Monday, January 26, 2015

Power and Purpose - Rav Moshe Weinberger's Parshas Bo Drasha

Besides not having a drasha write-up for parshas Shmos because Rav Weinberger was in  Eretz Yisroel, I unfortunately do not have a write-up for last week's parsha, parshas Va'eira, as I was out of town visiting my family back in Dixie. Yee haw! While there, we saw the Paper Clip Project in Whitwell, TN (follow the links for pictures - keys available at Smith Brothers' Grocery), the duck march at the Peabody Hotel in Memphis, and spent some time at my parents' cabin near Coalmont, TN. A good time was had by all.

Baruch Hashem, Rav Moshe Weinberger has reviewed this write-up of his drasha from the this past Shabbos, parshas Bo. See here for past shiurim at's website by Rav Weinberger both as Mashpia at YU and from the past 20 years. You can also click on one of the following links to subscribe to the shiurim: emailrss feedpodcast, or iTunes. Please note that these drashos will only be available online for one month. If you notice any mistakes, please let me know so I can correct it. If you are interested in a particular drasha that is no longer online, you can email me and I'll send it to you IY"H, BL"N.

Rav Moshe Weinberger
Parshas Bo 5775
Power and Purpose 

We know that the seemingly simple mitzvah of (Shmos 12:2) “This month shall be to you the head of the months” is a foundational principle of Yiddishkeit because of Rashi’s question on the first pasuk in the Torah: “Rabbi Yitzchak said: It was not necessary to begin the Torah [with anything other than] ‘This month shall be to you,’ which is the first mitzvah with which the Jewish people were commanded.” The Torah is not a history book. Its purpose is not recount stories about our ancestors. Hashem gave us the Torah to teach us how to build a connection between Him and the Jewish people. 

The Baal Shem Tov teaches that the word “מצוה, mitzvah” is related to the word “צוותא,” meaning “rope,” because the purpose of the mitzvos is to tie together Heaven and Earth. It is therefore appropriate that the Torah begins with the first mitzvah given to the Jewish people as a nation, to sanctify the New Moon. But why is this a foundational mitzvah? Why did Hashem choose to begin connecting us to Him with this particular commandment? Why is it so foundational?

The Baal Shem Tov says that “בראשית, In the Beginning” can be broken down into two words: “ב' ראשית,” meaning “two beginnings.” The first beginning was the creation of the world. But the world lacked meaning and purpose until the second beginning, when Hashem gave us the mitzvah to sanctify the New Moon. But this begs the question. Why does this mitzvah in particular imbue our lives on earth with meaning and depth more than any other mitzvah? 

The Power of Jewish Thoughts, Words, and Actions

We can begin to understand the answer to this question by studying a difficult Mishnah in Pirkei Avos (3:15): 

Rabbi Eliezer Hamodai says: One who desecrates sanctified objects, denigrates Chol Hamoed [and Yom Tov], humiliates his friend in public, abrogates the covenant of Avraham Avinu [bris milah], and who interprets the Torah against its true intent, even though he has Torah and good deeds, he has no share in the world to come. 

There are many things about this Mishnah which are difficult to understand. First, while the sins listed are certainly bad, why are they so severe as to warrant losing one’s share in the world to come? We are accustomed to the usual categories of individuals who have no share in the world to come enumerated by the Rambam (Mishnah Torah, Hilchos Teshuva 3:6-8). These include various types of heretics and apostates. But why do people who have committed the sins listed by Rabbi Eliezer Hamodai also deserve to lose their portion in the world to come? What is so bad about their sins relative to the other sins of the Torah? In addition, what is the common denominator that binds these seemingly disparate sins together? 

Rav Yosef Yaavetz, zt’l, known as the Chasid Yaavetz, explains this Mishnah in an amazing way: “It is a fundamental principle on which the whole Torah is based that man has the power to uproot and to crush, to the extent that with just a few words, one can sanctify thousands of gold coins, and if he would take just one for his own benefit, he has desecrated [it.]” Using the Chasid Yaavetz’s principle, we understand that the common denominator that unites all of the sins listed in the Mishnah is the denial of the tremendous power of man’s thoughts, words, and actions to affect the world.  

It is an abrogation of the very purpose of the Torah and man’s life on earth if one desecrates sanctified objects because by doing so, a person reveals that he does not take his words seriously. Such a person cannot fathom how one can transform the nature of a physical object from mundane to holy just by uttering a few words. He cannot comprehend that such a minute act can change the essential nature of an object. But man’s ability to affect the world is the foundation upon which Yiddishkeit rests. It is why we are here. 

Similarly, one who denigrates Chol Hamod and Yom Tov shows that he does not really believe that a ceremony conducted by the Beis Din in Yerushalayim can actually affect reality; that by their words, the sages can establish a certain day as Pesach, such that one who eats chometz or lights a fire on that day is liable to be cut off from the nation or subject to the death penalty. Such a person does not believe that the New Moon can be sanctified based on the testimony of two regular Jews who say they saw the new moon. He denies the power of Jewish words to change the nature of reality. And by doing so, he excludes himself from the essence of what it means to be a Jew.


By humiliating another person in public, one also demonstrates that does not take the power of his words seriously. In effect, he says: Who am I? Why should it make any real difference if I insult someone in the presence of a few other unimportant people? Did I injure him? Did he have to go to the hospital? No. My words mean nothing. 

If a person abrogates the covenant of Avraham Avinu, he effectively says: Why does it matter if I gaze at the same images on my computer that my non-Jewish coworkers look at? Do you really believe that just because I got a surgical procedure against my will when I was eight days old that my body became a vessel for holiness? It cannot be. My parents’ and the mohel’s actions when I was a child cannot possibly have made me into a holy person. 

It is the same thing with regard to the final item in the list, one who interprets the Torah against its true intent. Today, anyone who has learned a single Rashi believes he can begin writing articles on websites, blogs, Facebook, and in the numerous newspapers which pop up every week. Some people feel: Am I one of the sages of the Mishnah or the Gemara? Am I a Medieval scholar or Jewish philosopher? Am I the Rambam or Rashi? Who cares if not every idea I write or speak about is 100% according to halacha? Who am I? Why does what I write or teach matter?   

According to the Chasid Yaavetz, we now understand that all of the aforementioned mistakes cut to the heart of what it means to be a Jew. Our role in this world is to rectify the physical and spiritual worlds by sanctifying what seem to be our most mundane thoughts, words, and actions. That is how we bind Heaven and earth together. The Chasid Yaavetz therefore explains that “their sin is similar to heresy, which uproots the entire Torah.” People who commit sins which effectively deny the meaning and depth inherent in a Jew’s actions contradict the foundational principle of the Torah, that “man has the power to uproot and to crush.” 

That is why the world’s second beginning occurred when Hashem gave the Jewish people the mitzvah to sanctify the New Moon through Beis Din. He wants to teach us that the world derives its meaning and purpose from the thoughts, words, and actions of the Jewish people. He therefore made our nation’s first mitzvah one dependent on the testimony of simple Jews regarding the New Moon and the Beis Din’s simple declaration, “Sanctified, sanctified.” This shows us that the Jewish people have the power to determine and change the nature of time itself. We can never again legitimately fail to recognize the importance of our words and actions.  

Accordingly, failing to recognize this gives one a status similar to a heretic. The whole purpose of the creation of this world and all of the upper worlds is that a person should perfect and rectify himself and the whole world. That is what gives the upper and lower worlds their meaning and purpose.  

