Thursday, March 5, 2015

Calling Out Modern-Day Evil - Print for Purim Seuda! - Rav Moshe Weinberger's Shabbos Zachor Drasha

Baruch Hashem, Rav Moshe Weinberger has reviewed this write-up of his drasha from the this past Shabbos, parshas Tetzaveh/Shabbos Zachor. See here for past shiurim at YUTorah.org'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 (right sidebar) and I'll send it to you IY"H, BL"N.


Rav Moshe Weinberger
Parshas Tetzaveh – Parshas Zachor 5775
Calling Out Modern-Day Evil


I have been waiting for this Shabbos when we remember the actions of those who have attempted to destroy us for months now. Although I am going to speak about things I usually avoid discussing on Shabbos, as I watch the events in Europe and throughout the Middle East, I cannot help but feel that we are living Part II of the story of “And it was in the Days of Achashveirosh” (Esther 1:1). Just like in the days of Achashveirosh, we have a dispute about the leader of our own country (Megillah 12a): Is he a foolish king or a wicked king? Our President says repeatedly in every speech, “Make no mistake… Let me be perfectly clear.” And we know from experience that everything he says after that introduction is a confusing obfuscation of truth, an utter lack of clarity.
Purim is a holiday of stark contrasts. As we say in the song Shoshanas Yaakov, “Cursed is Haman who attempted to destroy me” and “Blessed is Mordechai the Jew.” We have “Cursed is Zeresh the wife of the one who terrorized me” and “Blessed is Esther [who sacrificed] for me.” The Megillah refers on one hand to “king” Achashveirosh. But it also refers to “The King,” the hidden King of all kings who acts behind the scenes. Purim means making a place in our lives for both parts.
While gratitude to Hashem, rejoicing in His salvation, gifts to the poor and to our friends, and celebration, are a major part of Purim, an equally important part of the day is hatred of that which is truly evil in the world. Therefore, when we celebrate on Purim by drinking a little bit, “when the wine goes in, the secret comes out” (Eiruvin 65a). Our inhibitions and political correctness subside and we call out the alternate text of Shoshanas Yaakov, “Cursed are all of the wicked!”
Certainly everything in Yiddishkeit starts and ends with the quality of love. In the second blessing before Shma, we say every day, “You have loved Your nation Israel with an eternal love.” In Shma, we say the pasuk (Devarim 6:5), “And you shall love Hashem your G-d will all your heart, with all your soul, and with all of your resources.” The Torah teaches us, “And you shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Vayikra 19:18). Love is the foundation of the world and is the overarching emphasis in our service of G-d. And the ultimate goal of “turn away from evil” is to “do good” (cf. Tehillim 34:15).  As Rabbeinu Bachaya says, “a little bit of light dispels a lot of darkness.” That is always the primary emphasis.
But the truth is that love is not everything. The western world is drunk with the idea that, as the song says, “All you need is love.” That is the perverse current formulation of a concept which originated in the teachings of the well-known apostate from Nazareth. The reality is that “Those who love Hashem hate evil” (Tehillim 97:10). This is a positive form of hate; one which is not only permissible, but obligatory. In the western mind, love is always good and hate is always bad. But this extremist, black-and-white approach is foolish, false, and very dangerous. The truth is that there is a good form of love and a bad form of love. There is a good form of hate and a bad form of hate. We have an obligation to clearly identify evil and evil-doers and work to stop and, if necessary, destroy them. It is forbidden to indiscriminately love everyone and everything.
Judaism is not a religion of love. Nor is it a religion of hate. It is a religion of truth. As long as there are evil acts and evildoers in the world, there will be a limitation on where love is appropriate. If one loves wicked people, he begins to identify with them and eventually justifies and becomes caught up with them, ultimately throwing his lot in with them in every way.
The Rambam rules (Hilchos Melachim 5:5) that “it is forbidden to forget his [Amalek’s] enmity and hatred.” And the Chayei Adam (155:2) teaches us that “It is a positive commandment from the Torah to remember what Amalek did and to hate him with a hatred fixed into the heart…” Why is this? It is because “Those who love Hashem hate evil.”
The same thing that makes a person love Hashem causes him to hate evil. That is why the Alter Rebbe, zy’a, teaches us in the tenth chapter of the Tanya regarding a complete tzadik: “The extent of the greatness of his love for Hashem is the extent of his hatred for the Other Side and his complete disgust with evil.” It is not that those who love Hashem “also” hate evil. Their love of Hashem itself gives birth to hatred of evil people and their evil actions. The same way a modest, loving mother hates someone who abuses her child, a tzadik’s hatred for evil does not come from anger, jealousy, or arrogance. Rather, it arises from the powerful purity and refinement of his love for G-d. “Love is powerful like death… its coals are like the coals of the fire of the flames of G-d.” When a fiery love of G-d comes into contact with evil, that evil is completely consumed.
This is the message of Shabbos Zachor. We must clearly identify evil. We must “make no mistake” and “be completely clear.” Esther answered the question “Who is this and where is he” (Esther 7:5) without hesitation or equivocation: “This evil Haman!” (ibid. 6).  


