Sunday, December 25, 2011

Rav Moshe Weinberger Shalosh Sheudos Torah - Parshas Miketz 5772

Baruch Hashem, my friend Dr. Efrayim Nudman has written up one of Rav Moshe Weinberger's shalosh sheudos drashos given in Aish Kodesh this past Shabbos. This is the same writer who brought us Rav Weinberger's drasha from the Breslov Research Institute Dinner a couple of weeks ago. I can't say for sure whether these write-ups of Shalosh Sheudos Torahs will continue as a regular feature as it is with Rav Weinberger's Shabbos morning drashos, but we can hope, pray, and give Dr. Nudman some chizuk in the comment section. :-) Enjoy the write-up below from Rebbe's shalosh sheudos Torah from this past Shabbos, parshas Miketz, and again, thank you Ephraim!
Tonight is the 5th night of Chanukah, the night of Hod. And Hod is the middah of Aharon Hakohen, who represents the essence of Chanukah like it says in the passuk “Behaalotcha el Hanerot” (commanding Aharon to light the Menorah in the Mishkan).
There is a Maamar by a talmid chamcham from Slonim R. Chaim Shlomo Verner in his sefer Behaalotcha El Hanerot. He brings down from the Midrash Tehillim on the passuk “Elokai, becha batachti, al ebosh” (My G-d, in you I have trusted, let me not be shamed) (Tehillim 25:2). The midrash tells the story of a thief that is caught by the guards of the Medinah. They are going to give him a beating for a punishment, but he tells them that he is from Bais Hamelech (from the family of the King) hoping this will convince them to let him go. Of course this is not true so the guards decide to take him in front of the King so that he will decree the proper punishment for being a thief and a liar. However when the king hears the story he feels merciful towards someone who thinks of him as such a compassionate ruler and lets him go.

“Becha batachti, al ebosh”. One who trusts Hashem completely will be forgiven. That is the middah of Hod. In the middle of the long winter night when a Yid ends up walking around where he shouldn’t be, not in Bais Midrash or at home, and he is found by “the guards” that are ready to punish him he can always cry to the King and put himself in His hands. Of course this doesn’t exempt him from working on is Torah and Mitzvos, but he can be saved by his pure Bitachon in Hashem.

Chanukah was a time of “V’Timu kol Hashmanim” (and all the oils were impure). Everything was b’tuma. Jews could learn Torah but it was contaminated with ulterior motives: honor, prestige, power. They performed mitzvas but they were also contaminated with Tumah. But despite this the Hashmonaim went to war with the cry of “Mi Kamocha B’Elim H'”. They went to war with their Bitachon in H'. From the Middah of Hod of Aharon Hakohen. And this brought them to victory. Torah and Mitzvos are essential but they must be in a context of Bitachon.

We can ask for help, but by throwing ourselves in His arms completely we achieve a different kind of forgiveness and salvation.

When Moshe commanded Aharon to approach the Mizbeach to offer a young bull for a sin-offering, he hesitated. Rashi explains that Aharon was ashamed to start his Avoda in the Mishkan because he saw an image of the Egel (calf). He felt embarrassed and guilty and felt that he was not deserving of serving H'. Moshe tells him “le'kach nivcharta” (for this you were chosen). The Arizal explains that it was precisely for that middah of humility, that capacity to feel shame and embarrassment for what he could have done wrong that he was chosen to serve.

The Maggid of Mezrich explains that Aharon was the middah of Hod and that is the root of Anava (humility). Sins come from gaava (pride) which is the opposite of Hod.
Moshe is the light of Torah that protects us from transgressing. But after we sin, it’s the light of Hod, the light of Aharon Hakohen, the light of full bitachon in Hashem what can pull us out.

“Yikraeni Veenehu, Imo anochi betzarah” (Tehillim 91:15). “Yikraeni Veenehu”: you can call to H' and he will answer. But if we take H' with us at all times, wherever we go, whatever we do, that is in the aspect of “imo anochi Betzarah”. H” is with us there and he says “Achaltzehu V’achabdehu”, then He will save us and elevate us to a much higher place. This is the aspect of complete Bitachon in Him.

This explains two different ways to connect to Hashem: Tefillah and Bitachon.
Purim is connected to Tefillah. Mordechai cried to H', decreed fasting and prayers. And with that the decree was cancelled and they were saved. However they remained servants of Achashverosh. Their redemption was not complete.
In Chanukah they were saved purely from their complete Bitachon in H' and through that their redemption was complete.
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Friday, December 23, 2011

I was thinking this morning about how we wear a cover over our arm tefillin partly to prevent the friction with the inside of our clothes from rubbing the bayis and rounding the corners/rubbing off the black coloring, which would pasel the tefillin.

I then wondered why the skin of our arms themselves don't get worn away or discolored by their contact with our clothes all day every day (unlike the tefillin which are worn for only a short time).

The answer is clear. Our living skin is constantly shedding old skin cells and constantly giving birth to new skin cells. Because it is constantly "rejewvinating" itself, the skin that rubs against the inside of my shirt today is not the same skin that rubbed against it yesterday. Therefore the friction doesn't cause any wear and tear.

Dead skin (leather), on the other hand, does not shed old skin cells or grow new skin cells, so it gets worn out with contact with things of this world.

Similarly, the only way we can survive the friction and spiritual wear and tear of this world is by constantly rejuvenating ourselves by shedding the parts of us that need shedding and trying to grow in kedusha on a constant basis. Without constant hisgabrus b'chol yom, we will suffer the effects of contact with this world.

Be alive, don't be leather!
Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T
We had the following conversation last night with our four-year-old daughter, "DG," Dixie Girl:

DG: Right Hashem can't see us because He is deep inside our hearts?

Mommy and Daddy: No, Hashem is everywhere so He can always see us.

DG: So then He's also in our hearts?

Daddy: That's true.

DG: So it's like I said!

Such a good girl! And also quite literal - shows how careful we have to be about how we teach things. :-)

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Maccabeats New Chanukah Video - Miracle

I'm sure most of you have seen this but here is the Maccabeats' new Chanukah video, which is a cover of Matisyahu's Chanukah song from last year. Ah freilichen Chanukah!

Incidentally, I wouldn't get exercized about Mayim Bialik wearing a yarmulka. She's Allison Jacbos' Partners in Torah chevrusa. I'm sure it's meant to be funny.

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The Difference Between the Avoda of Chassidim and Misnagdim

I received the below summary and text, which I have not yet had the chance to look at, but which sounds very interesting.
This is from a letter called Igeres HaVikuach VeHaSholom written either by the Tzemach Tzedek or one of the Talmidim of the Baal HaTanya. In it he explains how the difference in the Avoda of Misnagnim vs Chassidim is the difference between the Avoda of Baalei Teshuva vs Tzadikim. Here are the main points but it is really worth reading the entire thing if you have time.
... בין עבודת הצדיקים לעבודת הבעלי תשובה, כי עבודת הצדיקים היא שלא לזוז מדרך התורה כמלא נימה, ולקיים כל דקדוקי סופרים עד קצה האחרון עד שיד שכלם וכחם מגעת. אבל בעלי תשובה מצד שהילוכם בקודש ועבודתם היא בחילא יתיר ורעותא דליבא סגי כרשפי אש שלהבת־יה כנ״ל בארוכה, הנה בסיבה זו ידמה לפעמים לעין המביט בהבטה חיצונית שהם נוטים קצת מדיקדוק איזה מצוה. אבל ה׳ ית׳ יראה ללבב, כוונתם הרצויה מקרב איש ולב עמוק, כי מדריגתם מאד נעלה מהבטה חיצונית ואינון מלגיו יתיר, על דרך באהבתה תשגה תמיד. ומקור לזה מצינו בתורה שבכתב ובש״ס ראיות ניצחות כשמש בחצי
השמים לבלתי מתעקש ב״א לבו יראה דברי אמת.....
ומעתה שזכינו בעזרת ה׳ ית׳ לבאר ענין חילוקי מדריגות בעבודת ה׳ ית׳ של צדיקים גמורים ושל בעלי תשובה, יובן
היטב טעם לקריאת שני השמות של שני המחנות כנ״ל, כי הוא ית׳ השים שמות בארץ אל תיקרי שמות אלא שמות, ולכולם בשם יקרא מן השמים, וד״ל. דהנה מחנה אחד נקרא בשם מתנגדים, אמת מארץ תצמח שאין הוראת קריאת שם זה להם על כי מנגדי האמת המה ח״ו ובטעות ההמון, ח״ו למימר הכי ולא ניחא לי׳ למרייהו. אך טעם העיקרי לקריאת שם זה כי באמת הוא שמם המורה על מדריגתם בעבודת הקודש אשר עליהם, והוא ...  להתנהג דווקא על פי קו הדין המרומז בפסוק יקוו המים, וד״ל. וזהו שמם מתנגדים מורה על מדריגתם בעבודת ה׳ ית׳ שהם מתנהגים על פי שורת הדין, שלא ינטו מדיני התורה ודקדוקי המצות דרבנן עד קצה האחרון. ונראה לעין כל מנהגיהם עד״ז שאין משנים שום מנהג ישן ואפילו בניגון, וכן בענין הפיוטים הקבועים לנו מחז״ל, קל וחומר שלא לאחר זמן קריאת שמע ותפילה מזמן הקבוע לנו מש״ס ופוסקים, וכן בעמדם בתפילת שמונה עשרה באימה כעבדא קמי׳ מריה. וכן הרבה פרטים תקצר היריעה מהכיל שהם מדקדקים יותר נגד מחנה השני. והכל הולך אל מקום אחד, בלי לשנות ח״ו מקו ושורת הדין, אשר כמסמרות נטועים הם בלבם על פי הש״ס
ופוסקים. והוא מדריגת הצדיקים להצדיק את מעשיו בכל פרטיותיו לפני ה׳ ית׳ ולהיות צדיק בדינו, וד״ל.
אך יש עוד דרך ישר לפני ה׳, הוא דרך מחנה השני הנקרא בשם חסידים. והשם שמות בארץ לכולם בשם יקרא קרא , כי שמם זה מורה על מדריגתם והילוכם בקודש... וכאשר הקדמנו בעז״ה בביאור מדריגת בעלי תשובה שגבוהה מעלתן על מעלת ומדריגה צדיק גמור, לפי שלבם דואג בקרבם והם נרתעים לאחוריהם, ותמיד הם שבים ללכת ממדריגה למדריגה היותר גבוהה וזכה וברורה ואמיתית מצד שאינם שבעים כלל מדרכם וכנ״ל. ושפלים הם בעיניהם על הרגש קיצורם בעבודת ה׳ ית׳, ולכן צמאה נפשם אל ה׳ מקרב איש ולב עמוק ולהיות הולך באור התורה בכל יכלתו בחילא סגי ורעותא דליבא יתיר. והוא הוא דרך המחנה השני הנקראים בשם חסידים, שמדריגתם ועבודתם בקודש לפנים משורת הדין וקו השוה בנתיב המשפט...
ולהסביר הענין יותר למבקשי האמת בלתי מתעקשים ועומדים על דעתם ח״ו, נמשיל משל ומתוכו יובן
עומק כוונת ההילוך שני המחנות הנ״ל, אשר יחדיו יהיו תמים למעלה לפניו ית׳. משל למלך שהיו לו שני בנים, גם שניהם טובים ורצוים לפניו אך האחד נתגדל בבית המלך והשני נתגדל בארץ מרחק מעיר מלוכת אביו המלך, לימים זמן רב בא אותו האחד מארץ המרחק לאחיו שנתגדל בבית המלך, ונתוועדו יחדיו בעצה אחת לבוא למחר לפני המלך לאמר לפניו צפרא טבא כנימוס וחוק המלך על כל שרי המלך הקרובים לפניו. ונוסח הצפרא טבא הנ״ל ידוע על פי ציווי המלך שיאמר דווקא מרחוק ולא להתקרב אל המלך, וכל העובר על נימוס המלך או משנה הנוסח, אחת דתו להמית. והנה בבוא הבן אשר נתגדל עם המלך, וודאי כיוון לשונו ולא שינה הנוסח והנימוס הקבוע מאת המלך, ואמר בצפרא טבא המוטל עליו כהרגלו בכל יום ונפטר לביתו בשלום. אבל בבוא הבן השני אשר מארץ מרחק, הנה מצד ריחוקו מאת פני המלך זה זמן רב וכעת ראה את אביו פנים אל פנים, גברה עליו אהבת אביו וכיקד יקוד אש גברה עליו עד אשר נפל על צווארו וחבקו ונשקו, וגם בכה על צוואריו עוד בדברי חשק ואהבה עזה, שכח את נימוס וחוק הקבוע כנ״ל, והנה כל העומדים לפני המלך בעת ההיא ידמו בנפשם כי בן מות הוא מחמת ששינה את נימוסי המלך ונוסח הקבוע, אבל המלך בעצמו בראותו כוונתו הרצוי׳ וגודל תשוקתו אליו מקרב איש ולב עמוק שגברה עליו, וכיקד יקוד איש יקוד לבו עד שיצא מגדר דרך ארץ ונימוס ונוסח המלך, על כן צוה המלך לכבדו כבוד גדול ביתר שאת ויתר עז על כל שרי המלוכה לעיני כל העם, ומילא את משאלותיו ביתר שאת ויתר עז.
והנה המשל עמוק למבין, ובעזרת ה׳ בו יוסרו כל הספיקות בענין ההילוך שני המחנות הנ״ל, וכל אחד על מקומו יבא בשלום. גם הוסר בו הספק הגדול אשר לפעמים נמצא באנשי המחנה השני אשר באמצע תפילת שמונה עשרה שמוזהרים אנחנו בל נפסיק ח״ו בדיבור אפילו למלך ישראל, והם מדברים דברי אהבה וחזק, וקצת בלשון לע״ז (כמו גוואלד טאטע פאטער העלף זשע), כפי שנובע מלבם בעת ההיא וכפי גודל תשוקתם לה׳ ית׳ מצימאון נפשם מקרב איש ולב עמוק. וההולך בדרך התורה בל ינטו משורת הדין ישתומם על המראה הזאת להמביט בהבטה חיצונית, אבל באמת הכל הולך אל מקום אחד, וכמבואר במשל הנ״ל(ועיין מ״ש הראב״ע על פסוק באהבתה תשגה תמיד, פירוש תשגה כמו שגיון לדוד כר. ועיין בספר חרדים םפ״ז ד״ע שאלה ה׳ בענין התלהבות החשק, וכך כתב בפ״א מעשה
דרך החושק לשורר ולשוגג עיין שם וד״ל).
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Sunday, December 18, 2011

