Friday, February 27, 2009

Kedushas Levi on Parshas Truma & Purim - Audio Shiurim

Here are two mp3 shiurim by R' Tal Zwecker based on the Kedushas Levi. The first shiur is on the Kedushas Levi on Parshas Teruma. And the 2nd shiur is the Kedushas Levi on Purim. Listen well!

Kedushas Levi Terumah
Kedushas Levi Purim1

As you might remember, Rabbi Zwecker just went to many Kivrei Tzadikim in the Ukraine. He sent out many of his pictures recently and here are a few of them. The rest are available here.

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Kol Brisk on Parshas Teruma - Guest Post - Making Ourselves Vessels for the Divine

לעלוי נשמת הגאון הר"ר אהרן בן הר"ר משה הלוי סאלאווייציק זצ"ל
Parashas Terumah

ויעש לבית חלוני שקפים אטמים (הפטרה)
רש"י: רבותינו פירשו שקופים לשון ראיה ופתיחה והשקפה, פתוחים מבחוץ ואטומים מבפנים. שלא כדרך שאר חלונות העשויות למאור, להראות שאינו צריך לאורה.

The windows of the Bais Hamikdash were made "transparent opaque", wide on the outside and narrow on this inside. This was because the Bais Hamikdash was not in need of external light, the Shechinah was the light of the Bais Hamikash. (Rashi)

We too are given the mandate of becoming receptacles for the Shechinah.
ועשו לי מקדש ושכנתי בתוכם.

How can we apply the principle of חלוני שקופים אטומים - transparent and opaque windows to ourselves and our functioning?

Let us bear in mind that we all possess a nefesh Eloki, a G-dly soul within, a חלק אלוק ממעל. The brilliance of our soul is described as seventy times as great as the morning light. How do we access this? What do we do to enable our souls to shine and illuminate our lives?

שקפים אטמים is about not watching and waiting for recognition and pay-off for our actions and accomplishments. The astounding fact that that we are doing Ratzon Hashem and making Him happy (כביכול), is itself the gratification.

שקפים אטמים can apply to our relationships with people. Relationships must constantly be gaged to ensure that they are healthy and balanced, based on giving, sharing, and not unnecessary emotional dependency. This can apply to parents, who must carefully monitor how they relate to their growing children, and certainly their married children, not to become overbearing and controlling. It can apply to adult children, not hanging on to parents in an unhealthy way under the guise of kibbud av va'em. This can apply to any friendship, watching boundaries, not trespassing and not allowing others to trespass.

שקפים אטמים is also about being intellectually critical, not passively accepting but carefully checking information that we receive and the standards that are dictated to us. How does something fit or not fit in to the value system that we know to be true and real? So what if any given behavior is the "norm" and everyone does it, or someone famous and important does it! This is a tough one for someone whose self-identity is intertwined with some group and automatically adopts the all the group's standards - for better or for worse.

שקפים אטמים certainly is about being careful with the sights and sounds that we "allow in", vigilantly filtering out the inappropriate. The eyes and ears are windows to the soul. Our brains do not forget and delete. Anything that goes in simply gets pushed and packed into its recesses. So why fill it with junk? Beyond pornography, there is also the issue of all the lashon horah and prejudices based on resentment and tzarus ayin that float around the environment. This is no less junk and no less filthy than the former. So much of the tragic fragmentation in our community is a result of these terrible insidious messages communicated and internalized.

שקפים אטמים is about not getting fazed by situations in which we find ourselves that are different than we would have chosen. Rather than torment ourselves with "Why am I in this situation, why is this happening to me?!", an illuminated response would be to honestly seek out and ask "What does Hakodosh Baruch Hu want from me in this place?". The next step would be to reach out to Him and beg that He provide us with all the necessary resources to handle it properly.

שקפים אטמים is all about striving for simcha constantly. This is the joy that results from knowing that no matter where we are, we are connected to Hashem, and He is supervising every detail of our lives, custom supervision. True joy is not about external situations that come and go, but about the inner simcha always lighting up our lives.

I remember a woman who worried a great deal about finding a shidduch for her daughter. The great event finally happened and the daughter became engaged. I was sure this woman would be filled with delight and happiness that her wish was fulfilled. The very next conversation we had was about how she was beside herself looking for a wedding hall. What a let-down! Is this what life is all about?? Going from one problem to the next?! No time to indulge in gratitude and bliss?

שקפים אטמים is about consciously making time to contemplate all the great blessings we have, and actively expressing our gratitude. The list is really endless. We can start with ברוך ה', אני נושם.

שימו לב אל הנשמה!

Pay attention to your neshama!
Life can become a wondrous and fascinating journey of revealing and accessing the Nefesh Eloki,
by tuning out of all the static and the noise and tuning in to the great wellsprings within.

ושכנתי בתוכם.

A gutten Shabbos from Yerushalayim Ir HaKodesh.

Broadcasting shiurim in
Directly from
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Thursday, February 26, 2009

Rebbetzin Yehudis Golshevsky - Breslov Torah on Purim - Audio Shiur

I am happy to say that Rebbetzin Yehudis Golshevsky was kind enough to share a shiur she gave this week on Breslov Torah on Purim. Her shiur is for women only and IY"H, I will be able to share more of these shiurim in the future. Rebb. Golshevsky is a premier editor in the Jewish world, is highly knowledgable and has been teaching seminary students in Yerushalayim for a number of years.

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 is in wav format, about 90 minutes and 47 mb.

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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Will Moshiach ben Yosef Necessarily Be Killed???

I saw an interesting Ohr Hachaim on Parshas Balak, Bamidbar 24:17, pointed out by the sefer Kol Hator.

The Ohr Hachaim talks about the Gemara in Sanhedrin 98a, which quotes the pasuk in Yishayahu 60:22, "בְּעִתָּהּ אֲחִישֶׁנָּה," "In it's time, I will hasten it," which the gemara explains to mean, "בעתה וכתיב אחישנה זכו אחישנה לא זכו בעתה." "If they merit, I will hasten it, if they do not merit, [then the geulah will take place] in it's time." He says that the part of the aforementioned pasuk in the seventh aliya of Parshas Balak, "אֶרְאֶנּוּ וְלֹא עַתָּה, אֲשׁוּרֶנּוּ וְלֹא קָרוֹב," is referring to Moshiach ben Yosef, the first redeemer, who brings the Geulah little by little, in the way of "בעתה," "in its time." "We see him, but not now. We gaze upon him, but [it will not happen] soon."

