Sunday, April 8, 2018

Rav Moshe Weinberger - Hidden Till the End - Last Day of Pesach 5778

Below, please find this adaptation of Rav Weinberger's drasha from the last day of Pesach 5778.  Enjoy!

See here for past shiurim at YUTorah.org's website by Rav Weinberger both as Mashpia at YU and from the past 20+ years. You can also click on one of the following links to subscribe to the shiurim: emailrss feedpodcast, or iTunes. Please note that these drashos will only be available online for one month. If you notice any mistakes, please let me know so I can correct it. If you are interested in a particular drasha that is no longer online, you can email me (right sidebar) and I'll send it to you IY"H, BL"N.

Rav Moshe Weinberger
Acharon Shel Pesach 5778
Hidden Till the End

Three words from Shir HaShirim contain the essence of Yizkor, the seventh day of Pesach on which the Jewish people crossed the Sea, and the last day of Pesach on which we read the haftarah of the prophecies of Moshiach. This short phrase, which we will discuss later, encompasses the entire nature of our service on this day.

The Gemara (Shabbos 31a) says, “When they bring a person in to judgment, they say to him, ‘Did you hope for the redemption?’” It seems from Chazal that our entire status in the World to Come is defined by our answer to this question. Why is this?

The root of all Jewish redemption, individually and nationally, is the exodus from Egypt. Every Shabbos, we daven for and say this in Shabbos Mussaf, “Indeed I have redeemed you at the end like the beginning.” The final redemption, may it come soon in our days, is rooted in the original national redemption when Hashem brought us up out of Egypt. And each individual redemption, victory, and feeling of expansiveness comes from this original salvation. Everything that happens brings us one step closer to the final redemption, toward Yerushalayim. This makes all of history part of a path leading us toward Jerusalem – toward Moshiach.

But every exile or personal obstacle or point of pain and suffering has its origin in something even earlier than the Egyptian exile. It comes from the beginning of time. “And the land was empty and void. . .” (Bereishis 1:2). Chazal teach that this primordial chaos is the root of all exile (Bereishis Rabah 2:4). The significance of emptiness and chaos is that it is aimless, without direction, meaning, or purpose. As Dovid HaMelech says about the wicked, “They wander in a wasteland, with no path” (Tehillim 107:40). The worst thing in life is to live without direction or a goal.

This is personified by the king of impurity, Pharaoh, who said “I made myself” (Yechezkel 29:3). While this sounds almost comical, his statement has a deeper meaning than just the absurd assertion that Pharaoh actually created himself. If someone believes that he made himself, from his perspective, there is nothing above him. He has no purpose that transcends his present needs and desires. It is the ultimate narcissism. The first thing Hashem says is “not good” is “to be alone” (Bereishis 2:18). This is not only because of the pain of loneliness, which is indeed terrible. It is because when one is alone, he lives only for himself. Life is only worth living when it is for something above and beyond his immediate existence.

If a person lives only for himself, then all he has is his desires, needs, and wants of the moment. That is why the wicked are described as having “no path,” they have nothing larger than themselves to live for. There is no direction or purpose in their lives. All they have is an empty and narrow world in which they can only live to quench their cravings of the moment. And woe is to any person who stands in the way of such a person getting what he wants. L-rd help the gabbai who gives someone else maftir when this person believes he deserves it!

The nature of the salvation of the seventh day of Pesach, on which Hashem split the sea for us, is finding a path and purpose where one previously saw a world with no way forward. The Jewish people felt trapped on all sides. Behind them were the Egyptian hordes, dangerous animals stood ready to attack on both sides, and the churning sea was in front of them. There is no path in the sea, but Nachshon ben Aminadav saw, through his faith in Hashem’s salvation, that there was a way forward into the sea, so he began walking. And Hashem created a path in the sea where there previously was none. The miracle of the seventh day of Pesach, which Hashem repeats for his children even today when we do not see any way forward, is creating a path for us – a way forward when all options feel like they are cut off.

This is what it means when they ask us in shamayim, “Did you hope for the redemption?” While one may truly feel like he has no way forward, that he has no path, being a Jew means hoping for the redemption, knowing that Hashem will create a path forward toward something greater. And just as this is true when it comes to material suffering and challenges, it is equally true when with regard to spiritual challenges. Even if a person feels that he or she has exhausted all of his options, that there is nothing else that can be done to escape the grasp of whatever demon has him in its power, Hashem wants us to ask ourselves whether we still hope in the redemption, whether we still believe we can turn to Him to ask Him to create a path for us through whatever stormy sea is trapping us.

The words from Shir HaShirim, in which are wrapped all of this, are “My beloved, I have hidden away  [צפנתי] for you” (7:14). The root word meaning of the Hebrew word meaning “hidden away” is the same as the word Tzafunצפון, the part of the Hagada in which we eat the matzah hidden away for the end of the Seder. The essence of exile is concealment of the existence of a future. Exile causes us to feel like we are wandering in a wasteland without any path forward, like there is a great sea hemming us in, leaving us without any options.

By recognizing that Hashem has hidden away a great future for us, by hoping in the redemption, a Jew brings his future into the present. Knowing that, regardless of what we are going through now, Hashem has a future in store in which even the most horrible present is building toward a greater future, gives us the strength to live in the darkest times.