The Chasid Yaavetz’s words, “man has the power to uproot and to crush,” recall to the words of Hashem to Yirmiyahu Hanavi who initially asked Hashem not to choose him as a Navi. He knew that he would have to deliver a message of death and destruction to the Jewish people and did not want the job. But Hashem told him (Yirmiyahu 1:4) that he had already been chosen before he was even born. But Yirmiyahu did not believe in himself. He protested (ibid. 6): “Alas, L-rd, G-d, behold I do not know how to speak for I am a youth [נער].” The word for youth, נער, may also imply incompetence or immaturity as the word is used in Yiddish. In any case, Yirmiyahu argues to Hashem that he is unworthy of being a Navi because he is too young or incompetent to make a real difference for the Jewish people. 

Hashem’s message Yirmiyahu, including language adapted by the Chasid Yaavetz in his explanation of Rabbi Eliezer Hamodai’s Mishnah, would be worthwhile for every Jew to review on a regular basis. Yirmiyahu recounts Hashem’s response to him (ibid. 7-10):  

“Do not say ‘I am a youth,’ for wherever I send you, you shall go, and whatever I command you, you shall say. Do not be afraid of them for I am with you to save you, says Hashem.” And Hashem stretched out His hand and touched my mouth and Hashem said to me, “Behold, I have placed My words in your mouth. See, I have appointed you over the nations and over the kingdoms, to uproot and to crush, and to destroy and to demolish, to build and to plant.”  

We must all internalize Hashem’s message to Yirmiyahu and not see ourselves and incompetent or ineffectual children. We must take seriously the ability He planted within us to rectify ourselves and the world, thus fulfilling the very purpose of creation. May Hashem help  us recognize the profound power of our thoughts, words, and actions and may we never brush off our responsibility to repair the world.

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Sunday, January 4, 2015

Rav Moshe Weinberger's Drasha for Parshas Vayechi - Constant Renewal

Baruch Hashem, Rav Moshe Weinberger has reviewed this write-up of his drasha from the this past Shabbos, parshas Vayechi. See here for past shiurim at's website by Rav Weinberger both as Mashpia at YU and from the past 20 years. You can also click on one of the following links to subscribe to the shiurim: emailrss feedpodcast, or iTunes. Please note that these drashos will only be available online for one month. If you notice any mistakes, please let me know so I can correct it. If you are interested in a particular drasha that is no longer online, you can email me and I'll send it to you IY"H, BL"N.

P.S. There will be no write-up next week as Rav Weinberger will be in E"Y on parshas Shmos.

P.P.S. This is a shorter version of this drasha, which was given on the occasion of a new board being installed at Aish Kodesh. The full version of the drasha write-up is being circulated among the members of the shul by email.

Rav Moshe Weinberger
Parshas Vayechi 5775
Constant Renewal 

Rav Shraga Feivish Schneebalg, a Dayan in London, in the fifth volume of his responsa, Shraga Meir, writes an amazing thing. He says that many people ask him difficult questions to which there is no established answer. He must therefore spend a significant amount of time reanalyzing the classic sources to unearth novel interpretations to address people’s challenging questions. And without any sense of irony, the Rav writes, “Am I not a simple Jew, just like all other Jews?” He recounts how at one point he was upset that the demands of his position as Dayan did not enable him to simply study and review Chumash, Mishna, Halacha, and Gemara like he used to. One day, he decided that he would no longer involve himself in answering questions that required him to plumb the depths of the seforim to uncover novel understandings of the sources. Instead, he would go back to a simple life of learning and reviewing.  

The Rav recounts that the night he made this resolution, he had a dream. In it, he saw the pasuk in this week’s parsha (Bereishis 48:20), “And he placed Ephraim [אפרים] before Menashe [מנשה].” He dreamed that the two names in the pasuk hint at two ways of studying Torah. The root of Menashe’s name is related to the word לשנות, meaning to repeat or review. One way to study Torah is to concentrate on covering ground and reviewing what one has learned. But the other way of studying Torah is related to Ephraim’s name, which comes from the root word לפרות, meaning to be fruitful and creative, always giving birth to novel ideals and interpretations. In his dream, Rav Shraga Feivish understood that “And he placed Ephraim before Menashe” means the way of bringing forth novel understandings of Torah and halacha takes precedence over the way of simply reviewing the Torah one studies. Needless to say, the Rav continued answering the people’s questions and bringing more novel understandings of Torah into the world.

The same is true with respect to Yiddishkeit and any aspect of it. There are those who believe that the Jewish way is to do mitzvos the same way one has done in the past, with the same intentions and intensity (or lack thereof) that he did them last year and the year before. But the pasuk “And he placed Ephraim before Menashe” teaches that the better way is to be fruitful; to consistently change and bring novelty into the way one does mitzvos, keeping in mind that while change should not be implemented for its own sake, things should also not stay the same simply because “that is how it has always been done.” 

Similarly, Rav Tzvi Elimelech of Dinov, zy’a, in Derech Pikudecha, writes, with regard to the mitzva to be fruitful and multiply, that even those who cannot get married or have children can fulfill the mitzva. The underlying root of the mitzva is to be fruitful, to be productive. And this can be accomplished by bringing novel ideas, new ways of fulfilling mitzvos, and new aspects of Kiddush Hashem into the world. By being productive and not being satisfied with the way things have always been, one brings new “children,” new aspects of G-dliness, into the world.  

And as we welcome the blessings of Ephraim and Menashe into our lives, we must have in mind the following teaching of the Divrei Yisroel of Modzitz, zy’a, in the name of his grandfather Reb Chatzkal of Kuzmir, zy’a, on the pasuk (Bereishis 48:20), “With you [בך], the Jewish people will bless…”  The Divrei Yisroel asks: Why does Yaakov refer to Ephraim and Menashe in the singular “with you, בך,” instead of the plural “בכם?” The Rebbe answers that it is because blessings cannot rest in a group of people who are divided. “There is no vessel which can contain blessing other than peace” (Uktzin 3:12). Ephraim and Menashe must be like one, such that they may be referred to in the singular. Therefore, even if there are differences of opinion between them, they recognize that they are “on the same team” and there is no animosity between them.  

This is connected to a teaching of Rav Yisroel Rizhiner, zy’a, on the pasuk (Bereishis 49:1), “Gather together and I will tell you what will happen to you at the end of days.” The Rizhiner explains that the Hebrew word for “will happen [יקרא]” is related to the word cold (קר) because at the end of days, there will be a profound coldness that will consume the Jewish people. Their Yiddishkeit will be old, by rote, and filled with coldness. But Yaakov gives us the antidote when he says “Gather together.” The only way we can overcome the oldness and the coldness of this last generation is to gather together with one purpose. We may not always agree, but we must recognize that we are one and must work flexibly together with mutual love and respect. 

Finally, there is one additional key to approach a time of renewal. The Satmar Rov, zy’a, in 1954, made a remarkable statement to his chassidim, who were composed almost entirely of survivors of the War: “Every one of us must contemplate why we did not merit to be sacrificed on the alter by giving up our lives to sanctify G-d’s name. It must be that Hashem decreed regarding us that we remain alive for a purpose. And what is that purpose? To establish new generations for Hashem and His Torah. [Yaakov Avinu referred to] ‘The angel who redeemed me from every evil’ [ibid. at 48:16], from the fiery furnace [of the crematoria] for a purpose. [What is that purpose?] ‘May he bless the children.’ [He saved us to] allow us to establish a new generation of believers in G-d.” Remarkably, the Rebbe, like many survivors, could not initially understand why he and the other few survivors lived while their parents, brothers, sisters, children, relatives, and friends were all murdered. He concluded that the purpose of their survival was the creation of a new, young generation of believers. The purpose of renewal is to be fruitful, to bring forth a generation of Jews who would serve Hashem even more deeply. 

The Chidushei Harim, zy’a, offers another novel interpretation of the pasuk quoted by the Satmar Rav. Yaakov Avinu asks that the angel bless “bless the children.” The word for children, “נערים,” is related to the word התעוררות, meaning inspiration or renewal. A Jew is always able to start anew with a fresh outlook and approach. That is our people’s greatest blessing.  