He points out that Moshiach ben Yosef, who he refers to as "Moshiach ben Ephraim," will be killed in the "first war" by Romilus, as Chazal say. But he says that the continuation of the pasuk "וְקָם שֵׁבֶט מִיִּשְׂרָאֵל," "and a tribe will arise from Yisroel" hints at the fact that if the Jewish people become Tzadikim, such that they can be referred to by the appellation "יִּשְׂרָאֵל," then Moshiach ben Yosef will not be killed by Romilus.

He says that, based on this, Gedolei Yisroel have commanded us (Ari Z"l, Sefer Eitz Chaim "Shaar Ha'amida" D"H "Tishkon") to have in mind the salvation of Moshiach ben Yosef when we say "לישועתך קוינו." (based on the pasuk in Parshas Vayechi, Breishis 49:18) He thus says that one should daven for Moshiach ben Yosef that he not die in "the war."

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Music Video in Honor of Erez Levanon, HY"D

Rabbi Lazer Brody posted this video with one of Erez Levanon's songs along with a number of pictures. R' Brody created this video to honor Erez on his second Yohrtzeit which is coming up on the 7th of Adar. He was murdered by two Arabs, yemach shemam, while doing hisbodedus. After reading Rabbi Brody's posts about Erez almost two years ago, I bought Erez's CD from R' Brody, which I still enjoy listening to from time to time. The song in this video, Lev U'Mayan, is on the album is is really beautiful. Straight from the guts.

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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Picking a Bale of Cotton on Purim & Purim Links

I have to re-post this favorite nigun for "Mishenichnas Adar Marbin B'Simcha." :-)

Also, here are a few posts from the past that relate to Purim and Adar:

Reb Yerachmiel's Audio shiur from last year's Baltimore Community Kollel Tefillah Chaburah: Purim, Yom K'Purim & Slach Lanu

Reb Yerachmiel: The Yesod of Yedidus on Purim and in Our Daily Lives

This Picture Gives Sleeping During Davening a New Meaning

New Ban on Shabbos Youth Groups

Audio shiurim by Rabbi Reuven Boshnack: Purim Koton & Two Hafaros

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Free Oh Nuts! Purim Basket for a Dixie Yid Reader

Oh Nuts! is doing a promotion here at Dixie Yid to give away a Purim basket, up to $30 in value. The way you can enter to win this is by leaving a comment on this post stating your favorite gift basket from the Oh Nuts! website. This coming Monday at noon I will randomly choose one of the commenters as the winner and then I will e-mail that person a gift code for the $30 Oh Nuts gift certificate. Obviously, for this contest you will not be able to leave anonymous comments. Please identify yourself in a way that will allow me to e-mail you on Monday if you are a winner. Enjoy!

Update 3/3/09: Click here to see the winner.

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Monday, February 23, 2009

Knowing One's Self? Or Knowing One's Creator? Which Comes First?

Our friend Tuvia, the proprietor of the website, presented Leah Shaindel's question (included below) to Rav Shwartz, the author of the Bilvavi Mishkan Evneh seforim, regarding how to know whether to work on the avodah of knowing one's self or knowing Hashem, first.

I had been learning Bilvavi but was recommended to first learn da es atzmecha. although I feel I can really gain alot from da es atzmecha, it purposely doesnt focus on Hashem and I just kind of miss that alot. so I was wondering how a person can tell which mehalech is for him. Ultimately, Rav Shwartz says that either first a person comes to hacaras Boro and then through that finds hacares atzmo or vice versa.

Dixie Yid explained based on some things that Rav Weinberger says, that it would seem that Da Es is an important pre-cursor to Bilvavi since if you haven't seperated the external things that aren't really you from your understnding of who *you* are, then the "self" that you will be trying to connect to Hashem in the Bilvavi Avodah won't really be your "self." It would just be some image you have compiled of who you are. According to this, it is only after removing the noise and external affectations from your idea of who you are, that you can effectively work on getting your "self" closer to G-d.

Rav Shwartz explained in a shiur that it takes around 10 years to fully internalize da es atzmecha, and to fully identify with only the pnimiyus of who you are. Of course, it isn't an avodah that "ends" after 10 years- its a lifelong thing, but that a person will be able to work on the avodah of bilvavi after that time.

So lets say I fully go into da es atzmecha for 10 years or so- what does that mean about my relationship with Hashem- I can't really work on it? I mean the truth is that identifying more and more with one's neshama which is a chelek of Hashem draws me closer to Him, but Rav Shwartz makes it very clear not to directly connect the avoda of da es atzmecha to avodas haBorei such as bilvavi. Or does needing to learn Da es atzmecha from the start imply that since I never truly knew myself I never truly connected to Hashem from my neshama? Then how do I approach tefila while still in this limbo state?

Below is Rav Shwartz's answer typed and translated:

הכרת עצמו והכרת בוראו מה קודם למה?

עבודת האדם היא להכיר את עצמו ואת בוראו. אולם הכרת עצמו אינה תכלית אלא אמצעי- שביל בלבד להכרת הבורא, שהיא התכלית.
אולם איזה מהם קודם? בפשטות הכרת האדם את עצמו קודמת להכרת בוראו.
אולם בדרכי העבודה יש דרך להתחיל תחילה בהכרת עצמו, ויש דרך להתחיל תחילה בהכרת הבורא. ויש לכך פנים לכך ופנים לכך.
אם מקדים האדם את ידיעת עצמו לידיעת בוראו, הרי שעובד בדרך מיוסדת ובנויה, אולם מאידך כל זמן שעובד על הכרת עצמו חי בלי הכרת בוראו ואלו הם חיים ללא חיות פנימית אמיתית. זולת כך ישנו חשש שמא ימשך כל ימיו להכרת עצמו ולהכרת בוראו לעולם לא יגיע כפי שעינינו רואות אצל עובדים מסוימים. יתר על כן מי שכבר חש מעט את הכרת בוראו, מעט וכ"ש יתר על כן, נפשו תובעת להכיר את בוראו יותר ויותר ואינו מסוגל להניח זאת שנים עד שיכיר את עצמו היטב...
אולם צד שני למטבע שאילו יקדים האדם את הכרת בוראו להכרת עצמו הריהו כאדם הבונה קומה שניה ללא שיש לו קומה ראשונה... ופעמים רבות תולדת דרך זה שנעשה אדם בלתי מציאותי תלוש מגדרי המציאות הניכרת לעין הגשמית, ודרך זה מלבד שאינה מביאה להכרת הבורא אמיתית כי נחסרת היא את האמצעי- הכרת עצמו, יכולה להוליד תנודות קשות בנפש כי זהו אדם שחי עם שמים ללא ארץ עם דמיון ללא הויה.
דע את עצמך הוא דרך מקדים חשוב לבלבבי מאחר שאם עדיין לא הפרדת את הדברים החיצוניים שאינם באמת אתה, מההבנה שלך של מי אתה, אז ה"אתה" שתנסה לחבר אל השם בעבודת בלבבי לא תהיה באמת עצמך, אלא תהיה זו דמות שהרכבת בעצמך של מי אתה. לפיכך רק לאחר הסרת הרעש והעמדות הפנים החיצוניות מהתפיסה שלך של מי שאתה, אז תוכל להתחיל לעבוד ביעילות על קירוב עצמך לאלקים.
אשר על כן כל דרך יש בה מעלות וחסרונות כנ"ל. ועל כן אדם חייב להכיר מחד את המעלות והחסרונות שבכל דרך, ומאידך להכיר מעט את עצמו איזה דרך יותר קרובה לנפשו. והמחפש אמת באמת ינחהו בעל האמת לבחור איזה דרך להקדים ואיזה דרך לאחר. להקדים ולאחר דייקא כי השלמות מורכבת הן מידיעת עצמו והן מידיעת בוראו.
אדם שבחר להתחיל בהכרת עצמו, עליו להקדיש כמה דקות ביום להכרת בוראו, וכן להיפך, אדם שבחר להקדים את הכרת בוראו, עליו להקדיש כמה דקות ביום להכרת עצמו.
Your life's mission requires you to know your self as well as your Creator (acknowledgment of the Creator refers to a palpable sense of Hashem's presence in your life). The knowledge of the self is only an intermediate path for knowledge of the Creator, which is the goal.

