Friday, February 29, 2008

Rav Chaim Morgenstern on Parenting - Hypocricy - Tragic Ma'aseh w/Happy Ending

(Rabbi Chaim Morgenstern is on a speaking tour in LA from March 11th to the 17th. Here is his speaking schedule.)

Part Three

Practice What You Preach

Although it is quite obvious how poor role modeling is definitely harmful for a child’s Chinuch, there is another type of negative behavior that has a more detrimental effect on children: hypocrisy where parents don't practice what they preach. Hypocritical behavior teaches children that they can choose to do whatever pleases and suits them as the expression goes, “Ish kol hayashar b’einav ya’aseh” – each person can do whatever is right in his eyes. This is because contradictory behavior sends a clear message to children that their parents are insincere about their own teachings and ideals. Once the children see their parents’ insincerity, they will not only cease to take seriously any of their parents' teachings, but may even subconsciously associate their parents’ instructions to telling them to “jump off the roof.” Moreover, hypocritical parents may even rationalize to transgress an issur (prohibition). For example, parents will teach a child the severity of getting angry or speaking lashon hara, but will be quick to anger when being disturbed at the wrong time or speak lashon hara when angered by a neighbor. The following anecdote explains this:

A child returned from school with a note from his Rebbi stating: “Your son was caught lying in class. Please speak to him about the severity of this aveira.”
The father sat down with his son and began to patiently explain to him the whole subject of lying. Suddenly the phone rang, and, as his son was going to answer it, the father told him, “If that's Yankel calling, tell him that I'm not home!”

Can you imagine the impact of this remark on his son? The father has done something worse than just undoing his whole lecture and causing his child not to take the transgression of lying seriously. He has caused his child to lose all confidence in himself and his Chinuch. If the father can rationalize to lie after explaining the severity of it, what should prevent his son from copying his father's attitude in other areas like stealing, cheating, hurting another's feelings and speaking lashon hara? In this incident the father is sending a clear message to his son: when a necessity arises, one can be lenient even with a Torah prohibition. What can be more detrimental to a child than feeding him this concept?

Thus, hypocritical behavior results in parents subtly impressing on their children's tender minds their insincerity towards Torah, yiras shamayim and fulfilling mitzvos; and, it is as if they would say to their children, “Don't take my words seriously because I don't follow them myself!”
“I’m Different”

Sometimes, parents have an attitude that what they tell their children doesn't apply to themselves. Therefore, when questioned by their children about an action or behavior that doesn't correspond to their teachings, they will reply, “I'm different because I am a parent.” This again shows insincerity because it teaches the child that he is free to do as he pleases once he becomes a parent. However, sometimes a child will not wait until he becomes a parent to “be different.” Instead he will want to be different during his adolescent years when he is less dependent on his parents and feels that he has a good chance to succeed in rebelling.

This is illustrated by the story of a young teenage boy who slowly started to go off the derech. Eventually, he left yeshiva, ceased to be Torah observant and started to become part of a group of other family dropouts and delinquents. He went further and further away from Torah observance (and normalcy) until he reached a point where he was about to enter the world of drugs. Then, he suddenly came to his senses and became aware of how he was on the path to self-destruction and reaching a point of no return. He then immediately abandoned his ruinous lifestyle, returned to the yeshiva and in the course of time was back to normal. Although the cause of his decline was not known for many years, he eventually disclosed it to his Rebbi before his wedding.

“I know that you, amongst others, are probably wondering why I suddenly stopped being observant a few years ago. The truth of the matter is that it began much earlier when I was a child at the age of six. One day, my father told me that it is not proper to have a chup (nice hairdo) and that I must keep my hair short. I turned to him and innocently asked, ‘But Tatty, you have a chup with a nice set of hair, why can't I do the same?’ My father replied, ‘It's different because I am a father.’ His answer totally confused me, and caused me to become angry with him. When he subsequently made additional demands on me that he didn't keep himself, it set off a burning rage within me to rebel. However I was too young to do anything drastic. This anger remained with me until I reached my teens, and at that point, I rebelled because I felt that I could succeed.”

Rav Yechiel Yaakovson's cholent story aptly depicts how even a simple remark from a parent can have a very negative effect on their children.

A cheder (elementary school) rebbi once asked his class, “What is the most important thing in your lives?” One student answered, “Saying brachos and benching slowly with kavana (focusing on the meaning of the words).” Another boy said, “Cleaning up and brushing your teeth after each meal.” A third boy said, “Wiping your shoes from rain and mud before entering the home, and being careful to remove soiled shoes before sitting on the couch.” (Note how each child repeated what his parents taught him – consciously or subconsciously – about what’s important and meaningful in life.)

Suddenly, Yossi, who was seated in the corner, shouted out, “Cholent!” causing the entire class to burst into laughter. The rebbi turned to Yossi and asked, “Did I hear you correctly? Did you say cholent?”

“Yes,” replied Yossi, with a straight face.
Once the rebbi realized that the boy was serious and not looking for attention, he decided to wait until the break before speaking to him so as not to disrupt the lesson.

When the rebbi approached Yossi, he asked him, “Tell me, Yossi, where did you pick up this wild idea that cholent is the most important thing in one’s life?”

The boy shrugged his shoulders and refused to answer. But the rebbi persisted, and finally, with a bitter look in his eyes, Yossi blurted out, “My father!”

The rebbi couldn’t believe what he heard. “What!” he exclaimed. “Do you mean that your father taught you that? I have known your father for years, and I can’t believe that he would ever say such a thing.”

Still, Yossi sat in silence, and again the rebbi persisted to get a proper explanation. Finally, Yossi opened up and started to talk. “Even though my father never openly said so, it’s the truth and I’ll prove it to you. Each Shabbos, we take turns saying what we learned about the parsha at the Shabbos meal. My turn is during the daytime cholent meal after the entrée is served. Sometimes when I have much to say and my father is anxious to eat the cholent, he screams to my mother, ‘Cholent, nu, where is the cholent?’ Even when he eats the cholent, he shows no interest in what I’m saying. He just nods his head and says, ‘Yes, yes,’ to all I say. He’s not even bothered by the fact that no one else is paying attention to what I’m saying. If my father can interrupt my Dvar Torah for the sake of his cholent, then it is quite obvious that cholent is more important than the Torah. Therefore, anything that is more important than the Torah must be the most important thing in the world.”

