Friday, July 31, 2009

Kol Brisk on Parshas Ve'eschanan - Shabbos Nachamu

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

פרשת ואתחנן

Shabbos Nachamu


ואתם הדבקים בה' אלקיכם חיים כלכם היום.
"And you who cleave to Hashem your G-d, you all are alive today."

הנצמדים לבעל פעור כצמיד ע"י אשה ואתם הדבקים בה' אלהיכם דבוקים ממש  (סנהדרין ס"ד)
Those who latch on to baal peor, are like bangles on the arm of a woman.  And you who cleave to Hashem, are truly attached."

What is the difference between hanitzmadim and hadveikim?
From the words of the Medrash we learn that nitzmadim is an external and loose connection.  Dveikim is an intrinsic and eternal connection.

The Torah describes the involvement of Am Yisrael in the sin of peor as external and temporary.  Just as a trinket is easily removed from the arm and discarded, so was the attachment of Am Yisrael to the abhorrent, obscene peor.

ואתם הדבקים בה' אלקיכם חיים כלכם היום.  

These words of Moshe Rabbainu to us are a great source of encouragement.  Am Yisrael,  Moshe Rabbainu tells us, your true place is with Hashem.  Only with Hashem and with His Torah are you capable of bonding, of connecting, and of finding true fulfillment, pleasure and meaning to your existence.


Am Yisrael are not told that they won't try to dabble in foreign cultures, to mimic the behavior and temperament of the seventy nations of the world, and to taste their impure lifestyles.  However, Moshe Rabbainu tells us that ultimately, ואתם הדבקים בה' אלקיכם , our connection and place is only with Hashem and His Torah.  This is the deepest part of every Jew's personality, and ultimately only this connection is what will give us comfort and will satisfy our most basic needs.


Let us compare it to an undernourished starving child who enters a room and sees unhealthy candy on the table.  He can eat the candy.  It will very temporarily delay his hunger pangs.  The only thing, however, that will truly provide the solution to the problem is real nutrition.  The only nutrition of the Jewish neshama is Torah and mitzvos; tefilla, chesed, tikun hamiddos.

Am Yisrael can try to copy the goyim.  A hedonistic lifestyle, malice and hatred, competitive careers and politics, slanderous evil talk, immoral behavior all provide a temporary outlet to offset emptiness, by deluding the starving soul into feigned satisfaction or relief.  And sadly, these behaviors are addictive, one can become temporarily stuck to them.  Am Yisrael are dvaikim b'Hashem, connected to Hashem.  We need this connection for our very sustenance and survival.  Often, we may find ourselves in situations that seem to call for a response of impatience, anger or despair.  These may seem to be alternative and legitimate responses to situations.  But for the Jew, these are no answers at all.  They merely postpone further confrontation with ourselves, and when the further scenes do arrive, the intensity of the emptiness which accompanies them increases.


This is reminiscent of an incident that took place and Rav Aharon Soloveichik zt"l's penetrating insight:


A divorced woman was engaged to a newly observant  man.  The grandfather of the man was a famous conservative rabbi, who spoke often of  his being a Kohain, although he renounced his priestly status.  He participated in funerals, and did not perform birchas Kohanim.


A certain poisaik permitted them to marry.  Being that the family was not religious, he said that they had no credibility and it was not necessary to believe that they were Kohanim.


Rav Aharon rejected this argument and said this was not a case of credibility but of Chazakah (it is generally presumed and taken for granted beyond

doubt), and this family was muchzak, known by all, as Kohanim.  He forbade their marriage.  Rav Aharon stated further that this marriage, in any event,

would not last, because a Jew in the depths of his soul feels an aversion to forbidden things.  He quoted a study, done by a secular body, that an assimilated Jew, even after a few generations, experiences tension and emotional unrest while eating pork, in contrast to how he feels while eating

kosher meat.


The two did marry.   The marriage, however, did not last too long..


Rav Levi Yitzchak miBerditchev explains as follows:
It is true that the reward for mitzvos is in the World-to-Come.  However, when a person learns Torah and fulfils mitzvos, Chayim kulchem HAYOM, he immediately is reinvigorated and refuelled with chiyus, vitality and strength.  This is not something for which he must wait around.  It happens instantaneously, HAYOM, today, now.

According to what has just been said, we can conclude that most of us are truly starved for chiyus!  Why not nourish ourselves with tikun hamiddos, working to uproot jealousy and anger and laziness and impatience, etc.?  Why not nourish ourselves with tefilla for which we first prepare by quieting out all the mental noise??
And of course  with Torah, with maasei chesed?       Why deny ourselves?



Another very basic lesson of this pasuk is hinted to in the word ואתם .  Take notice, the letters of אתם  are the same letters as אמת - TRUTH.  Am Yisrael cleaves to Hashem through EMES, truth.  We bring here the timeless words of the סמ"ג , (Sefer Hamitzvos Hagadol, mitzvah 74)  quoted in the sefer Kol Brisk:


                I have already expounded to the exiled of Yerushalayim that are in Spain and to the other exiles of Edom.  For now that the galus has extended far too long,  Am Yisrael must separate themselves from the follies of this world and grasp onto the stamp of Hashem that is EMES.  Not to lie –  not to Jews and not to non-Jews.  And not to deceive them in any matter.  And to sanctify themselves also in what is permitted to them, an it is stated, "and the remnant of Yisrael will not do wrongs and will not speak lies, and words of deception are not found in their mouths.  And when HaKodosh Baruch Hu will come to redeem them, the non-Jews will say, it is right what He did, for they are people of truth, and they speak a Torah of truth.  However, if they behave towards non-Jews with deception, they will say, Look what He has done, He has chosen for His portion swindlers and thieves.  Furthermore, it states, "And I have planted her (Am Yisrael) over the earth".  Doesn't a person that plants one measure  expect to reap many more measures?!  So, HaKadosh Baruch Hu planted Am Yisrael in the lands in order that Geirim join them.  As long as they behave with deception, who will cleave to them??