Which of these should come first? Logically, self-knowledge should precede knowledge of the Creator. Practically speaking, though, there is one approach that begins with self-knowledge, and another that begins with knowledge of the Creator, and each approach has its merits.

If one places self-knowledge before knowledge of the Creator, his method is sound and solid. On the other hand, as long as he is focused on self-knowledge, he lives without a relationship to his Creator, and his life lacks real inner vitality. In addition, there is a concern that he will spend his entire life on self-knowledge without ever attaining knowledge of the Creator, as we see with some people who engage in spiritual work. Furthermore, if one has already begun to attain a sense
of his Creator, even if occasionally, and certainly if it is more often, his soul will demand greater and greater knowledge of the Creator, and he will not be capable of setting that goal aside for years until he manages to know himself well.

On the other hand, if one gives precedence to attaining knowledge of the Creator, he is akin to one who builds a second floor before having a ground floor. A common result is that he loses touch with reality, and does not properly relate to the world we see with our physical eyes. Not only will he never achieve genuine knowledge of the Creator. Since he lacks the stepping stone of self-awareness, he is liable to suffer from emotional instability. He lives with only heaven, not earth; with delusion, not reality.

For this reason, Da et Atzmecha is an important prelude to the Bilvavi books. If, when you think about who you are, you have not yet learned to filter out the outer layers that are not really part of "you," then the "you" that you will try to connect to Hashem will not be the real self; it will just be some false self-image that you have combined from various elements. Only after removing all the inner "noise" and the facade that taints your self-concept can you effectively commence with the work of making that true self closer to Hashem.

Hence, each approach has its advantages and disadvantages. Each person must understand these advantages and disadvantages and also have an adequate measure of self-knowledge in order to sense which approach is most suited to his soul. One who truly seeks truth will be guided by the Master of Truth to choose which approach to adopt first and which later. Note that we said "first" and "later" because self-perfection requires both self-knowledge and knowledge of the Creator.

One who chooses to start with self-knowledge should also devote a few minutes daily to knowledge of the Creator; conversely, one who has chosen to start with knowledge of the Creator should also devote a few minutes daily to self-knowledge.
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Friday, February 20, 2009

Bitachon in the Face of Layoffs

Although I think we all know the answer, some people are wondering how a Jew should respond to all of the economic and job uncertainty that exists right now. For instance, a friend of mine just had almost 70 staff people laid off at his firm yesterday, one of them being his secretary. The future of associates like him at his firm is uncertain. The firm I will be doing a summer associateship at this summer, IY"H, just laid off about 40 attorneys/staff on Wednesday. One hiring partner at a "Biglaw" firm is suggesting that summer associates and incoming first year associates should realistically worry that their "offer" may be withdrawn. The Federal Reserve is predicting that the economy will continue shrinking and that unemployment could go as high at 8.8% this year. So what's a Yid to do?

I think we all already know the answer. Bilvavi Mishkan Evneh, in the last chapter of the first section of Vol. 5 defines Emunah and Bitachon. He defines Emunah as being fully conscious of the fact that Hashem directs every detail of every level of creation from human beings down to inanimate objects. But he defines Bitachon as trusting that Hashem is literally and constantly concerned about seeing that every detail of creation is run in the absolute best possible way for me.

He points out that one can only achieve this level of Bitachon (trust) after he has internalized the fact that Hashem has an absolute and unabiding love for him. Because even if I believe and know that Hashem runs the world, that doesn't necessarily mean that I trust Hashem to know what's best. Because sometimes I feel that He needs a little of my help to know what is best for me. (ChV"Sh.)

But I would point out, as Rav Shwartz has said in earlier volumes of Bilvavi, that it is kind of difficult to begin working on trusting G-d to do what's best for me when one is frantically sending out resumes, looking for a job. The best time to work on developing the consciousness of Hashem's love, and the absolute knowledge that He runs everything in the best possible way for me is before times get "bad."

So especially for the 92.5% of us who currently have jobs, the best time to work on acquiring trust in G-d is now. And that is best achieved using the step-by-step methods laid out in the Bilvavi seforim, some of which I tried to summarize here.

One other machshava that I can think of that would be helpful for someone who has lost his or her job would be to contemplate the fact that sometimes Hashem (again, knowing what is ultimately good for us) destroys the "good" things that someone has, so that he will have to build something better in its place, which he would not have done, but for the loss. This is the idea of the Shabbos melacha of "destroying in order to build" and the inyan of "descending in order to rise," which I wrote about here.

Hashem should be mezakeh us with the internal strength to acquire Emunah and Bitachon in Him!

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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Modzitzer Rebbe Coming This Monday to NY/Baltimore

I received the following notice by e-mail from the Modzitzer yahoo e-mail list:

The Modzitzer Rebbe shlita will spend 10 days in the US (Mon. Feb. 23- Wed. Mar. 4), primarily to provide chizuk to Jews after the recent
waves of financial and other crises. The Rebbe's gabbai, Rabbi Zev Krimelovsky, stated that "The Rebbe shlita had countless conversations with his people in the
US the past 6 months. He felt its time to come provide some chizuk, using the
month of Adar as a springboard to raise spirits, instead of just raising money."

The Rebbe has been invited to a series of evenings in different areas
throughout his stay - Flatbush, Monsey, Lawrence/Far Rockaway, Lakewood,
Manhattan and Baltimore Maryland
, to name a few. If you are interested
in joining one of these evenings, or to arrange a private meeting with the
Rebbe, write to, or
call one of the phone numbers at the end of this notice.