The rebbi was shocked by Yossi’s story, and after a moment’s thought he retorted, “Now, Yossi, you know that can’t be true. Do you mean to say that if your father had a choice between learning with his chavrusa or eating cholent, he would eat a bowl of cholent?”
Yossi thought a moment and replied, “I’m sorry rebbi, but you must be referring to his Torah. That is more important than cholent, not my Torah!”

Yossi’s father’s few words caused his child to have a major misconception that there is something more important than Torah, chas veshalom.

When Yossi’s father learned of what happened in school, he immediately changed the whole atmosphere at the Shabbos table. Whenever any of the children say a D’var Torah, he stops the meal and requires everyone to listen intently. He then briefly summarizes the D’var Torah to ensure that the entire family understood it and warmly thanks the child for teaching the family something new. Eventually, Yossi’s attitude changed toward his father, and he came to realize that Torah was indeed more important than cholent.

It’s Never to Late.

Parents commonly ask “What should we do if we cannot be a good example for our children in certain areas of Chinuch?” This is especially true when the parents are baalei teshuva or didn’t have the same yeshiva or beis yaakov education as their children.

The answer to this question is that with the proper approach, parents can definitely be mechanech their children in areas that they were not able to achieve.

Firstly, children realize that their parents (as well as anyone else) are not angels, and cannot be perfect. Additionally, parents usually want their children to attain or surpass what they were unable to have in life, such as a better livelihood or education. Therefore, parents should explain to their children that they did not have the opportunity to have the same education as them. Furthermore, they are living in their present manner for the past 20-30 years and it is difficult to change, although they wish they could. However, young children who are still flexible can change more easily. Nevertheless, the parents should try and be good and sincere role models in whatever areas they are capable. With this attitude, children will not only see that their parents are sincere, but more important – that they are not hypocrites. However, parents who display negative character traits and demand from their children ideals that they don't believe in or expect of themselves will encounter major problems with their children's Chinuch.

Thus, the first step towards successful Chinuch is to be mechunach. For parents to raise well-balanced children, they must project a good model of the Torah personality and of middos tovos so that their children will follow in their footsteps.

Main points to work and focus on for the next week:


1) Since children observe and imitate their parents, it is incumbent for parents to strive and make of themselves proper role models of middos tovos and the Torah personality that their children will want to emulate.
2) Hypocritical parents and poor role modeling create long lasting negative effects on their children.
3) Nevertheless, parents should not be discouraged if they are not perfect in certain areas that they would like their children to excel in. With the proper approach they can also be mechanech their children in these areas.

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Thursday, February 28, 2008

Ma'aseh of How the Rebbe Reb Mailech Helped Win the 6 Day War

An anonymous commenter alerted me to this ma'aseh by Rav Bina, who teaches at Yeshiva Netiv Areye, where he tells over how, through the zechus of the Rebbe Reb Meilech (Elimelech) of Lizhensk, the Jewish people defeated Egypt in the 6 Day War.

-Dixie Yid

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Learning From the Private World of Tzadikim - Guest Post by Tuvia

In this shiur (RKOT013220050603, Oros Ha'Teshuvah- 132) from Rav Moshe Weinberger of Congregation Aish Kodesh in New York
he speaks about "Nothing more wonderfull than having a momenetary glimpse of a Torah scholar in his private world.."

Rav Weinberger talked about the Lubuvitcher Rebbe who had breakfast every morning with his mother and never turned his back to his mother. And also Reb Moshe who went to his new office in the Mesivta to have a private shmooze with a talmid and there was a bucher with his feet up on the desk and his kippa to the side with the AC on and Reb Moshe said, "sorry for bothering you."

I was zocheh to be in the apartmant of the Amshinover Rebbe, shlit"a several months ago on erev Shabbos. A few minutes before sundown when the family was literally running around doing very last minute things, the Rebbe got some liquid shoe polish and polished his shoes. Any practitioner of yoga would have been amazed at the agility of the Rebbe crouching down and looking and swiveling his back, his head, his arms covering every single miniscule part of his shoes quickly and very methodically. I never saw anyone polish his shoes like the Amshinov Rebbe of Yerushalayim.

-Tuvia from Yerushalyim.

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Rav Schwab on Emunah and Bitachon - Finding This Lost Teaching

Modern Uberdox: Rav Schwab on Emunah and Bitachon

This work not only show's Rav Schwab's humility and sensitivity in dealing with Baalei Teshuva, but also, as deals with important ideas of Hashem as our Master and our King...

-Dixie Yid

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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Great Story from Reb Elimelch on His Yohrtzeit

In honor of the Yohrtzeit of Reb Elimelech of Lizhensk, Yitz has put up the following, great post:

Heichal Hanegina: I Remember Him From the Rebbe

The following story is very dear to me, for many reasons. First of all, it has an "all-star cast": The Rebbe Reb Elimelech*, the Ohev Yisrael*, the Chozeh, the Yid HaKodesh, Rebbe Yechezkel of Kuzmir*, and Rebbe Shlomo of Radomsk*, four of whom [those starred*] have yahrzeits in this Shvat-Adar-Nisan period. And it's one of the few Chassidic stories that has both a story-within-a-story, and in the form of a flashback. In fact, each of these stories has been told [for example, by Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach] as a separate tale, but the real beauty is how they fit together… So without further ado, on to our story!

-Dixie Yid

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Our Dear Wonderful Father in Heaven - Avinu Av Harachaman

Departing from our usual shedule where we distribute the Tefila Chaburahs with Reb Yerachmiel from the Baltimore Community Kollel on Tuesdays, I want to share another shiur that Reb Yerachmiel and I were e-talking about today.

It's a shiur from April 22, 2007 called "Avinu Av Harachaman, Our Wonderful, Dear Father in Heaven." The reason it came up is because he played a little bit of a shiur by Rav Shimshon Pincus, where Rav Pincus lost himself a little bit, and let go for a moment or so, in his love for Hashem.

The shiur is in two parts.

To listen online, you can CLICK HERE FOR PART A and HERE FOR PART B.

