Friday, October 31, 2008

Pre-Conversion Soul Status - Continued -

Hashgacha Pratis is awesome. You may recall yesterday's discussion about the status of a Ger's soul before conversion. One comment in particular, made by Alexander, from the V = I·R blog, quoted an idea in Lessons in Tanya (Ch. 1), that “[i]t should be noted that among the nations of the world there are also to be found those whose souls are derived from kelipat nogah [just like Jewish nefesh ha’bahamis]. Called ‘the pious ones of the nations of the world’, these righteous individuals are benevolent not out of selfish motives but out of a genuine concern for their fellow.”

I found this particularly interesting because it seemed to contradict the teachings of the Gemara Bava Basra 10b on the pasuk in Mishlei 14:34 which says , "וחסד לאומים חטאת כל צדקה וחסד שאומות <עובדי כוכבים> {העולם} עושין חטא הוא להן שאינם עושין אלא להתגדל בו ." "[And the verse,] 'the kindness of the nations is a sin' means that all of the charity and kindness that the nations do is a sin because they only do it for the prestige."

The line in Lessons in Tanya, quoted above, was commenting on the first chapter of Tanya where the Alter Rebbe says the following in regard to this topic:

כי בישראל נפש זו דקליפה היא מקליפ' נוגה שיש בה ג"כ טוב ... משא"כ נפשות אומות עובדי גלולים הן משאר קליפות טמאות שאין בהן טוב כלל כמ"ש בע"ח שער מ"ט פ"ג וכל טיבו דעבדין האומות עובדי גלולים לגרמייהו עבדין וכדאיתא בגמרא ע"פ וחסד לאומים חטאת שכל צדקה וחסד שאומות עובדי גלולים עושין אינן אלא להתייהר

In the Jewish people, this soul [the animalistic soul] comes from Klipas Nogah, which also has some good... This is not the case with the souls of the nations, [whose animalistic souls] come from Sha'ar Klipos temeos, which have no good in them at all, as it says in Eitz Chaim, 49th Gate, 3rd chapter, 'and all good things that the nations do, they do for their own sake, as it says in the Gemara [referenced above] on the verse 'And the kindness of the nations is a sin,' that the nations act, but only to aggrandize themselves.

Amazingly, this morning, only the day after this whole discussion about this topic that we had yesterday, I went to a shiur by my rebbe on Mevo Hashe'arim (found at the end of Hachsharas Ha'avreichim, by Reb Klonymous Kalman Shapiro, the holy Aish Kodesh. On page 243 (I think), he was discussing this exact topic in a footnote! I used the opportunity to as my rebbe the question I had based on this seeming contradiction between what the Lessons in Tanya said (presumably in the name of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, zt"l) and what the Tanya its self brought down from the Gemara and sefer Eitz Chaim.

I asked him, "I heard in the name of the Lubavitcher Rebbe that there are exceptions to the general rule, and that there are some goyim whose nefesh habahamis comes from Klipas Nogah, and that they are able to do pure chesed for the sake of others. Did I misunderstand what I heard?"

He answered that no, I did not misunderstand. But that this was a major topic in Kabbalah and that he wasn't capable, nor were we, without that background, capable of understanding the inyan properly right now. But as a rosh perek, headline, he said that the Lubavitcher Rebbe was speaking with regard to something found in the Kisvei Ari z"l, who brought down that there are indeed individuals from certain nations, who have a certain kind of relationship with Klal Yisroel, and Goyim who will become Gerim, who are outside the regular category of a goy, and therefore have a nefesh habahamis rooted in Klipas Nogah, like a Yisroel. He said that lu yitzuyar, it is as if they are not totally goyim (though they aren't Jewish either, obviously).

I found it interesting that this came up right after our whole discussion yesterday. Thanks Yitz and Alexander especially for your comments, and I hope this post clarifies that one point at least from the discussion.

Gut Shabbos, and if you live within driving distance of the Young Israel of Lawrence-Cedarhurst, (corner of Broadway and Cedar Ave. in Cedarhurst), that you won't want to miss the Piaczena Hillulah with Rav Weinberger and Yosef Karduner at 8:30 this Motzoi Shabbos ($10 suggested donation & there is a women's section)!

-Dixie Yid

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NOACH – HIS ARK AND HIS MISSION by Rabbi Chaim Morgenstern


By Rabbi Chaim Morgenstern

I – Noach’s Ark

The ark of Noach was one of the most remarkable phenomena of mankind. At 60 cm. per amah, its dimensions were 600 x l00 x 60 ft., of which only a third housed all the animals, birds and insects. This area was divided into individual compartments to house approximately 25,000 species of birds, 46,000 species of animals and 850,000 species of insects. Including both male and female, the ark housed over 142,000 animals and birds, plus 1,700,000 insects contained in more than 900,000 individual compartments! The Ramban (Breishis 6:19) writes that since even ten arks could not contain this enormous amount of species together with provisions needed for one year, it was a miracle that this “small” ark could contain so much.

1,092 ft. (331 m) - Noach’s ark is almost ½ the size of an aircraft carrier.

Regarding the dinosaurs, the Malbim (ibid 7:23) comments that they perished during the mabul, and their bodies sunk into the depths of the earth, which opened to release the boiling hot waters. The chemistry of their bones and the entire earth was also affected by the intense heat, thus giving them the appearance of being older than they really were. Perhaps the reason for their exclusion from the ark was not only because of their size, but to leave room for error serving to test mankind’s free will whether to believe in the Creator or in the theory of evolution (cf Rashi Shemos 13:2 s.v. Lifnei). The Zohar, (Parshas Noach 62a), relates that Rav Chiya and Rav Yehuda discovered some human bones remaining from the giants who perished in the mabul. One bone took 300 paces to go from end to end, i.e. it was longer than 100 meters! Their entire height was therefore much more than 100 meters making the dinosaurs dwarfs compared to them!

What happened to the ark after the mabul? Josephus writes that it still existed in his time and was shown by the inhabitants of the country where it remained. In the 12th century, the Jewish traveler Binyomin of Tudella reported that one of the Arab rulers built a mosque with the boards of the ark, and on Tisha B’Av the Jews assembled there to pray. Sefer Yuchsin records that the resting site of the ark is still visited and sick people pray there to be healed (quoted in Artscroll Breishis, fn to p.265).

II – Noach’s Mission

Needless to say, caring for this super-size zoo with each animal’s individual needs and feeding schedule was a 24/7 job requiring super human energy, especially with only eight people to do the job. Chazal write that Noach and his family did not sleep during the entire year that they were in the ark, and that this strenuous exertion caused Noach to groan and spit blood. Additionally, when he delayed in bringing food to the lion, the lion bit and maimed him causing him to limp (Midrash Tanchuma 9 cited in Rashi 7:23). Since no other occurrence is recorded of Noach’s negligence, we can assume that this was the only incident of neglect during the entire non-stop feeding schedule in the ark. The obvious question arises: Why was Noach punished for this seemingly minor oversight? A simple explanation is that since the lion and its mate were the only lions left in the world, Noach had to do his utmost to ensure their survival; since if any animal in the ark would die, it would become extinct. Noach was reminded of this by the lion’s bite.

However, by examining Noach’s mission and tikun that he had to accomplish both for himself and for mankind, which was perfection in the mida of chesed, we get a deeper insight into the purpose of the lion’s bite.

Rashi (6:11), quoting Chazal, explains that the dor Hamabul was corrupt with immorality and idolatry. Nevertheless their punishment of annihilation was decreed because of robbery (V. 13). The Ramban explains that this sin is more severe because it is a rational commandment (mitzvah sichli), and a transgression against Hashem and man (bein odom l’Makom and l’chaveiro). They were so corrupt and insensitive to another’s feelings that the entire generation stole from one another (Gur Arye). Rav E. Dessler (Michtav M’Eliyahu vol. p.155) writes that the source of this evil mida comes from the koach hanetilla – each person’s innate desire to take and benefit from another. The Zohar comments that even Noach was guilty of this because he did not properly rebuke or pray on behalf of his generation to try and save them from their punishment. This is why the flood is termed “mai Noach” – the waters of Noach. It is attributed to him because once he was assured of his own survival; he did not seek mercy for the world (quoted in Artscroll Bereishis pp.203,327, and explained in Sichos Mussar, Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz #7). This is termed in Yiddish as “a tzaddik in peltz,” – a tzaddik in a warm fur coat. There are two ways to warm oneself in a cold room: either one can build a fire which benefits everyone present, or put on a fur coat, keeping oneself warm while the others remain cold.)