All of us are mourning the chosson and kallah who were horribly killed by a drunk driver during Chol HaMoed. I personally have a connection to the chosson’s family and one of my daughters is close to the kallah’s family. There are no words to describe the tragedy in which a fire in the car burned their bodies almost beyond recognition, as the passuk says regarding Nadav and Avihu, “the conflagration that Hashem has burned” )Vayikra 10:6). And the parents and siblings of the chosson lost another son less than three years ago. There are no words for the darkness we sometimes face in this world. It sometimes feels like it is completely beyond us. How does one go forward after such a terrible tragedy? How did the father of the chosson at the levayah quote Rav Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev zy’a, and, with his words and tefilos, attempt to bring salvation down into the world despite everything he must be going through right now? How is he able to find a path forward through the raging sea?

Rav Gudel Eisner zt’l, a gerrer chassid who survived in concentration camps throughout the War and went on to become mashpiah in Yeshivas Chidushei HaRim in Tel Aviv, explained how he lived through the last days before the liberation. The Nazis, may their names be blotted out, realized that their time was running short and that the Americans were approaching. They decided to move all of the remaining prisoners to another camp. But instead of marching them, like they did in many other camps, they forced the Jews to run the entire way. Although the malnourished, weak Jews did not know how long the run would be, it turned out to be 14 kilometers. The “game” was that if a Jew slowed down, he was shot. If he collapsed, he was trampled upon and then shot.

At one point during this run, Rav Gudel said that his legs simply stopped working. No matter how hard he tried to command them to keep running, they simply would not obey. He resigned himself to simply kneeling on the ground and saying Shma before being summarily shot. As he began to slow down, he said that another Jew running a couple of rows behind him saw that he was slowing down and yelled out, “Gudel! Gudel! Run!” When he heard those words, although he did not understand why, his legs began working again and he was able to complete the run and survive. He heard one of his Jewish brothers saying, “There is a path forward. There is a future,” and somehow that gave him the strength to move forward.


May the light of the final day of Pesach show us how to live not only for the present moment, but for the path Hashem has placed before us. May He show us a path through the mighty sea of confusion and temptation all around us to wait for the great future he has hidden away for us from the beginning of time. And may Hashem send the ultimate redemption this year so that this will be the last Pesach we spend in the darkness of exile!

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Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Rav Moshe Weinberger's Drasha from Second Day of Pesach 5778 - Cherished Questions

Below, please find this adaptation of Rav Weinberger's drasha from the second day of Pesach 5778.  Enjoy!

See here for past shiurim at YUTorah.org's website by Rav Weinberger both as Mashpia at YU and from the past 20+ years. You can also click on one of the following links to subscribe to the shiurim: emailrss feedpodcast, or iTunes. Please note that these drashos will only be available online for one month. If you notice any mistakes, please let me know so I can correct it. If you are interested in a particular drasha that is no longer online, you can email me (right sidebar) and I'll send it to you IY"H, BL"N.

Rav Moshe Weinberger
Second Day of Pesach 5778
Cherished Questions

Recently, I read the following message written by the mother of a thirteen-year-old girl who was killed by terrorists in Eretz Yisroel in 2016. I believe her message should be read by every Jew:

Very soon we will all sit at the Seder table. We will open the Haggada. We will read about the four sons.
We will seek out the wise son. We will beckon to the simple son. We will be challenged by the wicked son, and by the one who does not know how to ask.
But,
There are some families who have another son.
The fifth son.
The son who cannot be at the table.
He was killed…he was murdered…
In so many families, there is no son.
There is no daughter…
To sit and to feel like free people. To feel the redemption and the liberation.
But there is no son or daughter…
Just a memory… How many more bereaved parents are there this year, and how many children have gone…
We would have been happy to have struggled with a simple son or one who does not know how to ask, or even with a wicked son.
If only he would have been here. If only he would have lived.
But we do not have a son or daughter.
So when everyone sits down on Pesach, beautiful and festive, stop for a moment and try to remember and to mention the names.
Not four sons. Not four hundred sons.
More than four thousand sons who are no longer.
Try to remember. To hug.
And then return to your children, who may not all be wise. There are also those who are simple and those who are wicked. Just hug them. Love.
Be proud of them.
They are here.

Chag Sameach,
Rena Ariel
In memory of my beloved daughter Hallel Yaffa Ariel Hy”d

After the four questions, but before we read about the four sons in the Hagada, there is an interesting introduction. The Hagada says, “Blessed is the Omnipresent, blessed is He…” What is the purpose of this introduction? How does it fit into the flow or prepare us to read about the four sons?

The Seder is full of questions. The Shelah HaKadosh zt’l, even points out that the Aramaic translation of the word egg, ביצה, one of the items on the Seder plate, is בעיא, which also means “question” or “inquiry.” In fact, the story of our redemption is driven by questions: “Why is the bush not burning?” (Shmos 3:3); “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh?” (ibid 3:11); “And they will say to me, ‘What is His name?’ What shall I say to them?” (ibid. 3:13); and “Why have You done evil to this nation? Why have you sent me?” (ibid. 5:22).

