Revach L'Neshama RSS feed for - Section: AVODAH Category:48 KINYANEI TORAH Copyright 2007, Revach L'Neshama en-US Revach L'Neshama Logo 144 31 Sat, 27 Nov 2021 03:00:00 +0000 240 Kinyan 41 Misyashev Libo B'Talmudo - Between The Vilna Gaon & Rav Zemele Volozhin The story is told that once Rav Chaim Volozhin, after extolling the greatness of his brother Rav Zemele Volozhin a talmid of the Vilna Gaon, was asked what is the difference between the Torah knowledge of his great Rebbi the Vilna Gaon and that of his brother . He said we all know Ashrei by heart, but can we say it backwards? Do you know the word before the pasuk that starts "Tov Hashem"? This would need to be figured out by starting from the pasuk before until you reach the last word. Not so with the Vilna Gaon. He saw the whole Shas before his eyes and can tell you anything. It was like reading from an open book that is in one's mind.

It is not enough to go through Shas or even learn it. It must be in your bloodstream and your bones. All concepts in the gemara are unfamiliar to us even after learning it. They need to become second nature. You need to learn it until you know it inside out. In order to gain a grasp of one's learning one must understand the rationale that hides behind the simple meaning of what we are learning. The Amora Shmuel said (Brachos 58b) "Nehirin Li Shvilin D'Shmaya K'Shvili D'Naharda'a", the pathways of the sky are clear to me like the streets of my hometown. That is how familiar we must become with the avenues and alley ways of Shas.

How is this done? Borrowing an idea that the Kotzker Rebbe said about Yiras Shamayim we can see this in the pasuk in 'V'Haya Im Shamo'a' that says, 'V'Samtem Es Divarai Eileh Al L'vavchem', it doesn't say to put torah in your heart rather to place it on your heart. Our hearts are hardened and closed to us from all the abuse. What we can do, is take torah that we have learnt and put it on our hearts. Then one day when our heart opens, however momentarily, it will all fall right in. We need to keep on learning and reviewing. Then suddenly one day in a Sha'as HaKosher the gates will open up and you will deeply absorb all the torah you have toiled to know for years.

Mon, 10 May 2010 03:00:00 +0000
Kinyan 40 Ma'amido Al HaSholom - Why Do Jews Always Fight? The Rov of a Shul I davened in once asked the famous question, "Why do Jews always fight?"  "Do you know why", he thundered, "because they care".  Much of the world really deeply cares about very little outside their personal space.  Does anyone really, really care about who is a better player or even the whales or the rain forests?  Who are we fooling?  Even fights about religion and politics usually boils down to money, the one thing that people people really do care about.

Considering this, it would stand to reason that the closer you get to kedusha the more heated and passionate the fights and arguments become.  If we, who only mildly care about things that are only peripheral to the real issues, argue incessantly, what about those involved in real torah battles.  And surely those who lead the generation and are responsible for the continued viability of Am Yisroel and the mesora of the torah to the next generation are even more vehement and passionate.  You are talking about kind and compassionate tzaddikim with sterling character traits, transforming into roaring angry lions!

When it comes to Torah, the gemara tells us (Kedushin 30b) that  a Rebbi and his closest talmid  or even a father and his son, draw their swords and become "Oivim BaShaar", enemies at the gate (Tehilim 127:5).  They fight for the truth.  There is no room for compromise since it is not their personal battle to concede to anything but the truth.  Is this a contradiction to Sholom?  Hashem Elokeichem Emes, Hashem is the perfect truth with no compromise.  Yet we know that Hashem's name is Sholom.

As long as all our "Jewish fighting" is L'Shem Shamayim, peace will ultimately reign supreme.  We may not agree at the end and the differences will not be resolved but the gemara does tell us "Es Vaheiv Basufa" at the end there will be love and respect (Chukas 21:14).   Eilu V'Eilu Divrei Elokim Chaim" and  Kiddush Shem Shamayim and torah will fill the world.

Sun, 09 May 2010 03:00:00 +0000
Kinyan 39 Ma'amido Al HaEmes - The Alter Of Kelm & HaGaon HaTzadik HaGadol HaAmiti The Ali Be'er brings under Ma'amido Al HaEmes a fascinating letter from the Alter of Kelm regarding titles.  In response to a letter written to him, the Alter, Rav Simcha Zissel Broide writes that if you happen to write me again please don't make a joke of me with titles that are far beyond my true qualities.  He goes on to say that it is not an honor, but rather an insult to him, and he is of the opinion that titles are entirely superfluous.  Even the mere title "Rav" is not befitting for him.

Furthermore he says that titles can cause great destruction.  While among the people writing these titles, they may understand that they are honorary titles and may not take them seriously, the average outsider will think that the recipient of the title is really worthy of it.  He will then place great credence in his words and deeds, when they are unfit to be heeded because of his low level.  He may even be a bad person and this enhanced credibility gives him license to lead and destroy.

The Ali Be'er also brings that Rav Elchonon Wasserman points out that Rashi in Beitza (33) says that he heard something from Rav Shmuel "HeMechuna" (who is referred to as) Chasid, the pious one.  Rav Elchonon asks why does Rashi, who measures his every word so carefully, use this extra language.  He answers that exaggerating someone's attributes can cause him great damage and can be Lashon Hara.  Since Rashi may not have known Rav Shmuel personally he would not call him Chasid.  He tells us what the world says.

In learning, puffery and exaggeration can lead to all sort of Mich'sholim and misinterpretations causing great harm.  To be koneh torah, everything needs to be put things in their exact perspective.

Sat, 08 May 2010 03:00:00 +0000
Kinyan 38 Machri'o L'Kaf Zechus - Rochel Knew Rebbi Akiva Would Succeed Why would Rochel choose to marry Rebbi Akiva?  Was there no more suitable match for her?  Did she need to choose an Am Ha'Aretz?  The answer we all know is that Rochel's criteria for her chassan was based  purely on his  potential and she did not a find a single eligible man with qualities suited for Kinyan HaTorah more than Rebbi Akiva.

The gemara in Shabbos (127b) talks about the mitzva of Dan L'Kaf Zechus.  It tells the story of a worker who worked far away from his family.  After three years, on Erev Yom Kippur he told his wealthy boss that he wants to return home and he'd like to be paid for his services.  He boss told him that he had no money to pay him.  The worker knew very well that his employer possesed incredible wealth but nevertheless he went home empty handed and sad, but without complaints.

After Yom Tov the employer showed up at the worker's doorstep with three donkey-loads of all sorts of fine things to compensate for the wages that he had owned.  He asked the employee, when I said I had no money what did you think?  "I thought you bought merchandise with your money".  And when I said I don't have any animals to give you, what did you think?  "That they were rented to others" answered the employee.  And so on and so forth, with each form of possible payment that the employer said no to, the employee responded that he didn't suspect trickery, only a valid excuse.  "You were correct in every assumptions, but today I have finally straightened out my finantial troubles. just as you judged me L'Kaf Zchus may Hashem judge you L'Kaf Zechus" said the employer

This employee was none other than   Rebbi Akiva, the sheperd who knew very little torah.  Rochel knew of Rabbi Akiva's middos and understood that he was poised to become the greatest Torah scholar ever.  These middos were those of a person whom Moshe Rabbeinu would ask Hashem, why do you not give the torah through him?  These were the  middos that were perfectly suited to kinyan hatorah.  All Rochel had to do was get him to the Bais Medrash which is far easier task than making a mentch!

Fri, 07 May 2010 03:00:00 +0000
Kinyan 37: Nosei B'Ol - The Sanzer Badchan Collapses In Pain One Purim in Sanz a member of the Kehilla got up on the Table in front of the Holy Rebbe, the Divrei Chaim, to perform his Purim Shpiel.  He began imitating the Rebbe's unique style of the way he read kvitlach.  Everybody had a good laugh enjoying the performance.  The Rebbe watched in amusement for a few minutes and then said, "if you are going to imitate me you should do it all the way."  The badchan suddenly collapsed writhing and screaming in agony.  Now that he did it "all the way", and the Rebbe helped him feel his intense pain that he felt every time he read a kvitel about a Yid's tzaros, the pain was deep and excruciating and made him literally collapse.

