Thursday, April 26, 2012

Rav Moshe Weinberger - Shalosh Seudos Drasha - Parashas Shemini 5752

Below is a write-up of Rav Weinberger's Shalosh Seudos drasha from this Shabbos, Parshas Shemini. You can see past write-ups of Rav Weinberger's Shalosh Sheudos Torahs here and get thousands of his shiurim in mp3 format at

Rav Moshe Weinberger
Shalosh Seudos Drasha Parashas Shemini 5752
Reb Moshele Vishnitzer: Being truly "alive".

(Original text of the Maadanei HaShulchan (Shemini p.67) is in regular font. Rav Weinberger’s comments are in italics)

Reb Moshele of Vishnitz זצ״ל was recently niftar and they have started to print out his torahs. He was a Gaon in learning and in Avodah and hopefully we'll see a lot more of them coming out soon. This torah gave me a lot of Chizuk.

He starts by bringing down a torah from his ancestor Reb Mendele Vishnitzer zy"a.

My holy zaidy the Tzemach Tzaddik זי״ע comments on the passuk in our parsha (Vayikra 18:47) "להבדיל בין הטמא ובין הטהור ובין החיה הנאכלת ובין החיה אשר לא תאכל" (To distinguish between the impure and the pure, between the animal that may be eaten and the animal that may not be eaten). The commentaries have been bothered about the passuk seeming out of order. The first section opens with "the impure", but the last section opens with "the animal that may be eaten", meaning "the pure". We would have expected the last section to also open the with "the animal that may not be eaten", and only then "the animal that may be eaten", as in the initial order.

We can explain that true "life" cannot derive it's meaning exclusively from this world. If we draw all our "chiyus" (life-force) from physical things, from objects, from finite things, from money and honor, from all those "weekday" (וואכענדיגע) things, then you can't really call that "life". Rather one is just walking around in the world, just going here and there. The opposite of this is one that draws his "chiyus" from eternal things. Hashem Yisborach is eternal, the Torah is eternal, the Mitzvos are eternal. This is a completely different path, the one of real true "Life". 

Of course we have to eat and do all kinds of other physical and material things, but that's not what being "alive" is about.

This is "להבדיל בין הטמא ובין הטהור" (To distinguish between the impure and the pure). Where do we see the difference? "ובין החיה הנאכלת" (between the animal that may be eaten), "חיה" (lit. Animal) comes from the word "חי" (alive). If his "chiyus" comes from the things that are "eaten" (that are consumed and disappear), he is in the aspect of "הטמא" (impure) as it's written at the beginning of the passuk. He lives in a world of foolishness. "ובין החיה אשר לא תאכל" (the animal that may not be eaten), if his "chiyus" comes from things that are eternal, things that are "not eaten" (eg. Torah learning; serving Hashem, Tefilah; good deeds; rectifying our Middos; sensibility for the holiness of Shabbos, not simply knowing that it's the seventh day of the week) he is then in the aspect of "הטהור" (pure). He is a pure creation and is truly "alive". This is why the passuk brings first "ובין החיה הנאכלת" (between the animal that may be eaten), and only later "ובין החיה אשר לא תאכל" (the animal that may not be eaten).

 If we were to ask anyone if they want to "live", he would obviously answer "yes". However, if we were to ask him what is he doing about it? The answer would be that he is taking some kind of medication or a natural remedy, or something similar (he is probably speaking about medications for anxiety and depression. Note of the translator) however this can still not be called "life".

When I was young I remember hearing in the news about these new units in the police department. They would spend thousands of dollars training these guys to go and convince people to come down before jumping off a bridge. It doesn't matter how much money you spend, it's not going to make any of those people feel any more "alive" inside. The question will always be: "now that I'm not dead, why an I alive?".

I have spoken about this to explain the nusach of the "Blessing of the Month" in the prayer service. "חיים של ברכה, חיים של פרנסה, חיים של עושר וכבוד, חיים של חילוץ עצמות" (a life of blessing, a life of sustenance, a life of wealth and honor, a life of physical health). But when it comes to Torah it's written "חיים שתהא בנו אהבת תורה" (a life where in which we will have a love of Torah). And regarding Yiras Shamoyim (fear of heaven) it's written "חיים שיש בהם יראת שמים ויתר חטא" (a life in which there is fear of heaven and fear of sin). We have to question why the language is changed for these requests and not the others. Why do we not say "חיים של אהבת תורה ויראת שמים" (a life of love of Torah and fear of Heaven)? The answer is that regarding material things we ask the we should receive an abundance of wealth and honor. But even if we end up not being deserving of them, we will still have a "life". However if we don't have a love of Torah and fear of Heaven we don't have a "life".

What is "life"? "שיש בהם יראת שמים ויראת חטא" (a life in which there is fear of heaven and fear of sin). "A life". But what is "life"? "שתהא בנו אהבת תורה ויראת שמים" (a life in which we will have a love of Torah and fear of Heaven). Because without them it can't be called a "life" at all. A person can deceive himself into thinking that he is "alive", but it's just an empty dream. Without fear of Heaven, it's not part of the concept of "life".

The  Ohr Hachayim Hakadosh explains the passuk in parshas Nitzavim (30:19) "ובחרת בחיים למען תחיה אתה וזרעך" (choose life so that you may live, you and your offspring). And what is the purpose of such a "life"? The passuk continues and explains "לאהבה את ה׳ אלוהיך ולדבקה בו, כי הוא חייך" (to love Hashem your G'd and to attach yourselves to Him, because He is your life). That's "life"! "חייך" (your life) in this world, "ואורך ימיך" (the length of your days) referring to the World to Come. He then asks a piercing question: "because what life does man have if it's not His will?" it's terrifying! To earn more or less money, to eat more or less food, what value does any of it has? That's not the will of the Creator! These words from the Ohr Hachayim burn like fire in anyone who meditates upon them.

We are entering Chodesh Iyar tonight, a Chodesh that is mesugal (suited) for all kinds of Refuos and Yeshuos (cures and salvations). This the month where the Ikkar (essence) of the Sefiras HaOmer takes place, with all it's  amazing Tikkunim (rectifications) Bein Adam le Chavero (between man and his fellow) and Bein Adam Lamakom (between man and G'd). But the biggest Refuah for everything is to have a "life". And for that we have to work on filling it with the meaning that comes from our Torah and Yiras Shamoyim.