Great Cheder in Far Rockaway - Favor for the Dixie Yid

Hi everyone. I would like to ask my readers if you would do me a favor and consider buying a raffle ticket to help support my son's cheder. It's a wonderful place which we chose because when we visited the school we saw that the rebbeim really engaged the kids. The boys show such life in their learning, Yiddishkeit, and davening. It is a very special school. Several years in we are still very very happy with how activiated our son is by the enthusiastic rebbeim. It is such a special school but it's in desparate need of more funds to meet the basic operating budget to pay the rebbeim and afternoon moros.

Please go to to buy a raffle ticket for $100 (or 5 for $360). Yasher koach to those of you who followed the link and bought raffle tickets last year. I really appreciate it. In the "Referred by" box, please write "Dixie Yid."

The raffle is for $25,000 toward a new kitchen, a virtually all expenses paid trip to Eretz Yisroel for 10 people, a new minivan, or $20,000 cash. Only 2,800 tickets will be sold. The drawing will be held in late December or early January.

Big yasher koach in advance and please click the link and buy a ticket!

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Friday, December 16, 2011

Two Mysterious Patterns That Beg For an Explanation in Parshas Vayeshev

I know these issues are addressed in seforim but they really jumped out at me this week as I did shnayim mikra and I didn't have time to look them up.

1) Levushim: It just keeps coming up. Yaakov gives Yosef a special levush. The brothers remove Yosef's levush. They dip the levush in blood and show it to their father as their preferred means of communicating Yosef's "death." In Mitzrayim, Yosef leaves his levush with Eishes Potifar. Yosef is put in a new levush when he is removed from prison. Yosef is dressed in a new levush when he is appointed as mishne l'melech. The question isn't necessarily why these things happened. Rather, the question is why the Torah places so much emphasis on levushim in the story of Yosef.

2) Who bought Yosef Initially: Superficially, the Torah's inconsistency with regard to who initially bought/transported/subsequently sold Yosef is troubling. As I reviewed the story, the inconsistencies became less troubling and more mysterious as I realized that the numerous seemingly gratuitous references to who played which part in the sale/transport/resale of Yosef are far to spread out and "unnecessary" to be "coincidental." The inconsistencies are so pervasive and gratuitous that the repeated references are clearly purposeful. I just don't know what the purpose is.

Maybe I'll find some answers over Shabbos!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Rav Moshe Weinberger Drasha at Breslov Research Institute Dinner Video/Summary

Above is the Breslov Research Institute's video of Rav Weinberger speaking at their dinner. It was very nice. My wife and I were very uplifted by it and there were great people there. They are very close to finishing the last volume of their annotated Likutei Moharan in English. So please go to their website to help make a sponsorship of it, large or small!
One of my holy brothers at Aish Kodesh in Woodmere is Dr. Ephraim Nudman. He wrote up the following summary of what Rav Weinberger said at the dinner. Enjoy!
The Ness (miracle) of R. Nachaman it's really mamash the Ness of Chanukkah.
The Sforno in parashas Ki  Tissah explains that before the Egel there was no need for ONE place to serve Hashem, or that just one shevet should be in charge of the service. At that time Hashem could be served anywhere and all Jews could do it. But after the Chet, Hashem decided that we needed a special place the, Bais Hamikdash, and a select group within the Jewish peoplea, the kohanim, to be in charge of the service.
The Ramban in parashas B'haaloscha says that with the Neros (lights) of Chanukkah we can bring down the light of the Bais hamikdash (symbolized by its Menorah) even after the churban (destruction) even today, and until the end of times. We can bring down mamash the fire of the Bais hamikdash into our homes. And there is no greater ness then that. In our simple Jewish homes, even with all their problems and distance from kedusha, we can serve Hashem in the original way, just like before the Chet Ha Egel. Any simple Jew and in any corner of the world Hashem brings the Bais Hamikdash to us.
Despite the Churban (destruction) in our own lives, and despite all our sins and our lackings, when Chanukkah comes around, we all become Kohanim in the Bais Hamikdash anywhere in the world we might be. Even in the Warsaw Getto or the concentration camps if a Jew managed to light a Chanukkah candle, we could access that light. And there is no greater ness.
In Likutey Halachos 4, in the section discusing Hashkamas Haboker (getting up in the morning) R. Nosson talks about Chanukkah and he goes into a discussion about Bikur Cholim (visiting the sick). When you're sitting at home healthy and doing well, and you make a decision to leave that comfort and go visit a sick person it's a big thing. Because when someone is sick, and he feels alone and frightened nothing would help more then the face of a friend who cares. You go visit him and you help him anyway you can, or say some warm words of chizuk, then you draw chiyus (life force) into a life that is in a state of churban.
And that's how R. Nosson explains Chanukkah. The Jews were not well. The Bais Hamikdash was ending. Galus (exile) was coming. When all of that would happen they would be like a sick person that can't  do mitzvos and  serve Hashem normally. 
When a person is well and wants to see the King he has to make many hachanos (preparations) to make himself worthy. But if you are sick and you happen to be close to the king, or even more so if you are His child, then there is a hisorerus (awakening) of rachmanus (compassion) in the King and He leaves His palace to bring chiyus to the one He loves.
This is why the Schinah is always by the bed of a choleh (sick person).
And Chanukkah is the Yom Tov of knowing that in our galus, in our churban, in our distance, Hashem is still with us.
R. Nachman's name has the same letters as "Nachal Noveah Mekor Chochma," a "Flowing River, the Source of Wisdom." The word for river, Nachal  has the same letters as "Nafsheinu Chiksa L'Hashem" (Tehillim 33): "Our souls are waiting/longing for Hashem". Chanukkah is the Yom Tov for the sick Jewish people that brings the Shchina into our lives.
What is special about R. Nachman? What separates him from other Tzaddikim? Some Tzaddikim are different: R. Shimon bar Yochai, the Baal Shem Tov, R. Nachman. The fact that this gathering can happen today shows there is something different about R. Nachman.
When a person is not well he is alone, like the passuk said in the parsha we just read "Vayvaser Yaakov levado" "and Yaakov was left alone".
The Tzaddik that descends from his loftiness to meet the people at their level is in the secret of Yosef HaTzaddik.  R. Nosson says in Likutey Halachos that a Tzaddik is driven and compelled to spend his life finding the best, the Tov in every Jew.
In next week's parsha the passuk says about Yosef "Ve hu naar et bnei Bilha v'et bnei Zilpah" "and Yosef behaved youthfully  with the children of Bilha and the children of Zilpah". The children of the shfachos (maidservants) Zilpah and Bilah represent Jews who are at a lower level, confussed. And Yosef acted like a naar with them. The Tzaddik has to go down and enclose himself in stories and simple things to come down to the level of the people. Like R. Nachman with the story of the Prince  and the Turkey, going under the table and behaving in a seemingly foolish way to rectify someone who is sick and broken.
Yosef brothers didn't understand him or what he was trying to do. Like all the followers of R. Nachman. They were misunderstood and suffered tremendous opposition at the beginning for going down to the "Bnei Hashfachos" the simple Jews. They were making themselves into Chanukkah candles to illuminate the Jewish people.
This teaching of R. Nosson is based on the 30th Torah in Likutey Moharan. In seif Beis (2) R. Nachman says we all need a Rebbe that can bring Hasagas Elokus (grasping of Godliness) to our level so that even people like us can understand it. The smaller and farther away we are the greater the Rebbe we need. Like the sicker a person is the bigger the doctor he needs.
And this is why after so many years we are drawn to R. Nachman. We are lonely and sick, struggling with the Saro Shel Eisav (Angel of Eisav) in the darkness. And R. Nachman says "you're not alone, the Shchinah is with you, I'm with you". And he tells us that just as we are seeking Hashem He is seeking us. 
There's a story about a lone chassid in a village. Not only was he the only chassid but he was the only Jew. And he had a daughter that, being lonely, ended up getting involved with a goy, that not only was a goy but also an abusive shiker (drunk). Finally she was living in the convent getting ready to convert and marry this man. The father in his desperation decided to make the long journey to visit his Rebbe, the Rav Shimon Skernovitzer, to seek his advice. The Rebbe hears the story and decides to make the trip back to the village. There he makes his way to the convent and manages to smuggle in a letter to the girl just asking her to come meet him at the corner. The girl didn't answer but the Skernovitzer stood there in the corner for three days. He davened and davened until that night she came to him asking him to save her and take her away. Rav Shimon Skernovitzer stops and asks her what made her change her mind. And the girl said "I knew you would never leave without me".
The true Tzaddik never leaves without any of us. No matter how far we are or were we are stuck. We know R. Nachman is not leaving without us. 
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Monday, December 12, 2011

Lubavitcher Rebbe: We Must Show Great Respect to Those with a Different Derech

Below, see a quote from a letter from the Lubavitcher Rebbe that relates to (though it is not the same as) our discussion of the various types of avodah/Torah which are appropriate for different people (see HERE and HERE) depending on their individual nature/shoresh neshama. ([Update] See also this related discussion about whether it is the Chabad belief that Chabad is the only true form of Yiddishkeit.)