No one is in Tzaar in this world more than the Shechina HaKedosha.  The Shechina is said to be rolling in the dirt over its pain.  And which pain?  Our pain in the Galus, chased from the table of the King.  How ironic that the Shechina suffers our pain but we seem to be feeling just fine.  Seems to be that we are out of touch with the world around us and even ourselves.  Before we can grasp the pain of the Shechina we must learn to open our eyes.  We must see the pain of others around us.  Once we become less self centered and build our sensitivity, we can then reach the level of sharing the pain of the Shechina.  And when we share Her pain, surely She will share her Torah.

Thu, 06 May 2010 03:00:00 +0000
Kinyan 36 Eino Samei'ach B'Hora'a - Was Rebbi Akiva Eiger Good Enough?

We may not see it, but world events revolve around Torah and Kiyum HaMitzvos.  To pasken a Shaila is an incredible responsibility.  If you pasken incorrectly, the ramifications are immeasurable.  The gemara in Avoda Zara (19) says on the pasuk in Mishlei (7:26) "Ki Rabim Chalalim Hipila", many corpses have fallen, that this refers to a Talmid Chochom who paskens and is not worthy.  The ramifications of a wrong psak can kill not one but many.  But on the other hand continues the gemara, "VaAtzumim Kol Harugeha" massive are its murdered, this refers to a worthy posek who refuses to pasken.

Many of the greatest poskim were famously terrified of paskening halacha.  The Mishel HaAvos brings that none other than Rebbi Akiva Eiger writes that he is not worthy enough to pasken Halacha L'Ma'aseh.  Rav Tzvi Pesach Frank would only answer Shailos that he felt needed his personal attention.  Otherwise he would say that he doesn't need a Mitzva, "SheEfshar La'asos Al Yidei Acheirim" that can be done by others.  He would always quote the pasuk that says, "Asos Mishpat V'Ahavas Chesed".  Performing chesed is something you should love. Justice or psak, on the other hand is something that you are required to dispense when no other alternative exists. 

The gemara in Sanhedrin (7a) says that every Dayan must feel like a sword is between his legs and Gehinom is opened up below him.  One wrong move and you are finished.  This should make the Dayan think it over two ,three, four or as many times as he needs until he is completely sure.   If you think that  you know it all, you will not learn more.  If you are afraid to pasken and you challenge every psak from every angle, you will be koneh Torah that is Emes L'Amito.

Wed, 05 May 2010 03:00:00 +0000
Kinyan 35 Eino Meigis Libo B'Talmudo - The Ba'al HaTanya Is Humbled By The Magid The Ba'al HaTanya once asked a Magid to give him mussar.  The Magid was taken aback.  What can he say to the great Ba'al HaTanya who was great in Torah and Middos beyond reproach?  When he saw that he had no choice he told the Ba'al HaTanya as follows.  You may be the top of the generation in Torah knowledge and I am from the bottom.  However the difference between your knowledge and my knowledge is minuscule  compared to the difference between the torah that you know and the torah that there is to know (Cahim SheYesh Bahem).

The first thing a person must do is run away from kavod and honor that is  lavished on him from others.  The second thing a person must do is make a Cheshbon HaNefesh and realize how vast the torah is and how little of ones full potential he has achieved.  Even if you maximize your potential, which is virtually impossible since it means not one second of wasted time in your lifetime, you have nothing to be proud of, "Ki L'Kach Notzarta" for this you were created.  Surely,those who have wasted most of their potential have no reason to be proud.

We must realize that no matter how much we know, in truth, we know very little.  It is not enough to put on a humble face when we are in public.  We must be humble in our heart as well.  We must never be satisfied and forever yearn to learn more.  The torah is so vast.  The greatest of all men are lucky to  only scratch its surface.  Only with a hunger and passion to achieve our  true potential can we succeed B'ezrat hashem to be  koneh torah.

Tue, 04 May 2010 03:00:00 +0000
Kinyan 34 Misrachek Min HaKavod - The Steipler Gaon On The Parrots Of Hurdus The Ali Be'er says in the name of the Steipler Gaon that the famous Yonei Hadrisiyos that we find in Mishnayos were parrots.  Hurdus taught the parrots to chant Melech, Melech! every time he passed by.  Why?  Hurdus was really a slave to the Chashmano'im who usurped the power and became King.  Like every show off, his haughtiness was borne out of insecurity.  He needed to convince himself, more than anyone, that he was not a slave and he was king.

The gemara in in Bava Metzia (85b) says "Istira B'Ligina Kish Kish Karya", if you have just one coin in a pushka it makes a lot of noise.  The more one is lacking  admirable and respectable qualities the more noise one must  make to convince everybody that one is worthy of that admiration . A full pushka need not make noise and it doesn't because it's full.

The road to torah greatness is paved with humility.  You need to be able to seek the truth despite the humiliation.  You need to be able to utter the painful words "I don't know".  You need to learn to listen rather than talk.  You need to be humble to accept from people who have achieved less than you have .  If you have a great need for Kavod your are definitely in the wrong profession because you won't make it to the top.

Moshe Kibeil Torah MiSinai.  Rav Moshe Yechiel MiOzrov says, Moshe received the Torah by taking the route through Sinai.  The route of humility that Sinai taught so well.

Mon, 03 May 2010 03:00:00 +0000
Kinyan 33 Oheiv Es HaMeisharim - The Bais HaLevi Is Happy To Leave His SUV In The Driveway The Bais HaLevi once told a dazzling Chiddush during his Shiur in the hallowed halls of the Volozhin Yeshiva.  Afterwards one of his favorite talmidim went over to him and apologetically told him that he enjoyed the Shiur very much but out of Kavod for his Rebbi he wanted to inform him that he had seen the same "Chiddush" in one of the Rishonim.  

"Why do you need to apologize", asked the Bais HaLevi with a glowing smile?   "You just told me great news that gives me a great deal of satisfaction.  Think about it, he said.  If you go on a nice straight paved road you will bump into many people along the way.  Not so if you take a windy dirt road through the forest.  Then you are alone and won't meet a soul."

 A well thought out logical Svara is the product of many great minds.  If its yours alone, it is probably a thorny mess (Toras Chaim).  If you seek to dazzle others with adventurous tales, you'll take the forest route that is fraught with obstacles and you may not make it out alive.  To be koneh Torah you need to seek the truth, the straight path which is often a wide open public highway.

Sun, 02 May 2010 03:00:00 +0000
Kinyan 32 Oheiv Es HaTochacha - The Unpersonal Touch No one among us is audacious and conceited enough to really think that we don't make many mistakes.  It is not even something to be embarrassed out, as that is the nature of the human experience.  It is a challenge of trial by error.  Therefore without accepting rebuke we cannot grow.  So why do we get all huffy when someone criticizes us?  Our defense mechanism snaps into action and we go on the attack.   Him?!?  He is worse.  Who is he to talk?  

Simply put we don't like to hear it from others.  It hurts.  The gemara says in Eiruchin (16b) Rebbi Tarfon said, I wonder if there is anyone who knows how to listen to mussar in this generation.  Rebbi Elazar ben Azarya retorted, and I wonder if anyone in this generation knows how to give mussar.

One of the most valuable lessons anyone ever taught to me was delivered by the magid shiur in my Shul in his introduction to Pirkei Avos.  He said, "During the course of our weekly shiurim I will tell you many important things.  You may not like me, you may not like the way I speak, you may not even like my examples or the divrei torah that I use to deliver these messages, but put that all aside and listen to the message.  Hear it and digest it, and embellish it on your own to your own liking.   It is the underlying message that I am trying to get across so don't get caught up in all the window dressing.  We miss too many important messages because of trivialities."

This may be pshat in the Mishna, "Oheiv Es HaTochacha".  It doesn't say love the Mochiach or love receiving tochacha, only love the tochacha itself.  Don't examine the speaker, don't examine the tone or the implications of the person talking.  Ignore the all that and just listen carefully and hear the message.  Put it in your head and digest it as is applies to you.  Then you can draw your own conclusions.

Mussar need not even come from a person.  It can come from events, something you saw, or something you heard that makes you rethink your position.  You need to love mussar.  You need to constantly examine your actions against every stimulus that you see and hear.  You can even learn from nature, says Shlomo HaMelech.  His father Dovid even learned from the curses of his enemy Shimi ben Geira.  While everyone heard cursing, Dovid said, stop!  Do you hear the message? Listen carefully to the words and ignore Shimi.  It is a message to me and has nothing to do with him and his evil intentions.