Why are questions such an important part of our redemption and the Seder itself? Because the ability to ask questions is the ultimate sign of freedom. One who is enslaved to another or under his thumb is afraid to ask any questions. One who feels healthy and free has no qualms investigating the reasons for things and asking, “Why?” That is the essence of being truly human. In fact, the numerical value of the word for a human being, אדם, is 45, the same as the word “What?” A healthy, engaged, free person can ask questions.

This is why the beis medrash is filled with questions. The greatest student is the one who can ask the most challenging question. As the Mishnah in Avos (6:2) says, “The only truly free person is one who is engaged in the study of Torah.” A free man asks questions and challenges what he does not understand to understand better. Only a slave is silent.

Unfortunately, there are some rebbeim and teachers who try to silence students’ questions, to make them feel like their questions are a sign of deficient intelligence, or, even worse, that their questions are a sign of a lack of faith in Hashem or in the Torah. We received a call once from the administration of the seminary one of my daughters was attending. She is intelligent and asks a lot of questions.

They were concerned because she was asking too many questions and wanted to let us know that this could negatively affect her ability to get a good shidduch because it could indicate that she has problems with emunah. While she got married to a wonderful young man and has lovely children, it is quite possible that my daughter’s teachers lacked clarity in their own emunah, which made them uncomfortable when they were not able to answer her respectfully-asked questions. Teachers or parents who intimidate their children not to ask questions are unintentionally attempting to make Jewish children less human and less free.

Rav Shimon Schwalb zt’l, addresses our earlier question regarding why the four sons are preceded by “Blessed is the Omnipresent, blessed is He…” He points out that usually, the name “Omnipresent” connotes a sad or mournful context. We use this name when we comfort mourners, “May the Omnipresent comfort you among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.” When we pray for people who have been taken captive, we say “May the Omnipresent have mercy on them…” We also use this name when praying for people who are sick. Why is this?

Rav Schwalb explains that when someone is suffering, he feels abandoned and alone. He feels that “Hashem may exist in many places, but He is not here with me.” By using the name “Omnipresent,” Chazal are teaching us that Hashem is saying to a person suffering through his most difficult times, “I am everywhere, including right here with you. Do not give up hope. Hashem is in every place, no matter how dark it is. Everything is part of His providence.

When we approach the reading in the Hagada about the four sons, this brings up a great deal of pain for so many people. Some have waited for a long time to get married and therefore have no children. Others have gotten married but have been unable to have children yet. Still others have children who, because of a disengagement from or antipathy toward Yiddishkeit, or because of a fight with parents, are not even at the Seder. I spend weeks before Pesach working with families to encourage reconciliation – to encourage parents with children who are not following in their path to invite their children to the Seder, to show them that no matter what, they are still part of the family. And there are those like Rina Ariel, whose sons or daughters will never make it to the Seder because they have been taken from the world, whether by demons wearing keffiyehs, or by demons within that no one else can see.

For many of us, when we read about the four sons, it brings up painful memories. That is why it is preceded by “Blessed is the Omnipresent…” We are reminded that Hashem is with us and has a plan for us no matter how it seems. We may have four questions, four thousand questions, or six million questions. We simply cannot know the answer to many of these questions in this world. That is why we open the door for Eliyahu HaNavi. Sometimes, when there is an unanswered question or unresolved dilemma in the Gemara, it says “Teikuתיקו,” which stands for “Tishbi [Eliyahu] will answer difficulties and questions.” One day we will understand how the Omnipresent was there during all the problems and suffering, but these things cannot be fully understood in this world. For now, it is important to speak, to ask, and to wait faithfully through the years of Teiku.

We must value and appreciate our children, even the “wicked” ones. Their questions mean that they are free, that they are healthy human beings, that they are still present and engaged.

Rav Elyah Lopian zt’l, was once in Dvinsk and wanted to meet one of the greatest sages of the time living in that city, the Ohr Someach, Rav Meir Simcha of Dvinsk zt’l. When he went to the Ohr Someach’s home, before he had entered the house, he heard Rav Meir Simcha explaining Gemara, Rashi, and Tosafos to someone whom he assumed was a child. Rav Elyah was mesmerized by the simplicity and clarity with which the Ohr Someach explained every single idea. Finally, when it was time to enter the house for his appointment, the Ohr Someach noticed Rav Elyah looking around the house. When asked what he was searching for, Rav Elyah said he was looking for the child to whom the Ohr Someach had been explaining the Gemara. The Ohr Someach then said, “I am that child.”


May we merit to value our own and our children’s questions. May we always encourage them and be infinitely grateful for their presence, no matter what kind of son or daughter they are. May we feel the company of the Omnipresent no matter what losses and difficulties we have suffered. And may we merit to continue hoping in the answers which Eliyahu HaNavi will provide one day, may he come to herald the coming of Moshiach soon in our days!

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Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Rav Moshe Weinberger - Parshas Terumah 5778 - Concrete Connection

Below, please find this adaptation of Rav Weinberger's drasha from parshas Terumah 5778.  Enjoy!