May the entire Jewish people, merit to renew itself to serve Hashem with new vigor and excitement in a way of peace and love to increase the revelation of G-d’s presence in the world generally and in our own lives.

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Thursday, January 1, 2015

You Must First Protect the Candle to Light a Bonfire - Rav Moshe Weinberger's Vayigash Drasha

Baruch Hashem, Rav Moshe Weinberger has reviewed this write-up of his drasha from the this past Shabbos, parshas Vayigash. See here for past shiurim at's website by Rav Weinberger both as Mashpia at YU and from the past 20 years. You can also click on one of the following links to subscribe to the shiurim: emailrss feedpodcast, or iTunes. Please note that these drashos will only be available online for one month. If you notice any mistakes, please let me know so I can correct it. If you are interested in a particular drasha that is no longer online, you can email me and I'll send it to you IY"H, BL"N.

Update 12/3/14HERE the audio of an expanded version of this drasha Rav Weinberger gave to a group of smicha students at YU.  HT Anon 9:02.

Rav Moshe Weinberger
Parshas Vayigash 5775
Protect the Candle, then Light a Bonfire 

Chazal (Yalkut Shimoni 150) connect the confrontation between Yehuda and Yosef at the beginning of the parsha to a pasuk in Tehillim (48:2-5) we read every Monday morning in the Song of the Day: “Hashem is great and very much praised in the city of our G-d, the mountain of His holiness. A beautiful view, joy of the entire world, the mountain of Zion . . . for behold the kings have assembled; they have passed together.” When Dovid Hamelech said, “the kings have assembled,” the Midrash says that this refers to none other than Yehuda and Yosef. Yehuda was the king of the brothers and Yosef was the king of Egypt. Why does the Midrash connect this encounter with Dovid Hamelech’s description of the beauty of Yerushalayim, the Temple Mount, and the Beis Hamikdash?

We see from the Mishna in Pirkei Avos (2:1) that there are two types of tzadikim, two ways of serving Hashem. The Mishna says, “Rebbi says, ‘which is the straight path which a person should choose? Any one which gives glory to the one who does it and glory from other people.’”  In other words, there are two paths, both of which appear good and straight, so it is difficult to choose between them. But Rebbi advises that one should choose the path that not only gives himself glory, but also causes others to give him glory. One type of tzadik serves Hashem to perfect himself and get closer to Hashem, but he does not involve himself in teaching or attempting to influence others. This type of tzadik includes the thirty-six hidden tzadikim. Such a tzadik follows the path which “gives glory to the one who does it.” While service of G-d in this way certainly affects the world through its influence on the higher worlds, a tzadik who follows this path secludes himself and does not attempt to influence others. This is the way of private, secluded service of G-d. 

But there is another type of tzadik, one who follows a path that “gives glory to the one who does it and glory from other people.” Tzadikim who serve Hashem in this way work to bring G-d’s glory not only into their own lives, but also into the lives of everyone around them. This is the way of public service of G-d. Both of these types of tzadikim have their place. The pasuk (Tehillilm 96:11) says, “The Heavens will rejoice and the earth will delight.” In other words, “the Heavens will rejoice” as a result of those tzadikim who seclude themselves to serve G-d in a state of total purity. And “the earth will delight” through the service of those tzadikim who serve G-d by teaching and influencing their brothers and sisters here on earth. Both paths are precious before Hashem. Both have their proper time and place.  

Yaakov Avinu himself struggled to find his place between these two paths. He dreamed (Bereishis 28:12) of a “ladder set up on the ground and its top reached to Heaven.” On one hand, his grandfather Avraham Avinu was devoted to the path “which gives glory to the one who does it and glory from other people.” Avraham went out into the world to bring all of mankind to belief in and service of G-d. And his father Yitzchak separated himself from the world, devoted to a path in which he did not travel to teach others about G-d, but stayed in Eretz Yisroel and worked to perfect himself. Yaakov Avinu felt drawn to both paths and attempted to find a middle ground. 

We see which path Yosef and Yehuda chose based on the Gemara (Sota 36b), which says, “Yosef sanctified the name of Heaven in private, so one letter of Hashem’s name was added to his name. Yehuda, who sanctified the name of Heaven in public, has all the letters of Hashem’s name in his name [יהודה].” Yosef sanctified Hashem’s name in private by refusing to be with the wife of Potifar when no one was there to see. But Yehuda sanctified G-d’s name publicly by proclaiming, in front of everyone, “She is more righteous than me” about Tamar. Similarly, the pasuk which refers to the greatness of those tzadikim who give glory to Heaven and increase G‑d’s glory on earth also contains Hashem’s four letter name: “The Heavens will rejoice and the earth will delight [ישמחו השמים ותגל הארץ].” 

Rav Kook explains in Ein Aya (on Shabbos 21b) a deeper way of understand the Gemara’s teaching: “It is a mitzva to light the Chanukah candle by the door of the house on the outside… But at a time of danger, one may place it on his table, and that is sufficient.” Rav Kook explains that at one time, when we had a Beis Hamikdash and had experienced the redemption of Chanukah, we placed the menorah on the outside of the house to illuminate the outside world with the light of Torah and holiness. That is the way of Yehuda. But in a time of exile, when the dangers of the outside world’s influences press on our homes, attempting to come inside, we lock our doors, close our shades, and concentrate on keeping the pure light of holiness burning inside. We do not attempt to influence the outside world in exile because we have a difficult enough time keeping the influences of the non-Jewish world out. That is the way of serving G-d in exile. That is the way of Yosef Hatzadik.  

The Sfas Emes uses this Gemara to illustrate a very similar teaching. In the old days, there was a separation between the nations of the world and the protected holiness of a Jewish home. Then, we fulfilled the mitzva to light the menorah “outside.” But today, the outside world is now inside. Every type of distraction and impurity rides into our homes through the same devices found in the outside world. Because the world out there is now in our homes, we fulfill the mitzva to light the menorah outside by lighting it in our houses. And by doing so, we daven to Hashem that He illuminate our houses with the light of His Torah so that our homes with have the sanctity and wholesomeness that does not exist outside. 

What was the nature of this meeting between the two kings, how does it relate to these two says of serving G-d, and how does it connect to the beauty of the Temple Mount and Yerushalayim? Their debate was about their brother Binyomin. And we know that the Beis Hamikdash and the Holy of Holies were situated on both Binyomin and Yehuda’s portions of Eretz Yisroel (Zevachim 53b-54a). In other words, their debate was about the soul of the Jewish nation, the Beis Hamikdash. Which of their paths in the service of G-d represent the pinnacle of man’s service? 

Yehuda’s way of redemption, of public teaching and influence, or Yosef’s way of exile, of secluding one’s self from the world to serve G-d in purity? Yehuda’s path of “a beautiful view, joy of the entire world” and “the earth will delight?” or Yosef’s path of “let the Heavens rejoice?” Yehuda argued that, just like in the time of the redemption, “Yerushalayim will be settled like unwalled towns” (Zecharia 2:8). When we live in the proper way, we will no longer need the high walls of Yerushalayim to keep the outside world out. Instead, the light of Yerushalayim will be open, illuminating the entire world. What is the appropriate time for each of these approaches? 

This week is the fast day of Asara (the tenth of) B’Teves. According to Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 580 and Magan Avraham there), Asara B’Teves is one of the most terrible fast days because it was instituted after tragedies which befell our people on the 8th, 9th, and 10th of Teves. It is so severe that were it possible for it to fall on Shabbos, we would still fast. On the 8th of Teves, Talmai Hamelech decreed that the sages translate the Torah into Greek. This was considered a horrible degradation of the Torah. While it is true that this would theoretically a good thing because, “the beauty of G-d goes to Yefes [the father of Greece] and it shall dwell in the tents [houses of study] of Shem [the father of the Jewish people]” (Bereishis 9:27), it could not have come at a worse time. The walls of the Jewish community were down and many Jewish people were becoming mesmerized with Greek culture. Translating the Torah meant strengthening Hellenists’ penchant for viewing the holy Torah as merely another topic for intellectual study. 

