Thursday, November 24, 2011
Monday, November 21, 2011
Rav Weinberger told him that it's not true. For him, in his situation, every time he anxiously looks at his watch at work, every feeling of anxiety when he receives a new phone call, and every leap he takes running to the train is only because of Shabbos.
As he runs to the train, he should literally say "l'chavod Shabbos kodesh." Not only that, but he is mezakeh and elevates the seat in the train that is zoche to carry a Jew home for Shabbos. Every piece of sidewalk and every part of the train he uses to make his way home for Shabbos becomes a kli for hashra'as haShechina. He should therefore say l'chavod Shabbos kodesh" over the whole trip.
Of course he wants to have a nice slow Shir Hashirim before Shabbos. But for the person who's in the matzav where he cannot do that, who knows, Rav Weinberger said, what is more precious to Hashem... His beads of sweat as he runs to catch the train for Shabbos or someone else's leisurely Shir Hashirim.
May we be zoche to the hachana l'Shabbos that is right for us IY"H!
Friday, November 18, 2011
Some have gone off the derech of Yiddishkeit because in their learning and in their path to spiritual perfection, they betrayed their own personal, unique nature. Some are more fit for Agada, and halacha (modern pilpul/lomdus) is not in their nature as a *primary* way of learning. Because such people [have not been taught to] value and recognize their unique talents in Agada, they immerse themselves in Halacha as is customary [in yeshivos today].
But such a person feels an inner opposition to what he is learning because that which he is investing himself in is not in accordance with his essential nature. If, however, he would find the area where his talent and interests lie, and he would fulfill that by making that area of Torah which fits with the nature of his soul his primary area of learning, he would immediately recognize that the inner opposition he used to feel was not due to any deficiency in the holy and essential Halacha area of Torah learning.
Rather, he would know that his soul simply required a different area of learning as his primary study. Such a person would remain faithful in a beautiful way to the holiness of Torah. He would become great and strong in the area of Torah which speaks to him. In addition, he will assist those whose primary learning is in Halacha to also taste the sweetness of Agada.Rebbe went on this week to begin learning a couple of other things from Rav Kook and his Rebbe, the Netziv on this topic. He said that the ideas are so "common sense" that is remarkable that we have strayed so far institutionally from the correct path, which is based on a recognition that Hashem created different people differently for a reason.
But when a person does not [or is not given the option to] recognize the true reason for his inner opposition to what he is learning, and he attempts to overpower his own nature [because he is taught that there is only *one* correct way to learn Torah], then the moment some options for a non-Torah way to live are opened up for him, he will break out and then hate and become any enemy of Torah and emunah. He will go from one sin to another, and we know what such people have wrought. They attempt to create that which they envision as the ideal way of the world and they attempt to blind "the eye of the world."
There is a great variety of areas of Torah learning which are fitting to the great variety of individual souls' natures. Some people are even drawn to specific areas of secular wisdom. Even such people should go according to their inner nature and they must set aside specific times for learning Torah. If they do this, they will succeed at both because "Torah together with the way of the world is beautiful." And the gemara at the end of Yuma discusses how to establish the right balance of primary and secondary for such people. In general, this whole subject is dependent on the character and nature of each individual person's soul. (Emphasis and explanatory parentheticals added.)
Wednesday, November 16, 2011
My holy brother Eliav Frei connected me to a great email list by Ari Kotowitz. It had the following great great story which I want to share. The email also head these great videos of Reb Shlomo. Also, if you want to sign up for the email list "Melaveh Malka for Every Jew" by Ari Kotowitz, CLICK HERE.
The story is told of a student of Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov who, after much preparation, felt himself deserving of a vision of the prophet-turned-angel, Elijah. His master instructed him to journey to a certain town and ask to be hosted at the home of a specific family. "Make sure to bring food," the Baal Shem Tov added. The student eagerly packed a wagonful of food and set off. Upon arriving, he was directed to an old, dilapidated house, home of a poor widow with many young children. The student spent Shabbat with them, and was only too happy to share his mountains of food. But Elijah never showed up.
