Revach L'Neshama RSS feed for - Section: PARSHAS HASHAVUA Category:LIFE LESSONS Copyright 2007, Revach L'Neshama en-US Revach L'Neshama Logo 144 31 Fri, 03 Dec 2021 03:00:00 +0000 240 Parshas VaYigash: Rav Moshe Shternbuch - The Open Truth Hurts the Most The Medrash says that when Judgement day comes, we will not be able to stand up to the "Tochacha" the rebuke from Hashem. We learn this from the Shvatim who couldn't bear the embarrassment of learning that Yosef was alive.

Rav Moshe Shternbuch says that we see from here that the most painful rebuke is not a good screaming at, but rather being forced to confront the truth. Yosef did not scream or threaten, rather he softly told them that he is their brother whom they tried to destroy. Upon seeing how wrong they were, they experienced the worst embarrassment of their lives.

Similarly says Rav Shterbuch in the name of the Baal Shem Tov HaKadosh,the pasuk in Tehilim says, "Kel Nekamos Hashem". At the end of time Hashem will avenge those who have sinned against him. How? The pasuk continues "Kel Nekamos Hofia". Hashem's revenge is simply to appear! After all of history when Hashem finally reveals Himself openly to the entire world, everyone will be be mortally embarrassed when they grasp the lowliness for each and every one of their sins.

Mon, 02 Jan 2017 03:00:00 +0000
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 +0000
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 +0000
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 +0000
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 +0000
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 +0000
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 +0000
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 +0000
Parshas Mishpatim: Sforno - Slavery as a Punishment The Torah imposes various punishments for different classes of aveiros. Some are meted out by Bais Din and some by Hashem. Yet one stands out and is implemented only in a single instance. A person who steals and does not have money to pay back is sold into slavery. This seems to be a harsh punishment as a slave exists in class somewhere between a human and a piece of property, albeit a Jewish slave is treated with special dignity. Why such a harsh crime, especially since if he had the money to return he receives no punishment at all under most circumstances.

The Sforno explains that if there were no punishment for stealing other than returning the theft, the poor people would run rampant stealing from the rich. And why not, since there would be no recourse as the poor people have nothing to pay back with.

Aside from protection of society, there must be a fit between the crime and the punishment and justice must shine through. Maybe we can offer that in a society where money is everything, a poor person feels like he is not even human. The whole basis for humanity and inclusion into society eludes him. By stealing he shows that he believes only money can buy him stature. He fails to realize that one's wealth is not the barometer of humanity. A person is blessed with a Neshama that gives him the strength he needs to accomplish his mission in life, to grow his spirit and attain true wealth with which he can go home once his life is over.

A person that steals has totally missed the point of the human experience and has forfeited his right to participate in society. The Torah teaches him a lesson by truly stripping him of humanity and selling him into slavery. Only then will he see the error of his ways and yearn to use his capabilities to make something real of himself, and not what society demands of him.

Mon, 04 Feb 2013 03:00:00 +0000
Parshas Yisro: It Takes More Than A Genius To Make a Fair Compromise When Moshe appointed judges like Yisro advised, he appointed Anshei Chayil. The Mechilta says that Anshei Chayil are those who know how to arbitrate. This is in accordance with the halacha that a Dayan should always try to negotiate a compromise (pshara) rather than render his strict halachic decision. What exactly are Anshei Chayil and why do you need Anshei Chayil to compromise?

There is a concept called Dinei Adam and another called Dinei Shamayim. Dinei Adam is law as dispensed by humans. The Torah created a framework of laws for judging between people based on guidelines that don't always reflect the ultimate truth in each case. That is impossible for humans to do, and only Hashem can create perfect solutions. Halacha determines truth in broad strokes in order to ascertain the truth with the highest certainty possible across the board. Hashem uses his own set of tools to work everything out after Bais Din has rendered their decision. Hashem knows the truth and has the ability to create perfect justice.

Chayil, says Rav Shamshon Refael Hirsch, refers to a person who has amassed many virtues and talents. Beyond being an expert in Halacha the Ish Chayil understands people, business, emotions, misunderstandings, motives, and honesty. He can apply all his capabilities to get to the heart of the matter and come up with a solution that will be fair to both sides. While for strict din in accordance with the Shulchan Aruch one needs to have a complete grasp on the halachos only, in order to reach fair and agreeable compromise one must be a true Ish Chayil.

Fri, 01 Feb 2013 03:00:00 +0000
Parshas Bo: During the Looting, Why Did the Tzaddikim Make Out Like Bandits? When it came time to donating to the mishkan it was the Nesi'im who donated the most valuable items. If all their riches came from "borrowing" from their Mitzri neighbors, why would the wealth end up in the hands of the most respected members of Klal Yisroel? On the contrary when it comes to chasing wealth one would thing the more earthly people would have done better.

The Ibn Ezra proves from this that when each member of Klal Yisroel knocked on their neighbor's door the ambitiousness of their request was on par with their own greatness. What does this mean?

Rav Chaim Kanievsky was once asked how is it that an Arab is willing to strap a bomb to his body and blow himself up for his beliefs while our Mesiras Nefesh pales in comparison. His answer was something to the effect that the Arab is driven by a Yetzer Hara that has him wrapped around his finger, while we are driven by a Yetzer Tov to whom we don't give the time of day.

This looting was not based on greed run amuck. Rather this was a commandment from Hashem. Human nature is such that when we are asked to do something by someone else, even if it is something that we ourselves greatly desire, we stop and think, why is he asking me this, why should I do it? Similarly here, even the greediest of people who would normally stop at nothing to get at their neighbor's wealth that they jealously eyed for years, once asked by Moshe to take it, suddenly did a serious Cheshbon HaNefesh. Is it fair? How much should I take? What about the Mitzri's rights? When it comes to a Mitzva people suddenly become moral and self righteous. The Tzaddikim had no such issues. Once they heard the commandment, they ran out and performed the Mitzva with all the Chumros and the most stringent Shiur, in order to be Yotzei Mehadrin Min HaMehadrin.  Through their unwavering pursuit of the mitzva, they ended up with the most riches.

Rav Chaim Zaitchek answers on a similar note. He explains that after being enslaved and downtrodden for many years, a slave mentality started developing among some of the members of Klal Yisroel. The pride and exaltedness of being from the house of Yaakov and Yosef started to dissipate from decades of being under the Egyptian whip. The Maminim however had no complexes. Even as they were beaten and tormented their heads were held high. They never felt inferior to their masters. They did their hard labor knowing full well that in reality they were princes, beloved in the eyes of the Master of the Universe, while their oppressors were nothing but beasts, and slaves themselves as descendents of Cham.

When it came time to asking for gold and silver the ones with the slave mentality had a hard time asking their masters for their wealth. At best they fulfilled the commandment with a modest request.  They simply could not muster up the courage to clean out their master's home. However, the ones who kept their faith throughout and came out with a head held high, looked the Mitzri dead in the eye and calmly and confidently demanded every last possession of value, knowing full well it was coming to him. These were the Nesi'im, giants of spirit among broken men.