The destruction of the world was due to robbery motivated by egoism. To become builders of the world, Noach and his family had to cultivate within themselves the traits of chesed, kindness and mercy, i.e. selfless giving – the opposite of selfishness. This was accomplished by tending to all the animals on a continuous round-the-clock schedule for an entire year. The slightest laxity in Noach’s performance of the mitzvah of chesed would create a flaw in the tikun that he had to accomplish while in the ark. His limp, a physical defect (mum), was symbolic of the slight imperfection that was created in the mida of chesed caused by his lateness.

Two important lessons can be learned from the above. Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz (ibid.) stresses the importance of feeling and davening for another person in distress. He notes that even though there were lacking ten righteous people necessary to save the world, nevertheless their plight and fate of destruction should have evoked a feeling of pain, causing Noach at least to pray for them. The fact that he didn’t daven or try to rebuke them was indicative that he felt no sorrow for his generation. When our fellow Jew is in distress, it is our duty to feel his plight and daven for him.

During my kollel years in the Mirrer Yeshiva, there was a period when some avreichim became seriously ill. Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz, struggling in his own failing health, would enter the Bais Hamedrash fifteen minutes before the end of first seder, to address the yeshiva. In his broken voice, he would quote the above Zohar on “mai Noach” and speak about our obligation to daven for their recovery. This was followed by an inspiring recitation of Tehillim by the entire yeshiva.

Another important lesson derived from Noach is how to properly perform the mitzvah of chesed. At times, we tend to either get a bit lazy when giving a helping hand to someone in need, or may refrain altogether from doing chesed out of tiredness of a feeling that we have already fulfilled our share of chesed for that day or week. It is quite obvious that Noach’s continuous and indefatigable acts of chesed performed during his entire stay in the ark will never again be equaled in the annals on history. Nevertheless, he was chastised for a lone incident of being late in feeding the lion. Hashem knew that even under such extenuating circumstances, Noach was able to be the perfect worker, especially when his mission was to make a tikun for the entire world, including himself. Hashem therefore sent him a message reminding him to utilize his full potential.

We should ask and examine ourselves: Are we utilizing our full potential in helping our fellow Jews in need? Are we at least davening for the health and welfare of the sick and disabled and for those that we are physically unable to help?

Note: The obligations towards one’s family (spouse and children) take preference over chesed done out of the home, similar to the laws of tzedaka, where the closest of kin are helped before others. Therefore, parents should not engage in excess chesed activities outside the home until they meet their respective obligations towards their family (Rav Chaim Friedlander, Guide to Chassanim, siyum).

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Thursday, October 30, 2008

Do Pre-Conversion Gerim Have a Jewish Soul Hidden in a Gentile Body?

About a year before I converted, I was talking to a local educator back in Dixie, and I asked him, "I feel Jewish already. Could it be that I already have a Jewish soul, but that it is just in a non-Jewish body right now?" He answered me that he didn't think so, but that when a person converts, he gets a new Jewish neshama.

A Simple Jew pointed me toward an interesting footnote (Page 2, footnote 6) in the English Translation of Sefer Baal Shem Tov on Parshas Lech Lecha AVAILABLE HERE, which was quoting a piece in the Degel Machaneh Ephraim. The translator of the sefer and author of the footnotes, Rabbi Eliezer Shore, wrote that "before their [converts') conversion, their souls are trapped in a gentile body." ***

This seems to be a source for the idea that Gerim have a Jewish soul before they convert, but that it is hidden, or trapped, in a gentile body until that point. Does anyone out there know if this is a chidush or is it an accepted principal? Personally, I felt that this was true before my conversion, but hey, what do I know about the deeper spiritual aspects of reality!? Thanks for any insights!

UPDATE 10/31/08: See my follow up post with more detials on the nature of the non-Jewish soul (both preceeding conversion and not).

-Dixie Yid

*** ASJ found the Sefer Baal Shem Tov's source online. The Degel Machaneh Ephraim that it quoted is available HERE, D"H "Oh Yomar."

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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

My Search for the Soul of Zion - Sephardi Baqashot - Music Download

Courtesy of Yosef Hakohen:

My Search for the Soul of Zion

In honor of the New Month and the approaching Shabbat, I am sharing with you this special article about a sacred genre of Sephardic songs which was written by my brother Kohen, Moshe (Morris) Blanco. I have also attached a recording (mp3 format) of the first song mentioned in this article, “Oh Hashem! In the morning”:

The Sacred “Requests” of the Sephardim

By Moshe Blanco

The Syrian Jewish community takes pride in its treasured custom of singing the baqashot (pronounced ba-qa-showt), an elaborate order of songs traditionally sung on the Sabbath. The poems that make up the baqashot were written by Sephardic sages throughout the ages and express an array of themes including redemption, Zion, G-d’s relationship with the Jewish people, the yearning of the soul, and the Sabbath. Baqashot literally means “requests,” titled as such because most of them express yearning for G-d’s mercy and redemption. Furthermore, due to the influence of Kabbalah in the Middle East during this period, the mystical notion that the early morning is an auspicious time for Divine compassion encouraged a tradition of saying petitionary prayers before dawn. It seems that these early morning “requests” evolved into the baqashot tradition in which communities would arise early on Sabbath mornings to sing.

Judaism views music as a means of expression and elevation. For example, after our ancestors left Egypt and crossed the sea, they spontaneously poured out their emotions through song. Furthermore, the expressive nature of music enables one to become elevated and to uplift others, as we find that the Levites continuously provided musical accompaniment in the Temple and that prophecy was attained through music (I Sam 10:5-7; II Kings 3:11-16). This perspective, as especially emphasized by Kabbalah (Jewish mysticism), served as a springboard for the baqashot. The origins of the compilation of the baqashot and their melodies are somewhat unclear. Expelled from Spain in 1492, where Arabic and Jewish poetry had flourished, Jews spread throughout the Middle East bearing a treasury of artistic literature. It appears that in the 16th century, Rabbi Yisrael Najara of Damascus, the renowned poet and scholar, compiled and originated the custom of singing the baqashot (Mosseri).1 Over time, various scholars and poets contributed to the baqashot, expanding it into a compilation of 66 songs. As opposed to most other genres of Jewish music in which melodies are adapted from secular, non-Jewish songs (e.g. pizmoneem, zemirot etc…), the baqashot tunes are almost entirely Jewish in origin (Kligman, Modes 26).

The singing of baqashot was most prevalent and advanced in Aleppo, Syria (Arking) and it “continues till this very day in Syrian synagogues world over. The participants reach a sublime feeling of fervor and ecstasy” (Shir Ushevaha 3). Benjamin II, a 19th century Romanian Jewish traveler, vividly describes his experience of the Aleppo community and his astonishment at their dedication to the service of G-d. He witnessed hoards of people, laymen and scholars alike, gathered in the synagogues on Friday nights to experience the holiness of the Sabbath by singing this order of soulful songs until the time for the morning prayers arrived. As part of the Aleppo community, I have developed a great love and appreciation for the baqashot and have also witnessed the custom’s dampening. In the Syrian community of Brooklyn, New York, knowledge of the baqashot has waned in recent generations, but efforts are being made to preserve their continuity; certain synagogues host baqashot once or twice a year, inviting community members and hazzanim (cantors) to participate after their Friday night meals for a few hours. Gifted children are being taught from young ages to sing the baqashot and have even been placed in choirs.

The baqashot are sung by some families around their Shabbat tables, and due to their complex melodies and solo sections, those that know them well are highly respected. Nowadays, the baqashot are better known in Israel. Some Sephardic communities in Israel have the custom of singing the baqashot in synagogues after the Friday night meal. Certain changes have been made to the traditional melodies, but most of them are fairly subtle to the average listener. In fact, there are a few synagogues that continue the practice of singing them during the wee hours of Shabbat morning. The synagogue most renowned for its baqashot is the Ades Synagogue of the Aleppo community in the Nahla’ot section of Jerusalem.