See here for past shiurim at YUTorah.org's website by Rav Weinberger both as Mashpia at YU and from the past 20+ years. You can also click on one of the following links to subscribe to the shiurim: emailrss feedpodcast, or iTunes. Please note that these drashos will only be available online for one month. If you notice any mistakes, please let me know so I can correct it. If you are interested in a particular drasha that is no longer online, you can email me (right sidebar) and I'll send it to you IY"H, BL"N.

Rav Moshe Weinberger
Parshas Terumah 5778
Concrete Connection

One of the great mashpi’im, influential figures, in Chabad was Rav Shlomo Chaim Kesselman zt’l. He was arrested in Polotzk, under the former Soviet Union, for teaching Torah and spent several years in prison. During this time, he missed the upsherin (first haircut at age three) of his twin sons Velvel and Berel. Afterward, his wife somehow managed to smuggle an envelope into prison for him, which contained a picture of the two boys from the upsherin and a little bit of hair from the event. After he had was released, he said that while he treasured the picture of his sons, his primary comfort was physically holding his sons’ hair.

How is this story relevant to the parsha? I will explain. With regard to the Jewish people’s mitzvah to build the Mishkan in the desert, how they obtained the materials necessary for the task. In particular, how did they obtain the trunks of cedar trees which were used to build the beams supporting the outer curtains of the Mishkan (Shmos 26:15-29)? Rashi (on ibid. 15), quoting the Midrash Tanchuma, explains that Yaakov Avinu saw through Divine inspiration that the Jewish people would one day be redeemed from Egypt and would need cedar trees to build a Mishkan. He therefore planted them in Egypt and commanded his children to bring them out with them when the redemption arrived.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe zy’a asks why Yaakov Avinu had to do this. The Gemara (Yuma 75b) tells us that non-Jewish merchants ascended from Egypt with us and provided the Jewish people with many things that they needed. They may not have been Amazon.com, but they could have supplied the cedar wood necessary to build the beams of the Mishkan. Why did Yaakov Avinu need to plant cedar trees hundreds of years before the redemption and then trouble his great-grandchildren to lug them into the desert when these merchants could have provided the lumber instead?

The Rebbe answers that even though Yosef HaTzadik made a promise that Hashem would remember us and redeem us from Egypt (Bereishis 50:24) and the Jewish people transmitted this promise from generation to generation, the comfort provided by these words must have been limited. The suffering, back-breaking labor, degradation, discouragement, and humiliation, which must have felt unbearable, and which the Jewish people endured every single day, must have made any comfort or hope difficult. Perhaps husbands and wives, after feeling completely broken at the end of the day, may have reminded each other of their great-grandfather’s promise and felt a little bit of comfort.

But this promise could only go so far because it was just words – in contrast with their suffering, which was real and tangible. Yaakov Avinu therefore wanted to plant a grove of cedar trees in Egypt so that his grandchildren could look out their windows and see the trees. They would pass them every day, touch them, and say to themselves, “These are the actually trees we are going to take out with us when we finally get out of this place.” One cannot compare the comfort provided by mere words to the hope that came with a physical piece of their ultimate salvation. Perhaps this is why Rashi, when relating how Yaakov planted cedar trees for us, quoted the Tanchuma, as the word Tanchuma comes from the same root as the word nechamah – comfort. It was only Yaakov Avinu’s physical, tangible cedar trees which could truly comfort us.

That is why Rav Shlomo Chaim was comforted more by his sons’ upsherin hair than by the picture. He could hold the hair in his hands and remember that his children are real. They were out there somewhere and he could see them again one day.

Rav Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev zy’a once prayed to Hashem:

Master of the World, how can You blame the Jewish people for sinning? They see the temptations of the world right in front of them everywhere. Yet Your existence and the promises of the World to Come and Gehenom are just words. They cannot see these things in front of them. So how can You possibly blame them for straying after the things they see before their eyes?!

One cannot compare the effect something tangible has on us relative to something ephemeral like words and promises. My father, may he live and be well, kept a pair of tefillin with him throughout his time in Mauthausen. It was a tangible piece of a sane world in the chaos of the Holocaust.

What physical manifestations of Hashem, Torah, and the World to Come do we have before us today? The passuk says, “A tzadik… grows like a cedar in Lebanon” (Tehillim 92:13). The Navi compares tzadikim to cedar trees. Just like Yaakov Avinu’s cedar trees were a tangible reminder to his grandchildren of their upcoming redemption, so too the tzadikim are a tangible piece of the World to Come right here before our eyes. When we watch the behavior of tzadikim, when we listen to their words and observe every single facial expression, we realize, “Wow, the Torah isn’t something theoretical. This is real!”


A husband can remember the reality of his relationship with this wife more concretely by keeping tangible reminders of her, their relationship, and their love with him when he is at work or traveling. Parents and children can keep physical representations of one another with them to keep the reality of their gratitude and love for one another in their hearts. May we all merit to keep tangible manifestations of the Torah and Hashem’s promises to us, like the tzadikim, before our eyes so that we will retain our hope in and commitment to the future Hashem has in store for all of us with the coming of the complete redemption, may we see it soon in our days.