The Baal Shem Tov instructed the dejected student to try again the next week. As he approached the door, he heard a child's plaintive voice, "But what will we eat on Shabbat?" A reassuring voice replied, "Don't worry. Just like Elijah came last week, he will come this week again!"
You and I can be angels as well. All we need to do is act the part.
Monday, November 14, 2011
Not wanting to deal with loose, rotten garbage, I continued putting new garbage bags on top of the loose garbage. It didn't bother me too much because as long as the rotten garbage stayed down and out of sight, I took the approach of "see no evil hear no evil."
At one point a few weeks ago, I realized that this could not go on forever, so I got some new garbage bags and cleaned everything up. I will spare you the unpleasant details, but it suffices to say that I had to get my hands into some liquids and solids which had been there for a very long time.
Afterward, I changed my clothes and washed my hands up to the elbow one, two, three, and four times. I could not get rid of the putrid smell and I couldn't stand being in the same room as my hand. Finally, at my wife's suggestion, I doused my hand with a significant amount of a perfume she no longer used. After some time, I washed my hands a couple more times, and that pretty much did the trick.
It's remarkable that such putrecense existed right on my property for so long and it only bothered me a little, like a little fly that I kept shooing away. It was only when I finally started to clean my lingering garbage that it started to really stink and make itself felt. As long as I ignored it and pretended that it wasn't there, it only bothered me a little. It only seemed really bad when I finally decided to get rid of it.
Rav Moshe Weinberger has taught us at various points from various sources that as long as a person doesn't deal with his lingering issues in ruchnius (laziness, histaklus nashim, ga'avah, etc.), they exist, covered up by his every day life, they do not seem to bother him very much and they are not as apparent to others.
When a person finally decides, however, that he cannot raise himself higher with this or that ga'avah or ta'aiva weighing him down, he begins to dig out the problematic mida in order to get rid of it. But once he brings the tumah to the forefront so he can dispose of it, the stink and filth of the problem finally shows itself and he realizes how bad that innocuous fly really was all along.
This is why when a person starts to work on himself and thinks that he's becoming better, he will suddenly face bigger and stronger ta'avos and greater anger, etc. than he ever had before he was working on himself.
We must know not to take the monstrous ta'avos and bad midos that come out of us as a sign of failure or hopelessness though. We must know that exactly the opposite is true. When we stir up the issues we'd never dealt with before, they're only making themselves more known now exactly because we're finally bringing them to the fore as part of our effort to rid ourselves of them. The fact that we stink more of our latent problems when we start coming closer to ruchnius is a function of the fact that our efforts are meeting with success. This should encourage, rather than discourage us.
When one pours water on the dying ember of some ta'ava in order to extinguish it, the ember rattles and hisses and makes a big stink. It's presence and power is made more known precisely because it is finally being put out, and not because it is getting stronger.
May we all be zoche to clean out all of our old garbage and not get discouraged by the smell!
Sunday, November 6, 2011
The Book of Radiance: Tales from the ZoharPicture courtesy of xda-wallpapers.com. Click here to get Dixie Yid in your e-mail Inbox or here to subscribe in Google Reader.
By R’ Yaakov Feldman
6. THE WORLDS THAT THE RIGHTEOUS INHERIT
Sometimes it gets the better of you and you just need to know -- to know what’s on the other side of the chasm that is the Afterlife, what the dead do day after day, what they know, and just what they have that we don’t.
Needless to say, few of us have the wherewithal to even ask the questions let alone expect answers, but some do. And while they may not see quite everything -- or, if they do, they may not have a chance to report it back to the rest of us -- nonetheless the Zohar offers the findings of one exalted soul who did cross over to the other side, the great R’ Chiyya (Zohar 1, 4a-b). And while his experience there was a unique one that doesn’t answer all of our questions, it does offer us a broader, rare view of Heaven.
