Friday, August 31, 2007

All Bilvavi Shiurim From United States Visit Available for Download!

My contacts at Aish Kodesh in Woodmere, NY have come through again. I am happy to announce that you can download all of the 14 shiurim from Rav Itamar Shwartz, Shlita' that were made during this visit to the United States. Click on any of these links to download the shiur associated with it. There are 13 there for you to listen to! If you want to listen right away, left click on the link. If you want to download the whole mp3 file, then right click and choose "Save Target As."

**Update** There is a Tzadik out there who has listened to all of these shiurim and written summaries in English of all of these shiurim that were given in the United States. He wants to remain anonymous so I will not mention his name, but thank you very very much! This may be good for people who cannot understand the Hebrew shiurim, and may benefit from the English summary of Rav Shwartz's message in that shiur. Or you might use these summaries as a basis for knowing which shiurim you would like to download or listen to in streaming audio. Important Note: The first two links to shiurim #1 and #2 are still hosted at fileden and are subject to downloading maximums per month and therefore they might not be downloadable till October 2nd, 2007. The rest are hosted at and should work. If they don't the first time, try again.

1- Lakewood-Ohr Zarua- When Rav Shlomo Wolbe zt”l asked Rav Chatzkel (Rav Yechezkel Levenstein) zt”l what important information he should tell the students in his yeshiva, Rav Chatzkel said, “Tell them there is a Master of the World!” Much later, Rav Wolbe understood the significance of this comment. Rav Chatzkel lived with a tremendous feeling of closeness to Hashem at all times, and insisted that all who learn Torah strive to attain the same feeling. It is possible for one to learn Torah, and yet, fulfill the pasuk (Yirmeyahu 12:2), “You (Hashem) are close to their mouths but far from their interior” and (ibid. 2:8), “Those who have grasped the Torah do not know me.” This can happen if one learns Torah and feels that although the Torah is here, Hashem is far away somewhere. The reason we are informed that Hashem’s presence is here is that we are supposed to intend to connect to Him when learning Torah. As the Chazon Ish wrote, “The main thing is to remember before Whom you toil in Torah.” If one approaches learning with no thought, there is a halachic problem: Torah-ordained mitzvos require prior intent. Before learning, one must spend a minute thinking about why he is learning. If one does this, he will become much closer to Hashem through his learning. This is the reason we must learn Torah every free moment — through it, one can cleave to Hashem at all times.

2- Lakewood- Freehold Kollel- Hashem has planted in us a need to speak so that we will use every opportunity to speak to Him. We cannot suffice with the three tefillos said daily; rather, we must also use every opportunity we have in the day to speak to Hashem. In the Bais HaMikdash, as well, although there were two main karbanos daily (and the fats thereof were burned at night) corresponding to our fixed tefillos, there was also a requirement for a constant fire on the mizbeach. The Chazon Ish would daven to Hashem every time he had a difficulty with a matter of Torah, and the Brisker Rov would say a short tefillah whenever he heard of a trouble someone had, since there is an obligation to say a tefillah in any time of trouble. In fact, Hashem sends the various kinds to troubles to us so that we will use them as means to turn to Him. Our entire lives are for the sake of becoming close to Hashem, and if one suffers in any way at all, it is so that he will use it as an impetus to remember Hashem. Rav Yerucham zt”l said that great people eat in order to make a beracha. This doesn’t mean that they didn’t get hungry, but that they understood that all needs, such as hunger, exist so that we can remember Hashem. If one will remember Hashem on a regular basis, he will not need major problems, which are sent to remind us of Him. Hashem is compassionate, and does not want us to suffer if we are already remembering Him. On Rosh Hashanah, there is a strong feeling of closeness to Hashem. Why is this? The reason is that Hashem wants us to experience the level that is expected of us all year. We should not just do teshuvah for little details. We must realize that we are lacking the whole point of life — closeness to Hashem. To start improving in this area, we should minimally follow the ruling of the Rambam, who states (Hilchos Mezuzah 6:13) that one when sees a mezuzah, he should remember about Hashem. If we can start doing this at least once a day, we will make large strides toward living life properly.

4- Baltimore- Ner Yisroel- The gemara (Berachos 20a) says that the greatness of the earlier generations derived from the fact that they devoted their souls to Hashem. This doesn’t only mean to give up one’s life, but also to serve Him with the soul, not just to perform the mitzvos and learn Torah with the body and brain. A way to tell if you are serving Hashem with your soul is by seeing if you love Torah so much that you learn intensively even when on vacation from yeshiva. You should love Torah so much that you would learn it even if there were no reward for it. You must also grow in your attachment to tefillah and other mitzvos. Although there is a rule that “the heart is drawn (meshicha) after the actions,” and so, the mitzvos should on their own improve us, we must look at this as any meshicha, an act of pulling something into one’s domain, which is a form of acquisition. If one does an act of acquisition with no intent, he does not become the owner. Action and intent are required. Here, too, when learning and performing mitzvos, we must yearn for Hashem, from Whom we have become distanced, and intend that our Torah and mitzvos will improve our hearts and awaken our souls.

5- Baltimore – Shaarei Zion- In a healthy marriage, the husband and wife speak to each other on a regular basis. They do not only have set times for communicating, and then ignore each other the rest of the time. Although they might also fix set times for talking with each other, these are not meant to exclude ongoing spontaneous conversation. The marriage relationship (as well as other friendships) is meant to be an example for us of a healthy relationship with Hashem. (One aspect of this example is that a person often needs to seek for years to find a spouse. The same is often the case with one’s search for closeness with Hashem.) Although we are required to daven three times a day so that we don’t ignore Hashem, we must spontaneously turn to Hashem in brief conversation throughout the day. Hashem made the world in a way that we must be regularly on the ground and breathe air; these are constants. We must recall that a relationship with Hashem must also be such a constant. Regrettably, we are raised to think that our material comfort is the main thing in life. Parents make a mistake when they focus exclusively on their children’s material well-being and wait until much later to introduce the spiritual. Even before the child can understand spiritual values, the parents must daven for the child’s spiritual health, and in this way, plant the seeds for the child’s spiritual life.

6- Baltimore Community Kollel- Elul is a period when Hashem is considered our Beloved (dodi). Starting Rosh HaShanah, He is considered our Father/King. These are actually better relationships, because they are constant, as opposed to a close friend or an uncle (dod). But we must first let in the Beloved. As it says in Shir HaShirim (5:2), “My Beloved is knocking.” Hashem is knocking on our hearts, asking to be let in. To let Him in, we must make a “room” in our heart that will be hospitable to Him, as Lavan said to Yaakov (Bereishis 24:31), “I have cleaned out the house (from idols)” so that Yaakov would be able to reside there. We, too, must clean out something negative from in our hearts so as to let Him in. We must sacrifice something for Hashem, giving Him a gift which we will never take back. These days are an amazing opportunity for us to bring Hashem into our hearts. If we prepare properly, He will not leave us, but remain in our hearts forever.

7- Baltimore- chaburah in Ner Yisroel- We know from the Rambam that there are thirteen essentials of Torah, the thirteen principles of emunah. Everything in the Torah is important, but these are the most important issues to focus on, especially the first: the awareness of Hashem. Emunah must fill our day, from the moment we say upon arising, “I thank in Your Presence (not merely “I thank You”) Hashem, for restoring my soul…” This truth should cause us to totally change our outlook on what is important in life. We may need to make changes as drastic as those adopted by a Ba’al Teshuvah, to reorient our lives in a way that a constant relationship with Hashem will be our primary focus.