Thu, 17 Jan 2013 03:00:00 +0000
Parshas Vayechi: Reb Yeruchom - Yisachar, Unflappable and At Peace In bracha given to Yisachar it says "Vayar Minucha Ki Tov... Vayeit Shichmo Lisbol", he saw that serenity is good... and he bowed his shoulder to bear. This pasuk seems like in inherent contradiction. If Yisachar sought rest why would he brace himself for hard work?

Reb Yeruchom answers that if we want to raise a child to be content and happy, showering him with material goods and catering to his every need is counterproductive. It creates a dangerous dependence. In order to remain content the child must constantly get what he is accustomed to. The moment he lacks anything he is pain and turmoil. It is like pouring oil on a fire. While the oil is poured the fires are tamed, but after the initial calming of the fires, the oil fuels the fire.

The way to become a content person is by getting accustomed to not having much of anything. This lack of neediness makes life peaceful. Army training, says Rav Yeruchom, is purposely rough, in order to accustom the soldiers to fighting under the most difficult circumstances without any concern for their surroundings and hardships. They need to focus on fighting and ignore everything else.

Yisachar is the Shevet of the Sanhedrin. They need to learn Torah without distractions. Yisachar saw that only serenity can allow them to truly thrive and grow in Torah. In order to do this they bend their shoulder and tolerate any annoyance. They avoid all material pleasures and are oblivious to all pain and discomfort. They sit and toil in Torah in serenity and happiness for nothing phases them and Torah is the love of their life.

Ein Ben Chorin Elah Mi SheOseik BaTorah, only a true Ben Torah is free from all the internal and external distractions that mar our lives. The ability to tolerate and focus on what is important to us is the key to happiness. We can't change the world, but we can change the way the world affects us.

Wed, 26 Dec 2012 03:00:00 +0000
Parshas Vayigash: Rav Dov Yaffe - Hashem Sent Yosef to Defy Nature After revealing himself to his brothers, Yosef consoles them and tells them not to be sad about selling him because Hashem sent him to sustain them. Rav Dov Yaffe asks, could Hashem not found any other way to sustain Yaakov's family during a hunger other than selling Yosef into slavery?

He answers with the Shem MiShmuel's explanation of the Medrash on the pasuk, "Hayam Ra'a Vayanos", at Krias Yam Suf the waters saw and ran away. The Medrash explains that they ran when they saw the Aron of Yosef. The Shem Mishmuel explains that for Yosef at seventeen years old and doomed to a life of slavery in the most impure society in civilization, to resist the temptation posed by the minister's wife, was a humanly impossible task totally against the laws of nature. Yet he fulfilled the will of Hashem and defied nature. Similarly when the waters of the Yam Suf were called upon to split, they too could not defy nature. That is until they saw the Aron of Yosef and immediately split.

Rav Dov Yaffe says that just like Avrohom's and Yitzchok's sacrifice at the Akeida instilled in Klal Yisroel the courage to give their lives Al Kiddush Hashem throughout the ages, so too Yosef's courage to defy temptation instilled in each and every member of Klal Yisroel the ability to rise above their own nature. Yosef told his brother's not to be sad for Hashem sent him to Mitzrayim in order to be a lifeline for all of Klal Yisroel for all future generations.

Fri, 21 Dec 2012 03:00:00 +0000
Parshas Vayigash: Rav Isaac Sher - Doing The Wrong Thing With Hashem's Help When Yosef revealed himself to his brothers they were mortified and ashamed. Why? After all they judged him properly and determined that he deserved to die. They even at the end decided to spare his life. Their only regret twenty years later was that they didn't have enough pity, but they never believed that they erred. Moreover Hashem agreed with them, as He was part of the pact to remain silent. Their every action was done with Ruach HaKodesh. Why were they ashamed?

Rav Isaac Sher says we learn from here a very important lesson. Divine assistance and consent proves nothing and doesn't justify any of our deeds. We can not use it as a barometer of our righteousness or an indicator of the path we should take. Why? Hashem gives each person Bechira, free will to do as he wants. This means that he will get divine assistance for any path he chooses. It is all part of life. Chazal say B'Derech SheAdam Rotzeh Leileich Molichim Osoi, the way a person wants to go Hashem helps him.

The Shevatim were convinced that their intentions were pure. Only when they saw Yosef was right and they were wrong, did they search deep inside themselves and find the hatred and jealousy that sullied their power to correctly judge Yosef. They realized they erred even with Hashem's apparent consent.

There is much confusion in today's frum world as to what Hashem wants from us. Our order of priorities has been turned on its head. There are all sorts of fads and segulos that promise proven results. This however is no indication that these things are important to do, or even desired by Hashem.

So if we can't trust Heavenly signs, how are we to know what's right and what's nonsense. The answer is that we complicate our own lives, when in fact things are quite simple. Our one and only guidance is the Torah and our Chachomim. Our Torah is eternal and does not change with the times. The things that were important for generation after generation remain important today, even if they aren't the latest and greatest. Torah, Davening, and Chesed have held up the world until now and will always continue to do so.  There are clear guidelines in the Shulchan Aruch as to how they should be performed.  Don't buy into the latest craze.

Wed, 19 Dec 2012 03:00:00 +0000
Parshas Vayeishev: Bais HaLevi - Your Wallet Takes a Bow After hearing Yosef's first dream how the brothers' bushels of wheat bowed to Yosef's bushel, the pasuk says that the brothers hated him. After the second dream where the stars which represented the brothers, bowed to the sun which was Yosef, it says that they became jealous of him. What was the difference?

The Bais HaLevi explains that a person's wealth does not make him a better person than the poor man, it merely makes him richer. There is an expression, says the Bais HaLevi, where the poor man tells the rich man, "My bank account is humbled by your bank account and my wallet by your wallet, but I am not humbled by you." The first dream was about wealth represented by wheat. Yosef prophesized that he would support the Shevatim who would come to him for food. The Shevatim did not bow down to Yosef only their bushels did. They were not jealous, only hateful about the idea.

The stars and the constellation represent spirituality and the underpinnings of the world. When they heard that Yosef will be the spiritual center and they would be satellites in his orbit, only then did they become jealous.  Spirtuality is the essence of a person and determines who he really is.

Rav Dov Yaffa tells a story that illustrates this point. A man once came to Rav Aharon Leib Steinman at the insistence of his wife who was worried that if they bought a new luxury car he would be the envy of his neighbors. Rav Aharon Leib asked him, "Have you mastered all of Shas yet?" "No" replied the man. "If so" said Rav Aharon Leib, "what is there to be jealous of?"

Wed, 05 Dec 2012 03:00:00 +0000
Parshas Vayeitzei: Rav Leib Chasman - Yaakov Wakes Up to a Nightmare The Avos HaKedoshim invested every moment of their entire lives in building the foundation of the future Bnei Yisroel. They suffered and toiled, but despite all the trials and tribulations the let no one and nothing stand in their way.

Yaakov's peaceful life came to an abrupt halt when he was forced to flee the paradise of his parents home and run for his life out of Eretz Yisroel to his evil uncle Lavan. His future and thereby the future of the nation was in peril. To make things even worse, he was almost murdered in cold blood by his nephew Elifaz who instead robs him of everything but the shirt on his back and the staff in his hand. Penniless and alone, nightfall came and Yaakov lied down in the dangerous wilderness hoping to survive the night.

Behold, he had a dream! In his dream he sees Malachim scurrying about in great fanfare over him, as Hashem shows him a glorious future for his nation and promises him complete protection and success in his exile.

