Thursday, January 31, 2008

Why I Wrote A Doctoral Disseration on the Aish Kodesh - Rav Zvi Leshem

In this post, Rav Zvi Leshem answers a question I posed to him about why he chose to write a doctoral disseration on the Rav Klonymous Kalmish Shapiro, the Aish Kodesh. I am very pleased to present his response.

Rav Zvi Leshem

In the midst of the post-doctoral “euphoria”, an anonymous Chassidishe blogger sent me the following sobering question:

Can I ask you what moved you to get a masters and a doctorate? You already have all of the qualifications you will ever need in your teaching career and as the Rav of a Shul. And if you just wanted a reason to write about the Piaseczna, then you could have simply written a regular sefer about him.

The following is an attempt to give a brief answer to this serious question, which of course touches upon the question of our attitude towards academic Judaic Studies. Firstly, on the “technical” level, while it is true that I already have, BH, a important position in chinuch, having a PhD does open up the possibility of teaching in university or college (in Israel this primarily means teachers’ college), which is a chance to reach more people. In that sense, an academic degree, like many other things in our world, is a vessel that can be used for good or for bad, in Kabalistic terms, an aspect of klipat noga.

More to the point, I would first state that studying Judaic Studies at University is not for everyone. One may be confronted with varying degrees of heresies that can result in shvirat hakalim, shattering the vessels of the student who is not properly prepared.[1] Returning to the university after close to thirty years in the Bet HaMidrash, I was confident that my Tora would help me to eat the fruit and throw away the peel, and yet the question remains, what did I hope to gain, and was I successful. And why not just write a book about the Piaseczner, why davka a PhD dissertation (which BeH will also become a book)?

At the university I found certain scholars with great knowledge of Kabbalah[2] who were able to teach me in a systematic way. I believe it is crucial to understand the historical underpinnings and interrelationships between the various schools of thoughts and books. My previously disorganized information was organized and sharpened. I was empowered to study works that were previously inaccessible to me. My teachers also pushed me constantly to do better. Had I merely written a book I would have had an editor correcting grammatical errors, but I would not have had a gaon in Kabbalah (my advisor, Prof. Moshe Halamish) constantly forcing me to check every reference, to learn more, to compare new things and to make sure that I understood everything and expressed it clearly. Nor would I have gained the breadth of knowledge that is expressed in my work. The depth of my understanding of these holy works is also incomparable to where it was four years ago. I thus have no doubt that my teaching of Chassidut has also improved dramatically as a result of this process. Perhaps it is just me, but I also needed the framework of a program that would constantly force me to progress and set deadlines that I needed to meet (especially since I did this work while working full time in education and having my own shul). I also learned a language that will better equip me to convey the truth of Chassidut to a much wider audience.

I would go one step further and posit that without my university training I don’t think I would have been able to properly understand certain aspects of the Piaseczner’s writings. I will give one example. The Rebbe writes repeatedly throughout his books that Chassidut is an expression of nevua, prophecy, and in fact it is clear that the Rebbe himself was both trying to achieve some level of nevua and to train his Chassidim to do so as well. Many people in the yeshiva velt refuse to believe that the Rebbe really means what he writes and attempt to explain this whole concept away. This is not surprising, for in yeshiva we were always taught the mainstream view that prophecy ceased with the return from Babylonia and the building of the Second Temple. A couple of years ago I participated in a course with my teacher Prof. Moshe Idel on Kabalistic Interpretations of the Concept of Prophecy. Here I was exposed for the first time to a significant counter-narrative which runs through many Kabalistic texts throughout the ages and maintains that prophecy did not cease and is still an option today. This opinion was the guiding force behind Rav Avraham Abulafia’s “Prophectic Kabbalah” (his term) in the late 13th century, and influenced, among others, Rav Moshe Cordovero in 16th century Zefat. Rav Abulafia’s prophetic techniques were a very major influence upon Rav Chaim Vital’s (also 16th century Zefat) Sheary Kedusha[3], which was one of the biggest influences upon the Piaseczner, especially in his Mevo HaShearim, the most important work for his theoretical definition of Chassidut. Without this course (which needless to say would never be given in a yeshiva setting), I would not have had the tools to begin to understand what the Piaseczner was really saying, in this, one of the most central tenants of his entire approach!

To sum up, I personally benefited greatly from my university training, and the rigorous demands that were made upon me throughout the entire process. The work that I produced was of infinitely greater quality than what I could have produced “on my own”. For me (and again, this is a personal and crucial point) the academic study I did in Kabbalah and Chassidut was a chizuk in emuna, and not, G-d forbid, a threat to it. I do believe that I have succeeded in harnessing academia as an aspect of my Avodat HaShem in a significant way. I thank the Kadosh Baruch Hu for guiding me through this process and pray that all I have done so far in this field and all that I will do in the future will be l’shem Shamayim and a Kiddush HaShem in the world. The ultimate goal remains that of the holy Baal Shem Tov and the Piaseczner Rebbe, k’sh’yafutzu maayanotecha chutza, to bring Mashiach by spreading Chassidut throughout the world.

[1]Using the categories from Rebbe Nachman’s famous Tora, Bo el Paro (Likutai Moharon 64), I would make the following distinction. Academic Bible studies as carried out in most universities are based upon the heresy of the “Documentary Hypothesis”, which I believe corresponds to Rebbe Nachman’s category of apikorsut that results from Shvirat HaKelim. Thus it is within the category of da ma shetashiv l’apikorus, and in theory, needs to be studied in order to be refuted. Nonetheless my honest assessment is that for most students and certainly for young ones this is extremely dangerous heresy that must be avoided at all costs. All other aspects of Jewish studies are, in my opinion, much less severe, and while not for everyone, can be studied by many. I believe that as in many other aspects of the world, it is important for anshei emuna to enter this field and attempt to redeem it from as much of the klipa that has accrued as is possible. There are nitzotzot here to be uplifted. There are also many young students in Judaic Studies who would certainly benefit from exposure to frum professors. As for what in academia would correspond to Rebbe Nachman’s second category of apikorsut that comes from the chalal hapanui, and is too dangerous for all but the Tzaddik who is like Moshe to confront, perhaps this would include certain aspects of postmodern philosophy. In a world that has been entirely de-constructed, leaving one with no Truth, one really can fall into the Chalal HaPanui, in much the same way that the excess focus on the nature of evil can send one over the abyss, G-d forbid.
[2] I would like to point out as well, that the professors that I studied with (I was quite picky), were, in my opinion, quite objective. I never felt that they were trying to convince me of something that was not in the text they were trying to explicate. (I did see this in other professors that I avoided. The presence or absence of a kipa on the professor’s head was not at all an indication of his likelihood to have a personal religious agenda to read into the text). On the other hand, as a yeshiva teacher, I am well aware of the tensions that may result when one is educating for yirat shemayim and dealing with a hashkafically difficult text.
[3] While the average reader may not detect this in the standard edition of Sheary Kedusha, the recently published Part Four, which was suppressed for hundreds of years due to its radical nature, is clearly an Abulafian work, and this sheds light on the rest of the work as well. See Ketavim Chadashim L’Rabeinu Chaim Vital, Jerusalem 1998. See my dissertation, Part Three, Chapter Seven, where I demonstrate the indirect influence (via Sheary Kedusha) of Rav Avraham Abulafia upon the Piaseczner.

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Modzitzer Melaveh Malka in Kew Gardens Hills, NY Next Week

Received via e-mail:

The Rabbi Israel D. Rosenberg Educational Institute
Congregation Etz Chaim

Velvel Pasternak
world renowned expert in Chassidic music

Motzei Shabbat Terumah
February 9, 2008
8:15 PM

A Modzitzer Melaveh Malkah
The program, part lecture, part music, part tasteful refreshments, will celebrate the musical tradition of the Modzitzer Chassidic dynasty, whose melodies are known to every Jew who steps into a shul, whether at Kaballat Shabbat, Musaf, or the Yamim Noraim

The program will be dedicated in honor of Judy and Abe Keehn, who have graciously extended their chesed to our shul in so many ways over the years

$5.00 suggested donation

Congregation Etz Chaim 147-19 73 Ave. Kew Gardens Hills

For more info, please contact Rabbi Moshe Rosenberg at rabbi(@)

-Dixie Yid

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Niggun Neshama - Sung by Shlomo Katz - Video

-Dixie Yid

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Free Seforim Raffle

I received the following e-mail from Allison at Targum Press, announcing a free sefer raffle for people who become members at their website:

Targum Press online will raffle 10 free books this month – all members will be entered in the drawing. The 10 winners will get to choose a free book, any book from the entire online catalog. Get your chance to win – sign up at

-Dixie Yid

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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Yiras Hashem as the Way of Acquiring Wisdom - Meor Einayim - Bilvavi

Shmos 20:1 - וַיְדַבֵּר אֱלֹהִים אֵת כָּל-הַדְּבָרִים הָאֵלֶּה לֵאמֹר. - "And Elokim spoke these words, saying..."

