Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Powerpoint Slideshow on Sifsei Chayim - Chayv Inish

This is a PowerPoint slideshow that I put together a couple of years ago based on a piece in Sifsei Chayim by Rabbi Chaim Friedlander, zt"l from Yeshivas Ponevezh.

I think it is quite paralel to the piece in Kedushas Levi that I quoted in my previous posting here. Enjoy!

-Dixie Yid

Funny Purim story about the Kotzker (?)

This pictures comes from the Juedisches Museum.

My rebbe tells an interesting story about the Kotzker (I believe it's the Kotzker; if I'm getting the attribution wrong, please let me know).

The Kotzer noticed that there was one Jew in town who didn’t only get drunk on Purim, but the whole month of Adar. Year after year this went on until the Kotzker decided to finally ask him:

“Mi monafshoch: If you’re a shikur, then why don’t you get drunk throughout the whole year? And if you’re not a shikur, then why don’t you just get drunk on Purim? Why the whole month?”

This Jew answered him like this: “Haman knew that he could never destroy the whole Jewish people on one day, the 13th of Adar. He knew he really needed a whole month to do it. But he figured that if Hashem did foil his plans, he didn’t want the Jews to have a Yuntif for the whole month that he intended to destroy them. Therefore, he decreed only one day to destroy the Jews, so that if he lost, they would have only one day to celebrate. But why should I let Haman take away a whole month that we would have had for Purim?! Therefore, I drink the whole month of Adar, just to show Haman that even that part of his plan was foiled.”

The Kotzker seemed to get hano’oh from the man’s answer.

-Dixie Yid

When "bad" things happen: Chayav Inish L'visumi

The picture is courtesy of Wikipedia and is the cover page of a copy of Kedushas Levi published in 1861.

Rav Levi Yitzchok of Berdichev wrote the following in his Kedusha Revi'is on Purim in the Sefer Kedushas Levi:

Why does the Gemara Megilla 7b state that, "אמר רבא מיחייב איניש לבסומי בפוריא עד דלא ידע בין ארור המן לברוך מרדכי," (A person is obligated to become enibriated on Purim to the extent that he can't tell the difference between 'arur Haman,' and 'baruch Mordechai.')? He says there are many reasons given, but that he's giving a simpler one. Another question he asks is why it uses the word "l'vesumi," and not a more common word like "lehishtakair?"

The Kedushas Levi says that everything bad that wicked people intend for us, Hashem turns it around for the good against their will. For example, Haman had the 50 ama high gallows built to destroy Mordechai. But instead, Hashem saw to it that he himself and his ten evil sons were hung on those very same gallows. Also, he advised Achashveirosh to kill Vashti, hoping that his daughter would be chosen by the King to be his Queen. But instead, Hashem miraculously saw to it that Esther became the Queen, putting her in the position to engineer Haman's destruction and save the Jewish people later on.

So within every bad thing and every wicked's person's plan, against his will, are nitzotzos of kedusha which will ultimately reveal that all the bad that was planned or that did happen was really the ultimate good, even against the Daas or will of the person who's acting and planning.

We therefore get drunk on Purim because alchohol takes away the connection between our Daas and our actions (K'yadua!). When we see that the way our actions come out is unrelated to our intentions and Daas, it is a reminder to us that Hashem turns around every outcome for the good, regardless of our or anyone else's Daas, intentions.

And what does the phrase, "Ad d'lo yada bein arur Haman l'baruch Mordechai" mean in this context? It means that through severing that Daas/outcome connection through alcohol, we recognize that there's no difference between the "arur Haman," the evil plans of the wicked, and the "baruch Mordechai," the plans that are specifically for the good. Hashem makes them equally for the good. That is why we are supposed to get to the point where we can't distinguish between the good and the bad things. That makes it real to us that no matter what, Hashem sees to it that everything comes out for the good.

-Dixie Yid

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Ayin Roeh

The Cat's Eye Nebula

Real Life Lessons when we're late for school

Since I get home from work after my kids have gone to bed, I take my two girls to school twice a week. This morning, we were half way there, and we were making good time when I got a flat tire. It took 20-30 minutes to change the tire and my second grader was 20 minutes late for school, but by the end of the experience, we learned 3 things that made it worth being late for school.

1. They learned that when things don't go your way, you don't grumble, curse, or get angry. You realize that Hashem has a reason for everything, and it's all for the good.

2. They learned that you shouldn't step too hard on the tire iron when loosening the bolts on the tire, or it might pierce the bottom of your shoe!

