Thursday, September 11, 2014

Rav Moshe Weinberger's Ki Seitze Drasha - The Empathy of Elul

Baruch Hashem, Rav Moshe Weinberger has reviewed this write-up of his drasha from this Shabbos, Parshas Ki Seitze.  Rav Weinberger gave an expanded version of this drasha at YU last week at the Sichas Mussar, which is available here, where it is entitled "Noseh Ba'ol Im Chaveiro." See here for past write-ups. Also, thousands of Rav Weinberger's shiurim are available online here. You can also go to YUTorah.org'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 Ki Seitze 5774
The Empathy of Elul 


Elul and the Root of Yibum 


We are in the midst of our efforts to prepare ourselves for Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur throughout the month of Elul. Our sages have found a number of allusions to the month of Elul in the Torah, including in the mitzva of yibum, levirate marriage, in which one brother marries the widow of his childless, deceased brother. In this week’s parsha, the Torah tells us that the purpose of the surviving brother’s yibum marriage is that “the firstborn son who will be born [of the yibum relationship] will uphold the name of his brother, and his name will not be erased from the Jewish people” (Devarim 25:6).  


This is made even clearer the first time this mitzva is mentioned in the Torah, when Yehuda instructed his son Onan to marry his brother Er’s widow Tamar (Bereishis 38:8). Yehuda told him, “Come to [marry] the wife of your brother and perform yibum with her to establish progeny for your brother.” Establishing a Jewish person’s name and legacy among the Jewish people is really what we are celebrating at every joyous occasion, whether it is an engagement, marriage, birth, bris, or bar or bas mitzva. But Onan did not want to participate in that. The pasuk says about Onan (ibid. 9), “And Onan knew that the children would not be his [לא לו]…” Our sages see in the words “לא לו, not his,” as an allusion to the month of Elul (אלול), which shares the same letters. But what is the connection between the month of Elul and the mitzva of yibum, and, more particularly, Onan’s desire not to do a mitzva to uphold his deceased brother’s name in the Jewish people? 


During Elul, there is a custom to study the sefer Tomer Devorah by Rav Moshe Cordovero, zt”l, the “Ramak.” Tomer Devorah explains we can work to emulate G-d’s thirteen attributes of mercy which we read at Tashlich on Rosh Hashana, and by doing so, draw down a manifestation of those attributes from Above. The fourth attribute is “The remnant [שארית] of His inheritance.” The Ramak points out that the word “שארית, remnant” is connected to the word “שאר, blood relative.” The Ramak writes: 


The Holy One Blessed is He conducts Himself with the Jewish people in the following way: He says, “How will I act with the Jewish people when they are my relatives, I have a blood relationship with them?” They are G-d’s match and He calls them “My daughter,” “My sister,” and “My mother.” As Chazal explain, the pasuk “Yisroel, nation which is his relative,” means that He is literally a relative with them and they are His children. That is what “The remnant [שארית] of His inheritance” means, which is an expression of a blood relationship. In the end, they are His inheritance. That is why the pasuk says “If I punish them, it will hurt Me…”  


The Ramak continues that the pasuk in Yeshaya 63:9 is written one way, but read differently. It is read, “In all of their pain, it pained Him [לו צר],” but it is written “לא צר, it did not trouble Him.” Hashem feels our pain because we are so close to Him. This pasuk also alludes to the month of Elul because the two ways of reading the pasuk (לא/לו) are the same as the letters that spell Elul (אלול).  


The Ramak then continues by explaining what this attribute of G-d’s means for us: “This is how a person must conduct himself with his friend. All Jews are blood relatives to one another because all souls are part of one totality. Each one has a portion in the other… This is why all Jews are responsible for one another, because each one contains part of everyone else within him.


The fact that Hashem considers us “blood relatives,” as it were, His “empathy” for us is the root of our ability to rejoice in each other’s simchahs and cry for each other’s suffering. That is why, whenever a Jew suffers, even one who is far from being a tzadik, Hashem says (Sanhedrin 46a), “My head hurts, My arm hurts.” We are so intimately connected to Hashem, that He considers us part of his “body,” so to speak. We all know the story that Reb Areye Levin, zt”l, told the doctor, “My wife’s foot is hurting us.” The real trick is living with the consciousness that this is not simply a beautiful idea or a nice slogan. The fact that we are intimately connected to our Father Above, and, by extension, other Jews, is a reality that must inform the way we relate to Hashem and other Jews.


