Monday, July 28, 2014

Translation of Colonel Ofer Winter's Inspiring Letter, read by Rav Moshe Weinberger on Shabbos

Rav Moshe Weinberger was in Woodmere for Shabbos and, among other things, he read the widely circulated letter by Colonel Ofer Winter, which inspired and gave moral clarity to our entire people. Pending Rav Weinberger's review of my full write-up of the drasha, here is my translation of Colonel Winter's amazing letter (I included citations to psukim he obliquely referenced):

We have been bestowed a great privilege to command and serve in the Givati Brigade at this time. History has chosen us to be on the cutting edge of the war against the terrorist enemy, the “one of Gaza” [cf. Yehoshua 13:3] who curses, reviles, and defames the G-d of the battalions of Israel. [Cf. Dovid’s encounter with Golias, the Plishti, Shmuel I 17:10, 26, 36, 45.] Let us prepare and ready ourselves for this moment when we accept upon ourselves this mission with a sense of agency and complete humility and with a readiness to put ourselves in danger or give up our lives in order to protect our families, our nation, and our birthplace. 

Let us work with resolve and strength and with initiative, strategy, and hard work in our encounter with the enemy. We will do everything we can to fulfill our mission to cut down the enemy and to remove fear from the people of Israel. Our credo is “We do not return before the mission is done.” Let us work and do everything we can to bring back our boys in peace by utilizing every means at our disposal and with any effort that is required. 

I am relying on you, on each and every one of you, to do your duty in this spirit, the spirit of Jewish warriors who go out in in front of the camp. “The spirit which is called ‘Givati.’”  I lift up my eyes to Heaven and say with you, “Shma Yisrael, Hashem Elokeinu, Hashem Echad.” May Hashem, the G-d of Israel, bring success in our mission in which we stand to do battle for the sake of Your people Israel against the enemy who curses Your Name. 

In the name of the warriors of the IDF generally, and in particular, in the name of the warriors and commanders of our Brigade, may Hashem act and fulfill in us that which it says in the pasuk, “Hashem your G-d goes out with you to do battle with your enemies for you to save you” [Devarim 20:4], and let us say Amen.
"Together, and only together, will we be victorious."
Ofer Winter, Aluf Mishneh
Commander, Givati Brigade

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Thursday, July 24, 2014

What the Chareidim Doing During the Gaza War - Nachal Chareidi and Lomdei Torah

Nahal Haredi Chayalim
Rabbi Tzvi Klebanow, CEO of the Nahal Haredi foundation, sent me this article which describes what Nahal Haredi is doing now.
According to the article, dozens of Netzach Yehuda (the actual name of Nahal Haredi) chayalim have joined the battle in Gaza and many Netzach Yehuda reservists have also joined through other units.
The unit's primary mission, keeping the Jenin and Tulkarem areas in Yehuda and Shomron secure is also continuing. They are handling security there, where periodic rock throwing and riots are breaking out.
Meanwhile, Nahal Hareidi employs many rabbonim to serve the chayalim in Netzach Yehuda. And they have called upon the yeshivos and kollelim to dedicate their learning to the success of the IDF in general.
IY"H, with everyone doing their part, all of the chayalim and all of Am Yisroel will not see any more injured or killed, G-d forbid, and  will see success in completely decimating Hamas!
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Monday, July 14, 2014

Holy Retaliation - Rav Moshe Weinberger - Parshas Pinchas - Love Means Zeal to Protect and Defend

Below, please find a write-up of Rav Weinberger's drasha from parshas Pinchas. Baruch Hashem, this version reflects his review of the write-up. 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: email, rss feed, podcast, 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 Pinchas 5774
Holy Retaliation 

With the kidnapping and murder of Gilad Shaar, Naftali Frenkel, and Eyal Yifrach, the rockets raining down on cities all over Eretz Yisroel, and now the danger our sons face in their operations against the terrorists in Gaza, it has been a very difficult few weeks. I therefore want to speak about the holy form of retaliation. The psukim (Bamidbar 25:11-12) contain a seeming contradiction: “Pinchas the son of Elazar, the son of Aharon the kohein turned My anger away from the children of Israel by zealously avenging Me among them so that I not destroy the children of Israel in My jealousy. Therefore I say, ‘Behold I give him My covenant of peace.’” How does Hashem’s characterization of Pinchas as a zealous avenger of His honor square with the presumably appropriate blessing of peace? 

Kohanim – Loving or Exacting?

Chazal speak about the personality traits of kohanim in many places. The Mishna (Avos 1:12) says, “Be among the students of Aharon, loving peace, pursuing peace, loving every person and drawing them close to Torah.” Similarly, the Navi (Malachi 2:6) says about the personality of the kohein, “In peace and uprightness he went with Me, and he brought back many from sin.” Kohanim are known as being so humble that according to the Gemara (Kiddushin 70b), if one finds a kohein who is brazen and lacks shame, it is doubtful whether he is truly a kohein. Every time the kohanim bless the Jewish people, he make the blessing, “Who has sanctified us with the holiness of Aharon and commanded us to bless His people Israel with love.” 

On the other hand, the Gemara also says (Bava Basra 160b) that kohanim are generally very exacting in their dealings with others. And Levi, the progenitor of the kohanim (along with Shimon) avenged the horrible mistreatment of his sister Dina by Shchem, saying (Bereishis 34:31), “Shall our sister be made into a harlot?” And it was the tribe of Levi who answered the call (Shmos 32:26), “Whoever is for Hashem, come to me!” They heeded Moshe’s request and slaughtered thousands of other Jews who participated in the worship of the golden calf. Even in the daily life of the kohanim in the Beis Hamikdash, they were constantly involved in slaughtering the sacrifices, catching blood, carrying blood, and sprinkling blood. Their lives were surrounded by blood. And at the time of the Greek occupation of Eretz Yisroel, it was the Chashmonayim, the kohanim, who would no longer tolerate the degradation of the Jewish people and led an ultimately successful revolt against the Greeks.