In the last line, he says "It is necessary and one is obligated to look positively on every observant person and to treat them with great respect even if his way is not ones own way since his is a servant of Hashem."

(אגרות קודש > כרך כו > ט'תתצג)

כיון שהגמרא מעידה שהם "תלמידי רבי עקיבא", הרי מובן שהיו ראויים לתואר זה, היינו שלמדו באופן שהורה להם התנא הגדול והחכם הדגול,בהתמדה ושקידה וקיימו מצוותי' במסירת-נפש.

מזה מובן שמה שלא נהגו כבוד זה לזה, לא הי' זה מחמת דברים של מה בכך, ח"ו, אלא הי' להם יסוד וטעם בזה בהתאם לערך "תלמידי רבי עקיבא".

והביאור בזה הוא על פי מה שאמרו חכמינו זכרונם לברכה שאין דיעותיהם של בני אדם שוות, שמזה מובן שגם בעבודת השם יתברך, בלימוד התורה וקיום המצוות, אינם שווים: אצל האחד כל זה בא בעיקר מתוך אהבת השם, אצל השני הוא בעיקר מתוך יראת השם, ואצל השלישי הוא בעיקר מתוך קבלת עול, וכו'. – אף שכמובן ופשוט בנוגע למעשה אין חילוק ביניהם וקיימו התומ"צ במילואם ובשלימותם. – ובהיותם תלמידי רבי עקיבא, הרי בודאי שהיו אנשי אמת, שעבודתם היתה באמיתיות ובפנימיות שהחדירה כל תוך-תוכם, באופן שדוקא דרכם נראתה להם הנכונה באמת, ומי שלא הגיע למדריגה זו הרי, לפי דעתם, חסר הוא בשלימות. והיות שהיו תלמידי ר' עקיבא שאמר "ואהבת לרעך כמוך – זה כלל גדול בתורה", לא הסתפקו בזה שכל אחד בעצמו הלך מחיל אל חיל בדרכו העולה בית א-ל, אלא השתדלו גם כן להשפיע על חבריהם שגם הם יעבדו את השם באופן זה דוקא, ואלה שלא קיבלו הדבר – לא יכלו לנהוג בהם כבוד ככל הדרוש מתלמידי רבי עקיבא.

מהאמור מובן שסיפור הגמרא בנוגע לל"ג בעומר מלמדנו איך צריכה להיות הנהגת כל אחד ואחד מאתנו, וההוראה היא בשלשה ענינים:

א) עבודת השם, לימוד התורה וקיום המצוות, מצוות שבין אדם למקום ומצוות שבין אדם לחברו, צריכה להיות עבודה תמה ואמיתית ובחיות המחי' את כל האדם והנהגתו היום-יומית.

ב) זה כולל כמובן ופשוט מצות ואהבת לרעך כמוך, שגם אותה צריך לקיים בחיות ובשלימות הכי גדולה.

ג) ויחד עם האמור צריך וחייב אדם להביט בעין יפה על כל שומר תורה ומצוה ולנהוג בו כבוד גדול, אם אפילו דרכו היא לא דרכו הוא; כיון שעובד ה' הוא

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Rabbi Lazer Brody Speaking Tomorrow Night in Woodmere

Please come to 354 Eastwood Rd. in Woodmere tomorrow (Tuesday) night, Dec. 13th at 8 PM for a shiur with R. Lazer Brody. For more information email david(at)

Kol tuv!

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Friday, December 9, 2011

Arugas Habosem: Follow and Accept Hashem's Particular Path for You

Rav Moshe Weinberger gave over a piece from the Arugas Habosem (on parshas Chayei Sara) from Hungary to illustrate the universality of the teaching from Rav Kook's Oros Hatorah that I translated here a couple of weeks ago, that each person's path in learning Torah, doing mitzvos, and in life generally is unique and that there is not only one way (*within* Torah) to serve Hashem. It also connects to the fascinating debate in the comments on the piece from the Lubavitcher Rebbe that has been going on for the last couple of days. Here is my summary of the Arugas Habosem with some of Rav Weinberger's explanations interspersed:
The pasuk in Tehillim (101:6) says "My eyes are on the faithful of the earth." Why "of the earth?" Why not "of spirit" and why not the "righteous," "pious," etc. of the earth? 
He quotes the gemara in Chulin 60a that Hashem created everything and everyone with its advance consent. The earth, prior to its creation, could have complained, "Why can't I be created, like the heavens and their hosts (angels, sefiros, etc.), to be a spiritual creation with a revealed way of serving G-d!? Why are my hosts bugs, animals, and trees!?" Instead, since the earth was in fact created, it must be that the earth responded that if being the lowly physical earth is Hashem's will for it, then it wants that too. That's why the earth is called "eretz," from the word "rotzeh," "wanting," because the earth only wanted to do Hashem's will, and not what it would have wanted for itself.
Hashem has a different plan for each person in their Avodas Hashem. Some are meant to focus on Torah, some on tefila, and some on chesed. Others are meant to go out to work and fulfill the mitzvos related to work, which are many, both in the area of between man and G-d and between man and his fellow man. And *there is no difference between whether one's service in this way or in that way.*

From this we learn that no one should complain, "Why wasn't I created with a sharper head for learning? Why do my natural inclinations or circumstances lead me to a more physical path and not a more spiritual path?" Rather, Hashem wants us to be like the earth, which faithfully accepted the "less spiritual" role Hashem had in mind for it. 
Similarly we see that Eliezer Eved Avraham served Avraham faithfully for so many years, was his partner in teaching Torah, and always longed to connect to Avraham and the Jewish people by having his daughter marry Yitzchak. Nevertheless, when Avraham broke the world-crushing news that Eliezer's daughter could not marry Yitzchak, and that he himself had to be the one to find a different wife for Yitzchak, he did not drag his feet, complain, or quit. Avraham told him to swear in the name of "the G-d of the heavens and the G-d of the earth" to remind him that Hashem is no less the G-d of the "lowly" earth than he is of the heavens. Just as the earth joyfully accepted that its role in Hashem's master plan was not to serve Hashem in an openly ruchnius'dikeh way, so too Eliezer should accept that his role was not to be connected to the Jewish people, but rather was to serve Hashem in the world of "arur," not "baruch."

We could save so much aggravation and stress if we do not feel or teach or children that there is only *one* true mesorah/derech of serving G-d. If this teaching of the tzadikim, which one recognizes as being the natural, true approach, were plastered all over Bnei Brak and Lakewood, we would have a people who know that they should serve Hashem with a ratzon in the particular way that their nature and circumstances dictate, instead of thinking that they have to be like someone else or go only in one particular way.
IY"H, we should live with this torah of the Arugas Habosem and accept our unique role in the service of Hashem with love and enthusiasm.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Breslov Research Dinner with Rav Moshe Weinberger THIS SUNDAY NIGHT

This Sunday night at 7:30 is the Breslov Research Institute Dinner at the Young Israel of Lawrence-Cedarhurst where Rav Moshe Weinberger is speaking. My wife and I will be there and it would be very worthwhile to support Rav Chaim Kramer's work by making a donation or coming to the Breslov Research institute dinner on December 11, which is a Sunday. Please support them by making a reservation for the dinner HERE or to just make a donation.

Kol tuv! See below for the flyer:

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Sunday, December 4, 2011

Sicha from Lubavitcher Rebbe - Work is Avodas Hashem, Not Departure from it

A gracious reader shared the below message and quote from a sicha from the Lubavitcher Rebbe, zy"a in both English and Hebrew, which emphasizes the importance of viewing one's work for parnasa as part of one's avodas Hashem, rather than a break from it:
In regards to "avodas haavoda" I was recently shown saw a sicha from the Lubavitcher Rebbe on parshas vayeitzei. Never seen anything so validating for work as an avoda as this anywhere. Its lengthy but I attached to main part to the end of the email. I find it very inspiring in my own working life.

"It’s known from Chazal that “Hashem desires to dwell in the lower world”, i.e. Hashems dwelling place is not in the higher spiritual worlds rather it is specifically here in this lowest physical world, a world “so low that there is no level lower than it” (as the Alter Rebbe writes).

This is the purpose of the service of the Jewish people in general, and specifically during Golus. The purpose is that through their work in purifying the world (through performing Mitzvos using physical objects and through performing all their action for the sake of heaven so that the physical objects they use for serving Hashem become sanctified) the world become a fitting vessel for the highest Kedusha, and when this service is completed (with the coming of Moshisch) the entire world will be Hashem’s “dwelling”.

With this the two aspects of “Zevulun” can be understood. 1) The name “Zevulun” from the usage “Beis Zevul” a permanent dwelling. 2) The aspect of “Zevulun” as the working person (not the full-time learner) - since the drawing down of holiness into the physical world is mainly through the service of working people, since through working with physical matters for the same of heaven and performing Mitzvos they make the physical world a “dwelling” of Hashem. Through the work of Zevulun the “Bais Zevul” is made - a “dwelling place” for Hashem. This is the reason why in the verse Zevulun (representing working people) comes before Yisachar (fulltime learners), since this is the greatness of Zevulun over Yisachar.

This is the reason why we see that until Moshiach comes, when all our physical work will be done by others, most of the Jewish people are working people and not fulltime learners. This is because the goal of making this lower world into a dwelling place for Hashem is accomplished mainly through Zevulun.

Through this we can also understand that in regards to Yacov. 1) Since the dwelling place for Hashem is to be specifically in the lower world Yacov made his main dwelling place connected to Zevulun (since tzadikim resemble their creator) which means working with the physical world. 2) Yacovs activities in raising the family of Shevatim, the foundation of Clal Yisroel, was specifically in Charan as our sages say “Hashems anger (Charon Af) in the world” a place that was at the lowest level and in a time when Yacovs service itself was similar to the service of Zevulun - not a fulltime learner - but a worker in the house of Lavan.

