Monday, March 31, 2008

What's the Take-Away Point of This Story? - Chernobyler Ma'aseh

My friend Rabbi Reuven Boshnack shared with me the following story told over to him by the Rav of his Shul, Rav Mordechai Twersky. We were discussing the story and we were trying to put our finger on exactly what the take-away point of the story is. Any thoughts would be appreciated. The story goes like this:

Rav Mordechai Twersky heard this story from his father, who heard it from his father, going back to the courtyard of Rav Mordechai of Chernobyl, the Chernobyler Magid, the son of Reb Menachem Nachum of Chernobyl, the Meor Einayim.

There was a blind man who was always seen standing beside the Chernobyler Magid during Havdalah. People thought this was a strange sight so someone asked the man what his story was.

He told over that when he was younger, he was a Chossid of the Chozeh of Lublin. Every Shabbos the Chozeh went into his room for a period of time after Shabbos mincha, but before going down to join the rest of the Chassidim for Shalosh Sheudos. This man was very curious to know what the Chozeh was doing during this time. So one Shabbos, he hid in the closet in the Chozeh's room before mincha was over to see what the Chozeh was doing.

When the Chozeh entered the room, it was completely dark already and the man couldn't see anything. So he left the closet and walked up to where the Chozeh was sitting. The Chozeh had a sefer open and seemed to be learning it, although there was virtually no light in the room. The man approached closer and looked at the open sefer that the Chozeh was holding. He saw that there was light coming out of the sefer.

In disbelief, he ran out of the room, but it was still dark outside the room also. He felt his way down to Shalosh Sheudos, but there was no light there either. Even after Shabbos, no one seemed to have any candles lit. He eventually realized that he couldn't see any light because he was blind! The next morning, he went to the Chozeh to ask him for help. He explained what he had done and asked the Rebbe to forgive him. But the Rebbe told him that if someone looks at another person's "Ohr Pnim," there is nothing he can do to help. He begged that he do something, so the Chozeh told him that perhaps if he went to the Chernobyler Magid, he could help him.

So he traveled to the Chernobyler Magid and told him the story. The Magid told him that one cannot look at the Ohr Pnim of a Tzadik like the Chozeh without consequences. But he said, "It is said that if one gazes at the light of the havdalah candle, that it restores 1/500th of his eyesight."

Therefore, the man would stand with the Magid every Motzoi Shabbos as he made havdalah, and would look at the candle. It is said that by the end of his life, the man could see enough to make out shapes.

This is a very interesting ma'aseh, but if anyone has an insight into the take-away point, I'd like to hear your thoughts!

-Dixie Yid

(Picture of Rav Mordechai Twersky of Flatbush courtesy of Wikipedia)

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Sunday, March 30, 2008

What's the Yetzer Hara Behind "Shalosh Sheudos" Speeches?

For various reasons, last night I davened at a Shul other than the one I usually daven in for Maariv after Shabbos and after making Shalosh Sheudos at home. I had the misfortune of being there early and hearing what that Shul's regularlar mispalelim experience in place of a regular Shalosh Sheudos each week.

Baruch Hashem, the Shul I daven at really knows how to do Shalosh Sheudos. It is my understanding that the time of Shalosh Sheudos is the holiest part of Shabbos. It is called Ra'ava D'ra'avon, ratzon shebaratzon, the most desirous time of Shabbos. It is a time of growth in ruchnius. It is a time of dibuk Chavreirim, connecting as friends, zmiros, niggunim, divrei Torah, and divrei hisorerus, words that uplift. This is how Shalosh Sheudos is spent in my Shul and I guess I have become pampered by that and have forgotten what kinds of experiences other Jews are subjected to at the time of Shalosh Sheudos.

In the Shul I visited last night, there was, first of all, no seuda at all. In it's place the people were subjected to a rabbi/professor, who was telling over some interesting article written by another rabbi/professor. The topic involved a little bit of Torah, a modicum of intellectual stimulation and absolutely no ruchnius, spirituality. Given my lack of exposure in recent times to such fare, I was mortified that such a thing was going on in an orthodox Shul.

My question is, though, why would a Shul have such speeches during Shalosh Sheudos, the holiest part of Shabbos?! Is a seuda with singing and divrei Torah/divrei hisorerus really so much less interesting than speeches by rabbi/professors?

I think that the answer is that it's escapism. One has to be somewhat active and intersted to appreciate a really nice and uplifting Shalosh sheudos. But if your soul is thirsting for something greater at the holiest time in Shabbos, but you're not ready to give it that because it might involve some feeling of wanting/actual spiritual growth, then the the best way to take your mind off of that feeling is just to listen to some speech that gets your mind off of ruchnius, and keeps the soul asleep till the time that you really look forward to, Motzoi Shabbos, with its pizza, movies and even more exciting six-days-of-the-week distractions.

It's sad but I think that's really what these "Shalosh Sheudos speeches" are really all about. Just passing the time and keeping your mind off of ruchnius till Shabbos will finally be over.

Give me a nice warm Shalosh Sheudos over such dry, soul-numbing fare anytime!

-Dixie Yid

(Picture courtesy of video is of Shalosh Sheudos [taken after Shabbos] of Krechniv rebbe of Yerushalayim)

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Friday, March 28, 2008

Great Reader Comment on Handling a Loss of Motivation

I received the following anonymous comment here from a reader on what I wrote in my Q&A session with A Simple Jew regarding how to deal with a lack of motivation. Below the comment is my response as well.

I have a hard time saying that self-motivation is not from self but totally from Hashem. Bechira? Hakol b'yedai Shamayim chutz m'yiras Shamayim? Learning is certainly part of yiras shamayim. Sure, we thank Hashem for helping us and inspiring us but there's still bechira and an us.

I think the best way to handle your matzav is this:

Whenever I share the following insight with others, they seemed shocked by it. Here’s the insight: we as human beings are not designed to serve the Ribbono Shel Olam with constant enthusiasm and joy. In fact, it is quite normal and natural to have days when we serve Him that would be classified as ‘yemai sinah-days of hate.’ Days of hate?! Yes, you read that correctly. [This is explained in detail in Alei Shur, Volume 1, pgs. 34-35, based on the Sefer HaYashar (attributed to Rabbeinu Tam).]Rav Wolbe, ztl tells us that we all experience times of aliyah, when we are super excited and energized with our davening, learning, chesed and general mitzvah fulfillment, but all of us also experience periods of yeridah, when we are ‘just aren’t into it’, when we drag our feet in our avodas Hashem. This is the normative cycle. When the times of yeridah occur, the instinctive tendency is for us to feel like ‘we failed again.’ We ‘beat ourselves up’ with thoughts of ‘I guess my avodas Hashem can never be on high level. If I can’t be consistent then I’m probably not real with it. I might as well give up on my high hopes and dreams and set my sights on a low level intensity of avodas Hashem.’ And this is where we make our colossal mistake, says Rav Wolbe. The key for long lasting spiritual growth is to recognize and accept the fact of life that there are indeed going to be yemai ahavah, when we will feel great love for the Ribbono Shel Olam and His Torah, but there are also going to be days of hate, yemai sinah, when we just aren’t ‘in the mood’. The goal is to try to maximize the yemai ahavah, to maintain them for as long as possible, and to reduce and minimize the yemai sinah. How should we handle ourselves when we find we are in the ‘days of hate’ mode? Rav Wolbe tells us the ‘way out’ of ‘yemai sinah’ is to make sure not to lose hope and be ‘meya’aish’. We must not give up our avodah entirely, not to resolve to stop whatever we were working on. As the Kotzker Rebbe said in a play on words from a famous sugya in the gemara, ‘Yeush? Shelo Midaas!’, Losing hope? That’s a lack of intelligence! The proper way to deal with ‘days of hate’ is to go easy on ourselves somewhat, to lighten the load, but to still hold on to some aspect of what we were doing. If we had resolved to learn 4 hours a day and we find ourselves in a rut, unable to accomplish this, then we still must learn that day as much as possible, but intentionally less than our original goal. And so on for all areas of growth.

