Wednesday, April 30, 2008

How the Mitzvah of Matzah Repairs Blemishes in All Areas of "Eating"

This idea comes from the Koidinov Hagaddah, compiled from all of the Admorim of Koidinov by the current Koidinover Rebbe, Rav Yaakov Tzvi Mayer Erlich, Shltia, D"H "Ha lachma Anya." I have to thank Rabbi Shlomo Slatkin for indirectly causing me to have the zechus of getting ahold of this haggadah.

As we make our way out of Mitzrayim, Egypt, and towards Matan Torah, the giving of the Torah, it is worthwhile to think about what the Galus, exile, of Mitzrayim was there to repair.

The first blemish man created within himself was in the realm of eating, when Adam and Chava ate from the Eitz Hada'as Tov v'ra, the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Bad. After that, the generation of the flood caused another blemish in mankind, and after them, the generation of the dispersion caused another blemish. Rav Aharon of Koidinov, the grandson of the first Koidinover Rebbe, who was the grandson of Rav Mordechai of Lechovitch said that the purpose of the Egyptial Exile was to repair this blemish in the area of eating. And that Jewish boys being thrown into the Nile repaired the blemish caused by the generation of the flood. And by the Jews working with mortar and bricks, the blemish caused by the generation of the dispersion, whose sin was through building the tower of Bavel, was repaired. (This part is based on Likutei Torah by the Arizal, Parshas Shmos). Rav Aharon also taught, from the Sidur of the Arizal, that by the mitzva of eating matza, we repair the sin of Adam eatinf from the Eitz HaDaas.

And he teaches that this same tikun is applicable in our generation. When we eat matzah, we can repair all types of blemishes that we have brought upon ourselves that come under the rubric of "eating."

He points out that certainly problems with actual eating fall into this category. Also, he says that problems with kedusha in the area of marital intamacy are included in the concept of "eating." We see this from the fact that the pasuk uses this the concept of eating as a euphamism with regard to Potifar's appointment of Yosef over all of his affairs except, "halechem asher hu ocheil," the bread that he eats (Breishis 39:6). Also, he says that speech is part of the concept of eating, which can be seen from the fact that "speaking" is also used as a euphamism of martial initmacy, which, as we just said, is included in the concept of "eating." This can be seen from the fact that the Mishna, in Kesubos 13a, says "ראוה מדברת עם אחד," which Rav Asi there translates as "נבעלה."

And by eating matza on the night of the Seder, one is mesaken the blemishes one has caused through the three categories of activity, which fall under the rubric of "eating;" actual eating, marital intimacy and speech.

And this is the pshat in the phrase, "הא לחמנא עניא די אכלו אבהתנא בארעא דמצרים," "This is the bread of affliction that our fathers ate in the land of Mitzrayim," that we say at the beginning of the Seder. The word "ארעא," "land" actually comes from the root meaning "רצון," "desire," as in the phrase used to refer to Shalosh Sheudos, "רעוא דרעווין," which means "רצון שברצון," "desire of desires."

We also know that Mitzrayim actually refers to meitzarim, which means "borders" or limitations. So when we say that our fathers ate this bread in the land of mitzrayim, we're also saying that we used to eat bread (engage in the 3 types of activities which fall under the category called "eating") when our ratzon, our desires, were in meitzarim, limited and bound. And it was this level of stunted desire that caused us to be blemished in the way we ate, were involved in the marital relationship and spoke.

And it is through the mitzvah of achilas Matzah, eating matzah that we can completely repair these blemishes that exist within us in the areas called "eating."

May it be Hashem's will that through the mitzva of achilas Matzlah, both in the Pesach that we just completed, and the Pesachim to come, that we fulfill the mitzva of eating matzah with all of its tikunim and desired benefits!

-Dixie Yid

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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

My Three Year Old Son, The Philosopher

Exchange this morning with my son:

My Son: Where's John (a workman he'd just seen)?

Me: He's outside.

My son: But we can't see him.

Me: You're right. We can't see him but we know he's there. It's just like Hashem. Can we see Hashem?

My son: No.

Me: But do we know He's there?

My son: Yeah!

Me: Right, we know he's there because he made us.

My son: You and me, right?

Me: Right. He made us and he gives us our food.

My son: Yum Yum. And he gives us lollypops!

Me: Right, he gives us our food every single day.

My son: Who? John?


-Dixie Yid

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What to Daven For Before You Give Into A Ta'avah

When it comes to the big avodah of changing over one's desires from the desires of his superficial self to wanting the same things that Hashem wants, one should realize that this is a long process and it is accomplished step-by-step, and not all at once.

In Bilvavi Mishkan Evneh, Vol 2, Ch. 26, Rav Shwartz writes that it is a major avoda to go from the world of "Ratzon Atzmo," wanting what one's external self wants, to the world of the "Ratzon Hashem," where "Retzoneinu la'asos ratzoncha," our only desire is to do Hashem's will.

Since this is such a big process, one must first start by clarifying which of one's desires are truly his inner desires, which are his external desires, and which are the will of Hashem. He says that there are three levels within a person. 1) There's the the Chelek HaEloki, the G-dly soul. 2) We also have a true, inner self. The desires of this part of one's self are one's true desires, and are the same as Hashem's will. 3) A person also has an external "I," whose desires do not necessarily coincide with the Ratzon Hashem at all. This part of the self is also called the "Nefesh Habahamis," the animal soul.

Rav Shwartz takes the example of a person who wants to eat due to ta'ava, a mere desire to eat. He is not referring to the eating that one does in order to live. Rather, he's talking about the kind of eating that people do just for the enjoyment of it. At first, a person is unlikely to be able to totally stop himself from eating out of ta'ava. Therefore, he suggests that a first step would be to begin to clarify to one's self which desires originate in his true inner self, and which are merely the desires of the external "I," the Nefesh Habahamis.

He has an amazing hisbonenus idea. He suggests that rather than jumping straight into fulfilling the ta'ava, as usual, he should briefly talk to himself about the true nature of his desires before he begins to eat whatever it is that he desires to eat. I'll translate this quick hisbonenus here:

I know that my inner self does not want to eat this, but my external self wants to eat it. I know that my superficial self still rules over me more than my inner self. And since this is my level, and my external side rules over me more than my inner side, and since right now is not a good time to do battle with my external side because I do not have the inner strength to do battle, I will now eat this food! But one thing is clear to me: My true desire is not to eat it, but I feel that I am not able to to stand against my external desire, and therefore I will eat!
The amazing and surprising thing about this is that it recognizes that it's not all or nothing. Growing into a person who want to do the ratzon Hashem and doesn't want anything physical for its own sake takes time and effort and it is a step-by-step process. This type of hisbonenus he suggests takes that into account and helps us start at the beginning, by clarifying to ourselves what really is right and what our true desires are and where they come from.

IY"H, may we be zocheh to apply these teachings and may these ideas help us clarify ourselves to ourselves on the road to a life of Kirvas Hashem.

-Dixie Yid

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Monday, April 28, 2008

The Miracle of Jewish History - Video With Great Quotes

-Dixie Yid

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Our Escapist Tendencies - Getting to Know Yourself

I have written before about people's desire to distract themselves from their own desire for greater holiness and their dissatisfaction with their life without it. I wrote about wanting to distract one's self from Shabbos and from one's spiritual life in general, using movies/TV/ipods/novels/etc here and here.

This is expresed also in the way that the priests used to sacrifice people's children to the Molech. While the priests would kill their children, other priests would beat drums and play loud music, so that people should not hear the screaming of their children calling out for their help, which might cause them to change their mind about what they were doing.

Similarly, when our neshamos are crying out to us for help, we don't like the discomfort of hearing that inner pain. So we distract ourselves from hearing our inner voice by drowning it out with ipod music, movies, novels, or workaholic-ism.