Empathy and the Foundation of the Exodus 


Rav Yosef Albo, zt”l, in his Sefer Haikarim (2:14), explains that G-d feels “pain” when we suffer. He took the Jewish people out of Egypt using this trait when He said (Shmos 3:7-8), “I have surely seen the suffering of my nation which is in Egypt, and I have heard their cry because of their slave drivers, for I know their pains and I descended to save them from the hands of Egypt…”  


Rav Elyah Lopian, zt”l, as recorded in the sefer Lev Eliyahu (Vol. 1, p. 98), teaches that Hashem wanted to infuse this ability to empathize and identify with others into the DNA of our nation. He therefore redeemed us with that trait. Hashem even chose a redeemer who possessed that quality. The first thing Moshe did when he grew up was to exhibit this ultimate marker of maturity and responsibility, as the pasuk (Shmos 2:11) says, “Moshe grew up and went out to his brothers and saw their burdens…” Rashi explains that this means “he directed his eyes and his heart to be pained for them.” 


And the Jewish officers the Egyptians used as enforcers over the Jewish slaves exhibited this remarkable trait as well. The pasuk says that after Pharaoh increased the Jewish people’s workload by forcing them to collect their own straw (Shmos 5:14), “And the officers of the Jewish people who Pharaoh’s taskmasters had appointed over them were beaten…” According to the Midrash (Shmos Raba 5), “They sacrificed themselves for the Jewish people and they endured beatings in order to lighten their [the Jewish people’s] load.” Hundreds of them were killed because they did whatever they could to lighten their brothers’ burdens.  


Because these Jewish officers could not live a life of relative ease while their fellow Jews suffered, they awakened the attribute of “The remnant [שארית] of His inheritance” Above. By caring about their brothers’ pain, they brought down Hashem’s mercy, and, consequently, the redemption itself. That is why Hashem first revealed Himself to Moshe in a burning bush, which Rashi explains (Shmos 3:2) was meant to convey “I am with them in their pain.” Hashem said (Rashi on ibid. at 7), “I set My heart to contemplate and to know their pain and I did not cover my eyes, nor did I conceal My ears from their cries.”


When Eyal, Gilad, and Naftali were kidnapped over two months ago, was there any Jew anywhere in the world who did not hope and pray for them and their parents during those eighteen days during which their fate was unknown? During the past two months of war in Eretz Yisroel, when thousands of rockets were fired at Jews all over Eretz Yisroel and terrorists emerged from tunnels by kibbutzim and towns, was there anyone who did not feel that their brothers and sisters, their own flesh and blood, were in danger? Perhaps one rectification that came about through these harrowing times was some healing from the hatred that became particularly vicious these past two years between the chareidi and non-chareidi communities in Eretz Yisroel. We were reminded that regardless of our differences, we are brothers, flesh and blood.  

The mitzva of yibum in this week’s parsha, whereby a brother does the selfless act of bringing Jewish souls in the world not for his own sake, but to uphold his childless brother’s name among the Jewish people, reminds us not to be like Onan, who felt “the children would not be his [לא לו] …” Rather, Hashem calls on us to recognize that not only are we His “flesh and blood,” so to speak, but that the Jewish people are literally one corpus. We must turn around the letters “לא לו” to spell “אלול, Elul,” by rejoicing in other Jews’ successes, mourning for their tragedies, and not turning a blind eye to their needs. 


Rav Chaim Volozhiner z”l’s son, in his introduction to Nefesh Hachaim, said in Rav Chaim’s name that he repeatedly reminded his children that the purpose of their lives is to do good things for other people. We do not live for own sake. Rather, we live for other Jews’ sake.  


Rav Kook, zt”l, teaches about a person who has internalized this attitude as follows (Oros Hakodesh 30): 
There are those who sing the song of the nation. A person in that category goes out of the sphere of his own private concerns, which he finds to be insufficiently broad, in which idealism does not dwell. He longs for mighty heights and cleaves, with a refined love, to the totality of the Jewish people. He sings its songs, feels its pain, delights in its rectification, and delves into the pure, supernal depths of its past and future. He investigates, with love and wisdom, the depths of its inner spiritual heart. 