However, we still need to explain this further. After all the main thing of Yacov was Torah. As we know that the world rests on three pillars. Torah, Avoda, Gemilus Chasadim these three correspond to the three forefathers with Yacov corresponding to Torah. Since this is so, even though Zevulun has an advantage, this is not a reason why Yacov should make his main dwelling place by Zevulun. What is the connection between the greatness of Zevulun and Yacov who's greatness is Torah?

To explain this we need to preface with an explanation of the greatness of the service of Zevulun - how specifically through his service the world will be transformed to a Hashems “dwelling”. One can ask: since the value of Zevulun is specifically during the time of “work” - when we are still involved with cleansing and purifying worldly things to transform them to vessels that are fit for Kedusha until the entire world is transformed to a dwelling for Hashem - what about after Moshiach comes when the “work” of purifying is over? Then there would seem to be no value to the work of Zevulun, since all our physical work will be done by others. Even more so when Moshiach comes “the entire world will only be involved with knowledge of Hashem” as the Rambam states.

It would seem therefore that the service of Zevulun is temporary and not eternal. So how can it be that specifically through Zevulun a permanent dwelling place for Hashem will be created? It would make more sense to say that Hashems permanent dwelling place will be created through Torah, since the Torah is eternal and can never be changed, it remains as it is eternally.

The following is an explanation. It’s true that a permanent dwelling place cannot be made possible except through something eternal, such as the Jewish people or the Torah - since they cleave to Hashem they are eternal. However the reason why this dwelling place for Hashem is made specifically through Zevulun is because through Zevulun (not only is the temporary world purified) but though his service even the Torah and the Jewish people are revealed in all their power and eternity.

The torah writes that “In order to test you to know if you truly love Hashem” - that through trials and tests the true power of ones love for Hashem becomes revealed. This is explained in other places as well. The Rambam writes that a Baal Teshuva that has tasted the taste of sin and refrains by conquering his desires is even greater than a Tzadik who never tasted sin.

This is since one who was never tested is not sure to remain on his spiritual level in all situations as opposed to a true Baal Teshuva, his soul power to resist temptation was revealed and so he will not fall into sin again in the same situation. The same applies to our topic here.

As long as the Jewish people are not involved with dealing with the world to purify and elevate it - even if they are involved in Torah and Avodas Hashem - the strength and eternity of their souls has not been fully revealed and actualized. Therefore this is not the type of service that can create a actualized dwelling place for Hashem. Specifically through Zevulun who deals with the lowest world (a world so low that there is nothing lower in terms of the hiddenness of Hashems light) and still is involved with Torah and keeping Mitzvos - this reveals the true eternal strength of connection to Hashem creating a dwelling place for the Shechina in an eternal and permanent manner.

The practical outcome of the above explanation is as follows:

Even though most of “Zevulun’s” time is spent involved with worldly matters (for the sake of Heaven) he is still obligated to set aside times for Torah study and Tefilah. But the explanation is not that working people must “also” set aside time for Torah study and Tefillah but rather that the true greatness of Zevulun even over Yisachar comes about through their service in Torah and Tefila. Even though they work with secular matters (transforming them to holiness) creating a “dwelling place” but in order for this to have its full strength this comes about through their Torah study and Tefila on Shabbos (when they are freed from business matters). Then their Torah study and Tefilah is even greater than that of a full time learner.

As the Alter Rebbe writes “This is the mistake of the working people that they think they can’t daven as well as full time learners - but the opposite is the case they can daven at a greater level since the advantage of light is noticeable specifically through darkness”. The same applies to Torah study since a working person has to force himself (against distractions of the outside world) to engage in Torah this results in his Torah study being even greater that a full time learner.

Furthermore this (Torah and Tefila) is not just an additional factor to a working persons main mission to make the world a “Bais Zevul” (permanent dwelling) for Hashem rather it is connected to this very mission. The greatness of this permanent dwelling is demonstrated specifically through Torah study and Tefila at length specifically on Shabbos.

Through this we can bring closer the day that is fully Shabbos and peaceful for everlasting, quickly actually in our days."

והנה ידוע מה שאמרו חז"ל31 "נתאוה הקב"ה להיות לו דירה בתחתונים", כלו­מר, "דירתו" של הקב"ה אינה בעולמות עליונים, שהם עולמות רוחניים, אלא דוקא בעולם הזה הגשמי התחתון, ועד, כמ"ש רבינו הזקן32, ש"הוא התחתון ב­מדריגה שאין תחתון למטה ממנו".

וזוהי הכוונה והמטרה של עבודת בנ"י בכלל, ובפרט בכל משך זמן ה­גלות, שע"י עבודתם בבירור וזיכוך ה­עולם (בעשיית מצוות בדברים גשמיים, וכן עשיית "כל מעשיך לשם שמים" — שעי"ז מקדשים דברים הגשמיים שבהם עובדים את השם) נעשה העולם כלי הראוי לקדושה העליונה, ובגמר עבודה זו (בביאת המשיח) יהי' כל העולם כולו "דירה" להקב"ה33.

ובזה מובן הקשר בין שני הענינים שב"זבולון" — (א) השם זבולון, מלשון "בית זבול", דירת קבע, (ב) ענינו של זבולון: בעל עסק (ולא יושב אהל) — כי המשכת הקדושה בגשמיות העולם היא בעיקר ע"י עבודתם של בעלי עסקים34, שע"י שעוסקים בענינים גשמיים של העולם לש"ש ומקיימים בהם מצות כו', עושים את העולם הזה הגשמי "דירה" להקב"ה; בעבודת זבולון נעשה ה"בית זבול" — דירה לו ית'.

וזהו הטעם של הקדמת זבולון (בעלי עסק) ליששכר (יושבי אהל) — "שמח זבולון בצאתך (ואח"כ) ויששכר באהלך" (כנ"ל ס"ב) — לפי שבענין עשיית דירה להקב"ה, שזהו "בתחתונים" דוקא, בגש­מיות העולם "שאין תחתון למטה ממנו" —


יש יתרון בעבודת זבולון על עבודת יששכר, כנ"ל.

וי"ל שזהו הטעם שאנו רואים כי עד בוא הזמן שמלאכתם נעשית ע"י אחרים — לאחרי ביאת משיח35 — רוב בנ"י הם בעלי עסק ולא יושבי אהל, ובלשון חז"ל35 "הרבה עשו כר' ישמעאל ועלתה בידן כרשב"י ולא עלתה בידן" והתורה על הרוב תדבר36 — כי להשלים מטרה זו — לעשות העולם הזה התחתון דירה לו ית', זה נעשה בעיקר על ידי "זבולון" דוקא, כנ"ל.

וע"פ כל הנ"ל יובן גם בנוגע ליעקב: (א) מכיון שדירתו של הקב"ה היא בתחתונים דוקא, לכן גם קביעת "עיקר דירתו" של יעקב (שצדיקים דומין ל­בוראן כנ"ל) קשורה דוקא בענינו של "זבולון"37 — עבודה בגשמיות העולם; (ב) פעולתו בהעמדת השבטים — שזה הי' יסודו של עם ישראל כנ"ל — היתה דוקא ב"חרן", "חרון אף של מקום (בעו­לם)"38, במקום ש"אין תחתון למטה מ­מנו", ובזמן כאשר אופן עבודתו של יעקב עצמו הי' בדומה לעבודתו של "זבולון" — לא יושב אהל, אלא פועל בבית לבן.

ה. אבל לכאורה עדיין חסר ביאור: סו"ס הרי ענינו של יעקב הוא תורה כנ"ל, וכידוע39 בענין ג' העמודים שעלי­הם העולם עומד, תורה עבודה וגמ"ח40, שהם כנגד ג' האבות, ויעקב הוא כנגד קו התורה — וא"כ אף שיש יתרון מעלה בזבולון, מ"מ אין זה טעם, לכאורה, שמעלה זו תכריע בקביעת עיקר מקום דירתו של יעקב — ומהו הקשר וה­שייכות דמעלה זו שבזבולון לענינו של יעקב — תורה?

ויובן זה בהקדם תוס' ביאור במעלת עבודת זבולון, שדוקא על ידי עבודה זו נעשה העולם דירה לו ית'. דלכאורה: מעלת ענינו של זבולון היא רק בעת העבודה — כאשר עסוקים (עדיין) בבי­רור וזיכוך של עניני העולם לעשותם כלים לקדושה עד וקודם שכל העולם כולו ייהפך לדירה לו ית'; אבל לאחרי גמר העבודה, ויקויים היעוד41 "ואת רוח הטומאה אעביר מן הארץ" — הרי אז, אין צורך לכאורה לעבודתו של זבולון ובלשון חז"ל35 מלאכתן נעשית ע"י אחרים [ולהעיר ממ"ש אדמו"ר הזקן42 יתירה מזה שלעת"ל לא תהי' העבודה לברר טוב מן הרע אלא רק עליות ב­קדושה גופא]; ויתירה מזה הרי בבוא משיח צדקנו יהי' (בלשון הרמב"ם43) "עסק כל העולם. . לדעת את ה' בלבד", "תורתו אומנתו"44.

ונמצא, לכאורה, שעבודת זבולון היא ענין עראי, ואין בה ענין הנצחיות; ו­כיצד מתאים שדוקא ע"י עבודת זבולון יהי' ענין ה"דירה"45, "בית זבול", דירת קבע (כביכול) של הקב"ה?

והי' מסתבר לומר שדירת קבע של הקב"ה תהי' ע"י ובענין תורה46, שהתורה היא נצחית ולא תהי' מוחלפת*46, "עומדת לעולם ולעולמי עולמים"47.

ו. ויש לומר הביאור בזה:

"דירה" באופן של קבע ונצחיות אמנם לא יתכן אלא בדבר שהוא נצחי, כ­ישראל48 ותורה, שלהיותם דבוקים בה' הם נצחיים49; ומה שה"דירה" נעשית דוקא על ידי עבודת זבולון, הוא (לא מצד עצם פעולת הזיכוך ובירור של ה­עולם, שזהו רק ענין עראי, כנ"ל, אלא) מפני שעל ידי עבודה זו בא לידי גילוי התוקף והנצחיות שבישראל ותורה.

ובהקדם תוכן הכתוב50 "מנסה ה"א אתכם לדעת הישכם אוהבים את ה"א גו'", שע"י נסיונות בא לידי גילוי — תוקף האהבה לה'.

וע"ד המבואר במ"א51 בביאור דברי הרמב"ם52 בענין בעל תשובה ש"טעם טעם החטא ופירש ממנו וכבש יצרו" ומעלתו על צדיקים "שלא חטאו מעולם" — דמי שלא טעם טעם חטא אינו מובטח שהוא יעמוד בצדקתו בכל המצבים, גם אם יהי' בנסיונות שאינו רגיל בהם כו', ובמילא לא בא לפועל וגם לא לגילוי תוקפו הדרוש לעמידה בנסיונות אלה;

משא"כ בעל תשובה ש"טעם טעם ה­חטא ופירש ממנו וכבש יצרו", הרי נת­גלה ובא לפועל תוקפו ולא יכשל עוד הפעם (ובלשון הרמב"ם53 "יעיד עליו יודע תעלומות שלא ישוב כו' לעולם").