* * *



In פרשת ואתחנן, Moshe Rabbainu relates to us how he implored Hashem to enter Eretz Yisrael, and was told that the time had not yet arrived for complete redemption, and therefore, Moshe would have to remain on the other side of the Yardain.  So what did he accomplish with all of his 515 supplications, the numerical value of ואתחנן?


A person, explains the Pri Tzaddik, can accomplish even more through his yearnings and longings than he does through his actual deeds.  Moshe Rabbainu, through his tefillos affected the entire functioning of Am Yisrael in Eretz Yisrael for all generations.  And so it is with all the tefillos of Am Yisrael, whether we see immediate results, or we still wait for them to come.  They all are effective.  In words of chazal:


כל המתאבל על ירושלים, זוכה ורואה בנחמתה.
Every person who mourns the destruction of Yerushalalyim, merits and sees in the joy of Yerushalayim.


Commensurate to the longing deep in our hearts, we will IMMEDIATELY (roeh = present tense) behold and sense the simcha, the joy of Binyan Yerushalayim.


On Tisha b'av, I was reading the autobiography, entitled "Bas Ami,"  of Hadassah Levine, H"YD, a great Tzaddekes, a Kedosha, who went through the gehinom of the shoah, recorded the events, and shortly afterwards died of tuberculosis.  May Hashem avenge her blood and the blood of all the Kedoshei Elyon.  She was present in the Telzer camp, on the spot when  all the men were brutally shot by the german and lithuanian men-beasts.  By the fresh mass grave she cried Kaddish and read out the perek lamed-zayin in Yechezkel about Tchiyas Hamaisim.  What gave her the strength to continue?

That night, she describes how, utterly numbed and exhausted, her spirit broken, Hadassah fell asleep... and beheld a wondrous and astonishing dream,  a spectacle of splendor and of awe, a vision not of this world.  A great clear and bright Light filled the barn in which she was interned.  She shut her eyes.  The deceased were rising from their graves!! All the men, all the nation. They were shaking off the earth from their clothes, a huge, huge multitude of people!!



This awesome vision gave her strength to withstand her further sufferings and trials.


Let Hadassah Levine's faith be a beacon of light to us.
May Hashem avenge the blood of all His faithful servants.

Let us never forget who we are and what are our goals, דבקים בה'.


כי אתה באש הצתה ובאש אתה עתיד לבנותה

"For You, through fire consumed Yerushalayim, and through fire You will rebuild her."
ברוך מנחם ציון ובונה ירושלים


A gutten Erev Shabbos from Yerushalayim Ir HaKodesh

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Temple: A Means or a Goal? - Guest Post by Yosef Hakohen



The Prophet Jeremiah lived in the era when the First Temple was destroyed and the people went into exile. Before the destruction of the Temple, many of the people were abandoning the Torah, and this abandonment led to idolatry, sexual immorality, murder, and oppression of the poor. During this period, Hashem told Jeremiah to remind the people of their spiritual potential (Jeremiah 2:2); moreover, he was also told to remind the people of the following Divine message which the Twelve Tribes of Israel heard before they entered the Promised Land: The Land will be given to them for the fulfillment of the Torah, but if they abandon the Torah, they will eventually lose the Land. (Leviticus 26:14-46)


Jeremiah was also told to tell the people to engage in a process of "teshuvah" – spiritual return and renewal – in order to avoid the exile. The people, however, thought that since they had the Temple of Hashem in their midst, they would be saved; thus, the false prophets of that era told the people that there was no reason for concern. In this letter, we shall discuss Jeremiah's response to those who claimed that the Temple itself would save them from destruction and exile.


Dear Friends,


The Prophet Jeremiah conveyed to the people of his generation the following Divine message:


"Thus said Hashem, God of the hosts of creation, God of Israel: Improve your ways and your deeds and I will cause you to dwell in this place. Do not trust the false statements that say, 'The Sanctuary of Hashem, the Sanctuary of Hashem!' The Sanctuary of Hashem are they!" (Jeremiah 7:3,4)


Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch discusses the above passage in his commentary on the Torah, and he writes:


"A later generation sought to reduce the whole substance of their relationship to God to the life of the Sanctuary and its offerings. Even when they were rebuked for their social degeneration, they took cover behind the cry, The Sanctuary of Hashem, the Sanctuary of Hashem!


The Prophet then thundered against them:

The Sanctuary of Hashem are they! – they themselves should be the Temple of God!" (Commentary on Exodus 6:7)


The people failed to realize that they, as a community, are to become the Sanctuary of Hashem. As Rabbi Hirsch explains:


"When God says, I will take you to Myself as a people (Exodus 6:7, it means: Your social lives are to be guided by My wisdom; your social lives should be a revelation of My spirit." (Ibid)


Our society should therefore become the Sanctuary of Hashem; however, our society is composed of each of us!  We will therefore discuss a related teaching which reveals that each one of us is to become a Sanctuary of Hashem:


Rabbi Chayim Voloziner was a leading sage who was a close disciple of the Vilna Gaon. In his classical work, Nefesh HaChayim, Rabbi Chayim discusses the metaphysical significance of the Mishkan – the Tabernacle which was built in the wilderness, and the Beis HaMikdash – the Temple in Jerusalem.


He discusses various metaphysical insights regarding how the construction of the Mishkan corresponds to the creation of the universe, in general, and the creation of the human being, in particular. He then discusses how the human being can become a Sanctuary for the Shechinah – Divine Presence – through observing all the mitzvos of the Torah. He finds a reminder of this goal in the following Divine statement concerning the People of Israel which was conveyed to us by the Prophet Jeremiah:


"The Sanctuary of Hashem are they!" (Jeremiah 7:4).


The people are to realize that the purpose of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem is to inspire them to become a Mikdash Hashem – a Sanctuary of Hashem. Rabbi Chayim notes that the above Divine statement is in the spirit of the verse where Hashem says: "They shall make a Sanctuary for Me, so that I may dwell within them" (Exodus 25:8).