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Rav Moshe Weinberger: Easy Does It - Parshas Vayakhel-Pikudei/Parah 5778

Below, please find this adaptation of Rav Weinberger's drasha from parshas Vayakhel-Pikudei / Parshas Parah 5778.  Enjoy!

See here for past shiurim at YUTorah.org's website by Rav Weinberger both as Mashpia at YU and from the past 20+ years. You can also click on one of the following links to subscribe to the shiurim: emailrss feedpodcast, or iTunes. Please note that these drashos will only be available online for one month. If you notice any mistakes, please let me know so I can correct it. If you are interested in a particular drasha that is no longer online, you can email me (right sidebar) and I'll send it to you IY"H, BL"N.

Rav Moshe Weinberger
Parshas Vayakhel-Pikudei / Parah 5778
Easy Does It

Remarkably, between the parshios of Terumah-Titzaveh and Vayakhel-Pikudei, the Torah spends over 400 psukim describing the details of how the Mishkan should be – and actually was – built. There is no other mitzvah regarding which any comparable amount of time is spent. Neither Tefillin, Shabbos, Yom Tov, or anything else has so many psukim devoted to it. Why is that? Why must the Torah repeat all of the details of the Mishkan and vessels in Vayakhel-Pikudei when all of these specifications were already laid out in Terumah-Titzaveh? The Torah could simply state that the Jewish people built everything just as they were commanded. Why spend another 200 psukim repeating everything?

The Lubavitcher Rebbe zy’a, based on a Yerushalmi, says that the specifications regarding how the Mishkan and its vessels should be built in Terumah-Titzveh describe the Mishkan in the world above – in Heaven. And Vayakhel-Pikudei  describes the details of how the Mishkan below was actually built – here in this world. There are two separate sets of specifications for each because one cannot simply assume that the physical reality here in this world corresponds exactly with what it is supposed to be.

The architectural plan for the Mishkan is found in Terumah-Titzaveh. This is the artist’s rendering. Yet the Torah separately describes the actual construction in Vayakhel-Pikudei to teach us that the two are not necessarily the same. Why is this so? What happened in between which can explain the potential discrepancy? Perhaps it is because parshas Ki Sisa, which describes the sin of the golden calf, is interposed between the two. Our own failures and shortcomings create the difference between what we could do and what we actually accomplish.

It is like this with respect to all areas of life. The ideal one plans for does not always pan out. When a couple marries, each of them, and the bride in particular, has a specific image of what married life will look like. It sometimes involves beautiful, white Shabbos tablecloths, elegant silver candlesticks, well-behaved children listening attentively to Abba’s dvar Torah, and singing zmiros beautifully together. The groom, as well, may have images of a beautiful, spotless home in his mind. He may picture a life in which his beautiful wife and children wait adoringly for him as he comes home, thanking him for providing such a beautiful life for them. He may imagine that he davens in a shul where three months never go by without the gabbai giving him an aliyah Shabbos morning. But real life seldom looks exactly the way the bride and groom imagine.

It is the same in one’s spiritual life. At neilah, one may imagine that this year, he will be holy and pure, free from all of the filth with which he contaminated himself the previous year. And sometimes the realities of life bear a passing resemblance to one’s plans. But very often it is completely unrecognizable.

We find another anomaly in the parshas Pikudei. No less than nineteen times, the Torah repeats that the Jewish people built one or another part of the Mishkan and vessels “just as Hashem commanded Moshe.” Why is this done in this context, whereas it is not done anywhere else? Rav Yitzchak Zev HaLevi Soloveichik zt’l of Brisk explains that there is a dispute in the Gemara whether it is possible for people to make anything the Torah commands with exact precision or not. In other words, can we make the Ark the required 2.5 amos long without making it 2.50000001 amos long. Can we say that two events, in halachah, occur at exactly the same moment, and not 0.0001 seconds apart?

The Brisker Rav explains that we follow the opinion of the Chachamim that it is not possible to achieve exact precision. Accordingly, even though the way we built the Mishkan may not have been exactly as the Torah commanded to the thousandth of an inch, to make sure that we do not worry that we have not fulfilled Hashem’s will with respect to the building of the Mishkan and its vessels, the Torah repeatedly reassures us that we did the job “just as Hashem commanded Moshe.”

In fact, the Minchas Chinuch (109) says regarding all of the requirements of the Torah involving specific measurements that Hashem only wants us to do our best to act according to those measurements, and that by doing so, we are doing the job exactly as He commanded. He knows our capabilities and chose to give the Torah to us and not the angels above.

Hashem commanded us to build the Mishkan but concomitantly reassured us that our best efforts to meeting the specifications were all He wants from us. He wants us to know that “there is no righteous man in the earth who does [only] good and does not sin” (Koheles 7:20). Hashem wants us to know that He does not expect absolute perfection from us so that we will be able to move forward in our service of Him and not beat ourselves up or become discouraged because of our lack of perfection. 

The entire reason our souls descended from the upper world into the Mishkan below of our bodies is to give us opportunities to do our best to reveal Hashem’s Presence and holiness in the messy scrum of this world.