וכן בעניננו: כל זמן שאין לבנ"י מו"מ בעניני העולם לבררם ולזככם, אף ש­עוסקים בתורה ועבודת ה' — בכ"ז הרי התוקף והנצחיות שבנשמתם לא בא ע­דיין לידי גילוי ועאכו"כ לא לידי פועל בעבודתם, ולכן אין זו עבודה שתעשה בפועל דירה להקב"ה.

דוקא בעבודת זבולון, שעוסק ב"תח­תונים" — "שאין תחתון למטה ממנו בענין הסתר אורו ית'"54 — ומ"מ עוסקים ב­תורה ומקיימים מצוות וכו', ה"ז מגלה וכו' את התוקף55, להיותם דבוקים

בתכלית עם השם. ובזה נעשים "דירה" לשכינה באופן קבוע ונצחי56.

וזהו הקשר בין ענין ה"דירה" העתי­דה להיות בגמר העבודה (דכל משך זמן הגלות), עם זה שאז "לא יהי' עסק כל העולם אלא לדעת את ה' בלבד. . יהיו ישראל חכמים גדולים כו'", לימוד ה­תורה באופן של תורתו אומנתו — כי ענין ה"דירה", "דירת קבע" של הקב"ה, מתגלה בעסק התורה של ישראל, אלא כדי שעסק זה יהי' בתכלית השלימות ה"ז לאחרי העבודה כל משך זמן הגלות.

וע"פ הנ"ל מובן שאין סתירה בין שני הענינים שביעקב — (א) שענינו הוא תו­רה, כנ"ל, (ב) שלימות הצלחתו באופן ד"ויפרוץ האיש מאד מאד" והעמדת שבטי ישראל כו' באו דוקא בעת וע"י עבודתו בבית לבן — כי: כדי שהתורה תהי' אצל יעקב בקביעות ולתמיד בלי כל הגבלה ("מאד מאד") — ה"ז בא עי"ז שיעקב הי' ב"חרון אף של מקום (בעו­לם)", ושם הי' רועה צאן (פועלו של לבן), שאז נמשך ונתגלה בתורתו ועבו­דתו של יעקב שיהי' "ויפרוץ האיש מאד מאד", למעלה מכל מדידה והגבלה.

ז. מענין האמור — שהעילוי הנפעל על ידי עבודת "זבולון" בבירור וזיכוך העולם יבא לידי גילוי בלימוד התורה של ימות המשיח — יש גם נפק"מ ב­מעשה בפועל בעבודתנו עתה:

אף שבכמות רוב זמנו של "זבולון" הוא בהתעסקות בעניני העולם (לשם שמים כו') — מ"מ, הוא מחוייב לקבוע עתים לתורה, וכן לעסוק בעבודת התפלה.

וע"פ המבואר לעיל מובן, שאין ה­פירוש בזה שגם בעלי עסק מחוייבים בלימוד התורה ועבודת התפלה, אלא — שלימות העילוי שבזבולון לגבי יששכר (זה שעל ידי עבודתם עושים דירה ל­הקב"ה, דירת קבע ונצחי) מתגלה בהם בעבודתם בתורה ותפלה57. וי"ל דהבחי­נה שבהיותו עסוק בעובדין דחול — עבד עבודתו כדבעי ועשה ה"דירה", וכ"ז מאיר באופן קבוע, היא כאשר לימודו ועבודתו ביום השבת (שאז פנוי מפרק­מטיא) היא באופן נעלה ביותר, גם מ­עבודת יושבי אהל.

ויש לומר, שזוהי כוונת רבינו הזקן באגרתו הידועה58, ש"בשבתות וימים טובים שגם כל בעלי עסקים יש להם פנאי ושעת הכושר להאריך בתפלתם ב­כוונת לבם ונפשם לה' ואדרבה עליהם

מוטל ביתר שאת ויתר עז" — די"ל ש­כוונתו אינה רק בנוגע להחיוב, שחל עליהם ביתר שאת ויתר עז (מיושבי אהל שיש להם פנאי להאריך בתפלה גם ב­ימות החול), אלא שעבודת התפלה שלהם היא "ביתר שאת ויתר עז" מתפלת יושבי אהל.

וכמו שביאר אדה"ז במק"א59, ש"זהו טעות הבעלי עסקים שבדעתם שאין יכולים להתפלל כ"כ כמו היושבי אוה­לים כי אדרבה נהפוך הוא שהם יכולים להתפלל יותר כי יתרון האור הוא מתוך החושך דוקא", וכמו שמבאר שם, שדוקא משום שבימי החול טרודים בעניני פר­נסה כו', הנה אח"כ בעת התפלה יכולים לעורר בעצמם אהבה בלתי מוגבלת ("ב­כל מאדך").

ועד"ז הוא בנוגע לקביעות עתים בתורה — שיש יתרון מעלה בקביעות עתים לתורה של הבעלי עסק מפני "ש­הוא בחי' אתכפייא יותר מביושבי אוה­לים"60, שזה שהבעל עסק כופה את עצמו כו' (נגד טרדותיו בעניני העולם) לעסוק בתורה, פועל שלימוד התורה שלו הוא באופן נעלה יותר מיושבי אהל.

וזוהי ההוראה במעשה בפועל לרובם של בנ"י — שאופן עבודתם הוא ע"ד העבודה דבעלי עסקים (וגם עוסקים ב­צרכי ציבור הם בכלל זה): לכל לראש צריכים להוסיף בקביעות עתים לתורה, והקביעות צריכה להיות באופן דקביעות בנפש, וביום השבת צריכים גם לעסוק בעבודת התפלה באריכות,

ואין זה דבר נוסף על שליחותם ה­עיקרית לעשות את העולם "בית זבול" לו ית', אלא קשורים זב"ז: העילוי של "בית זבול" הנעשה על ידי עבודתם בא לידי גילוי אצלם בלימוד תורתם וב­עבודתם בתפלה ובפרט בהאריכות ביום השבת.

ועל ידי זה מקרבים עוד יותר בוא יום שכולו שבת ומנוחה לחיי העולמים, במהרה בימינו ממש.

(משיחות ש"פ ויקרא תשמ"ב, ליל ה' דסוכות תשמ"ג)
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Saturday, December 3, 2011

Rav Moshe Weinberger - Vayeitze - We are the Ladder

Rav Weinberger was away last week in Eretz Yisroel, so sorry that there was no summary last week. Below, please find Rav Weinberger's Shabbos morning drasha from this Shabbos, Parshas Vayeitze. See here for past write-ups. Also, thousands of Rav Weinberger's shiurim are available online HERE.

Rav Moshe Weinberger
Parshas Vayeitze 5772
We are the Ladder

Parshas ויצא is the nineteenth birthday of the Shul. It is known that one’s birthday is a time of חשבון הנפש, spiritual accounting. We must therefore look at the parsha to help us examine where we are holding as a קהלה, a congregation.

The story of Yaakov Avinu is the story of all of our lives in גלות, exile. Every single moment, we live with “וַיֵּצֵא יַעֲקֹב מִבְּאֵר שָׁבַע וַיֵּלֶךְ חָרָנָה,” “and Yaakov went out of Beer Sheva and went to Charan.” According to the Zohar (Vayeitze 147a), “חָרָנָה,” “to Charan,” comes from the words “חרון אף,” anger. In orther words, whenever we leave our little Eretz Yisroels, our Shuls and our yeshivos and go out into the world, we are in a strange place, in exile. As spiritual people, we are strangers in our daily physical lives. We therefore live with the story of Yaakov Avinu entering his exile every single moment of every single day as we go into our own personal exiles. What does Yaakov’s experience teach us about how to view our life in גלות, exile?

When Yaakov lays down to sleep, the pasuk says “וַיַּחֲלֹם וְהִנֵּה סֻלָּם מֻצָּב אַרְצָה וְרֹאשׁוֹ מַגִּיעַ הַשָּׁמָיְמָה וְהִנֵּה מַלְאֲכֵי אֱלֹהִים עֹלִים וְיֹרְדִים בּוֹ.,” “and he dreamt and behold there was a ladder standing on the earth and its top was in the heavens and behold, angels of G-d were assending and descending בּוֹ.” There is a dispute in Bereishis Raba (68:12) regarding the subject of the word “בּוֹ,” which could be read to mean “on him” or “on it.” One opinion is that the angels were ascending and descending the ladder. But the Medresh offers the following explanation according to the opinion that the angels were ascending and descending on Yaakov Avinu:

עולים ויורדים ביעקב ... אפזים בו קפזים בו שונטים בו שנאמר (ישעיה מט) ישראל אשר בך אתפאר את הוא שאיקונין שלך חקוקה למעלה עולים למעלה ורואים איקונין שלו ויורדים למטה ומוצאים אותו ישן.

The [interpretation of the fact that the] angels were ascending and descending in Yaakov is that they were praising him (ascending) and criticizing him (descending). As it says in Yeshaya 49:3, “Yisroel, in whom You are glorified.” "You are the the one whose face is carved above." They ascended and saw his face and they descended below and found him sleeping.
The angels wondered, “How could it be that this person who is so great that Hashem takes such pride in him and his face is carved above under the Throne of Glory is sleeping his life away?” Each of our faces, the children of Yaakov, living in exile just as Yaakov was, are also carved up above on Hashem’s Throne of Glory. We have such great potential that Hashem exults in our greatness and carved each and every one of our faces above in שמים, in heaven. We do not realize our own greatness and meaning, so we sleep our lives away.

In prior generations, it was hard for someone to imagine how one could be in one place and his face could be somewhere else. Even in the time of the Chofetz Chaim, someone told him about the invention of the telephone, and he commented, “Listen to the power of speech; a Jew can say something in Radin, and someone will hear him in Vilna!” Today it is easy for us to imagine this concept. I do not know how it works exactly, but I have heard that on “Facebook,” people take pictures and other people can look at them anywhere in the world. And on Skype, one can be in Eretz Yisroel, and he can talk to his grandchildren in New York and they can see each other’s faces as they talk.

This is the struggle that each of us faces when we go out into the world. We also struggle with the angels who say about us, “This is the person whose face is carved onto the Throne of Glory! Look, why is he sleeping?!” We learn from Yaakov that we cannot sleep through our lives, thinking, “Who am I? I’m just a סתם person, a regular guy.” We are not just “regular guys.” Angels, which deliver Hashem’s Divine influence to the whole world, pass through us to do their work.

When Yaakov wakes up, he says (Bereishis 28:16) “אָכֵן יֵשׁ ה' בַּמָּקוֹם הַזֶּה וְאָנֹכִי לֹא יָדָעְתִּי. ,” “Indeed Hashem is in this place and I did not know it.” Tzadikim explain this pasuk in the following way: The letters of the word “אָכֵן,” “indeed” in that pasuk stand for the words אריה, כרוב, נשר, lion, angel, and eagle, the three animals whose images Yechezkel says are carved on the great chariot in heaven (10:14). In other words, Yaakov started off knowning that in lofty places there are mystical creatures, the cherub, the angel, and the lion. But once he hears that the angels say that Yaakov’s own face is also carved above, he he says “וְאָנֹכִי לֹא יָדָעְתִּי.,” “and I did not know it.” The Hebrew word for “I” is “אָנֹכִי.” The letters of the word “אָנֹכִי” stand for the words אריה, כרוב, נשר, lion, cherub, eagele, and Yaakov! He was saying, “I knew there were great and spiritual things in Heaven, but I never knew that I was one of them!”