The seventh Rebbe in a dynasty that started with Rebbe Yechezkel of Kuzmir, he is a rare combination of the best traits one would hope for in a Rebbe. He is well-versed
in the classics of Chassidish seforim, as well as being prominent Talmid Chacham
in the classic Lithuanian tradition.

The Rebbe was a favorite talmid of HaGaon HaRav Shlomo Yosef Kahaneman zt"l, of Ponevezh, who called him "my missile." A student in Ponevezh Yeshiva LeTzeirim and Yeshiva Gedolah, he became a leading talmid of Reb Shmuel Rozovsky, zt"l, as well as HaRav Aharon Leib Steinman shlita and maintains warm kesher with today's Rosh Yeshiva, HaRav Berel Povarsky. This sterling tradition served him well when he served for over 20 years as Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivas Imrei Shaul in Bnei Brak, until assuming the "Admorus" of Modzitz upon his father's passing.

The unique blend of Negina, Torah, outreach and personal warmth that has typified Modzitz throughout the generations is even stronger today in the Rebbe, which is why he is embraced by the full spectrum of the religious Jewish world. His erudition and incisive analysis, coupled with a warm insight into people's nature and needs, have made him a speaker of choice in many circles, ranging from Ohr HaMeir Yeshiva in Peekskill, Darkei Torah in Far Rockaway, to the Hesder Yeshiva in Beit El, and Kerem BeYavneh in Israel. He was a featured guest speaker at Merkaz HaRav in memory of the Kedoshim HY"D killed a year ago there. In Elul, the Rebbe was invited to Mexico City, and was described by local Rabbonim as "doing more for chizuk in Mexico in 1
week than we have done for 20 years".

Modzitz has experienced extensive growth the past few years, with new Batei Chassidim opening in Modi'in Illit, Ashdod, and Yerushalayim, the renovation of the Yeshiva Ketana and a vast expansion of the main Beis Medrash in Bnei Brak, significant growth in Brooklyn, and the beginnings of new Modzitz kehillos in London, Mexico City, Beit Shemesh and elsewhere. A strong chessed network has also been established, providing assistance to young kollel families and other needy people throughout the year.

For consultations and personal meetings, please call Eli Gelbtuch at 917-940-6416.

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Rav Shmuel Brazil Melaveh Malka at Derech Hamelech - Pictures & Audio

Rav Shmuel Brazil spent this past Shabbos with Yeshivas Derech Hamelech in Israel. Above are some of the pictures that were just posted to the Derech Hamelech website. They also recorded an 98 minute mp3 recording of the whole Melaveh Malka, music and all! You can listen to that by CLICKING HERE.

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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Relative Merits of Criticizing One's Self vs. the Other Guy

I generally hold that if one is going to be critical of Jewish people, he should criticize the same group that he belongs to in an effort to effectuate change. When people criticize other groups of Jews, it is mainly a salve that lets people feel better about themselves by focusing on others' faults. Such criticisms allow one to distract himself from inner work by focusing on "yenim's problems."

In this vein, Rabbi Harry Maryles answers a question that I've had for a while about his blog. Whether I agree with his answer is another matter, but he certainly has an interesting theory about the future of modern "modern orthodoxy" versus "chareidi orthodoxy."

Emes V'Emunah: The Wave of the Future

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Indentured Servitude & Marrying the Shfcha Kena'anis - The Inside Story

Rav Moshe Wolfson has a fascinating piece at the beginning of Parshas Mishpatim in his sefer Emunas Itecha (partially translated here). He brings a yesod found in the Ohr Hachaim Hakadosh in Parshas Vayechi, on Breishis 49:9 (Ohr Hachaim text online, HT Parsha Blog.)

Rav Wolfson is coming to address the reason that the appropriate punishment for one who steals is being sold into temporary slavery to repay his debt.

He quotes the Ohr Hachaim in Parshas Vayechi (though he brings down this yesod even more in depth in Parshas Ki Seitzei [which I wrote about in the comment section of this post]) has a fundamental yesod about the nature of things. He said that there's a "natural rule" that if you want to remove something from something else, you have to use something similar to the thing that you want to remove to draw out the desired object from the environment in which it finds its self.

He says that this yesod is the deeper reason why a Jew who steals is sold as an eved. Regardless of his physical stature, he and his situation may seem to be a little bittie eved, but there is a very lechatchila reason for this result. By stealing, he made himself a merkava, a resting place for the klipos, the forces of impurity. Therefore, in Hashem's mercy, he decreed that this person should be sold into slavery so that he should temporarily be matched up with a shifcha kena'an is, someone from the level of impurity with whom he should have a child (Shmos 21:4). According to the principle that we learned from the Ohr Hachaim, the isha mitzad hatumah that he is matched with draws out from him the tumah that he brought into himself through the act of stealing. That tumah is removed from him in the form of the child that he has with her, which remains with her even after he goes free. Id.

Thus we see how Hashem ensures that every person has their tikun for what they have done. The Ohr Hachaim explains how very often, his yesod explains where the souls of Gerim come from. For instance, he points out how there were souls made up of a mixture of purity and impurity. The pure side needed someone pure to draw it away from its impure side. In the case of Dina, the Ohr Hachaim shows how Shchem ben Chamor was attracted to Dina because of the holy spark within him. The relationship between them allowed the holy soul of Dina to draw the holiness out of Schem so that the neshoma of R' Chanina ben Teradiyon could come into the world.

The Ohr Hachaim also said that it sometimes happens that the sparks of holiness get so numerous in the world of impurity that they get "bumped" out "spontaneously" without any holy soul to draw it out. This is the source of many Gerim who simply emerge from the nations of the world to join klal Yisroel and find their Aba shebashamayim. He gives many more examples in the piece in Vayechi and the one in Ki Seitzei which are really fascinating. Ayin sham!

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Berchas Al Ha'Tzaddikim- "L'Chol Ha'Boatchim B'Shimcha B'Emes" - Audio Shiur

Reb Yerachmiel has shared his latest shiur from this past Sunday with us from the Baltimore Community Kollel Tefillah Chaburah.

In this seventh shiur on Berchas "Al Ha'Tzaddikim" in Shemoneh Esrei, Reb Yerachmiel studies with us the phrase "L'Chol Ha'Boatchim B'Shimcha B'Emes" in an amazingly sechel-opening shiur that reveals deeper kavanas and practical eitzos for not only davening this "Berchas Habitachon", but also developing ourselves into "true" ba'alay betachon!

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.