Hashem Yisborach should help us that we should all be blessed with "ובחרת בחיים, למען תחיה, אתה וזרעך" (choose life, so that you may live, you and your children), and that we should all see together the Geulah HaSheleima VeHaamitis בב״א.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Did You do the Aveira You Heard about?

It is known that the Baal Shem Tov taught, based on the fact of hashgacha pratis over every detail of creation, that when ones witnesses another person committing an aveira, he must not view it as an unfortunate coincidence that he just "happened" to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, and that's why he witnessed the sin. Rather, Hashem caused him to see the aveira in order to do him a favor by communicating to him that he has also done that aveira, or some lesser form of the aveira. He must therefore examine his deeds and heart in order to determine what his sin was so that he may do teshuva for it.

A couple of years ago, on the Shabbos when we read this week's parsha, Tazria-Metzora, Rav Weinberger took this concept to another level. He quoted, also in the name of the Baal Shem Tov, an amazing extension of the aforementioned concept. He taught based on one of the psukim in that parsha (something along the lines of "v'shav hakohein el beiso") that after the kohein examines the Metzora or helps him with his purification process, the kohein must then look within himself for his spiritual faults. Why? Tzara'as, we know, is the result of various sins. When the kohein meets someone with Tzara'as, he either hears about or sees the effects of sin (even though he did not witness the sin itself). He therefore must examine himself to see how he has commited a sin simmilar to the one committed by the Metzora.

As I was thinking about this extension of the more well known principle of the Baal Shem Tov to situations where one did not see an aveira, but "merely" hears about it or sees its effects, I thought that I can understand this as applied to someone like me, whose job (bankruptcy attorney) does not inherently involve hearing about aveiros. But some people have jobs that inherently involve listening to people reveal their and others' aveiros all day, every day! Do people like my Rebbe or therapists have to sit down at the end of the day, every day, and ask themselves how they have committed something like the sixteen aveiros they heard about that day at work?

Can it be that the Baal Shem Tov's principle is mechayev such a vast introspection so frequently for such people? Or was this only meant for people who irregularly see or hear about aveiros, like me, such that each one is more of a chidush? This is my question on this issue, so I decided to ask three people who study chassidus/penimius haTorah, who are also mental health professionals, this question (a psychologist, a social worker, and a psychiatrist). They all work with adults and very frequently hear about and see the effects of very serious aveiros.

I asked them whether they think the Baal Shem Tov's teaching was meant to apply to people like them who work in fields which inherently come across many more aveiros than other types of baalabatim. I thought that the general response I would get would be that it was unimaginable that the principle applied equally to people in their situation because if it did, how could such an approach be sustainable? "Derache'ha darchei noam." But I was surprised by the reactions.

The heilige Yidden who work as a psychiatrist and a social worker, respectively, both responded that they thought it did apply to them, and that they needed to work more on self-introspection to see how their clients' sins applied to them as well so that they could repair more of their internal faults.

The third person I spoke to. Rabbi Dr. Binyomin Tepfer, a psychologist, took issue with the assumption my question was based on.

He shared a teaching from Rav Yaakov Moshe Charlap, from Mei Marom, the talmid muvhak of Rav Kook, on the fact that Rivka was able to see Eisav's evil, but Yitzchak was not able to. He said that even though Rivka was a tzadekes, because she grew up in the house of a rasha, she had more of a shaychus to what evil was, and was therefore able to identify it in Eisav. Yitzchak, on the other hand, grew up in the house of a tzadik, Avraham Avinu, and in Eretz Hakodesh, the holy land, so he had no shaychus to evil. He may have heard about or witnessed evil acts, but he did not have the keilim, the tools, to process them, and probably attributed them to some factors external to Eisav, but not as a reflection of his true nature.

R. Dr. Tepfer said that he understood the Baal Shem Tov's teaching in a similar way. The issue is not whether light waves carrying an image of a person sinning reach a person's optic nerves, or whether sound waves carrying the sound of a person admitting a sin reach his ears. The issue is whether he really *sees* or really *hears* the aveira. If a kohein is a tzadik, he will not truly see the nega, the blemish, in the person who comes to him. He will just see a tzadik in front of him who, nebach, has some flaws covering his true self, which are completely external to his true nature.

Similarly, even for someone who regularly sees or hears about aveiros, the question is whether he sees the people in front of him as being truly deficient, as having nega'i'm, blemishes, as part of their identities. If a therapist or Rav has done teshuva for everything which is even similar to his client's sin, however, he looks at the clients or the people who come to him as really good, but who, unfortunately, have been damaged, and just need some (or a lot) of help to shed that external shell from themselves in order to reveal their true nature as holy Jews.

I have not yet been able to ask Rav Weinberger this question yet, but I did want to share my friends' insights into this very practical question.

IY"H, may we all be zoche to do teshuva so that no matter what happens outside of ourselves, we will only see the good in others.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Rav Moshe Weinberger - Seudas Moshiach Drasha 5772

Below is a write-up of Rav Weinberger's Seudas Moshiach drasha from this Acharon Shel Pesach. You can see past write-ups of Rav Weinberger's Shalosh Sheudos Torahs here and get thousands of his shiurim in mp3 format at

Special thanks this week to our holy brother Dr. Zev Alexander for his help with the story at the end of the drasha. 

Rav Moshe Weinberger
Seudas Moshiach Drasha 5772
Rav Yitzchok Hutner: The Avodah of Issru Chag

(Original text of the new Maamerei Pachad Yitzchok Pesach (Maamar 113, p.420) is in regular font. Rav Weinberger’s comments are in italics)

It's Hashgacha Pratis that right before Yom Tov they published a new set of over 400 pages of the Pachad Yitzchok from Rav Hutner זצ״ל. There are several Torahs there about these days. This particular one is "Chelek Beis" of what we were talking about this morning (click here for the Acharon Shel Pesach Yizkor Drasha).

The parting from Shabbos is called "Melaveh Malkah", the parting from Yom Tov is called "Issru Chag". The reason for the difference between them is that the Kedusha of Shabbos comes from above, in a fixed and permanent way. However the Kedusha of Yom Tov comes through "מקדש ישראל והזמנים" (Who sanctifies Yisroel and the festive seasons), the initiative of Klal Yisroel who is responsible for Kedushas Hamoadim.