Now, a number of people have ascended to Heaven in their lifetimes. We’re taught, in fact, that “nine entered the Garden of Eden when they were still alive, and they are: Enoch the son of Jared; Eliyahu the prophet (see below); Eliezer, Abraham’s servant; King Hiram of Zor; Ebed-melech the Cushite (see Jeremiah 38:7); Yabetz the son of R’ Yehudah HaNasi; Batyah the daughter of Pharaoh; Serech the daughter of Asher; and, according to others, also R’ Yehoshua ben Levi” (Derech Eretz Zuta, Ch. 1). But they never came back.
In fact, we’re told outright that the prophet Eliyahu ascended to Heaven by means of a whirlwind (2 Kings 2:11) and that he wrote a letter about his experiences there which he had presented to King Jehoram (see 2 Chronicles 21). But we aren’t given any of the details of his sojourn there.
There are others who’d seen Heaven in their lifetimes whose experiences were depicted to a degree. Yitzchak, our forefather, ascended to Heaven when he was bound to the altar and about to be slaughtered by his father, Avraham. We’re told that the angels accompanied him while he was in Heaven to the Yeshiva of Shem and Eber there where his father had studied, and that he stayed there for three days to study. He was then granted visions of the primordial Holy Temple that existed before the creation of the world, of his own descent from Adam as well as insights into Adam’s future descendents up to the End of Days (see Breishit Rabbah 56, Targum Yonatan to Genesis 22:19, and Pirkei d’Rebbe Eliezer 31).
Moshe ascended to Heaven also, we’re told, after having he’d reached the top of Mount Sinai to receive the Torah. He arrived at the River Rigyon with its terrible flames then, where angels of destruction set out to burn him to a crisp but were stopped by a Divine fiat. Moshe continued to advance further and further upward where other angels caught sight of him and complained about the mere mortal who had the nerve to be in their midst. But G-d interceded on His behalf again, and Moshe caught sight of Him in His Throne of Glory. Suddenly all the Hosts of Heaven shook in G-d’s presence because it was time for him to finally receive the Torah. G-d opened the seven firmaments and showed Moshe the Heavenly Sanctuary; then He opened the gates of the seven firmaments and transmitted His Torah to him, and Moshe then returned to earth (see Pesikta Rabbati 204, Shabbat 88b-89a, and Ma’ayan HaChochma).
And the Talmud records that R’ Yoseph, the son of R’ Yehoshua Ben Levi, had what we’d now term a “near-death experience” at a certain point, before quickly coming back to life. His father asked him what He’d seen there, on the other side, and R’ Yoseph said he saw “a topsy-turvy world, where those on top (while here, in this world) were on the bottom (while there, in Heaven) and vice versa” (Pesachim 50a). This speaks volumes about what matters and what doesn’t, what we’re to concentrate upon here in life, and what we’d do well to realize we shouldn’t be engaged in, but now isn’t the time to delve into all that.
But only the Zohar presents us with a full report on what one individual saw when he ascended Heavenward, on why he was catapulted back to earth, and on some of what he saw while he was there. Here’s what it says.
At a certain time R’ Chiyya, who played a major role throughout the Zohar and was R’ Shimon Bar Yochai’s youngest disciple, prostrated himself on the earth, kissed the dust and cried out, “Dust, dust how stiff-necked you are!” For he’d asked to draw close to his Master, R’ Shimon, who was already dead and buried, and he’d been denied that. So there seemed to be nothing else to do but appeal to the soil in which R’ Shimon lay buried.
R’ Chiyya went on reprimanding the soil for having dared to enclose R’ Shimon’s bones when he “suddenly fell into a reverie and said, ‘Dust, dust, don’t be so proud! … R’ Shimon will not be consumed by you!’” We’re then told that he “fasted for forty days in order to actually cross over into the world of the dead and meet with R’ Shimon”. But a voice appeared from the other side and declared that R’ Chiyya wasn’t fit to see him. “So he wept and fasted for another forty days”, the Zohar reports.