About four years ago I attended ‘Ades’ baqashot for the first time. It was a crisp Jerusalem winter night. I got up at two o’clock AM and strolled through the uninhabited streets of Jerusalem that were so quiet I could hear a pin-drop. As I walked up the steps nearing the synagogue, I heard sounds of heartfelt song emanating into the Jerusalem sky. I arrived at the synagogue, and to my surprise, I beheld a mass of people that the room could barely contain – to such an extent that many had to sit on plastic chairs outside. Luckily, I was given a cramped place to sit inside, a cup of Turkish coffee to drink, and a small red book of baqashot with which to sing along.

Some major themes of the baqashot are reflected in the following quotes:

1. Oh Hashem! In the morning I will arrange my prayers to You; in the morning may You also listen to my voice, in Your kindness. Hear my voice! Oh, You Who dwells in the Heavens, listen to my voice every evening, morning, and afternoon; to You I have raised my heart and my eyes; in Your vast kindness may I come to Your abode.

My soul praises G-d at all times; the heart and tongue are connected with a tightly twirled string; He is the creator of all and He supports everything; He formed you and will hold you up. (Ibn Gabirol)

2. In front of Your Greatness I stand and tremble, for Your eyes see all of the thoughts of my heart; what can the heart and tongue accomplish, and what is my strength? My spirit within me. (Ibn Gabirol)

3. Pay attention (place your heart) to your soul. And her (the soul’s) light is like the light of the sun, sevenfold the light of the dawn. Awaken! For every night your soul ascends on high, to give judgment and accounting of its doings, to the Creator of evening and morning. You find it renewed, with purity and enhancement, like a bride adorned with jewelry – every morning. (Author unknown)

4. How honored is this (Shabbat) day from all days! He gave it as an inheritance, the Rock of the worlds, to the nation He chose from the nations – Israel is sanctified to G-d. (R’ Mordekhai Labaton)

5. Because I will guard the Shabbat, G-d will guard me. It is an eternal sign between He and I. ((R’ Abraham Ibn 'Ezra)

6. He on high is mighty and awesome, hidden from all thoughts; may He quickly build the mountain of Zion and bequeath it to the low and poor nation; a day that is complete Shabbat. (R' Abraham Ibn 'Ezra)

7. To Your Temple return and to the Holy of Holies, the place where spirits and souls will rejoice and utter songs and praises – in Jerusalem, city of beauty. (R’ Yisrael Najara)
1. The origin of the baqashot seems to be a matter of dispute; notwithstanding Mosseri’s supported claim that the custom began in Damascus. Shelemay records that the custom began in Tsfat (Safed), while Betesh writes that it began in Spain. Comment: Rabbi Yisrael Najara moved to Tsfat, a city in the north of the Land of Israel, where he became a student of the great kabbalist, the Arizal. He later became the Rav of Gaza.)

Hazon – Our Universal Vision:

-Dixie Yid

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Rav Weinberger Shiur on Making Tefillah More Meaningful

Thanks again to J. Weinberg for pointing this out; Rav Moshe Weinberger gave a shiur at Y.U. back in January on how to make your tefillah more meaningful. You can download the shiur HERE.

-Dixie Yid

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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Hashiva Shofteinu- An Urgent Introduction - Audio Shiur

Here is Reb Yerachmiel's shiur from this past Sunday's Baltimore Community Kollel Tefillah Chaburah!

In this audio shiur, Reb Yerachmiel began the limud of berchas "Hashiva Shofteinu" in Shemoneh Esrei. Not only does Reb Yerachmiel provide a number of important explanations regarding the focus of this bracha, but also, with the backdrop of the upcoming Presidential elections, Reb Yerachmiel explains why we must begin to daven this bracha with an enhanced sense of urgency, even those of us fortunate enough to be in galus America.

CLICK HERE to either listen to the shiur online now by left clicking or by right clicking and selecting "save target as" to download.

-Dixie Yid

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Bilvavi Author's Shiur on Holding on to the Chagim Now Online

CLICK HERE to listen to the shiur that Rav Itamar Shwartz, the author of the Bilvavi Mishkan Evneh seforim gave on Sunday, in Ramat Beit Shemesh, on how to conduct one's self after the Chagim, in order to hold on to their roshem.

Here is a summary of the shiur. Tune in!

Holding onto the Chagim

In our tefillos on Yom Tov, we ask Hashem to enable us to carry with us the blessing of the moadim (holidays). This means that we have achieved something on the mo’ed, and we must carry it with us. What is it that we have achieved, and how do we keep it?

On chol hamo’ed (the intermediate days), we are limited in the work that we can do. We only take care of Yom Tov needs, or attend to urgent matters in order to avoid a financial loss. The simple reason for this is that we are supposed to use our time for Torah study. But it is more than a matter of having more free time. If we are focused less on this world, we have more peace of mind to concentrate on Torah and spiritual matters.

On those days, in many places, most stores are closed, so you cannot buy many things, and there is a feeling of calm in the streets. This detachment from the world is the blessing of the mo’ed, for it gives us the calmness needed for our spiritual growth.
The Ramban writes that the days between Pesach and Shavuos are like chol hamo’ed. To take the blessing with us all year, though, we should treat the entire year like the intermediate days between the mo’adim. We should not be overly involved in this world, but relate to it only as needed for the short term. We should not be so focused on long-term desires.

The holidays are called the three regalim, literally meaning “three legs.” Just as the world stands on the three pillars of Torah, worship of Hashem, and kindness, so should we stand on the three legs of the holidays. They should give us support to survive throughout the year.

In our Yom Tov tefillah, we also mention that we have become distant from our land. Why do those of us who live in the Land of Israel need to say that? The reason is that we are not able to benefit here as we could in the times of the Bais HaMikdash. A Jew used to really sense the Presence of Hashem on the mo’ed, and it is not as easy now. Yet we must try our best, and one can, with effort, achieve some connection to Hashem on the mo’ed, and this is also part of the blessing of the mo’ed.

We must evaluate what we have received from the holidays, so that we can see what we can carry along the rest of the year. Hopefully, we all benefited from Succos and Shmini Atzeres. But certainly, everyone reached some higher level on the Yamim Nora’im (Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur). We were uplifted in some way, but without an effort now, we will be like someone who was on a plane and came back to earth. G-d forbid, we can lose the entire effect of those special days.

In Kelm, the custom was that each tenth day, counting from Yom Kippur, people would spend the day thinking about how to improve and evaluating if they were faithful to their new commitments. We must do this at least for a few minutes regularly. Really, we must spend a few minutes each day to make sure we are living properly, as the Ramchal says in Derech Etz Chaim. But if we don’t spend time at least once a week or every ten days to examine ourselves, there is very little hope that next Rosh HaShanah we will be any better then we are now.

Write down the commitments you made to Hashem on the Yamim Nora’im. Then, you must regularly check what you wrote to see if you are remaining faithful to the commitments. In this way, you can carry the blessings of the holidays and hope to grow this year.
-Dixie Yid

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Monday, October 27, 2008

Where to Focus When Adults Go Off the Derech

I read Rabbi Harry Maryles' post at Emes V'Emunah yesterday about adults who go off the derech. K'darko bakodesh, Rabbi Maryles focuses on the valid problems within the frum community as reasons for this happening, when it does. However, when we have negative experiences with other frum Jews, we, as individuals, must look to ourselves, rather than at others when "deciding" to keep or abandon frumkeit.

I have noticed a common personality trait in the majority of the few adults that I have known who have become "less frum." That trait is negativity. And it shows its self long before it manifests its self in lower levels of observance. Some people have a personality whereby they seem to have a reverse-Azamra personality. They seem to see the negativity and the cynical side in anything and anyone.

I first met one friend of mine, who is slowly sliding in that direction, by the washing station on the way into davening one time on Shabbos. In his very first words to me, he commented to me that he thought the Shul was transgressing lifnei iver, causing people to sin, by having a washing station faucet that could give both hot and cold water, even on Shabbos. He's a nice guy but ever since that time, I have consistently noticed this trait in him showing its self again and again.