Thus Shabbos that doesn't come through our intervention also leaves of it's own accord. It suffices to "escort her", as one would someone who is parting from us. However with Yom Tov, that was brought in through our sanctification, the Avoda of it's parting also belongs to us. This is  "Issru Chag". We shall explain one of the ways to do this Avoda.

Shabbos and Yom Tov are different. Shabbos is woven into the fabric of creation. It comes on it's own and it leaves on it's own. And at the end of Shabbos all we can do is be "Melave Malka", all we can do is "escort" the Shabbos Queen on her way out.

In the case of Yom Tov, we help bring it in (by consacrating the Chodesh when there is a Sanhedrin), and when it's over we have "Issru Chag". There is an Avoda that WE have to do in order to hold on to the spirit of the Yom Tov.

Chazal explains (Yoma 69) the reason for the name "אנשי כנסת הגדולה" (Men of the Great Assembly): they returned the Crown (of Hashem) to its original Glory. The Neviim said "strangers are croaking in His sanctuary, where is His awesomeness? Strangers enslave His children, where is His power?" They (the Men of the Great Assembly) came and said "to the contrary! There we can see His Awesomeness, there we can see His power".

The 70 nations of the world are constantly tormenting us, and Hashem keeps silent. All it would take is for Hashem to give one "scream" and the whole world would be turned upside down. But He chooses not to, He chooses to restrain Himself, He keeps silent, and the Anshey Kneses Hagedolah praised him for it.

But we have yet to grasp the depth of this praise. We can only do this through the words of Chazal (Gittin 56) on the passuk (Shmos 16:11) "מי כמוך באלים ה׳ - מי כמוך באלמים ה׳" (Who is like You amongst the mighty ones Hashem - who is like You amongst the silent ones). Almim refers to the time of His silence. Just like we are able to recognize "Mi kamocha" (who compares to you) in times of good and revelation of "B'eilim", we should also be able to see "Mi kamocha" at times of silence, at times of destruction and difficulties for Yisroel. This is "B'almim" (in silence). However the understanding of "Almim" is interconnected to that of "Eilim". We learn from this that the power that comes from such recognition at a time of "Almim", draws it's nourishment from the times of "B'eilim".

We needed to go through the Yam Suf and see the Glory of Hashem at the moment of "מי כמוך באלים ה׳" (Who is like You amongst the mighty ones Hashem), to be able to endure the long years of "מי כמוך באלמים ה׳" (who is like You amongst the silent ones), of the Galus. Only someone who "saw" the aspect of "B'eilim" can possibly endure the times of "B'almim".

These words have been said regarding Klal Yisroel during periods of revelation, versus periods of hiddenness and destruction. However words of Torah apply to all generations equally just as they do to each and every Jewish soul. The same line drawn regarding Klal Yisroel, applies as well to each individual Jew. It's written regarding the passuk (Shir Hashirim 1:16) עיניך יונים" (your eyes are doves-like) that when the dove wonders away from her nest, she does so only to a distance where she can still look back to it. We should learn from this regarding our avodah, that at times of lowly feelings and rut, we must look back to our uplifting times of inspiration, the times of "Eilim", and draw from them the strength for our avodah at times of "Almim" (Divine silence).

The Yonah never flies so far that it can't see where it came from.

As the Yom Tov and its service come to an end, we must act like the dove and turn our heads back to recall the spiritual elevation we experience during them. How great was our learning and our davening during those days! From this we must draw the strength for (our service during) the regular days.

To help us with such a challenge we partake in a celebration, one where we focus on our longing as we part from the Chag.

We are now leaving leaving Yom Tov and going back to the world of "Almim". Back to the world of work, of computers, etc. we have to make sure to be able to look back and not loose sight of where we came from: the world of "Eilim", of davening, of hallel, of the Seder. We have to make sure to hold on to that world and bring it with us on our way out, as we return to the spiritual silence of mundane life.

The opposite is, unfortunately, what often happens between husband and wife. Shorty after the wedding reception is over, and Sheva Brochos are finished, and the routine sets in, they forget. They loose sight of the feelings, the emotions of those early moments and they start living in a world of "B'almim". We have to be able to look back at the Chupah, at those early times of the world of "B'eilim". The same happens with our children. As they grow and the problems, difficulties and challenges start getting bigger, we start losing track of the days when they were young, beautiful and innocent. But we have to be able to look back at the early days and hold on to them. This is the avodah called "Issru Chag".

After all these years of Galus, of living in the world of "B'almim", we never stopped looking at Hashem with the eyes of the world of "B'eilim", for even a moment. Nor has Hashem ever stopped looking at us with those same eyes. We are still waiting for that moment soon, when we will be able to see it again with clarity and say "מי כמוך באלים ה׳".

Today, the last day of Pesach, is the Yahrtzeit of Reb Yitzchok of Vorke zy"a. By the Seder that year, he was already very sick and people were not sure how he was going to make it. When he gotooto the Piyut "Lecha u'lecha" where it says "שנאניו יאמרו לו וכו׳" he stopped. It's not clear what "שנאניו" means. The usual translation into English is that it refers to angels. However Rav Yitzchok of Vorke explained it to mean "silence" (from the hebrew "שאנן"). After that he stopped talking, until the day of his passing, the last day of Pesach.

In each generation there are a few Taddikim that can ask for the Geulah and Hashem would have to listen (so to speak). Around that time the chassidim had been begging the Rebbe to beseech Hashem to bring Moshiach and stop Jewish suffering. Reb Ytzchok Vorker's whole life was about this, about helping Jews. He was a talmid of the Lelover, and was the predecessor to the chassidic line of  Vorke and Amshinov, where everything is about Ahavas Yisroel without any limits, everything is about asking Hashem for other Jews and for Klal Yisroel. But for the last moments of his life he stopped talking.  He entered a state of "B'almim". This must have made his silence so extremely painful. Knowing he was one of the few in his generation that could have done something to end the Jewish suffering, and yet he chose silence. The Tzaddik understood that it was Hashem's will that he be silent.

There's an amazing story about what happened after Reb Ytzchok Vorker was Niftar.