And the 9th of Teves is the yohrtzeit of Ezra Hasofer, who caused the Assyrian script we find in sifrei Torah to be used for seforim accessible to the general public. He brought the depth and richness of the Torah’s writing, in which the shape of every letter has significance and every crown on every letter teaches scores of halachos and secrets of Torah, to the Jewish world. Losing Ezra was a tragedy of untold proportions because he introduced a new depth of understanding to the Jewish people’s understanding of the inner, deeper part of Torah.  

And on Asara B’Teves, the 10th of Teves, the king of Bavel began the siege on Yerushalayim at the time of the first Beis Hamikdash. These three things share one common denominator. All of them demonstrate how important the walls of holiness are to increasing the depth and purity of our connection to and understanding of the Torah. 

The ultimate goal, the way of redemption and Eretz Yisroel, is to break down the walls and spread Torah to the whole world. That is the way of Yehuda, the father of Dovid Hamelech and Moshiach. But that is only possible after we first protect the sanctity of our people and ourselves by sanctifying Hashem’s name in private, where no one in the world can see us. That is the way of Yosef Hatzadik, the father of Moshiach ben Yosef who prepares the way for Moshiach ben Dovid. We must light the menorah in our homes in exile before we can light it outside with the redemption. 

It is told that Rav Chatzkel Shinover, the author of the Divrei Yechezkel, once had to travel with his gabbai on a very cold and windy night. The two of them were suffering tremendously from the cold so Rav Chatzkel asked his gabbai to make a fire for them. The gabbai took some flint stones and tried mightily but he was unsuccessful. So the rebbe asked if he could try and when he did so, a fire started immediately.  

Rav Chatzkel then told his gabbai, “I know when we get back, you’re going to tell all of the chassidim that the rebbe did a miracle. But you should know that it isn’t true. But Rav Hirsch Riminover… he could do wonders. Once on Shabbos, there was a large storm outside the beis midrash and one of the windows shattered. The wind was howling through the window and the chassidim wanted to go find a non-Jew to put something over the window, lest the wind blow out the candles in the beis midrash. But Rav Mendel looked out of the window this way and that way, and told them that the candles would be fine. Just then, the wind stopped blowing through the window. So you see, Rav Hirsch Riminover could do wonders but I cannot. All I know how to do is to cup my hands over the spark to allow the flame to grow.” 

The tzadikim of the earlier generations miraculously protected us from the winds of the outside world. But today, our job is to cup our hands around the fire of our Yiddishkeit, and not to let it go out. We must protect the holiness of our minds, our eyes, and our ears from the impurity of the outside world. And we must fill them with Torah, tefillah, mitzvos, and words and acts of kindness. If we first protect the candle, we can use it to light a bonfire. With G-d’s help, may we protect the holiness within us so that the Heavens will rejoice and the path will be prepared for the way of Yehuda and Moshiach ben Dovid, who will bring about the time when “the earth will delight,” may it come soon in our days.

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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Alex Clare - Eli Beer - Zusha: Video of Woodmere Melaveh Malka

Eliav and his Rebbetzin Ruchie Frei brought together some of the deepest musical brothers for a Melaveh Malka at his home after Shabbos 12/27/2014. It was so beautiful.

Eli Beer ( the musical gravity around which the evening revolved and the unique sound of Zusha ( (Elisha Mendl Mlotek [precussion], Zachariah “Juke” Goldshmiedt [guitar] & Shlomo Ari Gaisin [vocals]) brought everyone to a very deep place. 

We also merited to have a very special guest as well, Alex Clare (, who was in New York after the tail end of his current U.S. tour but before the beginning of the European leg of the tour. He shared beautiful Torah and stories from a recent tour, as well as his own music. It goes without saying that he has a deep soul and it was a pleasure to sing with him.

And as if that weren't enough, Rav Moshe Weinberger, a rebbe to everyone present, came for a good portion of the Melaveh Malka. 

I created a full-length video of the whole Melaveh Malka, as well as separate videos for each artist. The full length video is first below, and then the separate videos for each of the artists are below that. Enjoy and share!

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Monday, December 22, 2014

Parshas Mikeitz/Shabbos Chanukah - Rav Moshe Weinberger's Drasha - What Do You Live For?

Baruch Hashem, Rav Moshe Weinberger has reviewed this write-up of his drasha from the this past Shabbos, parshas Mikeitz-Chanukah. See here for past shiurim at's website by Rav Weinberger both as Mashpia at YU and from the past 20 years. You can also click on one of the following links to subscribe to the shiurim: emailrss feedpodcast, or iTunes. Please note that these drashos will only be available online for one month. If you notice any mistakes, please let me know so I can correct it. If you are interested in a particular drasha that is no longer online, you can email me and I'll send it to you IY"H, BL"N.

Update 12/28/14: With thanks to one commenter below, here is a link to an expanded version of this drasha which Rav Weinberger gave at YU's high school, MTA.

Rav Moshe Weinberger
Parshas Mikeitz-Chanukah 5775
What Do You Live For?

The man in charge of Yosef’s house said something that serves as a critical reminder for every Jew. The brothers did not know how to react to the money they found returned to their bags when they left Egypt the first time. So, at Yaakov’s suggestion, they brought the money back to Egypt and gave it to the man in charge of Yosef’s house. But the man told them (Bereishis 43:23), “Peace unto you. Do not be afraid. Your G-d and the G-d of your father placed a treasure in your bags….” The Pnei Menachem of Ger, zy’a, teaches that this treasure is a hint to a Jew’s G-dly soul. On this Shabbos Chanukah, let us understand more about this treasure. 

Remarkably, the Bahag (Mitzva 139) counts the mitzva to light Chanukah candles as one of the 613 mitzvos of the Torah. The Rambam, in Sefer Hamitzvos (Shoresh 1) asks the obvious question on the Bahag: How can Chanukah be a Torah mitzva when it was instituted by the sages in the time of the second Beis Hamikdash?  

In defense of the Bahag, the Chasam Sofer suggests a Torah source for Chanukah (and Purim). We know that if one derives a halacha from a Torah law using the logical principle kal vachomer, or a fortiori, the resulting inference also has the status of a Torah law. Specifically, if the Torah commands the recitation of Halel and the establishment of a holiday for our transition from slavery to freedom (Pesach), then kal vachomer, when the Jewish people face a decree of death and are then redeemed, they should certainly say Halel and institute a holiday! He clarifies that once the events of Chanukah and Purim took place, a Torah obligation to establish a holiday with the recitation of Halel took effect. The sages simply decreed the specific form of the holiday; i.e., by instituting Megillah, gifts to the poor, gifts to friends, and a feast, in the case of Purim, and Chanukah candles and Halel in the case of Chanukah.

We can understand the Chasam Sofer’s kal vachomer with respect to Purim. There, there was a decree of death from which we were redeemed. But with respect to Chanukah, the Greeks never planned to wipe us out. In Al Hanisim, we say that they attempted “to cause them to forget Your Torah and to transgress the decrees of Your will.” But they did not attempt, as Haman did, to “destroy, kill, and exterminate all of the Jews, from young to old…” So how can we understand
the Bahag with respect to the mitzvos of Chanukah as having a basis in Torah? 