For some reason, our President has been unable to do this. He demonstrated how he has blinded himself to anti-Semitism when he characterized the massacre of four Jews in a kosher grocery store in Paris as a “bunch of violent, vicious zealots [of no particular religion]… randomly shoot[ing] a bunch of folks [of no particular religion] in a deli in Paris.” The President’s elves initially tried to justify this unwillingness to name radical Islam as the culprit and the Jewish people as their target. We can never fight evil if the titular leader of the free world refuses to even acknowledge the nature and perpetrators of such evil.
The evil people of the world today completely negate the image of G-d in man. They viciously behead, slaughter, and enslave Christians, Yazidis, and Kurds all over the Middle East, not to mention how they butcher other Muslims who disagree with them, including burning a Muslim pilot alive as part of their worldwide PR campaign. Shabbos Zachor reminds us that we must clearly identify and condemn evil in our own time. We cannot fall prey to the same mistake our President makes by refusing to call radical Islam out as the source of the problem and clearly identify Iran, Hamas, Hezbollah, ISIS, the Syrian Regime, Fatah/the PLO, and their ilk as the purveyors of the most inhumane forms of evil perpetrated in the world today against non-Muslims and Muslims alike.
Someone pointed out to me this week that in chassidus, we always learn that there is a spark of holiness in everything in the world, from the most benign to the most evil. He asked whether we should seek out the good in evil ideologies, regimes, and organizations in the world today. Does the Gemara not say (Gitin 57b), “the great-grandchildren of Haman studied Torah in Bnei Brak!” I explained to him that while this is true, how Hashem ultimately redeems the good in the evil things of this world today is none of our concern. He will extract sparks of goodness according to His plan. But as long as something reveals itself as pure evil in this world, we must relate to it as such.[1]
It is true that the Arizal teaches that the pasuk, “And regarding Yishmael, I have heard you [Avraham]” (Bereishis 17:20), refers to how G-d took note of the spark of holiness within Yishmael. In addition, Reb Shimon Ostropoler, zy’a, teaches that Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish, Reish Lakish, was a reincarnation of Yishmael. He further explains that because the word for “And He heard, וישמע” is related to the name Shimon (שמעון), the pasuk (ibid. 21:17) “And G-d heard the voice of the boy [Yishmael]… where he was” hints at the fact that the soul of Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish was already deep within Yishmael. Notwithstanding all of that, the fact that good or bad would come from Yishmael or his descendants in the distant future was not part of the calculation at the time. Yishmael was only saved because he was deserving at the time. We must relate to evil exclusively according to its manifestation as evil as long as its spark of goodness remains hidden. As-yet-unredeemed holiness is none of our concern.
Our President, who refuses to identify or confront evil in our time, demonstrated his deep fear of Prime Minister Netanyahu speaking before a joint session of Congress and meeting with a bipartisan group of Senators by attempting to humiliate and embarrass him in order to discredit his message about the dangers of a nuclear Iran. President Obama is terrified because he knows that Netanyahu will do what he always does; identify the evil, terror-supporting Islamic Iranian regime as an existential danger to Israel and the free world. He knows Netanyahu will “be perfectly clear” and “make no mistake” when he answers the question “Who is this and where is he?”
Obama knows that the Prime Minister will shatter his whitewashed image of terrorism as a few random extremists radicalized by poverty and lack of opportunity with no connection to the worldwide Iran-funded systematic recruitment to radical Islam happening all over the Middle East and Europe. He knows Netanyahu will point out the evil nation that sits on the same point on the map as ancient Persia; the nation that attempted to annihilate our people just as the Ayatollahs seek to do today.
It is no coincidence that amidst the mitzvos of Purim related to love and friendship is the mitzvah to remember the evil of the nation of Amalek. One is the natural result of the other. “Those who love Hashem hate evil.” While the primary mitzvah to destroy Amalek today can only be fulfilled by destroying our own inner Amalek-like qualities, coldness and detachment toward an enthusiastic, wholehearted service of G-d, we must also fulfill the mitzvah by recognizing and calling out the evil and evildoers of the day. May Hashem bless us by giving us and our leaders the clarity and courage to unequivocally identify and destroy the evil ideologies, organizations, and regimes prevalent the world.

[1] The good hidden inside a Jewish soul of a wicked person’s body is different because that good is revealed on some level even here in this world.