On one hand, the kohanim are associated with peace, love, and blessing. And on the other hand, they are associated with blood, zeal, vengeance, and an exacting nature. How do we reconcile these two conflicting descriptions of the personality of the kohanim? 

Pinchas and Eliyahu

It is known (Zohar Ki Sisa 190a) that Eliyahu Hanavi has the same soul as Pinchas. But this connection is fraught with apparent contradictions as well, as illustrated in the piyut we sing after Shabbos about Eliyahu Hanavi: “The man who was zealous for Hashem’s sake; the man for whom peace was announced through Yekusiel [Moshe Rebbeinu].” Eliyahu was known as a very strong zealot in Navi. Because of the Jewish people’s sins, he decreed a famine in Eretz Yisroel (Melachim I 17:1).  He also personally slaughtered 400 prophets of the Baal (ibid. at 18:40). And when a captain and fifty men were sent by Achazia to capture Eliyahu, he called forth a fire from Heaven which burned all of them alive (Melachim II 1:10). Eliyahu Hanavi was an uncompromising zealot for the truth and radiated a sense of great awe and fear. Eliyahu even said about himself (Melachim I 19:14) “I have been zealous for Hashem.” 

Yet on the other hand, the last prophet in Tanach (Malachi 3:23-24) tells us that at the end of days, it will be Eliyahu who will come and “turn the hearts of the fathers back through their children and the hearts of the children back through their fathers.” This Navi who is otherwise known as the ultimate zealot will bring peace between the generations and, in his prior life as Pinchas, was blessed with peace. How do we reconcile this apparent contradiction in the characterization of Pinchas/Eliyahu as both a zealot and a bringer of peace? 

Love and Jealousy – Two Sides of a Coin 

The reality is clearly that the two seemingly opposite charactaristics of love/peace and zealousness/jealousy are not contradictory at all. The pasuk in Shir Hashirim (8:6) says, “Place me like a seal upon your heart because love is strong as death, jealousy is as powerful as the depths, its coals are like coals of fire, the flame of G-d.” True zeal and jealousy are the natural result of love. 

The Midrash (Shir Hashirim Raba 8) says that “Hashem loves you” and goes on to explain the pasuk as follows: “‘Love is strong as death;’ in the future, the Holy One will avenge Zion with great jealousy, as the pasuk (Zecharia 8:2) says, ‘Thus says Hashem, I have become jealous of Zion with a great jealousy.’” Real love naturally results in jealousy when someone from the outside drives a wedge between two people who love each other or if someone attempts to or actually succeeds in hurting one of them.  

The Zohar (Vayechi 245a) says, “The love of a person that is not accompanied by jealousy is not love.” If one is not bothered when someone he or she loves is hurt, it is a sign that the person does not love that person at all.

This is therefore the source for the holy aspect of the quality of retaliation. To be clear, I am not talking about the degraded, cruel form of retaliation we saw when an innocent Arab boy was allegedly killed in a horrible way by Jewish people. Such an act is a terrible sin, endangers our entire nation, and creates a terrible desecration of G-d’s name. 

The Ramchal describes the relationship between zealousness/jealousy and love in the life of a pious Jew as follows (Chelkei Hachassidus): “It is obvious that if one loves his friend, he cannot tolerate seeing another hitting him or denigrating him. He will undoubtedly go out to assist him. So too one who loves the Name of G-d cannot tolerate seeing people desecrate It, G-d forbid…” 

It is therefore clear that the root of jealousy and zealousness is a love that does not allow one to be indifferent or apathetic to the subject of his love.  This love is why the Torah (Bamidbar 5:14) describes the reaction of a husband whose wife has secluded herself with another man by saying, “And a spirit of jealousy came upon him and he became jealous of his wife.” This is why the kohanim, Pinchas, and Eliyahu, who had such great love for Hashem and for the Jewish people, are also known as being zealots. 

Expressing this idea, the Sfas Emes explains that the pasuk (Bamidbar 25:7), “And he took a spear in his hand” as follows: The root word for spear (רמח) has the same letters as the Aramaic word for love (רחימותא). Pinchas killed Zimri and Kozbi, but his entire motivation was a love for Hashem and the Jewish people and a desire that the relationship between them not be defiled. 

Hashem loves us and that is the source of His “jealousy.” It is as if Hashem is telling us (Amos 3:2), “You are the only one I love of all of the families of the earth.” This is reflected in halacha as well. According to most poskim, shituf, believing in Hashem along with some other power, is not punishable, and is perhaps even permissible, for non-Jews. But it is forbidden and punishable for Jews. Hashem’s love for us is so great that He lets nothing come between us. But His relationship with the nations of the world is more distant, such that if they engage in shituf, it does not shake that relationship to the same extent. There is simply not as much intimacy there.  

Hashem describes Himself (Shmos 20:5) as a “jealous G-d.” That is why He says (Shmos 22:19) that we may not sacrifice to anyone “other than Hashem alone.” Our relationship with Hashem is like a loving husband and wife. Of course one of them would be jealous if someone else inserted him or herself between the two. In Pinchas’s time, there were those who stood by and were able to tolerate those who brought idolatry and immorality into our relationship with Hashem. They were complacent. But Pinchas was not one of them. Like the old song says, “I only have eyes for you.” Pinchas realized our relationship cannot be with anyone “other than Hashem alone.” That is why the Navi (Malachi 2:5) says about Pinchas/Eliyahu, “My covenant of life and peace was with him.” 