To download the shiur, click on these links:


-Dixie Yid

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Downloadable Shiurim in honor of the Yohrtzeit of Reb Elimelech of Lizhensk

Rabbi Tal Zwecker has three shiurim that you can download AT THIS LINK, on the Noam Elimelech, Reb Elimelech from Lizhensk. This is in honor of Reb Mailech's Yohrtzeit, which is today.

-Dixie Yid

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Should One Foucus on Understanding His Yetzer Hara?

In preperation for this post regarding the yetzer hara, I recently asked Rabbi Micha Golshevsky, the author of the weekly translations of Rav Itchie Mayer Morgenstern's Torahs, the following question:

I remember reading recently, and I can't remember if it was from you, something about not focusing too much on understanding the yetzer hara, even if it is for the good reason of trying to understand it better in order to beat it. Whatever I read said that this could be dangerous because it will just bring you down, despite the good intentions.

I can't remember who i heard/read this from, or what the person's source was. Do you know where this idea is from?

Below is his response to me, collected from several e-mails in our e-conversation:

In terms of your question, virtually all of mussar and much of chasidus is a study of the yetzer hara, meant to insulate and protect us from its insidious methods. For example, it often causes one not to notice the bad tendencies and spiritual weaknesses within. This way we won't even know to do teshuvah. How can you correct a problem you don't know exists? Another method of the yetzer is rationalization. It is even possible to convince one that what is really a sin is a mitzvah in a particular situation.

However, the Ohr Hachaim Hakadosh (in Parshas Achrei Mos, Vayikra, First one in perek 18) says something a little similar to what you wrote. Interestingly Rebbi Nachman says the same thing in Sefer Hamidos, Niuf I #10. He says that you should never get into a claim and counter claim situation (Toen v' nitan) with your tempter. This will make you all the more likely to fail in your challenge, since thinking about it when sorely tempted--even why you should reject it-- evokes the feelings for it from within. Every instant one spends explaining his rejection to the tempter within only serves to weaken his resolve.

Although the Ohr Hachaim Hakadosh and Rebbe Nachman, discuss arayos specifically, it seems to me that "toen v'nitan" will not be helpful in other areas of temptation as well. For example: when a person sees a delectable dish, if he debates with himself whether to take an extra helping this will often cause him to overeat. Immediately afterwards he will bemoan, "There goes my diet." or words to that effect. (Sometimes he will bemoan this before he takes the extra cake!)

One needs to break out of the mochin dikatnus, "forgetfulness" of the bad effects of the indulgence, not debate the tempter. We have all heard about the chain-smoking doctor exhorting others of the dangers of smoking. He knows it's wrong intellectually and can even argue and debate the whys and wherefores but this doesn't help him one bit. When the cigarette "calls him," he lights up.

What will work to overcome a nisayon? Passionate prayer often helps. Another method that works (for me) is to pull out a powerful sefer that discusses the problem, open up to a potent piece and "go with it" by yearning for holiness and purity through the inspiration it affords. Sometimes the only thing that will work is to leave the place of temptation as quickly as possible.

On a deeper level, Rebe Nachman teaches that while one experiences a nisayon one loses one's da'as regarding the test. This is the definition of a nisayon, since if one were to retain da'as there would be no nisayon! Why would anyone overeat if he had true da'as and felt the bad feelings of overeating before indulging?

The time to prepare for a nisayon is beforehand. One method to build tools to enable one to refuse to do what is wrong as quickly as possible is studying the methods of the yezter and preparing counter-strategies. It is well known that the Ba'aley Mussar would say that the Chovos Halevavos understood the yetzer hara very intimately, and study of it enables one to understand and resist the yetzer. The "Chovos Hatalmidim" comes to mind as an example of a Chassidic Sefer that discusses understanding the yetzer and how to resist it at length.

Perhaps you also meant that you need to find the correct time to work on the yetzer since if you work on it immediately after a fall, you can fall to depression. This is illustrated in the following story:

Rav Noach of Lechvitch zt"l once said, "If a Jew succumbs to temptation or manifests a character defect, he must not allow himself to fall into the trap of self-absorbed despondency, but must do teshuvah instead.

"This could be compared to two servants of the king who were sent to war, one wise and the other foolish. During the battle, the wise one took a hit, but he decided that the middle of a battlefield is no place to attend to a minor wound. The foolish servant also sustained a minor injury, but he decided to immediately attend to it. He stopped shooting, became an easy target, and was killed immediately.

"Similarly, one who sustains a 'flesh wound' while fighting his inclination could easy fall into depression. But this will destroy his ability to focus on prayer or Torah study, his main weapons in the war! This leaves him completely vulnerable. Every soul is rooted in the olam hata'anug, the supernal world of delight, and anyone who does not feel pleasure in serving Hashem is automatically drawn after material pleasures. The only solution is to immediately change direction by doing teshuvah. This simply means resolving not to do the sin again!"

Rav Nosson discusses at great length a concept first brought in the Ramban in Iyov. Iyov said, "I feared a fear and it came upon me." This teaches a very profound lesson: one who fears literally draws this into one's life. One who focuses on the good and kindnesses in his life will draw even more kindness into his life. The mind is very powerful and the power of visualization is well documented. What we think affects us and those around us. We must think good, positive thoughts and forget the difficulties in our lives. It is enough to deal with them as they crop up. Let us remember the famous Chassidic adage: "Where your mind is, that is where you are!"

Hashem should help us overcome our unique spiritual challenges, each person in his own way!

-Dixie Yid

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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Role of Bnei Noach in the Torah

HT to Alice, for pointing out this video

-Dixie Yid

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"Our Father, Cause Us to Return!" - Hashiveinu Avinu Audio Shiur

Welcome to this week's edition of Reb Yerachmiel's Baltimore Community Kollel Rav Pincus Chaburah on tefilah.

This Sunday, the Chabura continued its analysis of the 5th bracha of Shemoneh Esrei. Reb Yerachmiel analyzed both the phrase and the individual words which we daven three times daily; "Hashivainu Avinu L'Torasecha," in an effort not only to enhance our capabilities in the realms of Torah and Tefillah, but also to deepen our "real" relationship with Hashem Himself.

You can listen online HERE. Or your can right click HERE and click on "Save Object As" to download.

-Dixie Yid

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Monday, February 25, 2008

Where is Hashem in the Bathroom?