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Friday, February 27, 2015

Holy Monkeys of Adar - Rav Moshe Weinberger's Drasha from Parshas Terumah

Baruch Hashem, Rav Moshe Weinberger has reviewed this write-up of his drasha from the this past Shabbos, parshas Teruma. See here for past shiurim at YUTorah.org'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 (right sidebar) and I'll send it to you IY"H, BL"N.


Rav Moshe Weinberger
Parshas Terumah 5775
Holy Monkeys of Adar 


According to the Sefer Hayetzira, each month of the year is associated with a letter of the Alef Beis. It says about the month of Adar, “He crowned the letter Kuf with laughter.” He made the letter Kuf the “king” of the month of Adar with laughter because “when Adar enters, we increase joy” (Taanis 29a). But what does it mean that the letter Kuf is king of the month of Adar? And how is Kuf associated with joy or laughter? 


We know that each letter of the Alef Beis comes from an underlying concept based on the root meaning of that letter’s name. For example, the letter Alef (אלף) is associated with the acquisition of wisdom, as the pasuk (Iyov 33:33) says, “And I will teach you [ואאלפך] wisdom.” The letter Beis (בית) means house. The letter Gimel (גמל) means to give (גומל). And the letter Dalet (דלת) means a poor person (דל). But what could the letter Kuf (קוף), which means “monkey,” signify? 


Reb Tzadok Hakohein of Lublin, zy’a, explains the significance of the letter Kuf in this context in a number of places in his sefer Machshevos Charutz and other seforim. He teaches us that the concept of a monkey, like almost everything in the world, has a holy side and an unholy side. The relevant characteristic of a monkey for our purposes is its tendency to imitate. “Monkey see monkey do.” This can be a very holy trait.  


The eighth positive mitzvah in the Torah according to the Rambam (Sefer Hamitzos, Positive Mitzva 8), based on the pasuk (Devarim 29:9), “And you shall walk in His ways,” is to “imitate” G-d. Just as He is merciful, so too we must be merciful. That is what it means to be a “holy monkey.” Man is created in the image of G-d, and has unlimited potential to be G-d-like by means of this imitation of G-d’s ways. 


But there is also an unholy concept of a monkey. This refers to one who mistakes this “resemblance” to Gd and actually forgets that he is not G-d. His delusions of grandeur are so prominent in his mind that he thinks he is in control of himself and his destiny, that he is a god. This is the attitude of Amalek, which becomes so large in its own mind that there is no place left for the Divine. 


But what does it mean to actualize our holy potential to make ourselves more G-dlike? The Gemara (Yerushalmi, Shekalim 1:2) explains that the beginning of this week’s parsha uses the word “gift” three times. It says that each use of the word refers to a different type of gift. The Half Shekel coins that every Jew was commanded to give were used to fund two parts of the Mishkan: (i) the 100 “holy sockets” (Shmos 38:27) which formed the foundation of the Mishkan’s structure and (ii) the communal offerings. Every Jew gave the same amount for these two aspects of the Mishkan; a Half Shekel. The third type of gift was the donations of all types of materials which were used to build the Mishkan. For these donations, each person gave something different, each person according to his ability to the extent his heart moved him to do so (ibid. 35:2). 


What is the significance of the fact that every Jew gave a Half Shekel to supply the sockets which supported the Mishkan? According to the Tikunei Zohar (131b), the 100 sockets correspond to the 100 brachos a Jew must say every day. But what is the connection between these two things? 


The Gemara (Megillah 13b) teaches us, “It is revealed and known… that Haman would in the future weigh shkalim… Therefore, He preempted their [the Jewish people’s] shkalim to his [Haman’s] shkalim….” Haman offered to pay Achashveirosh 10,000 “loaves” of shkalim for the right to destroy the Jewish people (Esther 3:9). How can it be that each Jew’s seemingly insignificant Half Shekel is powerful enough to counteract Haman’s million shkalim?




The secret of the Half Shekel is that it expresses how a Jew values even the tiny things that he does for G-d or another person. The quality of Haman and Amalek is only to value things that are massive; a million shkalim. Similarly, the voice of Amalek within each of us tempts us to look dismissively and derisively at the little things, the small mitzvos and acts of kindness a person may want to do.  Haman exhibited this quality when, after recounting his tremendous wealth, power, prestige, and honor to his family, how it all meant nothing to him as long as Mordechai was alive and free (Esther 5:13). Unless he had everything, even a lot meant nothing.   


But a Jew values every single “crumb” of holiness. That is the message of Purim (פורים), which is related to the word פירורים, crumbs. The evil inclination tells us: “If you resolve to finish Shas, the entire Talmud, that is an accomplishment. But if all you intend to accomplish today is to understand the Tosafos in front of you… meh.” Such a meager “crumb of holiness is not worthy of G-d’s “twin.”


