Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Israeli Ground Operations in Gaza Appear to Be Imminent

Jameel is live blogging the situation in Gaza. Apparently, the ground war phase of this battle against Chamas is imminent. His post is updated by the minute....

Please say Tehillim for the members of the IDF who are involved in this dangerous operation and for all of the residents of southern E"Y who are being hammered by these Hamas missiles.

With thanks to Menashe, the Commenter, here are links to two Tehillim you can say right now:



-Dixie Yid

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Menashe, the Commenter, Please E-mail Me...

I don't have your e-mail address. I would like to ask you something. Please e-mail me at dixieyid(at) Thank you!

-Dixie Yid

Site With Video Shiurim of Rav Moshe Weinberger

A commenter on my post about the new Aish Kodesh audio site pointed out a site that I have linked to in passing in the past, called Na'aleh. It has several videos of shiurim given by Rav Moshe Weinberger, which can be downloaded to one's iPod video or watched on their website. Very cool resource!!!

Speaking of online resources for shiurim, I have had several people speak glowingly to me about the shiurim they have had access to at So check that out as well!

-Dixie Yid

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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Rav Weinberger's Shiurim Now On Brand New Audio MP3 Site!!!

The New Aish Kodesh Audio site is now online! My Rebbe, Rav Moshe Weinberger, is a Rav who knows how to speak to the heart of this generation. He can take the deepest or most essoteric teaching and show you, in language that you can understand, how it is immediately and vitally releveant to your life right now. His mission is to bring the fire of Chassidus into our cooling hearts, here in America. He has given over 1900 shiurim that have been recorded and are now available on Aish Kodesh's newly and completely redesigned site.

There are free samples available of several awesome shiurim that will give you a great taste of what Rav Weinberger's teachings are all about.

A certain holy Yid has put an amazing amount of his time, resources and strength into sharing Rav Weinberger's Torah first through tapes, then through the previous generation of the mp3 site, and now through this incarnation of the site. He has commissioned other holy Yiddin to summarize all of the shiurim on the site. So you can click on any shiur on the site and get a paragraph summary of some of the key points from that shiur.

Also, all of the shiurim are organized according to a number of different tags. For instance, in one shiur, Rav Weinberger might be teaching from a certain sefer, and he might bring in something from that week's parsha and connect all of that to an upcoming Yom Tov. The multiple tags allow you to find shiurim that relate to the topic that you are interested in. Each shiur may be listed in several categories, making it much easier to find something on a topic that you may be looking for.

The charges for the shiurim go 100% toward the Shul, which makes Rav Weinberger available to the whole world through this site. So take advantage and check out the new site!

-Dixie Yid

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Yeshu Hanotzri's Birth: What's the Source For This Version of the Story?

I once saw a modern sefer that had a whole story about Yeshu's birth. It said that his mother, Miriam, was an arusa to a young talmid chacham named Rav Yochanan (not that Rav Yochanan). A not-so-nice-guy, named Yosef, liked her also and snuck into her house at night. He pretended to be Rav Yochanan and he convinced her that the halacha is that one is allowed to have biah with one's arusa. They did this and Yeshu was conceived. Since she was an arusa, he was a mamzer. I don't think this ma'aseh is in the gemara and I don't know what this sefer's source was. And I can't track down the person who showed it to me. Does anyone know what the source for this ma'aseh is and if it's legitimate?

-Dixie Yid

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Monday, December 29, 2008

"VeYivneh Yedid L'Yedid"- The Inspiration of Chanukah and the Chashmonaim

I'm going to repost a shiur from this time last year by Reb Yerachmiel, from the Baltimore Community Kollel Tefilla Chaburah for allowing us to host his latest shiur here at Dixie Yid for you to download."VeYivneh Yedid L'Yedid"- The Inspiration of Chanukah and the Chashmonaim. It discusses the yesod of "Yedidus" in the context of Chanukah, and draws upon gemaras and medroshim, as well as Torahs from the Ramban, the Chafetz Chaim, the current Slonimer Rebbe and Rav Avrohom Schorr, to show that the motivation of the Chashmonaim, the neis of Chanukah and the yesod of a true "Yedid Hashem" is yearning for Beis Hamikdash and the Geula Shleima.

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

-Dixie Yid

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Whether to Derive Benefit From the Chanukah Candles (The Inside Story)

I think I found another Kedushas Levi (chelek alef, "Drushim L'Chanukah," 4th piece) that helps explain the nature of the machlokes (dispute) between Crawling Axe and myself in the comment section of this post about when we should teach potential baalei teshuva about the worldly versus spiritual benefits of Torah observance.

The Kedushas Levi gives an insight into the nature of the machlokes between the sages in the Gemara about whether or not one is allowed to receive any type of benefit from the Chanukah candles, which is found in Shabbos 21b.

He explains the dispute through a mashal, a parable. He said that when a King honors a poor man by visiting his home, the poor man will see the great wealth and luxury of the king. He says that it is natural for a poor person to feel happy for the king that he has such amazing and awesome wealth. However, he says that a wise pauper will not feel happy for the king because the king has such wealth, since he knows that to the king, the signs of wealth are like nothing, and are just par for the course. Rather, this pauper's joy is in the fact that the king has honored him by lowering himself to be a guest in the poor man's house. This gives him much more pleasure that merely seeing the king's wealth.

Similarly, it is natural to be impressed by the miracles that Hashem did on Chanukah. However, on a higher level, the greater joy of Chanukah is that Hashem "lowered" himself to get involved in worldly matters to do that miracle. The honor that we feel knowing that Hashem cares enough about us to "get his hands dirty" in our affairs and "go to the trouble" of making miracles for us is a much greater source of joy that the the actual miracle its self. Just like we know that the wealth of the king is just par for the course, and should not be a major source of joy, we know that Hashem can do whatever he wants and so miracles are "no big deal" to him. As Reb Elazar ben Aroch says in Ta'anis 25a, "מי שאמר לשמן וידלוק הוא יאמר לחומץ וידלוק," "the one who can tell oil to burn call also tell vinegar to burn." Therefore, our main joy in the miracles of Chanukah is Hashem's involvement in our lives.

It is the same thing in the dispute about whether one may benefit from the candles. The side that says that one may derive benefit from the candles is similar to the poor man who rejoices in the wealth of the king who comes to visit him. His main joy is in the wonder and amazement in the miracle of the Menorah of Chanukah. Since, according to this type of person, his main joy is in the miracle, he may derive benefit from the candles, since his main joy in Chanukah is with the miracle of the oil on Chanukah.

But the opinion that says that one may not derive benefit from the candles on Chanukah corresponds to the wise pauper whose main joy is in the fact that the king has honored him by visiting him. This person's main joy on Chanukah is the fact that Hashem got involved in history and with the Jewish people by doing the miracle. According to this perspective, it is forbidden to derive any benefit from the Chanukah candles, since one should not get their Chanukah joy from the miracle of the oil on Chanukah, but rather from Hashem's involvement with the Jewish people, as seen through the miracle of the oil.

Crawling Axe suggested that it is inappropriate to (almost) ever focus on what the Torah does for us in this world. But rather, we should only teach people about how the Torah connects us to Hashem. This is like the opinion (which we pasken like) that one should not focus on the wondrous miracles of Hashem, but rather, on Hashem's involvement in our lives.