Life is about growth.  Perfect people don't grow.  Growth is reserved for those who constantly survey their faults and are willing to make difficult and costly repairs.  The Torah is a classic mussar sefer from beginning to end.  As soon as you figure out that every word of it is talking to you, you will be koneh torah and become a living embodiment of Hashem's will.

Sat, 01 May 2010 03:00:00 +0000
Kinyan 30-31 Ahavas HaMakon - Ahavas HaBriyos, The Ultimate Convergence "Yisroel V'Oiraisa V'Kudisha Brich Hu Chad Hu", Yisroel, the Torah, and Hashem are all one.  The Ramban says that the Torah is entirely made up of the name of Hashem from beginning to the end.  We also know that the every Yid can find himself in the Torah.  Furthermore a Jew is a "Cheilek Elokai MiMa'al" a living in embodiment of the spirit of Hashem.  Klal Yisroel as a whole are one single entity with each of us only being a part of the whole.

Chazal doesn't says that these three entities are intertwined, it says that they are "one".  If we see things as they really are, then loving Hashem and loving a our fellow Jew are synonymous.  The vehicle for this convergence is the torah.  

The Torah was given to this Klal, says the Maharal MiPrague.  It was not given to individuals.  If you are an individual, you will not receive the torah.  When we grasp this concept and subjugate ourselves to the Klal, the breadth and depth of the torah will be open to us.

Thu, 29 Apr 2010 03:00:00 +0000
Kinyan 29 Ahuv - Loving Someone to Death? Without getting into stereotypes, most of us have someone in our lives that loves us dearly, maybe a bit too dearly.  Their overwhelming desire to do good things for us can drive us crazy.   As much as they love us, their desire to be helpful can sometimes have the opposite effect.

Rav Chaim Volozhin in Ruach Chaim says that it is not enough to love Hashem.  You must ask yourself, does Hashem love you?  Sure you love Hashem and run after His mitzvos, but did you ever ask yourself if he is enjoying your efforts?  

Do you think he likes when your Ahavas HaTorah is so great that you learn really loud in the Bais Medrash and disturb all the people around you?  How about when you park illegally to catch a Minyan because Hashem loves Tefila with the Tzibbur?  What about when someone ruins your plans to do a Chesed through no fault of their own and your temper erupts.  Which one of you do you think Hashem loves, and which one is annoying Him?

If you are an Ahuv, you will be Koneh Torah.  Make sure that you love Hashem and are loved by Hashem.  When deciding how to love Hashem ask yourself what is it that Hashem really loves?  It is probably not a fourth bowl of Chicken soup.

Wed, 28 Apr 2010 03:00:00 +0000
Kinyan 28 Eino Machzik Tova L'Atzmo - A Gift With Strings Attached A lot of knowledge in the wrong hands can be dangerous.  There are many ways to interpret the Torah and there are always Kulos and Chumros.  The Kotzker Rebbe explains (Mayanos HaNetzach 2:9) "Eino Machzik Tova L'Atzmo" to mean that a person shouldn't use the torah knowledge he has to live his life in the most convenient way, always finding the right Kula at the right time.  A person must learn to understand what the torah wants and conform to that, not vice versa.

The Tchebiner Rov explains this Chazal to mean that if a person knows a lot of torah he should not keep this precious gift to himself.  He must share it with others (Mishel HaAvos).  The Medrash Shmuel says it means that we should not pride ourselves in our great conquest of Torah.  It is not us, but rather the help of Hashem that enables us to learn and retain the torah.

No matter what the Pshat, the message is all the same.  The Torah is the most precious gift a human can receive.  We must understand the enormity of what we've received and do with it what the Giver wants us to do, since it is our connection to Shamayim.   If we think that it is our own, "Kochi V'Otzem (Atzmo) Yadi" and we tug to hard to pull it towards ourself, we will feel a huge pull from the other side.  Then we will watch it slip out of our grip right back to where it came from, leaving us stranded here on earth with no rope to hold on to.

Tue, 27 Apr 2010 03:00:00 +0000
Kinyan 27 Siyag L'Dvarav - Rav Amram's House Was On Fire, Is Yours? The gemara (Kedushin 81a) tells the story of the great and pious Rav Amram Chasida.  Captive women were redeemed and brought to the city of Naharda'a. They were taken to the house of Rav Amram the Chasid.  He put them in the attic and the heavy ladder was removed to assure that there was no way to ascend. As one of the women passed by the opening between the attic and the house, a light fell on the house, illuminating the face of one woman. Rav Amram alone seized the ladder, which ten men could not raise and proceeded to ascend. When he had gone half way up the ladder, he set firm his feet and cried out, "A fire at Rav Amram's house!" so that people would come to extinguish the fire, embarrassing himself and preventing any possible of sin.

The Baalei Mussar say that a Tzaddik is not someone who can laugh in the face of the Yetzer Hara.  That is a Malach.  They Yetzer Hara is far more powerful than we are.  It is not advisable to challenge him because you won't win.  Dovid HaMelech asked Hashem to challenge him and even he failed.  A tzaddik is someone who runs far away from the Yetzer Hara leaving a trail of barricades and obstacles behind him and then davens to Hashem that the Yetzer Hara shouldn't catch him.  Even the great Rav Amram who placed great barricades between him and sin, once seized by the Yetzer Hara, was basically powerless. 

The greatest mitzva a man can do is to learn Torah, every word so precious.  The Yetzer Hara will bring a hundred mitzvos your way as long as he can get you to stop learning.  He will give you superhuman strength to accomplish great things if you promise to close the gemara.

How do we fight him?  We create barriers.  We all open up a sefer in our house with great aspirations.  Does a minute go by without a distractions?  Mitzva opportunities?  Sholom Bayis demands?  "Shivti B'Vais Hashem Kol Yimei Chayai."  If Rav Amram had one fire in his house, we have dozens.  Run to the Bais Medrash our house of refuge.  Now you are a bit safer... but only if you leave your favorite communication device behind.  "Lachzos BiNoam Hashem", then we can focus on looking at the beauty of Hashem on every single daf.

Oseh Siyag L'Dvarav.  When you create a setting where you are far removed from temptation only then can you be Koneh Torah.


Mon, 26 Apr 2010 03:00:00 +0000
Kinyan 26 Samei'ach B'Chelko - Changing Our World One Daf At A Time The Chofetz Chaim said that when he was younger he wanted to change the world.  When he saw he wasn't getting anywhere he decided he will just change the people in his town.  Later he realized it would suffice him to change his own family.  At the end he finally came to the conclusion that he would be a great success if he could manage to change himself.  With this approach he did manage to change the world, forever!

Rav Yisroel Salanter was known to have said that every Yid wants to be a Talmid Chochom and know the entire Shas but... he wants to do it in one day and... on that day he wants to sleep eight hours.  

V'Sein Chelkeinu B'Sorasecha"  We daven to Hashem every day to give us our share of Torah.  Rav Chaim Volozhin says that Sameai'ach B'Chelko in this mishna refers to being happy with our portion of torah.  It means not being greedy and overly ambitious and trying to learn faster or more than you are capable of.  The Sha'agas Aryeh did not set out to be able to review the entire Shas in an hour, so neither should we.  

The Klausenberger Rebbe said that as a boy he was more successful than his friends in learning because they made big plans at the beginning of each Zman.  Upon hearing this the Yetzer Hara geared up for a big battle to stop them.  He merely hoped to learn well the next day.  The Yetzer Hara didn't bother with small fry like him.

The gemara says in Avoda Zara (19a), "V'kovetz Al Yad Yirbeh" Rashi says if you gather a little at a time you, you will amass a small fortune.  But if you try to grab too much in one bite, you will end up with nothing.

Just like the Chofetz Chaim, you can change your world if you chart a course that considers one small Daf at a time.  Then together or maybe even alone we will change the world.

Sun, 25 Apr 2010 03:00:00 +0000
Kinyan 25 HaMakir Es Mikomo - Resetting Your GPS I once had the special privilege of meeting with one of the gedolim of Eretz Yisroel whose name has not spread beyond the borders of Eretz Yisroel but the mere mention of his name inspires awe in the many people who know of him.  

After receiving his insight on a project I wanted to initiate, which he liked, I asked him if he would publicly back the project.  He adamantly declined, despite that we had some impressive signatures signed on already.  He told me that for some reason his stature has grown far beyond where he rightfully deserves to be placed and this was very bad for him.  He didn't want his name to show up in any other places that would perpetuate this "mistake", as he saw it.