Reb Nachum Chernobyler, on this pasuk, asks why Hashem chose to use the name "Elokim" to introduce the Aseres Hadibros, the ten commandments? The name Elokim indicates Hashem's trait of strict justice. Why does He use that name specificly right now?

He answers by saying a yesod that Yiras Hashem is the vessel required to acquire the Torah. And that Torah is enclothed and wrapped in Yiras Hashem. Therefore, in order to allow the Jewish people to have a vessel in which to receive the Torah, he first had to inspire them with fear of Hashem, Yirah. That is why he introduced the Aseres Hadibros with the name "Elokim," to instill the trait of Yirah necessary to be the vessel within which the Jewish people could receive the Torah.

The fact that Yirah is the Kli, the vessel, for Torah , and must preceed it, is seen from the pasuk in Tehillim 111:10, "רֵאשִׁית חָכְמָה יִרְאַת ה." "The beginning of wisdom [Torah] is Yiras Hashem." Also, it says in Pirkei Avos 3:11, "כל שיראת חטאו קודמת לחכמתו, חכמתו מתקיימת; וכל שחכמתו קודמת ליראת חטאו, אין חכמתו מתקיימת." "Anyone who has fear of sin that preceeds his wisdom, his wisdom will endure. And anyone whos wisdom preceeds his fear of sin, his wisdom will not endure." This, again, is because Yirah is the vessel within which Chochma, Torah, can exist. Without it, there is nothing to hold the wisdom, and it will necessarily dissipate.

He uses this yesod to explain several things. He says that this was how Avraham knew the whole Torah, even though Hashem had never revealed it to him. Since Avraham had Yiras Hashem ("עַתָּה יָדַעְתִּי כִּי-יְרֵא אֱלֹהִים אַתָּה," "Now I know that you are one who fears Elokim." - Breishis 22:12), Chochmas Hatorah automaticly came bundled up with it, since Yirah is the garmet for the Torah.

Also, he uses this yesod to explain why Hashem gave over all of the words of the Aseres Hadibros with one utterance, simultaneously. It seems difficult to understand how Hashem could have expected the Jewish people to understand this message, when the ear cannot hear words unless they are spoken one by one! He answers that by speaking the the whole Torah in one utterance, it also instilled fear in the people, and again, with this fear came bundled the understanding of the Torah. It was not communicated in the words, but rather in the Yiras Hashem of the moment.

In our generation, we don't like to think too much about Yiras Hashem. It's an unpleasant subject. But the most practical advice I've seen that is still geared towards our current generation is in the sefer Bilvavi MIshkan Evneh. Both in volume 1 and 2, he has sections with practical, step-by-step advice on how we can attain the different levels of Yirah. He breaks Yirah down into its 5 component parts and explains how to attain each level, one by one. It is highly recommended, and almost the only thing you'll find out there with practical advice on how to do this and why it's important, even in our generation!

-Dixie Yid

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My Favorite Nochi Krohn Band Song - Ki Heim Chayeinu - Video

This is my favorite song from the Ananim album from the Nochi Krohn Band

-Dixie Yid

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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Awareness of Hashem - The Bilvavi Way - Guest Post

The following is a comment left on Reb Yerachmiel's shiur from this morning. It is a must-must-must read for anyone wanting to accomplish what must be accomplish when learning Torah. It includes two articles by Rabbi Boroch Leff (And thank you to Jasmine for pointing out the identity of the author of the articles).

I got a hold of these two articles relevant to the shiur, printed in Yated Neeman a few months ago.

Hashem Awareness Even When Learning Torah: The Bilvavi Way

Perhaps you were surprised by the title: Even when learning Torah? Isn’t it obvious that when we learn Torah we are performing a mitzvah and are very much aware of Hashem? Let me tell you a story which will explain the title.
The famous Rav Shmelka of Nikolsburg was once learning in the beis medrash alongside his equally famous brother Rav Pinchas Horowitz, author of the seforim HaMakneh and Haflaah. Rav Pinchas noticed that every so often, the shammas of Rav Shmelke would interrupt Rav Shmelke and whisper something into his ear. After a number of times of watching this, Rav Pinchas couldn’t contain his curiosity bordering on anger at the shammas for interrupting his brother’s learning.
Rav Pinchas finally asked his brother what the shammas was saying to him, “Why do you permit him to continuously interrupt your learning?! Tell him of the prohibition of bitul Torah—that he shouldn’t waste any of your time, especially when you are learning in the beis medrash!”
Rav Shmelke responded, “My brother, you misunderstand. I told my shammas to do it. You see, when I learn Torah, there are times that I get so involved in what I’m learning and I enjoy it so much that I forget there’s a Ribbono Shel Olam! I told my shammas that every so often, even when I’m learning, he should whisper in my ear, ‘There is a Ribbono Shel Olam!’ This is what brings me back to the purpose of my learning Torah—to understand Hashem and His will better and to attach myself to Him!”

A poignant story. The story’s lesson is related to what the Kotzker Rebbe once said, “The Torah prohibits us from doing avoda zara. . .even of the Torah itself!” This means that we can’t allow our Torah learning to take on a life of its own. We must always learn with a real and continuous awareness of why we are learning and for whom we are learning.

This does not mean that we must meditate upon Hashem at every moment. Certainly, when we learn, we must concentrate and attempt to understand what Rashi and Tosafos and the Rashba are saying. But, as Rav Shlomo Brevda, shlita, once told me, in order to maximize the hashpaah, the powerful spiritual influence that Torah study can have upon our souls and our midos, we must fulfill the requirements of Rav Chaim Volozhin in the Nefesh HaChaim (Shaar 4:6): “This is the proper true path that Hashem has chosen. Whenever a person prepares himself to learn Torah, he should sit down before he learns, at least for a short time, with a pure heartfelt fear of Hashem, and confess his sins from the depths of his heart, so that his Torah will be more pure and holy. He should then have in mind that he will attach himself to Hashem through learning His Torah, because by studying the word of Hashem, halacha, with all one’s strength, with this one attaches himself to Hashem as much as possible. This is because He and His will (the Torah) are One.”

The Nefesh HaChaim (4:7) continues: “Before learning Torah, a person should think about Hashem with purity of heart and fear of Him, and cleanse himself with thoughts of repentance, so that He can connect and attach himself to the will of G-d when he learns. He should also accept upon himself to observe and fulfill all that is written in the entire Torah. . .he should pray that Hashem will lead him to discover the truth of Torah.”
“This should be done even in the middle of learning. Permission is given to interrupt regular learning subjects, for a short time, before the passion of the fear of Hashem becomes extinguished from his heart, (to reignite) all that he accepted upon himself before he began learning. He should think again of the fear of Hashem. . .This is not bitul Torah, because it is necessary in order for the Torah to have a lasting impact.”
This approach to Torah study is vital in order to avoid the warning of the Kotzker Rebbe mentioned above. By actively and directly connecting our Talmud Torah to the Ribbono Shel Olam in a real sense, and not merely in a general, disconnected way, the learning becomes a vehicle for true dveikus with Hashem.