This is also reflected in the fact that the word shekel (שקל) is an acronym for the words “שכבך, קומיך, לכתך, your lying down, your getting up, your walking.” A Jew’s contribution to making this world a more Divine place is not usually expressed by the major, worldwide projects he is involved in. Rather, he draws G-dliness into the world through the way he gets up every morning on time to learn and daven, in the way he makes a personal inventory and says krias Shma before he goes to bed, and in the way he conducts himself honestly, and with davening and Torah study while traveling from place to place. 


That is why the Sefer Hayetzira says Hashem crowns he letter Kuf, which hints at the holy quality of imitation, during the month of Adar. We imitate G-d best by living a life of holiness through the little details of our daily routines. And the numerical value of the letter Kuf is 100, which hints to the 100 sockets of the Mishkan which were funded by the Half Shekel of each and every little Jew. It also hints at the 100 brachos a Jew says every day. Those 100 brachos express our gratitude for every little detail of life. We become more G-dlike by not only appreciating the big things Hashem gives us, but also by not taking the minutiae for granted. And those little Half Shekels of life create vessels for G-d’s holiness to be revealed in the world. That is why the Half Shekel was used to make the sockets, which formed the foundation of the Mishkan, the physical dwelling-place for Hashem’s presence in the world.


There is a form of social media today called WhatsApp, which allows people to create groups to communicate and share ideas with one another. I was in the car with my wife this week and her phone began beeping repeatedly. I asked her what was happening and she explained that one of the women in shul had established a WhatsApp group for ladies who wanted to be involved in preparing meals or bringing gifts to families who are new to the neighborhood or the shul, to make sure they felt welcome. She read me the messages as they arrived on her phone. Every notification represented a new offer, “Do you need me to bring a welcome basket to this family,” “I can invite that family over for Shabbos,” “Do you know of anyone who has moved into the neighborhood recently who we can deliver cookies to?” I was incredibly inspired. Each of those little acts of kindness and friendship may seem insignificant, but such acts of love and companionship are the foundation of G-d’s presence in the world.


I had a conversation with a member of the shul who just lost his mother this week. This woman survived the Holocaust. At the end of the War, she was only nine years old and found herself all alone, without a single family member to take care of her. This man was incredibly devoted to his mother and drove to visit her in Brooklyn virtually every day. As we were talking at the funeral, he broke down in tears and began lamenting how he would no longer have the privilege of taking out his mother’s garbage. His words have stayed with me throughout the week.  


Those little things are the focus of life. That is what it means to be a Jew. Some people think that being a good son means throwing his parents a gala 50th anniversary wedding party at the Marina Del Ray wedding hall. The same person may find that it is not worth his while to set aside five minutes to call his mother and ask how she is doing. That is the delusion brought on by the quality of Amalek within. 


We began the month of Adar in exile. But with Hashem’s help, may we internalize and appreciate the value of the little things we do for G-d and for other people. And in that merit, may we see the conclusion of this month of Adar in Yerushalayim with the rebuilding of the Beis Hamikdash and the arrival of the complete redemption.

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Tuesday, February 10, 2015

As a Favor to Dixie Yid, Please Read!

Howdy y'all! I want to ask you to read something about my son's cheder, Siach Yitzchak, which is an amazing place, with the hopes that you will buy a raffle ticket (and write my name in the "Referred By" box) to support the school. The drawing will be this Sunday, Feb. 15th, though that date will probably be extended a bit. Tickets are $100 for one ticket and $360 for five. The prize is a choice between (i) $20,000 cash or (ii) $25,000 toward a Sefer Torah, a trip to Israel for 10, or a new car.
 
As I wrote the last two years, Siach Yitzchak is unlike almost any other yeshiva that I have heard of. Please see those links to prior posts where I detailed a few examples of things that show how Reb Dovid Sitnick (who was appointed to head the cheder by its founder, Rav Shlomo Freifeld) has created a cheder in which the boys experience how Yiddishkeit and Torah are the most precious things in the world. My son is now in fourth grade and has been in the cheder since he was three years old. In addition to the observations I related in my previous posts about the cheder, here are a few more examples of things which I feel make Siach Yitzchak stand out as such an unusual and special place:
  • My daughter told me that, as my wife was dropping our son off at school after one of the major snowstorms in the past couple of weeks, she observed Rabbi Seide, the educational director of the cheder, lifting as many boys as he could over the huge pile of snow on the side of the road as they came to school.
  • The rebbeim truly care about the boys and it comes across in everything. My son's rebbe from Pre-1-A (4 years ago) sat down with him the other day to ask him about his recent extra-curricular Mishnayos learning (with me) and discussed with him ideas on what to learn next!
  • At PTA conferences last month, our son's rebbe advised us, when reviewing each day's kriah homework with our son, that we should go back to make sure he understands the words he had a problem with. But he added that the homework should not take more than about 20 minutes. He told us we should stop in the middle if it does because beyond that, it will just drive him crazy and it will become counterproductive.
  • The previous example, along with the energy and excitement the rebbeim put in, show that their entire focus is on giving the kids not just technical learning skills, but, even more importantly, a love for learning and a feeling of satisfaction from it.