Kohanim also come from a perspective of great love, and depending on the circumstances, that love expresses itself in different ways. As we see with Eliyahu Hanavi, an intolerance for those who would hurt our people is the only way to achieve true peace. 

With this in mind, we can appreciate the words of the piyut we sing after Shabbos: “A Tishbite man will save us from the mouth of the lions.” It would be too much of a compliment to the Hamas terrorists to call them “lions,” but with Hashem’s help, the Israeli Defense Forces will save our people from the rockets fired by the Hamas cockroaches in Gaza.  

May Hashem keep everyone in Eretz Yisroel safe, may He protect the soldiers in the Israeli Defense Forces, and may he make them successful in rooting out the terrorist infestation in the south of Eretz Yisroel. And then, with G-d’s help, we will merit to see the fulfillment of that which we sing in the piyut: “He will announce good news for us, he will cause the sons to rejoice over the fathers after Shabbos… Fortunate is one who sees his [Eliyahu’s] face in a dream, fortunate is he who merits to greet [Eliyahu] with ‘Shalom,” and who [Eliyahu] answers with ‘Shalom.’ May Hashem bless his nation with peace.”
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Wednesday, July 9, 2014

A Pot of Soup - Possible Unfolding of Tomorrow's News - Guest Post by Mrs. Yid

My wife, Mrs. Yid., wrote the below piece of fiction as a guest post. This story does not address everything going on in Eretz Yisroel these past 3 plus weeks because it was written before that. But with what's happening, it's even more difficult to hope for the redemption. Hopefully this possible unfolding of the news can help encourage us not to give up hope on Hashem sending Moshiach very very soon.  May we be zocheh to see the story fulfilled tomorrow!

-Dixie Yid


A Pot of Soup

With the Three Weeks approaching, it is a great time to work on being mitzapeh our yeshuah. For my family I have found that the best way to bring this abstract idea into a more tangible form is by using our koach hadimyon to vividly picture what it will be like when Moshiach comes. I have recounted to my children a variety of possible ways we will see the redemption unfold and have seen how this has allowed them to retain their idealism and hope for geulah. I hope other families can use this strategy as well, especially with what is going on in Eretz Yisroel today and as we approach the Three Weeks and Tisha B'Av. Below is one way I imagine it happening:

Disclaimer: When I said this was a work of fiction, that was only partially true. It is fiction, but be'ezras Hashem, it won't be for long!


Where was I?  I was at home, making soup.   It was a Sunday - I remember that because everyone was home. I wonder if it would have been the same if they weren't?  But they were because it was Sunday. I even remember exactly where everyone was. Isn't that weird? My husband and Racheli were in the den just off our kitchen.  Ben was writing, and Racheli was reading on the couch; legs crossed, top leg bobbing up and down as she ate chips... after I distinctly remember telling her that she was not allowed to bring food... You know what? - Never mind.  Yosef and Tehilla were on the floor playing with Lego, Ruchama was sitting on the counter, mixing the brownie batter, and telling me all about how her Morah had brought in a fake parrot that repeated everything the children said and how it was soooooooofunny! And me? I was making soup.

I had just turned the flame on when I heard it.  A horn blaring.  I remember that it startled me because I almost knocked over the rice on the counter.  My heart was hammering as I marched over to the window and wondered (with a touch of righteous indignation, I might add) who was honking their horn like that on a residential street?!  But before I got to the window, I heard it again.  This time, I knew - I just knew - that it wasn't a car horn at all.

Racheli sat up so quickly that her bag of chips spilled out onto the floor.  The most mundane thought popped into my mind. If that's what I think it is, I won't have to clean that up.  I walked towards the window and looked out.  I heard Binyomin walk up behind me and pull the curtain back. We could see all our neighbors doing the same thing we were. Peeking out and wondering...

"Is that...?" Racheli asked.

"I think it is!" My husband said as he ran back towards towardthe desk.  We were all still looking outside (I'm still not sure what we expected to see) and the blasts just kept coming! And finally the teikiah gedolah!  I'm telling you I felt it everywhere; my eyes, my heart, my teeth!!! You remember how it was, right?!  And then silence. We all turned to look to my husband.  It was so quiet I could hear the clicks as Ben hopped from one website to the next. Ruchama scrambled off the counter. She had a smear of chocolate on her cheek.

"Mommy!  Is it time!?"

"I don't know... I think."

"Malka!  Come here!!!  You have to see this!"  

Binyomin had found a live video feed from Eretz Yisroel.  People were dancing in the streets! Tzitzis flying- men losing hats left and right! One man was using a paper plate as an impromptu yarmulke! But the most beautiful part, and this still makes me tear up - even after all these years - all of them were dancing together!  Soldiers and chassidim were linking arms and laughing.  You almost couldn't tell who was who - everyone's face was mamash glowing!

"We need to get there right now," I heard myself say.

"We're going on an eagle! Are we going on an eagle?" Yosef'speyos were bouncing right along with him. "How are we going to get there?"

"I don't know."

Ben brought our suitcases down from the attic just as I was getting off the phone with the airline.  

"They have 6 seats available but not together. And we're leaving in," I looked at my watch, "about an hour so everybody start packing!!!"  

What were we going to take with us? I, like many others, decided to take the things I could not replace. Not that it would make a difference right? If I knew then what I know now I wouldn't have stressed so much! But at that time I didn't know, so I started by packing our photo albums, and the photos that I hadn't yet put into photo albums, (I really was going to get around to it) a lock of hair from Yosef's upsherrin, some of mychildren’s projects.  By then my suitcase was bursting at the seams and if I wanted to take the silver challah bowl my grandmother gave me I would need to wear it as a hat. I put whatever clothes I could fit in my pocketbook along with our passports and left Binyomin to sort which soforim we would bring.