Rav Shlomo Wolbe, ztl, writes similar thoughts in Alei Shur (Volume 2, page 106). He says that there are many ways to learn Torah—iyun, bekius, pilpul, in-depth analysis, general factual knowledge. But there is also a ‘Yiras Shamayim’ way of learning. This path does not negate any of the others but accompanies them. Every sugya and subject in Shas has the fear of Hashem within it if we only pay attention to it. All of the decrees from the rabannan are derived from a fear of Hashem not to transgress His Torah.
Rav Wolbe continues, a person can inject fear of Hashem into all that he learns. Frequently, the gemara says ‘Amar Mar—the (anonymous) Master said.’ The Midrash Tanchuma says that Mar refers to Hashem! Thus, instead of saying Mar, when learning the gemara, one should substitute the words Amar HaKadosh Baruch Hu! and then state the halacha the gemara mentions! This is the path and method that Rav Yisrael Salanter utilized to directly connect what he was learning to Hashem and His ratzon. This is how we can discover yirah and mussar in whatever we learn.

The Bilvavi Mishkan Evneh states that fulfilling the Nefesh HaChaim’s guide to Torah learning is a major component to the mitzvah of shivisi Hashem l’negdi samid, I set Hashem before me always (Tehillim 16:8). Though the Rema begins Shulchan Aruch by saying this avodah of shivisi is among the maalos of tzadikim, the highest levels of the righteous, the Biur HaGra there says, ‘This concept includes all the levels of the righteous—vezehu kol maalos hatzadikim!’

If we want to Grow. . .UP, we must work on trying to feel Hashem’s presence at all times, and as we’ve seen, this applies even when we are learning Torah.

May this article be a zechus for a refuah shlaimah b’karov to Yehudis Sarah bas Esther.

Hashem Awareness Even When Learning Torah-Part 2
The Bilvavi Way

What is the goal of life? Bilvavi Mishkan Evneh (Volume 3) states that we must crystallize the answer to this question before we can progress in our service of Hashem. Now, we think the answer to this question is very obvious—most people would say the goal of life is to involve ourselves in mitzvos, and to learn Torah in order to know Shas and poskim. But the Ramchal writes differently.
In Mesilas Yesharim, right in the beginning of the first perek, the Ramchal says the goal of life is to ‘l’hisaneg al Hashem’, to derive pleasure from being close to Hashem. We are to put all of our drives into coming close to Hashem, to the ultimate extent of being drawn like a magnet to Him. This doesn’t mean, says Bilvavi, that we are not supposed to learn as much Torah as we can at every possible moment, trying to know Shas and poskim. As Chazal say, the world only continues to exist through the merit of learning Torah. But we must realize that the purpose of all of our learning is to attach ourselves to Hashem.
There are those who say that since the Zohar says that HaKadosh Baruch Hu, Oraysa, V’Yisrael Chad Hu—Hashem, the Torah, and the Jewish people are one, then when we learn Torah, we are anyway attaching ourselves to Him, whether we intend to or not. If we are attached to the Torah, we are attached to Hashem.
But Bilvavi points out that one can’t consciously ignore dveykus B’Hashem even when learning Torah, because according to this thinking, then when we’re involved and attached to other Jews, or when we’re attached to ourselves, we’re also attached to Hashem. After all, the Zohar says Yisrael V’Hashem is also chad hu. Rather, even when learning Torah, we must make a conscious effort to be cognizant of the goal which Torah learning is supposed to produce—dveykus b’Hashem.

This is what we cited from the Nefesh HaChaim last week, “Before learning Torah, a person should think about Hashem with purity of heart and fear of Him, and cleanse himself with thoughts of repentance, so that He can connect and attach himself to the will of G-d when he learns. He should also accept upon himself to observe and fulfill all that is written in the entire Torah. . .he should pray that Hashem will lead him to discover the truth of Torah. . . .This should be done even in the middle of learning. Permission is given to interrupt his regular learning subjects, for a short time, before the passion of the fear of Hashem becomes extinguished from his heart, (to reignite) all that he accepted upon himself before he began learning. He should think again of the fear of Hashem. . .This is not bitul Torah, because it is necessary in order for the Torah to have a lasting impact.”

Rav Shimshon Pincus (Nefesh Shimshon-Torah V’Kinyaneha, page 218) says that if a person wants to be able to learn Torah with an awareness of Hashem, he should make sure to recite the tefila from Chazal that is designed to be said before we learn Torah. The Mishna in Brachos 28b says that Rav Nechunya ben Hakanah would recite a tefila before he entered the beis midrash to learn Torah. The tefila was comprised of a request that he become successful to discover the truth of Torah and avoid any obstacles that would stand in the way of this goal. He would also say a tefila after he left the beis midrash thanking Hashem for the merit to be able to learn Torah.
The Mishna Berura (110:37) brings the Rambam in the Peirush Mishnayos who says that reciting this tefila is an absolute obligation because the mishna did not tell us what Rav Nechunya did to simply tell us a story; rather, the mishna is telling us what we must do to emulate Rav Nechunya. Rav Pincus declares that whoever says this tefila is guaranteed to be successful in his learning.
Rav Pincus continues to say that when we learn we should envison Hakadosh Baruch Hu Himself as our chavrusa, learning with us. The Nefesh Hachaim shows from many statements in Chazal that when we learn Torah, Hashem is mouthing the words along with us. He is literally with us—and we must be fully cognizant of this attachment with Him we can attain when we learn, if we seek it.
Learning without an awareness of Hashem is the issue which was responsible for the destruction of the land of Israel. The Ran mentions in the name of Rabbeinu Yona an explanation of the Gemara in Nedarim 81a which expounds a pasuk in Yirmiyahu which says that the destruction occurred because "they abandoned my Torah" [9:12] to mean the fact that Jews did not recite the blessing before learning Torah. Rabbeinu Yona explains that the reason why the Gemara did not want to interpret the pasuk literally (that people abandoned the Torah and simply did not learn it at all), was because the Gemara previously mentioned that prophets and scholars were consulted and they didn’t have an interpretation of the pasuk. This could not have been the case if Jews didn’t learn Torah at all—it would have been noticeable then.

Therefore, Rabbeinu Yona explains that "they abandoned my Torah" must not refer to something obvious or evident. This is why the gemara says it was necessary for Hashem Himself to reveal to us the nature of the sin.

Rabbeinu Yona continues by explaining as follows: that generation certainly occupied themselves with constant Torah learning, but people did not recite the bracha over learning Torah. This means that they did not consider Torah exalted enough to be worthy of a bracha. People did learn Torah. Everyone had fixed times for studying Torah. However, they did not consider the Torah learning as a holy pursuit so. They did not recite the bracha over Torah because they didn’t learn with the goal of attaching themselves to G-d. They learned merely out of enjoyment.
We must learn with Hashem awareness if our learning is to help us grow. . .UP!

May this article be a zechus for a refuah shlaimah b’karov to Yehudis Sarah bas Esther.

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Shlomo Katz's "Shabbos Kodesh" Niggun - Video - An Aish Kodesh Classic!

I'm posting this video of Shlomo Katz singing his famous "Shabbos Kodesh" Niggun, at the suggestion of this commenter. I understand that is is a classic niggun sung at Congregation Aish Kodesh in Woodmere, NY

-Dixie Yid

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Can Unbalanced Parenting Styles be Successful?

Click on over to A Simple Jew for my answer to the following question about the balance, or lack thereof, between the traits of Chesed and Gevurah (kindness and strictness) in parenting:

A Simple Jew asks:

On a few occasions, I have witnessed examples of working fathers still attempting to play the role of traditional nurturing mother because of their distaste to sometime have to play the stricter masculine role that a father is often required to play. Instead providing the counterbalance of gevura, this type of father will attempt to replicate the chesed exhibited by the mother so he never has to be viewed as the "mean" parent. Rachel Arbus once wrote, "Parents need not act in the same manner - but they must have similar philosophies and a common goal."

Do you think it is possible that a chesed-chesed type of parenting style can ever be successful? Also, do you think it would be possible that a chesed-gevura parenting style with flipped roles with the father as the chesed and mother as the gevura be successful?

Dixie Yid Answers:


-Dixie Yid

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Torah & Devaikus Ba'Hashem: (Re)Uniting the Two- Audio Shiur

In this week's shiur, Reb Yerachmiel continued an analysis of the fourth bracha of Shemoneh Esrei, "Atah Chonain". In doing so he discussed the most fundamental of differences between chachmas ha'goyim and chachmas Ha'Torah, namely, contact with and a connection to, a living, real Hashem, and taught-over a vital and breathtaking perek from Bilvavi Mishkan Evneh (Chelek Alef, Perek 133) which instructs us how a Jew on any level can immediately immerse himself in Torah-study and simultaneously be davuk to Hashem.