I think when someone always sees the negative side of things, they are much more turned off than others would be when they experience actual or perceived slights coming from other frum people. Over time, this leads to a greater cynicism toward Yiddishkeit its self. Since, in such people's minds, Yiddishkeit has produced the negativity that they always see in others, Yiddishkeit must be defective too.

While we should recognize and correct our own negative traits that hurt other people, we should not lose focus on the internal midos of those people who are prone to go "off the derech." Just as we do our community a disservice if we ignore our own faults that drive people away, we do also those people a disservice as well if we validate their false belief that their decision to leave the path is only due to "other people's problems," but not due to their own internal faults.

IY"H, we should see the time soon where we are zocheh to all correct our faults and when we only make a Kiddush Hashem to ourselves and to others, b'vias Goel Tzedek bimeheira veyameinu.

UPDATE: See also, Little Frumhouse on the Praire's very poignant response to Rabbi Maryles' and my posts on this subject.

-Dixie Yid

(Picture courtesy of strategy

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Aish Kodesh Hillulah Next Motzoi Shabbos W/Yosef Karduner & Rav Weinberger

I have spoken to a number of people about the amazing Hillulah our Shul, Aish Kodesh, has every year for the Tzadik who is the namesake of our Shul, Rav Klonymous Kalman Shapio, the Rebbe of Piseczna and the Warsaw Ghetto. This year's will be this coming Motzoi Shabbos, Nov. 1st, at 8:30 PM at the Young Israel of Lawrence/Cedarhurst.

This event is truly one of the highlights of the year for me. Just like in past years, Yosef Karduner will be there and Rav Weinberger will be speaking. Yosef Karduner's music, by its self, is amazing. Rav Weinberger's Torah, on its own, is awesome. But when you put the two together, it is out of this world. I recorded last year's Hillula and you can listen to it online HERE, just to get a taste.

The last 1,000 or so tapes that are still extant will be on sale there (the shiurim are only available online now). This will be the absolutely last and final sale of Rav Weinberger's tapes/cassettes and will take place during the Aish Kodesh Hilula. Over 1,000 of the original master cassettes are still available. $1 per tape. Any cassettes not sold that night have been promised to a tape g'mach.

UPDATE 6:50 PM: MoChassid's album company, Shirei Shmuel, will be recording the Hillula live and will be producing a CD of the evening. It is sure to be awesome!

-Dixie Yid

(Picture courtesy of Yitzi Mayer)

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Sunday, October 26, 2008

What Do You Sing When You Have No One Else To Turn To?

After reading this article today, which describes why Israel probably doesn't have the firepower to destroy the Iranian Nuclear facilities, all I could to was sing Song Number 19 from Adi Ran's Unplugged album.

We have no one upon whom to rely except the Holy One Blessed Is He!

-Dixie Yid

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Friday, October 24, 2008

Why is ACORN Protesting Outside My Car?

Strangest thing happened this morning. The ACORN organization, of voter fraud fame, was protesting outside my car this morning, as I was parked in front of the Queens County Supreme Court. They were chanting, "Bail out Main Street, not just Wall Street" and "Stop Foreclosures now, Stop the Auctions Now." Now, why would they be protesting outside a Toyota Prius? It's the most environmentally friendly car there is!

-Dixie Yid

(Picture courtesy of NY Daily News)

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Time With Kids Is Money - Great Video

I received this video from Rabbi Chaim Morgenstern by e-mail. It's defintiely worth sharing and relates to a post that I put up recently quite poiniently. It's a dramitization of a famous story that's gone around where a kid keeps asking his busy father how much money he makes, but the father never has enough time to talk to him. In the end, he finally answers his son, telling him how much he makes. Then the child takes out some money that he saved up and asks him if he could spend half an hour with him if he paid him the money(!)...

Enjoy, learn, and share...

-Dixie Yid

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Thursday, October 23, 2008

Bilvavi All Night Shiurim From Hoshana Raba Now Online

You can listen to the two shiurim Rav Shwartz, the Bilvavi Mishkan Evneh author, gave over the whole night on Hoshana Raba night (THIS YEAR) HERE. Enjoy!

-Dixie Yid

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Bilvavi Shiur on Sunday on How to Conduct One's Self After the Chagim

Received by e-mail from my friend Tuvia!

The author of
Bilvavi Mishkan Evneh
will be giving a
drasha on
"What to do after the holidays?"
Sunday evening 9:30 PM
in Ramat Beit Shemesh Aleph
Rechov Nachal HaMaor 4/2
the Beit Kenesset of Aish Kodesh
Women Section Open In Hebrew
details: 052-661-3752

הרב המחבר של הספרים
בלבבי משכן אבנה
ימסור שיעור על
הנושא של

"איך להתנהג אחרי החגים"

יום ראשון כ"ז תשרי 26.10.08
בשעה – 21:30

רמת בית שמש א
רח' נחל המאור 4/2
(ביהכנ"ס אש
קודש בוילה פרטי)
עזרת נשים פתוח
פרטים: 052-661-3752

-Dixie Yid

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The New Internet Filter I'm Using

I'm hesitant to write about this Internet web filter until I feel like I can really get to know it and fully see how it works. But we just took the big plunge and bought and subscribed to an Internet filter called Kleen Web, from a frum Internet filtering company. I'd heard about it before, but a recent article in Jewish Action Magazine that I read by Yitzchok Adlerstein, a frequent contributor at Cross-Currents, renewed my interest in giving this another try.

There are several free options for cleaning up your Internet service but none of them really worked for me. I have tried one called K-9 Internet Protection, a free web filter. It prevented my computer from working properly and I couldn't get it working again until I uninstalled it. Furthermore, it was too easy to uninstall, which makes it less than safe for the kids anyway, who could more easily get around it. And I've also tried a program called x3watch, an Internet buddy program. X3watch is supposed to monitor the sites you visit and send a list of the questionable ones to your internet buddy, which would encourage self-monitoring of the sites one visits. #1, it doesn't really prevent kids from seeing things they shouldn't. And anyway, it never worked properly, even when I paid for customer support and my "Internet buddy" never reliably received the e-mails with possible "questionable" sites that were visited on my computer.

I therefore came to the conclusion that, at least for now, I had to bite the bullet and pay a little something to keep myself, and my children safe from the horrible things on the Internet.

So far, my computers seem to function properly on Kleen Web and it has a few advantages. #1, it's very flexible. I'm even able to run this blog with all of it's image, video and blog searches without too much of a problem. I'm able to set it to allow certain computers to access and the like.

Another good thing about it is that certain things that would be universally considered inappropriate are never allowable and it causes the Google "safe serach" option to always be on. Also, it will sometimes selectively not display videos or pictures that are embedded in other sites if the source site for that picture/video is not allowed. For instance, it will not display a YouTube video that's embedded on my blog, even though it will display everything else, unless you have set it to allow YouTube on that computer.

One other advantage that makes it good is that it cannot be uninstalled from any computer that it's installed onto, unless you call in to their offices and give them certain security information over the phone. This adds another layer of protection so that kids or anyone without the security information can't remove the program. We've also taken the additional step of having passwords placed on all of our computers so that after five minutes of inactivity, you have to retyple the password to get onto the computer.

Also, if it's on a laptop, you're protected everywhere. Since the filter is not server-side, but right there on the computer, if you go to some other wireless network at some other location, the filter is still there.

My plan is that once I've set things up the way I need them, I'll have my wife change the administrator's password to something that I won't know about, which will protect me, in fulfillment of what Chazal say in Kesubos 13b that "אין אפוטרופוס לעריות," no one can trust himself when it comes to illicit matters.

Like I said before, it's very early on. We've only had the program for about 2 weeks now on our computers. But our oldest child is already nine and a half years old. And our three year old son is already getting proficent in how to use a computer. From our school's understandable perspective, they would prefer that families not have Internet in their homes at all. However, as that is not shiach for us due to my wife and my work, some solution is very very necessary to prevent a takala, a calamity in our home if our kids gain access or are exposed to some of the intensely bad stuff out there.