Rabbi Chayim points out that this verse does not refer to the Shechinah dwelling in the Sanctuary, but within the people – "within each and every one of them" (Nefesh HaChayim 1:4). With this statement, explains Rabbi Chayim, Hashem is saying:


"Do not think that My ultimate intention is the construction of the Sanctuary edifice; rather the entire purpose in desiring the Mishkan and its vessels is merely so that you should infer from it how to mold yourselves; namely that through your deeds you should be as desirable as the Mishkan and its vessels – all of you holy, fitting, and prepared to be receptacles for My Shechinah in a literal sense." (Ibid)


Rabbi Chayim also explains that the existence of the Mishkan and the Beis HaMikdash were contingent on Israel's realizing its potential as a community of sanctuaries. He writes:


"And so did Hashem, Blessed is His Name, tell Shlomo (Solomon) after the completion of the Beis HaMikdash: 'This Temple that you build – if you follow My statues, fulfill My social laws, and safeguard all My mitzvos….then I shall dwell in the midst of the Children of Israel, and I will not forsake My people Israel' (I Kings 6:12,13). Therefore, when they ruined the inner Mikdash that resided within their beings, then the external Mikdash was of no use and its foundations were razed."


When we yearn for the rebuilding of the Beis HaMikdash, we are yearning for the renewal of the Sanctuary of Hashem in Zion which can help each of us and all of us to become the Sanctuary of Hashem.


May Tisha B'Av – the day we mourn the loss of the Beis HaMikdash – be followed by the messianic era of holistic holiness.


Be Well, and Shalom,

Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen  (See below)


Related Teachings and Comments:


1. We have a tradition that the human being was created at the site of the future Temple in Zion. This tradition is cited by Maimonides in his code of Torah law, Mishneh Torah, where he states that the human being was created at the site of the altar of the Temple on Mount Moriah (Beis Habechirah 2:2). 

2. The Talmud states the following teaching in the name of Rabbi Elazar: "A person should always view himself as if the Holy One is within his inner organs" (Taanis 11a-b).


3. On Mondays and Thursdays, we read a section from the Torah portion of the week during the morning service. Before returning the Torah to the ark, we chant the following prayer concerning the restoration of the "House of our lives" – the Temple:


"May it be the will of our Father Who is in Heaven to establish the House of our lives and to settle His Shechinah  within us, speedily in our days – and let us say: Amen."


We do not pray, "to settle His Shechinah within the House"; instead, we pray, "to settle the Shechinah within us!"


4. One can find an English translation and explanation of the above teachings from Nefesh HaChayim in the following book: "Inspiration and Insight" – Discourses on the Weekly Parashah by the Manchester Rosh Yeshiva, Rabbi Yehudah Zev Segal. The book is published by Mesorah Publications:  


5. Tisha B'Av begins on Wednesday evening, July 29th.  


Rabbi Zev Leff is a noted Torah scholar and educator who is also the Rav of Moshav Matityahu in Israel. To hear a live Tisha B'Av webcast of Rabbi Leff expounding upon the kinos – the traditional poetic prayers – of Tisha B'Av, visit:  . The talk is in English, and it will take place in Israel on Thursday morning at 8:15.

The above website also lets you know when people in London, New York, Los Angeles, and Melbourne can hear it.

Hazon – Our Universal Vision:

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Tisha B'Av - A Temple Visualization - Rav Zvi Leshem


A Temple Visualization
Rav Zvi Leshem

(Note: This is a visualization meditation on the Temple, to make the idea of the Holy Temple and its destruction more real to the reader.)

You are walking through Jerusalem's Old City on Shavuot with your family, heading for the Beit Hamikdash. You are taking part in Aliyah Laregel, a pilgrimage to the Temple. As you get closer to the Temple Mount, more and more people appear, coming from all directions. There becomes a veritable stream, and then a great river of people, including all sorts of Jews from all over Israel, and even some from abroad. Here and there are also gentiles, on their way to witness the great holiness. You get closer and closer, finally going up one of the ramps, and through one of the gates. The beauty and splendor of the Mikdash are overwhelming. It is the most majestic place in the world, and the presence of the Shechinah is palpable. Thousands, tens of thousands of Jews davening to Hashem, now inside the courtyard, surround you. The Kohanim are doing the Avodah, the Temple Service, and the Levi'im are singing Shir Hamaalot, the songs of ascent. All would appear to be perfect.

Yet, deep inside you know that all is not well. There are too many divisions, too much factionalism, and even violence within the Jewish nation. Am Yisrael is divided into groups, each claiming that they follow the only true path to serving God. Even you sometimes catch yourself hating those with whom you differ. But why? After all, they are your fellow Jews, and they also believe in the Torah, keep the mitzvot, and serve Hashem. They are different, just different, that's all. If things continue this way, what will happen? Where is it all leading? It can't be a good thing…

After months of siege, you are tired, hungry, and depressed. Will it ever end? Will the Romans leave? Will we ever stop fighting among ourselves? The Roman battering rams and catapults incessantly bang and crash, and your head feels like it will explode from the noise. And then, Roman soldiers are actually in the city. They kill and destroy everything in their wake. You watch from the small window of your hiding place, terrified. Death is everywhere. Corpses litter the streets. The stench is overpowering.

Tisha B'Av arrives. You are well aware of its history. On this day, the Spies and Am Yisrael cried for no reason, disdaining Eretz Yisrael. On this day, some 600 years ago, Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the First Temple, and the Jews were exiled to Babylonia. What does this day hold in store for us now? Furtive glances toward the Temple Mount tell you that the Mikdash still stands. The enemy would surely not dare to touch it!

Toward afternoon, thick smoke fills the air. Glancing from your hidden window your worst fears are confirmed - the Temple is burning! Great flames fill the air and clouds of thick black smoke continue billowing upwards. Now all is truly lost, and you are filled with despair. Hashem must really hate us to allow such a thing to happen - to destroy His own house! Longing for the greatness that was once the Mikdash, for the beauty of Aliyah Laregel, you are filled with thoughts of teshuvah. But it is too late. What good can it do, now that the Temple is in flames?