Also, at the beginning of the shiur there's the chevrah over there sing Shlomo Carlebach's Niggun Neshama. Very worthwhile!

The Shiur is in two parts. To listen online, click HERE FOR PART ONE and HERE FOR PART TWO.

To download, click HERE FOR PART ONE and HERE FOR PART TWO.

Update: For anyone who wants to understand more about what Reb Yerachmiel is saying in this shiur about how to accomplish what is meant to be accomplished when one is learning Torah, you must read these articles, which were left as a comment on this post.

-Dixie Yid

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Monday, January 28, 2008

How the Man-Man Mitzvos Coorespond to the Man-G-d Mitzvos - Kli Yakar

The Kli Yakar on Shmos 20:13, the Aseres Hadibros, gives a fascinating explanation of the coorespondance between the dibros on the first tablet and the dibros on the second tablet. Underlying this explanation is the well-known question: Why are the dibros on two tablets? They could have been a list of ten on only one piece of stone. The implied answer to this unspoken question is that they were placed with 5 on one and 5 on the other in order to show that the dibros that were side-by-side were meant to coorespond to one another (i.e. 1 cooresponds with 6, 2 to 7, etc.).

The Kli Yakar goes through these 5 pairs of dibros and explains the coorespondance in sometimes very fascinating ways. Here we go:

  1. "I am Hashem." - "Don't Murder."
    Man is created in the image of G-d. If one person kills another, then he is lessening the Presence of G-d in the world, which is a derogation of human recognition of G-d existence, which is commanded by the mitzva, “I am Hashem.”
    b) Even though Hashem has no form, the Kli Yakar says that when he gives people a prophetic vision, he uses a human image in the vision. (c.f. Yechezkel 1:26 "וְעַל דְּמוּת הַכִּסֵּא דְּמוּת כְּמַרְאֵה אָדָם עָלָיו מִלְמָעְלָה.") When one kills another he shows distain for the image of man, and causes Hashem not to want to make his presence known in the world in that way any more. This idea can be seen from the verse about not disrespecting a human body in Devarim 21:22, "כִּי-קִלְלַת אֱלֹהִים תָּלוּי."
    c) Yaakov Avinu choose Hashem as his portion. Eisav his brother choose to live by the sword. The fact that he killed people caused him to deny the existance of G-d (Bava Basra 16b -"וכפר בעיקר כתיב הכא (בראשית כה) למה זה לי וכתיב התם (שמות טו) זה אלי ואנוהו...") Therefore, when when commits murder, it causes him to deny G-d's existance and that is why the dibur of Anochi Hashem cooresponds with the dibur of Lo Tirtzach.

  2. "There Shall be no other gods before Me" - "Don't commit adultery."
    Not only are Jews who worship idols compared to an unfaithful wife (see, Yechezkel 16:32- "הָאִשָּׁה הַמְּנָאָפֶת תַּחַת אִישָׁהּ תִּקַּח אֶת-זָרִים.."), but immoral relations with idol worshiping nations leads directly to actual idol worship, as we see in Devarim 7:4, which forbids intermarriage, with one reason being that it causes Jewish people to turn away from Hashem.

  3. "Don't take G-d's name in vain" - "Don't steal."
    When one steals, he will get taken to court and will eventually have to make an oath to prove that what he is saying is true. In that false oath, he will use G-d's name in vain.

  4. "Remember Shabbos to keep it holy." - "Don't bear false testimony."
    One must not only keep Shabbos by not doing forbidden labor, but by not even speaking about worldly, weekday concerns, as the pasuk says in Yeshaya 58:13 as interpretted in the Gemara Shabbos 113b, "שלא יהא דבורך של שבת כדבורך של חול." If a person learns to sanctify his words to the extent that he will fully keep Shabbos by only speaking about spiritual things on Shabbos, then he will certainly not come to diminish the value of his words by uttering false testimony.

  5. "Honor your father and your mother" - "Don't covet"
    One who covets anothe woman besides his wife will have children who do not honor their father or mother. Why? He will think of the other woman while his child is being conceived, and since everything goes after one's intentions, it will be as if that child does not belong to his mother, and so he will disrespect her. Also, since his father did not intent to create a child, but rather to fulfill a base desire, the child will unconsciously know that his father is not really his father, since the father didn't really intend the son's creation at the time of conception. (See also, Tzidkus Hatzadik 144 on this). Therefore, he will not respect his father either. This is the reason for the coorespondance between coveting and parental honor.
    b) One who desires physical things will think more about the inheritance that he will get from his parents, as they get older, than he will about his parents' actual wellbeing. Therefore, he will scrimp and be cheap when it comes to taking care of his parents in their old age, as an expression of his coveting their money. This is also how coveting leads to a derogation of the mitzva to honor one's parents.

-Dixie Yid

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Where Do Childrearing Problems Come From? - Guest Post by Rav Chaim Morgenstern

This is the second guest posting by Rabbi Chaim Morgenstern. Part 1 is available HERE. He has been lecturing at EYHAT, Aish Hatorah's women's seminary. He has many of his shiurim available at Aish Audio HERE. Also, this guest post is also the second part of a new series on Chinuch that he will be contributing at You can listen to his shiurim for free as well at Kol Halashon. Rabbi Morgenstern is on the lecture circuit in the United States frequently and speaks to groups primariily on the topics of family relationships, Shalom bayis, chinuch habanim, shidduchim & personal growth. You can reach him to inquire about having him speak at your mosad HERE (Bio, speaking, and contact information available there).

-Dixie Yid

II. The Skill of Parenting

Once the parents feel their responsibility towards their children's chinuch, they must educate themselves how to do it properly & efficiently. By failing to do so, they may innocently make serious mistakes in their chinuch techniques, some of which may actually be counterproductive.
The following contemporary Rabbonim have expressed this concern in their public lectures:

● Rav Shimon Schwab, Rav of Kehillas Adas Yeshurin, N.Y. (Breuer’s), said, “We need a night kollel for parents to train them how to properly raise and be mechanech their children.”
● Rav Chaim Dov Keller, Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivas Telshe Chicago, once remarked, “Instead of teaching child psychology to the parents, we need a course in parent psychology.”
● Rav Nachum Diament, (Mashgiach of yeshivas Netivot Olam in Bnei Brak, and one of the foremost lecturers on family relationships in Israel), said “Parents often ask, ‘How should we deal with a child who is closed, quiet, stubborn, rebellious and is making our lives miserable?’ Some parents may rationalize by attributing certain negative behavioral patterns to the child's nature. However, the real answer is to reverse the question: ‘How should we deal with a problem child whose parents are…?’”; in other words, is it the child’s fault, or is the problem due to improper parenting?

Rav Diament once took his child to a physician. Trying to become friendly with the child, the doctor asked, "Are you a good child?” The Rav then interjected, “You're forcing my child to lie. What child would reply that he's bad?"
The doctor retorted, “Rabbi, you're mistaken. All children are born good. We are the ones who make them bad!”

This concept is alluded in our morning brachos - “אלוקי, נשמה שנתת בי טהורה היא...” – “My G-d, the soul that you gave us is pure…”. This pure soul, when properly nurtured, can be developed into the well-adjusted and balanced child that we are all praying for.


Our generation is witnessing a strange phenomenon. Despite the abundance of books, shiuirim, (both live and recorded), and parenting classes dealing with a wide spectrum of child raising issues, we are experiencing more child-raising problems and difficulties today than in previous generations. There are many reasons for this phenomenon. Firstly, parents who fail to feel the responsibility of their children’s chinuch or who lack parenting skills, (as previously mentioned), will certainly encounter child-raising difficulties.

However, there are two more primary causes of child-raising problems that are mentioned by contemporary rabbanim and educators:
1. parents’ approach towards chinuch, and
2. the is the negative influence that our anti-Torah society has on both parents and children. (Other reasons will be mentioned at a later point.