Check out MY ANSWER to the following question from A Simple Jew:

A Simple Jew asks:

Upon hearing my son's question, I immediately thought about this story regarding the Shapira brothers sitting in a prison cell next unable to daven since they were sitting next to pail full of human waste.

"Why can't Hashem go into our bathroom?",

my three year-old asked me as I tucked him into bed.
He was obviously thinking about why I stopped him from saying brochos and singing other tefillos while sitting in the bathtub earlier that night. At that time, I explained to him that we don't say brochos or say Hashem's name in the bathroom because there is a toilet in this room it is not a clean place. Obviously he misconstrued my explanation to mean that Hashem was prevented from entering a bathroom.

While Halacha instructs us not to even think about Hashem or His Torah in a bathroom, if "Hashem is truly everywhere" as Uncle Moishy sings, is He still present but heavily concealed in a bathroom, brothel, or a place of idolatry?

Dixie Yid answers...

-Dixie Yid

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Sunday, February 24, 2008

Guildines for the Noachide Perplexed

Alice Jonsson at Breslov World: Guidlines for the Noachide Perplexed

Bnei Noach are thinkers. We are curious people who felt that something wasn’t quite right and we weren’t going to stop looking until we figured out where we went astray, what was missing...

-Dixie Yid

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Two Stories of Seeing the World Through the Eyes of Heaven

Ashreini she'yesh li Rebbe kazeh. I feel fortunate to have the rebbe that I do. He has such a unique take on things that simply reveals that he does not see the world with the same eyes that you or I have. We see the world through the eye of the "I." However, Tzadikim look at the world with "himildike oigen," the eyes of Shamayim, Heaven. I'll give two examples.

When people hear of or see a Chareidi or frum person doing something wrong, the first reaction that virtually everyone has is, "What a hypocrit! This guy pretends to be so religious/frum for the outside world, but it's just a show. He's a faker. Really, inside he's a thief/pervert/whatever."

My rebbe often asks, "Why is it that people only call someone a 'hyprocrit' for being a religious hyprocrit. You never hear people seeing someone doing an aveira and saying, 'Hey, who do you think you are doing such an aveira?! You're such a tzadik! A Tzadik like you shouldn't be such a hyprocit by doing that aveira!'"

I have come across a couple of instances of frum people doing dishonest things recently and this perspective is a great one for how to see those kinds of things. It helps me see that frum people who do bad things are basically good people ("Haneshama shenasata bi, tehora hi," "[Hashem], the soul that you placed within me is pure"), but that they had a weak moment in their area of ta'ava. Can I say that I am any better than them in my area of ta'ava?

Another instance of my rebbe seeing the world with a different level of vision than "regular" people:

He told over that he was speaking with a bachur, a young man, who was distressed over the things he, himself, was doing. He came to speak to my rebbe and the young man told my rebbe, "I hate myself. I really hate myself." My rebbe responded, "That's impossible. You can't." the bachur answered, "No rebbe, you don't know. I really hate myself." At this point, if the young man was speaking to me, I wouldn't know what to say. I would probably have just wallowed in misery with him. However, my rebbe responded, "It's impossible. You cannot possibly hate someone that you've never even met."

"You may hate the person that you think you are. You may hate the person that your rebbeim or parents have told you that you are. You may have believed them. But you are a neshama tehora, a pure neshoma."

Ashreinu u'ma tov chelkeinu, fortunate are we and how good our portion who merit to learn how to see the world (or rather, see through the world) from great Tzadikim!

-Dixie Yid

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Friday, February 22, 2008

Torah & Technology - An Introduction to Spirituality - Audio Shiur

I received the following e-mail from Rabbi Zev Kahn from Chicago with a great audio shiur, which I very much enjoyed listening to. It's an introduction to the topic of spirituality for a non-frum audience. But it's a very good reminder for anyone!

Dear all,

I wanted to let the olam know that this past week we had Rabbi Alexander Seinfeld speak at a downtown lunch and learn for JET. The topic was Judaism and Technology – the true meaning of Jewish spirituality. It was probably the best presentation of an introduction to Judaism and spirituality I have heard. You can hear it online at Rugby Rabbi.

If you are interested in contacting Rabbi Seinfeld you can reach him at info(at) or (650) 799-5564.

Kol tuv and good Shabbos.


-Dixie Yid

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Teaching Torah to Bnei Noach

HT to Avakesh for finding and posting this video.

-Dixie Yid

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Two Great Posts at A Simple Jew - Sanzer Chassidus & the Notebook Part II

Question and Answer With Yirmeyahu - Sanzer Chassidus

The disciples of the Besht expended much effort to do "kiruv" by teaching all Jews to return to Teshuvah and educate their children with proper Chinuk. However, the inner circle of the disciples of the Besht were Gaonim in learning.

Another 40 Days - Reopening the Notebook Part II (Continued from Part I)

That night I came to the realization that a fundamental prerequisite to applying Azamra to my kids was that I could never allow myself to think of my kids as ungrateful little monsters even at the time that they misbehaved the most...

-Dixie Yid

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Purim Koton & Two Haftaros - Audio Shiurim

Our friend, Rabbi Reuven Boshnack, the JLE Rabbi at Brooklyn College. He has given a shiur on Purim Katan, which is the top shiur. And he also gives a weekly shiur in Haftara. Last week's haftara, Titzaveh is the middle shiur and this week's parsha, Ki Sisa is the last shiur, of the three. Again, thanks Rabbi Boshnack for sharing!!!

Purim Katan Shiur:
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Haftaras Tetzaveh
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Haftaras Ki Sisa
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-Dixie Yid

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Shiur by Rabbi Krohn on Workplace Conduct

I received the following notice by e-mail from Neil at Modern Uberdox. It summarizes a shiur given by Rabbi Paysach Krohn, which was given in Chicago and can be DOWNLOADED HERE.

On Monday , February 18th, Rabbi Paysach Krohn Shlita delivered a powerful & moving lecture on how a Jew must act in the workplace as he or she deals with the non Jewish world. Rabbi Krohn with his wit & humor described how important it is for every Jew to act with Emes (truth). In conveying this message, he combined Divrei Chazal together with several anecdotes to illustrate just how a Jew must conduct himself. He mentioned how each Jew not only represents himself or herself but is a reflection on all of Klal Yisrael. He indicated that to properly prepare oneself for the world at large, one must be part of the Tzibbur and that comes through davening with a Minyan. He also expressed the importance of Limud Hatorah & the fact that one should start his day with Torah to cleanse his mind in order to properly prepare himself for the workplace. He also indicated that it was very important to have the proper Rav, a Rav who is not afraid of his constituents, but rather will instruct his congregants on the Torah approach to deal with today’s enormous challenges.