Yaakov was living the good life before he left Beer Sheva. He was able to sit and learn Torah all of the Time. He had a mother who loved him dearly. Everyting was good. But it was only after Yaakov left home and went into exile on the way to Charan that it was revealed to him that “ישראל אשר בך אתפאר,” that Hashem glorifies himself in him and that his face is carved in the כסא הכבוד, the Throne of Glory. Only in exile did he realize that he was the ladder, the conduit through which Hashem sends his Divine influence into the world.

We too are carved in Hashem’s throne. We must realize that we are important, and not סתם, not simple, regular people. Everything in this world is dependent on us.

There is a story that the bochurim in the yeshiva in Radin were complaining to one another about the השכלה’s, the enlightenment’s prevelence in Paris, which was plaguing the religious Jews there. The Chofetz Chaim told them that it is because of their ביטול תורה, the time they waste when they should be learning Torah in Radin talking about what’s happening in Paris, that makes it possible for Jews to fall prey to the enlightenment in Paris.

Our job is to wake up from our sleep, and realize that we are the ladder, our faces are carved in the Throne of Glory above, and Hashem takes pride in us. So it is up to us to wake up to take up the challenge of our potential and our importance in the world. “וַיִּיקַץ יַעֲקֹב מִשְּׁנָתוֹ,” “and Yaakov awoke from his slumber.” In contrast, with regard to Paroh, it says (Bereishis 41:4-5) “וַיִּיקַץ פַּרְעֹה וַיִּישָׁן ,” “and Paroh woke up and went back to sleep.” We cannot be like Paroh and fall back asleep once we realize that we are great and that we really matter.

We must also realize that as a קהלת יעקב, a congregation of Yaakov, the image of our קהלה, our congregation is also carved on Hashem’s throne. We must look at ourselves and see if we are living up to to higher image of ourselves or whether we have become complacent and begun taking liberties in our כבוד התפלה, our respect for the davening in the Shul, in our learning, and in our בין אדם לחברו, the way we treat one another.

עם ירצה ה', with Hashem’s help, may we be זוכה, merit to wake up from our slumber and relize our importance and that we are the conduit through which Hashem brings everything good into the world. And through the openings that we create may we be זוכה to go together to Yerushalayim בביאת גואל צדק במהירה בימינו אמן, with Moshiach Tzidkeinu soon in our days.
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Thursday, November 24, 2011

Rabbis Weinberger and Kramer at Upcoming BRI Dinner

It would be very worthwhile to support Rav Chaim Kramer's work but making a donation or coming to the Breslov Research institute dinner on December 11, which is a Sunday. Please support them by making a reservation for the dinner HERE or to just make a donation. See below for the flyer:

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Monday, November 21, 2011

Catching the Train L'chavod Shabbos

Rav Weinberger spoke Friday night between mincha and maariv about the mitzva of "v'heichinu es asher heiviu," preparing for Shabbos. He told over this morning that Shabbos morning someone told him that he had a chalishas hada'as because he cannot involve himself in the Shabbos preparations because he has to work until very close to Shabbos in the winter, he has to run to the train, he gets home 20 minutes before Shabbos, runs into the shower, and then runs to Shul.

Rav Weinberger told him that it's not true. For him, in his situation, every time he anxiously looks at his watch at work, every feeling of anxiety when he receives a new phone call, and every leap he takes running to the train is only because of Shabbos.

As he runs to the train, he should literally say "l'chavod Shabbos kodesh." Not only that, but he is mezakeh and elevates the seat in the train that is zoche to carry a Jew home for Shabbos. Every piece of sidewalk and every part of the train he uses to make his way home for Shabbos becomes a kli for hashra'as haShechina. He should therefore say l'chavod Shabbos kodesh" over the whole trip.

Of course he wants to have a nice slow Shir Hashirim before Shabbos. But for the person who's in the matzav where he cannot do that, who knows, Rav Weinberger said, what is more precious to Hashem... His beads of sweat as he runs to catch the train for Shabbos or someone else's leisurely Shir Hashirim.

May we be zoche to the hachana l'Shabbos that is right for us IY"H!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Rav Kook - Oros Hatorah - Why People (Internally or Externally) Go off the Derech

Rav Moshe Weinberger gave over the following piece in Oros Hatorah (9:6) as one of the most fundamental pieces of Torah which explains one of the major reasons why our children go off the derech and which ought to be distributed to every single yeshiva and seminary in the world. CLICK HERE to see the original. I can't do justice to the full import of this piece but here's my translation:
Some have gone off the derech of Yiddishkeit because in their learning and in their path to spiritual perfection, they betrayed their own personal, unique nature. Some are more fit for Agada, and halacha (modern pilpul/lomdus) is not in their nature as a *primary* way of learning. Because such people [have not been taught to] value and recognize their unique talents in Agada, they immerse themselves in Halacha as is customary [in yeshivos today].

But such a person feels an inner opposition to what he is learning because that which he is investing himself in is not in accordance with his essential nature. If, however, he would find the area where his talent and interests lie, and he would fulfill that by making that area of Torah which fits with the nature of his soul his primary area of learning, he would immediately recognize that the inner opposition he used to feel was not due to any deficiency in the holy and essential Halacha area of Torah learning.  
Rather, he would know that his soul simply required a different area of learning as his primary study. Such a person would remain faithful in a beautiful way to the holiness of Torah. He would become great and strong in the area of Torah which speaks to him. In addition, he will assist those whose primary learning is in Halacha to also taste the sweetness of Agada.

But when a person does not [or is not given the option to] recognize the true reason for his inner opposition to what he is learning, and he attempts to overpower his own nature [because he is taught that there is only *one* correct way to learn Torah], then the moment some options for a non-Torah way to live are opened up for him, he will break out and then hate and become any enemy of Torah and emunah. He will go from one sin to another, and we know what such people have wrought. They attempt to create that which they envision as the ideal way of the world and they attempt to blind "the eye of the world."

There is a great variety of areas of Torah learning which are fitting to the great variety of individual souls' natures. Some people are even drawn to specific areas of secular wisdom. Even such people should go according to their inner nature and they must set aside specific times for learning Torah. If they do this, they will succeed at both because "Torah together with the way of the world is beautiful." And the gemara at the end of Yuma discusses how to establish the right balance of primary and secondary for such people. In general, this whole subject is dependent on the character and nature of each individual person's soul. (Emphasis and explanatory parentheticals added.)
Rebbe went on this week to begin learning a couple of other things from Rav Kook and his Rebbe, the Netziv on this topic. He said that the ideas are so "common sense" that is remarkable that we have strayed so far institutionally from the correct path, which is based on a recognition that Hashem created different people differently for a reason.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Great Reb Shlomo Videos and Awesome Eliyahu Hanavi Story

My holy brother Eliav Frei connected me to a great email list by Ari Kotowitz. It had the following great great story which I want to share. The email also head these great videos of Reb Shlomo. Also, if you want to sign up for the email list "Melaveh Malka for Every Jew" by Ari Kotowitz, CLICK HERE.
The story is told of a student of Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov who, after much preparation, felt himself deserving of a vision of the prophet-turned-angel, Elijah. His master instructed him to journey to a certain town and ask to be hosted at the home of a specific family. "Make sure to bring food," the Baal Shem Tov added. The student eagerly packed a wagonful of food and set off. Upon arriving, he was directed to an old, dilapidated house, home of a poor widow with many young children. The student spent Shabbat with them, and was only too happy to share his mountains of food. But Elijah never showed up.

The Baal Shem Tov instructed the dejected student to try again the next week. As he approached the door, he heard a child's plaintive voice, "But what will we eat on Shabbat?" A reassuring voice replied, "Don't worry. Just like Elijah came last week, he will come this week again!"

You and I can be angels as well. All we need to do is act the part.

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Monday, November 14, 2011

Cleaning Up Old Garbage

Squirrels and cats sometimes get into our garbage cans and our local sanitation professionals do not empty them of the garbage which fell out of the holes in the garbage bags.

Not wanting to deal with loose, rotten garbage, I continued putting new garbage bags on top of the loose garbage. It didn't bother me too much because as long as the rotten garbage stayed down and out of sight, I took the approach of "see no evil hear no evil."

At one point a few weeks ago, I realized that this could not go on forever, so I got some new garbage bags and cleaned everything up. I will spare you the unpleasant details, but it suffices to say that I had to get my hands into some liquids and solids which had been there for a very long time.

Afterward, I changed my clothes and washed my hands up to the elbow one, two, three, and four times. I could not get rid of the putrid smell and I couldn't stand being in the same room as my hand. Finally, at my wife's suggestion, I doused my hand with a significant amount of a perfume she no longer used. After some time, I washed my hands a couple more times, and that pretty much did the trick.

It's remarkable that such putrecense existed right on my property for so long and it only bothered me a little, like a little fly that I kept shooing away. It was only when I finally started to clean my lingering garbage that it started to really stink and make itself felt. As long as I ignored it and pretended that it wasn't there, it only bothered me a little. It only seemed really bad when I finally decided to get rid of it.

Rav Moshe Weinberger has taught us at various points from various sources that as long as a person doesn't deal with his lingering issues in ruchnius (laziness, histaklus nashim, ga'avah, etc.), they exist, covered up by his every day life, they do not seem to bother him very much and they are not as apparent to others.

When a person finally decides, however, that he cannot raise himself higher with this or that ga'avah or ta'aiva weighing him down, he begins to dig out the problematic mida in order to get rid of it. But once he brings the tumah to the forefront so he can dispose of it, the stink and filth of the problem finally shows itself and he realizes how bad that innocuous fly really was all along.

This is why when a person starts to work on himself and thinks that he's becoming better, he will suddenly face bigger and stronger ta'avos and greater anger, etc. than he ever had before he was working on himself.

We must know not to take the monstrous ta'avos and bad midos that come out of us as a sign of failure or hopelessness though. We must know that exactly the opposite is true. When we stir up the issues we'd never dealt with before, they're only making themselves more known now exactly because we're finally bringing them to the fore as part of our effort to rid ourselves of them. The fact that we stink more of our latent problems when we start coming closer to ruchnius is a function of the fact that our efforts are meeting with success. This should encourage, rather than discourage us.

When one pours water on the dying ember of some ta'ava in order to extinguish it, the ember rattles and hisses and makes a big stink. It's presence and power is made more known precisely because it is finally being put out, and not because it is getting stronger.

May we all be zoche to clean out all of our old garbage and not get discouraged by the smell!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Tales from the Zohar - Part 6 - Rabbi Yaakov Feldman

After a bit of a hiatus, here we are with Part 6 of Rabbi Yaakov Feldman's series, Tales from the Zohar. See here for earlier editions
The Book of Radiance: Tales from the Zohar

By R’ Yaakov Feldman


Sometimes it gets the better of you and you just need to know -- to know what’s on the other side of the chasm that is the Afterlife, what the dead do day after day, what they know, and just what they have that we don’t.