Reb Yitzchok Vorker was very close to Reb Menachem Mendel of Kotzk. After his fathers passing, Reb Mendel of Vorka was very upset that his father had not communicated with him at all, not even in a dream. Some time after the shiva, he decided to go talk to his father's close friend, Reb Menachem Mendel of Kotzk.

When he got there the Kotzker asked him what his father had said. Reb Mendel told him there had been only silence. The Kotzker then said that he he had also heard nothing from the Rebbe, so he decided to go look for him in Shomayim. By purifying himself and using certain names of Hashem, he had been able to ascend to there. He was able reach the Heichal (palace) of the Avos. He asked if they had seen Reb Yitzchok of Vorke. They answered that he had been there but left. After that he had gone to see Moshe Rabbeinu ע"ה, but he received the same answer. The Kotsker then explained that he had gone from Heichal to Heichal visiting all the greatest Tzaddikim and everywhere he received the same answer "he was here but he left".

Growing increasingly desperate, the Kotzker had gone through unbelievable difficulties and trials, but was finally able to make it all the way up in Shamayim, to the Ken HaTzippor (the Palce of the Bird's Nest), where Moshiach sits and waits to bring the Geulah. And there he had asked Moshiach himself if he had seen Reb Yitzchok of Vorke. But the answer was the same "he was here but he left". The Kotsker asked what he could do to find him, and was told to look for him past the great forest that lies at the far edge of Shomayim. He started in that direction and soon found the thickest, darkest forest he had ever seen. It was extremely difficult to get through it, but with great effort he was able to make it. He finally reached a great ocean, with enormous and frightening waves all the way up to the highest levels. There he saw an old Jew with a shtekel, a walking stick, sitting perched on a cliff overlooking the frightening sea. He was sitting there quietly looking at the waves. The Kotzker got closer and realized it was his friend Reb Yitzchok of Vorka.

He approached him and asked him "Reb Yitzchok, what are you doing here? You could be with the Avos or in a palace learning Torah with Rabbi Akiva and Moshe Rabbeinu. I looked for you all over, in the places that are fit for a Tzaddik to reap the rewards of his place in the world to come. Avraham, Yitzchak, Yaakov, Moshe Rabbeinu, even Moshiach are looking for you. What are you doing here?" And Rav Yitzchok answered "Yes, I was by all of those places but I couldn’t stay there yet. So I left and I came here." He then asked "Do you know what this ocean is?" The two Tzadikim stared at the waves loudly crashing below them as they stood atop the rocks above.

Reb Yitzchak explained that the ocean was made of all the tears the Jewish people have shed throughout the years of their bitter Galus. "And I vowed to Hashem not to move from this place until the Galus is over and all the Jewish tears are wiped away". 

We need to understand how much each of our tears mean to Hashem.

Rav Yitzchok D'vorka kept silent in his last days in the aspect of "מא תיצעק אלי" (Why do you cry out to Me?), of "ואתם תחרישון" (and you will be silent). He was able to understand the times of "B'almim" because he had spent his whole life living with "B'eilim", doing for others and never giving up on a Jew. He waits silently by theOcean of Tears, crying together with us as we await the thunderous end of the years of silence.

Hashem Yisborach should help us that we should never again have to look back to Mitzrayim, or any Tzaros or suffering, but only the Hisgalus (revelation) and Geulah we saw at Yam Suf. We should remember the Shira that we sang at that time and will soon sing again, "Az yashir etc.", when we will be able to go back to that world of "מי כמוך באלים ה׳" and see together the גאולה השלימה והאמיתית בב״א.  

Monday, April 16, 2012

The Difference Between a Ger and a Ben Nida

Rev Moshe Weinberger mentioned, in the Tanya shiur this morning, the concept, as explained by the Steipler, that a ben Nida has various negative natural inclinations that he must overcome, which are not present in someone whose parents kept the laws of taharas hamishpacha at the time of his birth.

I asked him how the negative, natural traits possessed by gerim, because of the nature of their spiritual roots among the nations, compare to the challenges of a ben Nida.

He answered that each one has different types of challenges. A ben Nida's inclinations can necessitate life-long battles to overcome. On the other hand, he said a ger's pre-gerus challenges (in overcoming certain negative midos and inclinations) are generally greater than the challenges of a ben Nida. But that post-gerus, the ger is generally free of any comparable natural-midos challenges related to his status.

Kol tuv.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Torah and Slavery - the Pesach Story - Rebb. Devorah Heshelis

Rebbetzin Heshelis, the author of The Moon's Lost Light ,offers this exploration of the fact that the Torah does not completely prohibit slavery, although it has laws regarding the proper treatment of Jewish and non-Jewish slaves. I cannot say her explanation will satisfy everyone, but it is a brave effort to tackle a subject which is difficult especially to modern people. This is a continuation of a series she started here.

Rebbetzin Devorah Heshelis
A continuation of "on slavery"…

Our next encounter with slavery in the Torah, is the slavery of the entire Jewish People. Here we see the evil, cruelty and injustice that we generally ascribe to slavery. We know that this slavery was basic to Hashem's plan for the development of the Jewish People because Hashem informed Avraham Avinu in the bris bein habsorim (covenant between the parts) that his children would be enslaved and afflicted in a land which was not theirs. From the context of that prophecy, it seems that the enslavement of the Jewish People was a necessary prerequisite to inheriting the land of Israel. But why would Hashem, who is only good, make suffering a prerequisite to inheriting the land?

Before answering this, let us look at the introductory passage to Pirkei Avos. This passage states: "All of Israel have a share in the world to come, as it says, "And your nation are all tsaddikim, forever they will inherit the land, the branch of My orchard, the work of my hands, to be proud of."
This is certainly very comforting, but are all of the Jewish People really tsadikim? And if this is assured, then where is free will?  And why is the assurance that they will forever inherit the land (of Israel) proof that they all have a share in the world to come? Is there an intrinsic connection between being tsaddikim, inheriting the land of Israel, and having a place in the world to come?

The answer, of course, is yes. Chazal tell us that three great presents were given to the Jewish People, which are acquired only through suffering. They are: the world to come, the Torah, and the land of Israel. These three gifts are all connected and are actually different aspects of the same thing; our connection with the Shchina.