8- Monsey- Belz Kollel- When the Ba’al Shem Tov came into this world, he brought a tremendous light that effectively revived Klal Yisroel from its state of spiritual death. The Satan was worried about all the inspiration and the love and fear of Hashem that the Ba’al Shem Tov and his followers would bring to the world, and sought a way to counteract that and conceal this great light. The Satan succeeded by making many chasidim who merely accept the chitzonius (outer customs) of the chasidim, such as the style of clothing, without having any of the pnimius (inner essence). The chitzonius is important, because it protects people from falling, but one needs more than protection. One would not suffice with just protecting his money by burying it in the ground; he would want to invest some of it. Now that the light of the Ba’al Shem Tov has entered the world, although it is becoming progressively more and more concealed, we are required to reclaim it, just as the light of Pesach is concealed at first, but then reclaimed during the Sefirah period.

How do we know what to do practically? It is fine to read sefarim on Shabbos, but that is not enough to build one’s life. Certainly, the main effort must remain to observe the times for learning gemara and halacha, and to be careful with all the halachos. But in addition, one must add chiyus (holy energy) to it all. There must be time for studying the works of chasidus on a regular basis. One work that is relatively understandable is the Ma’or Vashemesh. However, there is still a problem in that it goes by the parsha (weekly portion), and does not show us a specific path.

Nowadays, as in all times, there are not enough tzaddikim to be able to adequately guide all the seekers who need guidance. Our only option is to yearn for the levels we see in the sefarim and daven and cry to Hashem that He will show us the way to reach them. Many people despair of reaching the high levels portrayed in the sefarim. They feel the levels are way beyond them. They must know that these levels were originally beyond the abilities of those authors themselves, but Hashem granted the levels as a gift. We must serve Hashem to the best of our abilities, recognizing that we cannot jump levels on our own, and cry out to Hashem for guidance in finding a way and reaching levels really beyond our current abilities. In these special days of tefillah, we must take advantage of our opportunity to approach the King, and ask for these great achievements. We must not be satisfied with petty things.

9- Monsey -Yeshivat Tov- On Rosh Hashanah, there are two emotions that should be present within us. There should be a sense of fear, due to the judgment taking place on that day. In addition, we should feel great joy. That is the one day each of us comes before the King, and although He judges us, it is a tremendous opportunity for acquiring closeness to Him. The Arizal states that one should be crying at some point on Rosh Hashanah, which will be the time one is being judged. The crying is not due to fear. To the contrary, the fear should freeze us, as one would feel when confronted by a lion! The crying, rather, should be tears of joy, as the neshamah rejoices in its closeness to Hashem. But this can only be appreciated by one who has been seeking such closeness all year. Such a person can appreciate this gift of closeness that he receives. Another person would have no use for it. We cannot really start preparing for this Rosh Hashanah now, if we have not been on the path to Hashem all year. We should rather try to prepare for Rosh Hashanah of 5769! However, if we do take the steps to be truly ready for 5769, our proper commitment, although only a commitment, can be a merit even for 5768.

10- Kew Gardens Hills- Beit Midrash Tov- The word “shofar” relates to the word “shapru,” which means “to improve.” We must not suffice with hearing the shofar; we must take a lesson from the shofar as to how we should improve. The shofar is narrow at one end and wide on the other, indicating a transition from a narrow, constricted outlook to a broader one. This means that we must stop only thinking about ourselves and living for ourselves. This is essential is we are to be judged favorably and for Mashiach to come. There are many ways we can start to care for others. Even if one goes to learn Torah by himself, he can have in mind to give a small percentage of the merit of his learning to the rest of the Jewish people, particularly to those who do not have the opportunity to learn Torah. This intent alone can help inspire others to do teshuvah, and will even give them the ability to rise at techiyat hameitim (the resurrection), because one cannot be resurrected without the merit of Torah. Many people donate money, but for selfish reasons, such as for honor, or to be rewarded with wealth. We must train ourselves to give because we care about other people. If we start caring about others, our avodat Hashem will improve, as well. We will become used to not doing whatever feels good, but what is right. You must learn to think on your own about how you can help others, not just to be told by someone else how to do so. When we approach Rosh Hashanah, we must commit to be somewhat better in the coming year. You must not take on too many commitments, because they will not last; even one point is fine, if you will really work with it throughout the year. Here is a suggestion: commit to spending one minute a day thinking about how you can help others, either spiritually or physically. If you focus on giving selflessly, Hashem will also give to you, measure for measure.

11- Far Rockaway- Shor Yoshuv- The gemara says (Makkos 24a) that Chavakuk stated that all the mitzvos have one foundation: “The righteous man lives with his emunah” (Chavakuk 2:4). Why is emunah the foundation of everything? Shouldn’t the foundation be Torah? After all, we know that the mitzvos are only garments of the soul, while Torah study is the food for the soul. The answer is that without proper emunah, the Torah study does not serve its purpose. The Torah was given as an outgrowth of the revelation of Hashem, and it must be learned in such a way. Before learning, we must think about Hashem and do teshuvah, so that the learning can connect us to Him. Just as with learning Torah, one is not really connected to the learning unless he automatically thinks about Torah even when not in the Beis Midrash, so should one automatically have thoughts about Hashem. If he doesn’t, there is no real connection. The learning is all in the mind, but not the heart, and he has not learned properly. When making our self-accounting for Rosh Hashanah, we must evaluate not only how much Torah we have learned, but how much of a real connection to Hashem and His Torah we have achieved.

12- Yeshiva University- Although practically speaking, many people cannot learn Torah and engage in spiritual endeavors all the time, all of us must maintain the highest ideals. We must know that the ideal is a purely spiritual life with no involvement at all in the material world. Practically speaking, each person must be pragmatic, and not try to give up too much of the material world at one time, lest he be unable to handle it. One must make small improvements, constantly moving in small steps toward a more spiritual life. Likewise, we should all strive to live in Eretz Yisrael, but practically speaking, it is not possible or appropriate for everyone. We must, however, at least remember that we are in golus. The point is that we must have the loftiest ideals, with practical small steps towards those ideals. This is why we must yearn daily for Mashiach: we must yearn for that kind of world. When we approach Rosh HaShanah, we must evaluate not how much good we have done, but how much we have aligned ourselves with spiritual values.

13- Woodmere- Bilvavi Chaburah- Rav Yechezkel Levenstein, zt”l, the Mashgiach of Ponovezh, said in one of his lectures that each person should strive to become a great person. Anyone can become great, regardless of age, lineage, and intelligence. A great person is one who is attached to Hashem, and ultimately, nullifies himself before Him. There are three means through which we must cleave to Hashem: our character traits, our thoughts, and our will.

One does not need to actually acquire character traits; the good traits are already deep inside us, but they are covered by the “foreskin of the heart.” One might intellectually accept the value of humility, but the heart might still be arrogant of its own accord. The simple way to fix the negative attributes is to gradually work with them, step by step, over a very long time. But the Ba’al Shem Tov taught that when entering a palace with many gates, there are two ways to enter: you can have a lot of different keys, and hopefully open each door in its own way, or you can take an ax and break through all the doors in the same manner. In other words, one can improve himself with tremendous dedication and energy and quickly break through the negative barriers. The gemara (Avodah Zarah 17a) tells that R’ Elazar ben Durdaya did powerful teshuvah in a short period of time and merited eternal life through it. He cried from the depth of his heart and died with repentance. We don’t need to die from repentance, but if we want that kind of quick growth, we need to feel tremendous pain over our faults, cry out to Hashem, and totally commit ourselves to Him. To extent that we give ourselves over to Hashem, we can achieve inner purity.