Know that sometimes the angels themselves can be moved, as they’re able to read the heart that implores them to do this or that, and they’re often fascinated by the depths and width of such hearts, since they know nothing of that themselves, so they accede now and again.
And so the Zohar goes on to say that the angels “showed him R’ Shimon and R’ Eleazar, his son, in a vision”. What were these two tzaddikim doing in Heaven? “They were discussing the interpretation of a certain term that R’ Yossi had used”, and we’re told that many thousands of souls were listening along.
There were a lot of other things going on there, as R’ Chiyya, reports: R’ Shimon and R’ Eleazar ascended up to the heavenly Yeshiva. R’ Shimon suddenly called out the following: “Let R’ Chiyya enter and see the degree to which the Holy One will restore the countenances of the tzaddikim in the world to come!” And suddenly the doors to Heaven were opened to him.
“How fortunate is one who comes here without shame” (which is to say, without sin), a voice called, “and how fortunate is he who stands upright in this world like a mighty pillar that bears all!”
So R’ Chiyya did indeed enter, and he discovered that all the tzaddikim there stood up for him, which embarrassed him deeply; so he went to sit at the feet of R’ Shimon, when a voice arose in the distance.
“Lower your eyes,” it commanded, “do not raise up your head, and do not look!” So R’ Chiyya followed orders when he suddenly “saw a light shining from afar” which mystified him. That same voice then came back, we’re told, and addressed R’ Chiyya (and us here on earth too, to be sure).
“Wake up!” it stormed. “For who among you has transformed darkness into light” as the mighty ones in the Garden Eden have done? “Who, among you has eagerly awaited the shining of the Light that will come about when the King calls upon the Gazelle (i.e., the Shechina)?” Anyone “who doesn’t eagerly await that each and every day in that world (i.e., while he’s yet alive) hasn’t a place here” in The Garden of Eden.
The Zohar then returns to what R’ Chiyya was seeing for himself there. “He saw many of his friends … elevated to the Heavenly Yeshiva” when he was then approached by the Archangel Metatron.
Among other things, the Archangel attested to the fact that “The King does indeed attend to the Gazelle (i.e., the Shechina) every day and recalls how She lies in the dust of the earth” while the exile still functions. “He kicks 390 heavens” in His frustration, if you will, “which then quake and tremble with fear because of Him. And He cries” because of our continued Exile.
His “tears, which are as hot as fire, cascade down into the Great Sea. And it’s in fact by the power of these tears that the one who governs the sea (i.e., the angelic Rahav), is sustained and kept alive. And he takes it upon himself to sanctify G-d’s name by swallowing all the waters of … creation. He then gathers them all to himself so that on the day when the nations of the world will assemble against the Holy Nation the waters would dry up as they cross over on dry land”.
Suddenly R’ Chiyya heard a voice call out: “Move aside, make room. The Moshiach is coming to the Yeshiva of R’ Shimon!” and he arrived there indeed, “crowned with heavenly diadems”. And then to the great chagrin of R’ Chiyya the Moshiach called out, “Who allowed a human being wearing the cloaks of that world in here?”
R’ Shimon revealed to the Moshiach that not just any human being was there, but that it was R’ Chiyya , whom he referred to as “the Shining Light of the Torah”. The Moshiach responded: very well “Let him and his sons be gathered up!” That is, let them die in fact, “and join your Academy!”
But R’ Shimon said to the Moshiach, “Give him some time!” to remain alive; he’ll get here after a while indeed. And so we’re told that “time was granted him” in fact. And R’ Chiyya came back.
© 2011 Rabbi Yaakov Feldman
Sarah and HagarClick here to get Dixie Yid in your e-mail Inbox or here to subscribe in Google Reader.
