each one of us on our own level face the same challenge. Whether we choose Torah as our career path or enter the working world, we still have down time. How do we spend it? The answer to this question and the way we respond to this challenge is what defines us as a person. The ultimate test of all.

Wed, 08 Jan 2014 03:00:00 -0800
Reb Dovid of Lelov - Is It A Crime To Favor Your Own Child? Reb Dovid was born in 1746 and was a talmid of Reb Elimelech of Lizhensk and later of the Chozeh of Lublin.  He introduced the Yehudi HaKadosh of Peshischa to the Chozeh.  Reb Dovid was the epitome of Ahavas Yisroel in the same way as Rav Levi Yitzchok of Berditchev. 

Even as a child his Ahavas Yisroel knew no humanly bounds.  One day his father bought for him an expensive warm winter coat that he so desperately needed.  The next day he found another young boy trembling from the cold.  When he returned home without the coat his mother asked him what happened.  He saw that had no choice but to tell her the truth.  She told him he better go get the coat back before his father comes home and gives him a serious smacking.  Little Dovid answered that not only is he prepared to receive a spanking from his father, but in order to be Mikayem Kibud Av V'eim, he will prepare the rod so his father does not need to go look for it.  This way his father can take out his frustration because he has absolutely no intention of asking for the coat back.

Once when Reb Dovid's son fell gravely ill, his chasidim spared nothing in their effort to help him live.  They paid for the most expensive doctors and poured their hearts out in tehilim.  When the boy recovered they saw Reb Dovid crying and they didn't understand why.  He explained that they turned heaven and earth over for his son, but what about any other Yiddishe child who becomes sick, are they less worthy?  He once said that he cannot be considered a true Oheiv Yisroel because he loves his children more than other Yidden.

Rav Dovid was able to hide his torah abilities and was thought not to be a great Lamdan. The Chidushei HaRim once said that the greatness Reb Dovid's Ahavas Yisroel gave him cover for his incredible prowess in torah.  He said that Reb Dovid would sit in the attic learning day and night.  By time he was twenty years old he finished Shas 14 times.  The Avnei Nezer of Sochatchov similarly echoed these sentiments and said that his mind from from generations long gone by.  Furthermore while it is possible to speak of his greatness in revealed torah, it is impossible to describe his greatness in hidden torah.

Rav Dovid started the Lelover dynasty which was one of the first to transplant itself in Eretz Yisroel, as Reb Dovid's son and successor moved to Eretz Yisroel in the last year of his life.  His most famous talmid was Rav Yitzchok Kalish of Vorki the founder of the Amshinover dynasty and a close friend of Rav Menachem Mendel of Kotzk.  He also made a great impression on Reb Simcha Bunim of Peshischa.  Reb Dovid was niftar at the age of 68 on 7 Shevat 5574/1814 the same year as the Magid of Kozhnitz and the Yehudi HaKadosh MiPeshischa.  The next year witnessed the Petira of the Chozeh of Lublin and Rav Mendel of Rimanov.  Yehi Zichro Boruch!

Wed, 08 Jan 2014 03:00:00 -0800
Rav Elya Lopian - Tzadikim Have It All

At the end of Birchas HaMazon we say the pasuk in Tehilim (34:11) "V'Dorshei Hashem Lo Yachsiru Kol Tov", those who seek Hashem will not lack any good. How is it that we see many great tzadikim who not only don't have excessive good but in fact have almost nothing at all?

Rav Mattisyahu Salomon the Mashgiach of Lakewood says in the name of the Shela HaKadosh that it doesn't mean that they will have all abundance at their disposal but rather they will not feel deprived of any good for they have no use for the world's pleasures and luxuries. Their lives are complete even without it.

He brings a Mashal from Rav Elya Lopian of a person who leaves his friend's house and sighs in sadness for his friend, noting that he didn't see even a single medicine in his home. This man is a fool. If his friend was sick and didn't have the proper medication then it would be sad, however his friend is in perfect health and has no need for medicines. Instead of feeling sorry for his friend he should be happy for him and his health.

Similarly when one visits a true Talmid Chochom's home and sees that it lacks all of the luxuries that we are accustomed to, and feels bad wondering what kind of pathetic life the Talmid Chochom leads, he is far from the truth. On the contrary, the Talmid Chochom leads a wonderful life and thus has no need for all the silly "chachkes" that we think make our lives feel complete. The Talmid Chochom has everything and lacks nothing at all.