While the actual city of Chelm was filled with great Torah scholars, a number of apocryphal stories are told which portray the city is if it were filled with fools. In one of those stories, there was a debate in the town beis medresh regarding whether the sun or the moon were more powerful. After a full day of arguments, the Rav finally stood up, banged on the shtender, and announced that he was settling the issue. The moon was stronger than the sun. When asked the reason for his decision, he explained, “The moon is powerful because it has the strength to light up the night. The sun, however, must not be very powerful because it only attempts to light up the daytime when it is already light outside anyway. It must therefore be weaker.”

Our job, like the recounting of the building of the Mishkan in Vayakhel-Pikudei, is to do the best we can, without driving ourselves crazy, to bring light into the darkness of this world. Even if we are not able to accomplish everything to the thousandth of an inch. Not only is Hashem not upset with us when we do our best but fall short, this is exactly what He wants – exactly what He had in mind when setting up the world the way it is.

The Kotzker Rav zy’a and Rav Yitzchak Vorker zy’a are two tzadikim from the world of Peshischa and were the closest of friends, though they could not have been more different. The Kotzker was known as being a fiery zealot for truth with absolutely no tolerance for even the slightest trace of dishonesty or self-deception. Rav Yitzchak, however, was known as the gentlest, kindest Rebbe in the world.

Because both were students of Rav Simcha Bunim of Peshischa zy’a, the underlying foundation of the service of G-d for both of them was truth. Because of the Kotzker’s love for truth, he was completely intolerant of even the slightest admixture of falsehood. And because of Rav Yitzchak Vorker’s love for truth, if he encountered even the slightest point of truth within a person, he was overcome with joy at encountering that truth.

The way of the Kotzker is too difficult for most of us. We must follow the opinion of the Chachaimim in our service of Hashem, recognizing that absolute precision is not asked of us. Rather, Hashem only asks that we do our very best even though we often fall short. We must continue trying and bringing more light into the darkness of this world. May Hashem help us continue growing and trying to bring His light into our lives more and more and not listen to the inner voice which tries to discourage us by telling us that whatever we do is not good enough.


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Rav Moshe Weinberger's Drasha - Tasting the Korbanos - Shabbos Rosh Chodesh Nissan/Vayikra

Below, please find this adaptation of Rav Weinberger's drasha from parshas Vayikra/Shabbos Rosh Chodesh Nissan 5778.  Enjoy!

See here for past shiurim at YUTorah.org's website by Rav Weinberger both as Mashpia at YU and from the past 20+ years. You can also click on one of the following links to subscribe to the shiurim: emailrss feedpodcast, or iTunes. Please note that these drashos will only be available online for one month. If you notice any mistakes, please let me know so I can correct it. If you are interested in a particular drasha that is no longer online, you can email me (right sidebar) and I'll send it to you IY"H, BL"N.

Rav Moshe Weinberger
Parshas Vaykira – Shabbos Rosh Chodesh Nissan 5778
Tasting the Korbanos

As we enter the parshios of sefer Vaykira, we enter the world of the Beis HaMikdash, Yerushalayim, and the korbanos. We see that throughout history, the nations of the world have always begrudged us our holy city of Yerushalyim, and particularly the Beis HaMikdash. 2,500 years ago, Achashveirosh told Esther, even when he was most filled with love for her, “What do you request? Up to half the kingdom, and it shall be done” (Esther 5:3). The Gemara (Megillah 15b) explains that when Achashveirosh said, “half [חצי] the kingdom,” he was really saying “‘and not the entirety of the kingdom,’ i.e., ‘not the thing which is an obstacle [חוצץ] to the kingdom.’ And what is that? The building of the Beis HaMikdash.”  He said this even before he knew that she was Jewish!

Achashveirosh hated the idea of the Beis HaMikdash so much, and clearly knew that its rebuilding would have undermined his kingdom of impurity, that he brought it up as something he absolutely could not tolerate even when talking with his beloved queen whom he believed was not even Jewish. Even though they are not aware of this consciously, somehow the nations of the world intuitively understand that even after the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash, the Jewish people’s connection with Har HaBayis – the Temple Mount – somehow undermines their ability to fully enjoy the impurity of this world.

The Holiness of the Beis HaMikdash is Accessible Even Today

Why does our possession of Yerushalayim still gall the nations of the world even today? The reality is that once the location of the Beis HaMikdash was sanctified during the First Temple period, its holiness remains forever and ever (Chagigah 3b). The Sfas Emes (Tzav 5648) teaches, regarding the clearing of the ashes from each day’s korbanos from the altar that they become absorbed into the ground beneath the Mizbeach and descend to the center of the earth, where they continue to exist even today, demonstrating to us that the merit of the korbanos stands for all generations. Their imprint therefore continually benefits us even today.

This reality is apparent from halachah as well. Rav Menachem Ziemba zt’l, points out that in halachah, when the meat of a korban is cooked in a clay vessel, that vessel must be destroyed afterward. This is because the taste of the korban which is absorbed into the vessel is forbidden once the time for eating the korban expires. Rav Ziemba asks why this is so. There is a principle in halachah that 24 hours after food is cooked in a vessel, on a biblical level, the taste absorbed into the vessel is considered spoiled, and, as such, it is no longer capable of being prohibited.