HaMakir Es Mikomo means that a person knows his real stature.  Do you ever look yourself in the metaphorical mirror and ask yourself, "Who am I really?  Who am I trying to fool?"  No matter who you really are, your life will be far more productive, worthwhile, and gratifying if you live it as yourself and not as some character whose identity you've assumed.

From a geospatial perspective, the Medrash Shmuel says that Mikomo means that you know your real place is in Shamayim and you are only a visitor here on earth.  Surely with this perspective you will act and spend your time in a different manner than those who think this is "home".  

On an even more earthly level we can understand this to mean the place where you actually are physically present.  There are many activities that may not be aveiros and many places that are technically kosher to be in, but did you ever look around at the people you are with and ask yourself, "how can I, a child of Avrohom Yitzchok and Yaakov, be here with these people?  What in the world do we have in common that we should have shared interests and hobbies?"  Everyone knows that ultimately the place they can serve themselves and their creator best is in the Bais Medrash.  It is also the place to go if you want to be Koneh Torah.

Sat, 24 Apr 2010 03:00:00 +0000
Kinyan 24 Kabalas Yisurin - A Very Painful Good Bye The Medrash Shmuel points out that the Mishna does not say "Yisurin" but rather "Kabalas HaYisurin".  The latter meaning not pain that finds you, but rather pain that you have taken upon yourself.  Why take pain upon yourself, what is the point?

A person is controlled on one hand by his earthly desires for pleasure and also by his Neshama's intellectual quest to strive higher.  The body however is a much closer friend by virtue of precedence from birth, home field advantage here on earth, and the fact that it always makes its presence felt.  To develop a closeness with our intellectual and spiritual side we need to separate from the entanglement with earthly pleasure to even begin to sense our other side.

The Gemara Brachos (8a) says that a painful departure for the neshama at the time of death is like pulling thorns out of wool.  Since they are entangled it will tear up the wool when trying to separate.  Misas Neshika is like taking a piece of hair out of milk.  It is easy to separate and remove. The Tzel HaKesef explains that if we have soiled our neshamos with a desire for mundane pleasure and it has become intertwined with our physical side, when it is time for it to go back to Shamayim it will do so reluctantly, and the process of separation will cause all sorts of damage.  But if our Neshamos have been kept pristine and is always seeking ruchniyus, when it gets the call on that fateful day, it will fly up happily and easily.

Learning torah requires us to pull ourselves away from many activities that are screaming for our attention.  It requires us to forego inappropriate conversations and relationships with people who will stymie our torah growth.  It requires us to force our head to remain in the gemara rather than the literature across the table.  It requires keeping our body in its seat in Bais Medrash rather than a hundred other places it would rather be.  It requires us to say no and separate many times every day, from our nearest and dearest friend.  How painful!  But if we can bear this gruesome pain we will one day become talmidei chachomim.  And pave the way for a quick and painless flight back home.

Fri, 23 Apr 2010 03:00:00 +0000
Kinyan 23 Emunas Chachomim - Rebbi Akiva Eiger Says To Listen To The Segulos Of Rav Eliyahu Gutmacher Rav Eliyahu Gutmacher, one of the great Poskei HaDor and one of the main talmidim of Rebbi Akiva Eiger, had a son who wrote a Peirush on Maseches Kanim called Kan Mifureshes.  In an introduction he said about his son's sefer that when someone is sick he should learn the Sefer and he will be cured from his illness.  Apparently there was skepticism abound and Rebbi Akiva Eiger himself declared that since everybody relies upon Rav Eliyahu for psak halacha they can rely on his segulos as well.

Fast forward 250 years and we find our society challenged by the exact opposite problem.  We hang on life on every syllable that our tzaddikim utter regarding for segulos and business advice but not on their psak halacha or their views on Halichos HaChaim.

Sure everything is in the Torah and a true tzaddik know what is best from his learning.  But Am Yisroel was built by Hashem in a way that our existence over thousands of years is dependent on the Mesora.  The Mesora is the Mesora of the Torah from generation to generation with all the halachos and Hanhagos for a Yirei Shamayim.  Business sectors and economies come and go but Torah is our life blood.  The Mesora is given over to the keeper of the flame, the tzadikim.  

We need to listen to our gedolim and their views and opinions how to live by the Torah.  That is what they are here for.  Without them, not one word or even letter of the Torah makes any sense to us.  And at no time can we say we've learned enough that we can decide for ourselves and we know better than they do.  Especially since we don't even know how to choose our next investment or medical treatment.

Thu, 22 Apr 2010 03:00:00 +0000
Kinyan 22 Lev Tov - Rav Yitzchok Elchonon Spector's Golden Heart Saves The Agunos The mishna says you be Koneh Torah with a Lev Tov, a good heart.  The Maharal MiPrague writes in Derech HaChaim that the Torah is called Tov as in "Ki Lekach Tov".  How could the torah which is Tov stay in a person who is not Tov and doesn't have a Lev Tov where the Torah primarily resides.

The Mishel HaAvos says that in a Hesped for the Minchas Yitzchok, Rav Sheinberg spoke about the niftar's tshuvos about freeing Agunos in the years after the Holocaust.  He also spoke about Rav Yitzchok Elchonon Spector and told the story of one of the latter's tshuvos where a woman who had been an aguna for many years came crying to Rav Yitzchok Elchonon but after much effort Rav Yitzchok Elchonon failed to find a heter to release her from her plight.  Upon hearing this the woman broke down and cried bitter tears.  Rav Yitzchok Elchonon writes in the tshuva that out of Rachmanus he then delved into the halacha with even more effort and determination and ended up writing an eight page tshuva filled with amazing chiddushim to free the woman.  How?  His Lev Tov heard her tears and with this he was zocheh to chidushei torah.

Freeing agunos is one of the most difficult challenge a world class posek can face.  Those with a Lev Tov are zocheh to have the depths of torah opened up to them and use its sweet waters to drown the salty tears of the downtrodden.  "Diracheha Darchei Noam"  The Torah is sweet and it naturally gravitates towards, and finds a comfortable home in those who are sweet as well.

Wed, 21 Apr 2010 03:00:00 +0000
Kinyan 21 Erech Apayim - Was Rav Preida The Most Patient Person In The Room? Rav Preida had a Talmid to whom he needed to explain everything 400 times until he finally understood.  One time Rav Preida told the talmid that he would need to leave to do a dvar mitzva.  After going over what they learned 400 times, the talmid still did not understand since he had lost his concentration when Rav Preida told him he would need to leave.  Rav Preida then taught him another 400 times and was rewarded for this from Shamayim, handsomely (Eiruvin 54b).

I recently saw one of the Baalei Mussar say that while Rav Preida's patience was incredible, he cannot fathom the unbelievable patience of the talmid who listened 400 times until he finally understood what was taught.  While the teacher needs patience for his audience, people forget that it takes a great deal of patience for a person to listen to someone explaining something that they don't understand.

We live in a generation of fast paced action and sound bytes.  Every limud has concise books where you can learn it all in a nutshell.  The Torah however does not change with the times.  To be koneh torah, you need to do it the old fashioned way.  You need to be patient and do all the hard work, slowly.  You need to have patience to listen to the older generation to slowly and deliberately get their message out if you want to be the next link in our great mesora from Har Sinai.

Tue, 20 Apr 2010 03:00:00 +0000
Kinyan 20 Mi'ut Derech Eretz - Rav Avigdor Miller, Make Time To Live A friend of mine once shared with me the following insight.  After about a month in law school he figured out the following revelation.  If he puts in long hours studying and worked very hard in law school he would be rewarded by receiving a high paying job that would require him to work even harder and put in even more hours.  If he succeeded in that task over many years, he would be rewarded by being made partner receiving even more money and working even harder.  At some point he'd be making so much money that they'd throw him out and he'd spend the rest of his life working even harder to prove that he is better than they are.

The Maharal MiPrague explains Mi'ut Derech Eretz to mean limiting the your working hours.  There are only so many hours in the day and if you spend all of them working with little time for learning, don't be surprised if you don't become a big talmid chochom, no matter how smart you are or how many degrees you have.

Isn't this the same as Mi'ut S'chora, limiting your business activity?  Derech Eretz is actual work.  While less stressful if you work for others, nevertheless the hours are long since you are being paid for services, and the boss wants you to work hard.  S'chorah, is the businessman that need not put in long hours.  Nevertheless his head is consumed with his businesses.  If he is involved in too many things he may have the time to learn, but he won't have the head for it.