With all of the lack of excitement about Yiddishkeit and the focus on externals that we see are so prevalent in some yeshivos, I feel so blessed that we have merited to find and be able to send our son to a cheder like this.
 
As a favor, I therefore ask you to please go right away to buy a raffle ticket before the end of the day this Sunday, February 15th! Thank you!
 
In the website form, please write "Dixie Yid" or my real name (if you know it) in the "Referred By" box. If you feel more comfortable, you can also call the cheder's office number (718-327-6247) to give them your credit card info or you can give it to me at 516-668-6397 and I can take care of it for you. Note that the system allows you to pay for the ticket(s) all at once or split it up over 4 payments. Shkoyach!!

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Monday, February 9, 2015

They Will All Know Me - Rav Moshe Weinberger's Shabbos Morning Drasha on Parshas Yisro

Baruch Hashem, Rav Moshe Weinberger has reviewed this write-up of his drasha from the this past Shabbos, parshas Yisro. See here for past shiurim at YUTorah.org'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 (right sidebar) and I'll send it to you IY"H, BL"N.


Rav Moshe Weinberger
Parshas Yisro 5775
They Will All Know Me 


Shortly after Yisro’s arrival, he tells Moshe (Shmos 18:19), “Listen now to my voice and I will advise you and G-d will be with you.” What was his advice? “Appoint over them leaders of thousands, leaders of hundreds, leaders of fifties, and leaders of tens” (ibid. 21). Many commentaries wrestle with the obvious problem: How could Moshe not have known that his singlehanded leadership of the Jewish people was completely unsustainable? How could any person think that he could answer every halachic question and resolve every interpersonal dispute in an entire nation without delegating authority to anyone?  


Moshe grew up in the palace of Pharaoh, the king of the greatest civilization of the time. He knew very well how governments work. How could have not realized the obvious truth that “You will surely ruin yourself and this nation who is with you because this matter is too difficult for you; you cannot do it by yourself” (ibid. 18)? How could Moshe have not realized that it was necessary to put a logical, sensible framework of justice and governance into place? 


It must be that Moshe had something much deeper in mind. While he knew that he would ultimately have to delegate authority to other leaders in a hierarchical system, he recognized that such a system is not the ideal. Moshe wanted to guide the nation in an idealistic fashion for at least a short period to send a message to the Jewish people for all time that every Jew has the right to go directly to the top, to Moshe and Hashem, without any intermediaries, without any hierarchy. He wanted us to know that while dividing people into higher and lower levels is a necessary reality, it is merely a concession to the smallness of worldly life. Under Moshe, we lived in a higher way for that short period of time. He wanted us to have a small taste of it, so that we understood what it will be like in the future as well, when Moshiach comes. 


The Jewish people asked Moshe to act as an intermediary (ibid. 20:17), “You speak with us and we will hear. But let G-d not speak with us [directly] lest we die.” It is clear (Rashi on Devarim 5:24) that Moshe was upset that the Jewish people did not want to hear G-d’s commandments directly from Him. Moshe did not view their request as an ideal. 


But what is wrong with a hierarchical system? Practically speaking, not everyone is a tzadik, tzadekes, scholar, or leader. Why did Moshe view delegation of his authority as such a regrettable concession to practicality? Why is that not ideal? 


Rav Adin Steinsaltz explains the reason for Moshe’s idealism based on his reaction to Yehoshua’s jealousy (on Moshe’s behalf) at Eldad and Medad for prophesying independently. Moshe told him (Bamidbar 11:29), “If only all Hashem’s people were prophets!” Moshe believed in the greatness of the Jewish people, about whom the Torah says (Devarim 4:6), “only this people is wise and understanding, this great nation.” Moshe wanted every Jew to have direct access to Hashem. He did not believe that there should be different social or religious strata in the Jewish nation.  


Moshe believed as the Midrash (Tana D’vei Eliyahu Raba, parsha 10) says, “I call Heaven and earth to testify for me: Whether man or woman, whether slave or maidservant – each one according to his deeds, the Divine spirit will rest upon him.” Any person, no matter how great or small, has the potential to access Divine inspiration. Moshe did not want anyone with a question, no matter how seemingly insignificant, to think that he or she could not go directly to the leader of the nation; that it was necessary to go instead to some nice Jew who knew a bit more than the questioner. 