If we want to take the first step towards living the life we are supposed to live, rather than distracting ourselves from that purpose with all of our twenty-first century distractions, then we must first recognize that we do not need all of our gadgets and distractsions merely for their enjoyment or necessity. Rather, we must recognize that, to the extent that this is the case, they are really there to drown out the voice of our neshamos.

Once we attain this self-recognition, we can begin to do a kind of hisbonenus before we begin to engage in one of these entertaining distractions. One might say to himself before opening up a novel or turning on his ipod during a train or bus ride: "The true inner "I," my neshoma, wants to serve you, Hashem. But the superficial "I" doesn't want to think about things like that. I don't feel that I have the wherewithall to win in this battle right now, so I am going to do XYZ to take my mind off of what I should really being doing right now. But I recognize that it is only a distraction, and not the deeper desire of who I truly am inside."

This brief thought is, IMHO, in line with the teachings of the Bilvavi Mishkan Evneh. IY"H, may we merit to recognize our escapist tendencies and get to truly know ourselves, as a first step towards "getting to know" Hashem.

-Dixie Yid

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Join a Trip to Mezibuz for Shavuos!

Received by E-Mail from Rabbi Tal Zwecker:

The Holy Ba'al Shem Tov is buried in the Ukraine in Mezibuz we are
planning on trying to organize a trip together with the Clevelander
Rebbe Shlit"a on Shavous to the Holy Baal Shem Tov in Mezibuz on his

If you would like to join us please email me or call me at 054-842-4725 or 02-992-1218 in the USA voip 516-320-6022.

Even if you cant join us and cant send in a donation send me a kvitel
as I did in Lizhensk ALL kvitels will be taken regardless.

If you would like to send us your kvitel a note with requests for
health blessings and parnassa etc. with your name and mother's name
and details together with your tax deductible contrbution mail it to:

Mosdos Cleveland 11 Har Sinai St Ra'anana Israel

The Rebbe Reb Melech and other tzadikim explain that a donation or
pidyon helps the kvitel be accepted however again all kvitels will be
accepted and taken happily to the holy Ba'al Shem Tov.

-Dixie Yid

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Thursday, April 17, 2008

Time-Out From "Major" Posts Until After Pesach

I do not have any "major" posts planned until after Pesach. I may share some things as they come up but I look forward to being on the regular Dixie Yid blogging schedule Monday, April 28th.

-Dixie Yid

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My "Progressive" Children

Exchange Between My 5 year old daughter, her five year old friend and our 3 year old son:

My daughter: Okay, let's play Chasunah. I'll marry [my brother].

Friend: No, I said I was going to marry [your brother]!

My daughter: Okay we'll both marry him. Now everyone get in a circle and hold hands... Okay, Ode Yeshama B'arei Yehuda U'vechutzos Yerushalayim...!

-Dixie Yid

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The Seder Plate and the 10 Sefiros - Based on Rav Pincus

If you use this diagram, please give credit.

My friend Reb Yerachmiel just informed me that today is Rav Pincus, zt"l, and his wife and daughter's Yhortzeit today. May his Torah that people learn from this post be an ilui Neshoma for them.

A friend was kind enough to give me a Hagada for Pesach with the Commentary of Rav Shimshon Dovid Pincus, zt"l, called the Tiferes Shimshon. I wanted to share his explanation of the 3 Matzos and the Seder Plate, according to the 10 Sefiros, which is really fascinating. I will use the Picture on top as a visual guide. And even though this post sounds esoteric, it is meant to be applicable in a practical way so try to read it in that light.

The Three Matzos - First of all, he says that the Three Matzos correspond to the Three Intellectual Sefiros, the Mochin, of Chochma, Bina and Daas, ChaBa"D. The 3 Matzos are called "Nahama D'meheimenusa," "Bread of Emunah/Faith." This is because they should be used to focus on incorporating one's intellectual Emunah into one's practical life through the intellectual faculties of Chochma, Bina and Daas. Chochma is the intellectual knowledge that there is a Creator of the world. Bina is understanding all of the implications of the fact of the existance of the Creator, and it also means understanding the obligations that this knowledge imposes upon me. And Daas implies chibur, connection, as in the phrase "V'Adam Yada Es Chava Ishto." So Daas means connecting the knowledge of the fact of G-d's existance and the implications of that fact into one's real way of living so that it affects the person in his daily life. It is through focusing on these ideas in the three matzos at the seder that matzah can live up to it's name, "The Bread of Emunah."

Now to summarize in advance, the seder plate (1) and its 6 contents comprise the other seven emotional midos that make up the other seven sefiros. The top row, as you can see in the picture, is Zroah, Beitza and Maror. On the top right, representing Chesed, is the Zroah. On the top left, representing Gevurah, is the Beitza. And in the middle, but below and drawing from the top two, is the Maror, representing Tiferes, which represents the pleasing combination of the top two midos, Chesed and Gevruah. The second row is the Charoses, Karpas and Chazeres. The Charoses, on the right, is Netzach. The Karpas, on the left, is the mida of Hod. And the Chazerez (the maror which is used in the rabbinically required "Hillel Sandwich"), in the center and below the other two, is the mida of Yesod. And the seder plate, its self, is the mida of Malchus.

Z'roah - Chesed - The Z'roah is the symbol we use on the Seder Plate today to represent the Korban Pesach. The Korban Pesach is the method through which we internalize the Intellectual Emunah of the Three Matzos. It is the Chesed, the generous giving of the spiritual gift of Emunah. Spiritual gifts are the embodiment of chesed, since chesed implies an unlimited, endless giving of good. And since the good that we are receiving is a spiritual gift, it is appropriate that chesed is the mida through which we receive this gift, since spirituality is an inherently unlimited, boundless gift as well, as opposed to physical gifts which are inherently bounded and limited by the finite-ness of physicality.

Beitza - Gevurah - The Beitza symbolizes the Korban Chagigah. An egg is round, and closed in on all sides, which implies limitation and finite-ness, which is the idea of Gevurah, which implies strictless and limitations. So it symbolizes physical gifts, which are finite and limited. The Beitza is on the plate to remind us that even physical gifts from Hashem must be connected in our mind to their source, which is also Hashem. And we cannot only look at spiritual gifts as having a spiritual source (i.e. Hashem), but we must look at those physical gifts as well as coming from Hashem.

I was also thinking that this breakdown is interesting in another way. The Z'roah is the right side, the side of Chesed, which is the "masculine" side. And its symbol on the seder plate is the Z'roah, which is a Kav, a line, which is similar to the letter zayin, which means "zachar," male. (V'hameivin yavin.) So that's an interesting correspondance. Also, the Beitza is on the left side, and symbolizes Gevurah, which is the "femenine" side. And the Beitza is similarly an appropriate symbol for the femenine side since an egg would certainly correspond to the femine side for obvious reasons.

Maror – Tiferes – Splendor - Maror is Tiferes because the ultimate expression of Splendor is the beauty that comes from the unification between two seemingly opposite characteristics. Chesed and Gevurah are two distinct traits with their own inherent beauty. But the awesome aspect of unifying Chesed and Gevruah. And why is Maror, bitterness, the best expression of connecting Chesed and Gevurah, kindness and strictness? This is because it is the bitter parts of life where one experiences the unified Chesed that is within Gevurah. When one thinks about the bitterness of the hard times and how, within the difficulty and Gevurah that one is experiencing, is hidden only love and Hashem’s desire to do chesed with us, then that is when one truly feels the splendorous beauty of the unification of the attributes of kindness and strictness. And by focusing on this idea when we eat the Maror at the seder, we can achieve the attribute of Tiferes, in it’s most beautiful form.