We can answer this question based on a teaching by the Satmar Rav which explains a dispute quoted in Yorah Deah 157. This dispute centers on whether a Jew is permitted to allow himself to be killed rather than transgress a mitzvah (other than one of the three cardinal sins outside of the context of forced conversions). The Rambam maintains that one is not permitted to do so. After all, the Gemara (Yuma 85b) explains that the pasuk (Vayikra 18:5), “And you shall live by them,” implies, “And you shall not die by them.” Rabbeinu Yerucham, on the other hand, says that one is permitted to give up his life rather than transgress even the “smallest” mitzva in the Torah. The Shach, in his commentary on Shulchan Aruch there (S’K 5) says that both the Rambam and Rabbeinu Yerucham agree that one who is great, pious, and fears Heaven may give up his life rather than transgress any mitzva of the Torah.  

How can the Shach say that the halacha should change for someone, simply because they are great, pious, and G-d-fearing? To answer this question, the Satmar Rav quotes a teaching from his grandfather, the Yismach Moshe, zy’a, who explains that there are two types of people. For most people, “life” means eating, drinking, working, and sleeping. For them, “And you shall live by them,” means that, except with respect to the three cardinal sins, they must transgress a mitzva in order to continue living life as they define it: worldly life. But for other people, those who are great, pious, and G-d-fearing, studying Torah and doing mitzvos is life; that is what they live for. For such a person, a life of transgressing the Torah is not a life. For them, giving up life rather than sin is a fulfillment of “And you shall live by them.”  

Indeed, the Satmar Rav fulfilled this ideal. For example, he would not shave off his beard during the Holocaust even to save his own life. It was only through countless miracles that he was able to survive the war. For him, it was not worth living if he would have compromised on even the smallest part of Yiddishkeit. 

Using this principle, we can understand how the Chasam Sofer’s kal vachomer applies to Chanukah. The Chashmonayim, “Your holy kohanim” (Al Hanisim), were certainly great, pious, and G-d-fearing individuals. For them, a life without Torah, Bris Mila, and Rosh Chodesh was not a life. For them, the Greeks’ decrees were synonymous with death. Therefore, the redemption of Chanukah, just like Purim, was a reversal from death to life. That is why, according to the Bahag, the Torah obligated the sages to establish a festival, including the recitation of Halel, on Chanukah. 

Rav Yerucham Levovitz, in a recently published teaching, explains that the citizens of a country and its soldiers have different perspectives on their respective roles. The citizens believe that their daily lives of work, travel, eating, recreation, and the like, are the primary life of the country. But because the citizens cannot live securely without an army, the country recruit soldiers to protect them to allow them to live their lives. For them, the citizens’ lives are primary, and the soldiers live simply to support and protect citizen life.  

Soldiers see it differently though. They look down on average citizens and their pedestrian existence. They cannot imagine how a life of simple work and idle entertainment can be considered a life. A soldier’s life is filled with challenges. They pass through fire and water, get up early and challenging themselves on a daily basis to become better and fight for something greater than themselves: the national identity. For them, a soldier’s life, because of all of its difficulties and challenges, is truly called “life.” And citizens’ lives are a pale shadow of that, hardly worth being called life.  

That is what we live for. Our daily challenge is to attain greater perfection and purification, to fight the evil inclination and understand the Torah more deeply. That is our battle. We are soldiers in Hashem’s cavalry. The battle inherent in a Torah life is truly called life. That is why, in Al Hanisim, we thank Hashem “for the wars.” Why do we thank Hashem for wars? Lest one explain that this expression actually refers to victory in war, not war itself, this cannot be. First, we already thank Hashem for victory in war in Al Hanisim when we thank Him “for the salvations.” In addition, if it meant victory in war, it should have said, “for the victories,” not “for the wars.” It must mean that we do indeed thank Hashem “for the wars.” It is an honor and a privilege to fight Hashem’s battles by doing the hard work to make Hashem’s existence and presence felt in every detail of life, down to the most mundane. We are honored and privileged for the treasure of our G-dly soul which enables us to live Jewish lives in which we fight Hashem’s battles. 

The Ponevezher Rav, zt’l, after he reestablished the Ponevezh yeshiva in Bnei Brak after the war, was known as having a keen insight into people. Someone told the Rav about a group of orphans who had survived the war. They were completely alone and had given into despair, unable to get up the morning or do anything to move their lives forward. They were completely broken. The Rav instructed that the group should be brought to his home and he would be happy to speak with them.

When the young men and women arrived, the Rav told them the following story: There was a rav, a great scholar, in a certain town in Europe before the war. Someone proposed a match, a wonderful young man, for his daughter. He agreed that the young man was great and would make a wonderful husband, but there was only one problem. The young man’s father was only marginally religious, did not daven with a minyan, and even worked on Shabbos. The rav was torn and did not know what to do. But ultimately, he decided that because the young man was certainly worthy, he would agree to the match. The young couple got married, and the whole town rejoiced at the wedding.

The morning after the wedding, the boy’s father got up in the morning, picked up his talis and tefillin, and began to leave for shul. His wife asked him, “What’s happening? You haven’t davened in shul in years? Why are you going now?” So he answered, “My son’s father in law is the great rav of the city. Considering my relationship to the rav, it is simply not proper for someone like me not to go to shul.” 

And when Shabbos came, the man made Kiddush Friday night and stayed home from work Shabbos day. Not only that, he made Kiddush for his family. Bewildered, his wife asked him, “Why are you suddenly not working on Shabbos? Why are you making Kiddush?” So he answered her, “It is just as I told you the other day. I am now related to the rav through my son’s marriage to his daughter. How can a close relative of the rav work on Shabbos? How can he not make kiddish on Shabbos?” 

The Ponevezher Rav continued: Precious sons and daughters, you are close relatives not just of the rav of a town. You are related to the King of Kings, the Holy One Blessed is He. You are connected to greatness. Each one of you over these past years made such sacrifices because of your relationship with the King. Because you are Jews. And it is not fitting for great people to lie in bed, unable to get up, not to live their lives. You are connected to the King! 

One of the young men in that group recounted this story years later and said that the Rav’s words made such an impression on him that not only was he able to break out of his state of depression, sadness, and despair, but he began to long for greatness. 

Hashem has placed a Jewish soul in each of us. That is our treasure. We are privileged to be Hashem’s nation for whom Torah and mitzvos are our life. Just like the Chashmonayim, may we merit to live for Torah and recognize that living without Torah and mitzvos is not life at all.

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Monday, December 8, 2014

Ender's Game - Rav Moshe Weinberger's Drasha on Parshas Vayishlach

Baruch Hashem, Rav Moshe Weinberger has reviewed this write-up of his drasha from the this past Shabbos, parshas Vayishlach. See here for past at's website to hear Rav Weinberger's past shiurim both as Mashpia at YU and from the past 20 years. You can also click on one of the following links to subscribe to the shiurim: emailrss feedpodcast, or iTunes. Please note that these drashos will only be available online for one month. If you notice any mistakes, please let me know so I can correct it. If you are interested in a particular drasha that is no longer online, you can email me and I'll send it to you IY"H, BL"N.

Rav Moshe Weinberger
Vayishlach 5775
Ender’s Game 

After Shimon and Levi killed all the inhabitants of Shchem for countenancing the horrible attack on their sister Dina, Yaakov Avinu rebukes them for placing the whole family in danger. He tells them, “You polluted me to create enmity with the dwellers of the land, with the Kenani and the Perizi, but I am few in number and they will gather against me and smite me and my house will be destroyed!” (Bereishis 34:30). The brothers then answered Yaakov, “Shall our sister be treated like a prostitute?” (ibid. 31).  

The Ohr Hachaim asks a very basic question on the brothers’ response. How did they address their father’s concern? He was worried that their family would be wiped out because Shimon and Levi caused the nations around them to see them as an existential threat. Even in halacha (Yerushalmi Teruma 8:4), if an oppressor tells a group of Jews they will all die unless they turn over a specific woman for abuse, it is permissible to turn her over. Even more so here, where Dina had already been taken, the brothers should not have endangered the entire family of Yaakov. But Shimon and Levi answered only that they did not want their sister’s abuse to go unanswered. How does this address the threat their actions brought upon Yaakov’s family?