And I had said, based on the Kedushas Levi, that in the beginning of our own avodas Hashem, and when teaching new and potential Baalei Teshuva, one should teach how keeping the Torah brings one all of the good things of this world (as a precursor to focusing on how the Torah gets one closer to G-d). This would be similar to the opinion that one is allowed to get benefit from the Chanukah candles, when one's main Chanukah joy is in the fact that Hashem did a miracle.

You see that both of these opinions exist in the Gemara and "אלו ואלו דברי אלהים חיים," both are the words of the Living G-d (Eruvin 13b). So that even we have to conduct ourselves according to only one side of the dispute about deriving benefit from the candles for practical reasons, there is a place in Torah for the truth of both opinions. And this could be related to the fact that the Kedushas Levi recommends that one fight his yetzer hara, at the beginning of his avodah, by focusing on the worldly benefits of Torah.

May we all merit to reach the level of being makir tov, appreciating, Hashem's love for us and involvement with us!

-Dixie Yid

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Sunday, December 28, 2008

My Second Blogoversary & 100th E-mail Subscriber to Dixie Yid!!!

I'm happy to announce that Dixie Yid just got its 100th e-mail subscriber. Yay! The other good news is that today is my second Blogoversary! It's good to still be around after 2 years! You can read my first 5 posts here and you can see why I started Dixie Yid here.

As always, you can get a daily e-mail with brief snippets of the day's Dixie Yid posts in your e-mail inbox by subscribing through the Feedblitz service HERE. All you have to do is sign up and respond to a confirmation request that you'll receive by e-mail and viola, you'll get your daily Dixie Yid e-mails!

Also, we're up to 68 subscribers in the Google Reader blog reader service, which is what I myself use to keep up with the blogs that are out there quickly and in a one-stop-shopping sort of way, as I wrote about here. Again, you can click here to subscribe in that service. Kol tuv!

-Dixie Yid

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Dreidels and Gelt (The Inside Story)

The Koznitzer Magid, in the sefer Avodas Yisroel, says that one of the purposes of the holy days is to bring the light of those days into the times afterward. The holy days are times of mochin d'gadlus, a time of epandeded consciousness. The holidays are mashpia that sense of mochin d'gadlus into the times of mochin d'katnus, small-mindedness, that follow them. The light of Chanukah is followed by the dark winter months of Teves and Shvat, so we want to be mashpia the light of chanukah onto Teves and Shvat's mochin d'katnus.

To mirror this process, the gedolim (adults, who parallel the mochin d'gadlus) are mashpia, give, to the ketanim (children, who parallel mochin d'katnus) dreidels to play with and gelt on Chanukah. By giving these things to the children to use on Chanukah, we parallel the process of how Chanukah is mashpia the mochin d'gadlus of Chanukah onto the cold dark winter months that follow it, which don't have any Yomim Tovim.

Spiffy, eh? And a big toda raba to my friend Rabbi Reuven Boshnack who showed me that piece at his house on the fourth day of Chanukah!

-Dixie Yid

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YU Acapella - The Macabeats - Ma'oz Tzur - Nice Harmony! - Video

-Dixie Yid

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Friday, December 26, 2008

Tragedy in Woodmere Yesterday - CNN report & More Info

Yesterday, a tragedy occured in my community. Chabad of the Five Towns had a Chanukah Wonderland program in a local storefront and an elderly gentleman accidentally ran his SUV through the whole place clear through to the other side, injuring many people. For information on names for davening, counseling, and follow up, see Chabad's page with all information.

-Dixie Yid

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Spine Tingeling Story For the Fifth Day of Chanukah

I received the following story from my friend Yoni Henner:

This story is unbelievable. I sent it out last year I think and I get the chills reading it again this year. The 5th night of Chanukah is very special and here is a crazy story about a special tzadik who lived not so long ago and the 5th night of chanukah specifically. A Happy Chanukah to all!!!!Adapted from the Hebrew weekly, Shav'uon Kfar Chabad, a wondrous account sent in by Rabbi Moses Hayyim Greenvald from 14 years ago...

Since the passing of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, zt"l, may his merit guard over us, Jews all around me -- of every stripe and persuasion -- can't seem to stop talking about the Rebbe. At the synagogue I pray at, at work. It amazes me to see how every Jew seems to have a story about a personal encounter or experience with the Rebbe.
I say it's a mitzvah to tell these stories so that our children and children's children will hear about the Sanctification of G-d's name by means of a tzaddik who walked amongst us and was a faithful shepherd for all the children of the generation. It's widely known that Hasidim place great importance on tales of the righteous, as it is written, "Praise the Lord, Praise the Lord O ye Servants of the Lord" (Psalms). In order to comply with this precept myself, I offer a wondrous account about the Rebbe and my father. Until now this was known only in our family circles. I now find it incumbent upon me, after the Rebbe's passing, to tell the story publicly.

My father, Rabbi Abraham Zvi Greenvald, was born in Lodz, Poland, and was orphaned from his father at the age of 8. His mother was left with seven little orphans, and she worried much about the education of her eldest boy, whom she sent to live with a cousin, the exalted scholar Rabbi Menachem Zemba, may G-d avenge his blood. It was he who raised my father with great self-sacrifice. Understandably, he was concerned about my father's studies and even tutored him personally.

My father was almost 17 years old when there took place in Warsaw "The Great Wedding" -- the nuptials of the daughter of the sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Joseph Isaac (Schneersohn) with Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, who would later become the seventh Rebbe. My father used to tell about this wedding almost as a spiritual exercise -- both regarding the wedding itself, in which participated the cream of Polish Hasidic leaders, and also that my father was able to meet personally with the young bridegroom. This meeting, my father would later realize, would portend much in the future.

A youth of about 17, my father arrived at the wedding together with his relative and teacher, Rabbi Menachem Zemba. On the morning after, Rabbi Zemba told him he was going to visit the bridegroom in the hotel, and if my father wished, he could accompany him. Understandably, my father agreed.

My father could not remember and repeat all that the two spoke about, but he did remember well the end of the conversation, before these two personalities parted ways. The Rebbe turned to my father and said, "In another few days, it will be Hanukkah. Do you know why many small synagogues hold festivals on the fifth day of Chanukah?" My father did not know what to answer, and he recalled that Rabbi Zemba just looked at the Rebbe waiting for an answer. Then the Rebbe, turned to my father and said, "The fifth Hanukkah candle signifies great darkness because this day cannot fall on the Holy Sabbath. And through the Hanukkah candles, the greatest (spiritual) darkness of the world is illuminated. And for this reason, the potential of Hanukkah comes to fruition specifically through the fifth candle, which signifies the darkness. And this is the function of every Jew, in every place -- in Warsaw or London -- to illuminate the darkest place."

As mentioned earlier, my father did not remember what the Rebbe and Rabbi Zemba spoke about during their long conversation. But he said he would never forget that all the tractates of the Babylonian Talmud flew around the room. When they left the hotel, my father recalls, Rabbi Zemba was extremely excited and didn't stop speaking about the meeting to everyone with whom he conversed for several days.
After that meeting, nearly 10 years passed.

My father survived the Holocaust, first in the Ghetto, and afterwards in the Extermination Camps. His first wife and their five little children were slaughtered in front of his eyes. When the war ended, and he was left alive by the grace of G-d, he experienced a mental and physical breakdown. For two years, he moved from displaced persons camp to displaced persons camp, trying to learn if there were relatives -- close or distant -- who survived. In the end, it became clear that all his brothers and sisters -- each one of them -- was liquidated by the oppressor, may its name be blotted out.