The bottom three items on the Seder plate, Charoses, Karpas and Chazeres (the Maror used in the “Hillel Sandwich”) are different from the top three in that they are not geared toward fulfilling any mitzvah d’oraisa, any biblical commandment. They are rabbinic mitzvos. The significance of this is that these items are more precious to Hashem than the higher level ones, which we were commanded to use, by Hashem in the Torah. This is because they are our own Jewish expressions of our desire to show our love and gratitude to Hashem. As such, they are a wonderful expression of the preciousness of the Jew. And, since they originate with us, the Jewish people, they are even more precious to Hashem, on a certain level, than the Mitzvos D’oraisa.

Charoses – Netzach – Eternity/Victory - Maror is not bitter for its own sake. Hashem sends us bitter things in life, not to cause us suffering for its own sake, but for a purpose. And often, that purpose is to induce us to leave behind our prior apathy and return to Hashem. We dip the bitter Maror in the sweet Charoses to sweeten the dinim of our suffering. Similarly, when we take the lesson of the Maror of our lives by returning to do good, we also sweeten the din that brought about the bitter suffering to begin with, and obviate the need for it to continue in the future.

Karpas – Hod – Glory – There are two levels of knowledge that Hashem exists. The higher level of understanding is that “Ein Ode Milvado,” that there is nothing in the universe other than Hashem and that He has the power at every moment to do good to us, or to do “bad,” and that if He would cease to will us to exist at any moment, then the whole universe would revert to nothingness. The more b asic level of knowledge is simply the point that there is, in fact, a Creator of the world and that we must therefore serve him with the faculties that we have. It is this simple understanding of faith that we must, as a first level, attain and instill in our children. It is this point that is brought about by Karpas, the mitzvah that we do “so that the children should ask.” It is through things like Karpas, which are there so that we have an opportunity to teach our children about this most basic level of Emunah that we have the mitzvah of Karpas.

Chazeres – Yesod – Foundation – This Maror, used in the “man-made” mitzvah d’rabanan of Koreich, the “Hillel Sandwich,” personifies the types of bitterness that a person brings upon himself. And what kind of bitterness does a person bring upon himself? These are the tests that a person brings upon himself. When the person overcomes those tests, that is when he has attained the level of Yesod. This was the trait of Yosef Hatzadik, who was promoted, through his hard work and Siyata Dishmaya, to the head of Potifar’s house. When the wife of Potifar tried to tempt Yosef, and he overcame this test by thinking of his father’s face, he thus unified the spiritual and physical worlds by giving spirituality dominion of the natural physical aspects of this world. This was why he personified the mida of Yesod. And by focusing on unifying our spiritual and physical sides, in those tests that we bring upon ourselves, when we eat the Koreich, the “Hillel Sandwich,” we internalize the mida of Yesod, the mida of Yosef Hatzadik.

The Ka’arah – Seder Plate – Malchus – Kingship - The seventh of the lower midos, Malchus, is the expression of all of the powers of the King. All of the other six midos have their own essence. However, Kingship means the King’s ability to channel all of the resources of the Kingdom into practical expression. A King has nothing of hid own. All he can do is tax and collect the resources of the Kingdom. However, his is the most important mida because only through unifying the resources of everyone in the Kingdom can those resources find any kind of powerful expression. So too, the Seder Plate facilitates and enables the expression of the other six midos by supporting them. Even though it does not have its own “unique” personality, it gives meaning and expression to all of the other aspects of the Seder Plate, whose meaning we try to inculcate into ourselves at the Seder.

May it be Hashem’s will that the 10 expressions of Hashem’s light be manifest in our own lives this Pesach through the 10 parts of the Seder!

-Dixie Yid
P.S. For more on this topic, see what was posted today at Revach. See also this article by R. Simon Jacobson, with a HT to Rabbi Brown at Divrei Chaim.
And for the more current and past content at Dixie Yid, click here.

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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Achieving Harmony at the Pesach Seder - Part 3

Guest Post by Rabbi Chaim Morgenstern You can read Part 1 and follow the links till Part 3 HERE.


Practical Advice for Conducting an Organized and Meaningful Family Pesach Seder
Part Three

(Reprinted from the booklet with permission)

By Rabbi Chaim Morgenstern


Keeping the children attentive during the seder is no easy task. The following are some proven methods:

1. Don’t draw out the seder, and keep the seder moving. The Mishna Brura writes that parents should try to hasten the seder so that the children will be awake for the eating of the matza and maror. (472:3, Sha’ar Hatziun #3)
2. Long vorts, discussions or questions that involve lengthy answers should be saved for the meal, as they will cause the younger children to become restless. (If there are guests, they should be informed of this practice beforehand so they do not feel offended).
3. Allow each child to participate by briefly telling the family what he/she learned in school, and ensure that the entire family is listening.

4. Encourage the children to ask and participate by praising and giving treats to a child that asks a good question or says a good vort. If the child asks a question that the parent does not know the answer to, don’t ignore it and carry on from embarrassment. On the contrary, applaud, give the child extra praise and tell him that you’ll either seek an answer afterward or that it’s such a good question, you must ask the rav. This will raise the child’s self-esteem tremendously and encourage him to be more attentive. Don’t forget, each question asked is scoring another win. If a child is shy or too young to ask or say anything, then “At p’sach lo” – the parent must take the initiative and speak to him about the seder.
5. Break the monotony by rotating children who say vorts, singing, asking questions and every so often making attempts to find out where the afikomen is.
6. For toddlers, it is usually best to feed them before the seder and to have them participate for only short periods during the main parts of the seder.
7. Needless to say, parents must do their utmost to be awake and attentive to their children’s vorts and questions. If needed, they should take coffee to stay awake.


Even after trying their utmost to implement the advice presented in this booklet, some parents may still have great difficulty creating a peaceful Shabbos meal or Pesach seder. Often, with large families, there is never a dull moment. One child may be constantly teasing his sibling, while another is making a mess with the food and yet another is singing zemiros at the top of his lungs. Adding to the excitement are the infants, who constantly kvetch to be diapered or fed. This may cause the parents to feel hopeless and struggle to survive it in one piece. Although there are no magic or instant solutions for successful child-raising, the following advice can help parents to better cope with the situation, relieve some of their frustration and be optimistic in achieving success.


The first steps for parents to take are to change their attitude toward their children and have realistic expectations. Often, parents think that theirs is the only family who is disorderly, making them nervous and stricter with their children. This outlook, however, does not work because children often do not respond to nervous and angry parents. Although they may obey their angry or forceful parents, children will not become mechunach by this method. As Rav Wolbe writes, anger and force are not chinuch (Alei Shur, Vol. 1, p. 261). A lively Pesach seder is very common among families with children. Kids are kids, and some take longer to settle down and mature than others. In addition, parents should never compare families or children. Just as some families have an easier time earning a livelihood, some also have an easier time raising their children. And just as one’s livelihood is in the hands of Hashem, so too is the amount of tzar gidul bonim – pain of child-raising – that each parent will experience. This is part of every person’s challenge in life, and is determined by Hashem. When someone asked Rav Avigdor Miller for advice about coping with the difficulties in raising a bunch of noisy children, he replied, “Children are like apartment houses. When one tenant is screaming at the landlord to fix a leaky faucet, and another to repair a burnt wire in one fuse box, the landlord has only one thing in mind – the rent that he will collect at the end of the month. Children are the same – they are your olam haba; you will reap the reward for raising them in olam haba. Focus on this, and their noise will sound like beautiful music.”