The story of Sarah's slave woman Hagar is more difficult to understand than the relationship of Avraham and Eliezer. The relationship between Sarah and Hagar, which started lovingly, turned sour, causing pain to both Sarah, Hagar, and Avraham.
Hagar was the daughter of Par'oh, the king of Egypt, who had Sarah taken to his palace. When Par'oh saw the miracles Hashem performed for Sarah, and how he became stricken with leprosy at her word, and cured when he released her, he told his daughter Hagar that she would be better off as a slave in this house than as a princess in the wealthy and mighty Egypt. Why?
Par'oh knew that in Avraham and Sarah's house slaves were not chattel who existed merely for the benefit of the master or mistress, but rather respected people, who, imbued with the teachings of Avraham and Sarah would become the honored and beloved representatives of Hashem.
This idea is illustrated at the end of parshas Lech Lecho, where we are told that not only Avraham and his descendents were told to make bris mila, but also all his slaves. Bris Milah is a covenant with Hashem that removes the barrier to holiness so one can unite with Hashem. And the parsha ends by telling us: "And all the men of his [Avraham's] house born in the house and acquired with money from strangers, were circumcised with him". In other words, the Torah stresses that when Avraham rose up to the high level of attachment to Hashem acquired through bris milah, all the slaves in his house rose up with him. It was into such a house that Par'oh placed his daughter Hagar.
To Sarah as well, a slave was a student, someone whose behavior she could purify, guiding her and teaching her the ways of Hashem. A loving relationship developed between Sarah and Hagar. We can only imagine what the relationship was like, but Chazal tell us that students are like children for one puts one's very soul into them. Sarah loved Hagar and it appeared that Hagar loved and respected Sarah as well. Hagar rose to such a high spiritual level that she was accustomed to seeing angels. Her great teacher must have been everything to her.
Then Sarah decided to give Hagar the greatest privilege possible. She would free her and allow her to become Avraham's wife. Sarah had no children. She thought that when Hagar would bear a child from Avraham, she would raise the child as if he were her own. We see later the same idea with Rachel and Leah who treated the children of Bilhah and Zilpah as if they were their own children. Indeed, there it worked well, for the maid servants were self effacing and full of respect for their wonderful teachers/mistresses. Bilhah and Zilpah were actually freed and became wives, not concubines, but they remained emotionally and spiritually under the influence of Rachel and Leah, to the point where after Rachel's death Bilhah became Yaakov's main wife, for her charachter so resembled her guide, Rachel (just as Eliezer came to resemble Avraham).
And so Sarah, with this plan in mind, talked Hagar into marrying Avraham, telling her what a great privilege this would be for her. Hagar agreed and immediately became pregnant. What was her reaction?
Instead of feeling gratefulness to Sarah, Hagar reacted by openly deriding her benefactor. In her arrogance Hagar assumed that since she immediately became pregnant from Avraham while Sarah did not, it must be that Sarah was not "on the inside what she was on the outside". And Hagar didn't keep these thoughts to herself. She insulted Sarah, to her face, and before Avraham as well. Sarah was hurt to the very core of her being. Her emotional pain was terrible. What a betrayal! This was the thanks she got from Hagar for giving Hagar her own husband, something which is so hard for any woman to do? And what would be of her plan to have a child through Hagar? Her hopes were dashed.
And that wasn't all. Chazal say that Sarah was a great Torah teacher who converted many women. The most respected women of the times used to come to hear her. Hagar told these women that their admired teacher, Sarah, only pretended to be a tsadeket, but in fact, was not. It is a very sorry fact of human nature that people tend to believe, either partially or totally, the lashon hara that they hear. If Hagar were free to do as she pleased Sarah's life would be ruined. Her influence on the world, her life's work of bringing people closer to Hashem, would be destroyed because of Hagar.