One would think that Yaakov Avinu would awake in the morning overcome with joy over what he had seen in his dream. No! says Rav Leib Chasman. Yaakov wakes up trembling with fear! It became apparent to him the he slept in a very holy place. Had he known this he would have never had the nerve to sleep there. If he had his way he would forfeit the dream and all the promises just not to sin however slightly and accidentally by sleeping in a holy place. He would have preferred to stay awake the entire night learning and davening rather than sleep and receive promises that his entire life work would become a reality. No dreams, aspirations, and lifetime achievements are worth the slightest insult to Hashem.

Thu, 22 Nov 2012 03:00:00 +0000
Parshas Vayeitzei: Rav Chaim Zaitchek - Yaakov's Stunningly Identical Faces Yaakov saw Malachim going up and down the ladder in his dream. The gemara in Chulin (91b) explains that Yaakov's image appears on the Kisei HaKavod. The Malachim knew that image, and when they saw Yaakov down on earth they could not believe it was the same person as the one on Hashem's throne.

What was the big shock to the Malachim? Rav Chaim Zaitchek explains that each person has a heavenly image, that of his pure Neshama. We also have an earthly image. Our earthly image projects an image of our Neshama as it appears in this world. This image pales in comparison to the heavenly image. This applies to even the greatest and purest Tzaddikim whose lives are filled with Avodas Hashem. One's mere presence on this world and the struggles of temptation distort our true image.

Yet Yaakov managed to cleanse and shine his earthly image to the point where it showed no effects of being in this world. He returned it to its pristine state as it appeared in Shamayim. The Malachim could not believe they were seeing this pure Neshama in this lowly world and scampered up and down to compare the two images.

Ultimately when our days on earth end our Neshama will go up and stand face to face with our heavenly image. That we have performed many good deeds will not spare us from the shame of this embarrassing encounter. Life is not about avoiding big sins and amassing enough points to be admitted to Gan Eden. It's about recovering from our destiny of becoming a lowly human, and transforming ourselves once again back into a pure Neshama.

Tue, 20 Nov 2012 03:00:00 +0000
Parshas Vayeira: Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz - A Story about a Not So Simple Cup of Water At the Levaya of a great person it is often said that to speak about the greatness of the niftar is not possible, therefore we will say stories about him and with this paint a portrait of the man. Speaking about one's character is too subjective and can cause trouble if it is overdone or underdone, but a story is a story. Right? "Wrong", says Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz.

A act is not objective. It depends how it was done. The same act can be done by two people on two different levels, even worlds apart. In order to properly appreciate an action we must understand who the actor because it is the actor who give the act its life and vitality.

Rav Chaim gives an example. The gemara in Bava Metzia (87b) says that because Avrohom said to his three guests, "Yukach Na Mi'at Mayim", take a little water (Vayeira 18:4), Bnei Yisroel merited to have the well of Miriam in the desert to supply them water. To us this gemara seems mind boggling. Because of a little water given to three thirsty travelers, over a million of Avrohom's descendants received water daily in a harsh and arid desert? Who among us wouldn't run to give a little water to a thirsty wayfarer just like Avrohom?

Rav Chaim with his keen insight explains that it is true that every reward must match the deed. Therefore he says we must conclude that Avorhom's "giving a little water" was actually an act of unfathomable proportions. Sure the Torah says Avrohom gave a little water, which in our terms means exactly that, he extended them a glass of water to quench their thirst. But in Avrohom's terms it meant giving over his entire being with that water. What that means we don't know, but it had to have been with such devotion and passion that it deserved a reward of billions of cups of water for all of Klal Yisroel.

When we tell a story of a Gadol we put ourselves in the position of the Gadol and think of it in our terms, as that's all we know. But if we really understood who the Gadol was, the story would come out much differently, like night and day. And the same applies to us and our actions.  So next time you do a mitzva, ask yourself who am I, and how can I make it special.

Thu, 01 Nov 2012 03:00:00 +0000
Parshas Vayeira: Rav Gedalia Eiseman - The Greatness of Avrohom's Chesed We are taught that Avrohom was the epitome of Chesed. Yet the stories in the Torah about him are rather few and far between. The highlight is how he ran out to fetch guests on a hot day while he was recovering from his Bris. The Mashgiach Rav Gedalia Eiseman zt"l asks what is so super special about this story. Sure it was a great act of Chesed but wherein lies the greatness?

After Avrohom runs out to bring in the three travelers he makes his pitch for them to come to his house to eat and rest. Their response to him is "Vayoimru Kein Taaseh Kaasher Dibarta" (Vayeira 18:5), Yes, you will do as you offered. What did the Malachim mean by this?

Rav Gedalia explains that when we do Chesed we feel very good about ourselves and we often over extend ourselves in an effort to please our beneficiaries. But all this usually comes with one condition, we are the generous giver and they are appreciative recipient. As soon as the recipient begins to demand, the Chesed becomes less appealing to us and we let them know subtly or not so subtly who the boss is.

Not so was Avrohom. He offered the Malachim a little bread and rest. They crudely responded that Avrohom should do as he offered. Yet instead of getting turned off by their response, Avrohom did the opposite. "Vayimaher" he ran to serve them and gave them far more than he promised! That is the epitome of Chesed for Chesed sake and not kindness as a way of making ourselves feel good and mighty to those who need us.

Mon, 29 Oct 2012 03:00:00 +0000
Parshas Bereishis: Reb Yeruchom Levovitz - Man Gives Hashem His Role "V'Chol Asher Yikra Lo HaAdam Nefesh Chaya Hu Shimoi" (Bereishis 2:19). The Medrash says that the Malachim complained about Hashem the creation of "man". Hashem, to prove man's greatness, brought all the animal before the malachim and asked them what they are each called. Then He brought them to Adam who named each animal.

The simple understanding is that Adam correctly understood each animal's characteristic and its purpose in this world and gave them a name that captured their essence. Rav Yeruchom Levovitz however says that what transpired was actually much deeper than merely a test of Adam HaRishonim's wisdom. It was proof of man's greatness and mastery over the entire creation. Reb Yeruchom explains that by naming the animals Adam declared what the animal would be. Because Adam called it a certain name that became its destiny and its future for the duration of its existence.

This powerful lesson shows us that we control the world and are not just passive players who must learn to deal with the world out there. It is within our power to determine the nature of the world and to change it, both for good or for evil.

Furthermore the Medrash continues, Hashem asked Adam what Hashem's name should be and Adam said the Shem of Adnus, for Hashem is our master and the master of the universe. It is man that determines even Hashem's role in this world. Hashem acts with us in accordance with the way we relate to Him, with the name we give him. If we relate to Hashem as our omnipotent merciful father, that is how He will treat us. If we don't relate to Hashem as the all powerful ruler of every detail in our lives but choose to relate to the laws of nature and our own abilities then Hashem will leave us to the whims of the world and to our own devices, which won't get us very far. Man truly rules the world!