If we properly handle ourselves during the yemai sinah, then we will be able to get back to our grander goals that we set for ourselves when yemai ahavah come. But if we ‘crash and burn’ during yemai sinah, all of our spiritual goals will be lost.This same idea is expressed sharply and succinctly by the Kotzker Rebbe (see Yalkut Maishiv Nefesh, page 129). We say in the Shema every day, that we must love Hashem with our entire life, bechol nafshecha, and Chazal say that this means even if Hashem takes our life away, even if we must die for Hashem. The same should follow, says the Kotzker, regarding the words bechol levavecha, that we must love Hashem with our entire heart, and we should extend the same Chazal, even if Hashem takes away our heart. Even if our inspiration to serve Him dwindles or is removed, even if we don’t presently have the passion to serve Him with the enthusiasm that we once possessed, we must still serve Him nonetheless. The Yalkut Maishiv Nefesh (pgs. 124-125) quotes the same concept from Rav Chaim Volozhin in the Ruach Chaim on Avos: “A person is constantly going up and down (in ruchniyus). When he’s down, he feels as if whatever he does and has done in avodas Hashem was without a full heart, and he’s not accomplishing anything by doing it. He wants to rest and sleep deeply until the time of passionate avodas Hashem would return...

But a person can grow easily to a high level if he specifically maintains his avodah, even when feeling a weakening, a hisrashlus, rather than entirely giving up his service. If he gives up his avodah entirely (until he feels the passion again), he’ll distance himself further. . .’ Rav Chaim Shmulevitz (Sichas Mussar, 5732, Maamar 37) also states this insight into spiritual growth. The pasuk in Micha (7:8) says ‘Al tismechu ayvati lee, kee nafalti kamti, kee eshev b’choshech, Hashem or li-My enemies should not rejoice that I have fallen, because I have gotten up; when I sat in darkness, Hashem was a light for me.’ Chazal darshin and explain the pasuk as follows: that if I had not fallen, I would not have risen-ilu lo nafalti, lo kamti—I have only grown because I fell in avodas Hashem. I have only experienced Hashem as a light for me because I once did experience the darkness, the lack of spiritual growth.

And this: R’ Akiva Tatz in Living Inspired describes based on R’ Tzadok that the natural experience in life is that after we become inspired about something, the inspiration fades. We are incapable of maintaining the newness of any experience. Any true growth in Torah requires the following three step process:

1. A person is inspired artificially at the beginning of any phase of life,
2. Hashem removes the inspiration so that we work on acquiring a true connection to the issue which inspired us. In this stage, there is a danger that we will give up and fail to maintain the growth we did seek,
3. The challenge to fight back to the point of inspiration, and in doing so, to build it permanently into our character.

R’ Tatz writes: “Unfortunately, most people do not know this secret. We are misled into thinking that the world is supposed to be a constant thrill and we feel only half-alive because it is not.”


Thank you very very much for your extremely thoughtful comment.

Regarding your first point, of course it makes sense that "self" motivation comes from Hashem and not from ourselves. And it's davka from the ma'amar of "hakol biydei shamayim chutz miyiras Shamayim." Our inner wellspring of inspiration and natural motivation is outside the scope of "yiras shamayaim." It's something we *find* within, not create ourselves. We may sometimes do something despite the fact that we are not motivated to do so because we know it is the right thing, but the motivation its self is a gift from Hashem, like all kochos hanefesh that we are given by Hashem.

Regarding everything else that you said, it's great advice and well worth sharing. You might also like to see what I've written on the subject HERE. It's actually one of the first things that I wrote. Again, I'm going to have to re-read and think more about what you've written.

-Dixie Yid

(Picture courtesy of

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Rabbi Shmuel Brazil on "Why Me?" - Answers in Emunah - Audio

With a "Todah Rabah" to Reb Yerachmiel for sharing this shiur with me, I would like to share this shiur given by Rav Shmuel Brazil, of Yeshivas Shor Yoshuv in Far Rockaway, NY. It was given on March 9th, 2008, and it gets us back to basics on how to see everything that happens to us through the lens of Emunah.

You can listen to the shiur online HERE or you can download it HERE (by right clicking and selecting "Save Target As").
-Dixie Yid

(Picture courtesy of Bus Yunhi)

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Thursday, March 27, 2008

What to Do When You Lose Your "Self-Motivation"

Click on over to A Simple Jew for our latest Q&A session. Here's ASJ's question and you can follow the link to see my answer.

A Simple Jew asks:

In our e-mail correspondence you indicated that you too have experienced the "lego castle phenomenon" in regards to your learning. After the thrill of starting something new slowly wears off have you found it to be difficult to maintain a daily learning regimen?

Dixie Yid Answers...

-Dixie Yid

(Picture courtesy of Shuvu

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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Reb Tzadok: The Area of Our Greatest Weakness is the Area of Our Greatest Strength

Rav Tzadok Hakohen, in Tzidkus Hatzadik #70, says that the area of one's biggest failings is davka the area of his biggest greatness, and through davka that thing, he will reach very high levels.

He says that the Gemara in Sanhedrin 70a says that "שבדבר שקלקלו בו נתקנו," "in the area in which one has sined, through that area he will be mesukan [repaired]."

This is also why the Gemara says, in Yershalmi Brachos 2:4, that "ביומא דאיתיליד איחרוב בית מוקדשא," that on the day that the Beis Hamikdash was destroyed, Moshiach was born. Rav Tzadok seems to be using this Gemara to say that we see that on the very day of the destruction of the Beis Hamikdosh, which personifies our faults, Moshiach was born. That is to say that from the very faults themselves arise the tikun to those faults, Moshiach Tzidkeinu.

He also says that this is the principal which underlies the statement in the Midrash Raba in Parshas Chukas that the Para Aduma, the Red Heiffer, is davka the atonement for the impurity created by the sin of the Golden Calf, the "idolotry" that was done with a baby heiffer.

It all goes back to the principal that Hashem gives the person his greatest difficulties in a certain area because that is the area in which he has the biggest potential for greatness.

This can be difficult to understand. One could feel that if he takes this advice, then he will put all of his efforts into his area of greatest difficulty in Avodas Hashem. But he could worry that if he does this, then he's just setting himself up for failure when the challenge is too much for him. A person may think that it would be better to put off those big fights and, instead, work on those areas of growth which are easier for him. I definitely think that this is the propper way to go most of the time. The discouragement that can come from failure can do more damage that if the person had just focused on the easier battles.

However, I think that we also have to keep in mind what Rav Tzadok said in Tzidkus Hatzadik #45, about one whose heart has become so closed that Teshuva has been closed off from him. He says that when such a person makes himself humble, and empties himself out until he is like "nothing," then Hashem "creates something from nothing." When a person stops relying on his own "inner strength" to overcome his weakness, that is when the person is ready to realize that it was really Hashem all allong, who gave him the "koach la'asos chayil," the ability to accomplish things in Avodas Hashem. It is only when one makes himself as nothing, that he will be ready to realize that the koach to have his teshuva accepted comes from Hashem and not himself.

May Hashem give us the koach to see our tikun in our area of greatest difficulty and help us be zocheh to true anavah, humility very soon!

-Dixie Yid

(Picture courtesy of Mysterium)

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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

First Shiur by Rav Noach Weinberg Since

This is the first shiur (video) given by Rav Noach Weinberg, of Aish Hatorah, since his diagnosis with a very serious condition. Please continue davening for Yisroel Noach ben Hinda.

-Dixie Yid

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The Yesod of Yedidus Found in Purim and in Our Daily Lives- Audio

Here is Reb Yerachmiel's latest edition of the Baltimore Community Kollel Chaburah on Tefillah. In this unusually special shiur, there are many original thoughts that I think you will appreciate very much. It's well worth a special listen!