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Lipa Schmeltzer - Oy How Good It Is to Be a Yid - Video


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Monday, February 16, 2009

Going to War With Your Food - Not Eating From Those Bad Eyed Folks

The Meor Einayim on Parshas Beshalach, in a piece pointed out to me by A Simple Jew, talks about the war that takes place when one engages in achila, eating. He quotes the pasuk in Mishlei 23:6 which says "אַל-תִּלְחַם--אֶת-לֶחֶם, רַע עָיִן." "Do not eat the bread of someone with an evil eye."

He points out that the root source of all food comes from a very high place, from the Divine Presence itself. But it constricts its holiness to allow itself to be enclothed in our physical food. He also points out that Chazal say in the Zohar (272a) that "שעת אכילה שעת מלחמה," eating is a time of war with with the yetzer hara, the evil inclination. It is a time to fight against the yetzer hara in order to eat out of necessity or to try to collect the sparks of holiness from within the food one is eating, rather than because of a pure desire for the physical pleasure of eating.

The pasuk is Mishlei is teaching that one shouldn't eat food prepared by a "רַע עָיִן," one with an evil eye, because, he says, this will make the war one is engaged in while eating almost impossible to win because food prepared by such a person is already in the camp of the yetzer hara, and thus any war fought with the yetzer hara prepared by a "רַע עָיִן" will be on the yetzer hara's turf. I saw this teaching erev Shabbos parshas Beshalach. In Shul I saw Rav Ozer Bergman who was in town visiting his mother zol zein gezunt. I took the opportunity after davening Friday night to ask him what exactly it means for someone to be "רַע עָיִן."

He answered me, first of all, that it means someone who gives begrudgingly, and not with a full heart. But he also told me a story told over by Rebbe Nachman about his grandfather, R' Nachum Horidenker from Sichos Haran. He said that R' Nachum Horadenker traveled by ship back and forth with Eretz Yisroel. On one occasion, he hadn't had any food to eat for days when he got off the boat. The only one willing to help him out on that occasion was an Arab who brought him home and offered him some bread. Right before he was about to eat it, he remembered this teaching from Mishlei that one shouldn't eat the bread of a "רַע עָיִן." So he thought that perhaps he shouldn't eat it at all.

Then he remembered the pasuk by Eliyahu Hanavi in I Melachim 17:4. "וְאֶת-הָעֹרְבִים צִוִּיתִי, לְכַלְכֶּלְךָ." When Eliyahu went into exile in the desert, Hashem told him that he would command the ravens to feed him by bringing him bread and meat [cooked by the wicked Jewish king]. As footnote 33 in Sichos Haran points out here, the word for ravens, "הָעֹרְבִים" is the same letters as the word "aravim," Arabs. This indicated to Reb Nachum that just as Hashem sent the ravens to sustain Eliyahu Hanavi so that he wouldn't starve in the desert, so too Hashem was planting this thought in his mind to indicate to him that he too should allow himself to be supported through this Arab, notwithstanding the "לֶחֶם רַע עָיִן" issue.

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Learn How to Bring Shabbos into Your Soul

My friend, Rabbi Baruch Leff, has come out with a second edition of Shabbos in My Soul. Two years ago, he came out with the first edition.

My Rebbe was just speaking at Shalosh Sheudos about how to really prepare for Shabbos during the week (not only physically, but spiritually) so that we, on our level, can truly experience the holiness of Shabbos. He quoted one of the Rebbes from Spinka who gave the eitza that every day, we should think about the ma'amar Chazal in Shabbos 10b that Hashem said to Moshe, "א"ל הקב"ה למשה מתנה טובה יש לי בבית גנזי ושבת שמה ואני מבקש ליתנה לישראל לך והודיעם." "... I have a wonderful present in my treasure house. It is called 'Shaboos' and I seek to give it to the Jewish people. Go and tell them!"

He pointed out that, without a doubt, if we would think, each day, that Hashem gave us a wonderful present and that it is coming again this coming Shabbos, we would experience so much more of the light of Shabbos when Shabbos arrives. It is through thinking about and longing for Shabbos during the week that we can merit to experience Shabbos when it comes.

Reb Baruch has written these two great seforim, giving practical eitzos and information about how to experience the light of Shabbos. It's kedai to try!

Shabbos in My Soul

More Shabbos in My Soul

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Laws, Diagrams & Charts on the Laws of Tefillah for Women

Rabbi Tal Zwecker shared this document which looks like a great resource for women by Pirchei Shoshanim called Pathway to Prayer. It contains an outline of the laws of tefillah as they apply to womena nd it has a number of very clear diagrams and charts explaining the order of priority for the different parts of davening for women. Some of them would be ideal for printing out and perhaps laminating to keep handy.

CLICK HERE to download this pdf document.

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Sunday, February 15, 2009

Sefer Kol Hator - By One of the Talmidei HaGra - Re Keitz Yamim - Avail. Online

I just found that the sefer Kol Hator is available online in pdf form. It was written by one of the talmidei HaGra and is available online at I just printed it out for myself (pages 86-241 of the pdf) This sefer was relied upon heavily in this book, which dealt with how the development of feminism fits into the progression toward the Geula.

Update: Avakesh, in this post, linked to an English translation of the 3rd and most apropos, perek of Kol Hator HERE.

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Send in Names for Tefillah by Kivrei Tzadikim in the Ukraine

Rabbi Tal Zwecker, whose shiurim I have posted a number of times, will be heading to the Ukraine on Wednesday for a trip to visit and daven by the kevarim of many Tzadikim. He will be by the kevarim of several Tzadikim including the Kedushas Levi, the Baal Shem Tov, Reb Zusha & probably Rebbe Nachman MeBreslov.

If you would like him to daven to Hashem in the merit of those Tzadikim at their kevarim, please send the names (the people's Hebrew name and their mother's name) to Rabbi Zwecker by e-mail.

On a side note, there is a website maintained with pictures of kevarim & biographical information on Tzadikim in the United States at They are developing quite a database of sometimes little-known Tzadikim who were buried in America so it would be kedai to check out their site.

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Reflections on Posting on "Political"/Controversial Topics & Poll

Above are the poll results that were discussed in this post. There were 60 votes and it looks like about 78% of the Dixie Yid readers would like to see political or controversial topics handled at least occassionally from an "Emunah'dik perspective" on this blog. Only about 18% felt that such things should never be addressed, even by just a link, or even occassionally. Obviously, halacha trumps what I or anyone else thinks and so if something were prohibited, then no amount of "popular support" would make it muter. But it seems clear that a large majority would like to see current topics addressed, at least once in a blue moon. Obviously, I'll still only write about things that my heart or mind moves me to write about, but since this is a benevolent dictatorship, I am interested and will be mindful of what those people who choose to read this blog think. Thanks to all of you who participated. It's good to know more about what y'all think, especially those who I don't know as much about because you don't normally leave comments!