The Chozeh and the Barber 


The beauty of a Jew who puts others’ concerns over his own is illustrated by a story told by Reb Shlomo Carlebach, zt”l, about 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 for the Chozeh to 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 looking 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 would cut the Rebbe’s hair. Once they assured him that it was a paying job, they asked him if he knew whose hair he was about to cut. He said that he 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!” 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 told them that he had done one that that may be able to explain why the Rebbe was able to tolerate his haircut. He 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 doctor. I cut people’s hair and do what I can for them. In one town, 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. 


Just like Hashem says “I am with them in their pain,” “My head hurts, my arm hurts,” and calls us His “blood relative, may we also merit to see other Jews in this way. Let us dance at their weddings like the bride and groom are our own children, sisters, or brothers. Let us cry and daven for other Jews’ pain like we ourselves are suffering. And let us not turn away from other Jews when they are in a time of need. And in that merit, may we see the final redemption just like we did in Egypt in the merit of Moshe’s and the Jewish officers’ acts of self-sacrifice for other Jews.


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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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Thursday, September 4, 2014

Rav Moshe Weinberger - Parshas Shoftim - Trust Me

Baruch Hashem, Rav Moshe Weinberger has reviewed this write-up of his drasha from this Shabbos, Parshas Shoftim. See here for past write-ups. Also, thousands of Rav Weinberger's shiurim are available online here. You can also go to YUTorah.org'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 Shoftim 5774
Trust Me 

The Sefer Mitzvos Katan (“Smak”) counts one seemingly ambiguous mitzvah as one of the 613 mitzvos (Devarim 18:13): “You shall be wholehearted [תמים] with Hashem your G-d.” The Hebrew word translated here as “wholehearted” does not always have a good connotation. We are accustomed to hearing it in the context of one of the four sons in the Hagada, the תם, the simple son. When he asks, “What is this,” we recognize that this simple son is not very bright. It seems he is “not the sharpest tool in the shed.” The Yerushalmi even identifies the son as the “fool,” rather than the “simple son.” Even the Maxwell House Hagada’s illustration of the simple son is not very complimentary. In addition, the Even Shoshan dictionary explains that a תם is a “simpleton, naive, not proficient in the ways of the world.” Can it be that one of the 613 mitzvos of the Torah is that we must be naive simpletons?! That is clearly absurd. 


While the connotation of the word תם in recent millennia is not complimentary, we see a completely different usage in Tanach. The Torah (Bereishis 6:9) glowingly calls Noach a “righteous man, perfect [תמים] in his generations.” Onkolus, in his Aramaic translation of the Torah, translates תמים as “a righteous man, perfect.” The Torah even calls Yaakov (ibid. 25:27) “a simple man [תם], dwelling in tents.” Onkolus again translates the word תם as “perfect.” Hashem even tells Avraham (ibid. 17:1), “Be wholehearted [תמים].” And the pasuk describes Iyov as “perfect [תם] and straight” (Iyov 1:1). How did the word תם go from describing a perfect tzadik to connoting a naive simpleton? What is the connection between these two meanings?

Let us return to the meaning of the mitzva in this week’s parsha. Onkolus, as expected, translates the commandment to be תמים as: “You shall be perfect in your service of Hashem your G-d.” But Rashi, who normally follows Onkolus’s translation, abandons it here, instead explaining as follows: “Go with Him with simplicity and hope in Him.  Do attempt to predict the future. Instead, accept whatever happens to you with simplicity. Then, you will be with Him as His portion.” Why did Rashi choose not to follow Onkolus’s explanation of the mitzva? Why did he say that it means to accept Hashem’s will simplicity without trying to predict the future? Why did he not explain, as Onkolus did, that it is a mitzva to be a perfect tzadik to the extent one is able?  