Sunday night's shiur on post-Purim topic of "YEDIDUS", which borrows from divrei Chazal as well as the words and thoughts of Rav Pincus, Rav Wolbe and Bilvavi Mishkan Evneh. The shiur is entitled "The Yesod of Yedidus Found in Purim and in Our Daily Lives."

You can listen to the shiur online HERE or download it HERE (by "right clicking" and selecting "Save Target As").

-Dixie Yid

(Picture courtesy of Avakesh)

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Monday, March 24, 2008

Reb Tzadok on Why One Must Always Revisit the Sins of the Past

Rav Tzadok Hakohen, in Tzidkus Hatzadik #67, says that no matter how high of a level a person reaches, and even though he has done teshuva for his aveiros, he must always revisit his sins.

This idea comes from Tehilim 51:5, where it says "וְחַטָּאתִי נֶגְדִּי תָמִיד," "and my sin is always before me." Even though Hashem has accepted his teshuva completely, he must still recall and do teshuva for his sins. This is because such a person never remains static. One should always be growing and ascending from level to level.

Therefore, one's conduct in this world should reflect that which the Arizal said about life in Gan Eden. He says that every time one ascends to a highter and greater level in Gan Eden, "they" are more particular with him about his aveiros and he is punished for even the smallest sin. I read this to mean that certain things are not a sin at all, and may even be considered mitzovs to one who is on a lower level. However, the same things which may have been fine for a lower level person are far beneath that same person which he reaches a higher level. Therefore, things which weren't sins earlier in his growth become sins which require kapara and teshuva in the world to come.

Similarly in this world, one can cleanse himself of the "new sins" that develop in one's past by continually doing teshuva for things that may not have been a problem before, but become problematic to have in one's "record" as his level becomes higher.

He says this is the reason for "Yerida l'tzorech aliya." When Shamayim becomes medakdeik on a person for aveiros that only become an issue because of the person's aliya, that is called a time of "yerida." One must do teshuva for those things at such a time, and that will be the aliya that was precipitated by the "yerida."

Furthermore, Rav Tzadok writes in #57 that the regret and anguish that one feels because of his aveiros constitutes the literal punishment of Geheinom. That is why the Gemara says in Brachos 12b, "כל העושה דבר עבירה ומתבייש בו מוחלין לו על כל עונותיו," "Anyone who does an aveira and is embarrased because of it, all of his sins are forgiven." Rav Tzadok explains that this is because of the aforementioned principal that Agmas Nefesh, anguish one feels because of his aveiros, literally consitutes Geheinom.

This principal is why one's teshuva for "newfound" aveiros that only become an issue when he becomes greater is effective in getting rid of those daduskideh, subtle, aveiros. Of course, the same principal would ostensibly apply to regular, gasusdikeh, big time, aveiros as well and one should feel regret and anguish about his aveiros. We should know, based on this Tzidkus Hatzadik, that this feeling its self is mechaper for our aveiros.

Baruch Hashem that He gave us so many ways and opportunities to rid ourselves of our shmootz that keeps us away from Him.

-Dixie Yid

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Big Kiddush Hashem by Frum Yid - Turned Around Bronx School - Video

-Dixie Yid

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Friday, March 21, 2008

New Ban on Shabbos Youth Groups?!

Received from the Cong. Aish Kodesh, Woodmere, NY e-mail list... A Freilichen Purim!

14 Adar 5768 - יד' אדר, תשס'ח

מודעה רבה

שמועה שמענו

ותחרד נפשנו כי עומדים
שמענו שבארה''ב ובפרט באזור ניו יורק בוודמיר מרשים לקטנים לבא לבית הכנסת כל שבת. מעל זה גם כן מכינים להם מיני משחקים ושתויות להקל עליהם הזמן

המציאות הוכיחה בעבר שיצאה מתופעות כאלו מכשולות גדולות רח''ל והרבה הוללות וקלות ראש וכו', וכל זה הוא עצת היצר לערטל את הנוער מכל זיק יראת שמים ולהורידם לבאר שחת רח''ל. וכבר התריעו על זה גדולי ישראל ואסרו באיסור גדול 'יוט גרופס' אלו אפילו נערכים בהפרדה גמורה

ע''כ באנו גם אנו בזה לגלות דעתינו דעת תורה

שאיסור גמור להשתתף ולהופיע שם

וכל מי שמגרש את הקטנים האלו מבית הכנסת תבוא אליו ברכה

ובזכות והיה מחניך קדוש יגל יעקב ישמח ישראל

יצחק מרדכי פדר

יושב ראש קהילת חיות אש קודש

-Dixie Yid

(Picture courtesy of Yitzy Meyer)

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Powerful Segulah for Ta'anis Esther & Purim - Guest Post by R' Chaim Morgenstern

The following are the words of the Kav Hayashar (perek 97):
“...For this is a very opportune day that our tefilos be accepted in the merit of Mordechai and Esther. And anyone who needs mercy on anything that he needs to daven for, should take time to himself on the day of The Taanis Esther and first say the twenty-second perek of Tehillim - Lamnatzeiach al Ayeles Hashachar… - which Chazal say refers to Esther who was called Ayeles Hashachar (Yoma 29a, Medrash Shochar Tov 22). The Gemara (Megillah 15b) also teaches us that Esther davened this perek when she was on the way to present herself before Achashveirosh... Afterwards, he should pour out his words before Hashem, and say his requests mentioning the merit of Mordechai and Esther, whom in their zechus, Hakadosh Boruch Hu will answer him and open up the shaarei rachamim - gates of mercy for him, and his tefila will be answered willingly. We need to mention the merit of Mordechai and Esther, for the day of Taanis Esther, and the day of Purim are days of ratzon and ahava. Therefore, it is good to daven on the day of Taanis Esther. And the One who listens to teffila, should willingly accept with mercy our tefilos, Amen.”

"Since on this day they gathered together to save themselves and they were in need of rachamim (mercy), therefore, it was set up as a day to say selichos and tachanunim (prayers of teshuva and mercy). These prayers are very dear to Hakadosh Boruch Hu,and through these tefillos, tremendous mercy is awakened in the pamalia shel maalah (the heavenly kingdom)”

Regarding the significance of Taanis Esther we find the following words of the Seder Hayom:

"...For this was the day that was transformed from sadness to joy, and from mourning to yom tov. Instead of our enemies waiting to rule over us as they wished – to kill and obliterate us as were the thoughts of Haman the rasha – all the Jews gathered together in the cities of the provinces of the king to fight for their lives and take revenge against their enemies. Being that this was a day that everyone was waiting for mercy of Heaven to save them from the hands of those who sought to do to them evil and Hakadosh Boruch Hu was there to help them and save them from their pains, they have taken upon themselves every year to fast on this day, to give praise and thanks for the past, and to daven and beseech for the future..."

Have a meaningful, uplifting and easy fast, and may Hashem accept all of our tefilos for the good!

(Picture courtesy of wordnerdy)

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Thursday, March 20, 2008

Free Shiur by Rav Moshe Weinberger on Ta'anis Esther

I received the following comment on the Purim picture with information on a shiur given by Rav Moshe Weinberger at Cong. Aish Kodesh in Woodmere, NY, this morning, which is available for free, regarding what to daven for on Ta'anis Esther. Whoever left that comment and others similar ones in the past, can you please e-mail me and unmask yourself!?

Rav Weinberger taught a Torah from Sfas Emes zt"l discussing some of the deeper meangings of "La'yehudim haysa orah ve'simcha v'sasson v'yikar." Rebbi also explained that Ta'anis Esther is a most fortuitous time to daven for the downfall of our enemies.

This 15 minute portion of the regular morning Chaburah is available here for free and is called, not surprisingly:

What To Daven For On Ta'anis Esther - HAZZ999920080320

A freilichen Purim

-Dixie Yid

(Picture courtesy of Yitzy Meyer)

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This Picture Gives "Sleeping During Davening" a New Meaning!

Disclaimer: No Shuls were disrespected in the making of this photograph.