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Friday, February 13, 2009

Open Up My Heart to Your Torah - Acoustic Guitar/Video

This song, "Open Up My Heart to Your Torah," is sung by "Adi." It's a very moving niggun & FeivelJay has inserted subtitles in English & Hebrew. I'm not sure of his last name...

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Rav Shmuel Brazil on Parshas Yisro - Aseres Hadibros - Great (20 min.) shiur!

Rav Shmuel Brazil gave a great shiur on Parshas Yisro and the deeper levels of the Aseres Hadibros, the "Ten Commandments," last year. Thank you to Barry Salamon and Reb Yerachmiel for sharing this shiur with me/us!

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. Kol tuv!

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Thursday, February 12, 2009

A Song of Deveikus With Hashem

No Googling allowed.
I feel connected, protected
It's like You're sitting right here
with me all the time
You hear me, You're near me,
And everything else is going be alright

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Who is the Rebbe in this Video? Rav Nahum?

Beautiful Melaveh Malka, but I'm also curious who this is.

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Guy Tzvi Mintz & R' Lazer Brody - Mitzvah Gedolah - Video

Beautiful evening of music & inspiration! I'm not that familiar with these niggunim so this is a great video for learning those!

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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

A Hopeful Message for Those without Children - Guest Post by Yosef Hakohen

This post is very much in line with a number of shiurim given by my Rebbe. I definitely recommend listening to this shiur, which is so fundamental to a Jew's understanding of his purpose in life. -D.Y.
The Fruits of Zion’s Barren Trees
Dear Friends,

The Torah is described as, “a tree of life to those who hold fast to it” (Proverbs 3:18). In addition, the 613 mitzvos of the Torah can be viewed as “branches” on this tree (Sefer Chareidim, chap. 61). The first of the 613 mitzvos which is recorded in the Torah is the following mitzvah to increase life: “Be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis l:28). Regarding this mitzvah, Maimonides writes: “By this injunction, we are commanded to be fruitful and multiply for the perpetuation of the species” (Book of Mitzvos, 212).

This mitzvah is of special significance to our people, since the Torah is considered to be the heritage of all Israel – a heritage which is to be passed on to one’s children. According to our tradition, a child is not only a gift of life; a child is also a messenger of life – one who will transmit the life-giving teachings of Torah to future generations. This transmission is not just for our sake; it is also for the sake of the world, as in the messianic age, “Torah will go forth from Zion” (Isaiah 2:3), and, “The earth will be filled with the knowledge of Hashem” (Isaiah 11:9). Those of our people who, despite their best efforts to properly fulfill this sacred mitzvah, are unable to have children, may feel that they are not full members of the Family of Israel and that they are not contributing to the fulfillment of Israel’s mission. Many centuries ago, the Prophet Isaiah addressed this concern when he proclaimed the following message of Hashem, the Compassionate and Life-Giving One, to those without children:

“Let not the barren one say, ‘Behold I am a dry tree.’ For thus said Hashem to the barren ones who observe My Sabbaths, choose what I desire, and hold fast to My Covenant: In My house and within My walls, I will give them a place of honor and renown, which is better than sons and daughters; eternal renown will I give them, which will never be terminated.” (Isaiah 56:3-5)

People without children are not to consider themselves to be dry trees, if they keep the Sabbaths of Hashem, do what Hashem desires, and hold fast to our Covenant with Hashem, which is the Torah (Exodus 24:7,8). In this spirit, the Midrash cites the following teaching of Rabbi Judah Ben Shalom, the Levite:

When a person departs from the world without children, he is troubled and weeps. The Holy One, Blessed Be He, says to him: “Why do you weep? Is it because you did not leave fruits in this world? You have left fruits which are more valuable than children!” The person then asks: “Master of the Universe, what fruits have I left?” And the Holy One, Blessed Be He, answers: “The fruits of Torah – the Tree of Life, as it is written (Proverbs 11:30): ‘The fruit of the righteous one is a tree of life.’ ” (Midrash Tanchuma, Noah 2)

“The fruit of the righteous one is a tree of life.” – Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, in his commentary on these words, writes:

“For the righteous person, everything he does is a tree of life. Out of his every deed grows something beneficial and life-giving to his surroundings.” (Cited in “From the Wisdom of Mishle,” page 69)

The fruitful deeds mentioned in the above Divine promise to the barren ones are the keeping of the Sabbaths of Hashem, doing what Hashem desires, and holding fast to the Torah, our covenant with Hashem. I would like to suggest the following reasons why these three examples are mentioned:

1. The keeping of the Sabbaths is a central mitzvah which represents all the mitzvos of the Torah regarding our relationship with Hashem. This is because the keeping of the Sabbaths serve as a reminder that Hashem is the Creator of the earth and all life on earth, including us (Genesis 2:1-3). Hashem therefore proclaimed in the fourth of the Ten Commandments: “Keep the Sabbath Day to sanctify it” (Deuteronomy 5:12).

The commentator, Radak (Rabbi David Kimchi), cites the following interpretation of “My Sabbaths” in the name of his father (Rabbi Yosef Kimchi): This phrase refers to both the Sabbath which commemorates the creation – the sacred seventh day, and the Sabbatical Year – the sacred seventh year when we do not work the land.

The Sabbath of the week reminds us that Hashem is the Creator of the earth, and the Sabbatical Year reminds us that Hashem is also the Owner of the earth. The Talmud therefore teaches that through the mitzvah of the Sabbatical Year, Hashem is telling Israel:

“Sow for six years and let go of the land in the seventh year, in order that you know that the land is Mine” (Sanhedrin 39a).

2. Doing what Hashem desires represents all the mitzvos of the Torah regarding our relationship with other human beings and with other creatures. These are mitzvos which cause us to emulate the compassionate and life-giving ways of Hashem in these relationships, as it is written:

“Thus said Hashem: Let not the wise one glorify himself in his wisdom, nor the strong one glorify himself in his strength, nor the rich one glorify himself in his riches. For only with this may one glorify himself – contemplating and knowing Me, that I am Hashem Who does loving-kindness, justice, and righteousness on earth, for in these is My desire, spoke Hashem.” (Jeremiah 9:22, 23)

Hashem does loving-kindness, justice, and righteousness on earth, for in these is Hashem’s desire. Hashem makes us aware of this desire, for this knowledge of Hashem’s attributes is to inspire us to go in the Divine ways and act with loving-kindness, justice and righteousness to others. (Commentary of Radak)

3. “And hold fast to My Covenant” – This means that we are to recognize that the responsibility to fulfill all the mitzvos of the Torah is our Covenant with Hashem; thus, we are to hold fast to this Covenant and fulfill our mission with great dedication, regardless of the challenges and difficulties that may arise in our lives. This Covenant is with all Israel, and holding fast to this Covenant enables us to do our share in the fulfillment of Israel’s mission.