The Ohr Hachaim offers an amazing answer. They brothers responded to Yaakov that “Just the opposite! We will be in more danger among the nations when they see that one despicable character abused the daughter of Yaakov, doing whatever he wanted with her. The [Jewish people] will have no way to survive among the nations. Just the opposite, by doing this [killing the people of Shchem], the nations will be afraid of [the Jewish people] and will be terrified of them.” Shimon and Levi argued that the neighboring people saw that if an entire city was destroyed for condoning the defilement of a daughter of Yaakov by their leader, if they attempted to harm the Jewish people, the consequences would be even worse. 

Based on the principle that “silence constitutes agreement” (Bava Metzia 37b), Yaakov’s silence in the face of his son’s answer that he conceded that Shimon and Levi’s argument was correct. By taking decisive action to avenge Dina’s abuse, Yaakov agreed that they were protecting, rather than endangering, their family.  

We also see that the brothers were 100% correct in their assessment. The pasuk (Bereishis 35:5) says, “They traveled and the fear of G-d was upon the cities around them [Yaakov’s family] and they did not pursue them.” Shimon and Levi succeeded in “putting the fear of G-d” into the neighboring nations, ensuring that no one else would attempt to harm them. Even many years later, when Yosef sent his brothers back to Eretz Yisroel to bring Binyomin to Egypt, he imprisons Shimon (Bereishis 42:24) because he knew that if Shimon and Levi were together, they could destroy Egypt. Even far away from Eretz Yisroel, in Egypt, they knew that one does not hurt the children of Yaakov without severe repercussions. 

The Ohr Hachaim’s explanation of the interchange between Yaakov and his sons is also reflected in how the Midrash (Bereishis Raba 34:80) explains Yaakov’s criticism. According to Rabanan in the Midrash, “You have polluted me” means, “The barrel [of wine] was clear, and you polluted it.” But the brothers response according to Rabbi Yehuda bar Simon in the Midrash was that it was just the opposite: “The barrel [of wine] was polluted and we purified it! They said, ‘[Shall our sister be treated] like a prostitute?!’ They said: Shall they treat us like ownerless people?!” This Midrash apparently agrees with the underlying concept of the Ohr Hachaim’s explanation.  

Even though Yaakov conceded that Shimon and Levi’s actions were correct in retrospect, the way they went about their strategy was wrong. Acts of zeal can go overboard. They should have had this dialogue with their father Yaakov Avinu before deceiving and killing the people of Shchem. By unilaterally taking action, they were guilty of deciding on a halachic matter in front of and without consulting with their rebbe, the sage of the generation, their father: Yaakov. Therefore, at the end of his life, he cursed Shimon and Levi (Bereishis 49:7), “I will separate them throughout Yaakov and I will scatter them throughout Yisroel.” Shimon and Levi were to be dispersed among the Jewish people. Normally, the punishment for one who decides on a halachic matter in front of and without consulting his rebbe is death (Eiruvin 63a). In order to save them from death, Yaakov Avinu decreed that they should go into exile because exile atones for capital crimes (Sanhedrin 37b). 

The Way of Exile and the Way of Eretz Yisroel 

There are two legitimate ways the Jewish people conduct themselves throughout history: the way of exile and the way of Eretz Yisroel. We must sometimes bow to and flatter the nations of the world in order to avoid persecution. The Jewish people’s position in the world is precarious, so we must sometimes bow to Eisav. This is the way of exile. But in our essence, this is not the Jewish way. Reb Tzadok Hakohein of Lublin, zy’a, explains in Resisei Laila that “The power of the Jewish people is that it is from the holy seed of the Jewish nation which was born in Eretz Yisroel.” Even though Yaakov and his sons bowed down to Eisav, one of his children, Binyomin, was not born yet and never bowed down to Eisav. His way was the way of Eretz Yisroel. 

That is why, generations later, when every Jew was bowing down to Haman, one man did not bow: Mordechai, from the tribe of Binyomin (Esther 2:5). According to the Midrash (Yalkut Esther 1054), Haman asked Mordechai, “Why are you not bowing down to me like your father [Yaakov] did to my father [Eisav]?” Mordechai answered him, “My father Binyomin was in his mother’s womb and did not bow down. I am his great-grandson… Just as my father did not bow down, so too I do not bow down or prostrate myself.” We therefore see that this quality of self-respect has existed in our people from almost the very beginning. 

That is why the Temple Mount, the location of the Holy of Holies of the Beis Hamikdash, is built on the land of the tribe of Binyomin (Yuma 12a), who the Torah (Devarim 33:12) calls, “friend of Hashem.” The pride and glory of the Jewish people, the Divine Presence, is most revealed by the one who upholds and respects G-d’s glory in the world: Binyomin. This recognition that G‑d’s children need not grovel before the nations of the world provides the home base for Hashem’s glory on earth: the Temple Mount. 

When Yitzhak Shamir was prime minister of Israel, he was under tremendous pressure to agree to a land for peace plan proposed by Saudi Arabia in August 1981, referred to as the “eight-point plan.” Although Shamir was from the Begin tradition of Jewish pride, rather than self-effacing subservience to the wishes of the gentile nations, he was on the verge of giving in to the plan and compromising on Israeli national security. He agreed to meet with a group of rabbonim from the Dati Leumi camp the day before he traveled to the U.S. to meet with President Reagan to discuss the plan. One of those rabbonim was Rav Shlomo Aviner, shlita. After the meeting, Rav Aviner took PM Shamir aside, took out a Tanach, and began reading him psukim about how Hashem gave Eretz Yisroel to the Jewish people and he asked Shamir to please remember that. Shamir was silent, but told Rav Aviner that he understood what he was trying to tell him. While he was watching, Rav Aviner slipped the Tanach in the Prime Minister’s briefcase, who then packed it up and left the meeting.

Several days later, after the negotiations in Washington, Rav Aviner received a call from the Prime Minister, who told him the following: I want to thank you for reminding me about what the Torah says about the land of Israel and the Jewish people. When I was in the meeting with President Reagan, they told me I have to agree to this. And I have to agree to that. But I asked, “What about our security?” They promised me millions of dollars for additional security. I raised one objection after another, and each time, they offered me millions and millions more to address each of my concerns. Finally, I thought about it and pulled out the Tanach you placed in my briefcase. I then began reading the psukim in my broken English to President Reagan and everyone else present. I showed them that G-d promised the land of Israel to the Jewish people. After that, they simply packed up their bags and concluded that they could not do anything with me. So, Rav Aviner, I want to thank you for what you said to me during the meeting. 

This is why the Arabs are rabidly obsessed with the Temple Mount, even though Jerusalem is not mentioned a single time in the Koran and even when they do pray on our Temple Mount, they face Mecca! They cannot tolerate what the Temple Mount, which rests on the land of the tribe of Binyomin, represents: the essential nature of the tribe of Binyomin and the Jewish people which refuses to bow down to what the gentiles want us to do with our land.  

And Shimon and Levi’s call, “Shall our sister be treated like a prostitute?!” was the beginning of the Chanukah revolution against the Syrian-Greeks as well. According to the Midrash (Megillas Taanis 17 Elul), the Greeks decreed that every Jewish bride must be with the local governor before she could marry her husband. When the governor came to defile the daughter of Matisyahu ben Yochanan, the Kohein Gadol, he and his sons overcame the governor and killed him. This is how the Chanukah revolution began; with a feeling that “enough is enough, Jewish blood is not cheap.” 

The same applies today. First, we can literally say about thousands of our holy sisters who are prisoners to their Arab “husbands,” “Shall our sister be treated like a prostitute?!” And our brothers are being killed while davening in a holy shul in Har Nof. Our children Eyal, Gilad, and Naftali were taken captive and killed at the beginning of the summer. People are stabbed or killed while shopping. How long will Jewish blood be spilled like water? How long will we “show restraint” to satisfy the great-grandchildren of Eisav? When will we stand up like Shimon and Levi and cry out, “No more!”