He answers his own question based on a Mishnah in Avos (5:5), which states that one of the ten miracles which regularly occurred in the Beis HaMikdash was that “The holy meat never rotted.” According to this principle, the taste of a korban absorbed into a clay vessel never spoils, such that the general principle that forbidden foods absorbed into the walls of a vessel become permissible after 24 hours does not apply to the taste of sacrifices absorbed into the walls of clay vessels, because the taste never goes bad! The imprint of the holiness of the korbanos is forever.

Tasting the Holiness of the Beis HaMikdash Today

How can we access this holiness now that the Temple has been destroyed? Chazal teach us that “From the day the Beis HaMikdash was destroyed, all Hashem has in this world is the four amos of halachah” (Brachos 8b).  In addition, in the Slichos we say on Erev Rosh HaShanah (Slicha 42), we say, “The holy city and its environs are turned to shame and to spoils… and nothing is left but this Torah.” Halachah, Torah, shul, and the beis medrash are all we have left of the holiness of the Beis HaMikdash. That is our sanctuary where we can still smell the korbanos, where we can still sense the holiness of Hashem’s Presence, and breath in the rejuvenating air of Yerushalayim.

Hashem’s message is clearer to us in these places than anywhere else. In our parshah, the passuk says, “And Hashem spoke to him from the Tent of Meeting to say…” (Vayikra 1:1). Rashi explains, “‘From the tent of meeting,’ this teaches that the sound [of Hashem’s voice] stopped and would not go outside of the tent. Could it be that this is because [His] voice was low…? [That cannot be because] this is the voice which was described in Tehillim as, “The voice of Hashem is powerful… the voice of Hashem shatters cedar trees’ (4:5). If so, why does it say, “from the tent of meeting?’ This teaches us that the voice stopped.”

Even though Hashem’s voice is so powerful, the world outside Hashem’s house is so loud that we cannot hear G-d speaking to us outside “the tent of meeting,” outside of shul and the beis medrash. Only by learning, davening, by saying Tehillim, living in homes with boundaries keeping holiness in and impurity out, and by helping out our shuls, schools, and yeshivos can we keep our heads where Hashem’s voice is still audible. To the extent we only operate at work, in the streets, or in homes where we let impurity in, the sound of the multitudes of Rome (cf. Yoma 20a) will drown out even the powerful voice of Hashem in our ears.

There is a well-known story about Rav Mendeleh Vitebsker zy’a after he, like some of the other students of the Baal Shem Tov zy’a, moved to Eretz Yisroel. He and many of the chassidim lived in Tiveria where, according to some traditions, either Moshiach or the Sanhedrin will appear first. The people were primed with excitement for the redemption. One day, a person who was disturbed, or perhaps merely bored, began blowing the shofar for a long time. The chassidim could not hear where the sound was coming from and were not cynical like we are today, so they thought that perhaps it was the sound of the shofar heralding the arrival of Moshaich. They ran excitedly to the Rav Mendeleh’s study to tell him the good news. Rav Mendeleh heard what they said, placed his head outside the window of his room, and smelled the air outside. After taking a whiff, he told them that no, unfortunately Moshiach was not here yet.

One of the questions the chassidim ask about this story is why Rav Mendeleh Vitebsker needed to place his head outside to smell the outdoor air? If he was so holy that he could sense whether Moshiach had come based on the smell of the air, why could he not have simply smelled the air in his own study? They answer that it must be that Rav Mendeleh’s study must have smelt like it will in the times of Moshiach. He therefore had to place his head outside the house to test whether the air outside also carried the scent of redemption.


When we are in shul, yeshiva, the beis medrash, with a tzaddik, or in homes where we guard the holiness of what we see and hear, we can still hear the echo of Hashem’s voice, we can still smell the fragrance of the altar in the Beis HaMikdash, and we can still taste the korbanos brought by the kohanim. May we all merit to make ourselves at home in Hashem’s house so we can stay connected to Him and feel the holiness of Yerushalayim even today, and thus merit the rebuilding of the physical Beis HaMikdash during our days!

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Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Highlights from Our Trip to Israel for Our Son's Bar Mitzvah - With Videos and Pictures!

We just returned from our trip to Israel in honor of our only son’s bar mitzva! The whole thing is a bit wacky so for our friends to share in the simcha and for our own memories, here is a brief summary, including a few short videos embedded for audio-visual augmentation. :-)

First of all, we originally planned a traditional bar mitzva celebration in New York, but one Shabbos, about 6 weeks before the big day, because of his desire to have his sister who is studying in seminary this year be part of the occasion, our son suggested that we consider moving the bar mitzva to Israel.

We discussed it further and ultimately decided to do the bar mitzva in conjunction with the children, bar mitzva boys, and teenagers living in the Beit Elazraki (“BE”) Children’s Home in Netanya. Some backstory: our daughter is studying this year in Midreshet Torat Chessed in Netanya, a seminary which partners with BE. The girls participating in the program do Jewish studies in the mornings, pick up a group of kids from BE to do homework and activities with them and then take them to dinner in the afternoon, and then continue learning as part of the seminary in the evenings. So while we are still doing a party for our son’s friends, we thought it would be great to make a celebration for the kids in BE rather than for all of the bar mitzva boy’s parents’ friends. :-)

We went about making all of the arrangements, finding flights, reserving an apartment on AirBnB, and planning our activities. We planned to make the Israel bar mitzva a surprise for our daughter in Israel, working out everything with her seminary, BE, and all of our Israeli and American family joining in the simcha in such a way that she would not find out about our plans. There was one individual with unintentionally loose lips though, so she did end up knowing that something was happening, but not exactly what, when, or the extent of our plans.