The barren ones who strive to serve Hashem in this manner will be given a place of honor and renown in Zion, as Hashem proclaimed:

In My house and within My walls, I will give them a place of honor and renown, which is better than sons and daughters; eternal renown will I give them.

“In My house” – This is a reference to the Holy Temple. (Targum Yonasan and Radak)

Why does Hashem emphasize that the barren ones will have honor and renown within the Holy Temple in Zion? I would like to suggest that an answer can be found in the ancient teaching cited by Maimonides which reveals that the human being was created at the site of the future Holy Temple (Mishneh Torah, Beis Habechirah 2:2). The barren ones may feel that since they were unable to have children, they have not fulfilled the life-giving purpose of the human being within creation. Hashem therefore proclaims that they will be honored in the very place where the human being was created, for through their life-giving deeds, they are indeed fulfilling the purpose of the human being within the creation.

I would like to suggest another reason why the barren ones will have honor and renown within the Holy Temple. According to the following prophecy, Torah is to go forth to the world from the Temple in Zion:

“Many peoples will go and say, ‘Come, let us go up to the Mountain of Hashem, to the Temple of the God of Jacob, and He will teach us of His ways and we will walk in His paths,’ for from Zion will go forth Torah and the word of Hashem from Jerusalem.” (Isaiah 2:3)

The barren ones may feel that they are unable to properly contribute to the fulfillment of this mission, since they cannot transmit the Torah to future generations by having children. Hashem is therefore revealing to the barren ones that they too are contributing to the fulfillment of this mission through their devotion to other mitzvos and through holding fast to the Covenant of Torah. They will therefore be given “eternal renown” in the very place from where Torah will go forth to the world.

Have a Good and Sweet Shabbos,
Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen (See below)

Related Teachings:

1. “The main offspring of the righteous are their good deeds.” (Commentary of Rashi on Genesis 6:9)

2. The Talmud states that if someone teaches his friend’s child Torah, “It's as if he gave birth to him” (Sanhedrin 19b).

3. The Talmud also states (Sanhedrin 99b):

“Whoever teaches his friend’s child Torah, it’s as if he made him, as it is written (concerning the disciples of Avraham and Sarah): ‘the souls they made in Haran’ (Genesis 12:5).”

In Haran, Avraham and Sarah served as teachers and guides to the spiritually-searching men and women of their generation. The commentator, Rashi, in his explanation of the words, “the souls they made,” states that they brought people “under the wings of the Shechinah (Divine Presence).” Their teachings gave new life to these searching souls, and from the perspective of the Torah, these are “the souls they made in Haran.”

People who cannot give birth to physical children can therefore strengthen our people and our mission through giving birth to spiritual children.

Hazon – Our Universal Vision
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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Dixie Yid Reader Poll on Handling Political/Controversial Topics

I just posted a poll on the right sidebar. I'm curious what a wider swath of people think about this question, in addition to (and including) those that took the additional step of commenting on my somewhat controversial choice of posting on a "hot" topic on Sunday. I have removed that post, so it's not important what it was about, but it related to a matter about which many people were assuming the worst about a big Tzadik. I linked to another, more intellectualistic, blogger who was trying to offer a bit of perspective and balance to counteract some of the knee-jerk lashon hara that was being spoken. I linked to that post in order to try to make that more balanced position better-known.

I don't want this post to be turned into a discussion about that specific situation so I will delete any comments that bring up that particular issue. However, I am interested in gauging the range of my readers' feelings/thoughts about the general concept of whether it is worthwhile to sometimes "sully" the usual theme of this site by weighing in, even with just a link, on what I see as being a more Emunah-dik side of a somewhat controversial issue. Granted that there's absolutely nothing that says that the perspectives or links I might offer are "the authentic" Emunah-dik angle on an issue. Just like anyone else, I can only offer my own perspective, based on my own understanding and knowledge base, about any issue. But be that as it may, I value the opinions of those who choose to read this site, so please take the time to let me know your thoughts in the comment section here and by taking the poll on the right sidebar.

The poll will close at Bentch licht time on Friday, 5:10 PM Eastern time.

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Advantages in Being a Southern Jew

-הרוצה שיחכים ידרים - One who wants to be wise should [go] South. (Bava Basra 25b) (HT Binyamin Cohen)

- It is well known that wisdom is found in the South. (Meor Einayim, Parshas Beshalach)

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Berchas Al Ha'Tzaddikim- "Yehemu Rachamecha" through "L'Chol He'Boatchim" - Audio Shiur

Reb Yerachmiel has come through with his latest shiur from the Baltimore Community Kollel from this past Sunday.

In this sixth shiur on Berchas "Al Ha'Tzaddikim" in Shemoneh Esrei, Reb Yerachmiel shares with us some amazing insights and kavanas hidden within the words "Yehemu Rachamecha" through "L'Chol He'Boatchim", and explains the what, why and how of berchas Al Ha'Tzaddikim's alias: "Berchas Habitachon"!

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.

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Rav Shmuel Brazil with Yeshivas Derech Hamelech in Israel This Shabbos

Rav Shmuel Brazil will be spending Shabbos with Yeshivas Derech Hamelech this Shabbos. Click on the image above for a larger version of the flyer or Derech Hamelech's website for more information.

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Monday, February 9, 2009

New Torah Classes for Women by Na'aleh in Audio/Video Updated Online

I received the following e-mail from Na'aleh, which has many Torah classes for women in video and audio formats.
Dear Naaleh Friend,

In honor of Tu B'Shvat, the day that marks the renewal of plant life after a long winter, renew your commitment to Torah study with! We have begun our Spring Semester with new class series and are continuing other popular classes.

SPECIAL Tu B'Shvat shiur by Rav Hershel Reichman.

Below, find a sampling of some of our new courses:

Rebbetzin Heller will continue her Question & Answer classes under a new title, 'Rebbetzin's Perspective: Balancing Life's Challenges'. To send in your own question to Rebbetzin Heller, email it to Click here to watch the first class.

Rabbi Beinish Ginsburg, joins our staff with a new series on Shmirat Halashon, the laws and attitudes pertaining to one's speech. Rabbi Ginsburg has delivered three classes on the topic so far. Click here to watch the latest one.

Mrs. Yehudith Weiss joins with a unique class on the dikduk of Rashi, called 'Mechanics in Meforshim'. This class is a must for anyone wanting to fully understand Rashi's commentary on Chumash. Mrs. Weiss has delivered two classes so far. View the first class in the series by clicking here.