Before long you are discovered, led outside into the courtyard and bound with heavy chains. On top of everything else you will be led into exile and sold as a slave to the heathens in Rome. If only we had obeyed Hashem! If only we had loved each other! If only we had not hated! Now all is lost, our land, our Temple, and each other. Worst of all, it seems as though we have lost God Himself, lost the Shechinah! Never has She seemed so utterly remote, so inaccessible! The situation is completely hopeless, not only physically, but also spiritually. All of this is rushing through your brain as the endless march to Rome begins. …

Although your perspective is limited to what your eyes can perceive, there is another, non-physical reality as well. As you continue the obliviousness of the march, your body aches, and yet paradoxically your mind is free, your neshamah is liberated from your body. At this stage you no longer feel your body, and your neshamah soars above, viewing that which is hidden to your eyes. Instinctively you fly back to Jerusalem, back to the Mikdash. The city is completely devastated - nothing is standing! You fly up to the Temple Mount, and you find that all is in ruins. And yet, as you approach the place where the Temple once stood, your neshamah enters a different reality. You glide toward the Holy of Holies, filled with trepidation. There is no doubt that the kruvim, representing Hashem and Am Yisrael, will be facing away from each other, the final sign that we violated Hashem's will. This will be the final sign that Hashem no longer desires His once-Holy people. That will be the most terrible sight of all, the final confirmation that all is truly lost, that there is no hope.

You now enter through the Parochet. And what do you see? The two great kruvim still stand on top of the Aron, angelic, and yet human. One, in the form of a man, symbolizes Hashem. The other, a woman, symbolizes Am Yisrael, symbolizes you. They are not facing apart. They are facing each other. And yet, there are not only facing each other, they are touching each other. Filled with love, they caress each other; they embrace each other. Hashem and Am Yisrael still love each other. They desire and yearn for each other. You love Hashem, and you know, you actually feel, that Hashem loves you as well. You are now filled with warmth, with a feeling of contentment and well-being as you watch the sensuous embrace of the kruvim. Slowly, you make your way forward to the female kruv, to the kruv of Am Yisrael. You are part of that kruv, and you enter Her reality, you merge with Her. You are no longer watching the embrace; you are part of it. You can feel Hashem's actual presence that surrounds you, and feel His breath. Your neshamah is part of His breath. Your individuality melts away as you are subsumed in the Divine Presence. Hashem loves you. You feel His love enveloping you, protecting you. This is the true peace you have yearned for all your life. Now you can let go. Let go of all the hatred. Let go of all jealousy and competition. Let go of all the physical desires. There is only Hashem.

Bringing Yemos Ha'Moshiach: Your Role - Audio Shiur

In preparation for Tisha B'Av but with relevance to our every day, Reb Yerachmiel treats us to a shiur entitled: Bringing Yemos Ha'Moshiach: Your Role

What's your role, your task, your theme?

Are you a Davener?
Are you a Yearner?
Are you a Waiter?
Are you a Watcher?
Are you an Announcer?
Are you a Warrior?
Are you a Crier?
Are you a Laugher?
Are you a Learner?
Are you a Judge?
Are you a Posek?
Are you a Teacher?
Are you a Darshaner?
Are you a Counselor?
Are you a Builder?
Are you a Child?
Are you a Friend?
Are you a Bringer?
Are you a Leader?

Listen and reinforce what you, baruch Hashem, already are; and what you, be'ezras Hashem, can still become.

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

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Relief From Suffering in Exile - and Shmiras Halashon - Rebb. Golshevsky

B"H, we are zocheh to present Rebbetzin Yehudis Golshevsky's shiur of the week on Breslov Chassidus for women.

In this shiur, the Rebbetzin gives over Likutei Moharan Likutei Moharan I:250, about finding relief from the suffering of exile

CLICK HERE to listen!

Also, as a bonus for the Three Weeks, Rebbetzin Golshevsky is also sharing a shiur she gave on Shemiras Halashon for a Yom Iyun, which you get get by CLICKING HERE.

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Monday, July 27, 2009

How We All Have Access to the Good in Tisha B'Av

Usually, it is appropriate to see everything in clear categories. We fast and are only sad on fast days. We rejoice on holidays. Some times of the year have a more open double nature, like Rosh Hashana, which is both the day of judgment and a "Yuntif" at the same time.

But "kol ma d'avid rachmana, l'tav avid," everything Hashem made, He made for good." That means that even fast days where we try to do teshuva for the sins we commit that continue the sins of our ancestors, area really all good.

Rebbe Akiva saw the good that was already hidden in tragedy when he laughed with joy when he saw the fox emerging from the Kodesh Hakodoshim, but almost no one is on that level. But this year on Tisha B'Av, we will all be permitted to see the good in Tisha B'Av. When we refrain from saying Tachanun, we affirm that even now, we all have the ability to see the oneness, the unity, the goodness, even in the most horrible things.

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Sunday, July 26, 2009

Rabbi Emanuel Feldman on iPods and Kindles - From 45 Years Ago

Rabbi Emanuel Feldman, (From) The American and the Jew: Equation or Encounter? (Tradition, Fall 1960)

The most obvious difference between the two traditions [of the Jewish and American peoples] is that of national origins. The beginnings of Judaism are as old as history itself, whereas the sum total of American history reaches 190 odd years, a total which in Jewish history amountsto only a page20and which to the Jewish consciousness is absurdly small. While it is true that America’s roots antedate 1776 and can be found in Greece and Rome, it is equally true that in conduct, thought and character, America is distinctive and unique. For despite the variegated roots of American civilization, a homogeneous national character has emerged which is peculiarly a product of the New World. And the beginnings of this national character are quite recent….

This contrasting length of the two histories accounts in part for their disparate time-view. A civilization whose past is measurable has a more restricted view of time than one whose traditions reach into pre-history. For Judaism, the future follows t he way of the past, distant and infinite. In America, too, future is like past: brief, measurable and immediate. Thus we find America operating on a short, hurried time scale. It is more concerned with the here and now than the hereafter, both in the practical and the teleological sense. There is no patience for eternity. By contrast, the Jewish time scale is long and far reaching. The Jew has time. This has been celebrated in our folk lore, our humor, and even in the classic Tiddish aphorism, A Yid hat zeit. He is patient, as one who ahs come from the dawn of history and now waits for the Messiah must be patient. The objects of his authentic ambition are sacred rather than secular, and he does not think only in terms of the immediately attainable. Time is not a commodity which must be used. God himself is mekadesh Yisrael ve’ha-zemanim – He who sanctifies Israel and the seasons. Time is holy. Speed in understanding all things, rapidity of movement for its ow n sake, short courses in learning and scholarship – these are foreign to the Jewish tradition.