May we soon merit more Jews like Shimon and Levi who will not countenance human scum treating the children of Yaakov Avinu like cattle to be slaughtered at will. And may the words of the Navi (Ovadia 1:21) soon come to pass, that “Saviors shall ascend Mt. Zion to judge the mountain of Eisav and kingship shall belong to Hashem.”

What do you think of the title I chose for this drasha write-up?

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Monday, December 1, 2014

Rav Moshe Weinberger's Shabbos Morning Drasha - Parshas Vayetzei - Wherever You Go

Baruch Hashem, Rav Moshe Weinberger has reviewed this write-up of his drasha from the this past Shabbos, parshas Vayetzei. See here for past write-ups. Also, thousands of Rav Weinberger's shiurim are available online here. You can also go to's website to hear Rav Weinberger's shiurim as mashgiach/mashpia at YU or click on one of the following links to subscribe to the shiurim: emailrss feedpodcast, or iTunes. Please note that these drashos will only be available online for one month. My son suggested (credit where it is due!) that if you notice any mistakes, please let me know so I can correct it. If you are interested in a particular drasha that is no longer online, you can email me and I'll send it to you IY"H, BL"N.

Rav Moshe Weinberger
Parshas Vayetzei 5775
Wherever You Go 

Yaakov Avinu traveled from Eretz Yisroel to Charan and passed through what was to be Yerushalayim. But once he had reached Beis El, he realized that he had not stopped to pray in Yerushalayim, so he made up his mind to return, at which time “he encountered the place” (Chulin 91b; Bereishis 28:11).  Although the pasuk does not say what “the place” was, Rashi explains that it must be the only other place previously called “the place” (Bereishis 22:4), Har Hamoriah, the future location of the Beis Hamikdash. Rashi explains that the earth contracted to cause Har Hamoriah to come to Beis El where Yaakov Avinu was.  

After Har Hamoriah came to meet Yaakov, he went to sleep and dreamed of the ladder reaching up to Heaven with angels climbing and descending it. When he awoke, he said, with surprise (ibid. 28:16-17), “Behold! G-d is in this place and I did not know it… How awesome is this place. It is nothing other than the house of G-d and the gate of Heaven.” 

First, why was Yaakov surprised that G-d’s house was there in Beis El? He knew before he went to sleep that Har Hamoriah had moved to meet him. And second, why did Hashem specifically want to reveal the vision of the ladder to Yaakov on Har Hamoriah after moving it to some other location? Why did Hashem not cause the sun to set at the normal time to allow Yaakov to reach Har Hamoriah without the need to contract the land? He could have caused Yaakov to have the vision of the ladder there without the contraction of the land!

Rashi (on ibid. 17) teaches that when Yaakov Avinu said that Har Hamoria (which was then in Beis El) was the “gate of Heaven,” it meant that the Beis Hamikdash above was aligned with the Beis Hamikdash below. The Rebbe Reb Yonasan Eybeschutz, zt’l, asks: Which one’s location is established in relation to the other? In other words, do we understand that the Beis Hamikdash above existed from the beginning and Dovid and Shlomo built the Beis Hamikdash at the point on earth which corresponds with the “location” of the Beis Hamikdash above? Or do we understand that the original Beis Hamikdash is the one on earth and that Hashem affixes the location of the Beis Hamikdash above so that it will be aligned with the one on earth? 

The Rebbe Reb Yonasan offers an answer based on the psukim here where Yaakov Avinu said, “This [place] is nothing other than the house of G-d and this [place] is the gate of Heaven… Behold Hashem is in this place and I did not know it.” This implies that the Beis Hamikdash below is the primary one and the one in Heaven is fixed only in relation to the one on earth. How does the Rebbe know this from the pasuk? Yaakov knew that Har Hamoriah had moved to Beis El. But he assumed that if the Beis Hamikdash above was primary, then the earth and stones of Har Hamoriah would have moved to Beis El (temporarily out of alignment with the Beis Hamikdash above), but that the “gate of Heaven,” the Beis Hamikdash above, would have remained in its permanent location above Yerushalayim. Yaakov Avinu was surprised to realize that the “gate of Heaven” was above him in Beis El because this meant that the location of the Beis Hamikdash below, Har Hamoriah, was primary. Thus, when it moved to meet him, the Beis Hamikdash above moved as well, to “this place,” since its location is established only in relation to the Beis Hamikdash below.  

Relatedly, the pasuk says regarding the ladder in Yaakov’s dream, “angels of G-d were ascending and descending בו.” There is a dispute in Bereishis Rabbah (68:12) regarding the subject of the word “בו,” which could be read to mean “on him” or “on it.” One opinion is that the angels were ascending and descending on the ladder. But the Midrash offers another explanation that the angels were ascending and descending Yaakov Avinu himself. According to the Rebbe Reb Yonasan’s explanation, we can understand that when a Jew seeks G-d out like Yaakov Avinu did, the Beis Hamikdash, Hashem’s Presence, comes to him. And by bringing G‑d’s dwelling place to wherever a person is, he brings the Beis Hamikdash above as well, such that he himself becomes a conduit to draw Hashem’s light into his life just like Yaakov Avinu himself was the ladder on which the angels ascended and descended. 

Following this episode, the pasuk (Bereishis 29:1) says, “And Yaakov lifted his feet…” Rashi explains that Yaakov became light on his feet and was no longer afraid. According to our explanation, we can understand that Yaakov Avinu was no longer afraid to go into the exile because he knew that he could draw Hashem’s Presence into his life wherever he went. Yaakov was going to Lavan in Charan, which literally means “anger.” He was going into an exile in which he knew to expect persecution, deception, and danger. Yet he knew that in the end, he would be okay because he would not be alone no matter what impurity he would be subjected to in Lavan’s house.  

Avraham Avinu received Hashem’s original promise that he would inherit Eretz Yisroel. And Hashem forbade Yitzchak Avinu from ever leaving Eretz Yisroel. But Hashem promised Yaakov Avinu that wherever he went, Eretz Yisroel would go with him! He was promised an “inheritance without borders” (Shabbos 118a-b). Wherever a Jew goes, he builds shuls and yeshivos in which to learn Torah and daven. Wherever a Jew learns and davens, he draws the holiness of Eretz Yisroel into his life. He brings the Beis Hamikdash and the gate of Heaven to him. It is so easy to be afraid of anti-Semites or other dangers in exile. Even in Eretz Yisroel, even in a shul in Har Nof, in Yerushalayim, we now feel vulnerable. But Hashem is telling us that He will be with us wherever we go. We cannot guarantee that bad things will not happen to us, but our hearts can rest easier knowing that Hashem is with us no matter what. “And I will guard you wherever you go” (Bereishis 28:15).

The tzadikim teach that the letters that make up Yaakov’s name (יעקב) also spell “he will pierce/break out (יבקע).” Yaakov’s gift is that he is not limited to connecting to G-d in only one place, in Yerushalayim or the Beis Hamikdash. Hashem taught Yaakov that he can break out and take possession of his inheritance without borders. Hashem told Yaakov (Bereishis 28:14), “And you will break forth westward, eastward, northward, and southward…” We can break out and bring Hashem’s Presence with us wherever we go. 

This Shabbos is the twenty-second anniversary of Aish Kodesh. This is where we bring Hashem’s Presence into our shul through our davening and Torah. The Beis Hamikdash above comes to meet us here. We must therefore renew our commitment to our founding principle of davening with a bren, with fire, and with a great respect for the holiness of the miniature Beis Hamikdash that we are privileged to be part of. With G‑d’s help, if we strengthen our davening, we will see Hashem’s Presence revealed in our shul just like in all shuls and yeshivos around the world. 