I went upstairs to see how the kids were doing.  Not much better than me it seemed.  I remember thinking how my children's suitcases said so much about them.  Ruchama's was filled with princess dresses, plastic high heels, 2 crowns and a wand.  When I suggested she add some "everyday" clothing, she reluctantly tossed in a pair of sneakers and a denim skirt, but the look she gave me told me that I knew nothing about geulah couture.  Tehilla was trying to convince Ruchama to give up some room in her suitcase "for the greater good,"- the greater good being her books- but in all fairness she was probably the most practical out of all of us, having filled her suitcase with actual clothes.  Yosef was sitting on the floor reading a book about hamsters who take over a pet store.  Inside his suitcase was a pair of pants, and one sock. I quickly packed up his clothes because really, what was the point in arguing now? Racheli had carefully packed as many of her models as she could, but the models were very big and there wasn't much room. Still, she managed to pack a decent amount and still had some room left for "necessities." We spent our last few minutes running around shoving variousodds and ends into our suitcases, and then we were off!

When we finally boarded the plane, I was completely wiped out, and by the time we took off, I was sleeping. I woke up to a ding!and the voice of a flight attendant telling us that we could now take off our seatbelts. I saw that some of the passengers were already being served their dinner.  I leaned over to see what was on the tray...soup...vegetable maybe? Something was niggling at my brain…something I forgot... And that's when I remembered the soup!  I left it on the flame! I took a deep breath. There was nothing I could do now.  It was on low, so this wasn't an urgent matter.  Yet.  I could text my friend from work once we landed.Or call the fire department. Did I lock the door? Did I even close the door?!

I couldn't help but notice that the woman to my right was looking at me. Was I talking to myself? Did I say that out loud? She must think I'm crazy!  But no, I looked again and I saw that she looked as if she wanted to say something.  Finally she did. "You're Jewish right? And religious?" She didn't wait for me to confirm, but just kept going. "I'm also Jewish, but I don't really know anything - well anything about religion anyway. And I heard that sound today, and I I knew what I had to do. I had to get to Israel as fast as I could. But I don't know why, but lucky for me I'm sitting next to you! So tell me. Why?" I have to admit I was taken aback. Wow. My first thought was - who am I to answer her questions? But then I heard the voice of one of my teachers in my head. If you know aleph, teach aleph.  And so I did.  

An hour later I was parched.  Tara, that was her name, hadn'tstopped asking questions and I hadn't stopped answering them.  I got up to get some drinks. As I walked down the aisle I saw the same scene replaying, row after row.  It seemed like everyone was either learning or teaching. I saw a little girl teaching an older woman. "Kamatz aleph ah.  Ah ah ah - now you!"  She must have felt me looking at her because she turned around.


"Mommy!" I wasn't expecting that. "Mommy! I'm a teacher!!!!! I'm teaching the aleph Beis!!!!!" I'm sure I would have heard more but the flight attendant's voice came on again.

"We will begin our decent in approximately ten minutes.  Please return to your seats and fasten your seatbelts." Ten minutes? That was fast.

When the plane landed everyone clapped and started singing "Evenu Shalom Aleichem" just like in the old days!  Well not old old, but you know.  After that, things moved pretty quickly.  They didn't even look at our passports.  A makeshift absorptioncenter was set up by the baggage carousel in Ben Gurion.  Families gathered in small clusters waiting for their names to be called. We were all wondering the same thing. Where were we going to go? How would we get there? And of course, when would we finally, finally! get to see the beis Hamikdash?!  

"Wolf!"  We rolled our suitcases towards a smiling chayalit with curly hair.  She reached into her pocket and gave Yosef and Ruchama a lollipop.  "Welcome home! How was your flight?"  I think we were all too dumbstruck to muster up anything coherent.  "This is your host family," she continued, gesturing towards a young Israeli couple standing behind her.  "They are going to take you to where you are staying."

It was so cool! I know, I know, the word "cool" is pas nischt and even if it weren't, no one says it anymore, but still - that's the only word I could think of to describe the achdus we saw that day!  Tens of thousands of Israelis from every part of the religious spectrum had come together and volunteered to help us "chutznikim" get around!  

Those first steps outside were...unforgettable; the smell! The sun on my face! We piled into the car as quickly as we could and were soon driving down the highway. My children had finally settled down and were waving to the passengers in the other cars. It was quiet, but a comfortable quiet.

"What's your name?" Tehilla asked.  Funny, she was the shy one.  

"I am Igal and this is my wife Chedva; and you metukah?"  


"Well Tehilla, welcome to Israel.  It's beautiful right?" Chedvasaid.  Tehilla nodded. I loved their thick Israeli accents; I loved how she put the emphasis on the end of Tehilla's name, I loved everything!  

"Where are we going?" I asked.  

Igal raised his eyebrow, "What do you mean? We are going to your house!"

We don't have a house.  

"I bet you are thinking that you don't have a house..."  

"We don't have a house," my husband replied.  

"Ahhhh but you do!  Wait! Wait!  You are going to see nissimand niflaot!"

"But," I could tell my husband was about to ask another question, or maybe explain once again (politely of course) that we didn't own a house in Eretz Yisroel when he stopped himself.

"Wait a minute! What about the Beis Hamikdash? When will we go there?" I knew what he was thinking.  We were already too late. I had told my children about how Hashem would create the third and final beis Hamikdash, how it would descend from Heaven and be the most beautiful sight we had ever seen.  But we didn't see it.  We were in America when that happened and I felt a pang of sadness that we had missed it.