Chazal say that olam habo – the world to come - is the place where "tsadikkim sit with crowns on their heads and enjoy the the shine of the Shchina".  Chassidus says that in olam habo we actually unite with the Shchina. This is the greatest pleasure that exists and is the ultimate purpose of our creation.

(The term olam habo as used here, is not referring to the soul's temporary enjoyment of Gan Eden which takes place after a person's death. It is referring to the ultimate olam habo which the entire Jewish People experience after the revival of the dead, and the great Day of Judgment.)

And there is an intrinsic connection between olam habo and Eretz Yisrael, because Eretz Yisrael is the Shchina's place in this world. Because of this connection, Chazal said that "Anyone who lives in Eretz Yisrael it is as if he has a G-d, and anyone who lives outside of Eretz Yisrael it is as if he has no G-d", for living in Eretz Yisrael means being directly attached to the Shchina. Furthermore the nefesh (lower soul) of every Jew comes from Eretz Yisrael, even if that Jew was never physically present in Eretz Yisrael. This is because the lower Shchina is the essence of Eretz Yisrael and every Jew's nefesh comes from the lower Shchina. If we forever inherit the land of Israel this means that we forever have a connection with the Shchina, which means that we are assured a place in olam habo.

(The fact that we do not always feel the presence of the Shchina in Eretz Yisrael is because there are klipos - impure, hard barriers - both surrounding our hearts and covering up the inherent holiness of Eretz Yisrael. Nevertheless, even now, despite the presence of the klipos, we see Hashem's clear hashgacha in a way which is rarely seen outside of Eretz Yisrael. Outside of Eretz Yisrael is it very rare for people who are not tsaddikim (according to our terms) to experience miracles. In Eretz Yisrael the entire country has again and again experienced miracles, especially during the wars, may Hashem continue to protect us and show us His presence.)

And there is also an intrinsic connection with the Torah, because the Torah is the means through which we become tsaddikim, so that we can be attached to the Shchina. Hashem told us very clearly and very strongly that our presence in Eretz Yisrael is dependent upon our keeping the Torah.
But what happens if the Jews do not keep the Torah? How, then, will they have an eternal connection with Eretz Yisrael? This was Avraham Avinu's question when he asked, "ba'meh eidah ki irashena" – with what will I know that I will inherit it? The answer Hashem gave him was: exile. If the Jewish people sin they will go into exile, but they will never lose their intrinsic connection with Eretz Yisrael, and when the sins are atoned for, they will return.

But why are all of am Yisrael tsaddikim, even though they sometimes don't keep the Torah? And if they are, then where is free will?

All the Jewish souls, including those who were as yet unborn, agreed to accept the Torah of their own free will. This was especially great because the Jewish People signed an unread contract, not knowing what Hashem would require of them. They did this simply out of their love and belief in Him, their desire to do His wishes, and to be His people. Their acceptance of the Torah made them tsaddikim, and assured them of a share in olam habo. This applies to true converts as well, who agree to keep the Torah, come what may.  

(Most commentaries add that one's share in olam habo can be lost through especially severe breaches of the Torah, but Chassidus says that if a Jew loses his share in olam habo in one lifetime, Hashem will bring him back again and again until he regains it. The merit of sincerely accepting the Torah lasts forever. By accepting the Torah we received a Jewish soul which is a "chelek Elokah mima'al, a part of Hashem above, and as so, is never lost. This is true of a sincere convert as well.)   

So now we see the connection between Torah, Eretz Yisrael and olam habo. Through accepting the Torah we acquired an eternal connection to the Shchina which is the essence of both Eretz Yisrael and olam habo.

But why must these three great presents be acquired only through suffering?
Hashem's plan for creation was to give goodness and pleasure to His creatures. But He wanted them to do something to deserve this awesome goodness, for in the world of truth, if one receives great gifts without earning them one can never fully enjoy them. Chazal explain that one who receives free bread is embarrassed to look at the face of his benefactor.

Furthermore, Hashem wants to give us the ultimate gift of being His equal, His partner, so to speak. This is what Shir HaShirim is about, and is also referred to by the prophets who call the Jewish People Hashem's wife. The reward of olam habo is not like a material reward which is outside of oneself, but rather it is a rewards of being, of who you, yourself, are. And what you are, is what you made yourself into. We have to create ourselves spiritually, by withstanding tests of evil, and so become Hashem's beloved partner in creation.   Originally we were given a chance to acquire all three great presents without suffering, through passing great tests. The problem was, that we failed.
The first test was the prohibition of eating from the Etz Tov Vi'ra (tree of knowledge, good and bad) in Gan Eden. What took place there was much, much deeper than one would imagine, and was truly an awesome test. Adam and Chava had in them all the souls of all mankind. Had they withstood this test, the first Shabbas would have been olam habo. But they did not pass this test, and neither did we, whose souls were in them and all took part in this sin.  Therefore, the six days of creation turned into six thousand years of world history, and the all inclusive souls of Adam and Chava separated into many, many separate souls, each with it's own mission in this world. Since that time, to achieve the purpose of creation and bring ourselves to the level of olam habo, it is necessary to first correct the sin of eating from the Etz HaDa'at tov vira.  

And that is why the Jewish People had to go through the Egyptian Exile. The purpose of the Egyptian exile was to cleanse us of sin of eating from the Etz HaDa'at, which now could only be accomplished through suffering.

Nevertheless, the level of suffering was still able to be determined by our own behavior. The prophecy was that the Jewish People would be in a foreign land, enslaved and afflicted for four hundred years. (Four hundred is the number of negative klipot – impure barriers – that spiritually attack a person and separate them from Hashem. Apparently, each year in exile was to remove one level of klipah.)

But not all of those four hundred years were passed with great suffering. Hashem began counting the four hundred years from the birth of Isaac, who was expelled by the Plishtim and had his wells stuffed up by them. This was considered as part of the necessary suffering of those four hundred years. Ya'akov's lifetime was also included in the four hundred years, with his suffering included as well. The suffering of the Jewish People as a whole started in Egypt with the death of Ya'akov, as Rashi wrote, after the death of Yaakov Avinu, "the eyes and hearts of Israel were clogged from the enslavement". But at that time the Jewish People were not literally slaves. Yosef was still alive and ruling. Even so, because the Jews were not free to go and come as they wished, and perhaps had to pay special taxes, or had special limitations placed upon them, this was considered being enslaved, i.e. being subjected to the control of others. Yet at this time, when they were still tsaddikim, the subjugation was nowhere near what came later.