Moshe succeeded in carrying out his ideal vision for a short period of time to give us a taste of what it will be like in the world to come. Moshe wanted us to know that while the nations of the world inherently need to create a hierarchical government since (Avos 3:2), “Were it not for the fear [of the government], a person would swallow his friend alive,” that need is not an inherent part of the Jewish people – they have access to a higher reality.


But Yisro reminded Moshe that it was time to lead the nation according to the practical reality of the time. We were not yet ready to live according to our inner nature. The truth is that not every Jew is on the same level and it is impossible from a pragmatic perspective to lead the entire nation alone. Pure unadulterated democracy is impossible. While every single Jew has a “piece” of G-d within him in his soul, not everyone lives with that reality. People generally live with a more external part of themselves. There are ignoramuses and there are scholars. There are righteous, generous people, and there are wicked, selfish people.  


But we still have a remnant of our true potential even in today’s practical world. The Gemara (Kiddushin 30b) says, “Even a father and son, a rav and his student, when they engage in the study of Torah, become enemies to one another.” This is remarkable. A son, daughter, or student is clearly inferior to a parent or rav. Yet the Gemara says that they should argue with their parents and rabbis in order to come to a true understanding of what the Torah says. While it is clear that the discourse between them must be conducted with respect and deep humility, the fact remains that children and students are not supposed to suppress their questions and accept their parents’, rebbeim’s and teachers’ words at face value. Rather, they should challenge them respectfully in order to come to the truth.  


The idea that parents, rebbeim, or teachers are infallible was never part of the Jewish experience. It is only recently that some have elevated certain tzadikim and talmidei chachamim to the status of popes. But this is a distortion. Every single Jew has access to an inner equality where everyone has the potential to go straight to the top, to Moshe Rebbeinu and Hashem. And this has been how tzadikim and talmidei chachamim have conducted themselves for all of Jewish history. The greatest tzadikim have always been willing to listen to the questions of even the smallest children at face value, consider them honestly, and respond. The idea that questions or challenges are off-limits is completely foreign to our tradition.  


Unfortunately, I understand that many yeshivos, girls’ schools, and seminaries have rebbeim and teachers who shut down students’ sincere questions, particularly in areas of the fundamentals of our faith. While there are certainly students who ask questions just to get a rise out of their teachers, or for shock value or attention, those who ask questions seeking the truth must be encouraged. Every Jew has the right to understand the fundamentals of our faith. 


While it is not the same thing, this inner reality expresses itself in our people even outside of the sphere of Torah. There is a fascinating account in the book, The Prime Ministers, by Yehuda Avner, about one of Israel’s prime ministers, Levi Eshkol who led Israel from 1963 to 1969. The prime minister was riding with his driver Moshe to a meeting with a number of other world leaders.  


Eshkol’s Hebrew was not completely fluent, as his native tongue was Yiddish. Right before Eshkol got out of the car to greet the other presidents and prime ministers who were waiting for him, he asked his driver in Yiddish, “Moshe, what do you think of how the country is doing?” He responded that things were fine. “Really?,” asked Eshkol? Moshe answered, “Do you want to know the truth?” “Yes,” replied the prime minister. “Well, the truth is that things are not going well.” Moshe recounted a litany of complaints with the way the country was being run. And he also made some suggestions for the future of the Israel economy. By the end of the conversation, Eshkol was trying to reassure Moshe that he would do his best to improve life in Israel: “You will see, Moshe, it will be good!” By this point, the other world leaders were waiting for Eshkol for several minutes. Yet here was the prime minister of Israel, taking his driver’s concerns about his leadership seriously. Where else in the world could such a thing happen? 


Even as recently as last month, my wife and I, along with some of my children, were staying with family in Yerushalayim. As we were singing zmiros Shabbos afternoon, my daughter called out, “It’s Netanyahu!” I assumed that this could not be true so I continued singing. But everyone else gathered at the mirpeset, the balcony, and I saw that something was really going on. I quickly finished the zemer and went to see what was happening. By that time, I saw that Bibi and his wife were taking a Shabbos afternoon walk and had just passed by the mirpeset. My daughter waved and called out to the prime minister, “Good Shabbos!” He turned around, waved back at our family and returned the greeting, “Shabbat Shalom!” Who is like Hashem’s nation Israel, where an American girl visiting Yerushalayim has the opportunity to exchange Shabbos greetings with the leader of the country?!  


According to a famous apocryphal story, Chaim Weizmann, who served as Israel’s president from 1949 to 1952, had the following dialogue with U.S. president Harry Truman: Weizmann told Truman that it he had a more difficult job as the president of Israel than Truman had as the president of the United States. “How can that be?,” asked Truman. “I am the president of one of the greatest countries in the world with a population of over 150 million people!” But Weizmann responded, “That may be true but there is one major difference. You are the president over 150 million people. But I am the president of over 1.6 million presidents!”  