Mon, 02 Dec 2013 03:00:00 -0800
The War Of The Candles

The Bais Yosef famously asks why if there was enough oil for one day do we celebrate the Nes of the Chanuka for eight days since only seven days were a miracle. One of the answers given is that the eighth day is in celebration for the victory in war. But this begs the question why do we celebrate the victory with a an extra light? Another issue that is unclear is what is the essence of the Chanukah miracle, is it the war or the oil? In Al HaNissim we focus on the war but the mitzva of Chanukah is all about the oil, so which is it?

The Nesivos Shalom of Slonim explains that the defilement of the oil by the Yavanim was not incidental to the war, it was the main objective and at the heart of the war on Judaism. Before creation, only the light of Hashem existed. Creation meant Hashem creating a pseudo-darkness, the appearance of space devoid of Hashem's presence. Humanity is tasked with seeing the light of Hashem through the darkness, and Klal Yisroel is meant to lead the way. Since creation Bnei Yisroel's mission has been to inject the light of Hashem into the world. "Yehi Ohr" refers to the light of Hashem.

The Medrash says that the pasuk referring to the earliest stage of the world's existence, "V'Choshech Al Pnei Sihom", darkness upon the abyss, refers to Yavan. Yavan is the nemesis of Bnei Yisroel. Yavan's credo has been to keep the light out. Greek culture worships nature and humanity believing that the created world is the end to itself and all that exists. It believes that we are all G-d and no power above and apart from us rules us. Yavan celebrates to power of man's ability. Life is everything and death is the end. Greek culture is the ultimate darkness.

The Menora is the symbol of the light of Hashem in creation. It is the light that gives life to the Jewish nation. It is light, as Chazal say, that enable us to see from one end of the world to the other, through all the darkness and beyond the distractions. It is this light that the Yevanim so desperately want to extinguish for it reveals the triviality, shallowness, and emptiness of their entire world. To play on a phrase of Chazal we jump and they jump, we jump and soar past the Heavens while they jump and land flat on their face. We earn medals and they earn medals. Our medals gives us a piece of eternity far beyond the boundaries of this transient world while their medals hang on the wall and don't follow them to their grave.

This Chanukah like we did over two thousand years we light our candles in the darkness under the threat of the Yevanim. May we all lighten up our own lives and stand tall and proud, appreciating the beauty of our ways and our tradition, filling up our days and lives with true substance. And just like the Chashmanaim who prevailed despite being outnumbered and overpowered by the forces of evil who stood shoulder to shoulder with the majority of Jews who joined their side, we too will prevail. A little light will cast away the darkest shadow and truth will reign supreme.

Fri, 29 Nov 2013 03:00:00 -0800
Parshas Mikeitz: Rav Yaakov Kaminetzky - Making Sense of Mechiras Yosef

The story of Mechiras Yosef begs so many obvious questions. Why did Yosef not send a message to his father that he was alive and well once he became viceroy? Why did he torment his brothers and hence his father for an extended period of time? Most of all how could the Shivtei Kah the Kedoshim and Tehorim do what they did to their brother?

Rav Yaakov Kaminetzky answers that the Shevatim truly believed Yosef deserved to be killed and their treatment of him was not borne out of any desire to kill him. The greatest proof is that when Reuven raised the idea of throwing him into a pit and convinced the others that justice would still be served, they instantly agreed. And when Yehuda suggested they spare him and sell him to slavery, again there was no objection. Their treatment of Yosef was a sacred duty carried out with pure intentions and without a shred of personal bias.

Yosef knew this and because of it he didn't contact his father. Since the Shvatim believed he needed to be put to death, upon hearing that he rose to prominence in Mitztrayim they would have immediately gone down to kill him. For this reason he couldn't reveal himself to his brothers. His treatment of them had one purpose in mind, to convince them of the error of their ways. Only when he heard them say (Mikeitz 44:16), "Elokim Matza Avon Avdecha", Hashem has found wrongdoing in us, only then was it finally safe after all these years to say, "Ani Yosef!"

Wed, 27 Nov 2013 03:00:00 -0800
Rav Chaim Chizkiya Medini: The Sdei Chemed - Framed For Success

"If I didn't happen to know that he is alive today I would have thought he was a Rishon!" This is what Rav Betzalel HaKohen had to say about the Sdei Chemed who was niftar just over one hundred years ago in 1904.

The Sdei Chemed was born in 5592/1832 in Yerushalayim. His father was a prominent Talmid Chochom holding the position of a "Shlucha D'Rabbanan"; a fundraiser sent abroad on to collect on behalf of the people of Yerushalyim. After showing great promise in his childhood, at the age of 18 he got married and planned on continuing his learning. However shortly after his marriage, his father, who agreed to support him, passed away.