In the year 5708 (ca. 1948), he traveled to the United States, to Philadelphia. There lived his uncle, Rabbi Moshe Hayyim Greenvald of the Amshinov Hasidim, who he had never met because the uncle immigrated to America before he was born. But the uncle arranged my fathers travel to the U. S. and received him with great love, and did everything to make it easier for him and to comfort him after the portion of awesome suffering he underwent . . . Under pressure from his uncle, with the intervention of the Amshinov Rebbe, my father decided to put his life back together, married a second wife (my mother, of blessed memory).

She was a child of Karkov, daughter of Rabbi Zushya Sinkowitz, may G-d avenge his blood, of the elders of the Alexander Hasidim. Together with his sister, he succeeded in fleeing immediately at the beginning of the war, running from country to country until they set sail for Canada. There, they raised in the house another cousin, the great leader, Mr. Kuppel Shwartz, one of Toronto's leading Jews. Before my parents were wed, Mr. Shwartz took my father to New York for an audience with the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Joseph Isaac (Schneersohn) to obtain his blessing.
My father told me that he trembled to see the change that had overtaken the Previous Rebbe, how age had crept up on him since the Warsaw wedding. (It was very difficult to understand the Rebbe's speech; one of the Hasidic elders who stood in the room explained what the Rebbe was saying). Mr. Shwartz told the Previous Rebbe that my father had been saved, but lost his family in the Holocaust. Then, from the holy eyes of the Previous Rebbe there began to fall streams of pure tears. The Rebbe blessed my father and wished him a long and good life. Before he left, my father told the Rebbe that he had been fortunate to be at the wedding of his son-in-law, the Rebbe, in Warsaw. Then, my father tells, the Previous Rebbe's eyes brightened and he said that since his son-in-law lived here, and he was at the wedding, he should certainly visit him to pay his respects.

Mr. Shwartz and my father left the Rebbe's chambers, and after they were shown where to find the chambers of the Ramash, as he was known then, they knocked and entered, saying they came at the instructions of the Previous Rebbe. My father was elated that the Ramash remembered him immediately. His first question was that my father should tell about last days of Rabbi Zemba because he heard he was killed in the Warsaw Ghetto but did not know any details.

After my father told all he knew, the Ramash said, "since the Rebbe told you to visit me, I am obligated to say to you words of Torah. And since the month of Kislev is close to Hanukkah, it is known the custom of many Hasidim," followers of the Baal Shem Tov, to celebrate the fifth day of Hanukkah. What is the reason? Since the fifth day can never fall on the Sabbath, if so, then it implies strong (spiritual) darkness. This is the potential of the Hanukkah candle -- to illuminate the greatest darkness. This is the mission of every Jew in every place he may be -- New York or London -- to illuminate the darkest place.

Needless to say, my father was startled as he had all but forgotten the very same thing that the Ramash had told him nearly 20 years earlier. And now, his memory was jarred, and he realized that the Ramash had repeated, almost word-for-word, what he told him then, in the hotel in Warsaw.

After his wedding, my father served as a rabbi and teacher for Congregation Adath Israel in Washington Heights. There we were born, my sister and I. My father remained there some five years, and, with the help of Mr. Shwartz in Canada, moved to Toronto and worked there as a rabbi and teacher in the Haredi congregations there.
Over the course of years, in Toronto, my father became close to the Satmar Hasidim in the city, since he ministered in his rabbinical work to these Hasidim. Though he never sent us to the Satmar schools, he sent us to educational institutions that were spiritually similar. Me and my brother were sent to the well known Nytra Yeshivah. Though my father's outlook was philosophically close to Satmar, he never spoke against the Lubavitcher Rebbe. On the contrary, he always spoke of him in with praise and in especially respectful terms, as did his children.

In the winter of 5729 (ca. 1969), I was married. My father told me that even though I wasn't a Lubavitcher Hasid, he feels the need to go with me to visit the Lubavitcher Rebbe to receive his blessing for my wedding -- just as he had done, even though he had not seen the Rebbe for some 20 years. I agreed with a whole heart.
But then, I learned it's not so simple to visit the Rebbe.

Only after negotiations with the Rebbe's secretary -- and only after my father explained to him that we could not wait several months to reserve a place in the queue for audiences -- did he agreed to place us in line, but only after we promised we would only ask for a benediction and would not detain the Rebbe. My father promised and we left Toronto on the appointed day. I don't remember the exact hour we entered the Rebbe's chambers, but it was closer to morning than night, if not dawn itself.

I saw the Rebbe's face for the first time in person. His face, especially his eyes, made a great impression on me. My father gave the Rebbe the customary epistle on which were inscribed the names of myself, my bride-to-be and my father's request for a benediction. The Rebbe took the epistle from my father's hands. Before he opened it, he looked at my father with a broad smile and said, "Not more than 20 years ago the time had arrived, especially as the Previous Rebbe sent you to me." My father stood, scared and trembling, and couldn't find the energy to open his mouth.
Meanwhile, the sexton banged on the door, but the Rebbe waved his hand as to negate the knocking, like someone who was saying, don't pay attention.

In the midst of all this, the Rebbe opened the epistle, glanced at it, and immediately began to give us his blessing, blessed my father with a long life and good years, and said, roughly, "Just as you rejoiced at my nuptials, may the Lord give you nachas and strength to dance at your grandchild's wedding." Tears poured from my father's eyes, and I was also elated. My father had been physically broken from all he had endured in the camps, and this benediction of the Rebbe's was especially dear.

Before we left, my father got together the strength to ask the Rebbe that since he had promised the secretary we would enter solely to request a blessing, and he has a pressing question, would the Rebbe permit him to ask it. The Rebbe smiled and laughed, and said (roughly): "Since the Rebbe the father-in-law sent you to me, I am obligated to answer all questions. And as before, we heard loud banging on the door, and the Rebbe signaled we should ignore it.

My father turned to the Rebbe and said that for different reasons, we had lived among the Satmar Hasidim and their fellow travellers for many years. There, we frequently hear complaints about the views of Lubavitch. "Even though I do not accept all the gossip that I hear, they have nonetheless succeeded in raising within me a great doubt about the Lubavitch view in connection with working together with the "wicked people." The verses are well known, such as "And those that thou hatest the Lord shall hate." "How is it that Lubavitch can openly work together with those who battle against G-d and his Torah?"

My father told the Rebbe that he requests forgiveness for the question, and did not mean to offend. Quite to the contrary, he really wants to understand the Rebbe's view so he can answer others as well as himself. The Rebbe then turned to my father with a question. "What would your neighbors do if a neighbor's daughter began to keep bad company? Would they attempt to return her to the way of Torah and the Commandments, or would they say, 'And those that thou hatest the Lord shall hate and it is forbidden to involve oneself with the wicked; therefore, we should distance ourselves from her and not bring her closer?'"

The Rebbe did not even wait for an answer, and promptly added: "This zealous one would answer that with a daughter, the injunction of 'From thy flesh do not conceal thyself would apply.'" And then the Rebbe's eyes became serious, and he knocked on the table, and said: "By the Al-mighty, every Jew is as precious as an only child. With the Rebbe, the father-in-law, every Jew was 'From thy flesh, do not conceal thyself.'"