-Dixie Yid

(Picture courtesy of Yitzi Meyer's Aish Kodesh (Woodmere, NY) Pictures page)

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Discussion About Rabbi Lazer Brody's Letter & Free Will

In response to my link to a letter from a girl from a frum home who currently wants to go off the derech and Rabbi Lazer Brody's response, I received the following comment from a person that I respect very much. Here's his comment and my reply. Any constructive thoughts by the "Oilam" would be appreciated. :-)


[Quoting R. Brody's letter:] "G-d gives free choice, and no one has the right to take that away from you."

While I think that he otherwise handled this very well, I believe that this quote is inaccurate, inappropriate, and chas v'shalom counter productive.

Kol Yisrael Areivim zeh b'zeh. Free will does not mean that we as individuals or society are exempt from preventing others from transgressing Torah. A Jew who can prevent another Jew from transgressing and does not do so is guilty too. Parents certainly, explicitly, have the obligation to prevent there offspring from transgressing when possible.

The problem is that it seems probable that the efforts are counter productive and will not prevent transgression but perhaps cause more.

But it is not helpful to give her the impression that her parents have no "right" when they would actually have an obligation. Free will is a non issue here.

March 19, 2008 10:32 PM



You're thinking too theoretically and too idealisticly here. She is obviously not going to be listening to her parents here. Anything her parents or current rabbis do to get her to stay observant, at this point, will most likely have the opposite effect.

A young person like this needs to understand that she does indeed have free will. Rabbi Brody knows that only by helping "Linda" realize that when she makes Yiddishkeit her own choice, then she will be willing to embrace it. As long as she feels that she would just be living someone else's choice like her parents or teachers, she's going to reject it at this point.

Rabbi Brody accepts the fact that in the short term, neither he nor anyone else in this whole world can "prevent transgression." If she is going to continue doing aveiros or is going to do worse aveiros than the ones she's done so far, there's nothing that he can do to stop it. It's her choice. Other people must accept that they/we cannot make someone make the choices they should.

What he's trying to do is open a door for her; to show her that if she can turn to Hashem, she can have a relationship with Him that's not based on what her parents or her teachers or anyone else wants her to do. It can be based on her own choice to return to Him. As long as there is no break with the past, and as long as she feels like her Yiddishkeit belongs to other people, she'll never be able to get out of her rut.

You and I may not be able to relate to what she's going through because of our unique background. But there are thousands of kids like "Linda" in Brooklyn, Monsey and all kinds of other places. They must make their own choice to embrase Yiddishkeit. And until she is able to do that in her own way, she's going to feel too stuck to move forward.

-Dixie Yid

March 19, 2008 10:49 PM

(Picture courtesy of middleeastinterest)

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New English Translation of Selections from the Noam Elimelech

Received from Rabbi Tal Zwecker/Targum:



Open your eyes to this brilliant work. Open your heart to the compelling words and thoughts of Rebbe Elimelech of Lizhensk.

Mipeninei Noam Elimelech

A selection of teachings, stories, and parables of Rebbe Elimelech of Lizhensk

As the Rebbe of all Rebbes and the recognized third-generation leader of Chassidus, the Noam Elimelech is revered for his holiness and brilliance. His profound sefer of Torah elucidations has been diligently studied for centuries. But how many can truly understand his lofty teachings? In this groundbreaking, first-ever English rendition of selections from the Noam Elimelech's classic sefer, Rabbi Moshe Tal Zwecker has opened the world of chassidus - the world of the Noam Elimelech to the English speaking public. With essays based on the weekly parashah and various appendices, including his famous "tzeitel katan" and his stirring "prayer before prayer", every one will be deeply moved and inspired by this important and profound work.

Pre-publication orders will be processed and shipped within a week of your order. Please allow approx. 3 weeks after shipping date to receive your order.


Formerly of Oceanside, New York, Rabbi Tal Moshe Zwecker is a chassid of the Clevelander Rebbe of Raanana, Israel. He currently lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh with his wife and children. He delivers shiurim on a variety of topics, including Chassidus. Rabbi Zwecker is the founder and director of Machon Be’er Mayim Chaim, whose aim is to translate and make available the classics of Chassidus in English.

Rabbi Zwecker's website:

-Dixie Yid

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Even the Recognition of Sin Brings One into the World of Teshuva

In Oros Hateshuva 15:8, Rav Kook continues on in his theme about how when one even just reaches the level of hakaras hacheit, recognizing his sins, then he is already "אוחז ברעיון התשובה," has a grip on the idea of repentance. And that even if you haven't yet brought your recognition of the truth into the world of action, that you are already in the world of Teshuva.

He goes on further to say that even if you committed aveiros, sins, which block you from doing teshuva, you are still in this category of one who is "אוחז ברעיון התשובה." My rebbe explained that even if you find yourself in the category of one of those people in the Rambam Hilchos Teshuva 4:1, who has done one of the "עשרים וארבעה דברים מעכבין את התשובה," things which block teshuva, there is still hope. And even if you are ChV"Sh in the category of one who has lost their share in the World to Come according to the Gemara in Sanhedrin 10a, "כל ישראל יש להם חלק לעולם הבא...ואלו שאין להם חלק לעולם הבא," there is still hope. Why?

My rebbe pointed out that there is no one of us that is worse than King Menashe. None of us have none as many of the things which "block teshuva" or take away our share in the world to come as much as that person. Yet the Gemara in Sanhedrin 103a says, "א"ר יוחנן משום רשב"י ... שעשה לו הקב"ה כעין מחתרת ברקיע כדי לקבלו בתשובה מפני מידת הדין." "Rav Yochanan says in the name of Rebbi Shimon Bar Yochai... that Hashem made something like a tunnel in heaven in order to accept [Menashe's] Teshuva [without the knowledge of] the attribute of justice." And Rashi there explains that, "מידת הדין היתה מעכבת שלא להקביל פני מנשה בתשובה, ועשה הקב"ה מחתרת ברקיע ופשט ידו וקבלו." "The attribute of justice was blocking [Menashe] so that his teshuva wouldn't be accepted. But Hashem dug a tunnel in heaven, stretched out His hand and accepted him."

Furthermore, the Gemara in Sanhedrin 105a also says that "דורשי רשומות אומרים כולם באים לעולם הבא." "The seekers of hints say that all of them [all those who have lost their share in the world to come] will enter the world to come." Truly, "לא ידח ממנו נידח," Hashem will not let anyone be left behind as the world progresses towards redemption, as the Ohr Hachaim brings down with regard in the ma'aseh of Pinchas (according to הרב ישראל אייכלר here - I still have to cite check that.)

May we get chizuk from this that every single little crumb of progress you or I make toward doing teshuva really counts, and brings us further and further into the world of teshuva. May we also merit to bring our recognition of what's right into the world of action, to fully enter the world of teshuva with both feet inside!

-Dixie Yid

(Picture courtesy of Mental Blog)

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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Little House on the Smokies

I wanted to share this picture of my parents home in the Smokies from this winter. I got Dixie on my mind!

-Dixie Yid

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All Different Jews Must Do Differently to Fulfill the Torah

At the end of the third aliya in Parshas Pikudei (Shmos 39:32), the pasuk says, "וַתֵּכֶל כָּל-עֲבֹדַת מִשְׁכַּן אֹהֶל מוֹעֵד וַיַּעֲשׂוּ בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל כְּכֹל אֲשֶׁר צִוָּה יְהוָה אֶת-מֹשֶׁה כֵּן עָשׂוּ." "And the work of the building of the Mishkan, the Tent of Meeting, was completed, and just as Hashem commanded Moshe, so the Jewish people did." On this pasuk, the Ohr Hachaim Hakadosh asks, "How could the Torah say the "Jewish people" did as Hashem commanded in building the Mishkan. The whole Jewish people didn't build it. Only a few people like Betzalel and the Artisans actually did the building according to Hashem's command!