To cleave to Hashem through our thoughts, we need the proper kind of Torah knowledge. For our Torah to resemble Hashem’s wisdom in some way, it must have yashrus (clear and straight thinking). But we cannot achieve this on our own. We must attain wisdom from Hashem, and then it will automatically have yashrus. To attain wisdom from Hashem, we must sense that He is with us when we are learning Torah.

To cleave to Hashem through our will, we need not create a new will. Deep down, we already have the desire to do His will. We need only to nullify our superficial opposing will, and access our inner will, which is identical to His will.

One who achieves these three means of cleaving to Hashem will be nullified before Hashem, as Moshe Rabbeinu was. Such a person will have no sense of self, as the Divine Presence will speak from his throat. This is the state referred to as “ruach hakodesh.”

14- Woodmere- Aish Kodesh- When the gemara says (Kesuvos 110b) that one who lives in the Diaspora is domeh (like) one without a God, it doesn’t mean that Hashem’s Presence is not there. He is everywhere, and tzaddikim throughout the generations, including the authors of the gemara itself, lived in the Diaspora. What it means is that one will have a dimayon (illusion) that Hashem is not present there. In other words, it is more difficult to find the presence of Hashem outside of the Land of Israel. We are influenced by the nations around us, who pursue material values and correspondingly ignore spiritual values. Even if we don’t see them, our hearts feel their influence. But one who puts forth the necessary extra effort will find Hashem. The Torah says (Devarim 4:29), “And you will seek from there (the Diaspora) Hashem, your God, and you will find Him, if you search will all your heart and with all your soul.” I was told by three separate people not to bother visiting the United States. “The people there will have no interest in what you have to say,” they insisted. I did not listen to them, and thank God, I was not disappointed. I have met so many people here who truly yearn for Hashem, and just need guidance in how to become close to Him. There are many people in this country with an even stronger yearning for holiness than is generally found among the people in Israel. Here, you can see the emptiness of materialism more clearly and use this recognition to spark a true yearning for spiritual attainments.

In earlier generations, people lived very simply. Just look at pictures and descriptions of the Chofetz Chaim’s simple two-room home. Those people understood that this world is a temporary home, and that our lives should be focused on our permanent home in Gan Eden. People who consider this world their real abode are akin to a man in prison who focuses on decorating and renovating his cell, and does not even want to leave it when he is freed! It is permissible to buy a house; many tzaddikim did so. But you must remember that you will only be there for a number of decades at most, and that hopefully Mashiach will come soon, so that you can leave this place.

Update: And if there is any problem with downloading these shiurim here, they are now also available at here.

If you would like to listen to streaming audio of these shiurim, please click on the button just below this paragraph and scroll down to see the list of shiurim you can listen to in streaming audio. Be aware though, that this button links to an outside website that sometimes displays immodest advertising on the same page.

May these shiurim be an inspiration and an instigation for you to make HaKadosh Baruch Hu's presece in your life as real to you as your need to work for a living!

**UPDATE** There were previously several problems with this post at this point. The streaming audio html widgets were not playing the two shiurim properly. For some reason, they play quickly. Therefore, I have removed those players from here. Second, from the button at the top of the post, you could only listen to the shiurim in streaming audio. This is also a great toeles, but it doesn't allow you to download the shiurim. I have left that button link here, but now you can download the shiurim from the list of links above. The third problem was that are non-tznius pictures very often in advertisements in the esnips page. That is still a problem if you click on the button, but for those of you who want to listen to the streaming audio, just don't look at the bad stuff and minimize the screen while you're listing to the shiur. Tizku l'mitzvos!

-Dixie Yid

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Oro Shel Moshiach - Follow Up Comment

Here is my latest comment, following up on some of the comments on the previous post, about utilizing different traditions and Oro Shel Moshiach.

B"H, if your neshama is drawn to Rebbe Nachman's teachings, you shouldn't feel as if that contradicts or is disloyal to your Chabad connection up to now. For more insight into the complementary nature of Chabad and Breslov, read my translation of Rav Itchie Mayer Mordenstern on the topic here.

A Yid,

At the beginning of your comment, I see the main problem you have as being the "cholent" kasha. If the author were actually creating a mushkababel of different ideas into a formless, colorless, feel-good mixture, then I would agree with you. However, I believe that you are missing the key word I used (which I got from Rav Weinberger); "Unified." The seforim (and, more importantly, the Oro Shel Moshiach approach) are not a rough-shod joining of contradictory sources, but a demonstration of a higher unity that underlies different and even "contradictory" approaches to avodas Hashem.

For example, there was a bitter bitter dispute between Rav Yosef Chaim Sonenfeld and Rav Kook in pre-state E"Y. Rav Y.C. Sonenfeld held that Rav Kook's approach to teaching which exemplified this Oro Shel Moshiach approach was wrong at best, and spiritually dangerous at worst. On one occasion, Rav Sonenfeld needed some help with a help issue in his family and they required the assistance of Rav Kook. He sent his grandson, I believe, to Rav Kook's home, and when Rav Kook was sending Rav Sonenfeld's grandson on his way, he told him; "Please tell your Zaide that if he wasn't doing what he is doing, I would not be able to do what I am doing."

What you perceive as irreconcilable opposites, from a higher perspective are two necessary and complimentary components of a greater whole. Is concave the opposite of convex? Yes, but you cannot have one without the other. They are really one. Are Chochma and Bina different? Yes, but you must have both in balance and they are really one since they are both derivitives of Keser. This is also the message of Rav Kook in that ma'aseh.

You are right that we must differentiate between speculation and truth. How do we know which is which in this case? I am certainly no baki in chochmas haemes so really, I'm only basing myself on a couple of people's much-more-experet opinion in these matters. Rav Moshe Weinberger is very clear that he sees an unbelievable unity in the seforim of Bilvavi Mishkan Evneh, and that they are in no way based on personal speculation. I don't know if he wants his name announced, so I will merely say that a Tzadik and Rebbe of a Chassidus in Boro Park is of the same opinion and now has all of his Chassidim learning the Bilvavi seforim. Rav Gamliel Rabinovitch is close with the mechaber, who sees him often.

As to your valid point about the centrality of Chassidus and the derech haBaal Shem Tov to Rav Weinberger and Chassidim in general, I don't see the problem. It is true! I disagree that this is somehow contradictory to the idea of drawing light and inspiration in avodas Hashem from pre- and non-Chassidish sources. One can have their primary interest in Chassidus, like you said, and realize the truth within the other paths as well. That does not make someone an "abstract reseacher, who approaches Chassidus as 'just one more' mystical system."

I personally see Rav Weinberger and Rav Shwartz as being more connected to the way of Chochma, the way of Yosef Hatzadik. As I write in the introduction to the translation of R' Itchie Mayer Morgenstern's Kuntres, Chochma is the way of seeing the different, distinct, disperate pratei pratim and seeing the "Klal," the unified principal behind it. This is also connected to the bechina of Yosef Hatzadik. And I theorize that this is why Chanukah, which is very connected to the parshios of Yosef Hatzadik, is the Yontif to which Rav Weinberger feels the most connection.