-Dixie Yid

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Thursday, February 21, 2008

Why Neil at Modern Uberdox Doesn't Blog Anonymously

Modern Uberdox: My Penchant to Rant

For some, the ability to blog anonymous works to their advantage. For me, it brought out a dark side, that gravitated towards the sarcastic, a place were I might be prone to use my "wit to abuse, not to amuse."

-Dixie Yid

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A Taste of the Reasons for Upsherin, the First Hair Cut

In response to a reader's comment to my post about my son's Upsherin, I wanted to post some selected translations from Rav Gavriel Zinner's sefer Nitei Gavriel on Upsherin and Chinuch.

(Page 17) The custom to cut a boy's hair for the first time is mentioned in the Responsa of the Radvaz (Rav David ibn Zimra, mid-1500s) (2:608), regarding one who vowed to cut his son's hair at the [grave] of Shmuel Hanavi, only to find that the place had already been taken by the gentiles... and Jews were not allowed to enter there...

[From this source, it appears that] it was the custom to cut the hair of the boys for the first time by the grave of Shmuel haNavi, and to dedicate silver, equivalent to the weight of the hair, for the purpose of lighting the grave of Shmuel, and to give the rest to the congregation and to tzedaka.

(Page 31, note 2) And so too in the Sefer Mat'amim Erech Sa'aros V'Otzar Minhagei Yeshurun, that the reason for the custom that we don't cut the hair of a little boy until he begins to speak is because it is written in the Gemara in Sukkah 42a, that a child, when he begins to speak, his father should teach him Torah. And what is Torah? "Torah Tziva Lanu Moshe, etc." Thereby, he sanctifies him to Heaven. And it is written (Devarim 18:4), The first shearing of your flock shall you give to me." and the Jewish people are called [Hashem's] flock. And therefore, when the child begins to speak, and we bring him into holiness, we his hair from him, and give its [weight's] monitary value to Heaven. And then, we also educate him to Mitzvos and leave for him Peyos, and make him a Jew, so that it will be recognizable to all that this child is a Jew."
Rav Zinner also says in the text of perek 1, halacha 1 that the main purpose of the Upsherin is to begin the child's education by teaching him the isur, the prohibition of "Lo sakifu p'as rosheichem," "do not round the corners of your heads."

Here are a few guidlines I heard from my rebbe about the ideal ways to do an Upsherin, whenever possible, and if Shalom Bayis can be maintained:

-Have a small Upsherin, preferably with just the parents and the Rav, or at least with as few people as possible. The smaller, the better.
-Have as few people as possible cut the hair. And preferably, the people who cut his hair should be Shomer Shabbos men.
-A gentile should not be his first barber.
-The first spot where the hair should be cut is in the place of the Tefillin, as a preperation for that mitzva later in life by getting rid of the excess hair there, which would be a chatzitza, a barrier to the Tefillin.
-Both parents should say the short tefillah before the Upsherin that's in the back of the Nitei Gavriel.

-Dixie Yid

(Video is of a Biala Upsherin)

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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Rav Weinberger on Purim Katan - A Good Heart Is Always B'Simchah (Joy)

I received the following comment from someone at Aish Kodesh in Woodmere, NY, Rav Moshe Weinberger's Shul:

Please post this today;

This morning, 14 Adar I, Rav Weinberger treated the chevreh to a brief Purim Katan shiur.

Purim Katan - A Good Heart Is Always B'Simchah (Joy)

Rebbi discussed the holiness of the day and how Jews need to live without walls in their hearts. To lift your day, we have made this shiur available for free. Please download it here in the free shiur section.

-Dixie Yid

(Picture taken at the Aish Kodesh Purim Mesiba, Purim 2007, courtesy of Yitzi Meyer)

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Hashivainu Avinu: Reigniting Our Ratzon to Return to HASHEM

Here is the latest edition of Reb Yerachmiel's Baltimore Community Kollel Rav Pincus Chaburah on Tefillah.

He began the fifth bracha of Shemoneh Esrei in the shiur entitled, "Hashivainu Avinu: Reigniting Our Ra'tzon To Return To HASHEM". In the shiur the chevra learned a chapter from Bilvavi Mishkan Evneh (Perek 152) and analyzed how this bracha expands our view beyond the request for "wisdom, insight and discernment", and even beyond the widely-discussed topic of "hishtadlus", to the vital but hidden concept of "ratzon;" our own "desire" to return to Hashem through Shabbos Kodesh, Tefillah and "Toras Hashem."

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

-Dixie Yid

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A Boy Becomes a Man

Mazel tov to Dixie Yid Jr. on his Upsherin earlier this week! May you grow up to Torah, Chupah, Ma'asim Tovim and Yiras Shamayim!

-Dixie Yid

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Saturday, February 16, 2008

Hiatus till Wednesday

Dixie Yid will be on a blogging hiatus from now till at least Wednesday morning. have our son's Upsherin Sunday and then we'll be away in honor of mine and my wife's 10th anniversary.

-Dixie Yid

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Thursday, February 14, 2008

Funny Banner Courtesy of A Simple Jew

I got my name in lights with of A Simple Jew. :-P

-Dixie Yid

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Understanding the Yetzer Hara - The Screwtape Letters

Several years ago, I read "The Screwtape Letters," by C.S. Lewis. In it, he presents a series of letters from a senior devil, Screwtape, to his nephew, a younger devil, assigned to his first "patient." In this series of letters, C.S. Lewis takes readers on a tour into the mind and strategy of the yetzer hara, the evil inclination, as he sees it. It's a very very insightful, short book. Reading it has made me think, over the past few years, of writing a Jewish version of the book, taking some insights of his, and others from various seforim, and applying that style of writing to a Jewish audience. I thought this would help me and others better understand the manipulations and illusions created by the yetzer hara, done to fool us into either doing aveiros, or making our avodas Hashem dry, and done for ulterior motives.

