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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Sunday, August 3, 2014

Rav Moshe Weinberger Drasha - Jewish Warrior: King of Opposites

Below, please find a write-up of Rav Weinberger's drasha from parshas Matos. It is clearly very relevant to what the Jewish people are going through right now in Gaza and throughout Eretz Yisroel.  It is impossible to convey this drasha in writing the way Rav Weinberger delivered it. That is always the case, but it is particularly true here. There was not a dry eye in the shul when Rav Weinberger read Col. Ofer Winter's letter. I included some citations to some of the references to psukim Col. Winter quoted in my translation.

Baruch Hashem, this version reflects his review of the write-up. See here for past write-ups. Also, thousands of Rav Weinberger's shiurim are available online here. You can also go to 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 Masei 5774
Jewish Warrior, King of Opposites

It has been a long time since we have felt the kind of unity we have seen ever since Eyal, Gilad, and Naftali were kidnapped and murdered over six weeks ago. The subsequent rocket fire on cities all over Eretz Yisroel and the war in Gaza have brought us together so much. Outside of Eretz Yisroel, helpless as we review every scrap of news from Israel, all we can do is daven and strengthen our learning and mitzvos in the hopes that Hashem will not allow any more of our boys in the IDF, or any of the Yiddin in Eretz Yisroel, be harmed. The upheaval at this time is tremendous. Everything is constantly changing. We are transitioning from one danger to the next. We feel like we are experiencing even more than the 42 travels of the Jewish people in the desert.

The Degel Machaneh Ephraim, zy”a, teaches, in the name of his grandfather the Baal Shem Tov, zy”a, that the forty-two journeys of the Jewish people in the desert correspond to the journeys each individual takes in his life.  When a person leaves the womb, this corresponds to when the Jewish people left Egypt. And when the Jewish people entered Eretz Yisroel, this corresponds to a person’s journey into the land of eternal life after 120 years in this world.

How do we retain a sense of equanimity and centeredness when we must transition from one journey to another throughout our lives? Reb Leibele Eiger, zy”a, points out that the word “of them [בם]” in the pasuk “And you shall speak of them,” has the numerical value of forty-two. And the pasuk continues, “And you shall speak of them when you sit in your house and when you walk on the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.” We must speak of them, words of Torah and emunah, wherever we go and wherever we travel. We can thrive through every test and trial we face if we hold onto truth and faith. If we remain certain in our purpose, then we will succeed despite all of the contradictions and challenges of a world in which many people seem to have taken leave of basic human decency and morality.

But the Baal Shem Tov’s teaching about the 42 travels of the Jewish people does not only apply to people on an individual level. It also speaks to the travails of our nation as a whole as we journey on toward the times of Moshiach.

The Encampments – A Paradox of Opposites

We know that the names of our stops during our journey in the desert (Bamidbar 33:5-49) have profound meaning. And as I read through the names of our encampments in the parsha with the upheaval in Eretz Yisroel in mind, I was struck by the contradictions implicit in those names and how they speak to the contradictions of life today, particularly in Eretz Yisroel.

On one hand, it says we camped in Miska, from the Hebrew word meaning sweetness. Many aspects of our lives are sweet and we have much to be thankful for. But we also camped in Mara, meaning bitterness. Dozens of our brothers have been killed sanctifying G-d’s name and millions of our brothers, sisters, and friends in Eretz Yisroel are running for bomb shelters multiple times every day. Their lives are in a state of upheaval and they experience bitterness day after day.

The Jewish people camped in Har Shafer, meaning “beautiful mountain.” Sometimes are on top of the world. The view is stunning. But at other times, we camp in Tachas, meaning “low.” When we watch the parents, brothers, sisters, and wives of all of the soldiers killed protecting our people, we feel like we are living at the opening of Geihinom, at the lowest place.

We camped at Refidim, which means weakness. Our Torah, mitzvos, and emunah suffer and we often do not do what Hashem expects of us. But we also camped in Midbar Sinai, where we received the Torah, attaining the highest level of prophecy and connection to G-d’s will. Today too, we have seen how even people with little outward connection to Torah and mitzvos have begun saying Tehillim, lighting Shabbos candles, putting on tefillin, and doing many other mitzvos and acts of kindness in order to merit the salvation of the Jewish people.