Fri, 12 Oct 2012 03:00:00 +0000
Parshas Haazinu: Rav Shimshon Pincus - Indulging in Unlimited Pleasures

"Vayishman Yishurun Vayivat" (Haazinu 32:15). In every instance when Hashem bestows goodness on us we rebel. In this world says Rav Shimshon Pincus every drop of good you do for another person carries with it the risk that they will bite the hand that feeds them. This is especially true with Chesed that Hashem gives to Bnei Yisroel. The reason for this he explains, is that we don't actually see the goodness flowing directly from Hashem. It comes through natural means leaving us feeling independent from Hashem.

Therefore in this world, the pleasures we receive from Hashem are carefully measured. Wealth, health, and happiness only comes in limited amounts, and in fits and spurts, even to the most well off man on earth. However in the next world where these dangers do not exist, as the only thing that exists is Hashem, Hashem opens up the taps to unlimited pleasures.

There is only only one pleasure in this world that Hashem gives a person an opportunity to indulge in unlimited amounts. There is no danger whatsoever of rebellion do to excess. This pleasure clearly comes straight from Hashem so overdosing does not carry any risks of backlash whatsoever. It is the only thing in this world we can gorge ourselves with without any downside. What is it? Torah! Enjoy!

Thu, 27 Sep 2012 03:00:00 +0000
Parshas Matos: Reb Yeruchom - Moshe the Humblest of All Men... Not Always

Bnei Yisroel's war with Midyan in the aftermath of the Baal Pe'or scandal was unique. Instead of sending their full army of 600,000 soldiers, only an elite group of 1,000 of the greatest Tzaddikim from each Shevet went to battle. These soldiers incredible tzidkus did the job as they achieved an astounding victory, and destroyed an entire nation and five kings. They brought back prisoners in in excess of 100,000 (according to Reb Yeruchom's deduction) as well as livestock in excess of of 750,000.

One would think that Moshe Rabbeinu would give them credit and a bit of leeway when criticizing them for allowing the women to remain alive, and would talk to them more gently. Yet Moshe before congratulating them, sharply criticizes them without any hesitation. What happened to the great humility?

Rav Yeruchom Levovitz the Mirrer Mashgiach explains that real middos are like everything else in Avodas Hashem. They are tools that we control and use to serve Hashem, when and as appropriate. If someone is humble all the time and in all circumstances, this is proof that he does not own the Midda of anava but rather it owns him. It is no different than an animal instinct.

Moshe was indeed the humblest of all men. In every situation he considered the midda of anava and used it when appropriate to its fullest extent. After the war with Midyan, which was in revenge for the Midyanite women's promiscuity in luring Bnei Yisroel to aveira, Moshe considered anava before criticizing the holy soldiers, yet decided this was not the time or place. Moshe truly owned the most powerful kind anava, the kind that he controlled and was not a puppet of.

Mon, 16 Jul 2012 03:00:00 +0000
Parshas Bichukosai: Rav Chaim Zaitchek - The Lesson of Temura, Mitzvos That Shine

The torah tells us (Bichukosai 27:10) that is a person designates and animal for a Korban he may not later switch it for a different animal. Not only for an inferior animal does this issur apply but he may not even switch it for a stronger and healthier animal. Why would the Torah forbid upgrading ones Korban and punishing this infraction, borne out of good will, with Malkos?

Rav Chaim Zaitchek in Ohr Chadash explains that when a person decides to bring a Korban it is because a holy spirit from beyond enters his heart. His thoughts are pure and they stem from the goodness and love of Hashem planted deep in his heart. The actual offering is the climax and materialization of this purity.

This however is only the first moment, while his action are connected to the spiritual. However, after that initial burst of love, as the Korban takes on a physical dimension in the shape of an animal, this spirit evaporates and all his subsequent thought are more earthly and mundane. If he replaces the weaker animal for a stronger one, he is in essence replacing his korban borne out of pure intentions for one far less holy. The first korban is the korban that Hashem cherishes. Therefore He commands us to bottle the initial purity and not switch it for a fatter piece of meat. The mitzvos we do with a holy heart shine in the eyes of Hashem far more than the ones that shine down here through the eyes of materialism.

Fri, 18 May 2012 03:00:00 +0000
Parshas Emor: Even A Kohen Gadol On Yom Kippur

In addition to the women a Kohen may not marry, a Kohen Gadol may not even marry a widow. Why not? The Meforshim say we learn from here a mind boggling lesson about the weakness of man.

The most exalted member of Klal Yisroel is the Kohen Gadol. The most awesome day of the year is Yom Kippur. The holiest place on earth is the Kodesh HaKodashim. Once a year these three meet as the Kohen Gadol enters the Kodesh HaKodashim on Yom Kippur ablaze with Kedusha and shining like a Malach.

When he enters he says Hashem's Holy Name. The Torah was afraid that if there was a married woman that he desires he will wish her husband to die while he is in the Kodesh HaKodashim. In order to forestall this great tragedy the Torah forbids a Kohen Gadol from marrying a widow making his efforts meaningless.

The lesson here is that even a person who at that moment has reached the pinnacle of holiness, is still human and can err in a most humanly way.

Sun, 06 May 2012 03:00:00 +0000
Parshas Bishalach - Rav Eizek Sher - Why Did The Water In Mara Need To Be Bitter?

After they left the Yam Suf, Bnei Yisrael traveled three days without water. Then they arrived at Marah, and the water was bitter and undrinkable. They complained to Moshe who threw a bitter tree into the water and then it became sweet and they all drank. Every story the Torah tells us has a lesson and a purpose. What was the purpose of this whole episode?

Rav Eizek Sher explains as follows. "Krias Yam Suf was totally unnecessary. Hashem however made incredible Nissim to show His great love for Klal Yisrael. Bnei Yisrael responded and followed the Anan Hashem for three days in the Midbar without any water and without any complaint. Their dveykus in Hashem was all they needed.

When they arrived at Marah they saw water that was bitter. They asked, 'Ma Nishteh,' meaning why should we drink? 'Why must we be human, whay can't we just continue to be Malachim satisfying all our needs in our Kirva, our closeness, to Hashem?'

Hashem told Moshe to throw the bitter tree into the water and it became sweet. Hashem showed them that people are greater than Malachim. A Malach has no gashmiyus and no nisyonos. No trials and no tests. A person goes through life of constant challenges and bitter experiences. When we throw these into a dark world where Hashem is hidden, we turn bitter into sweet and darkness into light. That is our job and that is what makes us superior to Malachim."

Thu, 12 Apr 2012 03:00:00 +0000
Parshas Titzaveh: Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder... For All The Wrong Things

The Rebbe Rav Henich of Alexander once said, "When I was once in the presence of a certain tzaddik for an extended period, the closer I became to him the less attracted I became. However when I came to Kotzk the longer I stayed, and the more I observed the Rebbe's holy ways, the more my esteem for him rose and the more I was awed by him."

Many of us can relate to the prior and few of us are fortunate enough to have experienced the latter. But I can tell you first hand that there are still people today that you can spend a great deal of time with, and not only does the initial awe not wear off, but it grows daily. You find yourself being transformed from confidant and friend to humble nothing constantly in awe of the great man.
This is the hallmark of a truly great person. We who have not come close to this level cannot fathom the greatness and as it slowly becomes revealed before our eyes through our closeness, and you find the gap widening by the day, through the constant deeper understanding of his greatness.