Needless to say, few of us have the wherewithal to even ask the questions let alone expect answers, but some do. And while they may not see quite everything -- or, if they do, they may not have a chance to report it back to the rest of us -- nonetheless the Zohar offers the findings of one exalted soul who did cross over to the other side, the great R’ Chiyya (Zohar 1, 4a-b). And while his experience there was a unique one that doesn’t answer all of our questions, it does offer us a broader, rare view of Heaven.

Now, a number of people have ascended to Heaven in their lifetimes. We’re taught, in fact, that “nine entered the Garden of Eden when they were still alive, and they are: Enoch the son of Jared; Eliyahu the prophet (see below); Eliezer, Abraham’s servant; King Hiram of Zor; Ebed-melech the Cushite (see Jeremiah 38:7); Yabetz the son of R’ Yehudah HaNasi; Batyah the daughter of Pharaoh; Serech the daughter of Asher; and, according to others, also R’ Yehoshua ben Levi” (Derech Eretz Zuta, Ch. 1). But they never came back.

In fact, we’re told outright that the prophet Eliyahu ascended to Heaven by means of a whirlwind (2 Kings 2:11) and that he wrote a letter about his experiences there which he had presented to King Jehoram (see 2 Chronicles 21). But we aren’t given any of the details of his sojourn there.

There are others who’d seen Heaven in their lifetimes whose experiences were depicted to a degree. Yitzchak, our forefather, ascended to Heaven when he was bound to the altar and about to be slaughtered by his father, Avraham. We’re told that the angels accompanied him while he was in Heaven to the Yeshiva of Shem and Eber there where his father had studied, and that he stayed there for three days to study. He was then granted visions of the primordial Holy Temple that existed before the creation of the world, of his own descent from Adam as well as insights into Adam’s future descendents up to the End of Days (see Breishit Rabbah 56, Targum Yonatan to Genesis 22:19, and Pirkei d’Rebbe Eliezer 31).

Moshe ascended to Heaven also, we’re told, after having he’d reached the top of Mount Sinai to receive the Torah. He arrived at the River Rigyon with its terrible flames then, where angels of destruction set out to burn him to a crisp but were stopped by a Divine fiat. Moshe continued to advance further and further upward where other angels caught sight of him and complained about the mere mortal who had the nerve to be in their midst. But G-d interceded on His behalf again, and Moshe caught sight of Him in His Throne of Glory. Suddenly all the Hosts of Heaven shook in G-d’s presence because it was time for him to finally receive the Torah. G-d opened the seven firmaments and showed Moshe the Heavenly Sanctuary; then He opened the gates of the seven firmaments and transmitted His Torah to him, and Moshe then returned to earth (see Pesikta Rabbati 204, Shabbat 88b-89a, and Ma’ayan HaChochma).

And the Talmud records that R’ Yoseph, the son of R’ Yehoshua Ben Levi, had what we’d now term a “near-death experience” at a certain point, before quickly coming back to life. His father asked him what He’d seen there, on the other side, and R’ Yoseph said he saw “a topsy-turvy world, where those on top (while here, in this world) were on the bottom (while there, in Heaven) and vice versa” (Pesachim 50a). This speaks volumes about what matters and what doesn’t, what we’re to concentrate upon here in life, and what we’d do well to realize we shouldn’t be engaged in, but now isn’t the time to delve into all that.

But only the Zohar presents us with a full report on what one individual saw when he ascended Heavenward, on why he was catapulted back to earth, and on some of what he saw while he was there. Here’s what it says.

At a certain time R’ Chiyya, who played a major role throughout the Zohar and was R’ Shimon Bar Yochai’s youngest disciple, prostrated himself on the earth, kissed the dust and cried out, “Dust, dust how stiff-necked you are!” For he’d asked to draw close to his Master, R’ Shimon, who was already dead and buried, and he’d been denied that. So there seemed to be nothing else to do but appeal to the soil in which R’ Shimon lay buried.

R’ Chiyya went on reprimanding the soil for having dared to enclose R’ Shimon’s bones when he “suddenly fell into a reverie and said, ‘Dust, dust, don’t be so proud! … R’ Shimon will not be consumed by you!’” We’re then told that he “fasted for forty days in order to actually cross over into the world of the dead and meet with R’ Shimon”. But a voice appeared from the other side and declared that R’ Chiyya wasn’t fit to see him. “So he wept and fasted for another forty days”, the Zohar reports.

Know that sometimes the angels themselves can be moved, as they’re able to read the heart that implores them to do this or that, and they’re often fascinated by the depths and width of such hearts, since they know nothing of that themselves, so they accede now and again.

And so the Zohar goes on to say that the angels “showed him R’ Shimon and R’ Eleazar, his son, in a vision”. What were these two tzaddikim doing in Heaven? “They were discussing the interpretation of a certain term that R’ Yossi had used”, and we’re told that many thousands of souls were listening along.

There were a lot of other things going on there, as R’ Chiyya, reports: R’ Shimon and R’ Eleazar ascended up to the heavenly Yeshiva. R’ Shimon suddenly called out the following: “Let R’ Chiyya enter and see the degree to which the Holy One will restore the countenances of the tzaddikim in the world to come!” And suddenly the doors to Heaven were opened to him.

“How fortunate is one who comes here without shame” (which is to say, without sin), a voice called, “and how fortunate is he who stands upright in this world like a mighty pillar that bears all!”

So R’ Chiyya did indeed enter, and he discovered that all the tzaddikim there stood up for him, which embarrassed him deeply; so he went to sit at the feet of R’ Shimon, when a voice arose in the distance.

“Lower your eyes,” it commanded, “do not raise up your head, and do not look!” So R’ Chiyya followed orders when he suddenly “saw a light shining from afar” which mystified him. That same voice then came back, we’re told, and addressed R’ Chiyya (and us here on earth too, to be sure).

“Wake up!” it stormed. “For who among you has transformed darkness into light” as the mighty ones in the Garden Eden have done? “Who, among you has eagerly awaited the shining of the Light that will come about when the King calls upon the Gazelle (i.e., the Shechina)?” Anyone “who doesn’t eagerly await that each and every day in that world (i.e., while he’s yet alive) hasn’t a place here” in The Garden of Eden.

The Zohar then returns to what R’ Chiyya was seeing for himself there. “He saw many of his friends … elevated to the Heavenly Yeshiva” when he was then approached by the Archangel Metatron.

Among other things, the Archangel attested to the fact that “The King does indeed attend to the Gazelle (i.e., the Shechina) every day and recalls how She lies in the dust of the earth” while the exile still functions. “He kicks 390 heavens” in His frustration, if you will, “which then quake and tremble with fear because of Him. And He cries” because of our continued Exile.

His “tears, which are as hot as fire, cascade down into the Great Sea. And it’s in fact by the power of these tears that the one who governs the sea (i.e., the angelic Rahav), is sustained and kept alive. And he takes it upon himself to sanctify G-d’s name by swallowing all the waters of … creation. He then gathers them all to himself so that on the day when the nations of the world will assemble against the Holy Nation the waters would dry up as they cross over on dry land”.

Suddenly R’ Chiyya heard a voice call out: “Move aside, make room. The Moshiach is coming to the Yeshiva of R’ Shimon!” and he arrived there indeed, “crowned with heavenly diadems”. And then to the great chagrin of R’ Chiyya the Moshiach called out, “Who allowed a human being wearing the cloaks of that world in here?”

R’ Shimon revealed to the Moshiach that not just any human being was there, but that it was R’ Chiyya , whom he referred to as “the Shining Light of the Torah”. The Moshiach responded: very well “Let him and his sons be gathered up!” That is, let them die in fact, “and join your Academy!”

But R’ Shimon said to the Moshiach, “Give him some time!” to remain alive; he’ll get here after a while indeed. And so we’re told that “time was granted him” in fact. And R’ Chiyya came back.

© 2011 Rabbi Yaakov Feldman
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Sarah and Hagar - The Torah's Attitude Toward Slavery II

Last week, I posted an article entited The Torah's Attidude Toward Slavery by Rebbetzin Devorah Heshelis, the author of The Moon's Lost Light. As I said, it's a brave approach to the difficult-to-address issue of slavery in the Torah because of the modern attitude toward slavery and how most nations have carried out slavery in the past.
Sarah and Hagar

The story of Sarah's slave woman Hagar is more difficult to understand than the relationship of Avraham and Eliezer. The relationship between Sarah and Hagar, which started lovingly, turned sour, causing pain to both Sarah, Hagar, and Avraham.

Hagar was the daughter of Par'oh, the king of Egypt, who had Sarah taken to his palace. When Par'oh saw the miracles Hashem performed for Sarah, and how he became stricken with leprosy at her word, and cured when he released her, he told his daughter Hagar that she would be better off as a slave in this house than as a princess in the wealthy and mighty Egypt. Why?

Par'oh knew that in Avraham and Sarah's house slaves were not chattel who existed merely for the benefit of the master or mistress, but rather respected people, who, imbued with the teachings of Avraham and Sarah would become the honored and beloved representatives of Hashem.

This idea is illustrated at the end of parshas Lech Lecho, where we are told that not only Avraham and his descendents were told to make bris mila, but also all his slaves. Bris Milah is a covenant with Hashem that removes the barrier to holiness so one can unite with Hashem. And the parsha ends by telling us: "And all the men of his [Avraham's] house born in the house and acquired with money from strangers, were circumcised with him". In other words, the Torah stresses that when Avraham rose up to the high level of attachment to Hashem acquired through bris milah, all the slaves in his house rose up with him. It was into such a house that Par'oh placed his daughter Hagar.

To Sarah as well, a slave was a student, someone whose behavior she could purify, guiding her and teaching her the ways of Hashem. A loving relationship developed between Sarah and Hagar. We can only imagine what the relationship was like, but Chazal tell us that students are like children for one puts one's very soul into them. Sarah loved Hagar and it appeared that Hagar loved and respected Sarah as well. Hagar rose to such a high spiritual level that she was accustomed to seeing angels. Her great teacher must have been everything to her.

Then Sarah decided to give Hagar the greatest privilege possible. She would free her and allow her to become Avraham's wife. Sarah had no children. She thought that when Hagar would bear a child from Avraham, she would raise the child as if he were her own. We see later the same idea with Rachel and Leah who treated the children of Bilhah and Zilpah as if they were their own children. Indeed, there it worked well, for the maid servants were self effacing and full of respect for their wonderful teachers/mistresses. Bilhah and Zilpah were actually freed and became wives, not concubines, but they remained emotionally and spiritually under the influence of Rachel and Leah, to the point where after Rachel's death Bilhah became Yaakov's main wife, for her charachter so resembled her guide, Rachel (just as Eliezer came to resemble Avraham).

And so Sarah, with this plan in mind, talked Hagar into marrying Avraham, telling her what a great privilege this would be for her. Hagar agreed and immediately became pregnant. What was her reaction?