He answers by first explaining the idea that, in general, each and every Jew must keep the whole Torah, yet it is completely impossible that any Jew will actually keep all 613 mitzvos. One sign that we must all keep all 613 of the mitzvos is the fact that we each have 248 eivarim, limbs, corresponding to and nourished by the 248 positive mitzvos. And we each have 365 gidim, sinews, corresponding to and nourished by the 365 negative mitzvos. (248 - 365 = 613) Therefore, for any of us to reach our personal wholeness of stature, we must fulfill and nourish every part of our selves with the 613 mitzvos. But this is impossible, since some mitzvos can only be done by Cohanim. Others by Levi'im. Others by Yisralim. Others by women. Etc. And no Jew can do all 613 him or herself.

The Ohr Hachaim therefore answers that the Torah is meant to, and can only, be fulfilled by Bnei Yisroel b'chlalusa, by the Jewish people as a whole, and not as individuals. When one Jew does his mitzovs, he completes me and my fulfillment of the 613. Similarly, when I do the mitzvos that apply to me, I complete him in his fulfillment of the 613. All Jews gives zechus, merit, to each other and everyone fulfills all of the mitzvos through each other.

This is why Hashem said that all of Bnei Yisroel built the Mishkan. It is because of this same principal. When Betzalel and the other Artisans physically built the actual Mishkan, the Jewish people, who were doing their mitzvos and who donated money, gold, other precious minerals, and wanted the Mishkan to come out of all of this, the Jewish people are credited with doing it themselves because of this yesod, that each of us fulfill all 613 mitzvos by the whole Jewish people doing what they are supposed to do.

I was thinking that even though we do not have the Beis Hamikdash today, based on this Ohr Hachaim, we can possibly say something else. We have lots of different kinds of Jews even today. You have Syrians, Persians and Moroccans. You have Chassidim, the Litvish, the Ashkenazim and many other groups of Jews. If we each focus on our group or individual specialization in Avodas Hashem, then as a whole Klal Yisroel, as a whole Jewish people, we all fulfill all of the 613 mitzvos. Some Jews focus more on limud haTorah in Gemara. Others focus more on chesed. Still others emphasize tefillah. Yet if we all do the type of avodas Hashem that is fitting to our techunas Hanefesh, our natural gifts, then as a complete Jewish people, we can be zocheh to true fulfillment of the whole Torah.

May Hashem grant us each the fulfillment of our individual and group potential so that soon, it will no longer only be said that we completed the building of the Mishkan, but let it soon be said that we have rebuilt the Third Beis Hamikdash, which wills stand l'olam u'le'olmei olamim.

-Dixie Yid

(Picture courtesy of kumah)

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My Chance to Meet Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito

This is a legal oriented post, and not a Jewish one, so don't read on if you're not interested! I just want to write this down to help me remember some of the details.

I was given the opportunity by my law school (I work full time by day and attend law school in the evenings) to participate in a "round table discussion" between a group of students and Supreme Court Justice Alito. I was able to ask him a question, which was how he is able to be an originalist and a strict constructionist in a legal system that has already strayed so far from the original meaning of the Constitution. What does it mean to be an originalist or a strict-constructionist, today?

He basically answered that in most areas of the law that the Supreme Court will be asked to consider, the law is very well developed already, in its perhaps non-originalist form, and the Supreme Court is only being asked to consider very specific sub-issues. In cases like these, we are basically stuck with the law as it stands, and one would not be able to really flex his "originalist muscles." (My language, not his). However, he said that in the minority of cases, where constitutional or stautory issues come up which have not been significantly hashed out by previous cases, then one's originalist philosophy would be able to really come to the fore.

He said that a great example of this is the DC v. Heller case, the "D.C. Guns" case, which was argued before the Supreme Court yesterday, Tuesday, March 18th. Before this case, which considers the extent of the coverage of the right to bear arms, virtually no Supreme Court had considered the exact definition of the Second Amendment. So this would be an example of a case where the originalists on the court will be able to fully express their strict-constructionalist judicial philosophy.

After the "round table discussion," I was able to tell him that it was listening to his and John Robert's Confirmation Hearings which inspired me to take seriously my thoughts of going to law school. I also followed up with him about a comment he had made during the discussion, calling the modern supreme court nomination confirmation process, "unfair." I asked him specificly what he meant by that.

He gave two major examples. One is the constant pressure on nominees to tell exactly how they would vote on certain issues, should they come before the court. He said that no nominee has ever answered these questions but that the pressure is mounting that they do so nonetheless, and that to do so would violate legal ethics, taking away their ability to be objective when specific cases come before the court with their specific facts and specific legal questions. He said that if every Senator were able to get answers from the nominee on how the nominee would rule on all of his "hot button" issues, and given the modern quasi-need for a 60 Senator filibuster-proof majority, no nominee would ever get confirmed!

Also, he pointed to the nit-picking of faults by pundits, who try to make issues out of non-issues. He gave the example of how he was faulted for not recusing himself immedietly in the Vanguard case, even though he was not required to recuse himself in that case, because of the rule of judicial ethics.

I pointed out to him that since his opponents knew that he would not answer direct questions about whether or not he would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade, the major issue underlying everything that went on in the confirmation hearings, they were forced to make issues out of other non-issues, since they couldn't speak directly about those with him (Alito).

It was a nice and interesting opportunity to speak to Justice Alito and I wanted to write this down to help me remember what happened!

-Dixie Yid

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Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Letter by Rabbi Lazer Brody to a Girl Who Wants to Go Off the Derech

Great Post by Rabbi Lazer Brody, written to a girl who's asking him about her desire to go off the derech. Very worth reading for us to apply to ourselves!

Lazer Beams: Amalek and Linda

-Dixie Yid

(Picture courtesy of

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Shiur by Reb Shlomo Carlebach on Purim & Mishaloach Manos

I received this shiur by e-mail from my friend Tuvia in Yerushalayim. This shiur by Reb Shlomo Carlebach has no guitar or music. And Tuvia wanted me to pass on this message for Purim: "Purim samayach!"

-Dixie Yid

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Purim, Yom K'Purim & "Slach Lanu" - Audio Shiur

Here is this past Sunday's edition of Reb Yerachmiel's Baltimore Community Kollel Chaburah with Reb Yerachmiel.

They discussed the famous Zohar which teaches that Purim is even greater than Yom Ha'KiPurim, since Purim is not just a time for Teshuva, but is more specifically a time for Teshuva inspired by our love of Hashem and our yearning to grow ever-closer to Him. In connection therewith, we teiched-up the entire Sixth bracha of Shemoneh Esrei, "Slach La'Nu" in an effort to show how virtually every single word of this bracha is designed to be a spring-board not only to Teshuva, but to Teshuva May'Ahava!

You may listen to the shiur online HERE or download it HERE (to download, right click and select "Save Target As."

-Dixie Yid

(Picture courtesy of, originally seen at avakesh)

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Monday, March 17, 2008

Sipur- The World to Come Only Contains What We Value in This World

I think that this story (from Sippuri Chassidim, p. 264-65) is one of the most important Chassidish stories that there are. It's message is so nogeiah to us and it's also straight out of what seems to be "the biggest chiddush" from the Bilvavi Mishkan Evneh seforim.

The Chiddushi Harim and a few of his Chassidim had to get to Kotzk for Shabbos. Now the Chiddushi Harim never traveled late Friday afternoon, lest he get stuck somewhere for Shabbos. Therefore, when the wagon he and his Chassidim were riding in got a broken wheel Friday morning, he was concerned that perhaps they should just stop there and make Shabbos in the nearest town. However, as he was repairing the wheel, the Wagon Driver assured them that they would still make it in plenty of time for Shabbos.

The Rebbe asked him to do his best to get there as early before Shabbos as possible, because it was very important to be there as early. They driver told him that he would do his best. He rushed and pushed the horses to go as fast as possible. Unfortunately, early Friday afternoon one of the two horses died from the strain. Brokenhearted, the driver pleaded with the Rebbe not to stop there for Shabbos, but rather to stay with him and he would still get the Rebbe to Kotzk well before Shabbos. The Rebbe reluctantly agree and they went on their way. And indeed, they did get there in plenty of time before Shabbos.