Then the Rebbe looked at me, and at my father with a constant gaze, and said: "One concludes with a blessing. As it is known, it is customary among Hasidim to celebrate the fifth day of Hanukkah with festivities. What is the reason? Since the fifth day cannot ever fall on the Sabbath, this signifies that it is the height of darkness. With the light of the Hanukkah candle, it is possible to illuminate the darkest thing. This is the mission of each Jew, to illuminate even the darkest places. It does not matter where he lives -- Toronto or London. Every Jew is veritably a part of G-d above, the only child of the Holy One, Blessed be He. And when one lights his soul with the candle of holiness, even the distant Jew is stirred in the darkest place."

My father was startled in the most shocking way. He didn't even hear the last words of the Rebbe's blessing, nor how we left the Rebbes chambers. All the way back to Toronto he was silent. Only two words: "wonder of wonders. Wonder of wonders."
Since then, about 10 years passed.

In the year 5739 (ca. 1979), my youngest brother was married in the city of London. The whole family, my father, my mother, my sister, my brother-in-law, and I flew to the wedding in an airplane. On the way to London, I saw my father was preoccupied. Something was bothering him. I asked him what was wrong and he didn't want to say. Only after I asked several times, he told me. "A few minutes after I left the house in Toronto, the neighbor -- one of the dignitaries of our congregation -- came to see me, rivers of tears pouring from his eyes. He said he would tell me a story that he would not otherwise tell to anybody willingly, but that maybe I could help.
It turned out that the daughter of this community leader wavered very much in her ritual observance. In the beginning, the parents didn't really know about it, because she hid it from them. But two weeks earlier, the great catastrophe became known to them: she eloped with a Gentile to London. Since then, the atmosphere at home was one of crying and mourning, the 9th of Av.

All the efforts of relatives in London came to naught. Therefore, he asked my father, since he was travelling to London, maybe he would look into the matter, and G-d would be merciful. Maybe he could find the daughter and prevent her from descending into the depths of iniquity? My father was a close friend of this neighbor, and was affected greatly by the story. I also took it to heart and thought about what I could do in London.

The nuptials were held at a good and auspicious hour. On the first night of the Seven Benedictions, my father turned to the bride's father and told him the story about the neighbor's daughter. Perhaps he had some advice, who, where? Maybe he could look into the matter and do something? The bride's father, as soon as he heard the story, said to my father that he had no understanding of such matters, but did have a friend who was a Lubavitcher Hasid, who the Lubavitcher Rebbe had always charged with all types of errands. The man's name was Rabbi Abraham Isaac Glick, and if there's somebody who can help, it is this man, who had already managed to save from the streets of Europe many confused souls.

That night, the bride's father telephoned Rabbi Glick, told him the story and explained how pressing the matter was. Rabbi Glick asked for the telephone number of the girl's parents in Toronto -- perhaps they knew some details that would help, like addresses, telephone numbers. Perhaps they would give him some clue where to start searching. Rabbi Glick promised to do what he could.
I don't know where Rabbi Glick searched, where he went, nor with whom he consulted. But one night, about 10 days later -- my father and my mother decided to stay in London until after Hanukkah -- Rabbi Glick called the bride's father and told him to come immediately. "I have a very good surprise," he said.

The bride's father and my father hurried to Rabbi Glick's house. As they entered, they saw a girl sitting, crying. At the entrance of the salon, a Hanukkah candelabrum was lit. Suddenly, as my father looked at the menorah, he saw five candles lit, and he almost fainted and fell to the ground. He remembered the strange sentence the Rebbe had told him some 50 years earlier, then 30 years earlier and then 10.

"The fifth Hanukkah candle signifies the power of the Hanukkah menorah, and the mission of every Jew is to illuminate even" the darkest place -- Warsaw or London, New York or London, or Toronto or London . . ."

"What will that zealous one do when his daughter wavers ...with the Holy One, Blessed be He, every Jew is an only child ... With the Previous Rebbe, every Jew is 'From thy flesh, do not conceal thyself.'" There's no need to mention that the girl completely repented and became on observant Jew. There's also no need to mention that the zealous one shut his mouth and ceased speaking against Lubavitch.
When my father returned to Canada, he made every effort to obtain an audience with the Rebbe. He felt a need, a spiritual duty after what had happened, to see the Rebbe. But in those years, it had become very difficult to obtain a private audience. But the following month of Tishrei, the year 5740 (ca. 1980), my father succeeded seeing the Rebbe on the night that a group of holiday visitors had a group audience. My father said that from all the emotions that were coursing through him, he could not utter anything during the audience. When he tried to tell the story, he would break into tears. The Rebbe heard just a few sentences, turned to my father and said, "The father-in-law has a very distant vision."

Every time my father would tell this story, he would say that the real wonder was the Lubavitcher Rebbe. Even more than his vision of events to come from 50 years beforehand, was his heavenly humility of, that he said, "The father-in-law has a very distant vision."

The chain of wonders has not stopped. On 14 Kislev 5748 (ca. 1989), exactly when the Seven Benedictions for my firstborn child ended, on the day which represented the passage of 60 years from the Rebbe's wedding in Warsaw, my father passed away -- all just as the Rebbe had blessed my father, that he should rejoice at the wedding of his grandchild.

We should be happy that this man, Holy to G-d dwelt amongst us. Since it is known that "The righteous are greater in their death than in their lives," certainly the Rebbe will cause a flow of blessings, salvation and comfort from On High, to each and all, until we merit to the promise of the verse, "And a Redeemer shall come unto Zion," in accord with the holy will of the Rebbe, soon and in our time. Amen.

-- Rabbi Moshe Hayyim Greenvald

The copy that I received 13 years ago was originally provided by Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Kazen, a"h (who has passed away), the original founder of Chabad Online ( <>, one of the best Jewish web sites. At the time I received this, an online web site was a new thing (for those who know 'net history, it originally came with a Gopher address), and a religious web site was a wondrous thing. It came with the stipulation that the site be advertised, which I have done here, and donation info provided. To donate to Chabad Online, click here <>.

It also came with the stipulation that this acknowledgment be included, though I don't know if the contact information is outdated or still accurate:
Translation provided courtesy of:
Rabbi Abraham KorfLubavitch Regional Director-Floridae-mail: rabbi@bcfreenet.seflin.lib.fl.usvoice: (305) 673-5664; fax: (305) 673-0269

-Dixie Yid

(Picture courtesy of

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Thursday, December 25, 2008

Should We Teach People That The Torah is the Best Worldly Tool?

When I was first becoming observant, one book that had a great effect on my thinking was Tradition in a Rootless World: Women Turn to Orthodox Judaism. It was written by a non-frum sociologist who immersed herself in two different communities of Baalei Teshuva to learn why they chose to become observant and in what ways they differed. She spent a few weeks studying at a Beis Chana Chabad Seminary for Baalos Teshuva and several weeks with the Lincoln Square Synagogue, a center for many modern orthodox Baalei Teshuva in Manhattan.

One of the major impressions that I had from this book, which, to me, reflected negatively on the modern orthodox approach to teaching Baalei Teshuva at Lincoln Square, was that their whole approach was completely this-world centered. They taught how Judaism and observance leads to a better life in this world. They showed people how being observant was healthier physically, emotionally and socially. They showed people how, if they became more observant, they could have better lives in this world. This was their main approach to outreach.

In contrast, the approach at the Chabad seminary was to encourage the women to grow in their committment to Yiddishkeit by focusing mostly on the spiritual side of it. They showed the people there how they could transcend this world and connect to G-d through keeping the Torah.