"What do you mean? It's not here yet!"

Binyomin bolted up. "We didn't miss it? Then when? I thought..."

"What do you mean 'miss it'?  It will come when all of the Jews arrive! Achi, we have been waiting for the geulah for a loooongtime.  Hashem will not let you miss nothing!" And with that he began humming a tune that sounded so familiar... but I couldn't put my finger on where I had heard it.  

By then all the excitement finally caught up with us, and one by one we fell asleep to the soft bumps in the road, and the sweet sound of Igal's voice. Just before I fell asleep I recognized the tune.  It was a Bresslov traveling nigun.

I dreamt. I was in shul everyone was complimenting me on my hat, "Look! Look!" Everyone was saying, and I was strutting around like a peacock with my grandmother's challah bowl on my head thinking, I should really wear hats more often...

"Look! Look!! Wake up!"   Chedva was shaking me. Binyomin'svoice came in to my right.

"Malka you are not going to believe this." My eyelids felt like they were glued shut, but somehow I managed to open them.  

Binyomin was right. I could not believe it.  Our house from America was standing right in front of us; just as natural as you please.

"You left the door open!" Igal joked. Indeed I did.  "I told you!" He nudged Binyomin, "Nissim and Niflaot!"

"Here is our number, you have a telephone?" Chedva asked as she handed me a small piece of paper. I nodded.  "When you get settled you will come for Shabbat ok? Oy!  Don't cry!"  

Was I crying? I didn't even realize...

"My wife is a very good cook and everything is Mehadrin min ha Mehadrin!"

"Do you want to come in? Maybe for a drink?" Racheli offered.  It seemed so strange to be inviting people into a house that had basically just popped into existence!

"We would love to, but we need to get the next family! But we are going to see each other very soon yes?  Call us when you get settled-don't be shy!" He said closing the door to the car, "We are family now!"  And without further ado, they were gone.  

"Thank you!" I called out, even though by now they couldn't hear me. My kids waved until they could no longer see anything but a little puff of dust.  

"Mommy, his name was Igal!" Yosef said.

"Yes, I know."

"Mommy!  Igal!  Like Eagle?" Oh!  

"Can you believe this?!" My husband gestured towards the house.  We climbed the steps and pushed open the door. The potato chips were still on the floor - guess I was going to have to clean up that mess after all. And then the most delightful scent wafted in from the kitchen.

"My soup!" I ran to the kitchen and shut off the flame.  I absolutely could not believe it.  "Everybody get a bowl and a spoon!" Not only did Hashem redeem us, not only did He send such sweet and wonderful people to bring us home, not only did He airmail our beautiful house without a scratch, but waiting for us was a steaming pot of soup! Quite delicious if I do say so myself! Wow. Every time I think about it I get goose bumps!

...So where were you?

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Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Rabbi Chaim Kramer of Breslov Research Institute Speaking Tonight (Wednesday) in Woodmere

Please join Reb Chaim Kramer of the Breslov Research in Woodmere Wednesday (tonight!), June 25th at 8 p.m. Rabbi Kramer will be speaking on the topic of earning a parnassa.
He will speak at the home of Tzuriel Ross: 863 West Broadway in Woodmere.
As founder of the Breslov Research Institute, Rabbi Chaim Kramer travels the world bringing the wisdom of Rebbe Nachman to countless others. Having been responsible for publishing over 150 titles and counting, Reb Chaim has been the main vehicle to make Rebbe Nachman's teachings available to the world.
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Thursday, May 29, 2014

Why I'm Going to the Celebrate Israel Parade for the First Time on Sunday

My family and I will, IY"H, be at the Celebrate Israel Parade this Sunday (June 1) for the first time. I want to share a few thoughts behind this decision. 

First, it is not because I have undergone any recent change in ideology. I still love the fact that we have a state in Eretz Yisroel built by Jews and hope that it will continually become more alligned with the Torah as time goes on. I still say tachanun on Yom Ha'atzemeut. [Incidently, when I saw what occured on Yom Ha'atzmeut in YU, it appeared to be somewhat haphazard because everybody did different things and no one knew what to do. It left me feeling like the whole thing was somewhat made-up.] I am still grateful to Hashem that His providence has caused the beginning of the ingathering of the exiles and the building of Eretz Yisroel even before Moshiach's arrival.
Putting aside my natural quality of laziness, I have not felt a strong desire to go to the Israel Parade before because it has always struck me as too modern and/or secular a way of showing appreciation for the Jewish state. And I still basically feel that way, but other things have caused me to want to find new ways to show my support and gratitude to Hashem and the Jewish people for the existence of a thriving State of Israel in Eretz Yisroel.
Here is what has pushed me in the other direction so that I would like to try going to the parade this year. First, I have friends who often go and have told me about the beauty and inspiration of seeing tens of thousands of Jews, from the most secular to those who are very religious, getting together to express their gratitude and love for the same thing. I have heard that there is an incredible positive energy. It is almost unheard of to find secular and religious Jews taking part in something together so I love there idea that we have at least this one thing, the State of Israel, that can bring people together in a positive way. We often find such unity when tragedies like 9/11 or Hurricaine Sandy strike, but almost never for positive things.
The second thing is the toxic negativity toward the State of Israel and those associated with it, including the IDF, that I very often hear from various parts of my community. It goes without saying that, as a Jew who works to be religious, I recognize that there are many things wrong with the State, its army, and its laws. But there are so many positive, beautiful things happening as well. And so many of even the people who do harmful things are sincerely trying to do what is right as they (albeit wrongly) understand it.
The derech in Torah to which I am drawn is one which sees good in things. Even when Jews do bad things, this derech seeks to avoid whitewashing the bad while still looking beneath the surface to appreciate that those doing it are not inherently evil or malicious, but are simply wrong or confused. A chareidi MK in a recent article in Mishpacha Magazine actually claimed that non-chareidim hate chareidim so much that it would be futile to even attempt to reconcile with, talk with, or even persuade secular Israelis of the correctness of the chareidi position.  See my letter to the editor in response to that on the right. Such extreme negativity which blinds itself to seeing any positivity in "the other" pushes me to try even harder to see good in those who are condemned as evil and malicious.