Had the Jewish People continued as they were then, and remained completely faithful to their own laws and traditions, the truly harsh part of the exile never would have materialized. However, many of the people stopped making bris milah. The Sfas Ems on Parshas Shmos says that if the Jews would have not stopped making bris milah the Egyptians could never have enslaved them. Rashi, based on Chazal, tells us that many of the people went out of the perimeters of their own area, the land of Goshen, and began to take part in the Egyptian social life, going to their theatres and circuses, till "the land became full of them".  Had they stayed quietly unseen in Goshen, rather than filling up the rest of Egypt, the Egyptians would not have felt threatened and would not have enslaved them. This is a very important lesson for us to remember. When in exile, don't assimilate, don't adopt the cultural pastimes of the host country, and don't act as if the country belongs to you. Stay quietly on the sidelines, leading your own Jewish life. Don't give anyone room to suspect that you are taking over their country.

But why did the suffering the Jewish People had to endure specifically take the form of slavery?
Perhaps part of the answer is that Adam and Chava - who included within them all our souls - did not recognize the necessity to submit to Hashem's will in all circumstances. One of the lessons of the Egyptian exile was that if you do not subject yourself to Hashem's will, you will be subjected to the will of tyrants. It is not always easy to obey Hashem's laws, but if we realize that we must always do Hashem's will, as if we were a slave to Hashem (who only wishes good for us, and will greatly reward us) than we will be saved from slavery under evil people. The Torah says that after the redemption, "Hashem will circumcise your heart to love Hashem your G-d with all your heart and all your soul for the sake of your life" (Dvarim 30:6). At that time we will no longer need to feel that we are "slaves" to Hashem's will for the yetzer will be removed. That is why the  navi Hoshe'a prophecied that after the redemption we will serve Hashem with love rather than fear. Now, however, in the world of tests, when the yetzer hara is still strong, we must remember that we are subject always to Hashem's will. We must make the yetzer hara a slave to the yetzer tov, and if not, cholila, we ourselves will become slaves.

There were also deep rooted personality benefits that were gained from the Egyptian experience. The Torah tells us to be considerate of geirim (aliens or converts) and to love them "for you were geirim (aliens) in the land of Egypt. In the aseret hadibrot (ten commandments) we are told that the slave must rest on the Shabbos,  remembering that "you were a slave in the land of Egypt".  This lesson remained deeply ingrained in the Jewish character. It is part of Jewish nature to prevent the perpetration of cruelty and injustice to the weak and downtrodden.

Furthermore, the Jewish People will eventually rule over the entire world. This will happen with the coming of the full redemption. It would have happened shortly after the Egyptian redemption if it hadn't been for the sin of the golden calf. The Egyptian experience was a preparation for a position of rulership. Anyone who becomes a ruler, must first feel what it means to be subject to others in order to assure that they will only help raise others and not hurt them.

So now we know why the Jewish People needed to go through the suffering and slavery of the Egyptian exile, yet the intensity of the suffering is still incomprehensible. Innocent baby boys were thrown into the Nile. If a man didn't finish his work load, his baby was put into the walls to suffocate. When Pharoh was stricken with leprosy he bathed in the blood of slaughtered Jewish children. Why did Hashem allow all this terrible cruelty?

Moshe Rabbeinu asked the same question. The Ari z"l gives us a glimpse into the answer, which is more amazing than we could possibly have imagined.

The generation of the flood had very high souls, but they had a very great yetzer hara, as well. They sinned and sinned terribly until Hashem brought the flood upon them and they were drowned. However, they were given another chance, being reincarnated in the generation of the tower of Babel. Once again, they sinned, the tower of Babel was destroyed, and they were dispersed. Then they were reincarnated in the people of Sdom, who were even worse. Avraham prayed for the people of Sdom to be saved. His prayer did not go unanswered. Although Sdom was destroyed for its evil, the people Avraham prayed for were brought back again as Avraham's own descendents, this time, in Egypt! The suffering that these children went through was to totally expiate them from their previous sins, in the flood, in the tower of Babel, and in Sdom, so that they could come back again as pure souls of the Jewish People!

There is yet another reason why the Jewish People needed to go through the Egyptian exile and enslavement. They needed it to receive the Torah.

The Torah is the goal and purpose of our lives; indeed it is the purpose of all creation, but it was not a simple thing to be given a chance to acquire the Torah. The Torah is the Etz HaChaim, the Tree of (Eternal) Life that was in Gan Eden, but after sinning, Adam was sent out of Gan Eden and Hashem set up fearsome guards to make sure he would not return to partake of the Etz HaChaim. After eating from the Etz HaDa'as eternal life would only be harmful, because if people would not die, the evil which they absorbed from the Etz Hada'as tov v'ira (Tree of Knowledge [of] good and bad) would remain in them forever. The Torah gives eternal life, and indeed, says the Medrash, had the Jewish People not sinned with the golden calf, their acceptance of the Torah would have caused them to live forever.

And so Hashem would not allow mankind to eat of the Etz HaChaim – the Torah – until they would be purified from the sin of the Etz HaDa'as. Otherwise, the evil would have remained inside of them forever, and the Torah itself would have been contaminated by this evil.

But how can one be so purified? How can the effects of eating of the Etz HaDa'at be nullified? The answer was, the Egyptian exile. The three stages of the Egyptian exile that were told to Avraham Avinu - being aliens in a foreign land, being enslaved, and being afflicted - all served to remove different aspects of the evil that was acquired from the "infection" of the snake, who carried the Satan on him. Kabbalah says that there are three main evil klipot (from which the others stem). It seems that these three klipot had to be expiated through the three stages of the Egyptian exile; being an alien in a foreign land, being slaves, and being afflicted. After those three aspects of evil were removed, the Jewish People could then go on to receive the Torah, the Etz HaChaim.

As mentioned above, all the Jewish souls were contained within the souls of Adam and Chava, and so all these basic souls had to repair the damage caused by their sin. Chazal tell us that particularly the women brought about the redemption from the Egyptian exile, for it was in the merit of righteous women that our ancestors were redeemed from Egypt. This was the perfect tikun (correction) because it was Chava who originally convinced Adam to eat from the Etz HaDa'at and now it was Chav'a extension, the Jewish women, who saved Adam (the Jewish men) from the effects of the Etz HaDa'as.  