My impression was that the more "right wing" approach was to take a more direct route and actually focus on the real deal, which is that religion is supposed to bring a person closer to G-d, not merely a more "effective" life in this finite world.

However, I saw a very interesting Kedushas Levi in Parshas Vayishlach (5th piece) which speaks about this basic concept. He talks about two different stages in a person's development. He says that when one is first beginning to get closer to G-d, the yetzer hara is very strong. The person is still so steeped in "this-world", that they have no language or frame of reference for really focusing on the transcendent, which just doesn't move the person at that stage because he just doesn't speak that language yet. In order to grow in observance at that stage, a person can only fight their yetzer hara by focusing on all of the good things of this world that a person gets by keeping the Torah. In such a way, the yetzer hara is pacified and lays off a bit, and the person can grow.

But in "stage 2," when a person is already davuk, cleaving to Hashem, then he should no longer focus on the good things of this world that the Torah will bring him. Rather, he should only focus on giving nachas ruach, pleasure to Hashem as his only motivation. At this stage, the nefesh haEloki, the G-dly soul, is so revealed that one does not need the crutch of focusing on the worldly benefits of Torah anymore to subjugate the yetzer hara. The lure of greater deveikus with Hashem and the ability to give Him nachas ruach through one's avodah is incentive enough.

After seeing this piece in Kedushas Levi, I realized that both approaches, the Lincoln Square approach and the Chabad approach from that book are both necessary for different people, and for the same people in different stages of their development. I don't actually know whether the teachers at Lincoln Squqre are actually aware of "Stage 2" or not. I don't know if they intended to help influence the members of their community to the more spiritual, G-d oriented, transcendent side of Yiddishkeit when they were ready or not. But the Kedushas Levi is teaching that this method should not be shunned. It is something necessary for each of us in the beginning stages of our avodah (which can often take a lifetime) and should be used without embarrassment because for those of us coming from a secular culture, the worldy benefits are the only ones which will speak to us until we learn how much more is out there.

I don't think that only one or the other approaches are right. We have to know ourselves to discern which strategy to pursue when fighting our own yetzer haras and which is the right approach when teaching others. We have to know which language we and others understand and which we don't. IY"H, we should all be zoche to take the right approach in our own inner work and when trying to be mashpiah in a positive and productive way on others.

-Dixie Yid

(Picture of Lincoln Square Synagogue courtesy of

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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Video of Meeting Between Rav Ovadia Yosef & Rav Sheinberg

Harav Ovadia Yosef weeps, "I am crying over my sins!" I am left completely speechless at Rav Ovadia Yosef, a geon olam, one of the biggest poskim and Talmidei Chachaim in the generation. He such an anav, he has such humility, it is a wonder to behold...

-Dixie Yid

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Our Friends From Des Moines at the White House Chanukah Party!

Our friends, Ari and Chana ZC Sytner, who we know from our time in the Community Kollel of Des Moines, are the rabbi and Rebbetzin of the main Shul in Charleston, South Carolina, the city of my birth! They were invited to the White House Chanukah Party with President Bush. Here's a video Ari made of the experience. Enjoy!

By the way, below is another video from that event. This one is of the Kol Zimra group singing several Chanukah songs accapella with the President sitting in the front row.

-Dixie Yid

(Picture courtesy of XYZ)

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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

"Vezakeini Legadail": The Shabbos Candles, the Chanukah Candles and the Strength of the Chashmonaim - Audio Shiur

Reb Yerachmiel has come through with this week's Baltimore Community Kollel Tefillah Chaburah.

Have you ever imagined, years before the miracle of the neiros Chanukah, what Matisyahu's wife/Yehudah Ha'Maccabee's mother davened for as she lit her neiros Shabbos?

Below is the latest shiur which covers such topics as shalom bayis, Shabbos kodesh, chinuch yeladim and Chanukah, and which revolves around the entrancing tefillah said by Jewish women as they light Shabbos candles each Friday night, and popularized by the renown singer Baruch Levine: "Vekaneini Legadail".
This unique presentation of song & shiur, still reverberating throughout Baltimore, is a must listen!

CLICK HERE to listen right away by left clicking or right clicking and selecting "Save Target As" to download.

-Dixie Yid

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Does Anyone Out There Have a Recording of Rav Eliyahu Dessler???

Last night, Neil at Modern Uberdox posted a request for information on recordings of Rav Eliyahu Dessler speaking.

We were talking about this the other day and he came up with the idea of posting this request. As he said, it is said that some of his shiurim were recorded, though it was a bit controversial to put a tape recorder in the Beis Medresh in those days, especially in Bnei Brak. If anyone knows of anyone with any of these shiurim recorded in any format, please let me or Neil know! I'm sure we can find someone to convert them from whatever the format is, into a digital format that we can post online. It would be a great metziah for klal Yisroel to actually be able to hear Rav Dessler's actual voice.

So if anyone knows of any recordings that exist of Rav Dessler speaking, please e-mail either myself (dixieyid(at) or Neil at neilsharris(at)

-Dixie Yid

(Picture courtesy of Modern Uberdox)

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Chanukah Mesiba with Rav Shmuel Brazil in Baltimore- Pics & Audio

As I announced here, Rav Shmuel Brazil played and spoke at a Chanukah Mesiba for the Baltimore Community Kollel on Sunday. The Rosh Kollel, Rav Nasanel Kostelitz was the opening speaker. With thanks to Dr. Ron Samet for sharing these pictures/videos and to Reb Yerachmiel for the audio (3 wav files), here are some photographic highlights of the first night of Chanukah! I wish I could have been there! Looks and sounds like it was awesome!

Audio: (To listen right away, left click. Or to download, right click on each of the files and select "Save Target As")

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

-Dixie Yid

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Monday, December 22, 2008

Who Will Be the Next Mattisyahu HaKohen?

I received the following e-mail from a friend, asking for ideas on how we can answer the call of "Mi LaShem Alai!" "Whoever is for Hashem, Join me!" in this generation. Any thoughts/feelings would be appreciated.

Chanukah is upon us, B"H. I think for most of us, maybe for the first time in our lives for those of us in this generation, we can feel a tangible darkness in the world - maybe a touch of the darkness that must have been felt in the days of Mattisyahu Kohen Gadol and the Chashmonaim. The world has changed dramatically in such a short time - with Kevitzas HaDerech, a shortening of the way. The world that we grew up in seems remarkably different - overnight. In a way that's Lo B'Derech HaTevah - unnatural. H" seems to be shaking the rope, to see who can hold on in these days before the coming of Moshiach. Who would have thought even 2 years ago that people would lose sleep over whether or not the bank in which they have their money would be in existence the next day. Who would have thought that retirement savings, and the monetary futures of so many, could possibly vanish in an instant. Who would have thought that what happened to the Kedoshim in India could happen, let alone pass with the world just moving on business as usual. Who would have thought that pieces of our heart and soul, pieces of Eretz HaKodesh, and Yerushalayim Ir Hakodesh, could be put up for grabs, for nothing - Lo Lishmah. A close chaver of mine recently visited a well known Rosh Yeshivah who told him that our current matzav is maybe a shadow of the times that the trains were headed for Rachmanah Litzlan - at that time, who wouldn't have given their very lives to stop those trains. So what do we do now?