Patience is one of the key midos to focus on for success. As Rav Wolbe writes, “Only with limitless patience can parents educate their children” (Alei Shur, Vol. 2, p. 219). Lack of patience is a cause of many problems in family relationships, and it only takes one irritable parent to ruin the atmosphere. The way to be in control of oneself is to expect and prepare for a balagan. Some children will be kvetchy and irritable, while others will shout for attention. Expect some quarreling between siblings and many spilled drinks. Kids are kids, and these are signs of a normal, healthy family. Parents should have realistic expectations and be happy even if, by following the above advice, they have reached only some of their goals for the Pesach seder. With constant effort, parents will, B’ezras Hashem, improve their family Pesach seder. As the saying goes, “The winners are the losers who keep trying.”


After all is said and done and there is still a balagan at the Pesach seder, parents should not forget one of the most important concepts in child-raising – Baruch Hashem, they have healthy children. A childless couple would do anything to have just one healthy child. Crying and kvetching would be music to their ears, and they would not be bothered by a disorderly house caused by their only child. How much more grateful must parents be when Hashem rewards them with a bunch of happy, healthy children. Active children are a sign of a normal home, and parents must be extremely grateful to Hashem for being blessed with a home full of vitality and vibrancy. May we all be zocheh to eat from the Z’vachim and the P’sachim B’Yerushalayim ha’benuyah, bimhayra ve’yameinu amen!

(Picture courtesy of Boris Dubrov,

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My Guest Post at Beyond Teshuva on Leading the Seder as a BT

Beyond Teshuva has reposted my Q&A session from A Simple Jew on leading the Pesach Seder as a Baal Teshuva who was not able to observe FFB seders in his early years. You can read/comment on that posting here:

Beyond BT: Passing It On When You Were Almost Passed Over

-Dixie Yid

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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

EREV PESACH 5768: MATZA ON EREV PESACH - Guest Post by Rabbi Zvi Leshem

Received by e-mail from Rav Zvi Leshem:

Shalom Friends,

By now we are well into the final stages of preparing for Pesach and you can feel the electricity in the air!

I want to share this link with you regarding information about a scholarship fund in memory of the eight martyrs of the attack on Mercaz HaRav.

Having Shabbat on Erev Pesach (which occurred three years ago, but won't occur again for another thirteen years), while presenting us with some special challenges, also gives us the opportunity to really reflect and study about the Korban Pesach and matters of the Seder, as well as having a good nap. Enjoy!

I wish all of us and all of Am Yisrael, especially the kidnapped and missing soldiers and Jonathon Pollard, a true festival of freedom and liberation, physical, emotional, spiritual, national and cosmic.

Shabbat Shalom, Chag Kasher v'Sameach, Zvi

Rav Zvi Leshem

In addition to the mitzva of eating matza on Pesach night[1], it is also forbidden to eat matza on the eve of Pesach.[2]

In a startling Yerushalmi[3] we read Rebbi Levi says: One who eats matza on Erev Pesach is like one who has relations with his betrothed in his father-in-law’s house, and one who does that is whipped. The Korban HaEda explains simply that we are dealing with two cases of people who are impatient and unable to control their desires, so they “jump the gun”. However it should be apparent to anyone with spiritual sensitivity that there is something deeper going on here. The Maharil, in his Hilchot HaHagada, explains, If he eats matza before the night it is as though he had relations with his betrothed in her father’s house which is like having relations with a nida. And the reason is that matza has seven blessings before it and there are also seven marriage blessings.[4] Rav Moshe Feinstein[5] analyzes the connection in light of the fact that matza is permitted before Erev Pesach (although there are customs to refrain for a longer period). Matza before Erev Pesach is similar to a single woman, and on Erev Pesach becomes equal to one’s betrothed. Only at the seder does matza become fully “married” (due to the sheva brachot) and is therefore permissible, just as the bride is forbidden to her betrothed until after the chupa.[6] While Rav Moshe’s explanation deepens our understanding, we are still left with the feeling that these are hints to an even deeper message. What is it?

The Bet Yaacov of Ishbitz[7] explains that there are three stages in the initial relationship between a man and a woman. Before they are betrothed they have no connection whatsoever and therefore there is no desire between them, as one only desires that which belongs to him on some level. When they are betrothed they desire each other, but are forbidden to have relations since they must go through a period of abstinence in order that there eventual union will be meaningful.[8] After the chupa the couple completely unites. In a similar way, matza, before Erev Pesach, has no meaning to the Jew and therefore it is irrelevant how he relates to it. However, on Erev Pesach, by refraining from chametz (the “flip-side” of matza), as well as from matza, one earns the right to “unite” with matza at the seder.[9] During the day of Erev Pesach, the matza is still in “her father’s house”, i.e. in HaShem’s realm, and has not yet been given over to the Jew to enjoy. At the seder, we experience the unity with matza, and they themselves are matza, which hints at the unity we will enjoy with HaShem at the time of the future redemption. Just as unity with ones spouse is only meaningful after a period of intense longing (betrothal and nida), so too unity with HaShem (geula) is only possible after a similar experience (galut). May we merit that our intense longing for HaShem will in fact bring us to the total unity of redemption immediately.[10]

Chag Sameach!

[1] Shemot 12:18.
[2] Rema Orach Chaim 471:2. The Mishna Brura explains that this is so that matza will be eaten at the seder with appetite. This is in addition to the prohibition of chametz on Erev Pesach from the fourth hour.
[3] Pesachim 10:1. For a possible source for this seemingly bizarre comparison see Mishna Pesachim 3:7. See also the Meiri Pesachim 13a, and HaYerushalmi K’Fshuto of HaGra”sh Lieberman here.
[4] The reference is of course to the sheva brachot recited at the chupa. Count the blessings recited from the beginning of the seder and you will find that there are also seven before we actually taste the matza!
[5] Igrot Moshe O.CH. 1:155. The parallel between the bride and matza does not work out in every detail, but that does not detract from the spiritual potency of the comparison as a whole.
[6] It is important to note that before the betrothal any woman is forbidden as znut, pre-marital relations. However once the couple is betrothed, they are considered to be married in many ways, and yet, they have a special prohibition of relations until the final stage of marriage. Before Erev Pesach, explains Rav Moshe, one has no legal connection with matza and eating it is therefore insignificant. However, on Erev Pesach, when many laws of Pesach begin, one does have a “betrothal” relationship with the matza, which therefore becomes prohibited until after the sheva brachot at the seder! I also heard that Rav Soloveitchik said in the name of the Gr”a that the matzot are covered at the seder similar to the veiling of the bride!
[7] In his commentary to the Hagada, Sefer HaZmanim: Erev Pesach.
[8] Abstinence before betrothal doesn’t count, since as we have seen, there is no desire yet. We must lament how far our society has fallen in its norms of morality.
[9] Thus some chassidim eat matza while completely enwrapped in a talit, emulating the cheder yichud. We can now understand the Maharil’s comparison between relations with one’s betrothed and relations with one’s wife who is a nida. In both cases the woman truly “belongs” with her husband; however the time is not yet right. My son, R. Zion, once explained to me that since the night of mikva is compared to the night of the wedding, a woman during nida has the spiritual status of a betrothed woman. See also Mei HaShiloach Part Two, Pesachim, s.v. Tania. See also Rav Zvi Pesach Frank, Mikrai Kodesh Pesach, vol. 2, page 92; Perhaps the comparison is…that one who has relations with his betrothed has annulled ‘the beloved-ness of the first act of relations’, just as the act of eating matza at the seder needs to be particularly beloved.
[10] See the rest of this section of the Bet Yaacov for many other awesome Torahs, such as the parallels between chametz and matza, shamor and zachor, and the names Elokim and HaShem. Elsewhere the Bet Yaacov compares them to naaseh and nishma.

-Dixie Yid

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Cool Pesach Video

It's always fun to try and spot all of the mistakes and the things that they get right, in these Yetziyas Mitzrayim videos. Not sure what the origin is of this film, which movie all of this comes from, or who added in the parts with the Hagaddah at the beginning and at the end.