IY"H, I'll keep you posted on how it's going. But I am writing this to once again, make sure that this issue is front and center and hopefully others will take whatever steps they can to protect themselves and their children.

Feel free to contact me or comment with your experiences with any of these options or with any help or about any problems you are having with KleenWeb.

-Dixie Yid

(Picture courtesy of KleenWeb)

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Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Back Story on Sender Uri's Teshuva in Early Israel

The following is some special background information on the Rachmastrivka Rebbitzin's stories about her father that Yosef Hakohen told over in THIS POST right before Yom Kippur, heard by Rabbi Reuven Boshnack from her brother, R' Yaakov Uri, during his visit a few years ago to Boca Raton, FL on behalf of Zaka.

I heard from R Yaakov Uri (Proprieter of Uri's pizza, and brother of
Rachmistrivker Rebbitzen from Yosef Hakohen's guest post) that their father Sender Uri, the grandson of the Bnei Yissasschar- was drafted into the army, and when he got out, he went, with alot of other conscripted Jews, to Israel. He He said that Shomer Hatzair didn' work out, apparently because of the story that Yosef told.

He then became a construction worker and was involved in building roads in Yerushalayim and was building a road from between a certain bakery in Meah Shearim and one of the hospitals. A mocher seforim (book seller) came by once, with a wheel barrow full of seforim (as was the minhag in those days). Sender turned to the mocher seforim, and asked for a Ynei Yisaschar. The mocher seforim stopped dead in his tracks. This was a modern guy, with a barren head and a chup (shock of hair in the front) asking for a Bnei Yissaschar?!

So the mocher seforim said- "What do you know about the Bnei Yisasschar?"

Sender said, "He's my Zeide."

The Mocher said, "And you are standing here like this?!"

Sender said, "I was gechapped (drafted), what do I know?"

The Mocher said, "If I take you to learn, will you?"

Sender Uri agreed became a talmid chacham and well recieved in all of the
circles of yerushalaim of that time, both by Rav Kook and R Yosef Chaim

If you look in the new (Bloom) edition of Bnei Yissasschar, they thank R
Sender. They borrowed some kisvei yad (original manuscripts) that R Sender had from the Bnei Yisaschar. "Borrowed" should be in quotations. The Toldos Avraham Yitzchak Rebbe asked him to loan the kisvei Yad- and R sender said, "The ksavim don't
leave me. A bachur can come to copy them."

He died, I think, at the age of 90. That day, he turned to his son and said
something like, "Today is a good day to die."

How his son ended up with the most popular pizza store in Geulah- that's
another story. Fortunately, he made his special pizza sauce for us, and helped cook the cholent when he came for Shabbos too!

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Thursday, October 16, 2008

Judaism DOES Have a Place for Attracting Converts

I just learned (from my rebbe) of sources that indicate that Yiddishkeit not only welcomes sincere gentiles who want to convert to Judaism, but even indicates that we out to encourages it.

In the Parsha of Hakhel (the gathering of the entire Jewish people during the Sukkos after the Shmita year, just like this Sukkos) in Parshas Vayelech, the Torah says that one of the kinds of people who must be brought to Hakhel are "gercha asher b'sha'arecha," "strangers in your gates." I always understood this to refer to Gerim, converts to Judaism. However, many meforshim learn that this refers to Gerei Toshav, Bnei Noach, gentiles who have committed to observing the Sheva Mitzvos Bnei Noach. This, alone, is interesting enough. It's not just that a Ger Toshav has a special status in that they are gentiles who are allowed to continue living in the land of Israel. They are even invited to come to Hakhel, the once-every-seven-years gathering of the Entire Jewish people to listen to the King of Israel read Mishna Torah, Deuteronomy, which is an experiential reenactment of the giving of the Torah on Har Sinai!

But this is not all. The Ibn Ezra there says that the reason why Bnei Noach are encouraged to attend Hakhel is so that they will be so impressed with this re-experiencing of the receiving of the Torah that "Ulai Yisyaheid," "hopefully they will convert!"

I had always heard that we welcome converts but never engaged in any activities to attract converts. Here, there's an example right in the Torah of the fact that we are commanded in the Torah a certain mitzva for the purpose of encouraging Bnei Noach to take it to the next level!!

-Dixie Yid

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Rabbi Yaakov Horowitz on the Radio Tonight for Parenting Questions

Rabbi Yaakov Horowitz, a necessary voice in Chinuch today, is starting a weekly radio program where people can call in with parenting questions. The first program will be tonight, Thursday night, Chol Hamoed Sukkos from 10-11 PM Eastern time. You will be able to listen live to the program HERE or at 620 AM in the New York area.

UPDATE 10/17/08: You can now listen to this the mp3 of this show HERE.

-Dixie Yid

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Monday, October 13, 2008

Ya'aleh Ve'Yavoh"- Transporting Our Tefillos Beyond the Highest Heaven - Audio Shiur

Reb Yerachmiel has come through with a shiur on Ya'aleh V'yavo for Sukkos, from this past Sunday at his Baltimore Community Kollel Tefillah Chaburah.

In time for Succos, in last night's shiur on the topic of "Ya'aleh Ve'Yavoh", we explained the eight initial and enigmatic leshonos contained therein ("Va'aleh" through "V'yizacheir") which transport our tefillos beyond the highest heaven. We also addressed why this vital "tefillah transportation" prayer is reserved for yomim tovim and not part of our daily tefillah repertoire.

You can CLICK HERE to listen to the shiur by either left clicking to listen right away or right clicking and selecting "Save Target As" to download.

-Dixie Yid

(Picture of Tosher Rebbe courtesy of Picture Collector)

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Sunday, October 12, 2008

What Causes Kids to Go Off the Derech - Interesting Op Ed

In this opinion piece in the Jerusalem Post newspaper, forwarded to me by my wife's uncle, focuses on the pressing problem of too many frum kids going "off the derech," leaving the path of observance.

R' Boteach's main theory as to why so many kids go "off the derech" is the absentee parenting that he says is very prevelent in frum homes. He focuses mostly on Chabad Shluchim, but the same can be said about most frum homes in major metropolitan areas. Parents (especially fathers) are out of the house most nights of the week giving or attending shiurim, attending Smachos, learning or working late. Even on Shabbos, he points out that children don't sit with their parents in Shul, but rather go to youth groups instead.

My rebbe has also commented that it is deterimental to our homes that parents are busy going to simchas, parlor meetings, shiurim, etc. every night and aren't ever home with their children at night.

It is a difficult problem. Men must often work late even just to get by financially in major metro areas, which are expensive to live in. They are also obligated to learn Torah, and therefore can't spend all their evenings at home with the family as this would be bitul Torah. There are many challenges and it's difficult to know the right balance.

Right now, the only way we can balance this problem in my family is that although I am almost never home until after the kids go to sleep at night due to law school (and when I graduate, that will probably continue due to law firm hours), I am able to come home after learning in the mornings to spend 45 minutes or so with the kids helping them get ready for school, before I head out to daven Shacharis.

Any other ideas on how to balance family with communal/personal goals/responsibilities so as to avoid neglecting our families and Ch"VSh creating our own "kids at risk?"

-Dixie Yid

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Friday, October 10, 2008

Coffee Before Davening: Artificial Stimulation Or Necessary Kavannah-Enabler?

A Simple Jew has posted our latest question and answer session here. You can see his question below. My answer related to the idea of whether it's a good idea to be dependent on a chemichal for one's mental alacrity and other ideas related to the spirituality of coffee in the morning!

A Simple Jew Asks:

Do you think there is anything wrong with drinking a cup of coffee before davening Shachris to attempt to improve kavana, or would you consider the use of an artificial stimulant to be less than ideal?

Dixie Yid Answers...

-Dixie Yid

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Why You Shouldn't Get Discouraged About the Teshuva/Sin/Teshuva Cycle

Lest one get discouraged after Yom Kippur because he's already sinned and done Teshuva and sinned again and done Teshuva again, etc, I want to share the following story and an idea from my rebbe's drasha before Ne'ilah.