I heard a shiur from Rav Shmuel Brazil, shlita, b'shem Gedolim (Darchei Noam et. al.), who said that there is a Kasha (question) as to why we light the menorah on the first night of Chanukah. After all, the Yidden found the Pach Shemen (jug of oil) at the time, and had the oil for the first day of Chanukah. The Nes then occurred and the oil stayed lit for another seven nights so that they could make new oil - and so we light the Menorah on those successive nights to commemorate that miracle of the oil, but why on the first night? He explained al pi the Sefarim HaKedoshim that we light the menorah on the first night to commemorate the military victory of the few yidden, the Chashmonaim, who fought and defeated the Greek army. This is clear from Al Hanisim which makes no mention of the Menorah really, rather it talks about the victory of the few over the many. So why then do we light the menorah the first night, if we're commemorating the military victory? The answer he gives, to me, is life changing. When Mattisyahu Kohen Gadol saw our enemies bringing the head of a chazer, a pig, on the mizbayach, the alter, it was the straw that broke the camels back for him. He felt that tzarus of the Ribbono Shel Olam. That such a thing could be. A pig on the altar in the Beis HaMikdash. He couldn't take it anymore. He decided that was it. "I'm going to destroy the Greek army." And so he gathered "his boys" and together they destoyed an army. He had an Aish Kodesh, a holy fire, in his heart, and with complete and total Emunah and Bitachon in H", used that Aish Kodesh to destroy an army. It was Lo B'Derech HaTevah - completely unnatural.

There is a concept that we find in chassidus - That when there is an "arousal from below" - someone who gives themselves over, with body and soul, with "mesirus nefesh", for the kavod of the Ribbono Shel Oilam, this mesirus nefesh brings about an "arousal from above", a corresponding outpouring of Divine compassion, which brings about salvation. And so, when Mattisyahu Kohen Gadol became the zealot for H", initiating an "arousal from below", his Aish Kodesh brought about a tidal wave of divine compassion, which he used to wipe out the Greek army. And so, we light the menorah on the first day of Chanukah, because it was that Aish Kodesh from Mattisyahu Kohen Gadol that led to the victory against the Greek army, against all odds, and so we light the Menorah which burns with that very Aish Kodesh.

We see the same pattern during the times of Purim, with Mordechai and Esther. It took one man - Mordechai, to change the world. Mordechai, with complete and total Emunah and Bitachon in H", knew that the Yidden needed salvation. He had an Aish Kodesh inside of him, and used that Aish Kodesh to ultimately bring about the salvation of our people. He placed that Aish Kodesh into the heart of Esther HaMalkah, and in turn she risked her life, to approach Achashverosh, against all odds, to save the Jewish Nation. Earlier in history, after the Yidden left Egypt and encountered the Yam Suf in front of them, and the enemy behind them, they also felt there was no way out. It wasn't until Nachshon ben Aminadav began to walk into the ocean, up to his neck, that the sea split and the nation passed through on dry land.

The lesson is so pure. So simple. We need to have Emunah and Bitachon that H" is going to bring about our salvation. We need to have the Mesirus Nefesh of Mattisyahu Kohen Gadol, and Mordechai HaTzadik. We need to know that it doesn't matter if all the odds are stacked up against us. It doesn't matter if there is an army, or an ocean, in front of us. It doesn't matter if, B'Derech HaTevah, in a natural way, there doesn't seem to be a way out of our current situation. We need to trust, with all of our hearts and souls, that when it comes to H" - as the Heilige Nesivos Shalom, the Slonimer Rebbe Z'TL, points out - "V'Harbe Imo Fedus" (Tehillim 130) - H" has an infinite number of ways in which to rescue His children. And when it comes to His children, it doesn't matter where we are, or what we are doing - just as He took us out of Egypt, and dusted us off from 49th gate of impurity, so to He will bring us out and redeem us from our current matzav, or situation.

It seems as if the same winds that were blowing in the world during the days of of Yetzias Mitzrayim, during the times of Mordechai HaTzadik, and during the times of Mattisyahu Kohen Gadol are blowing once again. So what's our Avodah? What do we do - when the darkness in the world seems so thick. When the cultures around us seem to be Greek once again. When Persia seems to be rising once again in power. When the flood waters seem to be rising all over the world. The answer seems clear - H" wants us to be like Mattisyahu Kohen Gadol. He wants us to be like Mordechai. He wants us to be like Esther. He wants us to be like Nachshon ben Aminadav. He wants us to fight against all odds, just like they did - against the "armies of the world", in their various forms. He wants us to walk into the ocean, the mayim rabim, up to our necks, while trusting in Him with all of hearts and souls. He wants us fear nothing, and nobody, except Him! He wants us to know that He can and will save his children, once again, because He loves us. But we have to have faith - We need to have Emunah. We have to have Bitachon. It doesn't matter how dark the world seems. It doesn't matter if the banks are collapsing, if the markets are tumbling, or if the dollar is down and out. Nor does it matter who sits in the Oval Office. It just doesn't matter, for as we say in Shemoneh Esrei, "Ki Vecha Batachnu, V'Al Chasdecha HaGadol B'Emes Nishanenu"" - For in YOU we trust, and upon Your kindness that is great in sincerity and in perfection do we rely. There's only H", and He wants us to light the Aish Kodesh once again. He wants US to BE like Mattisyahu.

Chaunkah is here. Lets all dig deep inside of ourselves, and beg H" Yisbarach to help us to bring out the Mattisyahu that is there within each of us, and with that Koach, or power, bring about an "arousal from below" to light up the world with our Aish Kodesh, and beg H" Yisbarach to grant us, in his infinite compassion, an "arousal from above", to bring a complete salvation for our people, in our days, with the coming of Mashiach Tzidkeinu.

-Dixie Yid

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Friday, December 19, 2008

Rav Shmuel Brazil Chanukah Mesiba/Kumzitz Baltimore Sunday Night!

This Sunday, Rav Shmuel Brazil, a Rebbe at Shor Yoshuv, and well known maker of holy Jewish music, will be at a Chanukah Mesiba and Kumzitz in Baltimore on the first night of Chanukah at 7:30, at the Community Kollel of Baltimore. Click here for more info!

-Dixie Yid

(Flyer and information received from Reb Yerachmiel - Click on the image above or click here to get a larger version in pdf)

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Two New Chassidus Shiurim on Chanukah - Rabbi Tal Zwecker

With thanks to Rabbi Tal Zwecker, who has been gracious enough to share some of the shiurim he gives at his Shteller in Ramat Beit Shemesh, here are mp3s of two of the Chassidus shiurim he has given on Chanukah:

Chassidus Chanukah 1: Download/Listen
Chassidus Chanukah 2: Download/Listen

-Dixie Yid

(Picture courtesy of Vincent Lewis at Chassidic

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Thursday, December 18, 2008

Was G-d's Rejection of Kayin's Sacrifice Just? What Does "Also" Mean?

Here's another kasha that my reform rabbi asked against Chazal, our sages, when I was studying with him as either a Sophomore or Junior in high school. I have not heard a satisfying answer to this kasha yet.

He pointed out that Kayin and Hevel (Cain & Abel) both brought offerings to G-d. But that G-d favored Abel's offering but not Kayin's. This sparked Kayin's jealousy of Hevel, which precipitated his murder of Hevel soon afterward. This rabbi pointed out that Chazal (Rashi, Onkelos, Tanchuma, Sifsei Chachamim) say that Hevel brought the best sheep, while Kayin brought his worst produce. He pointed to the pasuk in Breishis 4:4 though that says "וְהֶבֶל הֵבִיא גַם-הוּא מִבְּכֹרוֹת צֹאנוֹ," "And Hevel also ("גַם") brought from the firsborn of his flock." He argued that the word "also" implied contrary to what Chazal say (in explanation of G-d's preference for Hevel's Korban) that Hevel brought a good Korban while Kayin brought a bad one. The word "also," he argues, implies that Kayin and Hevel both brought equally good (or bad) korbanos.