-Dixie Yid

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“The House of Wine” – A Metaphor from the Song of Songs

Guest Post by Yosef ben Shlomo Hakohen

“The House of Wine” – A Metaphor from the Song of Songs

The “Song of Songs” is an allegorical love song between Israel and Hashem, and this love story is a theme of the Passover Festival. This is why there is a custom to chant the Song of Songs after the Passover Seder. In addition, Ashkenazic Jewish communities chant the Song of Songs on the Shabbos of the Intermediate Days of Passover, and this year, when there is no Intermediate Shabbos, it is chanted on the Seventh Day of Passover. I have attached a recording of a deep nigun which is sung to the following passage from the Song of Songs.

“He has brought me to the house of wine, and His banner upon me is love. Sustain me with dainties, spread out apples around me, for I am sick with love. His left hand is under my head and His right arm embraces me.” (Song of Songs 2: 4-6)

The following are some explanations of the above verses:

1. One of the metaphors for Torah within our tradition is “wine”; thus, the phrase, “He has brought me to the house of wine,” can be understood as a reference to our people being brought to the house of Torah study. The Midrash Rabbah and the Targum therefore interpret this phrase as a reference to Mount Sinai, where we received and studied the Torah.

Another example of wine as a metaphor for Torah is found in the following verse from the Book of Proverbs, where the wisdom of Torah proclaims: “Drink of the wine that I have mixed” (9:5). Why is the Torah compared to wine? Just as wine rejoices the heart, as it is written, “And wine that gladdens a person’s heart” (Psalm 104:15), so too, Torah rejoices the heart, as it is written, “The mandates of Hashem are upright, gladdening the heart” (Psalm 19:9).

The Midrash Tanchuma (Netzavim 3) cites the tradition that all the souls of our people throughout all the generations were present when the Torah was given; thus, each of our souls experienced joy within the “house of wine” on Mount Sinai.

The phrase, “His banner over me was love,” can be understood as a reference to the Torah as a banner of love. In this spirit, the Mishnah teaches that the giving of the Torah to Israel was a great act of love (Pirkei Avos 3:18). In addition, we become betrothed to our Beloved through the giving of the Torah, and our tradition finds an allusion to this idea in the following words:

“Hashem came from Sinai” (Deuteronomy 33:2) – “He went out towards them when they came to stand at the bottom of the mountain, like a groom who goes out to greet the bride.” (Commentary of Rashi, based on the midrashic commentary of the Mechilta, Parshas Yisro 17)

The idea that we are the bride of Hashem is expressed in the following statement where Hashem recalls our willingness to journey into a barren wilderness in order to receive the Torah:

“Thus said Hashem: ‘I recall for you the lovingkindness of your youth, your love as a bride, how you followed Me into the wilderness, into an unsown land.’ ” (Jeremiah 2:2)

2. “Sustain me with dainties, spread out apples around me, for I am sick with love” (2:5). – According to one of the explanations of Midrash Rabbah, Israel is asking her Beloved to sustain her during the difficult exile with comforting teachings and stories, for she is lovesick for her Beloved.

The commentator, Metzudas David, adds another dimension to our understanding of the words, “I am sick with love.” He explains that Israel is seeking courage, strength, and comfort through the return of the Shechinah – the Presence of her Beloved. Israel is therefore saying, “My soul yearns for her.” The Shechinah expresses those Divine attributes that we understand as “feminine” – attributes that enable us to experience the immanence of Hashem.

3. “His left hand is under my head and His right arm embraces me.” The commentator, Rashi, interprets these words in the following manner: Israel, in her exile, recalls the loving Divine support and care during her journey in the wilderness, and these memories cause her to be lovesick for her Beloved.

According to Metzudas David, these words are Israel’s prayer to once again experience the closeness of her Beloved’s Shechinah.

The nigun in this recording was composed by Rabbi Yitzchak Alster, a disciple of Rabbi Yitzchak Hutner, a leading sage who headed the Chaim Berlin Yeshiva. The nigun and the words of this song are on an old record produced by the Chaim Berlin Yeshiva, called, “Torah Lives and Sings!” All the nigunim on this record were composed by Rav Hutner and his disciples. Click here to listen/download Yosef singing this niggun (mp3 format).

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Re'ay V'Anyainu: The Bracha of "B'Charbi U'Vikashti" - Audio Shiur

Here is this past Sunday's Baltimore Community Kollel Chaburah on Tefilla with Reb Yerachmiel.

The topic was the seventh bracha of our daily Shemoneh Esrei: Re'ay V'Anyainu: The Bracha of "B'Charbi U'Vikashti".

Reb Yerachmiel discusses the hidden reality that each and every Yid is armed with the "sword and bow & arrow" of "Ha'Kol Kol Yaakov" which are Torah and Tefillah. He focuses on how we can best consciously use these weapons to eradicate the "chametz" and rishus in the spiritual and physical worlds all around us and even inside of us.

CLICK HERE - Left click to listen to the shiur. Right click and select "Save Target As" to download the wav file of this shiur for your computer or mp3 player.

-Dixie Yid

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Monday, April 14, 2008

The Office Exodus - A Short Film

You can watch the video here:

-Dixie Yid

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Achieving Harmony at the Pesach Seder - Part 2

Guest Post by Rabbi Chaim Morgenstern - You can read Part 1 HERE


Practical Advice for Conducting an Organized and Meaningful Family Pesach Seder

Part two

(Reprinted from the booklet with permission)

By Rabbi Chaim Morgenstern


Several pre-seder preparations can help make the seder run more smoothly:

1. Review the halachos of the seder, for example, when to cover the matzos and hold the cup, the requirements for drinking the four kosos and eating the matza, the halachos of the afikomen, etc.

2. Prepare pre-measured kezaisim of matza and maror for each person.

3. Have the proper size cups for the four kosos.

4. Organize the seating arrangement (separate rival siblings).

5. Require the entire family to take naps on erev Pesach.

6. Distribute nuts and other treats to the younger children (Shulchan Aruch O.C., 472:16).

7. Each child should have a haggada that will keep his interest during the seder; the smaller children should have illustrated haggados and the older ones should have haggados with commentaries suited for their age.

8. Start on time (Shulchan Aruch ibid, #1).

Chinuch Techniques:

The Seforim write that a father has a unique divine power on the night of Pesach to inspire his children with lasting emunah in Hakadosh Boruch Hu (Yalkut Lekach Tov, Hagada Shel Pesach, p.43). Therefore, even if one’s children already know the stories of yetziyas Mitzrayim, the father should make every effort to retell them enthusiastically. The Torah states that Hashem performed the ten plagues in Egypt “Le’ma’an te’saper be’oznei vincha u’ven bincha,…” so that we will relate to our sons and our son’s sons how Hashem smote the Egyptians (Shemos 10:2). Why are our grandchildren mentioned? The answer is, that when we tell our sons about the miracles in Mitzrayim, the story must penetrate with such an impact that our sons will be able to pass what we tell them to their sons. To accomplish this, Rav Dessler writes that we can learn chinuch guidelines from the way Chazal formulated the Hagada (Michtav M’Eliyahu Vol.4, p. 239).

The following are some examples:

1. Encourage the child to ask questions. Chazal realized that the best way for children to retain information is through question and answer. This is why the seder starts with the four questions and requires that certain actions throughout the seder be “Kedai she’yishalu hatinokos” – in order that the young children should ask (Shulchan Aruch O.C, 473:6, Mishna Brura, 471:50). Therefore, the father should prepare stories or questions that will stimulate the children’s minds. An interesting insight into this concept is the seder night minhag among some Chassidim to light a “Ma Nishtana candle,” which is larger and burns longer than the other yom tov candles. The purpose of this minhag is to create curiosity among the children to ask why this night is different than all other nights. In addition, Chazal say that Hashem lit up the night the Jews left Egypt. Therefore, the candle, which symbolizes light, actually symbolizes the light of the night of yetziyas Mitzrayim (B’nei Yissaschar, Nissan, 5th ma’amer #21, Va’yaged Moshe, ch. 6 # 2).