Here is a dramatic reading (about 3 minutes) of one chapter from the book:

Recently, I read something that said that such investigations into the workings of the Yetzer Hara would not be a good idea. It said that focusing on such things, even if done for good motives, brings a person down, and it is therefore a dangerous endeavor. I was unable to find what I had read, though, in order to see the source. In response to my inquiry about this idea, Rav Micha Golshevsky offered up some ideas, which I will post in a couple of days.

Although if I were to seriously consider such an endeavor, I would consult with my rebbe, I'd be interested to see if any of y'all have any thoughts about whether or not such a project would be ill-conceived.

-Dixie Yid

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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

A Special One Day Trip Down South (West)

I just returned home at 2 AM Sunday night, along with my oldest daughter, from Corpus Christi, TX, where we spent about 3 and a half hours.

My last remaining grandparent is around 91 years old and has just joined an outpatient hospice program. Considering how things have been going recently, I felt that if I wanted to see her again, now is the time. So two weeks ago, we scheduled this trip. My oldest (almost 9 year old) daughter and I made the trip, both leaving and returning on Sunday. We brought my grandmother 15 pictures of the children and a beautiful letter that my daughter wrote her in school.

My grandmother grew up reform and lived as secular a life as possible. Except for having her sons get Bar Mitzvas in the 1950's, they were twice-a-year-Jews. Not only that, my father tells me that anything Jewish basically makes her feel very nervous and uncomfortable. That is why there were two things from our visit that show me that there is still a spark of Jewishness burning inside her.

During our visit, we went into her bedroom to be with her for only short visits. In between, we sat in her living room to let her rest and gain strength. She is still very lucid and has a good memory most of the time. However, during one period when we were in the living room, she called out my name and asked me to come in. What was her question? She asked me what her father's name was. I didn't know, so I called my parents and came back in to tell them his and her mother's names. She said she was just thinking about him being a very good man. I also think, though, that seeing her grandson and one great-granddaughter who were obviously Jewishly connected made her think about her Jewish roots, which is probably why she thought to ask about her father.

The other thing was that at one point, when I was leaving her room, she asked me if I always wear the Yarmulka. I told her that I did and she responded that "That's good." It sounds like a small thing, but for someone who's spent virtually her entire life squirming around anything Jewish, that's a big deal. The fact that she is happy that her grandson is "Jewish enough" to wear his yarmulka all of the time means to me that, at this point near the end of her life, she is comforted by the knowledge that she is leaving behind a committed Jewish line in the family.

Besides the fact that I think we made her happy and she seemed to be very satisfied that she was able to see us again, it was also a learning experience for my daughter, who got to be moser nefesh, to sacrifice, to travel on a tough trip to do the mitzva of Bikur Cholim, visiting the sick, and see her great-grandmother for the first time in her memory.

-Dixie Yid

(Picture of a Corpus Christi sunset courtesy of blog.360)

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Working on Anger, Step by Step - A Simple Jew's Journey

A Simple Jew: Another 40 Days - Reopening The Notebook - Part 1

The Rebbe then told me he wanted me to start another 40 days to concentrate on the second column of my notebook. From what I had repeatedly written down during the previous 40 days, it was evident what my greatest challenge was; anger.

-Dixie Yid

(Picture courtesy of

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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The Bracha of Ata Chonen - Bitul - Audio Shiur

Here is this weeks's edition of Reb Yerachmiel's Baltimore Community Kollel Reb Pinchas Chaburah on Tefillah!

Sunday night's shiur marked the fourth and final installment of shiurim on the topic of "Chonain Ha'Daas". Reb Yerachmiel discussed the concept of "bittul" to the Rebono Shel Olam in connection with our bakashos in Shemoneh Esrei; how our sincere acknowledgement of ourselves as "ayin" is a key to receipt of "ezer" from Hashem. The chaburah also learned a maamar from Rav Tzaddok Ha'Kohen's sefer "Re'Sisay Lailah" which introduced and explained the phenomenon of the "Ve'Nahafoch Hu" that is present not only in the month of Adar, but in Mitzvos, Tefillah and Torah on a daily basis.

You can listen to the shiur online HERE or download it in wav format HERE.

-Dixie Yid

(Picture of the Eagle Nebula, 7000 light years away, courtesy of

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Unifying the Disparate Parts of the Self - Rav Moshe Weinberger

Here is the audio of a shiur given by Rav Moshe Weinberger last week, during his trip to Eretz Yisroel. (Anti-Ma'aris Ayin Anouncement: This shiur is posted with permission.) This comes to us courtesy of our friend Tuvia in Yerushalayim. Thank you!

Rav Weinberger pierces our external shell to speak to the inner split that so many of us feel. One minute we're the most religious person in the world, and the next minute we're falling into the lowest ta'avos. The back-and-forth-and-back-and-forth struggle between tumah and tahara within us makes us wonder, "Who am I really?" May we merit to really hear what Rav Weinberger is saying and learn how to create a briach hatichon, an inner support beam which will unite all of the disparate parts of ourselves.

You can listen to the shiur online HERE (you will have to minimize the window while you listen if there's inappropriate advertising) or download the shiur in mp3 format HERE.

-Dixie Yid

(Picture courtesy of accistudio)

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Monday, February 11, 2008

The Essence of the Jewish Home - New Bilvavi Shiurim

Click here to go to's page, for the 4 shiurim by Rav Itamar Shwartz, in his series, "Mehus Habayis Hayehudi," "The Essence of the Jewish Home."

-Dixie Yid

(Picture courtesy of

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Acquiring Independent Love of Hashem

As I discussed in a previous post, Rav Shwartz in Bilvavi Mishkan Evneh teaches us that acquiring even dependant love of Hashem is a high level that we must strive for, and that this is a necessary prerequesite to attaining independent love of Hashem.

As I related, dependent love of Hashem is acquired by recognizing that everything that happens to us is good, whether it be the "good" or the "bad" things. He said that one can accomplish this by either by believing that even the "bad" things have some hidden good which will be revealed later, or by the higher level of realizing that we have no hasagah, no conception, of what is truly good, whether it be in the "good" things, much less the "bad" things. And this realization will help a person let go of his expectation to understand in what way Hashem's treatment of him is good. One then uses his daily practice of talking to Hashem throughout the day to use his recognition of the good Hashem does to him as a way of acquiring a love for the One who bestowed that good.