Left with no choice he accepted an offer to take his family to Turkey where his wealthy cousins in Constantinople agreed to support him. The city quickly realized the greatness in their midst and appointed the Sdei Chemed a Dayan to the Bais Din. After spending 13 years in Constantinople financial hardships forced him to accept another job. He took up the position of Rav in Crimea in the city of Karasubazar home to a Jewish community dating back to the second Bais HaMikdash. There he greatly influenced the noble but unlearned population of Jews. He particularly enjoyed the opportunity to spiritually elevate his constituency as he wrote in his sefer.

Aside from writing the Sdei Chemed, one of the highlights of his 33 year tenure in Crimea was the controversy that ensued after the leader of the Karaite community in Crimea claimed that all the Jews of the community were actually Karaites. The Sdei Chemed was able to disprove this theory and save the community from this threat.

Wanting to fulfill his dream of returning to his native homeland of Eretz Yisroel in 1899 the Sdei Chemed parted from his beloved community in Crimea. In Eretz Yisroel after receiving a warm welcome upon his arrival he settled in Yerushalayim with the intention of devoting all his time to learning without distractions. Unfortunately he felt the need to move after only two years, after hearing about a plan to appoint him Chief Rabbi. He arrived to Chevron only to share the same fate he ran away from. He was appointed Chief Rabbi after the death of the two leading Rabbonim of the community, Rav Eliyahu Mani and Rav Yosef Franco.

In Chevron he had a tremendous impact in the areas of setting up Yeshivos and chesed operations. His popularity was great among both the Jewish and Arab populations that held him in high esteem, helping relieve much tension from the community. He served as the Rav of Chevron until his petira on 24 Kislev 5665/1904.

The Sdei Chemed wrote his famous 18 volume encyclopedia of Halacha which attributed its widespread acclaim to an incident that happened to him when he was young. In the Kollel he learned there was another fellow who was extremely jealous of the Sdei Chemed's "Hasmada" and his success in his learning. This fellow bribed the young woman, who cleaned the premises, to spread rumors about a relationship she had with the Sdei Chemed. An uproar ensued in the community and the Sdei Chemed remained silent not even answering the charges. Even after the young woman admitted to the Sdei Chemed how his rival set him up.  He never uttered a word about it even to the person who orchestrated the whole affair.  The Sdei Chemed said that from that day on his mind was opened up to the wellspings of torah like never before and with this divine help he was able to produce his landmark work.

Wed, 27 Nov 2013 03:00:00 -0800
Parshas Mikeitz: Reb Yeruchom - The End of the Darkness

Yosef spent an extra two years in jail for asking the Sar HaMashkim to remember him. In describing the end of his extra sentence the Torah uses the term Mikeitz. The Medrash relates this word to the pasuk in Iyov (28:3) קץ שם לחושך, an end is put to the darkness.

The Mirrer Mashgiach Reb Yeruchom Levovitz explains that light and goodness are the natural state and are endless, as the pasuk says ולגדולתו אין חקר. The darkness covers the light but only for a limited time. The moment the darkness ends there is no lingering signs of the darkness that has gone. In a matter of moments Yosef is hurried before פרעה and goes from being a jailed slave to ruler of the greatest kingdom in civilization.

Salvation through man is a process. First comes the decision to free a man. Then papers need to be signed. Instructions need to be given. Only then does freedom finally come. One can technically be free but still be in miserable conditions in jail. In Hashem's terms there is no need for transition, and salvation is instantaneous. Darkness is removed and the brilliant light shines through. There is no salvation like salvation delivered from above!

Mon, 25 Nov 2013 03:00:00 -0800
Rav Eliezer Ashkenazi - A Wandering Giant Among Giants "When I was a child I heard from our elders, who would effusively praise and speak about the great qualities and exemplary character of (Rav Eliezer Ashkenazi).  He was a K'Mat a Yochid B'Doro and all the great Gaonim of his generation would send halachic shailos to him."  So said the Pnei Yehoshua about Rav Eliezer Ashkenazi.  To put things in perspective, the great gaonim of his generation included Rav Yosef Karo, the Rema, the Maharshal, with all of whom he had halachic correspondence, as well as the Radvaz and the Shita Mikubetzes.