Rav Avigdor Miller once said, "Learning mussar teaches you how to live, but learning Bava Kama is living".  We need to earn a "living" somehow either as employee or an entrepreneur.  But either way, if its a full time thing, what is the point if you will have no time to actually "live".

Mon, 19 Apr 2010 03:00:00 +0000
Kinyan 19 Mi'ut Ta'anug - The Taz Sues His Father-in-Law the Bach Over A Good Piece of Meat Rav Shmuel Berenbaum was fond of telling of the story how the Taz took his father-in-law the Bach to a Din Torah.  The Bach had promised had promised the Taz as part of his Nidunya that he would provide him with meat every day.  When the Bach lost his money instead of providing the Taz with a quality piece of meat which he could no longer afford, he provided him with the lung, which was far more inexpensive.  The Taz demanded a good piece of meat claiming that lung was not called "meat".

To help you understand who the Taz was, after fleeing the Cossack onslaught in which two of his sons were murdered, he lived in anonymity and poverty, earning a wage cleaning the Shul rather than revealing his identity although he was of advanced age and recognized throughout the Jewish world as a Gadol HaDor.

But he sued his own father-in-law for a good meat?  Mi'ut Ta'anug, a bit of pleasure says the Mishna.  How much?  As much as will help your body respond to your wishes to serve Hashem with every ounce of energy.  The Taz was not willing to forego the minimal amount of extra learning he would lose by giving up his meat for lung, even if it meant suing his own father-in-law.  And you could be sure the Bach was the proudest defendant to ever stand trial!

Pas BaMelech Tochal, a menu of bread and salt, say the Maharal MiPrague, should not stop you from learning Torah.  However if you have the resources, use them all.  Not to indulge your appetite but to enable yourself to learn more Torah.

Sun, 18 Apr 2010 03:00:00 +0000
Kinyan 18 Mi'ut S'chok - Rav Sholom Schwadron Knew How To Make Them Laugh Rav Sholom Schwadron was once asked how can he tell so many jokes if the Mishna says that the way to be Koneh Torah is by minimizing "S'chok"?  He answered with a Mashal.  If a smart child refuses to take his bitter medicine then you scare him with the dire consequences.  But if the child is to immature to understand then you tell him a joke.  When he opens up his mouth in laughter you quickly drop the medicine inside.  "Our generation", said Rav Sholom, "absolutely refuses to accept mussar".  So I get them laughing and when they don't notice I quickly drop in the mussar before they have a chance to close their mouths."

Like all the other things the Mishna advises to minimize, S'chok is not blacklisted, rather it needs to be used in small and careful measures.  "Eis Livkos V'Eis Lischok", there is a time and place for everything (Koheles 3:4).   The great Amora, Rabba, would say a joke before beginning his shiur.  True that joking is extremely dangerous and leads to all kinds of disatrous things as Chazal tell us, however it is a very powerful tool dispensed by a wise practitioner.  Unfortunately it is too dangerous for most of us to try on our own, too often, without getting burned by its fire.  The Torah tells us that upon hearing the besura that they will have a son both Avrohom and Sara each expressed Tzchok.  Yet Sara was taken to task for it and not Avrohom, because only Sara's crossed the very thin line.

The gemara (Brachos 31b) tells us that in Olam HaZeh we may not joke too much, but in Olam Habah, "Az Yimalei S'chok Pinu", we will be full of S'chok.  In the light of truth, S'chok will be the greatest expression of our pure inner-self.  Until then we need to reign in the jokes if we want to acquire our full portion of Torah. 

Sat, 17 Apr 2010 03:00:00 +0000
Kinyan 17 Mi'ut Schorah - The Kopshitz's Guard Rav Yosef Chaim Zonnefeld's Bracha The legendary Kopshitz brother's are great-grandchildren of Rav Yosef Chaim Zonnenfeld and can trace their greatness back to a bracha from Rav Yosef Chaim himself.  When their mother came begging him to give her money from the city's tzedaka fund for her chasuna for which she had nothing, he said that as his granddaughter it would be improper for him to give her any money but he can give her a bracha that all her sons will be outstanding talmidei chachomim.  This has come true along with their brothers-in-law including Rav Nisim Karelitz.

When the children were younger the parent struggled to feed their growing family.  Left without choice they decided to start a small business at home.  After the business started to bring in some desperately needed income, one of the sons seemed to have taken an interest in the dealings.  He started asking too many questions about it.  After a short discussion the parents decided to close down their business, deciding that the price was too high and they would rather struggle like they did before.  This is how the House of Kopshitz was built!

But what about the Friedmans, Katzes, Goldbergs and Kleins who work for a living?  Can we be Koneh Torah also?  "Lo MeiEiver LaYam He" (Nitzavim 30:13), the torah is not found in businessmen who travel the seven seas in hot pursuit of opportunity (Eiruvin 55a).  However, says the Medrash Shmuel, this does not preclude any earning a living.  "Mi'ut" Schorah, limiting your business activities and putting it in proper perspective is required for Kinyan HaTorah.  You need not abandon it totally.  The Alei Be'er says that although success in ruchniyus and gashmiyus both require a person's hishtadlus and Siyata Dishmaya, there is still a big difference.  Business requires a minimal effort.  You need to create a natural pathway, a channel or an excuse through which Hashem can send His blessing.  When it comes to Torah you need to give 110% and then Hashem will lift you to a place where the human mind cannot travel alone.

The mishna says that you need to make sure that your involvement in business is just a charade.  Torah is the real deal, and the place where you need to channel all your energy if you want to build a good family business.

Fri, 16 Apr 2010 03:00:00 +0000
Kinyan 16 Mi'ut Sicha - Rav Elchonon Wasserman Speaks Words That Last For The Ages Rav Elchonon Wasserman once asked, why is all the Chochma aside from Chochmas HaTorah called Devarim Biteilim?  He answered that all the great wisdom in the world does not last.  One scientist becomes a hero with a theory that is eventually disproved by the next genius, sooner or later.  The world is full of "studies" that last only for a short time.  Wine cures cancer or does it cause it?  Eggs make you healthy or do they kill you?  How did the world begin?  What's in outer space?  The list goes on and on... and the studies keep piling up (dust).

The gemara in Yuma (19b) says that if you speak Sichas Chulin you are oveir on a Mitzvas Aseh!  The Torah says "V'Dibarta Bam", you must speak in Torah and not anything else.  Rashi says this means childish talk and Kalus Rosh.  Could you imagine?  An aveira for speaking things that are not Devarim Asurim!

The Medrash Shmuel says that limiting speech even applies to speaking in learning.  Whenever you can minimize your speech, you should.  We learn this from the torah itself which often teaches halachos with a single extra letter rather than elaborate.

Talk is cheap and silence is golden.  The mishna tells us that if we sing the song of silence we will own the song of Torah.

Thu, 15 Apr 2010 03:00:00 +0000
Kinyan 15 Mi'ut Sheina - Rav Chaim Brisker Wakes Up And The Netziv Cries How is it possible Rav Aharon Leib Shteinman and Rav Chaim Kanievsky barely sleep a few hours a night, but the day that I sleep under 5 hours I get sick?  Sleep is public enemy number one to any serious minded person.  Sleep is called Ilana D' Mosa, the tree of death.  Life is about accomplishing.   When you sleep you can accomplish absolutely nothing.  Children understand this very well, which is why putting them to sleep is so difficult.  Would you lay down in your grave based on a promise that tomorrow you can play again?

The Alter of Novhardok asks how can you expect to become a Talmid Chochom if you are not willing to give up even one night of sleep a week.  Rav Yisroel Salanter was known to have said that every Yid want to know Shas... but in one day.  And that day he wants to sleep eight hours!

So getting back to our question how do our frail gedolim manage and why can't we?  The answer may lie in the fact that it is our neshama that gives life to our body.  That's why as soon as the neshama leaves are bodies, we lay lifeless with no ability to perform any function.  Our strength is not derived from the spinach or wheaties that we eat.  It is from our toil in torah and mitzvos.  This may sound scientifically silly but look at the facts.  Great gedolim can live a century without much food, sleep, or exercise.  Amazing how the life expectancy years ago didn't top 40 but our gedolim lived past 70,80, 90 years.  