The Rebbe and Chassidim made Shabbos in Kotzk. But Friday night, after Shabbos had already begun, someoene in informed the Rebbe that the second horse, belonging to the driver, had also died from the strain of the trip. Knowing that virtually this entire man's source of livlihood had been lost due to his desire to be moser nefesh to get them there for Shabbos, the Chiddushei Harim had a messenger sent to the driver that as soon as Shabbos was over, the Chassidim would get some money together and buy him two new horses to pull his wagon. Unfortunatley, before the messenger was able to get to the man, he (the driver) was niftar, passed away, from the strain of the trip and brokenheartedness at losing both of his horses.

The Chidushei Harim told over that at this very simple Jew's Din Torah, heavenly trial, there were many many prosecuting angels due to the many aveiros, sins, that man had committed. However, since he was so ignorant, there were virtually no defending angels, since he had hardly done any mitzvos at all in his whole life. However, one very powerful defending angel spoke up and said, "It is not fitting that a man who was moser nefesh, sacrified, his whole source of livlihood and his very life as well for the sake of a Tzadik and for the sake of Shabbos should be punished in Geheinom! Due to his arguments, the heavenly court decided that indeed, he would not be punished with Geheinom for his aveiros. But on the other hand, he could not go to Gan Eiden either, because of his paucity of mitzvos. Therefore, they decided that he would be place in an intermediate place called the "Olam Hadimyon," the "World of Illusion." In this world, he would not realize that he had died, and would experience his greatest physical pleasure, the only kind of pleasure he knew, which was that he would be placed on a brand new wagon with four healthy stallions pulling the wagon. He would drive forever down wide, open, smooth roads, and would always have good weather.

In this version of the story, the Chiddushei Harim says that out of a sense of Hakaras Hatov, appreciation, for everything that the man had done for he and his Chassidim, he arranged that the man's eyes would be opened and that he would realize that he was dead, and would then be zocheh to enter Gan Eden and at least experience genuine schar, reward, of Deveikus with Hashem, closeness with Hashem on his own level.

To me, this is one of the most fundamental ma'asim I know, because it brings hope the point that if the only pleasures that mean anything to us in this world are physical pleasures, then the only thing available for us as reward in the World of Truth will be the same empty physical pleasures. It's scary but it's true. If you and I embrace the "World of Illusion" that we live in now, it may be the only world that we will ever have access to! We've got to unplug ourselves from a life where the only things that get us really going are a good meal, a vacation, a chance to "veg," new furniture, new clothes or whatever other empty pleasures there are. Even if we keep the mitzvos, but if they are not our source of chiyus, of life, then we're in trouble.

Hashem, please don't let us end up like that wagon driver, where the only things that mean anything to us are empty shells of hollow enjoyment. Let us get pleasure and Deveikus and Chiyus in this world from your Torah and your Mitzvos. That way, not only will we enjoy closeness to You in this world, but we will in the World of Truth as well!

-Dixie Yid

(Picture of the Imrei Emes, Rav Avraham Mordechai Alter, the great-grandson of the Chiddushi Harim, courtesy of

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Sunday, March 16, 2008

One Last Story on Uncovering Hidden Jewish Sparks

Here's one last aspect of my Grandmother's funeral, which showed me a Jewish spark in someone in whom one might not expect it.

Between my granmother's two sons, my father was the more Jewishly affiliated. My uncle, my Grandmother's other son, is/was totally unaffiliated. So I was somewhat worried that some of the things that we did at the funeral might make him uncomfortable. For instance, we did not merely shovel a few shovel-fulls of soil into the kever as a token gesture, as is done in some of the more assimilated funerals. Rather, I announced that we would be filling the entire kever, to the top. This was no small feat. After the dirt by the graveside ran out, the staff had to bring two more digger fulls of soil from another location for us to have enough. It was a lot of work and it took a long time.

Before we began this final mitzvah of escorting the vessel that contained my grandmother's neshoma, soul, to its final resting place, I spoke about the concept of the respect we have for the body, the vessel which contained the soul during the person's lifetime. We don't let the cemetary workers escort the body of the person we love to its place of rest. Rather, we want to escort the vessel for the pure soul of the person we love, ourselves.

I was quite amazed by this, but the one person who worked and sweated more than anyone else, with that shovel for the entire time till we were finished was my "Jewishly unaffiliated" uncle. It was so touching to see how he put everything he had and all of his focus into that mitzva. It was a true chesed shel emes, a true act of kindness. And it shows me that there is a great Jewish soul inside every Jew and that you cannot look at the external side of people.

Although it's not related to this post, I want to share a story that my uncle told about his parents, my grandparents:

My grandfather was an attorney and served, for his entire working life, in the JAG Corps. When he retired, he held the rank of Full Colonel. In the early 1950s, my grandparents were stationed in Heidelberg, Germany, while the country was still occuppied by the United States after the Second World War. There were many homes in Heidelberg that were still vacant after the war, and the American Army used those homes to house many of the officers and their families. When my grandparents moved into one of these homes with their children (my father and uncle), they had a major surprise their first night there. Late at night there was a hard knock at the door, and when they opened it, the German police were standing there. My grandparents first thought (less than 10 years after the Holocaust), was one of absolute terror, that these policemen were coming to haul them away to some terrible fate.

It turned out that they were there looking for the housekeeper of the previous officer family that had lived in the house, who was suspected of stealing something. But that first moment of the German police knocking on their door at night never left them.

May Hashem have mercy on us, that we may never experience anything like that again!

-Dixie Yid

(Picture courtesy of

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Friday, March 14, 2008

Ought We Withhold Support from Poor Kollel Yungerleit?

A Simple Jew has posted the question that I have copy/pasted below on his site, along with my answer to the question. Click on over to read the answer...

A Simple Jew asks:

It seems that sometimes there is a misperception that a person who is paid to learn full-time in kollel is living a parasitic existence. A person who is antagonistic to the kollel system faults the system and the person learning in kollel for having a large family. This antagonistic person may even unmercifully turn down requests for financial assistance from these families who are suffering from poverty because it goes against his principles.

The Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 251:10 states that if a person approaches us asking for clothing we must investigate whether he is truly in need, however, if a person comes to us and ask for food we should simply give it to him without investigating.

What are your thoughts about the mindset that prevents a person from helping a hungry person because intellectually he has a problem with how that needy person is living his life?

Dixie Yid Answers...

-Dixie Yid

(Picture courtesy of A Simple Jew)

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Thursday, March 13, 2008

Brief Shiur on the Merkaz Harav Attacks That Should Not Be Missed

I think that every Jew should listen to this short shmooze by Rav Avraham Schorr on the killing of the yeshiva bochurim at Yeshiva Merkaz Harav. Listening to a true Ohev Yisroel's reaction to what happened is heartbreaking and shows just how small my problem is with regard to the issue of truly being part of the Jewish people in mind and heart.

Update 3/25/08: It appears that I will not be able to re-post this shiur. I appologize to those of you who did not yet get to hear it. However, an anonymous commenter has been kind enough to post a summary of some of the main points of the shiur. Here is that summary:

A brief Shiur on the significance of this tragic event -- the murder of eight young men while they were learning Torah in a Yeshiva in Yerushalayim -- was given by the distinguished Rosh Yeshiva HaRav Avraham Schorr SHLIT"A a few hours after it occurred, on Erev Rosh Chodesh Adar Sheni. The following is my recollection of this outstanding Shiur:

1. As we have learned, "MiSheNichnas Adar Marbim BeSimchah." The timing of this tragedy -- Erev Rosh Chodesh Adar II -- indicates that the Ribono Shel Olam intended to disturb our Simchah with an urgent message. What what He telling us?