And so we went through the Egyptian exile and received the Torah – only not completely. The sin of the golden calf caused Moshe Rabeinu to break the first luchos, which, after the sin, we could not receive. Had we received those luchos, our knowledge of Torah would have been complete, totally accurate, and never forgotten. It would have come easily, with great joy and pleasantness, while living in comfort. Furthermore, we would have had the inner dimension of Torah, now called kabbalah, which we are now missing. The little bit of kabbalah which we have now is only a tiny taste of what we will have in the future. Kabbalah explains the true reasons and inner meanings behind the mitzvohs, and the deeper explanations of the stories, which we now only understand on a superficial level. Because of the sin of the golden calf, we lost all this and it will be regained only with the coming of Moshiach.

And Eretz Yisrael, too, was not fully achieved because of the sin of the spies which caused the Jewish People to cry that they did not want to go to Eretz Yisrael. Although the next generation did enter the land, it was not the same as it would have been; Moshe Rabeinu did not build the Beis HaMikdash, and the permanence and full glory of connecting with the Shchina will be only after the full redemption.

So the sin of Etz HaDa'as, the sin of the golden calf, and the sin of the spies, caused us to lose the easy way to olam habo, Torah, and Eretz Yisrael, respectively. Now they can be gained only through suffering. The sins committed by later generations caused this suffering to become so much more intense. Yet, although we cannot feel this while still in the galus, in the end it will come out even better this way. All the merit of our suffering through the exiles, all the sacrifices we made to be Hashem's people, will be added on, and this merit it so extremely great that it will add so much more, lasting forever and ever.

[Author's not: If a reader wants the source for any idea mentioned here, they can be in touch with me at my email address:]

To be continued…

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Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Rav Moshe Weinberger - Shalosh Seudos Drasha - Shabbos Hagadol 5772

Below is a write-up of Rav Weinberger's Shalosh Seudos drasha from this Shabbos Hagadol. He has not yet reviewed this version so any mistakes are due to the writer (and NOT Rav Weinberger OR my dear friend Dixie Yid).  You can see past write-ups of Rav Weinberger's Shalosh Sheudos Torahs here and get thousands of his shiurim in mp3 format at

Rav Moshe Weinberger
Shalosh Seudos Drasha Shabbos Hagadol 5772
The Akeidas Yitzchok of Alexander: Simple Emunah, the secret path to greatness

(Original text of the Akeidas Yitzchok (Parshas Tzav p.42) is in regular font. Rav Weinberger’s comments are in italics)

This is a Torah from the Alexander Rebbe הי״ד who died Al Kiddushin Hashem. We have very few Torohs from him. This one continues what we were discussing before (click here to read the Shabbos Hagadol Drasha).

We can try to explain the reason this Shabbos before Pesach is called Shabbos Hagadol as follows. The essence of Emunah in Hashem Yisborach has to be אמונה פשוטה (simple Emunah), without questioning. We shouldn't inquire after Hashem's deeds, but it should be sufficient for those who come from a "putrid drop" that they were even deserving to serve Hashem. How can we question Hashem's actions? As it's written (Tehillim 92) "איש בער לא ידע" (A boorish man cannot know); (Tehillim 73) "ואני בער ולא אדע, בהמות הייתי עמך. ואני תמיד עמך וכו׳" (And I was a boor and unknowing, like a mindless beast I was with You. And still I was always with You).

It was through their complete and simple Emunah that Bnei Yisroel merited to come out of the Land of Egypt, as it's written (Shmos 12) "כשש מאות אלף רגלי וגו׳" (Like six hundred thousand legs etc.) רגל (legs) refers to Emunah. As its written (Shmos 4) "ויאמן העם וגו׳" (And the people had Emunah).

This what our sages stated (Kiddushin 35) "גדול מצווה ועושה ממי שאינו מצווה ועושה" (Greater is the one who performs a commandment due to being commanded to do so, then the one who performs it without being commanded). This means that one who acts upon being commanded by Hashem, is greater then one who acts instead after a process of intellectual inquiry. As we say (in davening) "אלקינו ואלקי אבותינו" (Our G'd and the G'd of our forefathers). "Our G'd" refers to the side of inquiry, "the G'd of our forefathers" refers to the side of Emunah.

It's much better to do Mitzvos just because we are a מצווה (we were commanded), with אמונה פשוטה, then to do it because we reached an intellectual conclusion that this is good for us, a good idea, or that it's a nice thing to do.

This is the question of the Rasha (in the Haggadah) "מה העבודה הזאת לכם" (What is this service to "you"), because for "you" the Avodah doesn't have any reason or understanding. This is also the claim of the Satan and the nations of the world (regarding the Parah Adumah) "what is this Mitzvah, what are the reasons behind it" (Rashi on Bamidbar 19:2).

The Rasha tends to pose as a great intellectual.

Our answer should be that we are not Rashayim to go inquiring after the deeds and Mitzvos of the Creator ית״ש, we are only to believe in Him with the same complete and simple Emunah of our forefathers in Egypt. As we see when the Egyptians saw each and every Jew take a lamb for his Korban Pesach and tie it to their bedposts. They asked them "what is this to you?". The Jews answered "it's to be slaughtered for a Pesach offering as commanded to us by Hashem". This means that they were fulfilling this commandment only because it was ordered by the Creator ית״ש, without any need for reasons, only out of complete and simple Emunah.

We didn't give the Egyptians long explanations about the Korban Pesach. Of course we could have said many things if we had wanted, as with all Mitzvos, but it just wasn't necessary. At that moment it was all being done with our אמונה פשוטה.

This is why this Shabbos before Pesach is called Shabbos Hagadol, because at that time they merited that simple and complete Emunah, that's in the aspect of ״גדול״ מצווה ועושה כו׳ ("Great" is the one who performs a commandment due to being commanded to do so etc.). Even in Mitzrayim where they were in a very lowly state, in the aspect of "bare and naked", through the Korban Pesach they merited the lofty level of Complete Emunah in Hashem's Mitzvos without questioning. As its written (Shmos 12) "זות חקת הפסח וגו׳" (This is the decree of the Pesach offering), in the aspect of "אמת ואמונה חוק ולא יעבור״ (True and faithful, it is an unbreachable decree [from the morning prayer service]).