This same pattern follows with everything in this world. Good, and all things that bring eternal life, are obstructed by the Yetzer Hara who makes true goodness look less appealing from afar, and employs every means at his disposal to make sure we never get close enough to see the truth. Worldly pleasures however are all dressed up to appeal to us. Yet, as we get closer, they lose their appeal and the happiness we hoped to achieve ultimately eludes us.

Hashem tells us (Titzaveh 29:45), "V'Shachanti Bisoch Bnei Yisrael V'Hayisi Lahem Leilokim; I will dwell among Bnei Yisrael, and unlike other deities such as wealth and honor, I will not lose My appeal as time goes on." On the contrary, by coming even closer to Hashem we will respect and cherish Him more.

Tue, 28 Feb 2012 03:00:00 +0000
Parshas Titzaveh: Rav Shimshon Pincus - Sweet Kitores Wrapped in Riches

The avodah of the Kitores brought riches upon the Kohen who performed it. So much so that they only let each person do it once in order to spread the wealth. What was so special about the Kitores that it had this unusual power?

Rav Shimshon Pincus answers with a Mashal: A person bought an expensive gold watch from the jewelry store. The store owner placed it in beautiful box. Impressed with the box, the customer asked how much the box cost. "It's free," said the merchant. "Not only that but take a few extra boxes for when you need it." Another person browsing the store then approached the merchant and asked for a few boxes. "Sure, but you'll need to pay," said the merchant. Seeing the astonished look, he explained, "The other customer paid full price for an expensive watch, so the box is on the house. You are only buying the box and need to pay full price."

"The gift of wealth," says Rav Shimshon, "is complimentary packaging for those who perform Avodas Hashem. There are two kinds of Avodas Hashem. The fundamental avodah which is the Kiyum HaMitzvos that is done with your 248 limbs. Then there is also the inner stirrings of love and excitement that you do. 

The outside Mizbei'ach in the courtyard where the animals are slaughtered represent the external physical avodah and Kiyum Mitzvos. The Mitzbei'ach inside the Heichal represents the inner avodah of feeling and heart. Heartfelt avodah sends up a beautiful fragrance to Hashem. For avodah of this nature, Hashem wraps your exquisite internal dveykus, with the beautiful outer packaging of riches. If, however, your avodah is only on the outside, it is much harder to earn riches and you'd be lucky to merit the minimum amount of parnassa and health."

Mon, 27 Feb 2012 03:00:00 +0000
Parshas Truma: Rav Elyashiv - Davening in a Churban of a Shul

The Gemara in Brachos tells the story of Rebbi Yosi who was on the road and went into one of the "Churvos" of Yerushalayim to daven. After he finished, Eliyahu HaNavi met him and rebuked him for davening in the Churban. He said, 'It would have been preferable to daven on the road a short davening.'

Eliyahu then asked Rebbi Yosi what he heard. Rebbi Yosi said he heard a voice saying, "Woe is to the children whose aveiros cause me to destroy the Bais HaMikdash and send them to exile." Eliyahu confirmed and added that when people go to Batei Kneisiyos and Batei Medrashos and answer, "Amein Yihei...," Hashem shakes His head kviyachol, and says, "Fortunate is the King Who people praise in His house;; woe is to the Father Who sends His children to exile."

Rav Elyashiv explains this gemara as follows:  "Hashem gave us a mitzva to build a Bais HaMikdash to let us express our love towards Him. Today we constantly daven for Hashem to rebuild the Bias HaMikdash and our Tefilos replace the Korbanos. As a test of our sincerity, Hashem gave us a Mikdash Mi'at in the form of Shuls."

Rebbi Yosi davened in a Shul that was an uncared for dump, thinking at least it was a Shul. Eliyahu disagreed and proved it by the voice Rebbi Yosi heard, "Woe is to the children who caused the destruction of Hashem's house."

"However," said Eliyahu, "when you daven in a well kept Shul worthy of being called a Mikdash Mi'at, Hashem says, 'Fortunate is the King!', and ends in the sympathetic and merciful tone for the Father Who must send His children to Galus. May He return us bimheira biyameinu amein!

Mon, 20 Feb 2012 03:00:00 +0000
Parshas Mishpatim Rav Itzele Volozhin - We Can All Be Answered Like Orphans & Widows

The pasuk tells us that when someone causes pain to an orphan or widow, Hashem will take matters into His own hand and will kill the opressor and leave his family without a father and husband. One might think that the reason is because they are downtrodden. While this is certainly a concept mentioned in the Torah and Chazal, that is not what the pasuk says here.

Rav Itzele Volozhin explains that when a person faces a difficulty, he naturally turns to his patron to help him, usually a father or husband. When the person does that Hashem stays out of the scene and leaves it to the person turned to for help to do so. Not so with widows and orphans who don't have a father figure to turn to. They cry out directly to Hashem, "Ki Im Tzaok Etzak Elai." (Mishpatim 22:22)  When someone cries to Hashem, how can our compassionate King not answer their prayers?

The lesson is that we should be smart, and as soon as we need something, Hashem should be our first port of call and not a last resort when all else fails.

Thu, 16 Feb 2012 03:00:00 +0000
Parshas Mishpatim: Kli Yakar - Collateral Damage of Hurting Orphans

The pasuk commands us (Mishpatim 22:21-23)not to cause pain to widows and orphans. "Im Anoi Si'aneh Osoi Ki Im Tza'oik YYitz'ak Eilai Shamoi'a Eshma Tzakasoi; Those who cause him pain," says the pasuk, "Hashem will make their wives, widows, and their children, orphans."

There are two questions here. First the language seems inconsistent. The first pasuk warns about both widows and orphans and the third pasuk talks about making the oppressor's wife a widow and his children, orphans. However the middle pasuk speaks only in the singular, if you cause "him" pain. What happened to the pain of the widow?

The Kli Yakar answers that the middle pasuk uses double terms "Anoi Si'aneh Tza'oik Yitz'ak," and, "Shamoi'a Eshma.". When you cause trouble for an orphan, the mother feels tremendous pain as she is forced to sit idly by without the power to help since her son who has no father to protect him. The pasuk refers openly to the pain caused to the orphan, yet refers indirectly to the pain caused to the mother, the collateral damage of this grave sin. They are both pained, they both cry out, and they are both heard by Hashem. And for this single act of cruelty, the perpetrator's wife and children will both suffer.

Tue, 14 Feb 2012 03:00:00 +0000
Parshas Mishpatim: Kotzker Rebbe - Holy Humans!

The pasuk says (Mishpatim 22:30), "V'Anshei Kodesh Tihiyun Li; You should be holy people to me." The Kotzker commented that the Kedusha should be with human tactics. What did he mean?

The Sfas Emes explains that the Kotzker meant that we should not try to act like Malachim removed from all our human-ess. Hashem has many Malachim in Shamayim and does not need more.

He created man for humans to undergo the human experience and still remain pure and holy. Hashem wants us to act normal and do normal things and all at the same time reach a high level of kedusha, without sullying ourselves along the way. That is the point of the creation of man.

Mon, 13 Feb 2012 03:00:00 +0000
Parshas Yisro: Rav Moshe Shternbuch - Lo Sachmod, Is It Doable?

The Ibn Ezra asks how can the Torah command a human not to "want" something his friend has. The Bais HaLevi wonders what the question is, since with a little Yiras Shamayim no one would desire his friend's property. The Chinuch also says that a person is expected to control his desires.