3. And they learned how amazing the Jewish people are, as they watched 5 different people stop and ask if we needed help.

Once we got on our way, they were arguing that the first person who stopped caused all the others to help us, since she suggested I put on my emergency lights. They thus credited her with letting everyone else know we had a flat tire. I suppose that their father wreslting with the tire iron wasn't clear enough of a signal about what was going on!

-Dixie Yid

Monday, February 26, 2007

Amazing Video of Melitzer Rebbe, Ashdod

I saw this posted on A Simple Jew, who in turn got it from Lazer Beams. But I had to share it too. It's beautiful.

-Dixie Yid

Born again in Adar Sheni

In R' Nachum Chernobyler's Torah on Parshas Terumah in Meor Einayim, he says the following:

Why does it say in the gemara, "mishenichnas Adar, marbim b'simcha?" Since Purim isn't till either the 14th or 15th, why don't we start rejoicing then?

He says that Adar rishon and Adar sheni allude to every person's first ibur (gestation) and second ibur, as well as a person's first gadlus (maturity) and second gadlus.

Adar, he says, is a contraction of the words, "Aleph Dar." The "Aleph," or the "Alufo Shel Olam (Master of the world)" dar (resides). This means that Adar stands for the conciousness that the Master of the world resides in the world and in my life.

So the Adar rishon stands for the first gestation (the one in the womb). That is followed by the gadlus rishon, i.e. a person's coming of age, Bar mitzvah. Until a person is 13 years old, he's considered, "b'katnus," a minor, and not in his period of "gadlus." Until one is 13 years old he doesn't truly have Daas, even if he is a big genius. This can be seen from the fact that no matter how big of an ilui he may be, he lacks Daas (conciousness that Hashem is present in the world) to the extent that if he is mekadesh an isha, "ain chosheshin l'kedushav."

But even after one is 13 and reaches his gadlus rishon, that is till followed by an ibur sheni, a second period of development and katnus. This means that even after one has attainted a certain level of G-d conciousness in his gadlus rishon, he still falls to a lower level and loses his Daas, his conciousness of Hashem in everything about the world. This time is called his ibur (gestation) sheni. During this time, he still longs to re-attain a level of gadlus, of Daas, a gadlus sheni.

And the ibur shana (leap year) adds an extra month davka in Adar to teach a person that even though he's fallen, and lacks the spiritual feeling, don't get discouraged! There will be a second Adar, (Adar meaning the conciousness that the Aleph [Alufo shel olam] dar [resides]) and Hashem will reside with you again, and you will reach that state of spiritual gadlus again. This is the meaning of Adar sheni, and chizuk that the month of Adar gives us starting from the beginning of the month. That is why we rejoice at the beginning of the month of Adar, and don't wait for Purim.

-Dixie Yid

Friday, February 23, 2007

Parshas Teruma: Tavnis Hamishkan and the Belzer Bais Medrash

The Rambam in Hilchos Bais Habechira 7:10 says: "ט [י] ואסור לאדם שיעשה בית תבנית היכל, אכסדרה תבנית אולם, חצר כנגד העזרה, שולחן כצורת השולחן, ומנורה כצורת המנורה" This means that it is asur to build a building to look like the Bais Hamikdash, I believe.

I'm sure there must be teshuvos on this, but why does the Belzer Bais Medresh in Yerushalayim not fall into that category. You can watch this video below to see what I mean.

If anyone out there can enlighten me, I'd appreciate it!

-Dixie Yid

ASJ Asked: How did the Briach Hatichon make those 90 degree turns?

ASJ asked here and here, "How did the corners work? If it wasn't a miracle, how was the bolt in the center able to go into the next beam if it was at a 90 degree angle?"

I looked this up in the Sefer Shaarei Aharon this morning and found this very interesting pshat. (Shaarei Aharon can also be found for less here)

It is actually a machlokes. The opinion Yitz originally quoted (from ASJ's original post on the subject) is from the Gemara Shabbos Daf 98, which said that there was one 70 (or 72) Amah long briach hatichon that went through all three sides curving miraculously at the corners.

However Shaarei Aharon quotes the Malbim who quotes "Braisa D'Meleches Hamishkan," which says that there actually were 3 brichim tichonim; two that were 30 amos long for the sides and one that's 12 amos long for the back minus two at the corners. According to this there was no miracle necessary for the briach hatichon.

Shaarei Aharon points out that the Gemara Shabbos clearly disagrees with this Braisa regarding whether there were 3 brichim tichonim (according to the Braisa D'meleches Hamishkan), or 1 Briach Hatichon that miraculously curved, made from either the makal of Yaakov Avinu or the Aishel Avraham.