At one point, the pasuk tells us we camped in Makheilos, meaning, “community” or “congregation.” We were united. And we see how, in the past few weeks, our people have been united more than any other time in the recent past. We are united in prayer and resolve, knowing that our cause is righteous. But at other times, we stop off in a place called Chatzeiros, meaning “courtyards.” Especially when we are not besieged from the outside, every Jewish group separates itself into its own courtyard and unfortunately barely views other Jews as part of the same people.

We camped in Sukkos, a place named after temporary, rickety structures. With thousands of rockets falling all over Eretz Yisroel, with tunnels dug under our communities and neighborhoods, we feel vulnerable and frightened. We feel as if our entire existence is dependent on the protection of some flimsy walls and roof which the wind could blow away at any moment, leaving us completely exposed. But at other times, we feel we are camped in Eisam, meaning, strong. We feel grateful for how Hashem has blessed our people with the resolve, ingenuity, resources, and intelligence to build up one of the most powerful militaries in the world in just a short time.

We sometimes feel we are encamped by the Red Sea, encircled on all sides by enemies and pushed up against the sea. We feel we have no escape. But at other times, we sense that we are camped in Eilim, where the psukim tell us there were wellsprings, date palms, and where we were able to rest from the weariness of our travels. We enjoy the prosperity and economic success with which Hashem has blessed our people.

But at other times, we feel we are camped in Dafka, meaning “stricken” or “beaten.” We feel pressed, hit, and beaten by attacks from all directions, physically, emotionally, and diplomatically. We feel we are under siege wherever we live in the world, whether it is in the U.S., Britain, Paris, Morocco, or anywhere else in the world.

We sometimes feel camped in Rimon Paretz, meaning “break through.” We break through every attempt by our enemies to attack us and put us on the run. But, sadly, too often we are camped in Charada, meaning “trembling.” Our brothers and sisters tremble in fear in their bomb shelters and safe rooms. And now, our enemies are wearing IDF uniforms, so that it becomes even more difficult to discern the difference between fellow soldiers and our enemies. Even the Nazis, as far as I know, never stooped to such a tactic.

We sometimes feel we are camped in Chashmonah, where we feel as mighty as the Chashmonayim, or in Etzyon Gaver, meaning “effective strategy” and “strength.” At those times, we take pride and comfort in how our military neutralizes our enemies while protecting our soldiers and minimizing the battle’s impact on civilians.

But at other times, we feel like we are in Kivros Hata’avah, buried in the desires of this world, completely helpless to use all of our might to reign in our own animalistic desires. And at other times, we camp at Kadesh, meaning “holiness.” Our connection to holiness and our desire to do Hashem’s will is often strong and we use those times to increase our connection to Hashem and improve ourselves.

My Hero – Dovid Hamelech, King of Opposites

As the events in Eretz Yisroel swirl through my mind all day, every day, my thoughts continually return to the ultimate hero of the Jewish people: Dovid Hamelech.

The tzadikim teach that our job at the end of days is to reveal the great soul of Dovid Hamelech, as the pasuk (Hoshea 3:5) says, “And they sought Hashem their G-d and Dovid their king.” In all of his journeys, he seemed to be full of contradictions. The Gemara (Moed Katan 16b) says that “When [Dovid Hamelech] would sit and study Torah, he would be as refined as silk, and when he went out to war, he hardened himself like wood.” Chazal are not teaching us that Dovid suffered from multiple personality disorder. Rather, his personality was so great and all-encompassing that it contained everything within it. He was simultaneously composed of the might of war and the highest and most refined level of ethics and morality. These two extremes complement one another. The more perfection one has attained, the more he includes apparent opposites within himself.

That is why Reb Leibele Eiger teaches that the 42 journeys of the Jewish people in the desert, which seem to contain so many opposites within them, are hinted at in the mitzva of “And you shall speak of them when you sit in your home and when you go on your way…” We must be prepared to cling to the Torah and the certainty of our faith in the midst of the full range of disparate experiences during our travels through this world.

The Illumination Within War

Who else but Rav Kook, zy”a, could have written a section in Oros called “Oros Hamilchama, The “Illumination of War?” Rav Kook writes, as translated by Rabbi Betzalel Noar, as follows:

We regard the early generations, recounted in Torah, Prophets, and Writings; those generations that were engaged in war – they are great people we cherish and glorify. We understand that the spark of soul is the determining factor: that state of the world that necessitated war caused these souls (whose inner feeling was whole) to appear. The battle for existence, for existence of the nation, the War of G-d, was with an inner consciousness. Mighty in spirit, they knew in the depth of darkness to choose good and eschew evil. Yeah though I go in the valley of the shadow of death I shall fear no evil. When we meditate on them, we, with all the spirituality that we so desire, long for their strength, for the solid life force that dwelled in their midst, and out of this longing our spiritual strength is hardened and our physical strength is softened, and those strong souls return to live in us as ever.