The Jew has time, and his Book is constantly expanded: Bible to Talmud to commentaries to super-commentaries ad infinitum. The American book is quickened, shortened: novels to pocket editions to abridgements to condensations. Characteristically, the Jew has carried his Book on his shoulders: Ol Torah , the yoke of the Torah. The American carries his book in his hip pocket.

Big hat tip to Rabbi Elie Mischel for passing this on to me!

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Why Can't We Cancel Tisha B'Av? - Audio Shiur by R' Reuven Boshnack

Rabbi Reuven Boshnack, who seems to me to be a real protoge of Rav Weinberger, is a rebbe to the students at Brooklyn College. He gave a shiur this week entitled "Why Can't We Just Cancel Tisha B'Av?"


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Friday, July 24, 2009

Kol Brisk on Parshas Devarim


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

פרשת דברים
Erev Shabbos Chazon

למנצח מזמור לדוד.  בבוא אליו נתן הנביא כאשר בא אל בת שבע
"To the conductor, a song of David when Nasan Hanavi came to him after he had been with Bas Sheva."

Perek 51 of Tehillim is a chapter of song composed by David HaMelech after Nasan Hanavi had rebuked him and informed him of the impending punishment for his sin with Bas Sheva.

Why did David HaMelech compose a מזמור, a song?  Should he not have become saddened and depressed when he found out how Hashem viewed his behavior??  Would it not have been more appropriate for him to cry out in agony and sorrow?  He had just heard that he was about to be punished!!

The Shaim MiShmuel quotes the Alshich, who says:
Human nature is such that a person always looks to rationalize and justify his behavior. Thus, he becomes desensitized to the implications of his wrong-doing, and never gets around to correcting it.  In the case of David HaMelech, he knew that Bas Sheva was his pre-destined soul mate, plus, she was already divorced.  Until the Navi came and informed David of Hashem's attitude to his deed, how was David ever to figure out that he had made a mistake?  When Nasan came to David and reproached him, David had great cause to rejoice.  Now that he knew where he truly stood, and what he had done, he could begin to repent, he could begin to repair the damage he had done through his misdeed, and continue unimpeded in his quest for
קרבת אלקים This was very good reason to compose a jubilant song.

YEDIAS HACHET, clear awareness of error is a most important clause for correction of our mistakes in order to upgrade our Avodas Hashem.  Our readiness to acknowledge and to confront our weaknesses is most vital for תיקון המעוות, for commencing an authentic teshuvah process.

What are the obstacles???

Like we heard in the name of the Alshich, no one naturally relishes the notion of admitting their weaknesses and their mistakes to themselves.  The yetzer harah is most resourceful in finding any and every way to distract a person from Yedias Hachet.

In this vein, it is related that the חורבן הבית was made possible by the נביאי השקר, the false prophets.  They were notorious for covering over the decadence of the society by saying that everything the people were doing was fine, and therefore everything was fine, שלום שלום ואין שלום They obstructed the possibility of yedias hachet, and thus prevented the nation from repenting.  These false prophets were actually the leaders in the time of the חורבן.  They occupied positions of power and prestige.  What they accomplished is that they distracted the people from the real focal points of problem, that is their behavior.

What of the נביאי האמת?  Where were they?  Why were they not visible at the forefront?  Why was their message of warning not audible?

The Baal Shem Tov teaches that there are three categories of galus, ascending in severity:
1. Yisrael in exile by the nations of the world.  We are ridiculed and derided as being cast off by G-d.
2. The Bnai Torah exiled and ridiculed by the Amai Ha'aretz.
3. The authentic and sincere Talmidai Chachamim ridiculed and shamed by the insincere, disingenuous talmidai chachamim.

The three categories are all linked.

One of the most terrible and tragic occurrences in the time of Churban Bayis Rishon was the murder of Zechariah HaNavi.  When Nevuzaradon saw the blood of the Navi frothing, he killed eighty thousand young Kohanim.  Zechariah had been murdered on Shabbos, on Yom Kippur in the courtyard of the Bais Hamikdash.  The murderers were Amai ha'aretz and resha'im gemurim, thoroughly evil characters.

However, the one who gave the first SLAP to Zecharyah Hanavi was a ROSH SANHEDRIN.  He approached the Navi, exclaiming, "You are an ignoramus who prophesies!"

He poisoned the atmosphere.
Only when he was through, did the amai ha'aretz come and finish off the job.
Afterwards, the goy, Nevuzaradon stepped in, and did his part.

But why??
Why was there a concerted effort to muffle the words of the
נביא האמת?

As the Alshich says, people are afraid of confronting themselves and their weaknesses.

We look to escape.  We are afraid of true, authentic leadership, because if the leaders are truly our representatives, then they will be there to help us face ourselves.  It might hurt.  We would rather escape than confront.

And what about the נביאי השקר ?  Where are they?

Given the nature of the present galus, in which "אור וחושך משמשים בערבוביה", this is a complicated question.  Today, the boundaries between good and evil are very blurred.  You can find good where you would expect only evil , and painful to say, vice-versa.  Let us say that the נביאי השקר represent the very strong and unavoidable pressure in the communities and within ourselves to maintain the surface calm, status quo, not to make waves that would shake up major structures and institutions, not to draw attention to problematic issues. I say surface calm, because below the surface, there is much turbulence.  This pressure to maintain these man-made structures collides head-on with deep values of the Torah HaKedosha.  It is such a very confusing scenario because these pressures even take on a "religious" face and rationale = the Rosh Sanhedrin slapping the Navi HaEmes.  (History is a living reality – "כל דור שלא נבנה בית המקדש בימיו כאלו נחרבה")

What it comes down to is that the biggest obstacle to תקון המעוות is our addiction to power.  This is what galus Edom is all about.  We're not going to notice it on ourselves, because of its subtlety.  The issue is the "communal power structures" that everyone so much feels the need to be connected and attached to.  We are talking about mosdos chinuch, yeshiva empires and shidduchim highways and the kehilla make-up in general that a frum person needs to function within.  However, these very same structures have adopted for themselves certain anti-Torah behavior.  The message is "Go with the Flow" or "Don't rock the Boat".  But what's going on?? Since when is a life of Torah compatible with money-grubbing behavior?  A Torah shidduchim system contingent on financial blackmail?  Torah education with bigotry??  Family relationships with roles steered so far off-course??