The same principle applies in marriage as well. Rav Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev, zy’a, says that he received a tradition that just like the shuls built in exile, every Jewish home in which the husband and wife lived with holiness and purity will move to Eretz Yisroel in the time of Moshiach.  

Just like we can bring Hashem’s Presence wherever we go in space, we can do the same thing in time. Shabbos is the Beis Hamikdash of time, when Hashem’s Presence is most revealed. But G‑d gave us a way to bring Hashem’s Presence into the mundane life of the six days of the week. And that is through the melaveh malka meal. Our ancestors observed this minhag which comprises a full section of the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 300), but most of us completely neglect this mitzva. By partaking of a melaveh malka meal and singing at least one of the melaveh malka zmiros, we draw the holiness of Shabbos, the Beis Hamikdash of time, into the six days of the week. 

We will conclude with several verses from one of the melaveh malka zmiros which capture Hashem’s message to Yaakov Avinu not to be afraid in exile because He will always be with him wherever he goes:

Hashem said to Yaakov – fear not my servant Yaakov
Hashem will redeem Yaakov – fear not my servant Yaakov
Command salvations for Yaakov – fear not my servant Yaakov…
Hashem will have returned the glory of Yaakov – fear not my servant Yaakov 

May Hashem help us recognize and honor His Presence in our shuls, yeshivos, marriages, and homes and thereby draw our inheritance without borders, His Presence, into our lives wherever we go. May we be worthy of Hashem’s promise to Yaakov, “I will guard you wherever you go and return you to this land.”

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Thursday, November 6, 2014

Video From Eli & Dina Beer's Sheva Brachos Thursday Night (10/30/14)

I'm happy to share this video of Eli and Dina Beer's sheva brachos, hosted by the holy couple, Ruchie and Eliav Frei, in Woodmere, NY! Eli grabbed his guitar and led the niggunim much of the time and shared a many Torahs and stories. Quite awesome.

Eli is known for his song/video Ve'yiyu Rachamecho:

And here is a video of Eli's amazing Halel from Rosh Chodesh Adar II from earlier this year:

The video was taken by the inimitable Dov Perkal. Here is the info on the camera and lighting equipment he used:

Canon EOS 70D
Canon lens 18-55 mm
Polaroid 320 Vari-Temp Super Bright LED Light

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Friday, September 5, 2014

The Story of the Chozeh of Lublin and the Barber - The Power of Sacrificing for Another

Here is the story of the Chozeh of Lublin and the barber, as retold by Rav Moshe Weinberger, shlita, in the name of Reb Shlomo Carlebach, zt"l, at the Hilula (yohrtzeit celebration) for the Tzadik, Reb Kalonymous Kalmish Shapira in 2010, held by Cong. Aish Kodesh of Woodmere:

Reb Shlomo Carlebach, zt”l, told the following story of the Chozeh, the Seer, of Lublin: The Chozeh needed a haircut before Yom Tov like anyone else. But everyone knew about the Chozeh’s spiritual sensitivity and were afraid to touch the Chozeh’s head, lest he be unworthy and somehow disturb the Rebbe’s holiness. All of the barbers in Lublin spent several days before each Yom Tov fasting, praying, and doing teshuva in the hopes that whoever the Chozeh chose for his haircut would be worthy enough that the Chozeh could tolerate his haircut. 

Just before one particular Yom Tov, the Chozeh’s assistants, as usual, gave notice to the barbers to begin preparing themselves to cut the Rebbe’s hair. When the day arrived, the barbers lined up outside of the Chozeh’s room. The first barber approached the Rebbe’s chair. But when he touched the Rebbe’s head, although the Rebbe did not intend to insult him, he cried out in pain. He quickly left the room, feeling horrible that he had hurt the Rebbe. The other barbers saw how quickly he left, without giving a haircut, and they became even more afraid. The second barber went into the room and the same thing happened. As soon as he touched the Rebbe’s head, the Rebbe screamed out in pain. The process repeated itself until they ran out of barbers. They did not know what to do in order to arrange a haircut for the Rebbe for Yom Tov. 

But someone told one of the Rebbe’s assistants that he saw a strange looked Jew on the streets of Lublin, a traveler, who carried a sign around his neck that said, “I’m a barber and a little bit of a doctor.” After discussing the matter among themselves, they concluded that it was worthwhile to at least try to determine whether this Jew could cut the Rebbe’s hair. Perhaps he was an upright person. When they approached the man about cutting the Chozeh’s hair, they asked him whether he knew whose hair he was about to cut. He said that the did not but that it did not matter. He was capable of cutting anyone’s hair.  They told him that they were about to bring him to cut the hair of the Chozeh of Lublin. Unfazed, he answered, “Okay, everyone needs a haircut. So does the rabbi. And I’m a barber. No problem. Please bring me to him.” He entered the Rebbe’s room without any preparation.  

The man and the Chozeh looked at one another and the Rebbe saw the barber’s little sign and smiled. It seemed the Chozeh already liked this barber. He took out his old scissors and the Rebbe’s assistants began covering their eyes, not relishing the scream they were about to hear. But when the barber touched the Rebbe’s head, he sighed and said, “A mechaya, a pleasure!” And with every single snip, the Rebbe continued to enjoy himself, repeatedly saying, “a mechaya!” And as soon as the haircut was over, the man simply left. 

The Rebbe’s assistants followed him, “Sir, sir! Can we ask who you are? Where are you from?” But he simply answered, “You can see on my sign. I am a barber.” Apparently, he did not want to say anything about himself. They formulated a plan, however, to find out more about him. They invited him to a local establishment that served alcoholic beverages. Once he had enjoyed a couple of drinks and they saw that he was in a good mood, they asked  him again, “Tell us who you are. When every other barber in Lublin touched the Rebbe’s hair, he screamed out in pain, but when you cut his hair, it was a mechaya. We have never seen anything like that. What is your story? 

Even with a couple of drinks, however, he did not want to talk about himself. But they persisted and asked him repeatedly, “Tell us about yourself? Who are you?” Finally, the barber stood up, pulled up the back of his shirt, and they saw that his entire back was covered with horrible, disgusting welts. They chassidim recoiled and asked him, “What happened? What is that?” So he told them the following story:

I travel from place to place. I am a barber and a little bit of a barber. I cut people’s hair and do what I can for them. In one town I went to, I saw some sort of commotion. When I approached, I saw that the non-Jewish authorities were dragging a man away from his family and his wife and children were screaming. I asked someone standing there what happened and they told me that something had been stolen in the town. And as the authorities always did, they blamed the Jews and grabbed the first Yid they found. They were going to take him away and give him 100 lashes for his “crime.” The man was so skinny and small that I realized he would die. He would not be able to survive.

And because I am a little bit of a doctor, I figured that I am healthy and somewhat stronger so that I would probably survive 100 lashes. Also, no one would marry me anyway. I have no wife or children. And even if I am wrong and I die of my injuries, at least I would not leave behind a widow and orphans as this man would. So I walked over to the police and told them, “You have the wrong man. I did it.” I was a strong man and I truly thought I could handle it. But those wicked people beat me with such strength that after ten lashes I was sure that I was going to die. I cried out to Hashem, “You know I am not doing this for myself. I am doing it for this man, his wife, and children. I accepted these lashes only because that man is a Jew and I am a Jew and one must help another Jew. So please Hashem, have mercy and let me  not die.” 

And I do not know how I survived. Every blow felt harder than the one before. But somehow, I endured one hundred lashes. And that is why I walk with a limp and why my back looks this way. But thank G-d, I am alive.
When the Chozeh saw this Jew, he saw someone who did not turn away from other Jews. This Jew had every reason to run. But he took a beating for another Jew. The Chozeh felt that in the deepest way. His hands and his entire existence were filled with sacrifice for other Jews.

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