I defninetly see your point. And that has been the derech of the gedolim. They are mechaneich their communities that their way is the way for them to follow, in no uncertain or unclear terms. But individuals can and should be encouraged to follow the pull of their neshoma to enrich thier "daled amos" with other derachim in Torah that they feel connected to.

Regarding this idea that there is great significance to that which a Jew's soul feels connected to, there is an awesome Mei Hashiloach in last week's Parsha, parshas Ki Seitzei. He places and great emphasis on the Torah's words, "V'chashka va." Cheishek is a very strong word for desire and is not be taken lightly. He explains over there based on that, that if a Jew feels a cheishek for something, even something outwardly bad, it is because there are true nekodos tovos in that thing that that person's soul needs to be mevarer, to sepperate out. How much the more so in terms of Torah! This places new meaning in the words, "L'olam yilmod adam ma shelibo chafeitz."

This is just as "A Yid" himself wrote in A Simple Jew: "If he feels attraction to certain field of study, it indicates, that this field was neglected by him in his previous gilgulim (if any), so now his neshomo arouses this urge to learn what it missed before, so the rule of "ma sheliboy chofeytz" according to mekubolim is really a deep indicator of what is missing for neshoma's tikun."

Anonymous (12:16),

Thank you for sharing that. I know I've heard that before but I am only up to chelek beis, so you're way ahead of me. Thank you for sharing that.

-Dixie Yid

Mixing Different Traditions and the Light of Moshiach

Due in part to Rav Itamar Shwartz, Shlita's visit to the United States this week and my lively discussion with "A Yid," in the comments section at A Simple Jew, I have been thinking about the role of the eclectic drawing of light from different streams within authentic Yiddishkeit versus strictly sticking to one mesorah for the sake of authentic maintenence of that mesorah. This prompted me to call Rav Moshe Weinberger, from congregation Aish Kodesh in Woodmere, NY to get his perspective on the issue. I made some observations, which he shared, and to which he added specificity, regarding the sources from which Rav Shwartz, in the Bilvavi seforim, draws his message. I also shared with him the gist of "A Yid's" perspective on the issues.

Anyone who is familiar with Rav Weinberger's shiurim knows that Rav Weinberger also draws his teachings from widely "divergent" sources. In a single shiur he may quote the Ponevicher Rav, the Kedushas Levi, Rav Aharon from Belz, Rav Kook, the Lubavitcher rebbe, the Alter rebbe, and Rav Yoshe Ber Soleveichik. He told me that he primarily sees a lot of Ramchal, Tanya, and some Breslov (and many others as well to a lesser extent) in the initial Bilvavi seforim. Since I was bothered by the question, I directly asked him what the role of firmly sticking to one mesorah should be visa vis such an eclectic approach, which draws light from such a multitude of sources.

He said that he believes, and I feel sure Rav Shwartz would agree, that though they often seem mutually exclusive, all of these paths come from one unified source. And therefore, b'emes b'emes, they are one. The ability to see the oneness in the ostensibly polar opposite teachings of the Satmar Rav, R' Yoel Teilbaum, zt"l, and Rav Avraham Yitzchak Hakohen Kook, zt"l, for example, requires a wonderous and hafladik higher perspective on all of Yiddishkeit. He said that the light that is emerging today that has the ability to show the deeper unity within such different streams of Torah is called the "Oro Shel Moshiach."

In the sefer Bilvavi Mishkan Evneh al HaTorah (which I have recently purchased and started learning on Shabbos), the one theme that pervades Rav Shwartz's teachings in every parsha is this idea of "Oro shel Moshiach." Rav Shwartz repeatedly shows how the elevated light of Moshiach is above and inclusive of all opposites. In each parsha, he amplifies on the theme that the light of Moshiach is koleil "davar v'hifucho," a thing and its opposite. This was shown in last week's parsha, Parshas Vayetze (5766), in an amazing way. Ayin Sham. The emerging revelation of the Oro shel Moshiach today gives us, with the help of big tzadikim and talmidei chachamim like Rav Weinberger and Rav Shwartz, the ability to get a higher unified perspective, which allows us to see the oneness in the seemily contradictory teachings of many different mesoros.

He said that there is a preciousness and a certain chein in the approach of those who fervently stick to one derech and one mesorah and do not let the waters of other mesoros touch their little daled amos of ground inYiddishkeit. The advantage of this is that they perfect and understand those little daled amos of mesorah ground in a way that no one else can. However, this comes at at very high cost. Without the water of other emesdikeh paths irrigating their daled amos of ground, much potential growth and blossoming even within their tradition will never be realized.

Perhaps some of the proponents of the "Only One Derech" approach will not be pleased to hear this perspective. But after speaking with Rav Weinberger it is even more clear to me that for me, and for our generation preceeding the coming of the full revelation of the light of Moshiach, this approach of unification and "cross-pollination" between different chochmei emes is vital. (I should clarify that for an individual whose soul is simply not drawn to anything but his own personal derech and mesorah, Rav Weinberger is not suggesting that he must or should force himself to broaden his horizons by studying and learning from other paths. For that person, his shoresh neshama is intimately connected to that path, and thus he must stick with and perfect his role in that mesorah.)

I spoke about other things and questions with Rav Weinberger as well, but I'll save that for another post. Tizku l'mitzvos!

-Dixie Yid

Update: Follow-up post here.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Guest Post by Alice - A Bas Noach's Road to Hashem

Imagine a 10-story-tall catapult. But instead of a boulder the size of a VW bug, its cargo is you. Because this catapult has been cranked back slowly, each tooth clicking into place, for thirty-six years, the energy behind the launch is tremendous. You find yourself being rocketed through space, old grudges, all of the axes you were grinding, mountains that you were carrying on your shoulders are one by one falling away, making you lighter and lighter, increasing your velocity. Convinced this bizarre dream will end with a violent splat -- or a human shaped hole in the middle of a field of corn with you at the bottom -- you find yourself not rocketing but gently coasting at great altitude, experiencing true joy and relaxation. When it comes time to land, instead of racing towards the earth, your landing is more like a leaf flitting back and forth in the breeze, making a lazy descent towards the grassy field.

The field is a good place to end up, because that's where you will do some great work. Despite the fact that you feel like a lunatic, albeit a gleeful one, you take the advice of a very wonderful rabbi half way around the globe and go for walks talking to the old corn stalks, ravens landing on power lines, and the grasshoppers that land on your sweater with a chirp way too loud to come from such a tiny creature. This is your synagogue and they are the congregation. There you can talk to the perfect God for you, even though this still strikes you as being totally bonkers, and amazing things begin to happen.

Of course this is a totally irrational and unscientific thing to do. But it works. Quickly. Even though you aren't Jewish, this rabbi’s advice fits you like a custom made suit. You learn that you don't need to be Jewish to believe in Judaism, and that there are seven laws just for you. Negative emotions that plagued you for decades dissolve, leaving you not your old self, but a person you never were. Lessons accumulated over millennia by Sages living near the Dead Sea, or deep in the woods of the Ukraine, guide you through grocery trips, dysfunctional family dinners, and help you to not lean on the horn in traffic jams.