To understand the answer to this question, we must examine the context of this mitzva to be תמים. It follows a long list of prohibitions against sorcery, witchcraft, divining auspicious times, soothsaying, necromancy, and fortune-telling. Following those prohibitions, the pasuk preceding the mitzva says, “Because of these abominations, Hashem your G-d is dispossessing them [the nations living in Eretz Yisroel] before you.” According to Onkolus, who maintains that תמים simply means “perfect,” it was not necessary for the Torah to use that word here. It could have simply said “And you shall fear G-d” like it does after many other mitzvos. But the use of the word is completely understandable according to Rashi’s explanation. Each of the prohibitions which preceded this mitzva share a common denominator: G-d does not want us to seek out tricks or schemes to predict the future. Our actions must be guided by what the Torah teaches us is Hashem’s will; not that which will allow us to achieve or avoid some prediction made by a fortune teller. Rashi explains as he does because of the context of the pasuk. 

Rashi’s understanding of the pasuk also jibes with the Smak’s explanation of the mitzva: “To be simple; meaning not to ask sorcerers or astrologers to know the future. Rather, one should say, ‘Whatever Hashem desires will happen.’ As the Gemara in Brachos (10a) says, ‘Why are you concerning yourself with the secrets of Hashem?’”  

It is very instructive to read the context of that Gemara, which explains the back-story of the encounter between King Chizkiyahu and Yeshayahu Hanavi when Chizkiyahu was critically ill (Yeshaya 38:1-5). According to the Gemara, after Yeshayahau told Chizkiyahu, “You are dead and will not live,” Chizkiyahu asked “Why is this?” In other words, Chizkiyahu was a great tzadik. Why was he suddenly facing death? Yeshayahu answered him, “Because you did not involve yourself in the mitzva to be fruitful and multiply.” Chizkiyahu responded that it was “because I saw with my Divine inspiration that I would produce sons who would not be worthy.” Yeshayahu answered, “Why are you concerning yourself with the secrets of Hashem? Do whatever it is that Hashem expects of you.” Yeshayahu essentially gave Chizkiyahu a lesson in the mitzva to be wholehearted with G-d according to Rashi’s explanation. 

Taking that lesson to heart, Chizkiyahu said to Yeshayahu, “Now, give me your daughter [as a wife]. Perhaps my and your merits will cause [the decree to be changed and I will live and have children who will not be wicked].” But Yeshayahu answered, “The decree [that you will die] has already been made.” Essentially, “Your future is that you have no future.” Seeing the irony in Yeshayahu’s response, having just told Chizkiyahu not to base his actions on predictions about the future, he responded, “Ben Amotz [a derogatory way to address Yeshayahu], finish your prophecy and go. I received a tradition from my grandfather [Dovid Hamelech’s] house, ‘Even if a sharp sword is placed on one’s neck, do not give up hope of [Hashem’s] mercy.’” 

Chizkiyahu internalized the lesson and realized that a Jew must not be concerned with people’s predictions for the future, even if those predictions are based on Divine inspiration or prophecy. A Jew is obligated to focus on prayer, mitzvos, and Torah. He must do what Hashem demands of him, regardless of whether experts predict that he will be “successful” if he does so. Vindicating this approach, Hashem answered Chizkiyahu’s sincere prayer and granted him an additional fifteen years of life. 


This lesson is certainly fitting this time of year, having just entered the month of Elul, the time of teshuva and preparation for Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. We are preparing to say “Teshuva, prayer, and tzedakah remove the evil decree.” The mitzva to “be wholehearted with G-d” frees us of the shackles of the fortune tellers of today, whether they are statisticians or political analysts. A  Jewish publication recently printed an article claiming that if a girl is not married by age 25, she only has a 15% chance of getting married. 


While it is certainly important to evaluate any situation using whatever data we have at our disposal, still, the effect such statistics can have upon individuals can be devastating. Can you imagine a girl reading that article who is probably already broken-hearted in what is often a difficult situation? Does the author believe that Dovid Hamelech’s exhortation that “Even if a sharp sword is placed on one’s neck, do not give up hope of [Hashem’s] mercy” does not apply to this young woman? Does he believe the Jewish people are subject to statistical calculations? Does he think that G-d and the Jewish people are not above all of that? The mitzva to be “wholehearted with G-d” tells us to put our trust in Him alone, and not in the modern day sorcerers and fortune-tellers. Just as Hashem told Chizkiyahu (Yeshayahu 38:5), Hashem tells each of us, in whatever straights we find ourselves, “I have heard your prayers, I have seen your tears.”  