2. The Gemorah in Maseches Taanis (29a) states: "KeSheim MiSheNichnas Av MeMaatim BeSimchah, Kach MiSheNichnas Adar Marbim BeSimchah." To the well-know question -- What is the connection between the two? -- the Sfas Emes ZT"L answered: The Ribono Shel Olam expects us to mourn the loss of the Batei HaMikdash. Our reward for doing so is Simchah in the month of Adar. According to Rav Shorr SHLIT"A, the fact that the Ribono Shel Olam disrupted our Simchah this Adar indicates that is He is unhappy with our mourning and concern for the Churban Batei HaMikdash. It is call for us to repent and mend our ways!

3. Why is our era known as "Ikvisa DiMashicha" (the heels of Mashiach)? The Rosh Yeshiva quoted his father, HaRav Gedaliah Schorr ZT"L, as saying that the heels are the only part of our body where one can cut with a knife and the victim may not feel it. Unfortunately, we have become so callous that we do not sense the imminence of Mashiach!

It is the fervent hope of the Rosh Yeshiva SHLIT"A that we will mend our ways through genuine Tshuvah and thus hasten the Geulah Shleimah, BB"A.

-Dixie Yid

(Picture courtesy of Artutz Sheva)

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Hashgacha Pratis, Divine Providence in My Grandmother’s Levaya

There were two events surrounding the arrangements of my Grandmother’s funeral which were total Hashgacha Pratis, Divine Providence (though of course everything always is).

First of all, the original plan was that my grandmother would, ChV’Sh, be placed in a mausoleum, rather than being buried in the earth. I knew this was wrong but I didn’t understand the full halachic implications of it until my rebbe explained to me that all of the obligations of Shiva and Kadish, etc., are triggered by burial. And when a person is, ChV”Sh, placed in a building (mausoleum) instead of being buried, those halachos never kick in. Furthermore, the person’s neshoma, soul, usually stays with the body until burial, since it has been so accustomed to identifying its self with the body for so many years. Therefore, if a person is never buried, it has a very negative impact on the soul. At any rate, before my father met with the funeral home director, I asked him if he could have it changed to a regular burial, rather that the mausoleum arrangement. He thought that it would be impossible, since she’s specified that she be placed next to her second husband (who she married after my grandfather was niftar) in the mausoleum.

But here is where the first apparent Hashgacha Pratis, Divine Providence, comes in. It turns out that even though everyone in the family was sure that a place had been saved next to her husband, there was no space available for her at all in the mausoleum. Therefore, they had to go about contacting the local Temple for a burial plot that was not only in the ground, B”H, thank G-d, but also in the Jewish section of the cemetery. Thank G-d, it worked out and my Grandmother was saved from the fate of being placed in some mausoleum.

The second Divine Providence story is this. Had the reform rabbi been in town for the funeral, he would have conducted the funeral and it would not have been done according to halacha, Jewish law and custom. Also, it would not have been as personal since my grandmother only met this rabbi a few times before, when he conducted her husband’s funeral, and in the hospital. But as Divine Providence would have it, he was away in Israel, leading a trip, so I was asked to officiate the funeral. This had several benefits. Halachicly, I appreciated this because it allowed me to have some (not total at all) say over how things were done at the funeral, so that I could see to it, to the best of my limited knowledge, that the minhagim, the traditions of how we show respect to the niftar, the deceased, would be kept. Also, it meant so much more to the family that my Grandmother’s grandson could lead her own funeral, than a virtual stranger. So Baruch Hashem, thank G-d, for several reasons, that turned out for the best as well.

Lo Yidach mimenu nidach. Hashem does not forget about anyone, no matter how ostensibly distant they are from the ways of the traditional Jewish practice.

-Dixie Yid

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"Why am I a Belzer Chassid?" Received by E-Mail

Article by Rav Ron Yitzchok Eisenman of Passaic, NJ received from Dani Strashun from YU:

Why I am a Chasid of the Belzer Rebbe Shlita.

As many of you remember, I have spent many a happy moment in the court of the Rebbe of Belz Shlita. Indeed, I once waited till 2:30 a.m. to be received by him. I still remember the incident vividly. I was told I had a 9:30 p.m. appointment. At 9:30 the Gabbai contacted me that the Rebbe was running late and I should arrive at about 11 p.m. When I arrived, the waiting was packed full of people and the Gabbai informed me that the Rebbe was still quite back-logged. I went back to where I was staying and at 1:30 a.m. I called the Rebbe's Gabbai to inform him of my inability to remain awake any longer as I had a 7 a.m. flight back to the States the next morning with my children and mother. The Gabbai said, "I'll call you when you are next, if you are still awake come, you won't regret it". At 2:20 a.m. the phone rang, it was the Gabbai. "Come right now, the Rebbe is waiting". I threw my clothes on, grabbed a cab and off I sped, half asleep to the Rebbe of Belz.
The Rebbe received me warmly and calmly. I felt as if it was two o'clock in the afternoon as the Rebbe was cheery and vivacious and showed no signs of the fact that he had been seeing people for hours and hours already. The Rebbe inquired as to the size of my kehilla and family and gave me a Brocha that I should be zoche (privileged) to spend more time in Eretz Yisrael. I left feeling uplifted and inspired.

The next morning when I arrived at the airport with my wife, children, mother and twenty suit cases, a man came over to me and asked me if I would agree to be 'bumped'. He offered all of us- my wife and I, our five children traveling with and us and my mother, a free El-Al round-trip voucher to be used any time in the year; a free hotel stay for the 'extra' night in Israel, a paid taxi to and from the hotel and one more night in Eretz Yisrael. The decision was not a hard one to make, and as I left with my family to our hotel, I kept thinking about the Rebbe's Brocha the night before.

However, that is not why I am a Chassid of the Belzer Rebbe.

I had always been intrigued by the Rebbe of Belz. Not because I have any connection to Belz or Belzer Chassidus. My family originated in Lita (Lithuania) and arrived in Yerushalayim with the Talmidei HaGra over two hundred years ago. I have no Chassidic blood in me. As far as I know I am a Litvak (Lithuanian Jew) through and through. Why then do I have a fascination with Belz? It is historically inspired. When I was about 17 years old, I came across a small Hebrew book which gave a first hand account of how the previous Belzer Rebbe, Rav Aharon Zt"l, was secretly spirited out of the Ghetto in Europe in the midst of the inferno.

I remember how inspired I was by his love of all Jews. When I read that his oldest son, Moshe was thrown into the flaming Shul with other Jews of the Ghetto and he and the rest of the Jews in the Shul were sacrificed on the flaming altar in the Shul, I was moved to tears. However, when I read that the Rebbe never observed his son's Yahrtzeit even though the date was known to him for he would often say, "how can I observe my one's son's Yahrtzeit when millions of my brothers have no Yahrtzeit to be remembered by", I was moved towards awe and admiration.

However, that is not why I am a Chassid of the Rebbe of Belz.

Rav Yitzchak Halevi Herzog the Chief Rabbi of then Palestine, was personally and intimately involved in securing the Rebbe's arrival in Eretz Yisrael as the British controlled the keys to the gates of Eretz Yisrael back then. Rav Herzog spared no effort to obtain the necessary documents to get the Rebbe to the land of Israel. When the Rebbe finally reached Damascus in 1944 and was about to complete the final leg of the journey, Rav Herzog was leaving the land to try to save the Jews in Europe. Rav Herzog detoured to Damascus to first greet the Rebbe. The Rebbe, who in order to insure his safety, was clean shaven and wearing non-Chassidic- Western type clothing, allowed, as a sign of gratitude, Rav Herzog's son Chaim to be photographed with him. This was the only time the Rebbe allowed himself to be photographed with a clean shaven face.

A few years later, when the Rebbe, who had lost his first wife and all of his children in the inferno that engulfed Europe, remarried, he insisted that Chief Rabbi Herzog officiate at the wedding. Reb Aharele of Belz was not a Religious Zionist as Rav Herzog was and represented; however, he was a religious Yid, and he knew that Hakaras HaTov (gratitude) cuts across ideological boundaries and therefore Rav Herzog was the one the Belzer Rebbe charged with officiating at his wedding.
When this incident became known to me, I was moved to great wonder and esteem of this man and his Chassidus.