In Sippurei Chassidim (p. 94), Rav Shlomo Yosef Zevin brings down a ma'aseh about Rav Yisroel Rizhiner. The holy Rizhiner was in Odessa on doctor's orders. When he was there, he heard that there was a grandson of Rav Yaakov Emden there, named Meir. Meir had gone "off the derech" and was no longer frum. The Rizhiner invited Meir to come back to Rizhin with him and promised to take care of all of his needs. Meir agreed and came back to Rizhin with the Rebbe. The Rebbe took care of Meir as he had promised and Meir was Chozer B'Teshuvah.

One day, Rav Yisroel noticed that Meir looked depressed. He asked him why he was sad and he said "If it's because of your sins, remember that Teshuva works!"

Meir answered that He's already sinned and done Teshuva and sinned again and done Teshuva again, etc. etc. etc. etc. He said that he didn't think that Hashem would forgive him any more so why wouldn't he be depressed!?

Rav Yisroel answered him by saying that since he heard he (Meir) used to be known as a big Ilui (genius) and a Lamdan so he wouldn answer him in the way of the Lamdanim. He asks on the phrase in the Shmoneh Esreh of Yom Kippur, "כי אתה סלחן לישראל ומחלן לשבטי ישורון." He asks why it calls Hashem סלחן and מחלן (meaning "forgiver") instead of more simply סולח and מוחל? He answers based on the Gemara's Drasha in Bava Metzia 33a on the Pasuk in Shmos 23:5, "רֹבֵץ תַּחַת מַשָּׂאוֹ." The pasuk gives the mitzvah to help an enemy's donkey crouching (רֹבֵץ) under its load. And the Gemara darshes that only if it's "רובץ ולא רבצן." Rashi there's explains that the difference between "רֹבֵץ" and "רבצן" is that the "רבצן" is consistently crouching under loads. Rav Yisroel said that we see from here that the difference between something with a nun at the end of the word and without it is that the nun at the end implies that this is a constant, repeating characteristic. Therefore, he says, we call Hashem סלחן and מחלן in davening because he forgives again and again. If we fall backward and sin again and again, Hashem is ready to forgive us every time we do Teshuva.

Right before Ne'ilah on Yom Kippur, my rebbe also asked why we say "Slach Lanu" in Ma'ariv right after Yom Kippur. What could we be asking forgiveness for immediately after Ne'ila?! And he answered (I can't remember in whose name) that we may already be guilty of the biggest aveira of all, which is not believing that Hashem truly has forgiven us for all of our aveiros.

May we merit to remember that Teshuva really does work and that Hashem really did forgive us on Yoim Kippur. Therefore, let us remember that today is a new beginning and that we can make this year different because our past is behind us!

-Dixie Yid

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Perils and Opportunities During Your Kids Vacation

Rabbi Chaim Morgenstern

One of the most challenging times for families with children is bain hazemanim and during the school break. Children out of school tend get bored easily and are constantly getting on each other’s (and their parents’) nerves.

Although there are no universal solutions to have a happy, enjoyable and smooth-running bein hazemanim, the following advice can help parents to overcome the many challenges during this hectic period.


Preparation is of utmost importance to a more pleasant bein hazemanim, and is no different than planning a vacation. Just as it is unthinkable to pack up a van with a week’s food and clothing and drive to a vacation resort area without knowing where you’re going to visit, sleep or spend your shabbos, you should not enter bein hazemanim without some kind of plan how you are going to keep your children occupied and out of trouble. After your plans are made, putting up a chart of the family’s daily activities and individual chores will help make things run smoother.

I know that this is almost like asking the impossible, but parents must realize that outbursts of anger are the quickest and most efficient way to ruin the bein hazemanim atmosphere and lose the many benefits it has to offer. Besides the issur of kaas, which also applies when parents rebuke their children (Rambam Hilchos Dayos 2:3), anger often results in transgressing other aveiros that are detrimental to the parent-child relationship. An angry parent often acts irrationally on impulse and is liable to:
a. Say words that will hurt his child’s feelings. – In the presence of two other people it’s an aveira of “malbin pnei chaveiro be’rabim” – causing public embarrassment; and in private, it’s an issur of ona’as devarim – hurting another person with words.

b. Criticize his child. – Critical remarks are very painful even if they are true. Besides causing ona’as devarim, these remarks are destructive to the kesher between child and parent. (Think, how many critical remarks can you handle from your spouse? Even one per week is too much!)

c. Unnecessarily hit his child. – Hitting a child unnecessarily is prohibited as Rav Moshe Feinstein writes, “Hitting a child without a reason is not chinuch, and one transgresses a lav for each slap.” (Igros Moshe Even Ha’ezer, 4:68, cf Chinuch, Mitzva 595)
Similarly parents who punish a child out of revenge (nekama) or to get even with him for not obeying them, transgress the prohibition of taking revenge on a fellow Jew, (Alei Shur, vol. 1, p. 260)

Critical remarks and outbursts of anger wear down the love bond and kesher between children and their parents. Moreover, Rav Wolbe writes that screaming is worse than even mildly hitting a child because it causes him to shudder; and, when a child shudders, who knows what damage was done to his emotions and to the relationship with his parents as a result of this “shock” (Zeriya uvinyan bechinuch, p. 25).
(A complete discussion of the subject of anger will IY”H appear in a future series of articles.)


The bein hazemanim of Sukos and Pesach are very hectic times. Besides the normal pressures of the numerous Yom Tov preparations, additional tensions are added when trying to get the children to assist their parents in these preparations. Rav Chaim Friedlander writes that included in the pasuk of chanoch lena'ar al pi darko, – educate a child according to his way – is assigning the proper household help that best suits their child’s ability. For example, children who are good organizers should assist in putting away groceries and helping to tidy up the home, girls usually make better babysitters and housecleaners, some children enjoy shopping while others enjoy helping their father in household repairs and building the sukah.
Much bein hazemanim tension would be relieved if children would be given household jobs that they enjoy doing.


During Bein hazemanim parents must especially be on guard to supervise who their children play with and be aware which of the hi-tech electronic games and other devices that they may come in contact with. Even if your child is in a “safe friend’s” home, nevertheless, that friend may have some undesirable friends that you don’t want your child to associate with.
Additionally, your child should be trained that he can never view or play with any electronic game or device (including the latest cell phones & MP 4 players) without your prior haskama. Parents should never take for granted that any of these devices are safe without personally checking them out.


One of the most important goals of the bein hazemanim period is to strengthen the kesher between parents and their children. The fact that children are not pressured with their schoolwork and the times spent together with their parents, whether it’s with helping them or going on a family outing, makes bein hazemanim a most opportune time to accomplish this. Therefore, it is of utmost importance that parents make this quality time that they spend with their children as pleasant as possible.

An additional benefit gained by spending quality time with one’s children is preventing jealousy. There are times when parents cannot afford to send their children to a sleep away camp or take them on an expensive outing or vacation. This can cause their children to be envious of other families who can afford to have more luxurious vacations. However, parents can compensate for this by giving their child quality time. Moreover, under normal circumstances, if given the choice, many children would rather have a close and healthy relationship with their parents than materialistic pleasures.

A sad child once complained “I have all the luxuries a child would dream for – the latest toys, games and electronic devices, I go to a good school, have private tutors, and attend all kinds of after-school groups and clubs. However, he continues with teary eyes and a broken voice, there are two things that I don’t have – a father and mother. My father is always either on the phone, e-mail or on business trips and my mother is constantly busy with social events or at the beauty parlor.

Parents buy their children with themselves. Toys and games are cheap substitutes.
To prove this point, let’s say a family was awarded one seat in the business class on a trip to Eretz Yisrael. The parents turn to one of their children and offer him the seat explaining all the benefits and luxuries of the business class. However there’s one catch – being in business section means being separated from his parents for the entire trip. What will the child choose? I’m sure that he would rather be together with his parents than being alone in luxury.
Parents who claim that they don’t have the time to spend with their children, need only to look at their own daily schedule to see how much extra time they really have. They should realize that if they have time for all of their personal matters but can’t seem to find the time to spend with their children, it is a clear indication that their children’s needs do not rank high on their priority of values. Can you imagine how the child feels when he observes a parent chatting non-stop on the phone for a half hour, and doesn’t even have five minutes to focus on his child’s needs?