Rav Moshe Shternbuch (Taam VaDaas) says that according to the Chinuch both the first of the Aseres HaDibros, believing in Hashem and last, Lo Sachmod, both are mitzvos of the heart. The Aseres HaDibros are linked one to the other. It all starts with Emunah. Once you believe that Hashem controls the world and every detail of your life, at the end you can come to the level where you won't even desire your friend's lot. Without Emunah you cannot get anywhere. With it you can go far beyond what an ordinary human can achieve.

Wed, 08 Feb 2012 03:00:00 +0000
Parshas Vayeishev: Ponevezher Rov - Reuven the Hero, Yehuda the Fall Guy

Both Reuven and Yehuda spared Yosef from death. First Reuven suggested that rather than killing Yosef and throwing his body in a pit, they throw him in and leave it to Hashem to kill him. Later, when he was in the pit and sure to die a painful death, Yehuda suggests they spare his life and sell him to the passing caravan. Reuven was considered a hero, while Yehuda is singled out from the rest of the brothers, who didn't show any second thoughts about killing Yosef, and blamed for Yosef's plight. Why?

The Lisitcha Elyon brings from the Ponevezher Rov that there was a big difference between what Yehuda did and what Reuven did. "Reuven," says the pasuk, "saved Yosef, LiHashivo El Aviv, to return him to his father, so that he can continue to learn Torah and thrive at his father's side. Yehuda had no grand ambitions for Yosef other than to spare his life. Yehuda's idea of salvation was to sell him as a slave to Mitzrayim which was the most promiscuous society at the time. Yehuda may have saved Yosef's physical life, but he more than buried any spiritual life that Yosef had in him. This is not called salvation. This is murder."

With understanding, the Ponovezher Rov explains the enigmatic Medrash in Shir HaShirim which says, "HaDudaim Nasnu Reich Zeh Maaseh Reuven; Reuven's saving of Yosef is like frangrant flowers."

"V'Al Pisacheinu Kol Megadim Zeh Ner Chanukah; On our doorstep are delicacies," this is Ner Chanukah. What is the connection between the two? He explains that just like Reuven's saving of Yosef was a salvation of his spiritual life, so, too, Chanukah was a salvation of Bnei Yisrael's spiritual existence, as the Yevanim did not aim to kill us, but rather obliterate our religious practice.

Mon, 12 Dec 2011 03:00:00 +0000
Parshas Toldos: Reb Yeruchom - The Price Avrohom Was Willing To Pay To Avoid Eisav

Chazal tell us (Rashi Toldos 25:28) that the lentils Yaakov was cooking was because Avrohom had died. Although Avrohom was supposed to live 180 years, he life was cut short by five years so that he would not have to see his grandson Eisav's wicked ways.

Five years! When the Rosh Yeshiva of Radin the beloved Rav Naftali Trop was gravely ill, they held an appeal for people to donate part of their lives to extend the life of Rav Naftali. The boys donated years to save the Rosh Yeshiva. One person was sent in to the saintly Chofetz Chaim and asked him if, and how much he'd be willing to donate. The Chofetz Chaim said he would need to think about it. Later he called the person back and said that after deep thought he was willing to donate five minutes! By the Chofetz Chaim five minutes was eternity times 300. Yet, he was willing to part with it, for Reb Naftali, after serious contemplation.

Reb Yeruchom points out that a tzaddik's avodah becomes more and more precious with each passing day. The avodah of Avrohom at 175 years old, after everything he had gone through, was unimaginable. He could have soared to new heights in those five years. Yet, Hashem did him a great "favor" by taking away this opportunity in order not to see Eisav. This gives a small bit of insight into the depth of pain of watching a grandchild go off and certainly a child!

Fri, 25 Nov 2011 03:00:00 +0000
Parshas Toldos: Reb Yeruchom - Eisav Was No Ordinary Bum

The Kotzker Rebbe said that if Eisav were to walk into the room and we didn't know who he was, we'd think he was the Gadol HaDor. The L'Sitcha Elyon brings other interesting Mekoros to this idea. Reb Yeruchom of the Mir says that Eisav must have had some incredible qualities, for his father to have loved him. "Chalila for us to think Yitzchok erred."

The Vilna Gaon writes in a Chad Gadya in the Hagaddah that had Eisav received the Brachos the Shevatim would have come from him. The Seforim HaKedoshim say that Eisav's head was buried in Meoras HaMachpela because intellectually he was a great man. The Chida goes as far as saying that Eisav's mind was one thousand times greater than Yaakov's!

Reb Yeruchom says Eisav's downfall was that he felt his place was in the field rather than in Yeshiva. They both spent time in the field and in Yeshiva, but when Eisav was in Yeshiva his mind was in the field and Yaakov was the opposite. "This attitude," says, Reb Yeruchom, "is the fine defining line between the greatest Rasha and the Avos HaKedoshim."

Mon, 21 Nov 2011 03:00:00 +0000
Parshas Vayeira: Rav Gedalia Eisman - Chesed, Avrohom Style

Avrohom Avinu was the greatest Ba'al Chesed to ever live. His life was a continuous song of Chesed to others. Yet, in the Torah we find one event singled out as the epitome of his Chesed: that of serving the three guests on the third day after his Mila. The Baalei Mussar all try to find the single factor in this event that made it so monumental that it was recorded so famously above all the others.

Rav Gedalia Eisman (see U'Lisitcha Elyon) the Mashgiach of Kol Torah says that after the old and weak Avrohom came to greet the "guests" and made his generous offer, they brazenly answered (Vayeira 18:5) "Kein Taaseh Ka'asher Dibarta." They didn't graciously accept the offer, but, rather, commanded Avrohom to do exactly as he promised.

Everyone gets a geshmack out of helping others from the goodness of his own heart. But if instead of appreciation and recognition for his good deed, the recipient turns around and demands to be served, the bubble is burst and all excitement over performing the chesed dissipates and even turns sour. Pangs of anger well up inside of us as a natural response to the insolence of the person we wanted to help.

Not so Avrohom Avinu whose response to this arrogant answer was, "Vayimaher Avrohom HaOhela El Sarah."  Avrohom did not care about the atittude of the recipient, only about helping him with his needs. It made no difference if the recipient was gracious or obnoxious. On the contrary, if the recipient demanded of Avrohom, that was a clear sign to him that the recipient was in dire need and should be helped faster and harder.

Avrohom, the symbol of Chesed's response to the Malachim's demand, was to run to fulfill this demand. That is the path Avrohom set forth for us, and that is the ideal we should each strive for when it comes to Chesed.

Mon, 07 Nov 2011 03:00:00 +0000
Parshas Ki Savo: Ben Ish Chai - Hashem Can Solve The Greatest Business Conundrum

After the harvest, when the farmer davens for business success he stands before a great dilemma. Should he ask Hashem for rain or not. On one hand, he now has a storehouse full of grain that will become spoiled from the moisture. Moreover, he does not want the abundant rain to promote growth and flood the market with rich produce, driving down the price he can get for his crop. On the other hand, he still has a field which needs the rain for his next crop. What should he ask for?