So that helps ASJ in his search for any possibly non-nais-driven pshat to explain the briach hatichon. Good Shabbos!

-Dixie Yid

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Cedar Trees as a Mashal for Seraphim

My Chevrusa shared a great thought with me today:

He and his brother were learning the sefer Daas Torah. In it, it was stated that Cedar trees are a mashal for the type of angels called Seraphim.

Background: Olam Hazeh is not the truist reality. It is merely a mashal, an analogy to have some understanding of the "Upper World." That means that everything in this world is a mashal, physical representation, or avatar of something in the true reality of the upper world. (Hakol mashal umelitza, in the words of the Rambam) Seraphim: These are the highest order of malachim, fiery angels. They have an extremely short "life span!" As soon as they are created, they are immediately swallowed up in a fire of reincorporation with Hashem. They flash in and out of existance, and their only purpose in their existance is to be mevatel themselves in a flash of passionate fiery love, ending their own seperate existance right after their creation.

My friend was wondering: What kind of connection could there be between Cedar Trees and Seraphim, such that Cedar Trees are the earthly representation of Seraphim in the Olam Ha'elyon?

He opined that the Cedar trees, and trees in general, are the longest living organism on earth. They seem to have the most solid existance; the most staying power. So perhaps it's to teach us the following: One might feel that his accomplishments and aliyas in life are short and brief, and don't have any lasting significance in life after they're over. He may feel like those moments are like the Seraphim, who exist only for a moment, before flashing out of existance.

The fact that the long-lasting cedar tree is the Seraphim's mashal teaches us that even the briefest avodas Hashem has a huge, long lasting impact, like the mighty Cedar here on earth. So don't give up hope. Every little bit counts!

-Dixie Yid

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Maryland law kosher solution to Agunah Problem?

(This picture is of Rav Yitzchak Elchanan Spektor, who was known as being moser nefesh to do whatever was possible, within halacha, to free Agunos.)

Though I don't like the tone of this article, it does quote Rabbi Michael Broyde, who's a law professor at Emory Law and the Rabbi of the Young Israel of Toco Hills. It is not clear from the article if Rabbi Broyde approves of this bill. (See more about Rabbi Broyde on this topic here.)

The law being suggested seems to say that one can't get divorced in Maryland without signing an affidavit stating that he's discharged any applicable religious divorce proceedings, i.e. a get.

I have a couple of questions: Why hasn't the halachic prenuptual agreement by Rabbi Willig caught on?

Is this bill halachic? Would it be considered a Get me'usa, effectivly negating the potential benefits the bill's designed to confer? Do any gedolim endorse this bill?

Any info would be appreciated.

-Dixie Yid

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

R' Meir from Premishlan & R' Yisroel Rizhiner on the Road

I saw a great story brought down by Rav Zevin in Sipurei Chassidim on Parshas Yisro about the differences and an interaction between Rav Meir from Premishlan and Rav Yisroel from Ruzhin.

Reb Meir'l of Premishlan was known as living in complete poverty and simplicity. Everything in his house was old and broken. A penny never spent the night in his house, since he would give away anything he had to others who needed it.

R' Yisroel from Ruzhin, on the other hand, lived like a king, in the way of the Malchus of Dovid Hamelech, who he is a descendant of.

One day they were both riding past each other on the path. Rav Yisroel was riding a beautiful carriage, drawn by four horses fit for royalty. While Rav Meir'l was riding in an old, rickety wagon, drawn by one, old horse.

Rav Yisrael asked him, "Why does his honer drive in a wagon driven by only one horse? I use four horses because if my wagon ever gets stuck in the mud, these powerful horses can pull it out, and I can be on my way. But if your wagon falls into the mud, what will you do?!"

Rav Meir answered him, "Since I only have one horse, and I know I would not be able to extricate myself from the mud, I'm more careful not to get stuck there in the first place."

That is the end of the story. Whenver I see sipurei maasios like this, where you find seeminly mundane conversations betwen Tzadikim, I know there is a lot more going on there under the surface, if only I can access the meaning/symbolism that is really supposed to come accross. In this case, though, I like the story so much partially because I think the meaning is more accessible. So here's my, admittedly obvious, take on the Machlokes between these two Tzadikim is in their approach to life:

Rav Yisroel from Ruzhin is saying that the best way to succeed in Olam Hazeh is by emphasizing the streagth and greatness of one's self as a Yid, as a ben Melech. If one strengthens himself, then whenever he falls into the schmutz, gashmius, ta'avos, and mud of this world, then he can extricate himself and do teshuva.