A. The Proper Approach Towards Chinuch

Rav Yechiel Yaakovson (one of the foremost Israeli lecturers and authorities on child-raising and children off the derech), once remarked that when parents speak or complain about their difficulties in child-raising, their intention is how to respond when a child isn't behaving. Many parents are under the misconception that chinuch is how to react to negative behavior of children, and invest very little time and energy into genuine chinuch and how to apply its principles. This results in the majority of their efforts being directed towards how to punish their children and applying the commonly used methods of anger, screaming, giving rebuke and mussar to assert themselves. Furthermore, parents are constantly telling their children what they are doing wrong, for example, not sitting and eating orderly at the table, or not behaving properly, without taking out the time to explain patiently what, how and why they should be doing them properly. This approach is NOT chinuch as Rav Shlomo Wolbe writes, “How foolish are parents whose thoughts and ideas on chinuch are limited to the question, ‘When should we hit our child?’ Woe to such chinuch!” (Alei Shur Vol. 2 p. 219).

This approach is counterproductive since children who are constantly criticized and punished by their parents have a tendency to resist being mechunach from them.

B. The Influence of our Society

The Rambam writes “people are influenced by the society in which they live.” (Hilchos Dayos 6:1 ; Rav Chaim Friedlander, in his preface to the Guide for Chasanim writes that lack of patience is a cause of many problems in family relationships.) Our society, which is replete with impatience, bad midos and anti-Torah hashkafos on chinuch and family relationships, is wreaking havoc on the Jewish family.
One of the key midos that is necessary to succeed in child-raising is patience. As Rav Wolbe writes, “Only with limitless patience can parents educate their children” (Alei Shur ibid). Yet, the mindset of today’s hi-tech fast-food society is just the opposite of patience. The microwave and ready-made foods offer meals in minutes; computers and cell phones enable people to communicate across the globe in seconds. People become frustrated if, for some reason, the connection takes a few seconds longer than usual. Although by making life easier, people can accomplish more in less time, nevertheless the big downside of these many conveniences is that people are not trained to face the challenges of life.

Therefore, when parents experience child-raising difficulties, they seek instant solutions. They may read a child-raising book or listen to some tapes, expecting that they will receive the exact necessary advice for their problem. Sometimes general advice works, but in many instances it doesn’t. Problems in child-raising are not like a headache or infection that can be automatically cured with painkillers or antibiotics. Each situation has many variables that depend on the child’s individual make-up, the parents’ capabilities, the existing parent-child relationship and numerous other factors. Realistically speaking, there would have to be tens of thousands of books on child-raising in order to cover every possible family situation. Parents must know how and when to apply child-raising principles to their individual situation, and patiently wait until their children absorb these principles and put them into practice.

There is an anecdote about a couple who were in the midst of a quarrel, when the husband suddenly excused himself for a moment and took out a book on shalom bayis. He remembered that the chapter dealing with quarreling discussed a similar scenario to the one he was having and gave instructions regarding what to say and do to resolve the dispute peacefully. He quickly memorized the guidelines, returned to his wife and started to repeat and act according to the book. To his surprise, the advice didn’t work.

Rav Wolbe once remarked that the purpose of general guidance is mainly to teach us not to do the wrong thing. Finding the proper way to handle any given situation involves many variables and often requires on-the-spot decisions. Even when parents seek counseling, their patience will be limited by their expectations of receiving a solution in one or two sessions. They often fail to realize that deep-rooted problems, especially the ones that exist for lengthy periods, need time to solve.

Lack of patience will cause a person who encounters difficulties in his child-raising to seek instant solutions and become frustrated if these solutions are not readily available. A parent who becomes frustrated will either become a “control freak” to his children order to enforce discipline or let the child do whatever he wants. Either way is harmful for the child’s development.

The conveniences of our affluent society are another cause of frustration. When purchasing food, clothing, appliances or electronic devices, we can usually acquire or order the exact make and model that suits our needs; settling for the second best has become a thing of the past. This lifestyle has lessened our ability to cope with life’s challenges because we also expect that everything in our lives should suit our exact needs. Therefore, when we encounter difficulties in life, whether it's between husband and wife, parents and children, at the workplace or in school, we become frustrated because we are not prepared to face these challenges if the situation or relationship is not suitable for our individual needs.
How other influences of our society create new challenges in child-raising will be mentioned in the forthcoming articles.


Main points to work and focus on for the next 2 weeks:

1) Parents must learn proper child-raising skills (parenting classes and workshops are a good source).
2) Chinuch is educating the child how and why to do what’s proper in the eyes of the Torah, not to constantly focus on telling the child what he’s doing wrong or how and when to punish him.
3) Parents must learn how to apply child-raising principles to their individual situation.
4) There are no instant solutions for child-raising. Much patience is needed to raise children properly. (Our society, which is the antitheses of patience, is adversely affecting our ability to properly raise children.)

(Picture courtesy of murderofravens)

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Sunday, January 27, 2008

"The Party" from 1984 vs. Yiddishkeit - Compare/Contrast/L'havdil

In George Orwell's book, 1984, he describes a world in which the totalitarian government ("The Party") seeks to have such total and complete domination over everyone in the country that their ultimate goal will not be acheived until even the innermost thoughts and beliefs of the Party members are competely defined by The Party's will.

This is true in the book ad kedei kach (to the extent) that when The Party says that something that happened yesterday didn't happen, the Party member must instantly change his memory of what happened yesterday and then erase his memory of the fact that he changed his memory at all. Winston, the main character's, sense of having a concrete perception of reality is so ingrained that he bristles and denies any possiblity of changing his own knowledge about realty just because of the will of The Party.

Mentally and physically, The Party breaks down any and all sense of self that Winston had, and fills up the empty shell that was previously occuppied by Winston's own sense of self, with the will of The Party.

The differences between anything in Yiddishkeit and the world of 1984 are obvious. The Party seeks to reconstruct people's conception of reality by replacing emes with sheker (truth with falsehood). Whereas Yiddishkeit teaches that we must correct our thinking from sheker to emes. The Party is motivated by and utilizes hate (Two Minutes Hate). Whereas Yiddishkeit's self-elevation program is synonymous with the ideas of Chesed and Ahava, kindness and love. The Party seeks to dominate the people. Whereas in Yiddishkeit, Hashem only desires to elevate and give goodness and truth to people.

One thing that strikes me about the book is that there is one similarity. The Party asserts that its reality is true, and that one must overcome their own personal perception of reality. L'havdil, in Torah also, we must know that the world and the reality that we see around us is the least real conception of reality. The world is merely the mask that hides the true nature of the universe which is that Ein Ode Milvado, there is nothing besides Him.

In Yiddishkeit, the idea is that the highest ideal is not to be wedded to our concrete, finite perception of reality. But rather, to nullify our perceptions to the Oneness of the Creator. The ideas of Bitul and Hiskalelus, total self-nullification and inclusion in the Divine Oneness, are the highest ideal!

I read this book about 12 years ago, and what struck me about it is that there is a similarity, l'havdil, in the thought process that O'Brian (the main antagonist in the story) forced upon Winston, and the thought process involved in letting go one one's ego and starting to perceive the Oneness of G-d that lies behind and within all of reality, and letting one's self go, in order to merge one's perception with the Divine reality.

-Dixie Yid

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Thursday, January 24, 2008

Shabbaton Coming Up in Indianapolis, IN With Simply Tzfat

Thanks to Steven Frankel, in Indianapolis, IN, I wanted to pass on this flyer he sent me with information on a Shabbaton in Indianapolis, IN on March 7th and 8th. It will feature Simply Tzfat.

Date: March 7/8th
Place: 6510 Hoover Road, Indianapolis, IN 46260
RSVP: 317-253-5253

Click on the image to get the rest of the details.

Update: Rabbi Zvi Leshem will be in Indianapolis the following weekend, March 14/15 for a Shabbaton the shul there. Rabbi Leshem will be giving the drasha and speaking 1 hour before mincha on that Shabbat. The Shul will also be celebrating the 80th birthday of his father (a Holocaust survivor) - so please join them for lunch! There is no fee.

-Dixie Yid

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Why Serving Hashem is Not Like Fulfilling Other Ta'avos/Desires

I opened up the Meor Einayim on Parshas Yisro and right at the beginning of the parsha (SLAM!) he hits me with a powerful yesod that goes to the essence of the difficulty in keeping up my resolve in avodas Hashem.