Well, that’s how the journey began. Three years later, we live in the big city. The cornfields have been replaced with subways and burglar bars. It’s a good thing Hashem can be found anywhere because that all sounds a bit depressing, yet the tranquility found in those fields persists. We live near shuls and kollels, minyans and lunch and learns. And just like when we lived in the country, I read Jewish websites, listen to cds in my car and lectures on my MP3 player, anything to maintain the connection to God. Now that we're in the city, Torah classes are part of my life as are a hodgepodge of fellow Torah believers: Western European Ashkenazi, Hassidim, Iranian Jews, Sephardim from Morocco, Sephardim from Mexico, Sephardim with lush Southern accents and plaid flannel kippas, soon-to-be Jews, thought-they-were-Jews, and even Gentiles-who-wish-they were Jews.

Where do Bnei Noach fit in? It's clear that any newcomer to the world of Torah runs the risk of becoming overwhelmed by the labyrinth of traditions, commandments, communities, and politics, let alone a Gentile. But to my mind it doesn't matter if you are a BT from a line of rabbis ten generations long or your dad's a Methodist who married a beauty named Shoshanna. There are times you will feel in. And there are times you feel out. And when that 'out' feeling starts to wheedle its way in, I return to the cornfield, only this time it's a broken sidewalk, and I'm pushing a red stroller ferrying a blonde two-year-old clutching a water bottle. Hashem is right there with me again to remind me that I am one member of an enormously complex congregation who know that the Torah is the blueprint. And that He is always there with me. And with you.

I recommend with great enthusiasm any of the cds by Rav Shalom Arush and Rabbi Lazer Brody available on And for a terrific, accessible approach to Torah techniques for coping with negative emotions, The Trail to Tranquility, by Rabbi Lazer Brody. Many of the techniques that have worked so well for me and for my family are described therein.


(Picture of a beautiful potential Hisbodedus location courtesy of Natural Resource Canada's website)

Rav Ozer Bergman on the Hardest Hisbodedus

Courageous Hisbodedus by Rav Ozer Bergman on A Simple Jew

-Dixie Yid

(Picture of a beautiful spot to do some Hisbodedus next time your in Murgia, courtesy of Le Roverelle)

Monday, August 27, 2007

Great Ma'aseh about R' Nachum Chernobyler

Please read Yitz's post at Heichal Hanegina, which in includes a ma'aseh about the author of one of my favorite sifrei Chassidus, R' Menachen Nachum of Chernobyl.

-Dixie Yid

(Picture is of a field in Chernobyl b'zman hazeh)

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Bilvavi Mishkan Evneh Shiur in Woodmere POSTPONED!!!

I just received the following announcement about the Bilvavi Mishkan Evneh shiur that had been scheduled for tonight at 8:30 at Aish Kodesh in Woodmere, NY:

"Due to a delayed flight from Eretz Yisrael, the shiur by Rav Itamar Schwartz, Shlita, author of the Seforim, Bilvavi Mishkan Evneh, originally scheduled at Aish Kodesh for tonight, Sunday, August 26/ Evening 13 Elul, has been postponed.

The shiur has been rescheduled for Thursday, August 30/ Evening 17 Elul, at 9:00 p.m.

Please forward this message to anyone who may have planned on attending the shiur tonight."

-Dixie Yid

Friday, August 24, 2007

Bilvavi Author Speaking in Baltimore (Flyer attached)

The author of the seforim Bilvavi Mishkan Evneh will be in Baltimore, speaking to the community on Tuesday night, August 28th, 2007.

R' Yerachmiel Goldman, the coordinator of the shiur that the author of the sifrei Bilvavi Mishkan Evneh is giving at the Community Kollel of Baltimore, has contacted me and provided me with the flyer that they are using to advertise the speech they're putting on at 9:15 Tuesday night (August 28, 2007) at the Community Kollel building at 3800 Labrinth Rd in Baltimore. That one is for men only. There is another major speech in Baltimore as well at 7:30 PM at Congregation Shaarei Zion at 6602 Park Heights Ave. I belive that men and women are both invited to that one.

Please forward this post/information to anyone you know in the Baltimore/D.C./Silver Spring area!

You can see the rest of his speaking schedule in Woodmere, Lakewood, and Kew Gardens Hills here.

-Dixie Yid

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Bilvavi Author in Woodmere, Lakewood, Baltimore & Kew Gardens Hills!

This just in: The author of the Bilvavi Mishkan Evneh seforim will be making several appearances in major American cities starting this Sunday, during his visit to the United States. The Rav speaks in relatively easy Hebrew. You can see some of his shiurim online on's Bilvavi Video Shiur page.

The picture above is the flyer being distributed regarding the Bilvavi author's appearance at Congregation Aish Kodesh in Woodmere this Sunday night at 8:30. My Aish Kodesh contact was nice enough to provide me with a scanned copy of the flyer.

Please send this information to anyone you know in any of these cities. It'd be a zechus for both of us to share the informaiton! Yasher koach!

Sunday August 26, 2007
Five Towns
Congregation Aish Kodesh in Woodmere at 8:30 PM
894 Woodmere Pl. (corner of Woodmere Blvd. and West Broadway) Update: This date for the shiur is CANCELLED! It is rescheduled for Thursday night at 9 PM - same place.

Monday, August 27, 2007
Lakewood, NJ
8:30 PM - Yeshiva Ketana at 120 2nd St.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007
Baltimore, MD
7:30 PM at Congregation Shaarei Zion
6602 Park Heights Ave. - Men and Women
9:15 PM at the Community Kollel of Baltimore
3800 Labrinth Rd. - Men Only

Wednesday, August 29, 2007
Kew Gardens Hills
9:15 PM - Beit Kenesset Tov
Corner of 147th St. & 68th Dr.

Thursday, August 30, 2007
Woodmere, NY
9PM- Aish Kodesh Woodmere, see address above

-Dixie Yid

Please Support Families In Need In Tzfat

Please click here to go to A Simple Jew's page that contains the information you need to donate money to the Ezer L'Shabbos organization, a worthy tzedaka that supports very needy families in Tzfat. It will be a wonderful way for you to fulfill your obligation to give tzedaka, especially this time of the year. Teshuva, Tefilla, and Tzedaka remove an evil decree. And that is something that all of us need.

-Dixie Yid

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Role of Free Will in the BT's Teshuva Process - Follow-Up

I was just having a conversation by e-mail with Neil at Modern Uberdox about my post from last week at Beyond BT, which related to the concept of how much free will we Baalei Teshuva really have in deciding whether or not to become frum. It's an experiential question and I think the post and the comments over there were very interesting, so I suggest checking it out. I'm going to post some of my comments to Neil below as a clarification to that piece at Beyond BT here:

I was thinking of the nature of the attraction to Yiddishkeit that we BTs felt/feel and where that comes from, especially given that many others go through the same experiences and don't feel the same attraction.

The only similarity with the Rambam on Paroh that I was referring to [in the comment section] was the existence of limitations on free will according to the Rambam. The commenter over there suggested that the idea of limiations on free will was not mainstream and that it differed with the Rambam. That's why I pointed that Rambam out to him. Because ironically, it was the Rambam who held that Paroh had his free will limited or removed, while the Ramban found a way to say that his free will was merely restored. But even according to the Rambam, the reason for the removal of his free will was the fact that he had sinned exceedingly. I don't think the same reasoning applies in the case of BTs.