The highest level a Jew can reach is to be a מצווה.

This is what Hashem promised Abraham Avinu ע״ה (Bereshis 15) "ואחרי כן יצאו ברכוש גדול" (and they will leave with great wealth). That is they left with Emunah, and this was the "רכוש "הגדול ("Great" wealth), as in ״גדול״ מצווה ועושה כו׳. This is what is brought down "זות חקת הפסח וגו׳".

It's written in Tehillim (119:80) "יהי לבי תמים בחקיך" (May my heart be perfect in your decrees). David Hamelech is saying "Master of the World, when I'm occupied in Your decrees don't give the Yetzer Harah permission to harm me; as it's written (Tehillim 37) "הורני ה׳ דרכך" (Hashem show me Your path), let me go in Your path and the Yetzer Harah shouldn't lead me to err". The meaning of this is that the Yetzer Harah should not incite us to question and inquire after His Mitzvos. But that we should be able to fulfill all His commandments as if they were a Chok, with complete and simple Emunah, in the aspect of "Shabbos Hagadol".

The Kedusha of Shabbos also helps to merit simple Emunah. On the Shabbos Hagadol through the Holiness of Shabbos we merit the aspect of "גדול", as in ״גדול״ מצווה ועושה כו׳. We also merit the aspect of "מצות תאכל במקום קדוש" (Matzos you shall eat in a holy place), to eat the food of "מהימנותא" (Faith), of complete Emunah. This is the true preparation for these holy days.

This are the words of the Rebbe Reb Bunim of Peshischa זי״ע as is brought down in the Sefer Ramasayim Tzofim:

"'ובקשתם משם' (and you will ask from there) This means all wisdom and all inquiries to understand Hashem and His Unity are called 'משם', meaning from some other place. But the truth of the truth is ' במקומו ממש' (from this very place), meaning in ones own heart. As it says 'One should purify his traits properly ומ׳ then he will find in his heart His  Divinity'".

"שם" (there) is the place of the intellect, "פה" (here) is the place of the heart. And it's in the heart that we need to work on our Middos and our Avodas Hashem.

Hashem Yisborach should help us, at the seder when we say ״ברוך המקום״, He should take us from this Makom to the Makom where we need to be, with the גאולה השלימה והאמיתית בב״א.

Monday, April 2, 2012

The Merciful Justice of Korbanos

I just saw an amazing Ohr Hachaim on this week's parsha.

He brings down a Yerushalmi in Makos (2:6) on the pasuk (Vayikra 9:8), "va'yikrav Aharon el hamizbeach," which can be read "and Aharon approached the alter" or, alternatively, as "And Aharon was sacrificed on the alter." The Gemara explains that according to the attribute of justice, one who commits any sin deserves death. In Hashem's mercy, He permits us to offer a sacrifice instead. While doing so, one should think that everything that is being done to the animal (slaughter, burning, etc.) should really be done to him. This thought is what atones for the person when he brings a sacrifice.

The Ohr Hachaim points out, though, based on the Tanchuma in Shoftim and the Yerushalmi in Shekalim (5:1) that Hashem swore to conduct the world according to justice (as opposed to mercy) and that no one can say that Hashem will overlook his transgressions. Based on these sources, if sacrifices represent a departure from justice and a reliance on mercy, how can a just G-d permit someone deserving of death because of his sins to get "off the hook" by putting an animal in his place?

He answers that in reality, when a sinner brings an animal sacrifice in lieu of his own life, this is also justice. He quotes the Gemara in Sota (3a) that "A person does not commit a sin [unless he is filled with a spirit of impurity]" Reading the Gemara al derech drush, he says that it teaches that a "person" doesn't commit a sin. One who sins descends to the level of an animal, presumably because he allows his animalistic soul (nefesh habahamis) to rule his life during that time. One who does teshuva, however, regains the status of a person.

Therefore, would be fitting for a man be killed because of the sins of an animal? Certainly not. The person therefore brings an animal on the alter because it is the closest approximation of the aspect of himself that committed the sin. So in the end, bringing a korban is proper according to justice as well as mercy.


Nachas Story - "Did you ask Rebbe yet?"

On my wife's initiative, after speaking with our rebbe, Rav Moshe Weinberger (a/k/a "Rebbe"), we began keeping Chlov Yisroel a little less than a year ago. Though it has been challenging in certain small respects for everyone in the family, everyone has accepted it relatively happily except for our nine year old daughter.

A couple of months ago, she began announcing "I don't keep Cholov Yisroel," and also asking me for permission to eat non-Cholov Yisroel things. My wife and I tried explaining that it isn't so hard, that virtually everything out there is available in a Cholov Yisroel version, and that it isn't so hard to avoid the one or two things that aren't available in Cholov Yisroel, etc.

She was having none of it. About a month ago, she began asking for Nestle hot chocolate (which is not Cholov Yisroel) because she didn't like the Cholov Yisroel hot chocolate, and anyway, we didn't always have it. Then, she heard that a friend of hers kept Cholov Yisroel only at home. Thinking that this was a genius of an idea and an ideal middle-ground, she began to ask me frequently if she could do that too. Because she kept asking, I finally told her that I would ask Rebbe if it was okay. After all, I didn't know if this chumra was something that we should push relative to other things.

I began working with her to make hot chocolate from scratch in the mornings, and putting her off when she asked me if I asked Rebbe her question yet. I was hoping that the hot chocolate would diffuse her desire and she would drop it, but no such luck. She continued asking every couple of days, "Did you ask Rebbe yet? Can I stop keeping Cholov Yisroel outside the house?"

Finally, this Shabbos at kiddush, I asked Rebbe her question. After the seuda at home afterward, I told her I had just spoken with Rebbe about her question. She asked me what he said, and I told her that he said she should continue keeping Cholov Yisroel everywhere because it would make her healthier, it is good for her, and it's a very important thing.

Her response: "Okay, good." Period. End of sentence. No protests or complaints at all (which would not be entirely out of character for her). After months of asking and pleading, as soon as she heard what Rebbe said, she accepted it happily and we haven't heard anything else about it.