2. Dramatize the seder. Children learn more from what they see then from what they hear. (This is why role modeling plays such a vital part in a child’s chinuch). Rav Chaim Friedlander remarks that the Haggada was formulated in a manner to illustrate (lehamchish) the events of yetzias Mitzrayim. For example, the charoses is a thick mixture to simulate the texture of the clay that the Jews worked with. The cinnamon sticks represent the straw that they put into the bricks, and the red wine is a reminder of the spilled blood of the Jews. The salt water represents the tears that the Jews shed because of the Pharoh’s oppression. We eat maror to feel the bitterness of the slavery, and we recline as a symbol of freedom (Sifsei Chaim, Moadim, vol. 2, p.357).There is also a minhag of placing the afikomen on one’s shoulder to commemorate the dough that was on the Jews’ shoulders when they left Egypt (Mishna Brura, 471:59). Also, in the section “Raban Gamliel omer,” we lift the matza and maror when saying “Matza zu” and “Maror zeh” (Shulchan Aruch O.C., 473:7, Mishna Brura ad loc). The following are some suggestions for dramatizing the Jews’ hard labor and demonstrating some of the plagues: a) Pass around some freshly grated horseradish to sniff (the irritating effect will give the feeling of how bitter the slave labor was). b) Make a horrible-tasting red liquid to simulate drinking blood. c) Toss around rubber frogs and insects when saying the plagues. d) Yelling, “Where’s Moshe, where’s Moshe?” to simulate Pharoh’s desperate cry during makas bechoros. (Rav Friedlander also notes that the Rambam’s version of the Haggada text is “Chayav adam le’haros es atsmo ke’eelu yatza meMitzrayim” (Hilchos Chametz U’Matza, ch.7 # 6 ). This means that one is obligated to show himself as if he had gone out of Mitzrayim and implying that one must do various acts to demonstrate the feeling of yetziyas Mitzrayim.)

3. Prepare appropriate divrei Torah. One of the most essential factors necessary to conduct a meaningful seder is to ensure that the divrei Torah be diversified to correspond to the intellectual levels of the different children. Only then will they be properly understood and have long-lasting effects. This is obvious from the pasuk, “Chanoch l’na’ar al pi darko…” (Mishlei 22:6) – educate a child according to his way, as well as the reason for the different answers given to the four different sons.

4. Keep the vorts short and to the point. The section of “Dayeinu” is divided into individual parts to teach us that we should explain each concept separately. Children have short attention spans, and unless the father is telling a story, they will probably start to daydream if the vort is too long.

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Friday, April 11, 2008

R'ay V'Anyainu Part 2 - Explanation and Translation - Audio Shiur

Here is this past Sunday night's Baltimore Community Kollel Chaburah in Tefillah from Reb Yerachmiel. Due to the big simchas (Baby Girl! [Only Simchas]), the shiur is coming out a bit late this week, so big applogies.

Part 2 of our limud of berchas "Re'ay V'Anyainu" in Shemoneh Esrei, in which Reb Yerachmiel discussed the importance of this bakasha as our main tefillah for success, safety and "geula" within galus, as well as the hint of a varying kavanah in this bracha. The Chaburah also began teitching-up (translating) the words, which are our holy ammunition in this final galus.

You can listen to the shiur now by "left clicking" or downloading it by "right clicking" and selecting "Save Target As" AT THIS LINK.

-Dixie Yid

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Thursday, April 10, 2008

"Morning Niggun" Composed by Yosef

This simple and lively nigun came to me in Eretz Yisrael, after a session of Torah study. It was an expression of the new life that I experienced studying Torah in Eretz Yisrael.

I later began to sing the words of the morning Modeh Ani prayer to this nigun, and I also sing the Shabbos song Yonah Matzoh to this nigun.

This lively nigun reminds me of the following prophecy of comfort:

"Youths may weary and tire; young men may constantly falter, but those whose hope is in Hashem will have renewed strength; they will grow wings like eagles; they will run and not grow tired; they will walk and not grow weary." (Isaiah 40: 30,31)

Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen

P.S. The other voice which is softly heard in the background is the voice of my dear friend, Yosef Chaim Goldenberg, a fellow Kohen

-Dixie Yid

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Getting to Know Rav Tzvi Mayer - Anonymous Guest Post

(Bonus Feature: Nossi Gross, of Zemer Orchestra in Baltimore, has supplied us with a 90 second mp3 from a shiur given by Reb Tzvi Mayer regarding the days between Purim and Pesach. In Nossi's words, Reb Tzvi Mayer's fire could help burn the chametz out of you in under two minutes. DOWNLOAD HERE!)

There are many people who have been zocheh to meet Rav Tzvi Meyer Zilverberg. All of those who have met him know that words can explain only a fraction of his purity and fiery passion in his avodas Hashem. You must see and witness Rav Tzvi Meyer in order to understand. However, I will do my best in this short piece to explain some general information as well as some of my personal encounters with him.

Shalosh Seudos - It is a few minutes until the end of Shabbos, the room is pitch black and scores of yidden from all backgrounds crowd the table to get closer to the tzaddik. Some people are shuckling. Others are crying, with all emotions erupting as if it were ne'ilah. Time has stopped. Direction and purpose have kicked in. We all stand around and listen to Rav Tzvi Meyer mamish pour out his heart for close to 2 hours. (There are translators.)

Sometimes it is hard to understand him because he has more words to speak than breath in his lungs. Time and time again he repeats "The amount of nachas ruach which the Eibishter gets from us, from one little good deed in these terrible times during ikvisa d'mishicha, is so great and unfathomable." "These are the last few moments before Mashiach, he is knocking on the door." His belief and feeling for the coming of Mashiach are so inspiring that they instill a breath of fresh air into all of the people listening and who are going through tough times.

Rav Tzvi Meyer bangs on the table, crying, sighing and constantly giving shvach to us and all the yidden for making Hashem so happy. "If you have one white dot (positive thought) surrounded by many black dots (negative thought) as long as you stare at the white dot, the rest will suddenly disappear."

He says that we have to be heilig shmattas. Whats the vort? We have to be humble like a shmattah but we cannot let that ruin our self esteem so we always have to act with kedusha and realize our greatness. Rav Tzvi Meyer says that in other generations we had to put ourselves down in order to be anavim. However, in these rough times, moments before Mashiach, much of our avoda is to feel good about ourselves and raise our sprits up. He says that each of us, by working on our struggles in this world, are in fact building our own section of the Beis Hamikdash in Shamayim. And we should feel great about our efforts because of what even the smallest effort is accomplishing.

After the shmooze we all get up, no matter how different their hashkafah or clothing, lock hands, and begin to sing and dance in a circle. Eyes closed, dark room, everyone is full of intense emotion. One niggun after the next. Jumping up and down. Koh Echsof is my favorite.

After the singing and dancing, we all stand in line to chop a bracha and personal word of chizuk. I will tell you something funny. My friend convinced me to go, and I wasn't so religious, plus I heard it was in the dark so I decided to wear boots, blue sweatpants and a jacket. All of the sudden the lights come on after we dance and there I am, enough color to blind the black and white room. I believe I felt a little awkward, but once I saw the face of a tzaddik, all internal negativity stopped. He looked at me with a smile which knows no end. A smile which a million dollars can't buy and a million words can't explain. He grabs my hand, didn't let go and starts shmoozing with me as many people are in line waiting. His smile becomes bigger, his eyes open and light up, and his hand clings mine even tighter. He saw nothing but my true self. Not the clothing, not the hair, nothing! My neshama is what he saw. And that is why Rav Tzvi Meyer is Rav Tzvi Meyer. I have heard from great people that he does not belong in this generation, and he is a true gift for us.