I guess I was kind of taking the fact that the Rambam says free will can be limited as a punishment for certain bad choices and the fact that R' Tzadok and R' Mordechai Yosef of Izbitz say that sometimes Hashem gives us nisyonos in aveiros that are literally too difficult to pass and are beyond our "free will point" [as referred to by R' Eliyahu Dessler], and I was expanding that idea to a new area (hope I'm not an apikores!). I was extending it to the realm of positive things. Instead of doing an aveira out of a limiation on free will as those 3 aforementioned sources were referring to, I'm talking about being inspired to do teshuva though an isarusa d'leila, an inspiration from above. I was saying that I think that the inspiration to be chozer b'teshuva comes to some and not others because Hashem, for whatever reason, has decided to bestow that inspiration on a specific person.

Even the most successful kiruv organizations like the Zarets' program at UCLA only have a success rate of about 20%, which is great. So why do those 1 out of 5 people become frum while the other 4 out of 5 don't? They attend the same events. They meet the same inspiring personalities. They hear the same speeches from kiruv greats like R' Mordechai Becher, R' Jonathan Rietti, Tuvia Singer, and others. I was seeking an explanation for that phenomenon.

Am I taking the idea too far?

-Dixie Yid

(Picture courtesy of

Techias Hameisim Demonstrated - Caterpillar Video

Rabbi Akiva Tatz said in his series of shiurim on the 13 Ikkarei HaEmunah that everything that will exist, even after Moshiach comes, exists right now on earth. After all, the pasuk in Koheles 1:9 says "וְאֵין כָּל-חָדָשׁ, תַּחַת הַשָּׁמֶשׁ." "There is nothing new under the sun. He said that it is more difficult to believe in techias Hameisim than the other principals of faith, for many people. This is because, he suggests, ressurection of the dead is just so far out of our experiences in life that it difficult to believe that it's possible. After all, when a person is in the ground, he decomposes and there is no known way to resurrect life from dead tissue that we know of. However, he points out that there is something we can look to in the world today to get a feel for the reality of techias Hameisim.

He points out that when a caterpillar turns into a Chrysalis before becoming a butterfly, it goes through a time where it is literally broken down from being a living functioning caterpillar, into being a globulous ball of mush. After that, the mush is reconstituted into a butterfly before hatching out of the Chrysalis again. He says that just as we cannot fathom how life can be recreated from the former caterpillar which is now a ball of mush, we cannot fathom how life can emerge from a decomposed body in the ground. However, just as there is a natural explanation for what is happening by the Chrysalis that we do not know without studying it, there is also a deeper spiritual reality that causes a dead body to come to life again on a higher level, which we do not, as yet, understand.

Below is a timelapse video about 1:30 long that shows how a caterpillar transforms into a Chrysalis. It is truly amazing and unbelievable.

And below is a video of a Monarch Butterfly emerging from its Chrysalis.

And if you think that Rabbi Tatz is exaggerating when he describes the utter destruction within the chrysalis in the stage between caterpillar pupa and butterfly, then look at this (somewhat disturbing) picture that I found below.

Although I know intellectually there there is still something living in the chrysalis, it is wondrous and amazing that such a thing as this can be turned into a beautiful butterfly. It really puts a person on notice that there is so much that is above our understanding that we should not expect to fully understand how life is created.

IY"H, we should all be zocheh to techias Hameisim and bias Moshiach tzidkeinu bimeheira veaymeinu!

-Dixie Yid

Bilvavi Pre-Slichos Shabbaton September 7-8

For y'all in Eretz Yisroel, the Shorashim Center has announced that there will be a Shabbaton in Mitzpeh Rimon the weekend of September 7-8/9. Please take advantage of this opportunity if you're in the Holy Land! You can get more information from them here. And thanks to the folks at for making me aware of this great opportunity.

-Dixie Yid

Tuesday, August 21, 2007


-Dixie Yid

Article on Encouraging Realities for Lawyers Making Aliyah

Check out this article by a relatively recent oleh who was a lawyer in Canada. He talked about the difficulties people told him to expect and the encouraging reality that he found when he found a job as an attorney in Israel. The author of the article is the brother in law of Jewish Deaf Motorcycle Dad. HT to JDMD for quoting this article on his blog.

-Dixie Yid

Jewish Motorcyclists Visit Holocaust Memorial in Dixie

Look at THIS POST by Jewish Deaf Motorcycling Dad. It was from the annual trip of a national Jewish motorcycling group. He rode cross-country with this group down to the heart of Dixie, Whitwell, TN. There, they made a big visit to the public elementary school that created the Paper Clip Holocaust Memorial, that people may have heard about. I think people find it so fascinating because there is ostensibly no Jewish connection in a town like that, yet they were so moved by it to create this memorial. Interesting post and story so check out JDMD's post!

-Dixie Yid

Work & Law School Make Me BusyBusyBusy (Music Included)

A week from today, my relaxing vacation where I'm only working full time will come to an end. Alas, classes in my evening law school program start again next week and my posts will become less common as well. Then my life will once again come to resemble the life portrayed in the song, BusyBusyBusy, by Kevin Klein from a popular children's CD, Philadelphia Chickens.

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Let the four-way battle for my time begin! (Although it is still a three-way battle even now) My job demands 40 hours per week. My law school demands 9 hours per week of class, not to mention case preparation, studying, outlining, etc (I spend 16 hours per week there plus Motzoi Shabboses and Sundays as needed). My learning schedule is normally 13 hours per week. And I'm lucky if I can get in more than 30 minutes a day with my wife and most of Shabbos and Sunday with her and the kids. I feel bad being busybusybusy (TM), but it has been a conscious decision to make it that way for our family's benefit in the long run. B"H, everything's for a reason so let's make the most of every minute of it!

-Dixie Yid

Monday, August 20, 2007

Nice Mixed Marriage Background Baal Teshuva Story has an article called "My Son's Different Path,"written by a wife and mother in a mixed marriage who has two sons who are both Baalei Teshuva. My Dad forwarded me the article and it's quite apropos that he did, because there is a lot of similarity between the positive relationship between the parents and children, through the teshuva process, in the story and my own history and relationship with my family. I highly recommend it!

-Dixie Yid

Friday, August 17, 2007

My Answer to One of the Comments Received on Parenting

Although I didn't intend parenting to be the main topic of this post, it has been discussed in the comment section of that post. I received an interesting question to that post which I will quote here:

Menatzpach said...
If you did not have the daily responsibilities to learn Torah and attend minyanim could you be a better father?

A Simple Jew suggested I post my answer in a post of its own so here it is:


Thanks for the thoughful question. I can definitely see how it might seem outwardly like that might be the case... more time out of the house = less time with the children = not as good of a father.

However, I would actually be a worse father if I didn't go to daily minyanim and sedorim. My kids know that I get up very early in the morning (hours before they get up) to learn before davening. They also know that I (almost) always daven with a minyan. That teaches them a couple of things that they wouldn't get without those commitments. They see that commitment to Yiddishkeit and mitzvos is not only an obligation (which they are taught to keep as well by observing my commitment to it) but also that it is the most important and enjoyable part of my life. That teaches them that Yiddishkeit is not a burden but a privilge and a pleasure to their parents, and hopefully by example, to them as well.