Who has the courage to break away from dependency and addiction to these brute power connections, and is ready to step out on these very same routes of parnassah, of chinnuch , shidduchim, shlom bayis with eyes only on Hashem as The Power??

The Rosh Sanhedrin who gave Zecharyah Hanavi the initial slap across the face could not have done it unless he felt confident that he had the public behind him, and that he was carrying out their job.

We all make mistakes.
We all have egos.
The only difference between a tzaddik and a non-tzaddik is that a tzaddik is open with himself about his weaknesses.  He is perpetually ready to put aside his feelings of pride, to recognize his limitations and to start again.  And the primary figure whom the tzaddik seeks to improve and to upgrade is HIMSELF, instead of focusing on and blaming all kinds of other people and groups and things.  (Chava said it was the fault of the serpent.  Adam said it was the fault of Chava..)  The tzaddik is perpetually ready to stand up to the test of
אין עוד מלבדו (There is none beside Him) – and wean himself more and more from mortal power structures, not to succumb to the fantasies of quest for recognition and connections and membership in the so well-camouflaged כוחי ועוצם ידי  (my strength and the might of my hand has brought about my success) club..

Only when we are ready to truly acknowledge our weaknesses and mistakes, do we prepare to be receptive to and deserving of leadership who will help us with Yedias Hachet, the key to Teshuvah and Tikun hameuvas and Geulah..

ואשיבה שפטיך כראשנה ויעציך כבתחילה

And I will restore your judges as at the first time and your counselors as at the beginning..(הפטרה)


A gutten Erev Shabbos from Yerushalayim Ir HaKodesh.

Special Three Weeks Shiur in Baltimore: "Bringing Yemos Ha'Moshiach: Your Role"

1) Special Shiur (See this Flyer) this Sunday July 26th, 8:30 PM upstairs at the Community Kollel. It will be a Three Weeks topic entitled: "Bringing Yemos Ha'Moshiach: Your Role"

2) Currently, we will not be having a shiur on Sunday, August 2nd, but be'ezras Hashem we will resume on Sunday, August 9th and begin our limud of berchas "Shema Kolaynu"

3) Be'ezras Hashem, Rabbi Aryeh Zigdon and I will be leading the Kinnos at the Baltimore Community Kollel's 8:30 am Minyan (in the upstairs Beis Medrash). We will be saying more than 20 of the Kinnos together, and most Kinnos will be preceded by a 3 to 5 minute introduction which will set the unique tone of each.

Of course, it goes without saying that the above is be'ezras Hashem all subject to a great and wonderful change: "Em Kol Zeh, Achakeh Lo Bechol Yom Sheyavoh"

Yerachmiel Goldman

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Screaming Your Davening - Shiur on Bilvavi 2 by R' Boruch Leff

Rabbi Boruch Leff has been mezakeh us with Part 2 of his series of shiurim on Bilvavi Vol. 2, Chapter 13. The shiur discussed:

-Can you daven for specific things?
-Is every tefila always answered?
-Should you ever scream your davening?
-When is davening out loud proper and when is it not?

CLICK HERE to get the shiur!

P.S. You can get "Shabbos in My Soul," Volumes 1 and 2 by Rabbi Leff, for the price of one, HERE.

Video of Screaming in Tefillah courtesy of Ushpizin. Click here to get Dixie Yid in your e-mail Inbox or here to subscribe in Google Reader.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Bilvavi Mishkan Evneh Author Available to Speak This Elul

Rav Itamar Shwartz, the author of the Bilvavi Mishkan Evneh seforim, will be in the United States/Canada for about a week in late Elul. He will be arriving on Sunday September 6th and leaving approximately September 14th.

Just as he was with last year's trip, Rav Shwartz will be available to speak at your Shul/Beis Medresh/organization during his week in North America. He is also available to spend the Shabbos of September 11th and 12th in your community. One of the purposes of the trip is to raise much needed funds to publish more sets of the seforim l'zikui harabim so just as last year, there is a charge for the drashos and the Shabbos visit.

As a reminder, the Rav speaks in clear and easy-to-understand Hebrew, and if you would like to arrange simultaneous translation, the Rav is certainly open to that.

For more information and to discuss date availability and cost, please call Benyomin Wolf at 516-668-6397.

Kol tuv!

P.S. For a free set of Bilvavi seforim seforim for your Shul/Beis Medresh/Kollel/Seminary, sponsored l'ilui nishmas Nosson ben Mordechai Hakohen, please CLICK HERE to fill out the online request form or call the numbers indicated at that site.

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The Machlis Yerushalayim Shabbos Experience Needs Help

If you can help the Rabbi Machlis Shabbos Kiruv project, pleae click here. My wife was actually an beneficiary of their chesed during her year in Israel when she took at class with Rabbi Machlis. So definiely worthy of our help!

Picture courtesy of the machlis campaign.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Audio Shiur for the Three Weeks: Eliyahu Ha'Navi of the Future

On the heels of completing the in-depth study of berchas "Es Tzemach Dovid" in Shemoneh Esrei and special for the Bain Ha'Mitzarim, Reb Yerachmiel of the Baltimore Community Kollel focused this week's shiur entirely on the topic of Eliyahu Ha'Navi, zachur la'tov. Specifically, Reb Yerachmiel teaches us not of Eliyahu of the past (described in detail in Tanach), nor Eliyahu of the present (visitor of our shuls for brises and our homes for the Pesach Seder), but rather Eliyahu Ha'Navi of the imminent future and his many wondrous roles in the coming of Moshiach Tzidkainu bimhaira beyamainu, Amen!