He was born in 1513 although it is not clear where.  Some say Turkey while others say he was born in Italy.  He was a grandson from his mother's side, of the great Italian Posek the Maharik.  He studied under Rav Yosef Taitatzak a refugee from the Spanish inquisition, who headed a legendary Yeshiva in Salonica, which produced some of the generation's leading Poskim.

Rav Eliezer was known to learn 18 hours straight giving little time to tend to his physical needs.  Rav Eliyahu DiVidash the author of the Reishis Chochma and Talmid of Rav Moshe Kordevero at that time, testified that Rav Eliezer did not sleep in a bed during the week, for forty years.  His talmidim included the Maharshdam, the Alshich HaKadosh, Rav Shlomo Alkabetz (author of Licha Dodi and brother in law of Rav Moshe Kordevero), and Rav Yitzchok Adribi.

Through Galus after Galus, Rav Eliezer's life led him to all parts of Europe. After learning in Salonica, he became Rov in Mitzrayim and held that position with great honor accorded to him by the king, for 23 years from 1523-1561.  He was forced to flee after he was slandered to the king by a jealous minister.  The Chasam Sofer retold the details of this story and the Shiniveh Rebbe told a fantastic tale of his escape from Mitzrayim during Leil HaSeder.

He took a position as Rav in Cyprus after arriving in total poverty.  When war broke out between the Ottoman and the Venitian Empires over Cyprus, he fled to Venice where his daughter was then living.  His life their continued its upheaval as he was forced to leave after a Machlokes with Rav Shmuel Yehuda Katzenelbogen over a Get.  He then moved to another city in Italy.  Finally in 1578 he headed towards Poland.  He spent a number of years in Prague, where left a major impact before becoming Rov of Pozen in Poland, which was then a great metropolis of Torah.  After Pozen he became Rov in Cracow for the last two years of his life.

His sefer Maasei Hashem, is one of the classic peirushim on Chumash.  He focuses on the explaining the historical stories that occur in the Torah.  He brings the great Rishonim including the Ramban and often argues with them. He completed this sefer in Pozen after his years of turbulence and upheaval.

He was niftar on 22 Kislev 5346/1585.  Yehi Zichro Boruch!

Mon, 25 Nov 2013 03:00:00 -0800
Parshas Chayei Sara: Rav Aharon Kotler - The Most Complex Halachos in the Torah

Chazal point out that while complex halachos of Tumah and Tahara are learned out from a single extra letter, the conversation of Eliezer the slave of Avrohom is drawn out in great detail. The lesson is that every single word coming out of the mouth of even a slave of the Avos is greater than the Torah of their children. The question is why and why is so much precious ink used to teach us this lesson.

Rav Aharon Kotler explains that even the most complex questions in halacha are clear cut compared to the sensitivity of questions concerning Bain Adam LaChaveiro. A chicken is either Kosher or not, but when it comes to dealing with people the dynamics are in constant motion with so many factors to take into consideration, as we are dealing with a complex human being with delicate feelings. While a single letter can teach us that the blood of a rodent is tamei, it takes far more to teach us how to behave in a mulitiude of situations. Only by studying stories of the Avos in their entirety, with all their detail, can we learn proper behavior.

Mon, 21 Oct 2013 03:00:00 -0700
Parshas Vayeira: Rav Moshe Shternbuch - Good Intentions Will Not Absolve You

After Avimelech took Sara to his palace to marry her, Hashem came to him in middle of the night to rebuke him. Avimelech claimed (Vayeira 20:5) בְּתָם-לְבָבִי וּבְנִקְיֹן כַּפַּי, עָשִׂיתִי זֹאת, in the simplicity of my heart and the innocence of my hands I have done this. Hashem answered him back, גַּם אָנֹכִי יָדַעְתִּי כִּי בְתָם-לְבָבְךָ עָשִׂיתָ זֹּאת, I also know that in the simplicity of your heart you did this. Since both Hashem and Avimelech attest to Avimelech's innocence what was the charge against him?

Rav Moshe Shternbuch answers that there is a difference between Tmimus and Nekias Kapayim. Temimus means no mal-intent and all actions are taken with one hundred percent pure motives. Nekias Kapayim means without any wrongdoing whatsoever. Hashem agrees that Avimelech acted with a Tam Lev and no bad intention, but he certainly was not clean from wrongdoing. He could have and should have easily found out the truth before hastily taking Sara to his palace.

Rav Moshe Shternbuch in Taam VaDaas says that this is a basic tenet of Judaism. It is not enough to be a good Jew and follow our heart. We must also take the blinders off our eyes and meticulously question our deeds to bring out the truth. Only with both a pure heart and clean hands will we always be judged favorably in the eyes of Hashem.