Instead of feeling gratefulness to Sarah, Hagar reacted by openly deriding her benefactor. In her arrogance Hagar assumed that since she immediately became pregnant from Avraham while Sarah did not, it must be that Sarah was not "on the inside what she was on the outside". And Hagar didn't keep these thoughts to herself. She insulted Sarah, to her face, and before Avraham as well. Sarah was hurt to the very core of her being. Her emotional pain was terrible. What a betrayal! This was the thanks she got from Hagar for giving Hagar her own husband, something which is so hard for any woman to do? And what would be of her plan to have a child through Hagar? Her hopes were dashed.

And that wasn't all. Chazal say that Sarah was a great Torah teacher who converted many women. The most respected women of the times used to come to hear her. Hagar told these women that their admired teacher, Sarah, only pretended to be a tsadeket, but in fact, was not. It is a very sorry fact of human nature that people tend to believe, either partially or totally, the lashon hara that they hear. If Hagar were free to do as she pleased Sarah's life would be ruined. Her influence on the world, her life's work of bringing people closer to Hashem, would be destroyed because of Hagar.

Sarah, in her deep pain, blamed Avraham for not reprimanding Hagar. It is unclear as to why Avraham had remained silent and did not come to Sarah's aid. Perhaps he thought that since Hagar was the granddaughter of Nimrod who had thrown Avraham into the furnace, his reprimanding Hagar might be tinged with selfish motives of revenge, or at least be so interpreted by Hagar.

Instead, Avraham responded by telling Sarah that Hagar was in fact still her slave (although Sarah had actually freed her) and that she could do with her as she saw fit. Sarah then afflicted Hagar.

There are different opinions as to what the affliction was. Rashi says that Sarah made Hagar do hard work. Hagar, having been born a princess, was not used to hard work, and Sarah, understanding that, had never asked Hagar to do anything difficult. In order to break Hagar's arrogance, Sarah for the first time, gave Hagar hard work.

On the other hand, Rav Shamshon Rafael Hirsch points out that the angel later told Hagar that Hashem had heard her affliction. Since the usual terminology is that Hashem saw the affliction, the implication is that Sarah's affliction of Hagar was not physical but verbal. She made Hagar aware of her own low status in behaving as she did, telling her that she could not be free since she was still a slave to the yetzer hara. Yet after tasting freedom, after having been Avraham's wife, Hagar did not want to be under Sarah any more. She rebelled and ran away to the desert.

Did Sarah sin by afflicting Hagar? The Ramban says yes, she did, and so did Avraham by allowing her to do so.

This is truly amazing. Hagar had deeply pained Sarah, who was her Torah teacher and benefactor, and who had until this time showered Hagar with love and positive attention. Yet when Hagar became pregnant, instead of showing gratefulness for Sarah's sacrifice in giving her her own husband, Hagar attacked Sarah's most sensitive area, the deep pain of her barrenness, openly insulting Sarah and trying to destroy her influence on her other students. Hagar was tearing Sarah to shreds. Who would not have reacted as Sarah did? Yet the Ramban's opinion is that Sarah, and Avraham, were expected to be such paragons of kindness that even in such circumstances, one should not afflict a slave.

Other commentators, however, say that the affliction of Hagar was not considered a sin for we find no condemnation of this in the Torah. According to this opinion the affliction of Hagar was both warranted and necessary. Yet even so, we see Hashem's concern for the oppressed, for an angel was sent to speak to Hagar, and tell her that Hashem had heard her affliction.

How great is Hashem's caring for the afflicted!

To be continued....

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Thursday, November 3, 2011

Rav Moshe Weinberger's Shabbos Morning Drasha - Parshas Noach - Fur Coats & Fires

Below is my summary of Rav Moshe Weinberger's drasha this past Shabbos morning on Parshas Noach. You can get any of thousands of shiurim by Rav Weinberger online HERE. Let me know what you think!
Rav Moshe Weinberger
Parshas Noach
Fur Coats and Fires

The first pasuk in this week's parsha says "אֵלֶּה תּוֹלְדֹת נֹחַ נֹחַ אִישׁ צַדִּיק תָּמִים הָיָה בְּדֹרֹתָיו." "These are the generations of Noach, Noach was a pure Tzadik in his generations." Rashi brings two explanations of why the word "בְּדֹרֹתָיו" is inserted, seemingly unnecessarily, into the pasuk. The second and most difficult explanation is that "לפי דורו היה צדיק, ואלו היה בדורו של אברהם לא היה נחשב לכלום." "In his own generation, he was a Tzadik. But had he lived in the generation of Avraham Avinu, he would have been considered nothing." Generally speaking, it is not a good idea to compare people, especially Tzadikim. Considering the fact that the Torah itself testifies that Noach was an "אִישׁ צַדִּיק," a Tzadik, why do Chazal go out of their way to say something negative about him?!
Returning to last weeks' parsha for a moment, Rav Moshe Teitelbaum, the Yismach Moshe, offers an explanation of the pasuk in parshas Bereishis (1:24), "נַעֲשֶׂה אָדָם בְּצַלְמֵנוּ כִּדְמוּתֵנוּ," "let us make man in Our image and in Our likeness." Chazal would have been saved from much agravation throughout history if Hashem had simply said "אעשה אָדָם," "I shall make man" instead of "let us make man." 
Nothwithstanding the explanation Rashi gives for a moment, the Yismach Moshe gives an amazing answer by first asking why Hashem says "וַיַּרְא אֱלֹהִים כִּי-טוֹב," "and Hashem saw that it was good" with regard to everything that He created except for man. He asks why man, the pinacle of creation, is not called "good," while everything else He made is called "good." He answers that everything else was created in a state of שלימות, perfection. The Maharal explains that the word for animal in Hebrew, בהמה, means "בה מה," "it is what it is." Man, however,  was not created to be static. He was not created in a state of שלימות like the rest of creation. Instead, he was created להשתלם, to perfect himself and make himself good. Man's creation, in and of itself, does not constitute his perfection.
The Yismach Moshe uses this idea to explain the meaning of the pasuk "נַעֲשֶׂה אָדָם בְּצַלְמֵנוּ כִּדְמוּתֵנוּ." Hashem says to each and every one of us: "Let us, you and Me, make man. We will be partners in your creation. I will give you the things you need and you will make your own "כִּי-טוֹב," you will make yourself good."
We can also expand on the Yismach Moshe's explanation in the following way: Just as Hashem created mankind generally, He tells man: "Let us be partners in the creation of mankind. You must not only perfect yourself, but also create mankind." But how can man be a partner in the creation of mankind?
The Gemara in Sanhedrin 99b says "אמר ריש לקיש כל המלמד את בן חבירו תורה מעלה עליו הכתוב כאילו עשאו." "Reish Lakish says: When someone teaches another man's child Torah, the Torah considers it as if he created him." When one helps another person attain שלימות, he is actually a partner with Hashem in the creation of that person. The Tosefta in Horios (2:7) teaches us the same thing in such a beautiful way: "כל המכניס בריה אחת תחת כנפי השכינה מעלין עליו כאילו יצרו ורקמו והביאו לעולם," When anyone brings one creature under the wings of the Divine Presence, it is considered as if he created him, formed him, and brought him into the world."
Similarly, the Koznitzer Magid, Rav Yisroel Haupstein, explains the pasuk in Iyov 5:7 "כי אדם לעמל יולד," "man was created to work hard," in a novel way. He says that the word "לעמל" stands for the words "ללמוד על מנת ללמד," "to learn in order to teach." In other words, on the level of drush, the pasuk means man was created in order to teach others Torah, and thereby to create them as well.
The Gemara in Sanhedrin brings a pasuk to support the idea that when someone helps another person להשתלם, he actually creates him. It brings the pasuk in Bereishis 12:5 "ואת הנפש אשר עשו בחרן," "the souls that [Avrham and Sarai] made in Charan." Because Avraham and Sarai taught those people Torah and brought them under the wings of the Divine Presence, the Torah says that they "made" them.
Perhaps this is why Chazal went out of their way to compare Avraham to Noach. Noach paskened like the Yismach Moshe. He heard Hashem saying to him: "נַעֲשֶׂה אָדָם, you and I will be partners in turning you into what man was meant to become, one who has attained שלימות." And Noach did it. He attained שלימות. But in order to show that the purpose of man is not only to perfect himself, but to help others attain perfection as well, Chazal compared Noach to Avraham to show that there is no comparison between two people if one lives only to improve himself and the other lives to improve the lot of the world.
There is a Yiddish term used to describe Noach. It is said that he was a "צדיק אין פעלץ," a "tzadik in a fur coat." The world is cold and needs warmth. Noach was a tzadik that responded by wearing a fur coat so that at least he would be warm. But the other type of tzadik sees that people are cold so he starts lighting ovens and fires to warm people up. Avraham Avinu saw that the world was far from the warmth of a connection to the Ribono Shel Olam. He therefore made fires and warmed up the whole world and by doing that, he "made souls."

We should not only strive to people people who live only for ourselves. We must work for the perfection of the people around us as well. It is not enough to sit as a "צדיק אין פעלץ."
Shmuel (The Bar-Mitzvah Bachur), when the Master of the World created you he said “נַעֲשֶׂה אָדָם." The job of a boy in yeshiva is to create himself together with Hashem. The ulitmate goal, however, is to light up ovens and to warm up the lives of others, just as  your family has done. Let me read you a section from your grandfather's  ספר הזכרונות, his memoir:

Chapter 23: A Satisfying Career           
I spent my entire adult life serving the Jewish community as a teacher, and a Rabbi. These were good, meaningful, years, and I have no regrets. I have helped draw many Jews closer to their heritage, to the Torah and Hashem. For this opportunity I am very grateful. I have served as a Principal, and Associate Rabbi, with very much respect given to me by my congregants and students. Even so, no professional role has meant more to than the role of a teacher. The irony is not lost on me for a single day.
Hitler not only tried to destroy all of the Jewish people, but also, the unbreakable chain that dates back to Sinai- the Jewish tradition that is passed along orally, from father to son and daughter, from teacher to student.
Hitler tried to kill my entire family.
            He did not succeed.
Hitler tried to destroy my love for g-d and Torah.
            He did not succeed.
Hitler tried to turn me away from a religious life.
            He did not succeed.
Hitler tried to destroy my ability to inspire other Jews to love being a Jew as much as I do.
            He did not succeed.
I win.
Shmuel, your grandfather went through the fiery furnace, into the “גֵיא צַלְמָוֶת,” the shadow of death of the Shoah. When he came to America, he met the Satmar Rav zy”a. In the middle of their conversation, the Rebbi said “I’m not able to promise you the world to come, but one thing I can say one thing with certainty: you will not go to גהנום, to hell, because you have already been through all of them.”
Shmuel, may you truly "win" in accordance with our holy Torah. May you build and light “ovens” for others like your father and your grandfathers did. The same thing applies for each and every one of us. Therefore, may we be זוכה, merit, the promise of the Navi (Shmuel I 15:29), "נֵצַח יִשְׂרָאֵל לֹא יְשַׁקֵּר," that "the eternal victory of the Jewish people will never waiver." May you build and light up others just as our forefathers and Avraham Avinu did.