Being a תמים, a perfect, whole person means being childlike (not childish) in a sense. One must look past all of the evil, complications, deficiencies, and cynicism of the world. It does not mean that one must not be sharp, bright, or deep. But it means that he lives with the knowledge of the presence and providence of G-d such that he knows that all of the negativity, uncertainty, confusion, and evil are not the whole picture. Material existence may seem bleak and pessimistic but one must know that this is only one part of reality. Hashem and spiritual realty extend far beyond that which we can grasp intellectually. We must have wholehearted, simple trust in G-d that He knows what he is doing. All we have to do is fulfill His will to the best of our ability and trust that He will work everything else out in the end. 


After the recent war in Gaza and its ambiguous conclusion, political pundits, politicians, journalists, and analysts are picking apart every move and predicting the future every day. It is possible to go insane when one reads all of the analyses. But a Jew must re-center himself and realize that there is a G-d in the world. The Jewish people are not the hapless subjects of statistics and political realities. We are children of the Living G-d and there is much more to His plan than any of us can possibly know. We need not become stressed about the unknown future. Instead, let us simply trust in G-d and rely on Him.  

May Hashem soon send the ultimate redeemer who will unravel all of the puzzles of this world, when we will finally see how all of the twists and turns of life in this world were all pieces in the great puzzle of the ultimate revelation of His will.

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Thursday, August 28, 2014

Rav Weinberger's Parshas Re'eh Drasha - Search Required

Baruch Hashem, this version reflects Rav Moshe Weinberger's review of the my write-up of his drasha this Shabbos, Parshas Re'eh. See here for past write-ups. Also, thousands of Rav Weinberger's shiurim are available online here. You can also go to YUTorah.org'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 Re’eh 5774
Search Required

Throughout the summer, we have come under attack physically and verbally both in Eretz Yisroel and around the world. We therefore long even more for the ultimate revelation of Hashem’s truth. We hope and pray that Hashem will soon cause His presence to become apparent in the world through the long-awaited rebuilding of the Beis Hamikdash. And the search for the Beis Hamikdash is one of the central points in this week’s parsha as well. Without specifically identifying its location, the pasuk (Devarim 12:5) says, “… the place Hashem your G-d will choose from all of your tribes to affix His name there, you shall seek Him there at His dwelling and come there.” The Torah is telling us that an integral part of the building of the Beis Hamikdash is that we must “seek Him there…”  

The Location of the Beis Hamikdash – Predetermined or Subject to Choice 

Instead of specifying the place where the Beis Hamikdash would be built, the Torah repeatedly says that the Beis Hamikdash shall be in “the place Hashem your G-d will choose.” This phrase is used no less than sixteen times in this week’s parsha alone. According to our Sages, this is why the Beis Hamikdash is called “בית הבחירה, The House of Choice.” 

But why is the location of the Beis Hamikdash treated by the Torah as such a mystery? Why must the Torah repeatedly say that it is in “the place Hashem your G-d will choose?” It is clear from Chazal that Hashem designated the future location of the Beis Hamikdash from the beginning of time, even carving  out the site of the alter and canals for the wine libations at the time of the six days of creation (Sukkah 49a). The Rambam (Beis Habechira 2:2) teaches that:  

There is a tradition maintained by everyone that the place where Dovid and Shlomo built the alter is the same place where Avraham built an alter and bound Yitzchak, the same place where Noach built [an alter] when he left the ark. It is the [location of] the alter on which Kayin and Hevel offered sacrifices, and on which Adam sacrificed an offering when he was created, and Adam was created from that place. The sages say, “Man was formed from the place of his atonement.” 

It is clear that we have known from the time of creation that the Beis Hamikdash would be built on a certain mountain in Yerushalayim. According to the Midrash (Pirkei D’Rebbe Eliezer 28), Avraham circumcised himself at the future location of the Beis Hamikdash and his blood flowed into the earth that would eventually fill the alter. If this was known long before Hashem gave us the Torah, why does He conceal the location? Rav Shlomo Hakohein Rabinowicz of Radomsk, zt”l, the “Tiferes Shlomo,” expressed the question clearly: Why did the pasuk not explicitly say, “the place that Hashem will choose, the holy mountain in Yerushalayim”? It would have been much clearer. Why the mystery? 