Here is a short video showing a few overall highlights from the trip in general:


Our son got an aliya and read haftara for parshas Titzaveh/Shabbos Zachor  at the Young Israel of North Netanya, where the rabbi is one of the rebbeim in MTC. He did an amazing job! 

On Sunday Feb 24th, we visited the only other orthodox part of my side of the family. Originally from Houston, TX, my father’s first cousin and her husband now live in Yerushalayim. Their son, my second cousin, Ari Abramowitz, of The Land of Israel Network (http://thelandofisrael.com/about-us/) and their granddaughter (daughter of their daughter) were there and it was a beautiful visit! First time I had seen them in over 20 years.

On Monday Feb. 26, we visited the Central tzedaka organization in Netanya (click HERE for their website and HERE for their donation page), which, among many other services it provides to over 1,000 recipients/families, also distributes bread from Bread for Israel, an organization founded by my CEO. He was astounded by the fact that despite the multitudes of tzedaka organizations all over Israel, that a large minority of children in Israel actually go to bed hungry each night. He therefore went to Israel and personally negotiated an extremely low price of $1 per loaf, including delivery, for bread to distribute throughout Israel. He then developed a network of distribution points and means for getting the word out to the families who need it. The organization now distributes about 100,000 loaves of bread per month, though the demand by hungry people could support an additional 100,000 loaves per month. The only obstacle is money. So let me know if you can help or give on a one-time or recurring basis at www.breadforisrael.org. The video above has some pictures from our visit to the Netanya central tzedaka warehouse and distribution center.

And that night, we joined Yehuda Cohen, the director of BE Children’s Children’s home for an explanation of BE’s history and what it does. They literally take on the role of parents in all ways for the kids (age 0-17) who have to come to the home because they unfortunately cannot live with their parents or if their parents have passed away. They provide them with whatever they need, including therapy and tutoring, and do whatever parents would event after the kids “graduate.” They provide a place to go home to on breaks from army service, help with college, and they even pay for half the cost of weddings and even walk down the aisle with them when their parents cannot! During our bar mitzva celebration, they even live broadcast a Mazel Tov from the entire BE family to an “alumnus” who had just gotten engaged in America! 

Our son had some time to hang out with the five bar mitzva boys from BE and we were able to give them some gifts and sponsor a celebration for the entire BE family which was beautiful! We were told that this was the first time that a family came to celebrate a bar or bas mitzva with the bar or bas mitzva children from the home who is a sibling of one of the Midreshet Torat Chessed girls. Ashreinu! Here is a short video from the big night!


On Tuesday Feb. 27, we spent the morning at a private glass-firing workshop in Yerushalayim with artist Yael Vloch (), who I found out about from funinjerusalem.com. It was a great thing to do together! See here for a nice short video highlighting that experience:


I’m the afternoon, we got a private tour of the largest bakery in Israel, Angel’s Bakery in Jerusalem, with Yunti Burstein, one of the main logistics coordinators of Bread for Israel. I was even able to do the mitzva of taking challah for one of the gigantic batches of dough! Check out this video for a quick run-down of what bread production at that huge facility looks like:


We spent a quiet day on Taanis Esther, followed by Maariv and Megila reading at Laniado Hospital in Netanya, to which we were invited by my wife’s second cousin, one of the two orthodox families on my wife’s side, Itzik, who learns with the Rav of the hospital. Itzik is famous in Netanya for being the main source for scuba diving, surfing, and other recreation equipment, at his location by the beach affectionately known as “Itzik BaYam,” Itzik by the Sea. We then joined his family for a beautiful meal after Megilla.

Then, on Purim day we headed down to Holon, where my wife’s great-aunt was having a Purim seuda, and then headed over to to Bnei Brak for our Purim seuda with my wife’s other orthodox family, a second cousin, with a beautiful family who we also got together with last time we were in Israel as a family six years ago. Pictures from Purim are also in the video at the beginning.

On Friday morning Mar. 2, we went horseback riding on the beach in Netanya (again, pictures in the top video), which was beautiful! Then we headed to Yerushalayim where we spent Shabbos and had our meals on at the Prima Palace hotel, just off of Rechov Yafo. We had a meaningful Shabbos afternoon davening at the Kosel. After Shabbos, we sadly said goodbye to our daughter (though IY”H she is coming home for Pesach soon) and to Yerushalayim. Looking forward to next time!

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

New Video of History of Aish Kodesh/Rav Moshe Weinberger Posted!


This video, created by the amazingly talented David Jassee of DMJ Studios, has amazing interviews with Rav and Rebbetzin Weinberger and many others from the shul. It has amazing pictures from past decades and the shul. It is beautiful, inspiring, and funny. I definitely reccomend seeing this extremely professional video.






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