Click below to get the 2 part shiur by either left clicking to listen right away or right clicking and selecting "Save Target As" to download. Enjoy!

Part 1
Part 2

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Getting Ourselves "Out of the Way" - Audio Shiur by Rebb. Y. Golshevsky

B"H, we are zocheh to present Rebbetzin Yehudis Golshevsky's shiur of the week on Breslov Chassidus for women.

In this shiur, the Rebbetzin gives over Likutei Moharan I:131-133, including the topics:

-The danger of honor
-The hidden influence of the tzaddik
-Getting ourselves "out of the way"

CLICK HERE to listen!

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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Converts and Jewish Unity - Guest Post by Yosef Hakohen


In the Torah portion of this Shabbos, Moshe begins to review with the people before they enter the Promised Land some of the history of their journey through the wilderness. He also mentions some of the difficulties he had leading them, and he reminds them of the following statement that he had said to them during an early stage of their journey:

“How can I alone carry your trouble, your burden, and your quarrels?” (Deuteronomy 1:12)

“Your quarrels” – They quarreled one with the other. (Commentaries of Ibn Ezra and Rabbeinu Bachya)

Dear Friends,

As we discussed, a convert joins our people through accepting the responsibility to fulfill the Covenant of the Torah. Just as all Israel became the people of the Covenant by proclaiming at Mount Sinai, “Everything that Hashem has spoken, we will do and we will hear” (Exodus 24:7), so too, the convert joins our people by making a similar commitment. The spiritual journey of the convert therefore leads to Mount Sinai.

Regarding the arrival of our people at Mount Sinai, the Torah states:

“They journeyed from Rephidim and arrived at the Wilderness of Sinai and encamped in the wilderness; and Israel encamped there, opposite the mountain.” (Exodus 19:2)

“And Israel encamped there, opposite the mountain.” Unlike the previous verbs in this section which are written in the Hebrew plural form, the verb “encamped” in this phrase, which refers to their encamping at Mount Sinai, is written in the Hebrew singular form. The classical commentator, Rashi, therefore explains this change in the following manner:

Israel encamped there as one person with one heart, but the other encampments were made with complaints and argumentations.

Rashi’s statement is based on the “Mechilta” – a midrashic work on the Book of Exodus. The Mechilta points out that whenever the Torah previously states “they journeyed” and “they encamped,” it uses the plural form of the Hebrew verb, for they were not yet united as one, for “they would journey with arguments and encamp with arguments.” When they arrived at Mount Sinai, however, the Torah uses the singular form of the verb when it states, “Israel encamped there, opposite the mountain.” This teaches us that when they arrived at Mount Sinai to receive the Divine Teaching, they achieved a state of unity and were of “one heart.”

It seems that their readiness to receive the Teaching of the Unifying One made them aware of their own unity. An allusion to this idea is found in the following words of a song that is sung at the Shabbos table during the first Shabbos day meal:

“And they came into the Covenant united, ‘we will do and we will hear,’ they said as one. And they opened their mouths and responded, ‘Hashem is One!’ Blessed is the One Who gives strength to the weary.” (Yonah Matsa Vo Manoach)

In a deep sense, converts connect to the unifying experience at Sinai through their own personal acceptance of the Covenant. Many converts are therefore shocked and dismayed when they discover that our people are badly divided through various arguments which often lead to distorted views of individuals and/or groups. Although converts learn to appreciate the fact that the Jewish people have a noble tradition of discussing and debating ideas, they are greatly troubled when this leads to the development of distorted stereotypes and hatred.

The following comments by David Starr-Glass, a convert from Scotland who moved to the Land of Zion, can serve as an example of this concern. These comments appear in David’s book about his spiritual journey titled “Gathered Stones” – a literary gem which inspires the soul. David writes:

“We know that the yezter ha-ra, the evil inclination which an individual has, is commensurate with the yetzer ha-tov, his good inclination. In a similar way, it seems that our central mission of unifying God’s Name and Presence is shadowed by a tendency to do just the opposite.”

David adds: “One of the main roots of the problem lies in making assumptions about external clues, rather than groping for internal values.”

I will conclude this letter about the need for Jewish unity by introducing you to the Kaliver Rebbe, a Chareidi leader who has become a unifying figure within the Land of Zion. He is an elderly Chassidic Rebbe – a Holocaust survivor – who has devoted his life to helping all segments of our people to rediscover the internal spiritual values of our heritage which form the basis of our unity. Under his leadership, the Kaliver Chassidim sponsor classes and lectures which enable Jews of diverse backgrounds to study Torah. The Kaliver Rebbe himself travels all over the Land to speak to diverse Jewish communities and groups. He often sings for them one of the soul-stirring nigunim – melodies – of the Kaliver Chassidim.

At the end of each talk, he calls upon everyone to join together and chant “Shema Yisrael” – our ancient proclamation of the Divine Oneness and Unity:

“Hear O Israel, Hashem is our God, Hashem is One!” (Deuteronomy 6:4)

An especially moving talk of this Chareidi leader was his address to the students of Yeshiva Merkaz HaRav – a major yeshiva of the Religious Zionist movement. It was a week after a Palestinian Arab terrorist murdered several boys from the high school of the yeshiva when they were studying in the school library. The Rebbe spoke to a crowd of nearly 1,000 people in Yeshiva Merkaz HaRav, in memory of the young holy martyrs. The Rebbe spoke for nearly an hour, in order to strengthen the mourning students of the yeshiva. With heavy sobs, the Rebbe concluded his talk by standing up together with all the students, and he led them in the chanting of “Shema Yisrael.”

During World War II, when the Rebbe was in a concentration camp, the Nazis brought him to the crematorium. Facing death, the Rebbe said to Hashem:

What will my last “Shema Yisrael” add to You? Give me life and save me, and I will bring You “Shema Yisrael” to many.”

The Rebbe’s prayer was answered. Somehow, the plans were changed, and the Rebbe was spared. The Rebbe kept his promise. He is bringing the unifying message of Shema Yisrael to many.