Rav Y. Yaakovson, one of the foremost advisors on problematic teenagers in Eretz Yisrael, once said, “If you don’t spend time with your child when he’s young, you’ll have to spend 10 times the amount of time when he’s older with child psychologists, therapists, and social workers – not to make up for lost time, but to get the child back on the right track.”
At the end of the day parents should ask themselves, “Have I made time for my child today?”

Since children favor a close relationship and kesher with their parents, even if parents can’t afford to send their children away to expensive sleep away camps or a lavish vacation, they have something more precious and valuable to offer – themselves.


If parents would realize the tremendous benefits gained by spending quality time with their children they would spare no effort in finding time for them the entire year. However, if this is too difficult, then they should at least utilize the golden opportunity of bein hazemanim to devote time for their children.

Spending quality time with children is one of the key chinuch tools to create a strong kesher with them. This strong kesher can create a parent’s dream – foster more obedient children and eliminate many of the difficulties in discipline.

The following ideas can help foster the kesher:

• Do things together with your children, such as shopping, purchasing a lulav and esrog, organizing the home, preparing a meal, putting away groceries, caring for an infant.

· At the end of the day, take leisurely walks with your children. Hold their hand or put your arm around their shoulder and let them feel free to discuss their feelings. Most important – be a good listener and empathize with them.

· Plan a family outing or trip that suits your budget.

· Learn with your son. Make a regular learning seder with him even if it’s only 15 minutes a day after shacharis or between mincha and maariv. It’s vital that the learning should be a pleasant experience and something that your son should be looking forward to, therefore, choose something interesting and easy to study together. (Not all children are interested in Chazara and something new may be more appealing to him.)
Additionally, it is very important is to end the learning session with some encouraging words such how much you enjoyed learning with him, how well he knew the material, how proud you are of him etc.

· Whenever possible, take your child to davan together with you in shule. Hold his/her hand and put your arm around his/her shoulder during the walk. (Needless to say, a child should always be sitting next to his father in shule. As Rav Chaim Friedlander writes, children learn from their parents how to properly daven and how to behave in shule.

· Take some time out to play games with them.

· AND, MOST IMPORTANT – QUALITY TIME MEANS NO CELL PHONE OR PAGER. Leave them home or close them entirely including the vibrator.

By implementing the above ideas, bein hazemanim can be transformed into a more pleasurable time for both parents and children.

NOTE: The above advice is not only limited to bein hazemanim. Successful parenting depends on applying these principles the entire year. Hopefully, by giving a start bein hazemanim, parents will be able to start a pattern for the entire year.

Have a chag samayach and a meaningful bein hazemanim.

UPDATE (8:52 AM): CLICK HERE for another great article at Beyond BT by David Linn about Chol Hamoed opportunities with the family!

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Wednesday, October 8, 2008

3 Stories for Erev Yom Kippur - From Shlomo Hakohen

The Homecoming Journey of Three Kibbutz Members:

Dear Friends,

The following three stories are in the homecoming spirit of Yom Kippur, the sacred day which is devoted to “teshuvah” – spiritual return. The first story is from an earlier era, and the other stories are from our era:

1. In Jerusalem there is a famous “tzaddik” – righteous person – who is known as the Rachmastrivka Rebbe, and people come from all over to this Chassidic Rebbe for his blessings. His righteous and hospitable Rebbetzin (wife of a rabbi) has a special affinity for “baalei teshuvah” – returnees to the Torah path. No one knew why, until the Rebbitzen revealed the reason at a party in which the Rebbetzin, despite her advanced age, insisted on organizing for a newly married baalei teshuvah couple. At that celebration, the Rebbetzin told the guests the following story about her father:

Her father was the grandson of a spiritual giant, the great Chassidic Rebbe who was the illustrious author of the work, Bnei Yissaschar. When her father was young, however, he was influenced by the Zionist and leftist ideologies of that era, and he left the fold to join a group affiliated with “Hashomer Hatza’ir” – a leftist Zionist youth organization which was stridently secular. Hashomer Hatza’ir founded kibbutzim in the Land of Israel; thus, his group went up to the Land of Israel where he went to work building roads and began living on a kibbutz. The young man knew that his grandfather had been a great Jew, and even felt himself on at least one occasion being pulled to return to Judaism, but he ignored these feelings.

One day on the kibbutz, he saw another kibbutznik sitting before a pile of tefillin (phylacteries used in prayer), tearing them apart and throwing the scrolls within them into a garbage can. He couldn't contain himself. “Are you crazy? What are you doing?” he cried out. He told his fellow kibbutznik that these scrolls contain some of the “noblest ideas in human literature.” His fellow kibbutznik, however, just looked at him and kept on pulling the tefillin apart, as if to say, “So what?”

The grandson of the author of Bnei Yissaschar was so shocked that he got up and left the kibbutz. He traveled into Jerusalem and wandered the streets in his shorts and sandals, not knowing where he was going. Finally someone invited him into a synagogue and began studying Torah with him. So fascinated was he by the learning experience, that for the next two years he practically did not leave that synagogue and became not only a religious Jew but a learned one. He ended up marrying the daughter of a well known Rebbe and giving birth to a girl who became the Rachmastrivska Rebbetzin.

(Rebbitzen Leah Feldman, the wife of my rebbe, Rav Aharon Feldman, attended the party that the Rachmastrivska Rebbetzin gave for the newly married couple, and it was there that Rebbitzen Feldman heard the above story. Rav Feldman told over this story at the convention of Agudath Israel of America in 1999.)

2. Over a year ago, I met a group of students who had recently graduated secular Israeli high schools. They had come to my Chareidi neighborhood, Bayit Vegan, Jerusalem, in order to experience the holiness and harmony of a traditional Shabbos. I first noticed them at the Friday night service of the congregation where I was praying that night, and these visiting students joined with great enthusiasm in the singing of the joyous psalms and prayers welcoming the arrival of the Shabbos Queen. I noticed one student in this group who was singing and swaying like a chassid, and his light-filled face expressed great yearning as he sung with great fervor the ancient Hebrew words of these psalms and prayers.

As I watched him and the other students, there emerged tears of joy in my eyes and feelings of hope in my heart. Their presence in our Jerusalem neighborhood reminded me of the prophetic promises that our people are destined to be reunited through a return to our spiritual roots. We experienced a taste of this unity that Shabbos evening, especially when we all joined together in a circle-dance, as we sang the concluding stanzas of the “Lecho Dodi” hymn which refer to the end of our humiliation in exile, the renewal of Zion, and the rejoicing of God with our people.

After the services were over, the students received warm Shabbos blessings from the members of the congregation. The students then began to walk to the homes of their hosts for the Friday night meal. I and the student that I noticed earlier were walking in the same direction, and I asked him where he was from. He told me that he was from a HaShomer Hatza’ir kibbutz in the north and that he was very inspired by our services. He asked me about my background, so I mentioned that I am from the spiritually-searching generation of the 60’s. He told me that he was interested in this searching generation, and he began to tell me more about his own spiritual searching within Judaism; however, our conversation was interrupted when he needed to enter the home of his hosts.

When I arrived home that evening, I asked Hashem to continue to guide this student and all the other students on their homecoming journey. And I hoped that I would have the privilege of meeting them again.

3. The following story appeared in an article by Yonoson Rosenblum in the summer issue of the Jewish Observer, the magazine of Agudath Israel of America. The article cites examples of successful Torah outreach by the Chareidei communities in Israel, and one of the examples cited is an organization named, Ayelet Hashchar (Morning Star), which has been placing Torah-committed couples on more than 60 kibbutzim and smaller settlements around the country. Among the kibbutzim which have benefited from the warm and dedicated outreach of these couples is Kibbutz Geva, which last year experienced its first Yom Kippur service. A member of the kibbutz wrote a thank you letter to the director of Ayelet HaShachar expressing appreciation “for having created for us a Mikdash M’at (Miniature Sanctuary) in the midst of our everyday lives and secular existence, and for having made it possible for us to touch the holiness, the elevation, of this unique day – Yom Hakippurim.” The kibbutz member adds:

“The emotions during the prayers broke down all barriers, and enabled us to touch every link in the chain of our common tradition, reaching back to the roots of our common existence.”