Rav Kook is teaching us that we cannot view the strength and might of warriors as somehow alien to our religious, Torah-based life. During our two thousand year exile, we have become accustomed to thinking of a Jew purely as the refined, pale student in the beis medrash. We began thinking that we should only be encamped in Maska, a place of sweetness. We forgot that we must sometimes set up camp in Etzyon Gaver and Rimon Paretz, places of strategy, might, and breaking through all obstacles.

Dovid Hamelech and Rav Kook teach us that while there is a time for gentleness and refinement, there is also a time to kiss our Gemaras, place them down, pick up our weapons, and go to battle against the enemies of the Jewish people who seek to destroy us. That is no less a part of Torah and Yiddishkeit than the study of Torah. Indeed, even a simple reading of Tanach reveals that most of it is comprised of how the Jewish people conducted themselves in war.  

Now is the time in history when we must enclothe ourselves for battle and clean the world of the cockroaches of Hamas and their ilk. The whole world is trembling in fear as radical Islamists populate their countries. They look on helplessly. Right now, our people are the only ones making way for Hashem’s kingship in the world. We are the only ones who have taken it upon ourselves to finally clean house, ridding the terrorists of their missiles, guns, grenade launchers, and attack tunnels. We are the only ones standing up to the evil of Hamas, which prides itself on its love of death and bloodshed.

We are like Dovid Hamelech, “red-haired with beautiful eyes” (Shmuel I 16:12); red like Eisav the warrior with the refinement and elevated spirit reflected in his beautiful eyes.  Chazal say (Bereishis Raba 63:8) about Dovid Hamelech, “He killed with the consent of the Sanhedrin.” Even when Dovid Hamelech expressed the warrior aspect of his personality, he did not do so with cruel abandon. He conducted himself in war according to halacha and morality. We also see this in our brave brothers in the IDF. While the enemies of our people stoop to lower and lower depths of cruelty both to our people and their own, the Jewish warriors in Eretz Yisroel never stoop to the level of their degraded enemies. They go above and beyond what any nation has done when defending themselves against the imminent threats we face today.

When I see how our nation is rising to the challenge against it with greater moral clarity, more davening, more mitzvos, and more resolve to use the truth to fight against the attacks, lies, and propaganda of our enemies, I feel a surge of pride in our nation. In this current conflict, I am filled with love and nachas when I think about the Israeli soldiers, commanders, political leaders, and people. I am proud to be a Jew. One of my children showed me a video of a group of “Nanachers” dancing with Israeli soldiers, many of whom were not wearing yarmulkes, singing “One who has emunah is not afraid...” Indeed, when we hold onto our faith and know with certainty that destroying terrorists who attempt to kill every single Jew as they hide behind their own women and children is G-d’s work, we have nothing to fear.

A True Jewish Military Leader

Many people have seen the most inspiring letter which was sent by Colonel Ofer Winter of the Givati Brigade to his reservist soldiers as they were being called up to serve in Gaza. It perfectly captures the Jewish spirit of righteous battle. This is what he wrote:

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

Colonel Winter’s words leave no doubt in the hearts of his men that he understands that G‑dliness and actively doing battle to protect the Jewish people and defend Hashem’s honor are not mutually exclusive.

The parsha is named after our “journeys,” not our encampments. Why? Because the main thing is that in life, we do not stop. We must keep moving forward, looking for how G-d’s will expresses itself in all of the various permutations of life’s challenges. May each of us and all of our brothers and sisters in Eretz Yisroel merit to reach a level on which we can contain all of the disparate aspects of life in this world within us. May we recognize that we must serve G-d in all of the different ways the Torah demands for the vast array of differing life circumstances we encounter in our journeys. And may Hashem take vengeance upon every terrorist snake who has harmed even a single hair on the head of any Jew. May Hashem soon send Moshiach to remove every evil regime from the earth to make way for the great-grandson of the greatest king, Dovid Hamelech, soon in our days.

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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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Wednesday, June 25, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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