While the story may not be historical, it reflects a true point: Deep down inside, every Jew knows that he is equal with every other; that everyone has a right to his opinion. He has a right to understand. We may live with a hierarchical system both governmentally and spiritually as a concession to the present external reality, but deep down, we know that the inner reality that (Bamidbar 16:3), “the entire nation, they are all holy,” will one day find full and appropriate expression in the world to come. 


But the inner reality sometimes expressed even in this world. The Gemara (Shabbos 15a) relates a dispute between Hillel and Shamai regarding the proper measurements of a mikvah. The dispute was only resolved after two workers engaged in a menial profession from the Dung Gate, happened to overhear the dispute. They told Hillel and Shamai that both scholars were both wrong; that they had overheard from Shmaya and Avtaliyon that the proper measure of a mikvah was different from both positions. Ultimately, the halacha follows the testimony of those two manual laborers from the Dung Gate.  


Because of our inner nature, our community’s tradition is that every Jew is equally holy and we follow the truth wherever it leads. There is no rabbi that is so great that he can say, “I am the leader of millions. You cannot ask me questions.”  


And this reality will be fully revealed when Moshiach comes, as the Navi (Yirmiyahu 31:33) says, “No longer will one man teach his friend, or a man teach his brother, saying, ‘Know G-d,’ because they will all know Me from their smallest ones to their greatest ones…” May we merit to see the time soon when Moshe’s vision for a nation of great people with direct access to G-d, without any hierarchy, will be revealed, may it come soon in our days.

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Friday, February 6, 2015

Looking Back to the Future - Rav Moshe Weingberger's Drasha on Beshalach (And Yisro)

Baruch Hashem, Rav Moshe Weinberger has reviewed this write-up of his drasha from the this past Shabbos, parshas Beshalach. See here for past shiurim at YUTorah.org'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 (right sidebar) and I'll send it to you IY"H, BL"N.


Update 2/9/15: Here is the audio to a version of this drasha given at YU. Enjoy!




Rav Moshe Weinberger
Parshas Beshalach 5775
Looking Back To the Future 


In the entire span of Jewish history, we attained our highest level in this week’s parsha and in next week’s parsha. At the Song of the Sea in this week’s parsha, the Jewish people said (Shmos 15:2), “This is my G-d and I will glorify Him.” Rashi explains, “He revealed Himself in His glory to them and they pointed at Him with their finger. Even a maidservant by the sea saw what the prophets did not see.” Every single Jew achieved the highest level of prophecy. It was a moment like none other.  


And we received the Torah in next week’s parsha, about which the Torah says (Devarim 4:35), “You have been shown in order to know that Hashem is G-d, there is none besides Him.” Rashi explains: “When the Holy One gave the Torah, He opened up the seven firmaments. And just like He tore open the upper worlds, so too He tore open the lower worlds and they saw that He is One.” Hashem’s unity was revealed to the entire Jewish people on Sinai. 


The most frustrating thing about those highs, though, is how short-lived they were. Immediately after the maidservant achieved the highest level of prophecy, she went back to scrubbing floors. And even after the splitting of the sea, the Jewish people were somehow able to complain (Shmos 17:7), “Is Hashem with us or not?” And even after hearing G-d speak on Sinai and witnessing how He split the seven firmaments so that we would see Him, we worshipped the golden calf and continued complaining at every turn. We may have experienced great highs but to what end? What was the point of experiencing them if there was no remnant of them left over afterward?  


The sages of earlier generations (as well as some non-Jewish sources) compare this dilemma to one walking along a path in the dark. He cannot see anything around him and does not know where to go. But if he sees a flash of lightning, it immediately illuminates his surroundings. Suddenly he sees things in his immediate vicinity and even things that are far away. In that moment, the path before him becomes clear. And even though the lightning flash only lasts for only a moment, the traveler can keep the image of what he saw in his mind and that memory can guide him so he knows which way he should go.


Similarly, when a person experiences a temporary period of illumination in his life, the memory of what he saw during that time stays with him. It shows him what life can be like. It can serve as a guide and as a reminder of his ultimate goal and what he can achieve again if he walks toward the path that he saw during that flash of enlightenment. The maidservant who passed through the sea might return to her daily routine, but she can never really be the same. She can ignore her recollections of that great moment. But she can also remember them at some point in her life. 


The Zohar (69b) explains a pasuk in Tehillim (89:10), “You rule the grandeur of the sea, when its waves rise, you calm them,” along similar lines. In context, the simple meaning of the pasuk is that Hashem calms (“תשבחם”) the waves when they threaten to overtake the people who live by the sea shore. 