But at this high level, how can this be called dependent love of Hashem? Since the person recognizes that no matter what Hashem does to him, it is good, it seems that that love is not dependant on what Hashem dishes out to him! What could be higher than this?! So Rav Shwartz explains that once one has used the recognition of Hashem's goodness towards him to attain Ahavas Hashem, he is ready to work on the next level, attaining Independent love of Hashem. so what is that?

The person's neshama, soul, is a chelek Elokah Mi'ma'al, a "part" of G-d above. The Baal Hatanya says at the beginning of the second perek of Tanya: "ונפש השנית בישראל היא חלק אלוה ממעל ממש כמ"ש ויפח באפיו נשמת חיים ואתה נפחת בי וכמ"ש בזוהר מאן דנפח מתוכיה נפח פי' מתוכיותו ומפנימיותו." "The second soul in a Jewish person is a literal 'piece' of G-d above. As it says, 'And He blew into his nostrils the breath of life.' And as it says in the Zohar, 'When one blows, he blows from within himself.' Meaning: From that which is within him and his inner [essence]."

And it is also true that the Zohar says, "קב"ה ואורייתא וישראל חד היא," Hashem, the Torah, and the Jewish people are one." Therefore, the only way to truly love Hashem in a way that does not depend on anything in the world, and thinking about or evaluating whether it is good or bad, is by uncovering, revealing, and connecting to one's own Neshama. It is by recognizing that I am my Neshama, not my guf, my body, or my desires or anything else. But that the real me is "my" neshama. For more on this, see Rav Shwartz's recent series of shiurim and the book based on them, Da Es Atzmecha, which I posted about here.

Once I learn to truly know myself, to connect to my neshama, then I will have revealed that part of me that is already one with Hashem. And when I am conscious of the fact that I am one with Hashem, then mimeila, automatically, I will attain a love of Hashem that is independent, an ahava "שאינה תלויה בדבר", that does not depend on anything. One cannot help but love himself, it is built into our self-definition.

It's a tall order, but as Rav Shwarzt writes about in Bilvavi, with steady work over a period of time, you and I can attain Ahavas Hashem.

-Dixie Yid

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Sunday, February 10, 2008

My Partners in Torah Learning Partner

Although my first priority in life, besides serving Hashem, is to give propper care, attention and love to my wife and children, I have felt bad that I wasn't doing much for anyone, where I didn't also have some personal interest at stake. The problem is that between doing what I can for my family's needs, doing my own learning before davening each day, working full-time, and my heavy obligations as a part-time evening law student, there really was no other time to do something that wasn't purely done for someone else. Now, if it were a choice between neglecting my wife or children, or not fulfilling my responsibilities at work or in law school, then I would have to accept that it is Hashem's will that I not "do for others" right now. However, if it were possible, I felt that I should do something more.

At any rate, in a conversation with a Dixie Yid reader a few months ago, my e-friend suggested that I do Partners in Torah, where they match up people who want to learn with people who are willing to study with them. They match people up people based on what each person is capable of/interested in teaching others, and what the other partner is interested in learning. They also match people up based on the times/days that they are able to study.

After a couple of months of mulling over his suggestion, I decided to give it a try. Because I have virtually no other time, I told them that I didn't know if I could help out at all, but that my morning commute to work and my evening commute to law school were the only times that I could learn with someone. Also, I was concerned that I couldn't learn anything heavily textual at that time, since I was driving. But sure enough, they quickly found someone who was interested in learning something during the time I was driving.

The folks at P.I.T. pre-screen participants for all of the factors I mentioned, plus they verify halachic Jewishness, so that doesn't have to be a concern.
I have now been studying with Bob for a couple of months and it's a great experience. He lives in a city in America where the Orthodox Shul barely has a minyan once a week on Thursday mornings. He's recently been becoming more observant and his story is refreshing and inspiring.

Bob initially wanted to spend some time on the NJOP Hebrew Reading Crash Course Part II, and spend the rest of our time learning the meaning of various parts of davening. However, once we got started on breaking down words of tefillah into their component shorashim (roots), prefixes and suffixes, we found that just understanding the Hebrew, and the connections between different words with the same shoresh, lead to deep discussions about the biggest concepts in Yiddishkeit and Chassidus.

Just this week, we were learning the line in Asheri, "ולגדולתו אין חקר," "and there can be no analyzing His greatness," which brought out another fundamental discussion, essential to understanding Jewish thought and the tefillos. We talked about how a finite person cannot have the hubris to think that he can understand or analyze the plans and greatness of the Infinite G-d, and how this understanding is fundamental to approaching things we see in the world in general, and in approaching tefillah with humility as well.

The bottom line is that I am writing this to tell you that no matter how busy you are, and whether you are a man or a woman, there are more participants looking to study with someone than there are mentors. So they will have someone for you. And there is probably someone out there who has similar interests and schedulings needs as you. So either call (800-STUDY-4-2) or sign up on Partners In Torah's website and volunteer to learn with someone else, or get yourself a mentor!

-Dixie Yid

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Friday, February 8, 2008

Understanding the Structure of the Maamarim of the Baal Hatanya

A Simple Jew: Question & Answer With Rabbi Yitzchok Wagshul - Torah Or & Likkutei Torah

It’s said that the Alter Rebbe’s primary work of Chassidus, the Tanya, is the Torah SheBichsav of Chassidus, because it contains in seminal form everything there is to know. On the other hand, Torah Or and Likkutei Torah are considered the Torah SheBe’al Peh of Chassidus, because they expand and elaborate on—sometimes at great length—the ideas only alluded to in Tanya.

-Dixie Yid

(Picture courtesy of Carl Braude at

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Access Rabbi Chaim Morgenstern's Shiurim on Parenting by Phone

If you would like to listen to the audio shiurim on parenting by Rabbi Chaim Morgenstern at Kol Halashon, download this Phone Guide, call the appropriate phone access number for your area, and then press 1-4-10, then choose a shiur.

-Dixie Yid

(Picture courtesy of Kol Halashon)

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The Lomdish Crembo Song

In this hilarious video, Aaron Razal sings the most lomdish Crembo song I've ever heard, musically elucidating the intricasies of hilchos borer. Hilarious!