The answer to our question lies in the very same pasuk we started with.  In order to find the location of the Beis Hamikdash, “you shall seek Him there at His dwelling.” We must seek it out. As the Midrash (Sifri) says, commenting on the pasuk, “Seek and you shall find it. And afterward, the prophet will tell you [that it is the correct spot].” Expanding on the Ramban, zt”l, on the same pasuk, the Malbim, zt”l, says: “This teaches them that Hashem will not reveal the chosen place through His prophets until they make an effort and seek it out. Then, [Hashem] will pour a spirit from above upon them after the appropriate preparation…” Along these lines, the Chasam Sofer, zt”l (Resp. Yoreh Deah 234), teaches that the location of the Beis Hamikdash was “hidden until [Hashem] illuminated their eyes in the days of Dovid Hamelech.”  

In other words, Hashem is telling us that it is not enough that He chose the location of the Beis Hamikdash. We must choose it, seek it out, long for it, and do everything we can to find it. And who finally revealed Hashem’s choice as the actual location of the Beis Hamikdash? The man who felt more “unchosen” than anyone else in the world: Dovid Hamelech.  

Dovid wrote about himself (Tehillim 118:22), “The stone despised by the builders became the cornerstone.” It became the very foundation of the entire Beis Hamikdash. Even after Shmuel Hanavi told Yishai that one of his sons would be the next anointed king and excluded all of Dovid’s other brothers, it still never even occurred to his father and brothers that Dovid could possibly be the anointed one (Shmuel I 16:6-11). Yet Dovid, the “stone despised by the builders,” became the cornerstone, the beginning of a new dynasty to which Moshiach himself would eventually trace his lineage.   

Dovid said (Tehillim 42:8), “All of Your breakers and waves passed over me.” He went through so much suffering. Chazal even discuss (see Yevamos 77a-b) whether Dovid was allowed to marry into the Jewish people! Dovid certainly knew what it meant to feel “unchosen” and what it mean to seek, work, long, pray, and toil until he found his place in the Jewish people. Hashem therefore chose him to clearly reveal the location of the Beis Hamikdash and build its foundation. Dovid Hamelech represented the pinnacle of choice, the highest fulfillment of our obligation to “seek Him there at His dwelling and come there.

In verses that Chazal say refer to Dovid, Shlomo Hamelech described this attribute of his father as follows (Shir Hashirim 3:1-2): “In my bed at night I sought that which my soul loves; I sought but I did not find. I will arise and walk around the city, in the market places and city squares. I will seek that which my soul loves. I sought but I did not find.” What was it that he sought out so deeply? What was it that robbed him of sleep? Dovid wrote in Tehillim (132:1, 3-5), A song of ascents: Remember, Hashem, Dovid, all of his affliction [in his toil to find a place for Hashem’s presence to rest – Rashi]… I shall not come into the tent of my house, I shall not go upon the bed that was prepared for me. Nor shall I give sleep to my eyes or slumber to my pupils until I find a place for Hashem, dwelling-places for the Mighty One of Yaakov.”  

All Dovid Hamelech sought was the place where Hashem’s presence could be felt on a permanent basis in this world. He conducted his investigation by indefatigably searching through the streets and markets of Yerushalayim, looking for clues, comparing each location to maps and psukim, trying to find the exact location of the alter and the Holy of Holies. That is why Hashem answered his prayers and rewarded his search with success. Hashem chose the place where we chose Him (ibid. at 13-14), “For Hashem has chosen Zion, He desired it for a dwelling-place. This is My resting place forever, here I shall dwell, for I desired it.” 

It is the same now. We may know the location of the Beis Hamikdash but strangers defile it every single day and we cannot rebuild. Vile terrorists fire rockets at Yerushalayim and Jews all over Eretz Yisroel. So we continue to daven for the Beis Hamikdash, to seek it out. As the Tiferes Shlomo says, “Even if we know this place, that it is in Yerushalayim, and that no other place will be chosen, nevertheless, it is still impossible to build [the Beis Hamikdash] there until Hashem chooses our prayers and desires ‘from all of your tribes,’ that they are worthy that it should be built for them and that Hashem should cause His presence to dwell among them.” 