I had thought that perhaps the word "also" does not necessarily imply a sameness in kind or quality between things. However, Rashi's explanation in this week's parsha belies that approach.

In this week's parsha, Vayeishev, the Torah says that Er married Tamar. He committed a certain sin that cost him his life. Then his brother Onan marries her and also dies. In regard to that, the pasuk in Bereishis 38:10 says, "וַיֵּרַע בְּעֵינֵי יְהוָה, אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה; וַיָּמֶת, גַּם-אֹתוֹ." "And what he [Onan] did was evil in the eyes of G-d and He also ("גַּם") killed him. Rashi infers from the use of the word "also" that Onan committed the same sin that Er committed. You can see from here the logical inference that whenever the Torah says "also" does mean that the described idea is the same for the thing before the "also" and the thing after the "also."

So at this point, I don't have an answer to why the word "גַּם" by Kayin and Hevel doesn't imply that their korbanos were of equal quality! I think I've looked in the mikra'os gedolos for a satisfactory explanation in the past but haven't found anything. If anyone else knows a good mehalech, approach, to this question, please let me/us know!

-Dixie Yid

(Picture courtesy of geographyofgrace)

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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

"Cut Your Losses" When the Yetzer Hara Strikes

My Rebbe brought down a Torah from the Divrei Yiroel of Modzitz this past Shabbos at Shalosh Sheudos. The Rebbe commented on Yaakov's strategy of splitting his camp. In Breishis 32:8-9, the Torah says "אִם-יָבוֹא עֵשָׂו אֶל-הַמַּחֲנֶה הָאַחַת וְהִכָּהוּ--וְהָיָה הַמַּחֲנֶה הַנִּשְׁאָרוַיַּחַץ אֶת-הָעָם אֲשֶׁר-אִתּוֹ, וְאֶת-הַצֹּאן וְאֶת-הַבָּקָר וְהַגְּמַלִּים--לִשְׁנֵי מַחֲנוֹת. וַיֹּאמֶר, אִם-יָבוֹא עֵשָׂו אֶל-הַמַּחֲנֶה הָאַחַת וְהִכָּהוּ--וְהָיָה הַמַּחֲנֶה הַנִּשְׁאָר, לִפְלֵיטָה" "He split the people, sheep, camels and cattle that were with him into two camps saying, 'If Eisav comes into one camp and smites it, the remaining camp will be saved."

The Divrei Yisroel points out the well known Zohar that says that Eisav is the physical manifestation of the Yetzer Hara. So that whenever we learn something about Eisav, we're also learning something about our own Yetzer Hara, evil inclination. He says that we learn a great strategy in dealing with the Yetzer Hara here. He says that sometimes the Yetzer Hara comes and succeeds in smiting us in something. We do an aveira in some area of life. At that point, the Yetzer Hara tries to get us to become depressed and lose hope. This would play right into his hands because it would lead to depression and yeiush, which only lead to us doing even more aveiros, sins.

He says we must follow Yaakov's lead and use his strategy. When we fail in something, we must learn to cut our losses and not get too tzubrochen, broken about what happened. WE must separate our inner selves into many camps so that even if part of us gets beaten, we can still go ahead with our remaining, intact, selves and push forward. Memeila, automatically if we keep moving forward, we will be able to me mesaken what we did. The main focus, though, should be on not doing it again and in moving forward with avodas Hashem, and not getting hung up on what we did wrong.

Of course we must do teshuva and fix the things we do wrong, but if it gets to the point of depression, as opposed to a broken-heartedness which strengthens our resolve, this is the counsel of the yetzer hara.

The Divrei Yisroel likens the situation to a gang of robbers who have a plan to clean out a businessman's store. Thet send in one of their chevra to steal one item and then run out, hoping that the storekeeper will run after that man, trying to get his item back. And while he is out, the rest of the gang will clean out the whole store. He says that a wise storekeeper will just "write off" the stolen item and just be more careful that no one should steal anything in the future. In such a way, he will, though his additional care, make back many times the value of the stolen item over time.

The nimshal is as we have said. If we mope and wallow in self-pity over the aveiros that we've done, we fall right into the yetzer hara's trap. Rather, we must follow Yaakov Avinu's lead and split ourselves into multiple camps. So that if we fall prey to the yetzer hara in one area, we will still have the motivation and perseverance to continue forward in all areas of avodah afterward, and not to get pulled down by our losses.

May Hashem make us successful to fighting the yetzer hara, and in knowing when to "cut our losses" and keep growing despite our failures!

-Dixie Yid

(Picture courtesy of

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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Why Aren't Yaakov's Arguments With Eisav a Chillul Hashem?

In this past week's Parsha, Parshas Vayishlach Breishis 32:5-6, Yaakover argues, in part, that Eisav (Esau) should not hate him anymore because "עִם-לָבָן גַּרְתִּי, וָאֵחַר עַד... עָתָּה. וַיְהִי-לִי שׁוֹר וַחֲמוֹר, צֹאן וְעֶבֶד וְשִׁפְחָה," "...I have dwelt ("גַּרְתִּי") with Lavan and tarried until now. I have oxen and donkeys, sheep, man-servants and maid-servants..." Rashi brings down the Medrash Tanchuma that Yaakov was saying these things in order to prove to Eisav that their father Yitchak's blessings were not fulfilled. He's saying that since I only "dwelt" with Lavan, and I never became an important person, and since my only wealth consists of things not included in our father's blessing, this shows that my father's blessing wasn't fulfilled in me. Since Yitzchak's blessing wasn't fulfilled in Yaakov, he argues that Eisav has no reason to hate him or kill him any longer.

I always learned this Rashi but has this nagging feeling that there was something not right about this approach. Isn't it denigrating their father by saying that his bracha to Yaakov wasn't effective? Or worse; isn't it denigrating Hashem by saying that Hashem wasn't able to cause Yitzchak's blessing of Yaakov to be effective!

But this year over Shabbos, I was able to see the Kli Yakar on this pasuk which says a very nice pshat in the Rashi in pasuk 5 in general. It is worthwhile to see it inside for how he explains and tweaks Rashi's two pshatim on the word "גַרְתִּי." In relation to my question though, he gives a great explanation. He says that Rashi doesn't bring down the Medresh to say that Yaakov is saying that Yitzchak's bracha on Yaakov wasn't fulfilled at all. Rather, Rashi says that Yaakov is saying that the Brachos weren't fulfilled "in me." i.e. They brachos weren't fulfilled in me. They were fulfilled in you, Eisav!

Yaakov is saying, "I played a trick on you Eisav. But the joke was on me. Since our father's brachos weren't fulfilled in me, but rather, in you, I see that they took effect in the one Yitzchak thought he was blessing, you Eisav." So rather than denigrating Hashem or Yitzchak's ability to give brachos, Yaakov was really just saying that the brachos are fulfilled, just not in me. Brilliant, eh?!

-Dixie Yid

(Picture courtesy of

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Berchas "Ve'LaMalshenim": Addressing Open Issues; Dressing Open Wounds

Reb Yerachmiel has come through with this past Sunday's shiur from his Baltimore Community Kollel Tefillah Chaburah.