One time at the Boston shul in Har Nof for an English speech. I noticed him leave his car to enter the building so I stayed close by. He practically ran in, as he always rushes to do mitzvos, heading towards the bathroom. He was holding a stack of seform at the time and wanted to place them down but there was no place right there. I was right next to him and he looked at me, and with a true internal conflict, I saw his desire to give me the seforim and make me feel good about helping a tzaddik but at the same time since he is so humble he didn't want anyone serving or helping him. For a short second I watched this back and forth within himself. I ended up having the zchus to hold them, and even to walk them all the way to the front for him.

During his stand-up shmoozes his arms were flying; left, right, up and down. He is leaping and jumping off of the ground. He cannot contain himself as his neshama is yearning to get closer to Shamayim. He walked so quickly into the shmooze but when he left, no matter how busy he is, he always gave everyone that smile, handshake and all the time in the world.

Afterwards, my friend asked him if he and his friend could get a ride back with him and chop a shmooze in the car. Of course he replied "yes," as he is so sensitive to others and didn't want to hurt his feelings by saying no. After my friend entered the car Rav Tzvi Meyer looked at me and asked, "Are you coming?", assuming that I was the friend. I happened to have been the friend but had a rental car I needed to return so I had to sadly decline the invitation.

From his experience on that ride back, my friend told me a life changing story. The whole ride back Rav Tzvi Meyer was sitting on a wooden board (not sure why, but I heard that it was because of a chashash shatnez). The whole ride back, he was on the phone and crying his eyes out. He seemed to be completely a wreck. The whole way home, my friend was sitting there right next to him. He asked Rav Tzvi Mayer, afterward, what was going on. He answered that there was a little boy in America on the phone who was sick with an illness. The sensitivity that Rav Tzvi Meyer has for all of klal yisroel, and the pain he feels is literally beyond us. He is so connected to Hashem, yet so giving in this world.

A friend of mine was at one of his shmoozes when he asked to take a picture with him. At that time Rav Tzvi Meyer was on the phone with his father and he felt bad saying "no," but made it known that he was fulfilling the mitzvah of kibud av va'em so as not to offend this bochur. He told him to come tomorrow to take a picture. My friend called the shamash and he said that there is no way that it would work out to take the picture that next day because Rav Tzvi Meyer needs to be at a bais din, a bris, a wedding etc. My friend decided to go to wait by his personal bais medrish the next day, and lo and behold, five minutes later comes Rav Tzvi Meyer. He told my friend "I could write a megilah on what happened today and the hashgacha pratis; How I got here and there etc." He asked my friend why he was here, and my friend replied "because when you told me yesterday that you would let me take a picture I knew that Hashem wouldn't let a tzaddik lie." It is true, and Hashem altered the day for this.

On Purim there were Jews of all backgrounds dancing together. Rav Tzvi Meyer started switching people's kipahs and hats. A streimel on this guys head, a kipah srugah on that guys head etc. He noted that we are all yidden and that no clothing will change that.

My friend told Rav Tzvi Meyer that he would send a stretched limo to pick him up in order to bring him to speak at his yeshiva. Rav Tzvi Meyer said that he would rather take a horse and buggy. He simply doesn't care about material things. He lives on a spiritual plain, yet he relates to all of us and believes in all of us.

There is so much more to say. If I understand correctly, he made sure, after crying for so long in the car, to totally wipe away the sadness from his face, in order not to affect anyone negatively or disrupt his shalom bayis.

When he is at a shmooze with other gedolim, even if he is greater than they are, he humbles himself and praises the other one.

Like I said in the beginning, the only way to chop a little bit of what Rav Tzvi Meyer has to offer is by experiencing him yourself.

Thank you for reading. Thank you to the ba'al ha-Website for allowing this
and thank you to Hashem for everything including the experience and bringing these memories to the forefront of my mind.

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It's Hard to Grown When You're Still Holding On...

From Memo to Self by Ruth Lewis:


I have been as one
who tovels
while clutching,
many lizards.
Loathsome, lurid green,

As one truly seeking purity
but unable to unpry my
stiff, reluctant fingers
from those long-tailed,

Spiny, slimy,
slick, sick,

But now,
slowly, slowly,
I unpry my still-stiff fingers,
one by one.
At long last, loosening my hold,
letting go of my beloved lizards
one by one,
learning to live life
and pure.

-Dixie Yid

(Picture courtesy of gregandsarina)

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Wednesday, April 9, 2008

"Someday" by MBD - Reminds Me of My NCSY Days!

-Dixie Yid

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Shlepping out a Shtikel Hisbodedus

From Memo to Self by Ruth Lewis

Just At First

It's hard to speak words of faith
just at first.
They seem to catch in the throat,
to sit there and congeal into a lump,
seem to wedge themselves in the teeth,
become entangled between teeth and tongue,
alien intruders in the mouth,
unfamiliar-tasting as a foreign dish.
You think, Who am I - so far from perfect faith -
to speak such words?

You think, Who am I - so far from living up to this -
to speak such words?

You think, Others who are great
don't say such things
You think a lot of things.
It's hard to speak words of faith just at first.
What do you expect?
It's a new exercise,
bound to be uncomfortable,
straining muscles never used.
Just at first.
Then, a dam bursts inside,
and everything flows.

How to do Hisbodedus:


Waiting for the school bus.
"Look, Mommy! A balloon!"
A red balloon
floating above the buildings.
It disappears from view.
"It went to Heaven,"
he informs me.

"Let's daven to the Eibeshter,"
I say.
"Let's send our words up to Heaven like balloons-
red, blue, yellow, purple..."

He laughs.
The idea appeals to him.
We daven:
"Thank you, Eibeshter,
that I'm a Yiddishe yingele.
Thank you that I'm learning chumash...
Lookk Mommy!" He points to the air.
"There go our balloons!"

"What will the Eibeshter do
with all the balloons
that the Yidden send him?"
I ask.

He considers.
"He'll be happy with them!"

-Dixie Yid

(Picture courtesy of insideview)

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Tuesday, April 8, 2008

My Question & Answer Session With ASJ on Pesach

My answer to a Q&A at A Simple Jew is up and available for your reading pleasure. In it, I discuss some of the issues of leading a Pesach seder and keeping the minhagim of Pesach as a Baal Teshuva. So click on over!

A Simple Jew asks:

Do you have an easy time relating to Pesach? How has your understanding and appreciation of this yom tov evolved over time?

Dixie Yid Answers...

-Dixie Yid

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Gerim/Converts Are Often More Meticulous in Mitzvos - Guest Post by Rabbi Micha Golshevsky

We find on today's daf (Pesachim 91b) that one may not assemble a chaburah entirely of converts; their meticulousness in mitzvah observance might lead them to disqualify the korban unnecessarily. ("אין עושין חבורה שכולה גרים שמא ידקדקו בו ויביאוהו לידי פסול") Rav Tzaddok HaKohen zt"l (Machshavas Charutz pg. 85a & 84b) explains that this why both the written and oral Torah were built on the foundation of converts. Ma'amad Har Sinai is recounted in Parshas Yisro, and Yisro was the "father" of all future converts; similarly, Rabbi Akiva who was the descendant of converts is the foundation of the oral Torah. The ger personifies absolute self-sacrifice for Hashem and His Torah from pure love, for he has freely chosen to abandon a carefree worldly existence for the demands of fulfilling the Will of Hashem.