However, that is not why I am a Chassid of the Rebbe of Belz.

The Rebbe, Reb Aharele, had no more children. His younger brother, Reb Mordechai who also managed to escape with him, also remarried in Israel after the war. Although Reb Mordechai died young in 1949 at the age of 47, he did have one son with his second wife; that son, who was named Yissachar Dov and was born in 1948, would eventually succeed his uncle Reb Aharele, as the next Belzer Rebbe when his uncle died in the 1957.
Rav Yissachar Dov, the present Belzer Rebbe, was childless for quite a while. After almost ten years of marriage he was privileged to have his one and only child, a son named Mordechai.

This past week was the celebration of the Rebbe's oldest grandson's bar mitzvah. Thousands upon thousands of Chassidim attended. In many ways it was the culmination of the celebration of the victory of Belz over the Nazis. Belz: which had been destroyed during the war; Belz: whose Rebbe came to Eretz Yisrael as a broken and bereaving individual; Belz: whose Rebbe never had any more children; Belz: whose Rebbe's brother dies when his only son in just one year old; Belz: who the present Rebbe was left an orphan at one year old, and whose uncle, the former Rebbe dies when he is nine years old and who he himself was only privileged to one son after many years of marriage; was now celebrating a simcha.
The Chassidus is no longer on the brink of decimation Chas V'Shalom; quite the opposite, the Chassidus is thriving with thousands and thousands of Chassidim vying for the Rebbe's attention.

On Thursday the attack occurred. The Rebbe upon hearing the news stopped seeing anyone and secluded himself in his room to daven and say Tehillim. Even though thousands of Chassidim had arrived from all over the world to participate in his Simcha, the Rebbe stopped what he was doing and had to daven for those in need.
On Friday he attended the levaya of those who were killed.
On Sunday he personally went with his son to visit the wounded in the hospital.

The Belzer Rebbe is not a religious Zionist. He does not ascribe to the philosophical world view of Rav Kook. He does not agree with all of the hashkafos of Yeshiva Mercaz HaRav.
However, he is a caring and feeling Jew; and he knows that when one Jew is hurting, all Jews are hurting. He knows that when part of the body has been injured, the entire body must show its concern. He knows that ideological differences do not impact on concepts such as concern and compassion. He loves all Jews, irrespective of how they dress and if they are Belzer Chassidim or not.

That is why I am a Chassid of the Rebbe of Belz.

"If not now, then when"- Hillel

Ron Yitzchok Eisenman
Rav, Kehillas Ahavas Yisrael
Congregation Ahavas Israel
Passaic, NJ 07055
(See also this interview with Rabbi Yerachmiel Weiss, who lost six student in the attacks on Israel National News, which came to me via Tamar Moses)

-Dixie Yid

(Picture courtesy of The Michtavim Blog)

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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Great Website With CDs of Rav Shlomo Freifeld

Great website with CD shiurim by Rav Shlomo Freifeld:

HT Rabbi Reuven Boshnack

-Dixie Yid

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Who Will Make the First Move in Bringing the Geulah?

This is how the Shpoler Zaide used to daven for the Geula and the Rizhiner's amazing addition to the Zeide's point. Their statements here are something only someone on their level can say...

The Shpoler Zaide used to daven and plead before Hashem in the following way: "Master of the World! Just so that you can win a little argument you are having with the Jewish people, we have to tolerate the yoke of such a long exile!?!? You have a disagreement with the Jewish people. They say, 'Return us to you Hashem, and we will return!', הֲשִׁיבֵנוּ יְהוָה אֵלֶיךָ וְנָשׁוּבָה. Eicha 5:21. And you say, 'Return to me, and I will return to you!', "שׁוּבוּ אֵלַי וְאָשׁוּבָה אֲלֵיכֶם." Malachi 3:7. For this You are delaying the redemption and waiting until the Jews do teshuva?! Therefore, I swear to you in my holy name that the Jewish people will not do teshuva before the redemption!"

The Rizhiner would add this: "I say the same thing, but I promise that it will come to pass in a clear way. When Moshiach comes, we will definitely do teshuva. But the Jewish people have a valid claim; We say in davening, "And because (מפני) of our sins we have been exiled from our land." "מפני," "because" can also mean "before." Meaning: Even before we had sined, it was already decreed that we would be exiled. Because at the Covenant between the parts, the Bris Bein Habesarim, (at the time of Avraham Avinu) the four exiles were already decreed against us. And just as you, Hashem, decreed exile on us before we sined, so too you must redeem us before we do teshuva!"

-Taken from the Sefer Sipurei Chassidim by Rav Shlomo Yosef Zevin

-Dixie Yid

(Picture of the Rizhiner's Kever courtesy of A Simple Jew)

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Audio Shiurim on Haftara & Ibur Yohr by Our Favorite Boshnack

Rabbi Reuven Boshnack, the JLI rabbi at Brooklyn College has come through with a couple more shiurim that he has given to the students there. B"H, he has shared them with us!

Haftaras Shekalim - A great shiur on how ga'ava, arrogance can bring a person and the whole nation down - Given on 3/8/08

Get this widget Track details eSnips Social DNA

"The Power of the Leap Year" Given on 3/8/08 at the Ohr Naava Seminary in Flatbush, Brooklyn

Get this widget Track details eSnips Social DNA

-Dixie Yid

(Picture courtesy of the Bialistoker Shul)

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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Guest Post by "B" on Davening When Tragedy Strikes

(This is a guest post by "B," a Ben Noach reader, who has written here on Dixie Yid before and whose letter was just featured at Lazer Beams, by Rabbi Lazer Brody)

I was glad to see what you wrote today in your posting concerning praying in what seems like hopeless situation. It brought to mind a hasidic story that I believe was told about Avraham HaMalach the son of the Maggid of Mezritch. Avraham once had trouble davening one day because of constantly being interrupted by foreign thoughts. Even by the end of shacharis he was still very disconcerted because he did not feel that his davening was on the level that he was accustomed to. Yet, immediately after the service his father, the Holy Maggid, came up to Avraham and told him that the heavenly realms were in a state of joy like the Maggid had never seen before because of his son's prayers.

Also, I believe that I heard by Rabbi Dovid Gottlieb that prayer also has a profound effect on the individual who is praying in that even though we may not feel that our words are having any effect and the same thing is bound to happened again.

It is as Rabbi Nachman say, that even drops of water will wear away a stone over time. Thus, not only in effect turn our hearts of stone into hearts of flesh, but also affect great movements in the higher worlds.

To relate it to the Bilvavi, I have found that personally doing small periods of hisbodedus and including prayers for others through out the day have been highly effective for myself since I am no where near the level were i can seclude myself in a room for hours devoted to saying tehillim and crying out to Hashem for the sake of others.

I am getting ready to do a combat scuba course right now, which is like learning to hold your breath under water. You don't go out immediately and try to hold your breathe for 5 minutes. You slowly work your way up to it by doing small intervals of breathe-holding. This is also similar to the manner in which the Lubavitcher Rebbe would give tzedaka; one dollar at a time.

Besides, in the end you must remember that you are a holy Jewish neshama who has a special connection with Hashem that even I do not have!

I am probably writing this both for you and myself, since I am on a very low level of emunah and must constantly remind myself to be striving for higher and higher levels of emunah.

-Dixie Yid

(Picture courtesy of Merkaz

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S'lach Lanu - Audio Shiur - Reb Yerachmiel

Here is this past Sunday night's shiur on tefillah at the Baltimore Community Kollel by Reb Yerachmiel.

Sunday night's shiur was the first on the bracha of "S'Lach Lanu" in Shemoneh Esrei. In addition to introducing this bracha within the framework of halacha and hashkafa (thanks to prompting by the chevra), Reb Yerachmiel reminds us that the over-arching themes of this bracha, Teshuva and Tefillah, are two of the primary areas in which we must be mechazek during these difficult times for Am Yisroel.

You can listen to the shiur online HERE or download it HERE (by right-clicking and selecting "Save target as")

-Dixie Yid

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