Are they sometimes sad to see me go to minyan or that I am not there when they wake up? Sure. But that temporary discomfort is small in comparison to the lessons it teaches them, which help inform who they are as human beings and as Jews. And educating my children by influencing attitudes about commitment to the obligations and pleasures of Judaism is my first obligation as a parent. Besides, since I'm around less, they're even happier during the times I am around. If I was always present with them so many hours a day, then almost none of the time would be special and they wouldn't see me being commited to anything greater than myself and my family, which would be a bad lesson.

Hope that helps!

-Dixie Yid

(The Picture is "Waiting for Dad" from

How Does a Dispute Continue After Death?

It's not one of my best answers to a Q and A from A Simple Jew, but here is my response on the following question that he asked me:

A Simple Jew asks:

Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 199:6 states:

"Two people who hated one another should not be buried next to each other, for even in their death they will have no peace together."

How do Kabbalah and Chassidus elaborate on this phenomenon of two people continuing their dispute even after they are no longer alive?

Dixie Yid Answers:

At least I was able to include my rebbe's interesting take on the subject so check it out!

-Dixie Yid

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Documentary on German Jews Who Went Back to Fight the Nazis

Here's a video that Alice shared with me summarizing a documentary about Jews who escaped Nazi Germany and then joined the American army to fight the Nazis. I found it very interesting.

-Dixie Yid

Thoughts On Why I Am My Age & Inspired Parenting

A recent e-mail conversation with Mr. Uberdox reminded me that I wanted to share this story from this past Shabbos.

On Shabbos my 4 year old asked me how old I was. I told her my age. She asked me why I was that age. Thinking that it was a bit of a silly question, I answered her that it was because I was born exactly that many years ago. But right after I said it, I realized that that was the wrong answer. The real reason I'm 31 is because Hashem wanted me to be the age that I am today, as part of his plan for my Neshoma in this world. Therefore, he arranged it so that I would be born exactly that many years before today in order to work it out so that I would be just exactly that age right now. My being born that many years ago is not the cause, explaning why I am a certain age today. But rather, the fact that Hashem wanted me to be that age today is the reason why He arranged that I would be born a certain number of years prior to today.

This mind-bending, but more correct, answer to the question of why I am the age that I am, comes from the explanation of R' Tzvi Meir Zilberberg from a Kuntres on parenting as explained by Rav Moshe Weinberger in some fantastic tapes on parenting, called Inspired Parenting. I think that everyone who has kids or who will ever have kids or who is working in education must listen to these 10 shiurim! You can read about what these tapes have done for others at A Simple Jew, Modern Uberdox and Jewish Blogmeister.

-Dixie Yid

-Picture courtesy of

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

My Kids are Listening to Boys' Choirs!

The other day my 2 and a half year old son came to my wife and said, "I want Moshiach!" My wife was surprised and told him that that was great! He didn't seem satisfied and pulled her to the other room where our computer is and kept repeating, "I want Moshiach! Give me Moshiach!" It was then that she realized that he was talking about this music video by "Kinderlach," an Israeli boys choir.

The words they are singing are nice but I think the rap style and Michael Jackson-esque choreography are in very poor taste. It's a shame to see Jewish boys trained to sing such nice words in such a way which is imitative of the baser elements of society. In considerably better taste is the other favorite song of the aforementioned two and a half as well as our four year old, the song Kol Hamispalel by Yeshiva Boys Choir.

Aside from the silly choriography shots from the Queens College concert theat were interspersed throughout this video, I thought it was cuter and a little bit more innocent. The tune is also catchy. I am aware that I am risking raising the ire of the concensus of the Jblogosphere who find boys choirs as bad or worse than the "shiny shoe" music. In my defense, let it be known that the music that currently resounds in my car is Eitan Katz Unplugged doing Carlebach, Yosef Karduner's Breslover Melaveh Malka and Erez Levanon HY"D's Ohr Balev.

Although, is this any better?

-Dixie Yid

Monday, August 13, 2007

States I've Visited

create your own visited states map
or check out these Google Hacks.

-Dixie Yid

Looks Like the New Baby's Already Saying Kriyas Shema

-Dixie Yid

Thoughts on Avoiding Being a Judmental BT

Mark and David, at Beyond BT, asked in their suggested topics: Am I more judgemental of the non-observant since becoming a BT?

Please click here to read my Guest Posing over there! It relates, in part, to "limitations" on free will and it started what I think is an interesting discussion in the comments section.)

-Dixie Yid

Insignificant Mitzvos - Interpersonal Relations - Parshas Eikev

At the beginning of Parshas Eikev, the pasuk says, "וְהָיָה עֵקֶב תִּשְׁמְעוּן...וַאֲהֵבְךָ, וּבֵרַכְךָ וְהִרְבֶּךָ." Rashi brings down the Medrash Tanchuma (Parshas Eikev Siman 1) that, "שיש בהן מצות קלות שאין בני אדם משגיחין בהן אלא שמשליכין אותן תחת עקביהן." He tells us that the mitzvos whose reward is referenced at the beginning of Parshas Eikev are for us keeping those mitzovs which seem most insignificant, such that people generally trample over them with their heels. The context of this statement that Rashi distills for us is Dovid Hamelech's fear that perhaps he had transgressed one of those seemingly insignificant mitzvos. In the words of the Midrash, "היה דוד מתירא מיום הדין ואומר, רבונו של עולם, איני מתירא מן מצות החמורות שבתורה, שהן חמורות. ממה אני מתירא. מן המצות הקלות, שמא עברתי על אחת מהן." Dovid Hamelech was afraid of the Day of Judgement and he said, "Master of the World! I am not afraid of the weighty mitzvos in the Torah because they are weighty. What am I afriad of? From the insignificant mitzvos. Maybe I have transgressed one of them!"

My rebbe brought down this Rashi and Midrash Tanchuma and asked: If the "insignificant" mitzvos referred to by Rashi are Mitzvos D'oraisa or D'Rabanan that are commonly neglected, then how could Dovid Hamelech have thought that he had transgressed one of these mitzvos!? He was sinless (aside from the Ma'aseh with Bas Sheva and that is also not so simple). "Libi Chalal B'kirbi." Another proof that these מצות הקלות, "insignificant mitzvos" are not your average neglected mitzvos like lashon hara and others is that the Gemara in Chagiga 5a explicitly defines a very similar pasuk differently. The Gemara asks what is being referred to in the pasuk in Koheles 12:14 which says that Hashem judges us on the "hidden" sins. It says, "מאי 'על כל נעלם'? ...ושמואל אמר זה הרק בפני חבירו ונמאס." The hidden sins Hashem judges for are not even technically sins. The example Shmuel gives in the Gemara is spitting in front of someone, thus making him feel disgusted. Even doing something small which causes others around you a feeling of unpleasentness is considered something for which we are judged. And it is that higher level of sensitivity that Dovid Hamelech was afraid that he had transgressed in the Midrash Tanchuma.

According to my rebbe's connection of this Gemara in Chagiga to our pasuk in Parshas Eikev (which I believe he might have gotten from the sefer Darchei Noam by the current Slonimer Rebbe), the great rewards of that pasuk are meant for people who are considerate with other people on the "insignificant" things bein adam l'chaveiro. It's amazing that such great rewards are in store for people that avoid doing gross things like scratching excessively or picking their noses! (Excuse my vulgar prose...)