Maybe in our weakened state rather than getting sick trying to sleep less, before we ask Hashem to give us superhuman strength to go on three hours a night, we probably need to fully utilize our waking hours in order to strengthen our weakened neshamos.  Wasting time on the wrong activities is no better than the death of sleeping.  In fact the Chofetz Chaim says that if you are going to waste your time on Rosh Hashana afternoon you may as well go to sleep since at least you will wake up refreshed.

Out of all the sleeping stories we need to choose one so I will share with you this one very briefly.  One night at 3 am, the Netziv, who was then an old man, called for his granddaughter's husband and co-Rosh Yeshiva of Volzhin, Rav Chaim Soloveitchik.  Rav Chaim ran nervously worried if the Netziv was okay.  When he got there he saw the Netziv sitting near a table piled with seforim.  The Netziv wanted to show him proof to something they had argued out the previous day.  Rav Chaim told him to please give him a minute to say Birchas HaTorah since he just woke up.  Hearing this the Netziv burst out in tears, crying what will be with this young generation?  It is already 3 am and you haven't yet said Birchas HaTorah!?!

Wed, 14 Apr 2010 03:00:00 +0000
Kinyan 14 Tahara - Kotzk, A Place Where Foreign Thoughts Don't Exist Scientist still do not have an understanding in what goes on in the deep recesses of the human mind.  The one thing we all know is that although it may be deep and black nevertheless all kinds of outside stimulus easily penetrate its depths.  A person acts with his thoughts, words, and actions but what goes on in the mind is where the battle is won and lost.  The Rambam in Moreh Nevuchim says that we are where our mind is.  We can be in Shamayim with Hashem or in the lowest of gutters of the earth, traveling there with a mere thought.  

Our mind is the most sacred place in a person's anatomy.  Yet the mind is very difficult to protect.  A passing glance or an overheard conversation is instantly granted entry to our personal Kodesh Hakedoshim.  The place where we learn torah, decide to do mitzvos, and recognize Hashem.

Moreover what enters, often never leaves.  Not only that but these thoughts pop up at the worst times, like n middle of learning and during davening.  To be Koneh Torah we must keep the mind clean and pure by carefully guarding our eyes and ears.  A slight lapse and you are stuck with whatever made its way past the gates for a very long time.  And once inside it will haunt you and wreak havoc on on your ruchniyos tormenting you at the worst possible time ruining a sacred moment.

Someone once came crying the Kotzker Rebbe saying that his avodah is constantly disturbed by Machshavos Zaros, foreign thoughts.  The Kotzker Rebbe said in amazement, foreign thoughts!?  They are not foreign.  They are your own!

Tue, 13 Apr 2010 03:00:00 +0000
Kinyan 13 Mikra & Mishna - What Would Rav Yaakov Kamenetzky Say Today?

Rav Yaakov Kamenetzky was known to say that there was time when it was standard that a Ben Torah knew Shas.  When the generations became weaker, knowing Shas was considered a great accomplishment.  Nowadays, said Rav Yaakov, nor only do people not go through the whole Shas, but someone who does, is considered a person who does not know how to "really" learn.  What would Rav Yaakov say if he were alive today when people considered to be learned, don't even know Mishnayos or have good command in Chumash with Rashi?

Mikra & Mishna says the mishna are the foundations of being able to learn gemara.    By learning these with depth and knowing them well gemara becomes a well paved highway rather than a jungle path as we get stuck on every pasuk or mishna brought down.  The challenge of the gemara becomes unraveling its lamdus and we won't get worn out trying to make heads and tails out of the page.

This is not a new phenomenon however.  The gemara in Bava Metzia (33b) says that in the days of Rebbi he taught that while toiling chumash was good, and mishnayos even better, there is nothing compared to gemara.  What happened next?  Everyone stopped learning mishnayos until the chachomim had to declare, "L'Olam Havi Ratz L'Mishneh Yoseir Min HaGemara."  The more things change the more they stay the same.  One day we will get it right and all be koneh torah.  Then we will be zocheh to see firsthand the words of the Rambam, "They will all be great chachomim knowing the hidden and deep words of Hashem... as the pasuk says, UMala Ha'Aretz Dei'a Es Hashem KaMayim LaYam Michasim! 

Mon, 12 Apr 2010 03:00:00 +0000
Kinyan 12 Yishuv - Rav Shimshon Pincus - Daddy Has A Headache Rav Shimshon Pincus wants to know why when Mommy has a headache (when she comes home), she continues making supper, doing laundry, and tend to the children through pain and tears.  Moreover according to the gemara she suffers most of her young married years considered technically a "Choleh", since for two years after giving birth you are accorded this halachic status.  Yet the world doesn't stop and no one seems to care much.

On the other hand there is Daddy. When Daddy comes home with a headache, watch out!  You better be quiet because he needs to rest.  Don't bother him with things that will make him upset.  On and on go the list of restrictions, as the house shuts down until poor daddy's headache goes away?

The first question we will leave for now and tackle the second.  The gemara Megila (28b) says that Torah the way it ought to be learned needs total clarity, "Shmatza Ba'i Tzilusa".  It needs perfect Yishuv HaDa'as.  A person cannot be the slightest bit distracted.  You need to cleanse his mind from all other matters whether they be outside pressures, or physical ailments, or even bad weather says the gemara.  You need to leave this world behind and enter the sea of Torah.  Whether Toraso Umnaso or if you are Ba'al HaBayis who learns early in the morning or late at night, you must be fully relaxed and focused with peace of mind and no distractions.  To be Koneh Torah you need to learn with Yishuv.

Sun, 11 Apr 2010 03:00:00 +0000
Kinyan 11 Pilpul Talmidim - The Rogatchover Gaon and the Ohr Samei'ach Trade Barbs When the Rogatchover Gaon and the Ohr Samei'ach once met at a simcha, one of them asked the other a question in learning.  The other excitedly responded by just mentioning (for example), Shabbos 45b.  The reply was short in coming, but what about the Rambam Halacha...  This went on for a long time as they just shouted Mareh Mikomos back and forth to each other citing gemaros, Rishonim and Acharonim with each one "getting it" and not needing to explain.  That is how geonim speak to each other.

Rebbi Chanina said, "Harbeh Lamaditi Mei Rabosai", I learned a great deal from my teachers.  "U'MeiChaveirai Yoseir MiRabosai", and even more from my friends.  "U'MiTalmidai Yoseir Mikulam", and from my students more than all of them (Ta'anis 7a).

Kinyan HaTorah requires leaving no stone unturned even when there seems to be no treasure underneath.  Men of maturity and intelligence focus on the places where the treasure is most likely to be found.  You can't say the same about students.  Put a bunch of them before you in a room and you can be sure that every possible argument, both sound and faulty, will be voiced.  After you've been through all of them, dealt with them, and dismissed them you know you found your treasure.  A treasure you can hold onto for eternity.

Sat, 10 Apr 2010 03:00:00 +0000
Kinyan 10 Dikduk Chaveirim - Friends, Friends, Friends The mishna in Avos (1:6) places a great importance on having friends.  "Knei Licha Chaver", you should even buy yourself a friend.   Nevertheless says the Mili D'Avos (Likutei Basar Likutei) in order to be koneh torah you must be Midakdek, you must be scrupulously careful who your friends are.  

More than from anyone else, you are most influenced by your friends.  The group's passions will ultimately become yours as well.   If your friends interests revolve around the trivial and mundane you will surely not grow with this group.  If it is torah that interests them you will spur each other to new heights as the competition will force you to constantly push your limits.  The give and take will flesh out misunderstandings.  The back and forth will sharpen your mind and help you reach the truth.  All this will leave a permanent impression on your mind.

Barzel B'Barzel Yachad (Mishlei 27:17) like two sharp iron rods, says the Gemara (Taanis 7a), two Talmidei Chachomim will sharpen each other.  Furthermore says the gemara, torah is like Aish, fire.  Just like you cannot start a fire with a single stick, only with two, so too torah needs two people to light each other's fire.  On the other hand, fire can be very destructive.  In that case you best remain alone and not join up with a friend together with whom you will watch your life (and after life) go up in smoke.

Maybe thats why the mishna says you need to pay for good friends, since you get what you pay for.  Spend lavishly and choose wisely, says the Mishna, if you want to koneh Torah.