He asked what the big secret of "Na'aseh v'nishma," "We will do and we will hear," is, such that the Midrash says about it, "The angels asked, 'who revealed this secret, which is used by ministering angels?'"

He said that the way Hashem made the world is that first we must do tircha (toil) and avoda (work) in avodas Hashem. The next step after that is the pleasure of the Divine light from that avodas Hashem. He says that if we felt the true ta'anug from avodas Hashem while we were doing those mitzovs and abstaining from those aveiros, then we would serve Hashem to fulfill a ta'ava, a desire, just like we try to fulfill any other ta'ava.

However, after one does the avodas Hashem for a while, he does receve the ta'anug, the pleasure, from that avodas Hashem even in this life. That is what is called, "Olam Haboh," the "Coming World." It is called that because it refers to our worldy pleasure from serving Hashem. That pleasure is continually "coming" to us after a period of serving Hashem without that feeling of pleasure. In contrast, "Asid Lavoh," the "Future world" refers to the pleasures of the next world, as distinguished from the Divine pleasure that we can feel in this world.

This seems to me to be the hardest part of keeping up my resolve in growing in avodas Hashem. There seems to be such a lag time between the investment and the results! And I feel from reading this piece in the Meor Einayim that just when I usually give up is the moment right before I'm about to scale the crest of that mountain.

We have to be mechazeik ourselves not to give up during the "dry period" before the Divine pleasure from our avodas Hashem kicks in. But rather, we must know that it is coming, and that the fact that the gratification is not instant is what makes avodas Hashem into actual service of Hashem, rather than merely a way of serving ourselves.

-Dixie Yid

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Connecting to One's Family Minhagim - Tefillin

Click here to read this very interesting guest posting by Rabbi Shlomo Slatkin of Baltimore, the organizer of the Koidinover Rebbe's recent trip to the United States from Bnei Brak. He writes about how he came to connect with the place where his familiy is from, by connecting to his family's minhagim from generations before.

A Simple Jew: Guest Posting by Rabbi Shlomo Slatkin; The Pair of Teffilin

-Dixie Yid

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New Seminal Work on Rav Klonymous Kalmish Shapiro; the Aish Kodesh

There is a great Rav in E"Y named Rabbi Tzvi Leshem. For those of you who can't get enough of all things Piseczna, CLICK HERE to download his doctoral dissertation on the holy Aish Kodesh, Rav Klonymous Kalmish Shapiro. (Update: the file is now being hosted at esnips to hopefully avoid the downloading problems.) It is 316 pages long, written in Hebrew, and is entitled, Between Messianism and Prophecy: Hasidism According to the Piaseczner Rebbe. You can also subscribe to Rav Leshem's weekly e-mail drasha by e-mailing him at juliezvi(at)

Here is Rav Leshem's biography, from the Nishmat website:

Rav Zvi grew up in Cleveland Ohio and Indianapolis Indiana. He earned a B.A. in History from Columbia University as well as a B.A. in Talmud. Making aliya with his wife Julie in 1979, he spent eight years in the Kollel of Yeshivat HaMivtar, at the same time attending shiurim of gedolim such as Rav Shaul Yisraeli zt"l and Rav Aharon Lichtenstein shlit"a. He was ordained by the Israeli Chief Rabbinate and certified to serve as a Rav Shechuna. He is also an ordained Sofer Sta"m and Baal Magia. Rav Zvi earned an M.A. in Jewish Philosophy from Touro College where he wrote his thesis on "The Spiritual System of the Piaseczner Rebbe". He holds a doctorate degree at Bar Ilan University in Chassidic Thought, and is considered an expert in the writings of the Piaseczner Rebbe, upon whom he has written and lectured extensively. Rav Zvi was also a Jerusalem Fellow, where his projects were on "Tolerance and Pluralism in Relations between Religious and Secular Jews", and on "The Translation of Chassidic Educational Philosophy to the Current Educational Landscape". In 1986 he travelled to the Soviet Union on a secret mission to train underground Torah teachers.

Rav Zvi has taught in many Yeshivot and programs for young women, both Israeli and English speakers. He has been at Nishmat since the first day the school opened, and has served for eleven years as Associate Dean, as well as having directed the Alisa Flatow Overseas Program for many years. He teaches most areas of Torah studies, specializing in Gamara, halacha, and machshava, primarally Chassidut. He is know for developing especially warm relationships with students, and is sought out for advice in a wide range of personal and spiritual issues.

Rav Zvi and Julie, a Judaica and functional potter and ceramics teacher, make their home in Efrat with their six children and cat. Rav Zvi also serves there as the Spiritual Leader of Congregation Shirat Shlomo. The warm and fun atmosphere of their home and at their shul make it an attractive place for Nishmat students to spend shabbat in a very special atmosphere.

-Dixie Yid

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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Irish Yachad on Mandolin by "Mordechai" - Video

HT to Gruntig.

-Dixie Yid

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The Importance of Voting

A Public Alert to Our Fellow Jews in Our Country,
The United States of America

Gedolei Torah of previous generations have already proclaimed that every Jewish person should participate and vote in elections held in our benevolent country, the United States of America. This is for several reasons.

First, it is incumbent on us to be concerned about the interests of our fellow Jews, and we have indeed merited to see great accomplishments that American Jewry has attained with the help of Heaven through participation in the electoral process. Second, Divine providence has placed the United States today in the position of being the single greatest ally of the Jewish nation that lives in the Holy Land, concerned with protecting it from the “70 wolves” that surround it to destroy it, G-d forbid.

There is also the mandate of hakoras hatov (recognition of goodness), one of the bases of our belief, which makes it incumbent on us to express our gratitude to the benevolent country in which we dwell by participating in its elections.

Let no one free himself from that obligation with the argument that in a country as large as the United States his individual voice can make no difference. For we have seen a number of elections, most notably the presidential election of only a few years ago, that were decided by only a few hundred votes.

May Hashem guard us and save us from all crisis and evil decree, and from the difficult times in which we live, so that we will merit, soon in our days, the arrival of the ultimate redeemer, and the fulfillment through us of “And all the nations of the land will see that upon you the name of Hashem is called.”

The Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah in America
Sh’vat, 5768

קול קורא אל אחב”י במדינתנו ארה”ב
כבר הורו חכמים, גדולי תורה מדורות שלפנינו, שראוי לכל בן ישראל להשתתף ולהצביע בבחירות במדינתנו של חסד, ארצות הברית. וזה מטעם כמה סיבות.

לראשונה, עלינו לדאוג לאינטרסים של אחינו בית ישראל, וכבר זכינו לראות בעבר את ההשגות הגדולות שהשיגו יהדות ארה”ב, בסייעתא דשמיא, בכח הבחירות שלה. שנית, ההשגחה העליונה בימינו העמידה את ארה”ב כאומה העיקרית הדואגת על העם היושב בציון להצילו מה”שבעים זאבים” העומדים מסביבו לכלותו ר”ל.

ויש בזה גם ענין של הכרת הטוב, שהוא מיסודי הדת, ועלינו להביע הכרתינו להמלכות של חסד שבה אנו גרים על ידי השתתפותינו בבחירות.

ואל יפטר האדם את עצמו מחיובו לבחור עם הטענה שבארץ כל כך גדולה כמו ארה”ב אין הקול היחידי שלו מעלה ומוריד, כי כבר ראינו כמה בחירות, ובמיוחד הבחירות לנשיא של לפני שנים אחדות, שהוכרעו על ידי כמה מאות קולות.

ויה”ר שהקב”ה ישמרנו ויצילנו מכל צרה ומכל גזירה רעה, ומן השעות הקשות שבהן אנחנו חיים, ונזכה בקרוב בימינו לביאת גואל צדק, ויקויים בנו מה שנאמר “וראו כל עמי הארץ כי שם ה’ נקרא עליך”.
מועצת גדולי התורה באמריקה
ב’ שבט, תשס”ח

-Dixie Yid

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Klal U'Prat U'Klal Versus Ejusdem Generis

Klal U'prat u'klal: A general followed by a specific followed by a general, one may only include cases that are similar to the specific means that it doesn’t have to be the specific item, but it must be like the specific item.