Even drashos speaking against the current government of Israel by tzadikim who I respect and look up to, like this one, push me to see the good that other tzadikim and my own gut tells me is there. So even though my positions regarding the state have not changed, I am frustrated by the lack of an appreciation for the goodness within Jews whose beliefs and actions may be wrong. And that frustration causes me to look for more ways to see, be grateful for, and celebrate the good.

My family is now getting very excited to come to the parade as well. My somewhat vertically challenged oldest daughter (a good Bais Yaakov girl) was a little bit concerned that she would not be able to see anything because of her height, so I suggested that we march in the parade so she wouldn't have to worry about the view. She very much liked that idea, so IY"H, we will be marching in the Celebrate Israel Parade with YU, my alma mater.  Hope to see you there if any of  you may be joining!

I do not know whether I will come to future parades, but IY"H, may this one reveal more goodness, gratitude, and achdus in as broad a specrum of the Jewish people as possible!
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Friday, May 23, 2014

Bilvavi Mishkan Evneh Author - Rav Itamar Shwartz - U.S. Schedule This Coming Week - Woodmere, Far Rockaway, Monsey, Flatbush, Lakewood, Philly, & Passaic

Baruch Hashem, the author of the Bilvavi Mishkan Evneh and Da Es seforim, Rav Itamar Shwartz, will be arriving in the United States on Sunday morning! The Rav will be speaking in Aish Kodesh 9:45 Sunday morning so please come to that! We are still seeking sponsorships in any amount to help the Rav put more of his amazing Torah in print. So please contact me using the email address in the right side-bar if you can help!
Please see below for the Rav's full schedule this week, and please spread the word by email/Facebook/Twitter/etc. Thanks!
Sunday May 25 - Woodmere – Flatbush – Far Rockaway
9:45 AM Woodmere Aish Kodesh (Men and Women) - 894 Woodmere Place
12:15 PM Flatbush Beit Medresh Bnei Levy - 1950 East 21st Street (btw R and S)
5:00 PM Far Rockaway - Kollel Zichron Ephrayim in the Agudas Yisroel of Long Island 1121 Sage St. - Far Rockaway - Connecting to Hashem Brings Brocho Daily
Monday May 26th - Monsey
10:30 AM Ohr Samayach (Men and Women) How to Make Hashem Feel More Real - with English translation.See announcement flyer »
6:00 PM Yeshiva Ohr Yisroel 21 Rita Ave.
Tuesday May 27th - Lakewood - Philly
1:15 PM Lakewood Beis Medresh Ohr haMeir 30 Fifth Street
8:00 PM Philidelphia Politz Torah Academy (Men and Women) How to Feel Pleasure from Spirituality - with English translation - 9225 Old Bustleton Ave., Phily 215-969-5960
Wednesday May 28th - Lakewood
Private Appointments, please text: Rabbi Zvi Cohen 732-966-7743
10:00 PM Beis Medresh Toldos Yehudah127 Courtney Street
Inyan Mitzvah Talmud Torah
See announcement flyer »
Thursday May 29th - Passaic
12:00 PM Mrs. Aviva Aberman (Women Only)
Kehillas Bais Yosef, 580 Broadway How A Woman can Prepare Herself for Shavous and Experience it Fully - with English translation
9:00 PM Aberman Home, 325 Dwasline Road (Limited to 15 couples - $200 per couple) Raising Children with Emunah - with English translation
PLEASE RSVP- limited space left | Contact
See announcement flyer »
Private appointments in Passaic
Shabbos May 30-31st - Lakewood Westgate
6:40 PM Shul at 49 Radin St.
For all private appointments in above locations
please text Rabbi Zvi Cohen
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Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Things I Learned Spending Shabbos with CEO of Nachal Chareidi Amuta