Rabbi Eliezer Miller continues his new series on serving Hashem wholeheartedly, entitled 'Give Me Your Heart'. Click here for the latest class.

There will be many more exciting new classes beginning in the coming weeks at Go to to see more great classes on Parsha, Tanach, Mussar, Chassidut, Jewish Philosophy, and more.

Looking forward to sharing many hours of Torah!
Tali Aaron
and the Naaleh Crew
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Sweetening the Bitter Parts of Life with Bitterness

My Rebbe gave an amazing drasha Shabbos morning that really is such an important teaching for us today.

He told over the Midrash Tanchuma in Parshas Beshalach regarding how Hashem told Moshe to sweeten the bitter waters at Mara by throwing in a tree(Shmos 15:22-25).
כשבאו למרה ולא יכלו לשתות מים ממרה והיה משה סבור שהקדוש ברוך הוא אומר לו שישליך שם דבש או דבילה והמים מתמתקין... ויורהו ה' עץ. אמר ליה הקדוש ברוך הוא, משה, אין דרכי כמדת בשר ודם. עכשיו אתה צריך ללמוד, שנאמר, ויורהו ה' עץ. ויראהו לא נאמר כאן אלא ויורהו, הורהו בדרכיו. ומה היה העץ... מר היה. רבן שמעון בן גמליאל אומר, בא וראה כמה מופלאין דרכיו של הקדוש ברוך הוא יותר מדרכי בשר ודם. בשר ודם, במתוק מרפא את המר. אבל הקדוש ברוך הוא, במר מרפא את המר.

When they came to Mara, and they couldn't drink the water from Mara [because it was bitter], Moshe thought that Hakadosh Baruch Hu would tell him to throw some honey or figs there, and the water would be sweetened. "And Hashem showed him (ויורהו) the tree." Hakadosh Baruch Hu said to him, "Moshe, My ways are not like those of flesh and blood. Now you must learn." As it says, "And Hashem 'taught' him the tree." "ויורהו ה' עץ" It does not say that he "showed him." ("ויראהו") Rather, "he taught him," "ויורהו." He taught him His ways. And what kind of tree was it? ... [A willow tree,] a bitter one. Rabi Shimon ben Gamliel says, 'Come and see how wondrous are the ways of Hakadosh Baruch Hu over and above the ways of flesh and blood. Those of flesh and blood use sweet things to fix that which is bitter. But Hakadosh Baruch Hu uses bitter to heal that which is bitter.
Rav Weinberger said, based on this Midrash Tanchuma, that Hashem isn't just showing Moshe a tree. He's teaching him the proper way to conduct one's self when he comes into a situation of bitterness and difficulty. The natural human tendency is to run away from a difficult situation.

When you're in yeshiva and you end up in a shiur where the Rebbe doesn't smile a lot and you're learning a difficult sugya like Yevamos, the tendency of a Bachur (אותיות בורח) is to run away to a shiur where the learning is sweet. When one first gets married and there's a lot of fighting at the beginning, the tendency is to think maybe this wasn't meant to be. Rav Weinberger even quoted a letter he read by an 11th grader who said "I'm not so worried about what will happen if I marry a guy who isn't so nice. If it doesn't work out we can just get divorced." As another example, he didn't give this example, but it certainly applies to me. Whenever I drink coffee, which is inherently bitter, I use sweet Splenda to sweeten it.

Granted that there are situations when it is right and appropriate to leave a situation. There are marriages, yeshivos, etc. that are truly not right for a person. But the majority of the time, what really sweetens a situation is when you stick with it. When you try to sweeten the bitterness of the matzav with more of that bitterness. After sticking with it for a while, it becomes sweet. I was thinking that this is like the Gemara in Beiah 25b, which says "א"ר אלעזר ... כתורמוס הזה ששולקין אותו שבע פעמים ואוכלין אותו בקנוח סעודה...," that the bitter Turmus [a legume] must be boiled seven times before it becomes sweetened. But it is only through the difficulty of being boiled again and again, that it becomes sweet. And not by being soaked in honey.

Like anyone who has learned to get a geshmak out of learning Gemara can tell you, it's not sweet at the beginning. It's very tough. It's only after sticking with it for a few years, till you get past the language barrier, the concept barrier, and other difficulties, that the Gemara becomes sweet. It doesn't become sweet only by learning the easy parts of Torah and staying away from Gemara. It only loses its initial bitterness by soaking one's self in the bitterness until it becomes sweet.

Rav Weinberger was lamenting our aversion to difficulty. He told a story that one of his grandchildren (three years old) was in the room with his baby sister, who was crying. His mother (one of Rav Weinberger's daughters) was in the other room and overheard him telling his crying sister, "Don't cry! You're a Yid! And... you're religious!" She asked him later what it means to be "religious." He told her that it means that "You're a very Yid." It was a cute story, but it relates to the point that we have to be tough.

While there are definitely times where running away is the ratzon Hashem, the majority of the time, we have to stick with something. Only then will we taste true sweetness.

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Interesting Discussion on the Inner Unity Behind Great Jewish Disputes

For an interesting back-and-forth discussion between R' Micha Berger & R' Micha Golshevsky regarding the inner unity behind the major machlokes'n in history, see the comment thread at A Simple Jew's Post, The Essence of Emunah.

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Sunday, February 8, 2009

Free Bilvavi Mishkan Evneh Sets for Shuls/Organizations in Israel

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Bilvavi Video Shiur on Tu B'Shvat

Rav Itamar Shwartz, the author of the Bilvavi Mishkan Evneh seforim, gave a shiur last year on the inner nature of Tu B'Shvat. Why do we eat fruit, but not trees? For the answer, you have to listen to the shiur.

Click on the image above or HERE to watch/listen to the shiur.

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Friday, February 6, 2009

Our Avodah During Shovavim - Fixing the Unfixable

Rabbi Reuven Boshnack was kind enough to share a shiur that he gave at a Melaveh Malka to a Sephardi chevra in Flatbush. It is on the topic of what our avodah is during this time of Shovavim. I think what he says in this shiur is really fundamental to understanding Teshuva and how we should approach those things which make teshuva seem either difficult or impossible. The shiur is really kedai. He handles a few sensitive topics so this shiur is for men only.

CLICK HERE to listen to this mp3 shiur by either left clicking to listen to the shiur right away or right clicking and selecting "Save Target As" to download.

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Pictures and Video From R' Noach Weinberg, zt"l's Funeral Yesterday

As many of you know, Rav Noach Weinberg, the founder of Aish HaTorah was niftar yesterday morning. The levaya was yesterday afternoon. Rabbi Michael Green posted a slideshow of pictures from the funeral, along with a video of one of the hespedim from the levaya. Click here or the image above for those.

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