Fri, 09 Apr 2010 03:00:00 +0000
Kinyan 9 Shimush Chachomim - Elisha The Water Pourer When Yehoshafat HaMelech was seeking a Navi, a servant told him that indeed there was a great Navi to be found, Elisha "who poured water on the hands of Eliyahu HaNavi" (Milachim 2 3:11).  The gemara in Brachos (7b)  tells us that from this pasuk we learn, "Gadol Shimusho Yoseir MiLimudo" serving your Rebbi is a greater learning experience than learning itself.  SImilarly we find that Moshe Rabbeinu's successor was not one of the great men of his era, rather it was his Talmid, Yehoshua, who did not leave his great Rebbi's side.

When you learn you are confined to the four corners of the page.  When you are in the presence of your Rebbi you get to watch the synthesis of all his torah knowledge in every action, every passing comment, and even every nuance and every facial expression.  There is "Halacha L'Ma'aseh" and then there is "L'Ma'aseh L'Ma'aseh".  Very rarely does a great figure emerge who is not himself the product of a great Rebbe.

Encyclopedic knowledge can be attained from locking yourself in a room with seforim.  True greatness needs a Rebbi, a guiding light, a figure placed on a pedestal for us to learn from and strive to emulate.  You can learn from a Torah but you are koneh torah become great by learning from a "Living Torah".

Thu, 08 Apr 2010 03:00:00 +0000
Kinyan 8 Simcha - It Earned Rav Shach A Big Coup The Brisker Rov once said, "Do you know why every chidush I come up with I first with (my talmid) Rav Shach?  Because he knows how to hear a good vort and enjoy it, delight and be happy with it." (Mishel HaAvos)

The Sefer Chareidim says that Arizal said that all that he has achieved in life i  Ruach HaKodesh and having the gates of wisdom opened to him was all a reward for doing mitzvos with simcha.

Chazal tell us "Ein HaShechina Shoreh Ela Mitoch Simcha", the Shechina does not rest on a person unless he is B'Simcha.  When you have the Shechina with you, you have everything.  When you don't then you are on your own and there is not much that you can accomplish.

In the world of gashmiyus we toil night and day to achieve a few shining moments in an entire lifetime.  If you are smart enough to understand what really counts and ruchniyus is the object of your pursuit, you are very fortunate.  You can lead a life of perpetual delight.  And when you do, you achieve even more happiness, both in this world and the next.

Wed, 07 Apr 2010 03:00:00 +0000
Kinyan 7 Anava - Rebbi Akiva Eiger Dreams Of Becoming... Say the words "Rebbi Akiva Eiger's Kashya" in a crowded Bais Medrash and you are guaranteed that ears will turn towards you.  While we all focus on the brilliance of our gedolim, we often don't know the secret behind it.  Without this vital knowledge, trying to raise ourselves to their level is a futile effort.

Rebbi Akiva Eiger was famous for his incredible anivus.  Rebbi Akiva Eiger's pure heart always ran from positions of authority and was never happy being a Rov.  In his old age he was serving as Rav of Posen.   His fame was known far and wide and he was considered the greatest gadol of all of Klal Yisroel.  After hearing about the death of the man in charge of the Mikva in a neighboring village he wrote the following letter to a friend who lived in that village.

"In my old age I want to earn my livelihood from Heter and not from Issur, from the toil of my hands and not from the crown of Torah.  Therefore I beseech you to persuade the heads of your community to rent me the Mikva.  I am prepared to resign my Rabbinical position and become the Mikva man in you village." (Sarei HaMeiah 1:262)

With true humility you cannot only ask Rebbi Akiva Eiger's question, you can become a Rebbi Akiva Eiger.

Tue, 06 Apr 2010 03:00:00 +0000
Kinyan 6 Yirah - What Scares The Bais HaLevi & The Mighty House Of Brisk? R' Semon and R' Elazar were sitting when R' Yaakov bar Acha walked by.  Rav Elazar said, let's stand up for R' Yaakov because he is a Yiras Chait, he is afraid of aveiros.  R' Semon replied, let's stand up because he is a Talmid Chochom.  R' Elazar said, I praise him for being a Yiras Chait and all you could say is that he is a talmid chochom? (Shabbos 31b)  The gemara says that someone who has amassed a great amount of Torah but lacks Yiras Shamayim is like someone who has the keys to the inner rooms of the treasury but not to the front door.  He cannot access it and it is unavailable to him.

All the meforshim try to give answers as to how "Lo Sachmod" desiring your friend's possessions be assur.  Can someone control his mind?  The Mishel HaAvos brings from Rav Yosha Ber Soloveitchik, the Bais HaLevi, that when a person is running along the frozen river bank in hot pursuit of his desire and suddenly slips, the moment he slips all his thoughts dissipate as he is gripped with fear of falling.  Certainly says the Bais HaLevi if the torah says that desiring your friend's possession is assur, you will be overcome by so much fear of violating the Torah that you will not be able to think of his possessions!  When the Chofetz Chaim heard this vort he said that it is fitting for the one who said it.

From Yiras Hashem like this says the Mishna, you can be Koneh Torah.  In fact you can be Koneh the entire Brisker dynasty that emerged from the Bais HaLevi, his son Rav Chaim Soloveitchik, his grandson the Brisker Rov, as well as all their branches.

"Reishis Chochma Yiras Hashem" the beginning of wisdom is fear of Hashem!

Mon, 05 Apr 2010 03:00:00 +0000
Kinyan 5 Eimah - Rav Boruch Ber Liebowitz Knew Their Real Names It is said that during learning when you mention the name of a Tanna, Amora, Rishon, or any gadol, you should envision that they are standing before you.  Standing in the presence of these great men transform the atmosphere from a casual intellectual exercise into an awe filled experience.  When Rav Boruch Ber Liebowitz would mention the name of an amora during his shiur, he would call him with trepidation, HaKadosh, as if he felt the weight of his holy presence was right there with him in the room.

Rav Chaim Volozhin says that since Hashem's only rests in the four amos of Halacha, you should feel like you are in the Kodesh HaKedoshim and be overcome with the same trepidation as the Kohen Gadol on Yom Kippur.  The mishna in Pirkei Avos reminds us that when we are learning with a chavrusa or even by ourselves, we are not alone.  During learning, before we wander off the topic and discuss the mundane or take a glance around at something that catches our attention, we should ask ourselves, will Hashem who is sitting with us enjoy this short light break from our learning?  That should shock us back into reality and cause us to sit upright and start shuckling to the tune of Amar Rava HaKadosh.

Sun, 04 Apr 2010 03:00:00 +0000
Kinyan 4 Sichlus HaLev: Rav Yaakov Kamenetzky - Been There Done That Someone once told Rav Yaakov Kamenetzky that he was amazed at his ability to pasken intricate modern day shailos, by instantly drawing from the exact gemara in Shas.  Rav Yaakov Kamenetzky replied that this ability was not due to a quick mind but rather because when he originally learned the Sugya he thought of all the possible Shailos that could come out from it.

Sichlus HaLev, brings the MiShel HaAvos in the name of the Lachem Shamayim, means that when you learn, your heart needs to plum the breadth and the depths of the subject matter.  You must see before you all the ramifications that come out of it, both in general rules and in details.  You must also get to the root of the matter and its underpinnings.  Goring oxen are not issues of years gone by.  They are very much alive today, if you truly understand the foundations of the gemara.

If you learn with Sichlus HaLev, when someone asks you something far fetched that can be related to this sugya, you will recognize it instantly.   For you, like Rav Yaakov Kamenetzky, have already dissected the very matter while learning it the first time.

Sat, 03 Apr 2010 03:00:00 +0000
Kinyan 3 Arichas Sefasayim - Get The Word Out "Oib Es Felt In Hasbara Es Felt In Havana".  This famous quote, often attributed to Rav Chaim Volozhin, tells us that something may seem very clear in your mind but when you try to articulate it suddenly things break down.  Verbalizing your thoughts helps crystalize them and it is a good litmus test of true understanding.

Interestingly, when you count money or if you've watched other people do so, you may have noticed that they count out loud.  Not that counting is that complicated but when it comes to precious money no one wants to make a mistake, and articulating the numbers is going to give you more accurate results than by counting in the recesses of your mind.  Similarly showing gratitude or remorse in a variety of ways often doesn't do the job until you have said the magic words like "Thank you" or "I'm sorry".  Only by hearing this sentiment articulated from your lips does the other person feel that your appreciation or regret is clear in your mind.  Sadly even when it comes to Lashon Hara, two people can both be thinking the same thing about the same person for a very obvious reason, yet their Yetzer hara is not appeased until the gossip has escaped their lips in all the gory detail.