The Ben Ish Chai says that these are human quandaries. Hashem is not bound by this double edge sword and can bestow blessing on a person from multiple angles that even contradict each other. We see this from the Bracha in the Torah (Ki Savo 28:3), where Hashem promises us, "Boruch Ata Ba'Ir Boruch Ata BaSadeh." Blessed are you both in the city where you hold your goods and want to sell it for a high price and don't want rain, as well as the field where you are eager for plentiful rain so that your field can flourish. Leave it to Hashem, and He will work out the details!

Mon, 12 Sep 2011 03:00:00 +0000
Parshas Ki Seitzei: Rav Chaim Kanievsky on the Treatment of Animals

The Torah writes the parsha of Malkos right next to the parsha of not muzzling your animal while it works. Chazal learn from here halachos of when to give Malkos. "Yet, on a very simple level," says Rav Chaim Kanievksy, "there is a valuable lesson to be learned here.

When it comes to giving Malkos, Bais Din must be very careful not to give more Malkos than he deserves. Similarly, even though animals were made to benefit mankind, and it is permissible to use an animal to do hard work, nevertheless it is forbidden to cause him one drop more of pain than necessary."

Thu, 08 Sep 2011 03:00:00 +0000
Parshas Shoftim: Rav Simcha Bunim of Pshischa and the Kotzker Rebbe on Chasing Tzedek

"Tzedek Tzedek Tirdof," (Shoftim 16:20). Why does the Torah write the word Tzedek twice? The Pninim UParparaos brings from Rav Simcha Bunim of Pshischa that the Torah is teaching us that to chase after Tzedek you must do so with Tzedek. Often we pursue righteousness with bad intentions, or we even chase pure righteousness but using improper methods, thinking that the ends will justify the means. Not so says the Torah. Tzedek is a process that must be pure from start to finish and not filled with corruption along the way.

The Kotzker Rebbe take a different approach and says that sometimes the Yetzer Hara tricks us by deluding us into being too overzealous in our righteousness. The Torah warns us to take measured steps and use our head. When we start chasing Tzedek Tzedek, an extreme excess, we need to run away as it is merely the ploy of our foe, the Yetzer Hara, dressed in a cloak of righteousness.

Thu, 01 Sep 2011 03:00:00 +0000
Parshas Devarim: Rav Shimshon Pincus - A Nation of Mirrors

"Ki Hi Chochmaschem U'Binaschem L'Eini HaAmim," (Devarim 4:6). This is the mitzva of calculating the calendar based on the moon. Rashi explains that if we do it correctly, the nations will consider us wise. If we make mistakes they will consider us fools. Why is it so critical  how we appear in the eyes of the world?

Rav Shimshon Pincus answers that the nations are compared to the sun which inherently gives off rays of light. Each nation has a dominant strength or ray of light that characterizes its people. Bnei Yisrael, however, is compared to the moon. The moon does not generate any of its own light and only reflects the light of the sun.

Rav Shmishon tells a mashal about a home with many different things in it. It has a table that has a specific function. Similarly, a bed, chair, spoon, and fork all have specific functions. A mirror, however, has nothing. Yet, it can look beautiful by reflecting the right things, or bare if it is dark and reflects only the darkness.

Bnei Yisrael only shine when we reflect the light of Hashem. If we keep the Torah, we will reflect a brilliant light and be respected by the nations. However, if we choose the path of darkness, we will be totally void of any light and be considered to be fools living in the dark by the nations of the world.

Thu, 04 Aug 2011 03:00:00 +0000
Parshas Masei: Rav Moshe Feinstein - Flattering the Earth with Murder

"Ki HaDam Hu Yachanif Es HaAretz" (Masei 35:33). The Torah tells us that murder is "chanifa" for the land. Chanifa usually means flattery. "How," asks Rav Moshe Feinstein, "is murder flattery for the land?"

He answers that murder is not accepted by any society. However, the reason for this varies greatly from the Torah's reasoning. Murder is outlawed because it would destroy civilization. The Mishna in Pirkei Avos says that we must thank the rule of law, for without proper policing, each man would swallow his neighbor.

There are some ramifications for this approach. For example, murder is condoned and even lauded if it will make the world a better place. This is the justification for horrific wars. On the other hand, there is little respect for "Chayei Sha'a" the life of someone terminally ill or doomed to die. Similarly, the lives of elderly people are not as important, as they have already finished contributing to society. Not so the Torah, which values the essence of life itself, not withstanding the person's value to civilization.

Someone can only murder after reaching the conclusion that the world needs to, for whatever reason, rid itself of his victim. This is in essence saying that man is only here to serve the world, instead of vice versa. Murder is the ultimate flattery of the world. Hashem tells us, "Do not murder, and do not flatter the world."  Human life is what should be respected and flattered.  Value the elderly and infirm, and respect even a few sacred moments of life.

Thu, 28 Jul 2011 03:00:00 +0000
Parshas Balak: Vilna Gaon - Saved By The Pot

"Hein Am L'Vadad Yishkon; They are a nation that resides in isolation," (Balak 23:9). The Vilna Gaon explains that Bnei Yisrael is likened to fire, "Bais Yaakov Eish," (Ovadia 1:18). The other nations are like water that try to extinguish us. However, as the pasuk says (Shir HaShirim 8:7), "Mayim Rabim Lo Yuchlu Lchabos Es HaAhava; The great waters of the world will never extinguish us and the love between us and Hashem."

When there is a pot separating the water from the fire, the water will eventually dry up in the pot. However, if the water is poured directly on the fire it may extinguish it. The only safety for the fire is the pot that protects it. The Gemara says (Brachos 56b) that seeing a pot in a dream is a forbearing of peace. The pot is the great peacemaker between the fire and water.

This was Bilam's message, "Hen Am L'Vadad Yishkon." As long as this nation lives alone and does not mixed with the nations of the world, they will successfully repel and overcome their enemies. If the barriers are broken, the waters may drown us.

Wed, 06 Jul 2011 03:00:00 +0000
Parshas Korach: Vilna Gaon - A Good Machlokes Doesn't Disappears

The Mishna in Pirkei Avos (5:17) says that a machlokes like Hillel and Shammai that is L'Shem Shamayim is Sofo Lihiskayem and will last, while a machlokes that is not L'Shem Shamayim like Korach, Ein Sofo Lihiskayem, will not last. Shouldn't a machlokes L'Shem Shamayim eventually resolve itself, while one based on ulterior motives should carry on indefinitely?

The Vilna Gaon explains that a machlokes rooted in hidden agendas and ulterior motives will change like a chameleon. As the argument carries on, it will grow and spread and no one will remember how or why it started. Whatever ignited it was not substantial, but only opportunistic and insignificant. Other times, a machlokes becomes personal and takes on a life of its own and people forget why they started fighting in the first place, so the original machlokes is not Miskayem.

However, if a machlokes is L'Shem Shamayim, there is nothing hidden and nothing personal. The only point of contention is and will always remain the disputed issue and will continue to be fought with clarity and integrity.

Thu, 23 Jun 2011 03:00:00 +0000
Parshas Korach: Rav Elyashiv - Korach Connects With The Masses

The Medrash tells us that there were three Nevi'im in the time leading up to the Churban HaBayis, Yirmiya who spoke in the marketplace, Tzefania who spoke in Shuls, and Chulda who spoke to the women.