After coming into contact with the Torah and sincerely devout Jews in France, young Count Potocki became convinced that he could no longer remain a Catholic. He studied with great devotion, and eventually went to Amsterdam and converted; in time, he assumed the name Avraham ben Avraham. After some travel, he settled outside of Vilna, but one day he was informed upon to the authorities. He had long been sought for the "crime" of conversion, and was quickly arrested; the entreaties of his mother and friends failed to induce him to abandon the Torah. After a long imprisonment and a trial for heresy, he was left to await execution. The Vilna Gaon zt"l sent a message to him secretly:

"I am prepared to save you through a mofes, a miracle brought about by manipulating the Divine Name. Will you allow me to do it for you?"

Avraham ben Avraham sent his bold response back to the Gaon: "I do not wish to be saved—I accept the Will of Hashem, and I will gladly die for the sake of His Name!" The ger tzedek of Vilna was burned at the stake on the second day of Shavuos. Like Rabbi Akiva, he left this world filled with joy to do the Will of his Creator—both living examples of the greatness of converts!

-Micha Golshevsky

(Picture courtesy of wikipedia)

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Mazel tov! And Shiur by Rav Shmuel Brazil on Yedidus and Pesach

Mazel tov to Reb Yerachmiel!!!! Yesterday morning, his wife gave birth to a baby girl. May she grow up to be a Bas Yisroel, a Bas Torah and a Bas Aliya!

Here is a shiur I received from Reb Yerachmiel by Rav Shmuel Brazil, of Yeshivas Shor Yoshuv in Far Rockaway, NY, on the topic of Yedidus and Pesach/Yetziyas Mitzrayim.

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 James)

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Monday, April 7, 2008

Sfashkenaz - Music Video from Oorah Album - Really Cute!

HT to Gruntig

-Dixie Yid

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And From My Students, I Have Learned the Most - Funny Video!

ומתלמידי יותר מכולם

HT to The Michtavim Blog

-Dixie Yid

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Pizza Delivery Tipping, נהמא דכיסופא, Orlah, & Freeloading

Rav Moshe Chaim Luzzato, in Derech Hashem I:2:2, lays out one of the central pillars upon which our understanding of the purpose of life is based. There, after he discusses the concept that Hashem created mankind in order to give good to another, and that since that good must ultimately be a connection to Hashem Himself, the only perfect good, he teaches something more about the form of that goodness. It must be a goodness which is earned, where the recipient of that good is the master of it, who has "earned" it to some extent or another.

This is the concept of "נהמא דכיסופא," the "bread of humiliation," found in the Zohar. Receiving a free gift, without doing anything in return, is called "the bread of humiliation" because one feels embarrassed that he does not stand on his own, but has to "freeload" on someone else. Even though one is receiving something that he wants, the good has a bad taste in his mouth because it comes with the humiliation that he is a "free rider." This is why Hashem's wisdom decreed that we must do something to "earn" the ultimate good, Deveikus with Hashem.

The Gemara (Yerushalmi Orlah 1:3 (Daf 6a))says that "דאכיל מן חבריה בהית מסתכל ביה," "one who eats the bread of his friend is embarrassed to look at his face."

The Gemara discusses the halacha of Orlah, the prohibition of eating the first three years' fruits of a tree. The basis of the isur is the concept that when a Orlah tree is growing too close to another tree without the Isur of Orlah, when the non-Orlah tree derives its nutrition from the Orlah one, then this is the case where the Torah forbids that plant. And from this halacha, we can see the concept of נהמא דכיסופא as well. When the non-Orlah plant's leaves are facing the Orlah plant, then it is known that it must not be receiving any sustenance from the Orlah plant since it is not embarrassed to face it. But when it's leaves are facing away from the Orlah plant, it is known that it is indeed receiving sustenance from the Orlah plant, and it is because of the humiliation of receiving free sustenance, that it faces away from the Orlah plant. ("ואם דבר בריא שהוא חי מכח הילדה דבר הכל אסור...כיצד הוא יודע רבי ביבי בשם רבי חנינה אם היו העלים הפוכין כלפי הילדה דבר בריא שהוא חי מכח הזקנה ואם היו העלים הפוכין כלפי הזקנה דבר בריא שהוא חי מכח הילדה.")

One other mashal, analogy, to understand this concept came to me one time when my parents were visiting. We ordered pizza to be delivered to the house for dinner one night. The delivery guy looked really down, but when my Dad gave him a relatively generous tip, he really perked up and is spirits really improved. It got me to thinking about the different ways people react to receiving a "free gift."

Would I get the same reaction if I saw a friend at work who looked like he wasn't so happy and I handed him a twenty dollar bill and said, "Here you go man. You're looking down. Hopefully this will cheer you up!"? Probably the guy would think that I was nuts and wouldn't even accept the money. And the process certainly would not make him happier.

However, when you give someone a tip, it does cheer them up. What's the difference? In both cases, you don't have to give the person any money. In the case of the pizza delivery guy, the pizza is already paid for separately. The only difference is that your friend at work has done nothing to earn those twenty dollars, whereas the pizza delivery guy has done something to "earn" it. That's why receiving the money makes him feel good and not the opposite.

I like this mashal because I think the idea of a tip is more comparable to our reward from Hashem than the idea of one's salary from his job. In the case of a tip, one is doing some work in exchange for the tip. But the giving of the tip is still a gift that comes from the generosity of the giver, since it is not required. Similarly, Hashem is still giving us the perfect good, Deveikus with Him, through his beneficient nature. However, the good is perfect and not subject to the deficiency of being נהמא דכיסופא, a free gift, since we have done some avodas Hashem, some service of Hashem "in exchange" for the goodness Hashem gives us.

May we merit to do our utmost to serve Hashem and thereby increase the pleasure we get from Deveikus to Him!

-Dixie Yid

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Sunday, April 6, 2008

One Must First Know Himself in Order to Know Hashem

In Oros Hateshuva 15:9, Rav Kook says that as long as a person does not know his true, inner self, then he will be filled with confusion and uncertainty.

According to my rebbe's explanation of this idea in Rav Kook, a person cannot connect to Hashem, achieve Deveikus with Hashem, if he does not first really know himself. This is so because when one is trying to connect himself with Hashem, but if he does not know who he himself is, then how can he know whom he is actually connecting to Hashem?!

A person may collect many thousands of mitzvos. He can do a chessed here. Learn a Torah there. Daven a little here. And do a little hisbodedus there. But in the end, all he has is a random collection of good things. What he lacks is any nekuda merkazis, any central point, which unifies and directs all of his avodah. He has no briach hatichon which brings together all of the disparate parts of his life and himself that allows him to build the mishkan in his heart.

The person doesn't work on himself "derech binyan," the way one builds a building; step by step with one step built upon the one before. Rather, he is just chapping mitzvos whenever he feels the desire to do so.

The key to connecting to Hashem, then, is first to know yourself. Only by knowning one's true self can one know Hashem. My rebbe compared it to a journey whereby one gets to know his own neshama, his own true self, by going through a series of doors, that lead to deeper and deeper levels within himself. Each door that he enters represents truer and deeper levels of knowing himself better. But when he gets to the last door, what is written on it? "The Ribbon Kol Olamim, Baruch Hu." "The Master of All Worlds, Blessed is He." Memeila, automatically, when one understands himself, then every door he opens within himself ultimately leads to Hashem, the Chelek Elokah Mima'al Mamash, the neshamah of all neshamos, the Soul that animates all souls.

Learning exactly how to acquire this self knowledge is the subject of the Bilvavi Mishkan Evneh Sefer. But in particular, the new sefer by the same author, Da Es Atzmecha, focuses on acquiring this self knowledge that is key to achieving closeness with Hashem.

IY"H, with these resources, we should be zocheh to know ourselves and, thereby, to know Hashem.

-Dixie Yid

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