Rabbi Tzvi Klebanow, CEO of Nahal Haredi, is on the right
I learned a lot over the Shabbos I just spent with the CEO of Amutat Netzach Yehuda, known colloquially as Nachal Chareidi, Rabbi Tzvi Klebanow. I also got to have, as a Shabbos seuda guest, one of the current chayalim in Netzach Yehuda, Nesanel Silverman, a bearded bochur from Brooklyn who joined Nachal Chareidi as a volunteer from America but has since made aliya. Here are a few of the things I learned about Nachal Chareidi:
  • Nachal Chareidi was started in 1999 primarily through the initiative of a rebbe in yeshiva ketana, Rabbi Yitzchak Bar Chaim, who found that there was, at that time, no productive, satisfying life-path for the many bochurim who were not destined to learn full-time in kollel for decades.
  • One of the most important forces in the IDF helping Rabbi Bar Chaim and others set up a kosher environment in the army for chareidi boys was and is retired General Yehuda Dubduvani, who described his mission in life, after helping found Nachal Chareidi, as working to "mend the tear in the Jewish nation."
  • There are now about 1,400 boys in Nachal Chareidi, which is a three year program. The first two years involve training and combat and the third year is a program to allow boys to either prepare for their high school equivalency exam (bagrut) or study a profession.
  • Nachal Chareidi is a real combat unit. They have primary responsibility for two major Arab population centers, Jenin and Tul Karem, and the surrounding towns.
  • One of the battalion's major functions is that when the Shin Bet provides them with detailed intelligence, they go into Arab cities and towns to extract specific individuals in the middle of the night, with the unit making approximately 2-3 arrests per night. They avoid doing this on Shabbos whenever practical.
  • They were instrumental in the major extraction of Hamza Abu Alheja in March, which involved an armed conflict. You can see Netanyahu praising the unit starting at about the 0:30 mark in the above video.
  • The organization, Amutat Netzach Yehuda, provides approximately 14 rabbanim who constantly travel wherever members of the battalion are at any given time. They give shiurim, chizuk, and guidance on a constant basis. They also help the chayalim with any personal issues that come up, including working with families that may not appreciate their decision to join the IDF.  The organization also provides  other services, including  housing for boys that can't return home for whatever reason, for Shabbos, and a keren chassanim, among other services.
  • The Amuta also acts as a watchdog, ensuring that the army fulfills all of its promises in terms of religious accommodations. Some of these are mehadrin kashrus, separation from women in all aspects of the program (even though 95% of the IDF instructors are women), and times for davening every day. The organization puts the "haredi" in "Nahal Haredi."
  • One cute story is how, about 1.5 years ago, the battalion was participating in a major maneuver lasting the entire night. The maneuver involved several other battalions as well (which are not chareidi). At about 4:30 in the morning, one of the commanders asked Nesanel, one of the Nachal Chareidi chayalim (who told us the story), what time sof zman krias Shma was. The commander wanted to know whether there would be time to do the next portion of the maneuver (which included mostly non-chareidi battalions) before sof zman krias Shma, or whether they should do it after davening!
  • To understand more about how effectively the unit accommodates the chareidi chayalim religiously, see Akiva's post on the topic, which he wrote when his son was about 2.5 years into the 3 year program. It sounds like it's pretty good but not perfect. He wrote: "armies...excel at killing people and breaking things – that is, after all, their primary purpose. At everything else they do it just barely well enough not to be totally messed up and completely dysfunctional. Barely."
  • Because I think this is something that people really want to know, I asked Rabbi Klebanow and Nesanel how many bochurim grow religiously, stay the same, or go down religiously; comparing how they came into the program and how they left three years later. Nesanel felt that 90% of the guys were stronger religiously when they left compared to when they came in, though many (just like outside the army) had ups and downs in the middle. Rabbi Klebanow felt that Nesanel's number was accurate among guys whose parents started off supportive of them, or became supportive at some point in the process.
I'm excited about this program because it's one way, among many relatively new efforts, to get away from the unnatural policy of offering all boys exactly one choice about how they live their lives: long-term, full-time kollel learning. And if they're meant to do something else, for whatever reason, such a policy breaks people and is not the ratzon Hashem. One of those efforts is the relatively new Lomda Institute in Yerushalayim for vocational training founded by Rivka and Yaakov Yerusalvsky (pictured on the right). Another is the Chareidi campus at the Ono Academy, also in Yerushalayim. There is also the Shahar program, allowing chareidim to learn a profession as part of the Israeli Air Force. And there are many others which are beginning to give people the options they need.
Hatzlacha raba to Rabbi Klebanow and the army's efforts at recruitment to the Nachal Chareidi program! May many more people join so that our people can avoid the inevitable conflict and toxic language that will inevitably result when the army attempts to draft people by force if the chareidi recruiting goals are not met! And may the program continue to benefit of the guys and may they grow in midos and ruchnius there, as this will ultimately strengthen them in Torah as well!
Update 5/14/14: The below video in English, featuring information on Nachal Chareidi and an interview with R. Kelbanow was just put online today. Enjoy! 
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Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Director of Nachal Charedi in Woodmere/Lawrence/Cedarhurst this Shabbos - Videos, articles, & Links

Rabbi Tzvi Klebanow, director of Nachal Chareidi, on the left
 This is exciting. Rabbi Tzvi Klebanow, the director of Nachal Chareidi, a non-profit organization which worked to found what is now known as the Netzach Yehuda Brigade, will be in Woodmere/ Cedarhurst/ Lawrence this Shabbos and baruch Hashem, he and his wife will be staying with us for Shabbos. Nachal Chareidi continues to support Netzach Yehuda soldiers and liaze between the chareidi communities and the IDF.

Rabbi Klebanow will speak this Shabbos at the following times:
  • Shabbos morning at Aish Kodesh in Woodmere, Rabbi Klabanow will speak at about 10:15. Shacharis starts at 8:30 a.m.
  • Shalosh Seudos at the Young Israel of Lawrence & Cedarhurst, following 7:30 Mincha.
  • Motzoi Shabbos at 9:45 p.m. at a Nachal Chareidi parlor meeting at the home of Anne & Shelly Golombeck, 6 Washington Ave. S. in Lawrence
To get certain misperceptions out of the way in advance, (i) Reb Areye Leib Shteinman, shlita and Rav Elyashiv, zt"l, gave their passive (not publicly declared) support to the founding of Nachal Chareidi back in 1999 and (ii) Nachal Chareidi does not take a position in support the chareidi draft or attempt to attract boys who are learning well to join the IDF.

The main purpose of Nachal Chareidi is to give chareidi young men who are not meant to learn full time long-term for whatever reason, a kosher way to do army service and learn a profession. The battalion has no female instructors (even though 95% of instructors in the IDF are female - women aren't in combat units) and very strong mehadrin kashrus standards, among other religious accommodations.

Netzach Yehuda is one of six battalions in the Kfir Brigade, which does anti-terrorism service in Yehuda and Shomron. A minimum of 70% of the boys come from chareidi homes, about 10% are from chutz la'Aretz, and about 20% are strong dati leumi boys. The Brigade is spread out over seven bases and consists of about 1,500 soldiers (the program started with 30!).