Fri, 18 Oct 2013 03:00:00 -0700
The Joy that Mourning Brings to a Wedding Shlomo HaMelech tells us in Koheles (7:2) "Tov Lalaches El Bais HaEivel MiLeches El Bais HaMishteh", it is better to go to a house of mourning than a house of party. How could this be? Maybe we ca offer b'derech drush that the pasuk is referring to someone who needs to attend both a bais aveil and bais hamishteh. While a joyous simcha is far better to participate in than mourning, one should attend to the mourning first. A bais eivel is a place of pure and focused emotion. When one walks into a bais aveil and the spirit of someone who was alive just days ago, yet is no longer, hovers in the air, we live the moment and nothing else matters. No pettiness, no materialism, and no trivialities, take our eye off the ball. The world stops and only one thing consumes our attention, our mortality and our afterlife.

Simcha is the epitome of life but one needs to know how to celebrate it. There are so many distractions and sideshows that can diminish from a simcha and they sometimes even end up taking center stage while the actual simcha takes a back seat. Sometimes these distractions can even spoil a simcha.

Tov Lalaches El Bais HaEivel MiLeches El Bais HaMishteh Baasher Hu Sof Kol HaDam V'HaChai Yitein El Libo. A bais eivel is preferred for in it one sees the end of man and the living take heart. The bais aveil teaches us how to focus on what life is about, what is important and what is trivial. Only when we see the end, can we live the present, the way it is supposed to be lived. Only then can we attend a simcha and fully enjoy the beauty and true meaning of real simcha.

If you think life is about enjoying oneself or being treated fairly by fate you will have a hard time figuring out why less than enjoyable things happen to you. You will drive yourself crazy when you hear about the tragedies that happen to good and innocent people. Life becomes an enigmatic maze of bizarre, warped, and unfair events. Simcha is believing in Hashem and knowing everything is good. Simcha is stopping to smell the roses, clearly understanding the gift of every moment of life and what can be achieved by each and every one of us.

The halacha is that a man may annul his wife's vows if the vow will cause her affliction. While there is a machlokes whether or not washing oneself is considered affliction, it is clear that not being allowed to attend a funeral is definitely painful. Why, asks the gemara (nedarim 83b)? Because the pasuk says, "V'HaChai Yitein El Libo", when experiencing life's end, one learns to focus on what life is really about. Living life with a distorted view of the purpose of our being causes great pain and anguish. Only a life of clarity is a life worth living. May we always be B'Simcha, true Simcha, tamid.

Fri, 16 Aug 2013 03:00:00 -0700
Seeing The World Straight When the light that enters our eye reaches the back of the lens to form a picture the objects appear upside down and backwards. Only when the image reaches the brain is the image corrected, allowing us to see right side up.

As we know, "nothing is for nothing" and everything was created with Hashem's infinite wisdom. This begs the question of why would Hashem make our visual experience so roundabout? Why would our initial viewing experience be, out of all things, upside down?

The gemara (Bava Basra 10b) tells the story of Rav Yosef the son of Rav Yehoshua who became very ill and lost consciousness. When he awoke his father asked him, "What did you see?" He told his father, "Olam Hafuch Ra'isi Elyonim L'Mata V'Tachtonim L'Mata", I saw an upside down world. The rich people who are regarded here as the upper echelons of society were considered lowly people, while the poor wise people who do good deeds and are considered the lower class here were considered the upper crust over there. His father answered him that he was mistaken. He did not see an upside down world, but rather the world as it truly is. The world we live in is the upside down world.

Every one of our 248 physical limbs mirrors a spiritual limb. Our eyes are our main interface with the world beyond us. Yet the image the world projects is upside down. Only when the image enters our brain and we use our mind to process it, do we make heads and tails of it. The same holds true for the story behind the picture. What we see at first glance without using our Sechel is always upside down. Just like the brain processes images and straightens them out, so too our brain must use its unbiased intelligence to make sense of the things we see.

Just like flipping an image, understanding the story is meant to be simple and a routine operation as the Pasuk (Koheles 7:29) says, "Asa HaElokim Es Ha'Adam Yashar", Hashem made a person straight. Unfortunately we all have forces within us that interfere with this process, be they poor Middos or selfish motives. We let these things take over our brain, as the pasuk concludes "V'Heima Bikshu Cheshbonos Rabbim". But the choice is our to see the world with clarity if only we choose to do so.

Tue, 07 May 2013 03:00:00 -0700