This Tuesday night is the beginning of the Jewish month of Av. It is also the beginning of the nine days of mourning for the destruction of the First and Second Temples. May we be blessed with a month of renewed unity, and may our words and deeds lead to this goal.

Shalom Al Yisrael – Peace and Harmony upon Israel,
Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen

Related Comments:

1. To hear the Kaliver Rebbe chant a slow and moving nigun composed by the Rebbe who founded the Kaliver dynasty in Hungary, visit: . The Rebbe sings without the accompaniment of musical instruments.

Most of the words of this poetic song are in Hungarian, with some Hebrew words at the end. The song expresses the yearning of our exiled people for the dawn of the messianic age and the rebuilding of the Temple. The following is an English translation of this song:

The rooster crows,
Dawn brightens the sky
In the green forest, in the verdant meadow
A little bird skips around.
Who are you, little bird?
Who are you, little bird?
Of golden beak and golden feet
That waits for me.
Just wait, dear little bird!
Just wait, dear little bird!
If G-d destined you for me,
I will be one with you.
The rooster sings his morning song,
The sun is slowly rising--
Yibaneh hamikdash, ir Tzion temalei
(May the Temple be rebuilt, the City of Zion replenished)--
When, O when will it be?
Vesham nashir shir chadash uvirnana naaleh,
(There shall we sing a new song, with joyous singing ascend),
It’s time, O let it be!

2. To view photos of the Kaliver Rebbe’s visit to Yeshiva Merkaz HaRav, click here and click on the photos to enlarge them.

Hazon – Our Universal Vision

Picture courtesy of M2M

Monday, July 20, 2009

Running After the Emptiness of the World and Becoming Empty

During this past weeks Haftarah, I was struck once again by the powerful words of the Navi Yirmiyahu (2:5), "וַיֵּלְכוּ אַחֲרֵי הַהֶבֶל, וַיֶּהְבָּלוּ," "that they have gone after emptiness and become empty."

It made me think of the powerful mashal in the old Greek myth about the Sirens. For those of you who are not familiar with it, the Greeks had a myth that sailors would hear the sound of beautiful women singing near certain islands at sea. They would be so drawn by the beauty of their voices that they would drive the ship in the direction of the voices where they would inevitably crash on the rocks from which the Sirens were singing. Ironically though, the Siren's weren't even women. They were strange birds with the heads of women that waited on the rocks, just to lure sailors to their deaths trying to reach them.

It wasn't bad enough that the sailors would be lured to their deaths in search of these beautiful Sirens. The beautiful women that they sought were not even beautiful women at all. Rather, they were merely strange, ugly creatures that were part bird and part human. They ended up not only destroying themselves, but destroying themselves for nothing, for an illusion of beauty.

It is the same with aveira and ta'ava. The things we desire seem so beautiful and enticing. But the reality is that not only do those pleasures destroy those who run after them, which most of us already know, but those Siren songs are absolute emptiness. There is nothing on the other side worth chasing after. It's all illusion, dimyon, and fantasy. None of it is real.

Especially in this time of the three weeks, may you and I become fully conscious of the fact that if we choose to go after the emptiness of this world, which is both false and destructive, we empty ourselves of everything good.

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Sunday, July 19, 2009

Getting Back to Basics with R' Avraham, Son of the Rambam - New Translation

Rabbi Yaakov Wincelberg was kind enough to send me his recent translation of a classic, but little known, sefer that he recently published through Feldheim, The Guide to Serving God, which is a translation of the sefer Hamaspik L'Ovdei Hashem by Rabbeinu Avraham ben HaRambam.

The section of the Sefer Hamaspik that is extant today is only a small portion of the original sefer, although even that section is quite thick. From reading the translation and the introduction where R' Wincelberg explains the process he went through to translate this sefer both from its Hebrew version and the original Judeo-Arabic text, it is apparant that the translator was very thorough and this book was obviously the work of many years.

I would definitely recommend that others get this classic Mussar sefer, in this very accessible form and translation. I also would like to point out a couple of things that struck me from the first few chapters.

One interesting thing is that R' Avraham ben HaRambam certainly assumes that readers are already familiar with his father's understanding of the accounts of angelic visits to human beings from Chumash. While discussing the mida of generosity (Nedivus) in Chapter 5, he teaches how one should behave toward guests based on how Avraham and Lot conducted themselves with their angelic guests in their "visions." The fact that R' Avraham ben HaRamabam uses the term "visions," rather than referring to Avraham and Lot's actual encounters with the melachim teaches that he holds like his father in Moreh HaNevuchim 2:42 that angels cannot actually appear to human beings.

Another interesting thing I found was how R' Avraham really takes you back to basics. It's very easy for some of us to get caught up in the beauty and inspiration of very deep teachings, but we should never lose sight of the fact that all of those higher levels are only true when they follow the basic road common to all Jewish people, which means keeping halacha and learning regular Torah shebechsav and Torah Shebaal Peh. A life of penimius Hatorah (Ohr) can only exist when it is in the context of a life of someone who learns Torah and keeps halacha (the kli), the only kind of life capable of containing the Ohr of Penimius HaTorah.

He brings this out starkly in one particular paragraph where he says that "God has criticized the absolute confusion and severe ignorance of anyone who expects to achieve Encounter* by becoming engrossed in the intimate road while ignoring the common road..." (p. 19). I think that says it all.

*R' Avraham ben HaRambam uses the word Encounter to refer to the personal, intimate and experiential relationship with G-d which is the goal of life. R' Wincelberg explains this concept in his introduction starting on page xxxiii.

I certainly recommend the sefer, which has Hebrew and English on facing pages, and great footnotes that compare and contrast R' Avraham's writings which the shitos of his father, and which bring out some of the linguistic complexity in the original Judeo-Arabic. I will certainly pass on any comments or questions to the author! Kol tuv.

Picture of the sefer courtesy of and the picture of R' Wincelberg is courtesy of Rabbi Zweig's yeshiva in Miami Beach. Click here to get Dixie Yid in your e-mail Inbox or here to subscribe in Google Reader.