Ejusdem Generis: Where a law lists specific classes of persons or things and then refers to them in general, the general statements only apply to the same kind of persons or things specifically listed. (this canon of stautory construction is not always used, but it is like a rule of thumb.)

I just came across the concept of ejusdem generis reading some cases today and realized that it's application is similar to the application of the principal of biblical exegesis (from Rebbi Yishmael's 13 midos she'hatorah nidreshes bahem). The interesting thing is that the cases in which it applies are when you have a principal in a statute, followed by specific examples. However, in Chumash, when you have a case like that, all you have are the specific examples actually mentioned and you may not expand the list at all. Whereas in application, a klal uprat uklal situation in Torah would be applied the same was as a plain klal u'prat in a secular statute. Interesting!

-Dixie Yid

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Haunting story from the Modzitz Dynasty

Check out Yitz and Heichal Hanegina's ma'aseh about Reb Yechezkel of Kuzmir. It's a great and haunting story.

Heichal Hanegina: Why Are You Staring at Me So Much?

Do you mean that your only concern is for your children, that they should grow up to be ehrlich [spiritually refined; not coarse]?

-Dixie Yid

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Learning Kabbalah: A Guest Posting by Rabbi Micha Golshevsky

Learning Kabbalah
"...ולא במעשה מרכבה ביחיד אלא אם כן היה חכם ומבין מדעתו..."

The Mishnah in Chagigah 11b, states that one should not teach Ma’aseh Merkavah, advanced Kabbalah, even to a single student unless he has already proven his wisdom and ability to grasp the subject matter independently.

Someone once saw Rav Shlomo Bloch, zt”l, learning the Zohar Hakadosh on Shabbos. He asked, “Isn’t this is in the category of Ma’aseh Merkavah?” The “Tzaddik Reb Shlomo” answered, “Actually, my Rebbe, the Chofetz Chaim, zt”l, would learn the Zohar Hakadosh on Shabbos and encouraged others to do so as well. He would even tell bochurim to learn through the Zohar on the parsha. He would say, ‘Most of the Zohar is like Medrash.’”

It was also known that the Chofetz Chaim, zt”l, felt that learning Zohar brings one to Yiras Shomayim.[1] The Chazon Ish, zt”l, likewise said to Rav Shmarayhu Greineman, zt”l, “There is no mussar sefer as good as the Zohar Hakadosh![2]

Someone asked the Chazon Ish, zt”l, “How about someone not on a level to learn Kabballah. Should he also learn Zohar?” The Gadol replied, “If you are doing it to learn this Chochmah it is prohibited. If your intention is that this limud bring to Yiras Shamayim, not only is it permitted, it is a mitzvah! No ma’amarei Chazal inspire as much as the Zohar Hakadosh![3]

The famous author of the Leshem Sh’vo V’Achlamah, zt”l, grandfather of Rav Eliyashiv, shlit”a, once confessed that, although he never met Rav Yisroel Salanter, zt”l, when he was a young man, he had always wanted to develop a relationship with the great Baal Mussar. What prevented him was his fear that Rav Yisroel would have tried to prevent him from spending the majority of his time studying nistar rather than nigleh.

Someone conveyed this to Rav Yisroel, who expressed some surprise at the younger man’s reservations. “On the contrary,” he said, “It never occurred to me to discourage a person from following the unique path he has chosen to come closer to Hashem![4]

[1] Meor Einei Yisrael, III,
[2] Ma’aseh Ish, III, pg. 95
[3] Ma’aseh Ish, IV, pg, 94
[4] Toras Rav Yisrael Salanter, pg, 276

-Rabbi Micha Golshevsky

Rabbi Golshevsky has informed me that, in honor of the Yortzeit of the author of the Hebrew peirush/teich on the Zohar called the Masok Midvash, Rav Doniel Frisch, zt"l, a new shedule in learning an amud a day of Zohar has been started. It is endorsed by Rav Ya'akov Meir Shechter, shlita, The Rebbi of Toldos Aharon, shlita, Rav Tzvi Meir Zilberberg shlita and Rav Yitzchak Moshe Ehrlinger shlita. They all recomended reading the amud yomi even if you don't understand it. Pictured below is the new schedule courtesy of Rav Micha Golshevsky and his Father-in-Law, who scanned it into the computer. Click on each image to enlarge and print them.

-Dixie Yid

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Please Take Part in Dixie Yid Poll on Right Sidebar

Please participate in the poll on the right sidebar. It asks which topics/types of posts you feel that you benefit the most from at Dixie Yid. You can check more than one answer. If you have other input that is not included in the poll, please feel free to leave comments here about it. Here are the multiple choice options:

1. Meor Einayim
2. Rav Kook
3. Audio Shiurim
4. Guest Postings
5. Gerus/Bnei Noach Issues
6. Stories - Sipurei Ma'asios

-Dixie Yid

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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

When the Soul's Pressure Makes the Heart Want to Explode

Rav Kook in Oros Hateshuva 15:4 talks about the bitterness the soul feels when the life of the person in whom it is trapped, does not give the soul it's powerful, true and full expression. He says that the soul contains (much like an atom) a tremendous amount of power. It desires to channel that power into an explosion of holiness and avodas Hashem.

When don't give it that expression, but rather only try to passify that inner pressing against the heart through shallow means, after time the pressure on the heart only continues to get even stronger. My Rebbe explained that when the energy is merely channeled into a new job, going back to school, a new hobby, a new car, a new girlfriend, a new blog, or whatever other type of emptiness, then the soul is not satisfied. It is like a tiny seed, with the potential to create a giant Redwood tree, that is never planted and allowed to express its desire for greatness. The soul will actually never find it satisfaction until it is finally given its true expression.

Rav Kook then asks what one must do to start allowing the neshoma to express its self. He says that one must begin to water that seed from the elevated fountains of holiness. And what does that mean? My rebbe explains that this means that one must begin to feed his soul with the Pnimius Hatorah, the inner teachings of Torah.

Now it doesn't matter whether what moves the person is learning Tanya or Sfas Emes or Meor Einayim. Nor does it matter if it's Nefesh Hachaim, Maharal or Rav Dessler. Although the majority of one's time is spent in understanding nigleh, Gemara and halacha, the standear curriculum of the yeshivos will not be enough to split the atoms of our and our children's neshamos and release all of that energy that longs to be expressed.

I had one kalta Litvak from my Kollel days who decried the fact that we've had such a yeridas hadoros that today, even regular people are daring to study Derech Hashem, even (gasp!) in English! Baruch Hashem that people don't listen to that kind of thinking. Our generation needs something deeper.

And Rav Kook explicitly says that it the soul will not be satisfied with substitutions for Pnimius Hatorah, the inner light of Torah, be it in the secular or the holy! This means that, as controvertial as it may sound, our souls will not be satisfied by the standard learning and practicing of Gemara and halacha alone. Of course, these must be the main staple of a Jew's spiritual diet, but they alone will not quench the soul's thirst for holiness and they will not show it how to fully express its self in this world.

I was thinking to myself: Although I, B"H, have some time each day to learn and daven a little bit, the majority of my time is spent on my full-time job and on the intense studies of evening law school. The vast majority of the time, don't I have no choice but to be frustrated by not being able to express my soul's yearning for constant avodas Hashem?

Then I remembered what Rav Shwartz wrote in Bilvavi Mishkan Evneh. In addition to making consciousness of Hashem's existance, presence, and constant hashgacha pratis, Divine Providence, our avoda is to constantly daven about every detail in life. The way to solidify consciousness of Hashem and avodas Hashem into every moment of life, especially the mundane, is by constantly davening about every detail of life.

"Hashem, why was I given this assignment by my boss right now? It is because it is Your will that I do that right now." "Hashem, why must I negotiate with small-minded people? Because it is Your will that I remember You in the midst of smallness." "Hashem, why do I have to spend dozens of hours doing detailed legal research and writing about ADA disability law? Because You have placed me here to remember You while I work on details."

May Rav Kook's teaching about awakening our souls with Pnimius Hatorah and the Bilvavi's advice on bringing "G-d consciousness" into every moment through constant tefillah help lift us up to actualize the great spiritual power within.