The above two stories from our era are a reminder that a growing number of Jews in the Land of Israel have begun a journey of return to their spiritual roots. May this journey lead to the fulfillment of the following Divine promise which is found in the haftorah that we chant on Yom Kippur morning:

“Then your light will burst forth like the dawn and your healing will speedily sprout; then your righteous deed will precede you and the glory of Hashem will gather you in.” (Isaiah 58:8)

May the Forgiving One seal us in the Book of Life.

-Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen

Hazon – Our Universal Vision:

(Picture courtesy of Neve Ilan Kibbutz)

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Kol Nidrei - From the Piaczna - By Rav Zvi Leshem

YOM KIPPUR: Before Kol Nidrei
Rav Zvi Leshem

The Rambam has a famous position that only those Jews who live in Eretz Yisrael are referred to as the tzibbur, the public community. This fact invests the Jews living in Israel with a serious responsibility for our brethren who are still in the Diaspora. The Maharil, in his Laws of Yom Kippur, quotes Mahari Segel, who asks why we have longer piyutim, liturgical prayers, regarding the goat that was offered in the Temple than we do about the scapegoat, whose power of atonement was far greater? One of the answers given is particularly interesting. The goat offered in the Temple atones for violations of the Temple’s purity and holiness. Since the Temple’s holiness is still in effect even when the building is destroyed, and entering the Temple Mount in a state of ritual impurity is a grievous sin, the Jews of the Diaspora ask Hashem to forgive the Jews of Israel who may have been remiss in this area. This reflects the principle that all Jews are responsible for each other. As a proof, the Maharil cites the confessional liturgy in which every Jew asks forgiveness, in the plural, for a long list of sins he may never have committed, since in fact, each of us is asking for forgiveness for every Jew. Let us take a deeper look at the mutual responsibility that every Jew has for each other.

In Chovat HaTalmidim, the Piaseczner Rebbe describes the states of yichud ilaah v’yichud tata, upper and lower unification. Lower unification takes place within Malchut, the collective body of Am Yisrael. After all of the Jews have united (lower unification), then they can collectively unite with the upper sefirot, i.e. with Hashem Himself, reaching the state of upper unification and rectifying all of reality.

The Rebbe uses this idea to explain the statement made before we perform many mitzvot, “for the sake of the unity of Kudsha Brich Hu (Hashem) and the Shechinah (represented by the collective Jewish People) … in the name of all of Israel”.

The Rebbe explains that this process actually has three stages. Firstly, each one of us must work to make ourselves into an integrated personality, in which the body, brain, and soul all work together to serve Hashem. We all know that when we are feeling personally “not put together” we are not in a state in which we can maintain proper relationships with other people. Secondly, each one of us must work to unite ourselves with all of Am Yisrael. Unfortunately this is easier said than done, but we must never cease in our efforts to bring authentic unity to the Jewish People. Only after these two aspects have been perfected are we, Am Yisrael, as represented by the Shechinah, able to unite with Hashem. Thus the prayer formula which discusses uniting Hashem and the Shechinah ends “in the name of all of Israel,” since the higher unity of God and the Shechinah is absolutely dependent upon the prior unification of all of Israel.

The Piaseczner Rebbe further writes in Zav v’Ziruz, that if we want to make spiritual progress, we should set ourselves an annual goal. Where do I want to be one year from now? What kind of person do I want to be by next Yom Kippur?

Then, throughout the year, I should measure myself by the standards of the “new person” and check periodically if I am succeeding in closing the gap between the old and the new. If at the end of the year, I am no closer than I was a year ago, then in a sense I have wasted a year of my life, God forbid. Every year we should make it our goal to work on unity, including the personal, national, and cosmic levels. If we all sincerely make this our top priority, we can, with Hashem’s help really change ourselves and the world.

(Picture courtesy of

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Rav Avraham Schorr Video Shiur: Open Your Eyes and See Hashem

An anonymous commenter has alerted me to this video of a shiur by Rav Avraham Schorr given three days ago. Click here to view Rav Schorr's shiur, Open Your Eyes and See Hashem.

-Dixie Yid

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Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Cool Follow Up on Burning Pre-Shabbos Shuva Question!

I received the two e-mails below this morning, following up from the question and answer that I posted between Rabbi Zvi Leshem and Ploni, a reader who works for Disney (now known as "DisneYid" :-)


Dear Rab DixieYid Amu"sh,

I have been doing so much running around-try to get everything done before Yom Kippur that while i haven't had the chance to write to thank you for your answer, and then Rav Zvi Leshem's answer. As it is, I'm just wrapping up for the night over here at Disney (catching up on deadlines in anticipation of all the days I take off this month) at 10:30 PM (good thing that there's a Glatt kosher Subway shop in Los angeles on my route home - they stay open 'til midnight).

Until I checked out your blog alittle while ago, I had only seen your answers via the emails you kept feeding me. As I looked at the whole entry posted on your blog, I was struck by a fresh appreciation for being a Jew, for being a member of this very extended family. Although I have yet to merit to start really studying and learning properly, my question was welcomed and picked up as a discussion by my more learned "brothers", taken just as seriously as if I were, "learned" myself. I LOVE being a Jew!

...Which, come to think of it, may be exactly the point you first responded with last Friday, and which Rav Leshem also responded with. If doing Teshuva out of love for Hashem is the highest level to which one could aspire, then at this moment of realization and appreciation, Baruch Hashem... I'm actually standing in that place, and look ma...No tears! Wow. Now I know how one can do Teshuva with joy. What a gift! Thank you, and thank Rav Leshem, thank you Avakesh and Anonymous, too!

Still, I'd better get home to Mrs. DisneYid and my three DisneYidettes, or I'm going to have to make a different kind of teshuva.

Best and Blessings,

After everything I wrote earlier, I forgot what a "talent" Hashem has for throwing little, surprise "icings on the cake".

Have you ever ordered CD's from Rav Brody? Well, Just before Rosh Hashanah, I placed an order with him for the "Garden of Peace," some CD's for my brother serving in Iraq, and a couple for myself. The package came today, and when I opened it, amongst the CDs I actually ordered were several extras that Rabbi Brody threw in, but the one that almost made me laugh out loud (which would have woken the entire house) was [the one from the picture above]!

I could say things like, "Hashgacha Pratis", "He puts the cure before the illness", etc... but I'm just ear to ear smile speechless with, "Wow."

and it arrived in time for Yom Kippur no less! Baruch Hashem!

Best and Blessings,

-Dixie Yid

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Rebbe Shimon Bar Yochai's Zohar - With Us Till the Geulah

In the Hakdama to Likutei Moharan, cited in the Likutei Halachos Chumash, Rebbe Nachman points out that there is a hint to Rebbe Shimon Bar Yochai in this past week's Parsha, Vayelech. In Devarim 31:21, Moshe says, "כִּי לֹא תִשָּׁכַח מִפִּי זַרְעוֹ," "because [the Torah] will not be forgotten from the mouths of his [the Jewish people's] descendants." He points out that the sofei teivos, the end-letters of the those words just quoted in the pasuk spell "Yochai." This is meant to imply that the specific person's decendents who's Torah will not be forgotten from the Jewish people is Yochai's descendant, i.e. Rebbe Shimon bar Yochai.

This is also taught in the Zohar Parshas Nasso 124b, which says "With this book, the Sefer HaZohar, [The Jewish people] will be redeemed from exile." Meaning that the teachings of Rebbe Shimon Bar Yochai, in the Zohar Hakadosh, will be those that are with the Jewish people through the final redemption, and this is hinted at by the aforementioned pasuk in this past week's Parsha.

As has already been observed by others, as the teachings of Kabbalah, as made applicable to the masses through the students of the Baal Shem Tov Hakadosh, become more and more widely known and followed, we can see how this promise in the Zohar Hakadosh come closer to fulfillment.

May the teachings of Rebbe Shimon Bar Yochai and the Talmidei HaBaal Shem take hold in our hearts to help bring us closer to Hashem and bring the Geulah!

-Dixie Yid

(Picture taken at Meiron, the kever of Rebbe Shimon Bar Yochai, courtesy of

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