But the Zohar translates the word תשבחם” according to its more common meaning, “praises them,” to explain the pasuk on a deeper level. Whenever a wave rises, it gains a higher view of things, but then it crashes back down again. Hashem praises it for nevertheless trying again to regain the heights it reached before. Even though it does not last, the wave does not become discouraged. Instead, it thinks back on the view it had of the world when it was at its height and it attempts to rise again. But “תשבחם” also means “improve them.” When a person attains new heights, even temporarily, it improves his life. It opens him up to infinite new possibilities of greatness and achievement to which he would never have been exposed if he had remained in the pit of sadness and discouragement. 


We can also see this lesson reflected in the Zohar’s (117a) explanation of Chavakuk Hanavi’s name. We know that the Shunamis had shown great kindness to Elisha Hanavi, who promised her a son the following year: “At this time next year,… you will be embracing a son” (Melachim II 4:17). The Shunamis was so worried that she would be disappointed, she begged Elisha, “Do not let your maidservant down” (ibid.). She did have a child but after a short time, he died (ibid. 20).  The Shunamis returned to the Navi to beg for his intervention and Hashem gave Elisha the power to resurrect the boy by lying on him and embracing him till he warmed up and Hashem put the spirit of life back into his body (ibid. 35).  


The Zohar explains that the child was in fact Chavakuk Hanavi. And why was he called Chavakuk (חבקוק)? Because his name is a double expression of the word for embracing or hugging (חיבוק). The first embrace was when his mother embraced Chavakuk upon his birth. And the second embrace was Elisha’s embrace through which he brought Chavakuk back to life. Even though the first embrace was temporary because the child later died, it was still worthwhile because it was only that embrace that enabled there to be a second embrace. And that second embrace was so powerful that it gave us one of the Nevi’im who inspired the Jewish people forever. 


The first embrace for our people was the Song at the Sea and the Sinai experience. That was the moment we stood under the chuppah with G-d. We exulted in the experience of being in G-d’s embrace. And even though the “honeymoon” may not have lasted long, it showed us the holiness of the Jewish people and how precious we are to G-d. It allowed us to see what we can attain and who we are. It gave us something we could always look back to, as a reminder of who we are, where we are going, and what we can achieve if we do not give up.


It is the same with marriage. A husband and wife may only bask I the glow of their new love for a longer or shorter period after the chuppah. But eventually the magic fades. So what was the purpose of the “high” of the chassunah if it was only temporary? It always stands as a reminder of the couple’s love. No matter what is happening years later, they can look back and work on their marriage because they remember the fiery love that they once had.


Over the years I have met with a number of addicts who struggle with a variety of substances and activities which threaten to destroy their lives. One of the most heartbreaking things is when someone tells me: I was clean for over a year. I began seeing how I could begin rebuilding my life. I began to feel that I had some hope of being something. But then one thing and another went wrong and I fell back into the lowest depths. 


The hardest thing for someone in that position is not only the consequences of his actions. It is the feeling that all of the time he was clean was worthless.  When someone crashes, he feels as if he had never left. So what was the point of that time under the chuppah; riding the wave; feeling that first embrace of goodness and normalcy? 


My message to people when they are overwhelmed with that feeling is: That time did not go to waste. You may have forgotten what it was like to be healthy. But during that time, you saw what a normal, healthy, exalted life can be like. That was your bolt of lightning in the darkness. Now you can think back on the view you had before your fall. You now see that your goal is within your reach and you can achieve it again if you “get back on the horse” and work, one day at a time, to return to become the person you saw you can be.


It is the same for Tu B’Shvat. In the dead of the winter, we taste some of the sweet fruits of the springtime and sing songs about the blossoming land of Israel. But then the next day, our cars and home may be covered by some “historic blizzard.” Tu B’Shvat comes, and then everything crashes back down again into the frosty winter. But the Yom Tov is still worth celebrating because it reminds us of the goal. It improves our lives by helping us recall the ultimate goal, the injection of life that bursts forth in the springtime.  


It is like we say in the Song at the Sea (Shmos 15:17), “You shall bring them and plant them in the mountain of Your inheritance, directed toward your dwelling-place which you made, G-d, the Mikdash…” We hope not only to return to Hashem’s mountain in Yerushalayim now that we have tasted a bit of what we are working toward. We also ask to be “planted” there, firmly rooted in G-dliness. 


May Hashem please help us remember not to lose hope when we fall, but to use the memory of the light to keep us moving forward till all of us collectively reach the days of Moshiach with the coming of the complete redemption 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 (http://www.elibeer.com/)created the musical gravity around which the evening revolved and the unique sound of Zusha (http://www.zusha.com/) (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 (
http://alexclare.com/), 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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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: http://youtu.be/1P2Ou-K2hQU.

And here is a video of Eli's amazing Halel from Rosh Chodesh Adar II from earlier this year: http://youtu.be/KyGjupqPNfU.

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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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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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 felt...no 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.

"Ruchama?!"

"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?"  

"Tehilla."

"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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