Why did they need three Nevi'im? Rav Elyashiv explains that if they would have invited everyone to come hear the nevuah they'd be standing there without an audience. The Nevi'im needed to go out to the people and each one had their own target venue.

"Yet, on the other hand," points out Rav Elyashiv, "when Korach spoke, 'Yayakhel Aleihem Korach Es Kol HaEidah; Korach snapped his fingers and they all came running: men women, and children."

The sad testament here is that when it comes to hearing the Dvar Hashem no one will come. The message needs to be taken to the people, each one with their own twist. Yet, when it comes to bashing Torah, one size fits all, and the crowds you can amass without going anywhere are standing room only.

Sun, 19 Jun 2011 03:00:00 +0000
Parshas Naso: Chasam Sofer - The Crime Of Fasting

A Nazir Tamei, before he starts his Nazirus again brings three korbanos, one of them being a Chatos. The (Nedarim 10) Gemara asks, "What did this holy Yid do wrong?"  The Gemara says that a Nazir is called a Chotei because he refrains from drinking wine. "From here," says the Gemara, "we learn that HaYoshev BaTaanis, someone who undertakes fasting when not required to by Halacha, is also called a Chotei. Why?

The Chasam Sofer says that the whole point of a fast is to remove yourself from the indulgences of Olam HaZeh and to become inspired to do Tshuva. A person must commit to change during the course of the fast or else he has gained nothing.

People are classified in two ways either as Holchim, moving up and bettering themselves on a constant basis, or Yoshvim remaining in your place in life and not elevating yourself towards Shamayim. The Chasam Sofer explains that HaYoshev BaTaanis, someone who undertakes a fast but remains a Yoshev and does not contemplate his life during the fast, has not gained anything by his fast except weakening his body. For that, he is called a Chotei. However, if someone uses the Taanis which weakens his body to better his neshama, he is Holeich and surely not a Chotei.

Thu, 02 Jun 2011 03:00:00 +0000
Parshas Behar: Ben Ish Chai - Har Sinai & Shmitta, Where Less Is More

Parshas Behar starts by saying that on Har Sinai Hashem told us the mitzva of Shmitta. Rashi famously asks, "What is the connection between the two?" Rashi explains that just like Shmitta was given on Har Sinai, so, too, were all the mitzvos in great detail. Yet, the question remains, why choose Shmitta out of all the mitzvos to teach us this lesson?

The Ben Ish Chai answers that Har Sinai and Shmitta have something in common. They were both in a bad position, but this was precisely the reason for their success. Har Sinai was not even a candidate for Kabolas HaTorah, as it was way to small and plain. However, in this merit, it was chosen. Similarly, Shmitta is a disastrous year agriculturally, but precisely because of this Hashem blesses the land with incredible abundance as a reward.

This connection is not only the similarity between the two, but a lesson for all mitzvos. We need not fear the perceived loss from doing any mitzvos, be it the extra cost of money or time required by the mitzva. In every mitzva, it is this sacrifice that will sow the seeds of reward.

Thu, 12 May 2011 03:00:00 +0000
Parshas Behar: Alexander Rebbe - The Crime Of Appearing Religious

One time a Yid came to the Alexander Rebbe. This Yid who was not a particularly good person and took mitzvos very lightly, but always showed himself to be a very pious Jew. The pasuk says (Behar 25:17), "V'lo Sonu Ish Es Amiso V'Yareisa Meilokecha; Do not pain or trick your friend and be fearful of Hashem." Why does it says to be fearful of Hashem by this particular mitzva?

The Rebbe said to this person that V'Yareisa Meilokecha teaches us that not only tricking your friend monrtarily or insulting him is assur, but even when it comes to giving an appearance of being a Yiras Shamayim, the pasuk says that it is assur to try and trick others. (Yagdil Torah)

Tue, 10 May 2011 03:00:00 +0000
Parshas Acharei Mos: Avnei Neizer - Dying For The Wrong Cause

The Torah tells us that if we shecht a Korban outside the Bais HaMikdash, "Dam Yeichasheiv LaIsh HaHu Dam Shafach," it is considered like he murdered someone (Acharei Mos 17:4). Why is it considered like murder?

The Iturei Torah in the name of the Avnei Neizer explains that bringing a korban is like sacrificing our own selves. Korbanos are an act of Mesirus Nefesh. Sometimes a person is willing to die for a cause he believes in, albeit erroneously. That is Mesiras Nefesh in the wrong place.

The Torah teaches us that Mesiras Nefesh for a cause outside of the Bais HaMikdash, outside of the framework of authentic Daas Torah, is not a noble act, it is plain murder. You have spilled your blood and not only will you not be rewarded, but you are considered a hot blooded murderer.

Fri, 15 Apr 2011 03:00:00 +0000
Parshas Mitzora: Rav Moshe Feinstein - Because We Don't Know As Much As We Think

"V'tziva HaKohen V'Lakach LaMitaher; The Kohen commands the one who is becoming Tahor." (Mitzora 14:4)  Rav Moshe Feinstein says that it seems from here that the Mitaher must be commanded each step of the process by the Kohen. "Where do we find such a thing," asks Rav Moshe, "where the Torah specifically includes in the process that the person be told by someone else to do something?"

Rav Moshe answers that there are certain mitzvos whose exact details are perceived by people to be outside the realm of dictated halacha and are left to a person's logical discretion. In those cases, the person acts on his own feelings and not the dictates of the Torah. For example, when giving tzedaka people feel it is their right to use their own judgement, even though there are halachos as to where your tzedaka should go. Similarly, parenting is something that people do without consulting halacha and use their own "good sense".

One of the reasons for Tzoraas is not lending your possessions to others. This is because a person feels that lending is at his own discretion. As part of his tikun, the Torah teaches him that he cannot make a single move that is not firmly rooted in halacha. Therefore, when going through the tahara process, he has a Kohen alongside of him guiding him on his every move.

Thu, 07 Apr 2011 03:00:00 +0000
Parshas Ki Sisa: Chait HaEigel - Was Moshe Not Getting It?

While Moshe was in Shamayim, Hashem tells Moshe to go down because Bnei Yisrael did a terrible Chait and made the Eigel. Moshe, on the spot, davened to Hashem to forgive them. Then Moshe takes the Luchos down, meets Yehoshua, and together they try to discern the noises coming from the camp. When they approach the camp Moshe sees what's going on, becomes furious, and breaks the Luchos. Didn't he know all this before when he davened to Hashem to forgive them? Why now did he get angry and break the Luchos?

The Baalei Mussar explain that humans can err. As soon as Moshe heard about the Eigel from Hashem, he understood they made a tragic mistake which could cost them their existence. There were circumstances to explain it, and Moshe begged for Rachmanus.

When Moshe approached the camp and appeared with the Luchos, he expected everybody to realize their grave error, since he was alive and well and had the Luchos with him. They can then throw away the Eigel and return. Their utter shame would serve as a kapara. He expected as he approached to hear sounds of wailing and sadness. But, this is not what he heard and not what he saw. The people were so busy dancing and singing with their new golden eigel, that they didn't even notice him, and he couldn't get their attention. They simply weren't interested. No shame, no regret? This was an unforgiveable sin, and for that Moshe broke the Luchos?

Tue, 15 Feb 2011 03:00:00 +0000