This is the final shiur by Reb Yerachmiel on the topic of Berchas "Ve'LaMalshenim" in Shemoneh Esrei. In this self-contained shiur (i.e. first-timer-listeners need not be deterred), Reb Yerachmiel reviewed the words and kavanos of this bracha from start to finish and discussed numerous related topics and insights. In short, this shiur, which delves into the bracha during which we go "head-to-head" with "Evil" itself, might best be titled: Berchas "Ve'LaMalshenim": Addressing Open Issues; Dressing Open Wounds.

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 the shiur.

-Dixie Yid

(Picture courtesy of shalomprayer)

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Monday, December 15, 2008

Rabbi Haber on Not Scapegoating Why Kids Go Off the Derech

Rabbi Yaakov Haber posted a very very very important article on why kids go off the derech and whether some of the things that are often blamed for this are really to blame or if they are just scapegoated. He talks about getting to the real issue. What he writes is very much in line with what I wrote in this post, which is greatly influenced by things I've heard frommy rebbe. It should be noted that the article is a transcript of an interview he did for Horizon Magazine. Here are some key quotes from his post and a link to the full article.

Horizons: I just recently came across another warning against the dangers of the internet to the spiritual wellbeing of our children. Maybe we can begin our discussion by asking how much is the internet to blame for “kids at risk”? Or is that merely scapegoating?

Rabbi Haber: The internet has proven to be capable of a great amount of damage to Jews of all ages. However, it is important to remember that the internet is a reality. There will come a time in the not-so-distant future when it will be impossible to pay a bill, bank, make a phone call or even turn on a light in your house without using the Internet. Instead of forbidding the Internet and non-kosher cell phones, it would seem to be more prudent to teach students how to interact with the Internet responsibly. If we were to forbid everything that we can use the wrong way we must include cars, mp3 players, and for that matter---women! We have to be very careful with internet technology---but forbidding it is not the answer in the long term.

When a teenager leaves us for a more exciting lifestyle, we have to ask ourselves why they are not finding that excitement in our homes and communities. In his remarkable sefer, Tzav V’Ziruz, the Piacezner Rebbe teaches an important lesson in education: Nature abhors a vacuum. The sustenance of the neshama is regesh (emotion). The neshama wants to be filled with a regesh of kedushah. If it doesn’t find kedusha, it will search for any form of regesh, even violent or disgusting regesh. We have to fill our children’s neshamos with healthy Torah regesh. Then the urge to look elsewhere will disappear.


H: Sounds like the system is designed to spread the malady.

RH: You know, I would say that it’s not “kids at risk, it’s “Klal Yisrael at risk.” I have worked with hundreds of so-called “kids at risk.” Most of the time these young people are the cream of the crop. Adel, sweet, caring individuals. The kind that, if you say “Well, I have to be going into the city now,” they’ll immediately offer to give you a ride. And it’s often because they are not aggressive or bullying by nature that they are swayed by bad influences, make bad decisions. But they are good kids.

You have to ask yourself : What would happen if they would not fall through the cracks? They have tremendous potential and a role to fill in the Jewish people. There are so many different mandates: tefilah, chesed, writers, administration, etcetera. In an eltist system, these are all b’dieved. But is that really the emes? No one should be an extra. Everyone should feel needed and important---because they are. This is how Yaakov Avinu spoke and blessed all of his children before he left this world: “Each man according to his blessing did he bless them.”

So, if we allow them to fall thorugh the gaps, Klal Yisrael loses. So it’s not just a matter of saving this kid or that kid; but of saving Klal Yisrael. As I said, we have to decide if we can afford to lose them.

Read the full article...

-Dixie Yid

(Picture courtesy of

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Sunday, December 14, 2008

Nosai B'ol Im Chaveiro - The Passion in Compassion - Rav Aharon Kahn

Check out this shiur given by an unbelievable Talmid Chacham who is also a very gifted speaker, Rav Aharon Kahn. He was my rebbe in Y.U. (whom I quoted here) and it was always the highlight of the year when he would give that week's Sichas Mussar. Enjoy!

Money quote:

The sensitivity to something in midos does not happen because we are learning Tosafos Rabbosai! And if you have any hava amina that that's how it happens, banish the thought! Because the sensitivity in midos is only shiach when you work on the midos themselves... [A ben Torah has many pluses that make acquisition of the midos more likely] But don't confuse the pluses with the achievements!

-Dixie Yid

P.S. You can listen to 32+ more shiurim by Rav Kahn HERE.

(Courtesy of Divrei Yosher, Picture courtesy of YU Torah)

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Why Do Your Kids Like Chunkah...

Comment on Daled Amos with your kids-under-five's reasons why they like Chanukah...

-Dixie Yid

(Picture courtesy of Levine Judaica)

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Scribal Errors in the Torah?

When I was studying with the reform rabbi at the Temple I went to in 10th or 11th grade, he shared with me one part of his denial of the 8th fundamental of Yiddishkeit of the Rambam, that every word of the Torah that we have today is the exact same text as we received from Hashem at Har Sinai. He pointed out a certain discrepency in this past weeks parsha. In Breishis 32:31-32, it says, " וַיִּקְרָא יַעֲקֹב שֵׁם הַמָּקוֹם, פְּנִיאֵל: כִּי-רָאִיתִי אֱלֹהִים פָּנִים אֶל-פָּנִים, וַתִּנָּצֵל נַפְשִׁי. וַיִּזְרַח-לוֹ הַשֶּׁמֶשׁ, כַּאֲשֶׁר עָבַר אֶת-פְּנוּאֵל; וְהוּא צֹלֵעַ, עַל-יְרֵכוֹ.." "And Yaakov called the name of the place Peni-el 'because I have seen the divine face to face and my life has been saved.' And the sun rose for him when he passed Penu-el, and he was limping on his thigh."

This rabbi pointed out that one pasuk calls the place "פְּנִיאֵל" and the very next pasuk calls the same place "פְּנוּאֵל." He attributed this not to any intentional difference in spelling/pronounciation, but to the fact that various scribes probably just made some mistakes that got into our sifrei Torah. I didn't and obviously still don't believe that but I had wanted to know ever since then what the pshat was in that quick change in spelling in the very next verse.

I had heard the explanation that since letters like "yud" and "vav" are interchangable, that is why it changes from Penuel to Peniel between psukim. Perhaps someone can help me out in understanding this, but that doesn't really answer the question as far as I can see. It is true that these letters are interchangable, and this can explain why two similar words with different meanings and different contexts actually share a shoresh, but it does not explain why the word should be spelled/pronounced differently so close together.

Then I came across the Ohr Hachaim on this pasuk who explains that every other time this city is referenced in Tanach, it is called "Penuel," but that the name Yaakov gave it here was Peniel. Meaning: Because of the significant experience Yaakov had there with the Sar Shel Eisav, Yaakov made a play on the actual name of the city, as if to say, "This place shouldn't be called 'Penuel,' since I saw the face of the divine, it should be called 'Peniel,' with a spelling that indicates 'face of god' to reflect my experience." While in the next pasuk, it is talking in the third person about Yaakov, not quoting Yaakov himself, so it calls the city by its general name, "Peunel."

This explanation makes sense in the simple meaning of the verses. When you look at the facts that the Ohr Hachaim brings, it actually seems so obvious that it's crazy that people use this as a proof at all against the Torah. Kol tuv!

-Dixie Yid

(Picture courtesy of

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