I'm excited about the expansion of this program because, especially as there are more and more alumni and families who see that it is a serious religious program, it opens up options for spiritual and practical actualization for many boys who were made for professions other than long-term, full-time kollel learning. It's a basic human need to do what one is made to do, and that is not the same for everyone. So kol hakavod for Nachal Chareidi creating one path for that!

See here for Akiva's recent thoughts on how Nachal Chareidi chareidi boys fare religiously in the program. He wrote this when his son was 2.5 years into the program (it's a 3 year program).
See here for an audio interview (studio setup wasn't amazing) with Rabbi Klebanow from 2011 which is very informative.
See here for a video put out in February of this year, upon the 15th anniversary of Nachal Chareidi, summarizing the history of the program and the now-Netzach Yehuda Brigade:

And here's a beautiful video from Aug. 2013 from an induction ceremony:
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Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Jewish Theory of Relativity

I thought of a potential question on the Ohr Hachaim in this week's parsha (Kedoshim - Vayikra 19:3) which reminded me of a fundamental principle that, if applied, will help avoid untold confusion. Many people see contradictions and disputes literally everywhere they look in Torah and Yiddishkeit. this creates a feeling either than one does not know what to believe because there are different opinions about everything or that Yiddishkeit is a disjointed system without any unifying truth. The key principle to clearing our cloud of confusion is what I like to call the Jewish Theory of Relativity (not to be confused with the false idea of moral relativism).

The Ohr Hachaim says that each day of the week corresponds to one of the Avos and that Shabbos corresponds to Yosef Hatzadik. I then remembered that Reb Tzadok, zy"a, says in Pri Tzadik, based on earlier sources, that each of the three parts of Shabbos correspond to one of the Avos: Friday night to Yitzchok,  Shabbos morning to Avraham, and Shabbos afternoon to Yaakov. One might wonder whether this conflicts with the Ohr Hachaim's statement that the entirety of Shabbos corresponds to Yosef.

But if we appreciate the Jewish Theory of Relativity, we realize that we must put each thing in its proper place. Relative to the other six days of the week, Shabbos corresponds to Yosef. But the various parts of Shabbos, relative to one another, correspond to different Avos.

There are so many disputes and distinctions that become less confusing and less troubling when one applies this principle. Rav Itamar Shwartz, shlita, writes about this concept in the fifth volume of his sefer Bilvavi Mishkan Evneh when explaining how to reconcile to various positions among the Rishonim on the topic of general versus specific providence.

This notion of relativity exists in the secular legal world as well. For example, in the world of real estate, if a seller purports to transfer his property to two different people, the law in most states provides that whichever person records his or her deed first with the county clerk has a superior right to the property relative to the other person. Relative to some other third party, however, even the one who recorded his deed second has a superior right to the property.  One might ask, "But only one person can own the property! How can both transferees have a right to the property in certain situations?!" The truth is that secular law also views property rights as relative, and not absolute.

Another example: Any communications between a person and his attorney are privileged, meaning that someone cannot compel the person or his attorney to turn over the communication during the discovery process in a litigation. But let's say an attorney represents two people jointly, communications are exchanged, and then the two co-clients break up and become adversaries to one another. What happens to the privileged communications? Generally, a third party could not compel either to turn over such communications because they are privileged as between the two co-clients and any other third party. But relative to the two former co-clients, the communications are not privileged and one can compel the attorney to disclose the other one's communications in a litigation between the two former co-clients. One might ask, "But how can a single communication be both privileged and not privileged?!" The truth is that the law of privilege is relative. As between co-clients the communications are not privileged. But as against any other party, they are privileged.

There are many other examples of this attitude of relativity in both Torah and, lehavdil, secular law.

Another Torah example where someone failed to recognize or apply the Jewish Theory of Relativity in connection with my translation of a piece by Rav Itchie Mayer Morgenstern, shlita, as taught by Rav Moshe Weinberger Shavuos night several years ago. Rav Itchie Mayer explains how a wide variety of tzadikim and groups in Yiddishkeit correspond to either chochma (intellect) or bina (insight). In that context, he explains that Chabad-Lubavitch chassidus corresponds to chochma whereas Breslov chassidus corresponds to bina. A silly commenter there called Rav Itchie Mayer "ignorant" because the most recent Lubavitcher Rebbe, zy"a, says that each of the seven Lubavitcher Rebbes correspond with a different sefira, with the most recent Rebbe corresponding to malchus (kingship).

What that commenter failed to realize is that one need not see machlokes or contradictions everywhere he looks. The Lubavitcher Rebbe's teaching he quoted was taught in the context of explaining, within Lubavitch chassidus, what sefira each Lubavitcher Rebbe corresponds to relative to the other Lubavitcher Rebbes. Rav Itche Mayer, however, is explaining what Chabad chassidus as a whole corresponds to relative to another chassidus, in this case, Breslov.

In a time when many people are climbing out of small mindedness (mochin d'katnus), more people realize that as we approach the times of Moshiach, we must identify the deeper unity that unites different derachim/tzadikim/teachings by zeroing in on what aspect each teaching relates to and, in particular, what it was taught in relation to. For more background on that, I definitely recommend that you read this.

For the avoidance of doubt (as we say in the legal parlance), this in no way negates the importance of intellectual honesty and rigor in identifying distinctions and differences. But it does demand that we not limit ourselves to understanding the differences that exist on the more superficial level. Rather, we must answer the question, "In relation to what?" with respect to anything we learn so we can identify the deeper level where those ideas form various parts of a greater unity.

Long live the Jewish Theory of Relativity!

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