Sarah, in her deep pain, blamed Avraham for not reprimanding Hagar. It is unclear as to why Avraham had remained silent and did not come to Sarah's aid. Perhaps he thought that since Hagar was the granddaughter of Nimrod who had thrown Avraham into the furnace, his reprimanding Hagar might be tinged with selfish motives of revenge, or at least be so interpreted by Hagar.
Instead, Avraham responded by telling Sarah that Hagar was in fact still her slave (although Sarah had actually freed her) and that she could do with her as she saw fit. Sarah then afflicted Hagar.
There are different opinions as to what the affliction was. Rashi says that Sarah made Hagar do hard work. Hagar, having been born a princess, was not used to hard work, and Sarah, understanding that, had never asked Hagar to do anything difficult. In order to break Hagar's arrogance, Sarah for the first time, gave Hagar hard work.
On the other hand, Rav Shamshon Rafael Hirsch points out that the angel later told Hagar that Hashem had heard her affliction. Since the usual terminology is that Hashem saw the affliction, the implication is that Sarah's affliction of Hagar was not physical but verbal. She made Hagar aware of her own low status in behaving as she did, telling her that she could not be free since she was still a slave to the yetzer hara. Yet after tasting freedom, after having been Avraham's wife, Hagar did not want to be under Sarah any more. She rebelled and ran away to the desert.
Did Sarah sin by afflicting Hagar? The Ramban says yes, she did, and so did Avraham by allowing her to do so.
This is truly amazing. Hagar had deeply pained Sarah, who was her Torah teacher and benefactor, and who had until this time showered Hagar with love and positive attention. Yet when Hagar became pregnant, instead of showing gratefulness for Sarah's sacrifice in giving her her own husband, Hagar attacked Sarah's most sensitive area, the deep pain of her barrenness, openly insulting Sarah and trying to destroy her influence on her other students. Hagar was tearing Sarah to shreds. Who would not have reacted as Sarah did? Yet the Ramban's opinion is that Sarah, and Avraham, were expected to be such paragons of kindness that even in such circumstances, one should not afflict a slave.
Other commentators, however, say that the affliction of Hagar was not considered a sin for we find no condemnation of this in the Torah. According to this opinion the affliction of Hagar was both warranted and necessary. Yet even so, we see Hashem's concern for the oppressed, for an angel was sent to speak to Hagar, and tell her that Hashem had heard her affliction.
How great is Hashem's caring for the afflicted!
To be continued....
Thursday, November 3, 2011
Chapter 23: A Satisfying CareerI spent my entire adult life serving the Jewish community as a teacher, and a Rabbi. These were good, meaningful, years, and I have no regrets. I have helped draw many Jews closer to their heritage, to the Torah and Hashem. For this opportunity I am very grateful. I have served as a Principal, and Associate Rabbi, with very much respect given to me by my congregants and students. Even so, no professional role has meant more to than the role of a teacher. The irony is not lost on me for a single day.Hitler not only tried to destroy all of the Jewish people, but also, the unbreakable chain that dates back to Sinai- the Jewish tradition that is passed along orally, from father to son and daughter, from teacher to student.Hitler tried to kill my entire family.He did not succeed.Hitler tried to destroy my love for g-d and Torah.He did not succeed.Hitler tried to turn me away from a religious life.He did not succeed.Hitler tried to destroy my ability to inspire other Jews to love being a Jew as much as I do.He did not succeed.I win.
Wednesday, November 2, 2011
YOSEF KARDUNER in Manhattan
Cong. Ramath Orah
The ROC House
550 W. 110th St. (b/w Brdwy and Amsterdam)
doors 7:30pm / concert 8:00pm
Admission $18 / $15 Students
Saturday night November 5th
Shulamith Theatre presents
YOSEF KARDUNER IN CONCERT
1277 East 14th St.
(entrance on Chestnut St.)
Doors 7:30pm / Concert 8:30pm
More info and tickets at