My rebbe ended with a great story about Rav Pam, zt"l, from the book, Beloved By All, about Rav Pam's life. Once on an erev Shabbos, a young mother whom Rav Pam knew from their Flatbush community called him in distress. She had just had a baby and the other kids were climbing the walls. Her husband was not going to come home from work for another hour. Could she put off doing certain things for the baby until Shabbos that she normally did before Shabbos? He answered her that he could not answer that shaila right on the spot and that he would call her back. The things she was asking about were clearly assur, but instead of answering her directly and leaving her with no plan or eitza, he asked two of his granddaughters to go over to her house. They arrived 10 minutes later at the young mother's house and one helped with the children and one helped in the kitchen. Rav Pam called back 30 minutes later and asked how she was doing. She thanked him and said that things were certainly much more managable now. He then answered her shaila, telling her that she would not be able to do those preperations for the baby on Shabbos.

He certainly exemplified the consideration and sensitivity we should exhibit towards others. It's a good example for us that we shouldn't cause any אי-נעימות, or unpleasentness to other people with our behavior.

May Hashem give us the strength, attention, and sensitivity to be conscious of the sensibilities of other people, and may we thereby see the rewards of Bracha, love, and children promised in Parshas Eikev!

-Dixie Yid

Friday, August 10, 2007

Son of Dixie, Ari Abramowitz, on Israel National Radio

I have heard about an interesting Yid from Dixie named Ari Abramowitz, who was chozer b'teshuva, made Aliya from Houston, TX, served in the Israeli army, and learned in Yeshiva in Israel. He, along with a nice bloke named Jeremy Gimpel, now have a radio show on Israel National Radio. His story is really quite amazing, as you can see from this article from The Jewish Press. After serving in the Israeli army, he sought some safe time by coming back to America for a period of time, at the urging of his parents. Two weeks later, he was stabbed twice in New York City! Needless to say, he's now back in Israel and working on his radio show and other projects.

His show is on Tuesdays at 10 AM Eastern time/5 PM Israel time. You can listen to it on Israel National Radio's website here. You can also listen to archived shows there or at his own site I linked to above.

It's nice to see a son of Dixie who's made good!

-Dixie Yid

(Picture courtesy of the

The Two Who Know You Better Than Anyone Else

A Simple Jew has posted a Q and A session with me today. Click here to see that post. Here is the question he asked me:

A Simple Jew asks:

The Chidushei HaRim once told one of his chassidim, "There are only two who truly know you: Hashem and your wife." After you asked your wife whether all the Torah you learned over the past year had contributed into making you into a better person, or whether he had just remained the same, what did she reply? In what areas did she note that you excelled and in which areas did she note that you needed improvement?

Dixie Yid answers:

-Dixie Yid

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Does This Mean That A Society's Morals Can Improve?

In order to stay sane while doing the mindless portions of my job, I use my mp3 player to keep my mind occupied while my hands are busy on the keyboard. Sometimes I listen to shiurim but I like to put more intellectual attention into listening to a shiur than I am able to while working. Therefore, since I have always liked literature, I have listened to a couple of free mp3 books that I got for free online at I recently listened to Alexandre Dumas' books, The Count of Monte Cristo, and The Three Musketeers. I had an observation, to be taken with a grain of salt since it assumes some similarity between the reality of the norms of French society and the picture of that society that the author portrays.

I noticed in The Count of Monte Cristo, which takes place in the first half of the nineteenth century, that ideas of religion and moral propriety were very deeply ingrained in French society in general at that time (which was current with the authorship of the book, which was in 1844). That atmosphere was in stark contrast with the moral environment portrayed in The Three Musketeers (which took place in the 1600s), which was much looser, much less formal, and things were done publicly in that world which would never have been acceptable in the world of The Count of Monte Criso.

It is apparent to me that Dumas expected his readers to be shocked by the conduct of the characters in the Musketeers book because he makes an off-hand comment to explain the difference between the readers' sensibilities and those of the characters he portrays in seventeenth century France. He briefly states that his readers should not be shocked at the behavior of some of the characters, as the morals in those days were not as strict as they were today (early 1800s)

If this general picture is somewhat reliable, then my impression is that the values and propriety improved markedly in France between the 1600s and the 1800s. Now, it seems that every year, the morals in today's society get worse. And each year, I think that we've hit the rock bottom. But things continue to get even worse. It seems like there is an inertia which makes the attainment or re-attainment of a moral society in America seem impossible. Perhaps there is hope for American society though. If the French people can do it between the 1600s and the 1800s, perhaps we in America can do it as well! (Any ideas on how this could realistically happen?)

-Dixie Yid

P.S. Here's another interesting quote from The Count of Monte Cristo.

"[T]he application of the axiom, 'Pretend to think well of yourself, and the world will think well of you,' [is] an axiom a hundred times more useful in society nowadays than that of the Greeks, 'Know thyself,' a knowledge for which, in our days, we have substituted the less difficult and more advantageous science of knowing others."

(The picture above is of Alexandre Dumas [Sr.])

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

All 22 Letters of Alef Beis Are Found in the Mogen Dovid

I don't know where he found it, but my Dad sent me an e-mail showing how all of the 22 letters of the Alef Beis are found in the Mogen Dovid. Another friend of mine showed me how the 10 sefiros are alluded to in the shape of the Mogen Dovid as well. Does anyone know what the basis for all of this is? (The only anomaly in this diagram is that in addition to the main 22 letters of the Alef Beis, they also include only 2 "Ender" letters, Mem and Nun.)

-Dixie Yid

Monday, August 6, 2007

New Bilvavi Mishkan Evneh Video Series Starting Thursday

I just received an e-mail from the gentelman at He informed me that the author of the Bilvavi seforim will be beginning a new series of video shiurim this coming Thursday at 8:30 PM Israel time (1:30 PM Eastern time). Keeping on the topic of "Self Knowledge," the Rav will begin a new series on the 10 Sefiros/Midos that exist within a person. You can watch the shiur live at Shorashim's live video shiur page here. You can also access their archive of these video shiurim here.

Update: I received an e-mail from someone who asked a question to the Bilvavi author and got an answer that related to how one should approach applying the teachings in the video shiurim vs. using the Bilvavi Seforim. I think many people might benefit from the Rav's advice. I'll copy paste that part of the text of his e-mail here:

"I sent in a question to the author if based on his last talk, everyone should first apply the material in the Shorashim talks before working on the material in the bilvavi books. I also asked if there is a particular order among the books. The response I received was that each person is different, so each person should work with what's right for his level, and there is no determined order between the books, or between them and the Shorashim workshop. If someone feels ready to work with emunah, he can go straight to the bilvavi books right away."

Answer in the original: "אין טבעי בנ"א שוים זה לזה. ולכך מי שאין לו גישה כלל לאמונה על דרך
כלל צריך את הקדמת שורשים. אולם מי שיש לו גישה טבעית לאמונה, אין שעורי
שורשים הכרחיים לתחילת עבודתו. מכיוון שאין דרך בני אדם שוה, לכך א"א
לעשות סדר בספרים"

-Dixie Yid

Artistic Picture of Our New Baby

Baruch (Ken) Becker, from California, took one of the pictures of our new "Dixie Kid," as he called her, and altered it to create this beautiful picture out of it that I just had to share. (You can see other examples of his great work at here.) I want to thank him publicly for that beautiful gesture. Thank you! It's very beautiful. I'm also posting a picture of her tiny toes. Thank you also to everyone who left those beautiful comments on my announcement post. The thoguhtfullness out there from everyone is so heartwarming. My wife and parents have really gotten a lot of pleasure from reading those comments.

-Dixie Yid