-Dixie Yid

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"Atah Chonein" - Baltimore Community Kollel Rav Pincus Chaburah

I'm proud to distribute Reb Yerachmiel's latest installment in his series of shiurim in the Baltimore Community Kollel Rav Pincus Chaburah on tefillah.

In this week's shiur Reb Yerachmiel gave an introduction to the fourth bracha of Shemoneh Esrei, "Atah Chonain", and quoted numerous divre chazal in driving-home the the many reasons why this bracha is not only the head, but the heart, of our precious Shemoneh Esrei.

You can listen to the shiur online HERE or download the shiur HERE.

-Dixie Yid

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Monday, January 21, 2008

The Chabakuk Elisha Nexus

I just learned from my rebbe that not only was Chabakuk haNavi the talmid of Elisha Hanavi, but, according to the Zohar, he was the very same son of the Isha Hashunamis, that Elisha Hanavi promised her, and who Elisha brought back to life.

The Zohar explains that he was called Chabakuk, from the lashon "Chibuk," "hug." However, Chabakuk is a double lashon of "hug," and therefore it should be translated at "Two hugs." One was the hug that Elisha Hanavi referred to when he promised the Isha Hashunamis a son by saying, (Melachim 2:4:16) "לַמּוֹעֵד הַזֶּה כָּעֵת חַיָּה אַתְּ חֹבֶקֶת בֵּן," "This time, next year, you will be hugging a son."

The second hug is the hug that Elisha himself gave Chabakuk, after he had died, while he was bringing him back to life. "וַיַּעַל וַיִּשְׁכַּב עַל-הַיֶּלֶד וַיָּשֶׂם פִּיו עַל-פִּיו וְעֵינָיו עַל-עֵינָיו וְכַפָּיו עַל-כַּפָּו וַיִּגְהַר עָלָיו וַיָּחָם בְּשַׂר הַיָּלֶד." (Melachim 2:4:34) "And [Elisha] went up and laid down on the boy['s body], and placed his mouth on his mouth and his eyes on his eyes, and his palms on his palms, and he warmed up the flesh of the boy."

My rebbe said that this reflects our way of life. Sometimes there are great lengths of time that go by before we feel that hug of Hashem in our lives. May it only be though, that we can merit to feel the warmth of Hashem's embrace without having to go through any aspect of death first, whether physical or spiritual!

-Dixie Yid

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Guest Posting - From Campus Crusader to Ben Noach

Guest Posting by a Ben Noach from Fort Carson, CO:

I grew up as a Christian in a relatively religious home. I was always involved with a pretty big church that my family went to. I would say that it was a very important part of my early life, up until I went to college. When I was in college I got really involved with a group called Campus Crusade, which tries to convert people to Christianity and bring non-religious christians, college kids, back into the church.

I thank Hashem to this day that I never heard of or, myself, tried to convert a Jew to Christianity, but that was not intentional. If you had asked me, back then, if I thought Jews should convert, I would have said, "Absolutely." Either way, one day I was walking through the library at my school looking for a book about Calvinistic Christian theology, because a friend of mine was very into theology at the time, and I came across the library's section of Jewish titles. As a spur of the moment sort of thing, I figured that since Christianity claimed to be descended from Judaism, it would be interesting to see what Jews had to say.

Before this I knew next to nothing about Judaism. So I picked up a small book that was called "Jewish Spirituality: A Brief Introduction for Christians." I ended up reading through the Jewish book and I barely touched the theology book that I had gotten. I can't remember exactly what that first book I read covered, but it struck a chord with me. I realized that I had never really read the first five books of the bible, since every christian considers them old and done away with. I decided to start reading through them from beginning to end time and time again in order to try and get a sense of what the Torah was saying.

At the same time I had begun working on praying and with out my knowing it at the time, was basically doing hisbodedus. So I started reading the Torah, which at that time I still refered to as the "Old Testament," and I fell in love with it to the point that many of my Christian friends would lecture me about the need to study the new testament since the old was not relevant anymore. After a little while, I came to the conclusion that Christianity was very far from were it originally started and that it was necessary to get back to the roots of Christianity.

I saw no reason why christians should not be following 'the law,' which is how christians refer to the Torah and Jewish lifestyle. After all, Christianity started as a sect of Judaism and I figured that if the founders of Christianity followed the Torah, then Christians today should also. From that time on, I ate up every Jewish source I could get in order to understand how the founders of Christianity lived and believed. I then found out that there was a growing movement of Christians doing the exact same thing that I was, around the world.

I basically got the point where I was reading more and more Jewish sources and doing away with Christian ones. At first I figured that the Talmud and Oral Torah were completely false and so I did not delve into that area of Judaism. Then slowly I began to see the beauty in the Oral Torah and fell inlove with the Talmud. During this time I was basically continually whittling away Christian doctrine that I saw had no foundation in Judaism or in the Torah, but I held firmly unto my core Christian beliefs.

I was aware that there were Jewish sources which refuted Chrsitianity but I ignored them because I figured that given enough time I would know enough to be able to refute the anti-missionaries and prove the truth of Christianity from Jewish sources. I was still very stubborn in the correctness of my Christian beliefs, even though I was doing away with everything else in the religion because it seemed ridiculous since it didn't match up with Jewish sources.

I was very serious about the entire thing. to the point that people were petitioning me to write acommentary on the new testament according to Jewish sources. Either way, as I committed myself more andmore the Torah and Talmud and the entire cornicupia of Jewish source, I figured that I would try and face what the anti-missionary groups were saying in refutationof christianity. Since by this time I already had a small amount of knowledge about most areas of Jewish life but I had a hard time refuting what the anti-missionary groups were saying. I struggled with it for alittle while until I realized that if I were going to continue in my path of Judaizing Christianity and stubbornly holding onto Christian beliefs in the face of all evidence to the contrary, I would basically be creating my own religion. Instead of following a path to Hashem, I would be creating my ownpath to a god that I had created on my own.

Thus I came to the conclusion that to be a member of any one religion, a person must take part in that religin's lifestyle according to the traditions established in the religion and not just believe and do whatever he wants. Thus, I came to the conclusion that since I trusted the Jewish tradition in everything else, it was ridiculous not the trust it in relation to the Moshiach as well. And the more I delve into it, the more I realize just how diametrically oppossed Christianity and Judaism are to one another and that I did not find Christianity to hold any amount of truth or validity.

Was it hard to leave behind Christianity? Yes, a little. But honestly I had already fallen so in love with everything Jewish that it was like stepping from one room into the next. The hardest part was losing all of the friends that I had whose entire life, as mine used to be, was oriented towards bringing people into Christianity. It was easier in part for my as well because I have a great relationship with my family and they were convinced, along with me of the ridiculousness of christianity and all christian beliefs and they became Bnei Noach too.

I know that a Ben Noach is only allowed to study those parts of Torah that are relevant to his performance of the Sheva Mitzvos Bnei Noach. At the time that I was studying in depth those parts of Torah I was still operating under the false assumptions of Christianity and did not really consider myself completely a ben noach/non-jew. That being said I prayed that I did not do too much damage to my soul by studying parts of Torah that I was not supposed to.

It wasn't until I left behind any vestige of Christian belief and study the matter from a Bnei Noach perspective that I realized that there was such prohibition of non-jews study parts of the Torah. Thus, after I left behind Christianity I discontinued my study of those parts of the Torah that I should not have been studying. To be honest, that is one of the greatest struggles that I have had in the whole change from being a Christian to being a Ben Noach with the hope of becoming Jewish.

I have a great longing to delve into the Gemara which, from the first moment I really started delving into it, I saw as the core of all things Jewish. I really look forward to the days after my eventual conversion that I can just sit and study the Gemara, the Rishonim, and the great works of Halachah.

Because of the way that I came to Judaism, albiet impure in it's beginnings, I have sort of been stuck in a life in-between. Though I now live a life in accordance with Sheva Mitzvos Bnei Noach, I had previously lived a full Jewish lifestyle al pi halachah and thus the transition for me from a Ben Noach to a Ger will, bezras Hashem, not be as difficult as for some others since many facets of daily Jewish life I am already acquainted with. That being said, the fact that I still have 2 and 1/2 years in the military before I can even beginning to take part in the Geirus process leaves me plenty of time to works on my avodas Hashem and those areas of musar and such that are applicable to Bnei Noach.

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