Torah is complex.  We can build complex structures in our mind.  But just like mere thoughts, we need to express them verbally, to test them if they are truly coherent.  If they pass this minimal test then they have a better chance of standing the test of time and remaining with you longer than a fleeting thought.

Fri, 02 Apr 2010 03:00:00 +0000
Kinyan 2 Shmi'as HaOzen - Listening Pierces The Heart

What you see, leaves an indelible mark in your mind but the words you hear have the ability to penetrate your heart.  The difference being that what stimulates your mind may never move past the intellectual realm, but what goes into your heart will move you to act.

During Shibud Mitzrayim, Bnei Yisroel cried from pain.  The pasuk tells us (Shemos 2:24) "Vayishma Elokim Es Na'akasam", Hashem heard their cries and put the geula in motion.  Hashem surely saw their tears, yet it was the sound of their cries that caused Him to act. 

Shema Yisroel!  Everywhere we look we can see the hand of Hashem and His oneness.  Yet our rally call to our brothers is Shema Yisroel.  To intellectually know of Hashem it is enough to look around, but we want more.  We want to move ourselves and the rest of Klal Yisroel to accept Malchus Shamayim and have it reflected in our every action and our every breath.  For this we scream Shema, listen and let Hashem's achdus penetrate your heart.

The gemara in Bav Kama (85b) says that if you blind someone, you must pay him the value of his sight, but if you make him deaf you must pay his entire value as if he is dead.  A person that lives only in the intellectual realm is as good as dead.  To truly be alive you must have heart.  Losing the ability to listen is death itself.

To intellectually master torah you can read everything there is to know.  That is not Kinyan HaTorah.  Torah must penetrate our hearts and and our lives.  To achieve this we need to hear the words of torah.  Let the voice of our masters and teachers reverberate within us.  Let the voice of halacha whisper in our ear before taking any action or uttering a single sentence.  Let the echo of Da'as Torah answer all the questions and doubts that enter our heads.  We need to make a kinyan on torah, and we hear the words of torah loud and clear.

Thu, 01 Apr 2010 03:00:00 +0000
Kinyan 1 Talmud - You Need To Be In It To Win It Once a young Chazan and an older talmid chochom were mentioned as candidates to Reb Chaim Brisker to be Ba'al Tefila on Yamim Noraim.  To the surprise of many, Reb Chaim chose the Chazan who was less of Yirei Shamayim, was not poor, was young, and lacked other qualities mentioned in Shulchan Aruch. When asked why he passed on the talmid chochom, Reb Chaim said that a person can have all the wonderful qualities in the world but first and foremost a Chazan needs to be a Chazan.  Similarly a person can be a Ba'al Middos, Yiras Shamayim, and everything else, but to acquire torah, it all starts with learning.

So how can the on of the Kinyanei Torah be Talmud, learning?  Most peirushim say that you can acquire torah with any one of the 48 kinyanim.  How can someone possibly acquire torah without actually learning?  Surely the Mishna does not mean that you need to learn, it is obvious that you cannot master Shas and Shulchan Aruch without spending the time learning them. Rather the mishna is telling us that if you want the learning to become part and parcel of your existence, the fabric of your being, then you need to spend all your available time and effort directed to this pursuit, rather than other hobbies.

"Ki Lekach Tov Nasati Lachem Torasi Al Ta'azovu" (Mishlei 4:2).  Hashem has sold us the Torah, but the gemara Brachos (5a) says that unlike most people who sell an item, Hashem still cares about it and one of the conditions is that you do not abandon it.  Hashem gives the Torah to those who treasure it.  If you treasure it you will make it your obsession in every spare moment.  The more time you spend learning torah the more you will remember, understand, and instinctively live and act by the words of the Torah.

Wed, 31 Mar 2010 03:00:00 +0000
A Revach Journey - Sefiras HaOmer & The 48 Ways To Acquire Torah Sefiras HaOmer are days that we prepare ourselves for Matan Torah.  The Mishna in Pirkei Avos says that the torah is acquired in 48 ways or qualities.  The Chidushei HaRim says that each day of Sefira we should work on one of these qualities and the 49th day is a review of all of them.

Rav Shlomo Kluger asks why by Torah does the Mishna say that there are 48 ways (Devarim) but by Kehuna it says there are 24 prerogatives (Ma'alos)?  He answers that when you are a Kohen you automatically have all 24.  If you are lacking even one then you are not a Kohen.  However with Torah, you can acquire torah with even one single "quality".  Having all 48 helps you reach a much higher level.  

A quick look at the list begs the question, many of them have no logical connection to helping a person acquire torah.  We can explain this with a mashal.  When a person eats a particular food he gets bigger and stronger.  If for example he ate chicken, can you find the pieces of the chicken attached to his bones?  No, his body processes it and from the chicken his own bones grow.  The food goes into his bloodstream and become part of him.  A person can study any worldly topic and store the knowledge in his brain.  But Torah is not  just any knowledge.  Torah is Da'as Hashem.  It is far more than an intellectual pursuit.  It has the potential to transform a person, to enter him and make him grow.  To bring Godliness to his physical form and to enable him to connect to Hashem Himself.  For this to happen is must be given as gift from Hashem.  Hashem will only give this gift if you are worthy. These 48 qualities make us worthy to have the Torah become part of us.  The more of these qualities we possess the deeper the torah can penetrate our neshama and our body, our personality and and our actions.

Like all the topics we embrace at Revach, like Shemiras HaLashon or anything else, it is not because we have reached a sufficient level to give it over to others, rather it is precisely because we have not yet achieved any level and we ourselves need to take the journey.  It is in the zechus of inviting the tzibur to join our personal quest to achieve this goal that we hope Hashem will grant all of us the Siyata Dishmaya to make this years Matan HaTorah in 50 days from now on Shavuos, a most meaningful full Kabalas HaTorah.

So during the days of Sefira, come join us on this daily journey to take a first hand look and the ways to acquire the most precious possession of them all, the only possession that was created long before the world and the only one that can help us mere mortals transcend the world.

Wed, 31 Mar 2010 03:00:00 +0000
List Of Kinyanei Torah Throughout Sefiras HaOmer between the days of Pesach and Shavuos we have journeyed together through many of the Kinyanei Torah.  You may now find a complete list of the Kinyanim, with links to the articles, on Revach Lists.

Sun, 31 May 2009 03:00:00 +0000
Kinyan 45 Lomed Al Minas La'asos - Between The Pnei Yehoshua & Rav Yehonoson Eibushitz The greatest adversary of Rav Yehonoson Eibushitz aside from Rav Yaakov Emden was Rav Yaakov Yehoshua of Frankfurt, also known as the Pnei Yehoshua.  Rav Yehonoson Eibushitz was famous for his dazzling Drashos while the Pnei Yehoshua was known as a brilliant posek.  The talmidim of the two would compete with each other each claiming their Rosh Yeshiva to be far superior.  "He can say nice Drashos but Rav Yehonoson Eibushitz doesn't compare to the Pnei Yehoshua in Psak Halacha" the talmidim of the Pnei Yehoshua would taunt.  In response Rav Yehonoson Eibushitz's talmidim would say that other than knowing psak halacha the Pnei Yehoshua doesn't come close to being the lamdan that Rav Yehonoson Eibushitz is.

Lo and behold The Pnei Yehoshua then went on to print his sefer considered one of the deepest and most Lomdishe Seforim on Shas, while Rav Yehonoson EIbushitz produced two of the most heralded seforim on Choshen Mishpat and Yoreh Dei'a, the Urim V'Tumim and Kreisi U'Pleisi (Mishel HaAvos).  At the highest level lamdus and l'ma'aseh are one and the same.

It is said that Aristotle was quite an unruly man whose behavior did not speak well for one of the greatest intellectuals the world has ever seen.   When asked how a man of his stature can behave the way he does despite his teachings he basically said that just because he is so smart it shouldn't mean that he cannot have a good time.  

Torah is not strictly an intellectual exercise best left in the halls of academia.  It is alive and it is meant to help us conduct ourselves in this L'Ma'aseh world.  It is a blueprint for our lives and that is how we must learn it.  To do so requires depth and breadth but without ever losing sight of the L'Maaseh.

Sun, 24 May 2009 03:00:00 +0000