Whereas, R' Meir'l is countering that if you emphasize the weakness, the humility, and the inadequacy of man before his Creator, then you will realize that you can't rely on your own strength to get you out of tumah, ta'avos, and gahsmius when you sink in. Rather, you'll be forced to be more careful not to become immersed in those things, to begin with.

-Dixie Yid

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Meor Eynayim: Torah as advisor or ax?

(The picture is of Rav Dovid Twersky, the Skverer Rebbe, a descendant of Reb Nachum from Chernobyl.)

Reb Menachem Nachum of Chernobyl, in Parshas Yisro, quotes the gemara in Kiddushin 30b, that the antidote to the yetzer hara is learning Torah. It says there that if your yetzer hara is like a stone, the Torah will disintegrate it. And if your yetzer hara is like iron, it will be shattered by the Torah. But he observes that there are so many people who learn Torah a lot. They may be very orthodox, they learn b'iyun, and with "pilpul gadol," but whose yetzer hara seems to be in full swing! He wonders why it is that the Torah doesn't vanquish these people's yetzer hara.

He answers that these people are not learning Torah. What they are learning is not called "Torah," he says, because the Torah is meant to be a "Moreh Derech," a guide. You have to learn Torah with the intention that the Torah should teach you how to improve your personal avodas Hashem, and hiskarvus with Hashem. If you're not learning Torah that way, then what you're learning isn't Torah. He says that for many people of the aforementioned type, the Torah is just one more way for them to glorify themselves in this world. The Meor Eynayim doesn't use this phrase, but the Torah is merely a "kardom lachpor bo," (Pirkei Avos 4:7) for those people (an ax/tool to dig with). It is just a means to a worldly end.

May Hashem help us to merit to have in mind when we are learning that we internalize the message of the Torah that we "happen" to be learning each day, as a guide on how to live and serve Hashem better!

-Dixie Yid

Saturday, February 10, 2007

The Story Behind the Story, Part 3 (final section)

When the holy Rebbe from Kreminitz returned to his father's house, the holy Magid was sitting at his table, learning Torah, while a Gemara Sanhedrin was laying open on the table. When the holy Zlotchover noticed that his son had come, he asked him, "Mordechai, Were you in Koritz by Reb Pinchas? Don't be afraid. I already know. But tell me what he told you."

His son answered him by telling him that the reason for his sickness is because he is not eating cheese. The holy Magid answered him, "Good. I will accept upon myself to eat cheese. And what else did he tell you?" The holy Rebbe Reb Mordechai began to tell over everything as it happened, that the reason that his father was upset with the Rebbe from Koritz is because he (the Zlotchover) doesn't see his (Reb Pinchas Koritzer's) tefilos. But that he (Reb Pinchas) had dug out a tunnel straight to Hashem for his tefilos, and that he commanded me to request, in his name, that [you] look into the Gemara...

The holy Rebbe Reb Michel got up from his place and said, "Right now I am learning these very ideas. Open before me now is the Gemara Sanhedrin 42! I didn't know that he had already reached a level like that..."

The holy Rebbe from Chernobyl concluded his story [with those words] and said, "Moshe Rebeinu was not "bragging" by saying that he did not eat or drink. Just hte opposite! Moshe was intensly pained that all those days that he remained in Shamayim, those foods and drinks that he did not eat and did not drink did not come to their tikun, because he had not been able to lift them up to their root. And this is what he was saying to the Jewish people: See how precious you are before Hashem; that the water and the break waited for you twice for forty days and forty nights, and did not achieve their tikun... for your sake..."

Trusworthy ones: Become tzadikim together!

This wondorous story teaches us, between the lines, that just as Shamayim is higher than Aretz, so too are the ways and thoughts of the Tzadikim greater than our ways and our thoughts. Which brings us to the words of the holy Rebbe Reb Nachman from Breslov in his Sefer Likutei Moharan (Bachatzotzros, Siman 5 Seif 4): "Believe! That every dispute between perfect Tzadikim is nothing but [a device] to drive away the Sitra Achra... When you hear of disputes between Tzadikim, you should know that [Hashem] has having you hear [this] as a rebuke because you have blemished the "drops" in your brain... And certainly if you hadn't blemished your mind, you would not have heard of the disputes betwen Tzadikim. And that dispute exists only for your sake, in order that you should repent from death to life..."