We may know where the Beis Hamikdash will be rebuilt, but there is so much impurity standing in the way and the right time has not yet arrived. In fulfillment of the pasuk, “you shall seek Him there at His dwelling,” we must daven and hope for the rebuilding of the Beis Hamikdash constantly. 

Marriage Partners – Predetermined or Chosen 

Just like one must seek out Hashem, the One without Whom we are incomplete,  we also seek out a marriage partner, the one with whom we will build a home that serves as a microcosm of the Beis Hamikdash. 

Why is there so much searching involved in finding one’s mate? We know Chazal say (Sota 2a), “Forty days before a fetus is formed, a Heavenly Voice goes out and says, ‘the daughter of so-and-so to so-and-so!’” If the right person is predetermined, why is it so hard to find one’s destined soul-mate?  

First, one cannot find his mate without first feeling a profound sense of loneliness. One must feel he is missing an essential part of himself, that “it is not good for man to be alone.” Bereishis 2:18. One must first experience that existential loneliness before he is reunited with his other half and can say (ibid. at 23), “This time it is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh.” 

The pasuk which personifies the connection between marriage and our loving relationship with Hashem is (Shir Hashirim 6:3), “אני לדודי ודודי לי, I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine.” We know that Chazal teach that the first letters of those words spell “אלול, Elul,” the month in the Hebrew calendar which starts this week and marks the beginning of the teshuva process. This pasuk shows that we must first seek out our beloved. Only when “I am my beloved’s,” when I search out the one I love, will I merit to attain the level called “And my beloved is mine.” Anyone in a successful relationship knows this to be true. It is so sad to have a wife and to give up searching for her, to have a child and to no longer seek him out. 

This two-stage process is also reflected in the double meaning of the Hebrew word for “betrothed, מקודשת.” The chosson says to his bride, “הרי את מקודשת לי, Behold you are betrothed to me.” On one hand, the word implies that she is forbidden to every other man in the world. Betrothed here is a word signifying exclusion. This meaning of the word is related to the word “הקדש, sanctified to the Beis Hamikdash,” i.e., forbidden to everyone such that no one may use the sanctified object for anything other than its designated purpose. So too, the bride and groom agree, through their betrothal, not to look anywhere else in the world. But the word “betrothed, מקודשת,” also means that the two are dedicated to one another. This usage implies inclusion, a positive, proactive dedication to one another. They are saying that they one have eyes for one another.

These two aspects of the relationship between a husband and wife are also apparent in our relationship with Hashem, as hinted at in the pasuk (Tehillim 100:3), “He made us and we are His.” The word for “His,” however is read one way and written another way. It is written as if says “לא, no/not.” According to this reading, the pasuk says “He made us and not us,” i.e., we did not make ourselves. We must know that our relationship with Hashem must exclude the perception that we take credit for any aspect of attainments, skills, or accomplishments. It is a word of exclusion. But the word is also read as if it says “לו, His.” According to this reading, the pasuk says, “He made us and we are His.” It is not enough to look to Hashem alone and not give ourselves credit for anything we have. We must also realize that we are His, we have a unique and special relationship with Him. In fact, if we put the two ways of reading that word together (לו/לא), it contains the same letters as the month of אלול, Elul. 

Whether it is an intimate human relationship, our relationship with Hashem, or meriting the fulfillment of Hashem’s dwelling place on earth, where the intimacy of the relationship between the Jewish nation and G-d is most revealed, there is always a duel nature. On one hand, there is the exclusion of all else which is personified by searching and longing. And there is the dedication to one another, the intimacy personified by Hashem’s revelation of the location of the Beis Hamikdash after our search and by the way a husband and wife find each other. 

May Hashem put all of our difficulties behind us, may He reveal the way forward toward the rebuilding of the Beis Hamikdash soon in our days, and may every husband and wife merit finding one another and never looking at anyone else but their beloved.
 
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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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