Back in my year in Israel, one of the Rebbeim did lead a "Crembo Niggun" at Mishmar Thursday nights, but Aron Razal has taken it to a whole new level. Funny!

-Dixie Yid

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Thursday, February 7, 2008

What Should I Learn If I Don't Know What To Learn?

A Simple Jew: Without Any Program at All

Many people become so confused by the various approaches to Torah study that they do not know what to do or where to begin.

-Dixie Yid

(Picture courtesy of

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How to Attain Love of Hashem - Bilvavi

Rav Shwartz, in Bilvavi Mishkan Evneh, Vol. 2, perek 23, writes about attaining Ahavas Hashem, love of Hashem. He points out the well known fact that there are two types of love; dependant love and independant love (Avos 5:16- כל אהבה שהיא תלויה בדבר--בטל דבר, בטלה אהבה; ושאינה תלויה בדבר, אינה בטילה לעולם). One of the things that's so great about learning Bilvavi is that Rav Shwartz just gives over the most simple, and yet profound ideas from a new and refreshing angle that I'd never heard before. He says that this is really a two-stage process.

I'd always looked at the Mishna in Avos as saying that you should strive not to be like one who loves Hashem with a dependant love, but rather, you should love Hashem independant of anything. But Rav Shwartz says that instead, dependent love is one necessary and extreemly important stage along the path to attaining independent love of Hashem. This idea of looking at אהבה שהיא תלויה בדבר, dependent love as an ideal to be strived for, was new to me. I don't know whether this will be true of others or not, but this is a major point.

So how does one attain dependent love and independent love? And what's the difference between them, exactly?

He says that one attains dependent love of Hashem by meditating each day (during the Bilvavi's recommended 1 hour hisbonenus & periodic brief hisbonenus'n throughout the day) on the good things (hatava) that Hashem does for him. Hashem gives a person all of the physical things he has, all of the emotional blessings and health that he has, and all of the kochos that allow him to "accomplish" all of the things that he accomplishes. By thinking about this, the person should ask himself, "Why is Hashem doing all of this for me? It must only be because He loves me." And this constant recognition of all that Hashem does for him will create a feeling of love for Hashem.

One problem with this is that to the extent that a person experiences yisurin, suffering, he will not feel that Hashem is doing good to him. And this, in turn, will prevent him from attaining Ahavas Hashem.

There are two methods of overcoming this difficulty when trying to attain Ahavas Hashem, notwithstanding the yissurin, on the road to attaining dependent love. Both represent two different ways of seeing how the yissurin, the "bad" things, are really "good," and are another way of Hashem doing good to/for the person.

One method is for the person to think of other times in his life when something "bad" happened to him, and he was very upset about it at the time. And then, the person looks back and sees how, after time, this event turned out to be good in the end. A person can then think, "Just like all of those other times where I saw how something "bad" that happened to me turned out to be Hashem actually doing "good" to me, so too, today's yissurin also are Hashem doing something good to/for me." And this can allow the person to avoid his yissurin being an obstacle to attaining ahava hateluya b'davar, dependent love.

The other way is to realize that not only do we not understand how the "bad" is really good, but also to realize that we don't even understand how the "good" is good!!! Tehillim 92:6: "מְאֹד עָמְקוּ מַחְשְׁבֹתֶיךָ." "You're thoughts are very deep." If you think about how you are finite and you can never even hope to comprehend the depth of the good done by the Infinite One, much less how the "bad" that He does is really good. When one is mevatel themselves and connects to Emunah, and doesn't even try to use his intellect to understand why or how what Hashem does is for his benefit, for the good, then he can truly believe and feel that everything Hashem does is good, and use that to attain love of Hashem.

He says that this second level of attaining dependent Ahavas Hashem is the closest thing to Ahava She'eina t'luya b'davar, independent love. This is so since it is not really dependent on one's specific circumstances in life. No matter what those circumstances are, he uses those circumstances as evidence of how Hashem does good to him, and he uses this to attain Ahavas Hashem.

He goes on to also explain what independent love is, and how to attain it, but this post is already too long, so IY"H, I will write about that at another time. May we merit to work on attaining Ahavas Hashem, whether dependent or independent!

-Dixie Yid

(Picture courtesy of

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Rav Kook on Dreams - Part 1 - Audio Shiur

Rabbi Reuven Boshnack, the rabbi at Brooklyn College, has given the first part in a three part series on Dreams, from the teachings of Rav Kook. You can download the mp3 by clicking here. Or you can listen online by clicking on the embedded player below.

-Dixie Yid

(Picture courtesy of

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Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Video of Rav Yoel Teitelbaum, zt"l, the Satmar Rebbe

-Dixie Yid

(Video courtesy of Gruntig)

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To Keep the Translations of Rav Itchie Mayer Morgenstern's Shiurim Coming...

I received the following e-mail from Aharon, who distributes the Hebrew and English transcriptions of the weekly shiurim of Rav Itchie Mayer Morgenstern. If you can help support what they are doing so that the translations can keep coming, please contact them HERE to get the information needed to make a donation.

Dear Friends of Toras Chochom,

During the last three months, we have received a great deal of positive
feedback regarding the translations of HaRav Morgernstern's teachings.
Unfortunately, we are still badly in need of financial support to continue our
efforts to disseminate the translated shiurim. Unless you, our friends and
supporters, lend your assistance, it seems as though this wonderful project will
have to come to an end.Please arrange to make a donation so that, together, we
will have the zechus of producing another shiur this week.With Hashem's help, we
hope to hear from you soon.

B'virchas kol tuv,Rav Aharon Bernstein

ישיבת 'תורת חכם' ללימוד הנגלה והנסתר
ירושלים עיה"ק
Yeshivas 'Toras Chochom'
for the study of the revealed and hidden Torah

-Dixie Yid

(Picture courtesy of Gruntig)

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Ata Chonen - The Three Levels of the Intellect - Audio Shiur

Here is the latest installment of Reb Yerachmiel's Baltimore community Kollel Rav Pincus Chaburah on Tefillah.

In the latest shiur, he discussed the meaning of "Daiah Binah Ve'Haskail" in the bracha of "Chonain Ha'Daas". Be'ezras Hashem, the shiur will speak (think and feel) for itself...

You can CLICK HERE to listen online or HERE to download.

-Dixie Yid

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