His great student, the Holy Rebbe Reb Noson from Breslov said about this teaching, in his sefer Chayei Moharan: "This Torah, Batzatzotzros, was taught by [Rebbe Nachman] here on Rosh Hashana 5563 (1803), which was the first Rosh Hashana that he lived here, and that I was close to him.

In addition to the words of Rebbe Nachamn, [Rebbe Noson] adds a tradition from the Breslov Chassdidim, which was told over by the well known Mashpia, Rav Levi Yitzchok Bender, z'tl, in the name of his Rebbe, Rav Avrham ben Rav Nachman from Tolchin, z'tl, who was known for the exactness with which he receved the traditions from his Rebbeim

It was known that the father-in-law of the holy Rebbe Reb Noson, the holy Reb Dovid Tzvi Auerbach, z'tl, what was know as "The Gadol." He, like the misnagdim, was against the path of Chassidus, as opposed to his brother-in-law, the holy Rebbe Reb Nachman Horidenker, z'tl, the student of the Baal Shem Tov. This difference came about as a result of the dispute that existed between the students of the Baal Shem Tov; Namely the holy Rebbe Reb Pinchas Koritzer and the holy Magid Reb Yechiel Michel from Zlotchiv. Sometimes the Tzadik would give his son-in-law a hard time about this, that he would travel to Tzadikim like the Kedushas Levi, the holy Rebbe Reb Lipa from Chemenik, and Rav Shalom Pravitch, and he (Reb Noson's father-in-law)would say to him [tounge in cheek], "I believe in the words of both Tzadikim, and therefore I will not travel to either one!"

When Rav Noson first came to Breslov, this question truly bothered him, regarding the question of disputes between Tzadikim. And then when he heard this Torah (Bachatzotzros), it was like a soothing balm for his soul, because it answered his father-in-law's kasha regarding the behavior of Tzadikim who disagree with one another.

That is the end of the Breslov tradition; Because in seif 4 clarifies to Rav Noson the idea of disputes between Tzadikim. But a little investigation between the lines of this wondorous teaching will reveal to us a part of the story which is not known among Breslov Chassidim; The author of the Likutei Moharan hinted at the beginning of his Maamar, in seif 1, in a wondorous way, to the foundation of the dispute between the Tzadikim from Zlotchiv and Koritz, as it is received in the Belz-Chernobyl tradition:

This is how that Maamar begins, "Every person must say, The whole world was created only because of me. It comes out that when the world is created for my sake, I need to see and investigate at every moment regarding the tikun of the world and filling in what is missing in the world." These words contain an amazing hint about complaint of Rav Pinchas Koritzer against the Magid from Zlotchiv, who had stopped repairing the world and filling in what it was lacking with regard to cheese [by not] lifted it up to it's root.

And in the continuation of that same teaching: "One needs to encloth his tefilah, in order that the angels who stand to the left do not prosecute [against it]..." These words hint, without question, to the holy words of the Koritzer, who said in explaining himself, that he had dug for himself a tunnel straight to Hashem, in order that his tefillos not be touched by angels.

Therefore, the words of the Tzadikim are true, and trustworthy people proclaim them true together, the poor in one place and the rich in another place.
Tangentially, we see in the texts and different versions of the study that the way one can hide his tefilos from these prosecutions is to "encloth the tefilos in stories..."

The wise will hear and add more, to the other stories of Tzadikim, the students of the Baal Shem Tov, for all their generations.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Story Behind the Story Update

Part 3 will be out shortly, probably Motzoi Shabbos or Sunday. This past week or so has been very busy!

-Dixie Yid

Astronaut to Astronut

The recent story about the female astronaut who engaged in degrading and criminal behavior in a fit of jealous rage got me thinking. Why do people find this story so fascinating? I think it's because there has always been a feeling that people who are well trained, disciplined, and intelligent enough to become an astronaut must be model Americans, worthy of admiration and emulation. And to see one fall so low is a disappointment to people (though few want to admit that they're still so naive and idealistic).

Though I don't think we need any more proof, this is one more indication that extremely high intelligence, physical fitness, and success in life are not the equivalent of any kind of moral elevation. Nasa's website talks about what's involved in becoming an astronaut, and it's not easy, by any stretch of the imagination. It seems wondrous that someone with enough discipline and intelligence to pass through that intellectual and physical gauntlet would lower themselves to such depths in a fit of jealous rage. That is, until we remember that intelligence, physical discipline, and hard work do not equal "moral."

If you want to be a good person, and especially a good Jew, you have to strive to do specifically that. Just like you won't become an astronaut by working on becoming a tzadik full time, you will not become a tzadik by working on all-else-but-that full time.

-Dixie Yid