Sunday, November 30, 2008

Video of Rabbi Holtzberg From India

This is a video of Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg HY"D, who was killed in Mumbai, India, late last week.

Above is a video of R' Holtzberg teaching the Parsha to a Yid in India before Parshas Noach.

And here is a video of R' Hotzberg as a child meeting the Lubavitcher Rebbe, t'zl. Since it's hard to tell which child is him, the video returns to him at the very end for a few more seconds.

-Dixie Yid

(Courtesy of Israel Matzav)

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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

No Posts Until the Monday After Thanksgiving

Thank the L-rd, I will be back in Dixie this weekend. I will return to posting Monday morning.

-Dixie Yid

(Picture courtesy of sixers)

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Amazing Lesson on How to Respond When Your Work Is Lost

A Simple Jew: Vanished

-Dixie Yid

(Picture courtesy of

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Rabbi Golshevsky's Approach to My Question on Disinheriting Yishmael

Here is a response by Rabbi Micha Golshevsky to my post, questioning how Yishmael could have been disinherited just by being driven out of Avraham's home. Thank you Rabbi Golshevsky!

In the course of my research for my piece in Daf Digest a short time ago I ran into several answers to your question.

Perhaps the simplest answer is that of the Be'er Sheva (in Sanhedrin [91a] D"H: ul'vnei hapilagshim). He explains that since Yishmael was a shifcha's son, he was not considered Avraham's son and could not inherit for this reason. The Ohalei Yitzchak asks a question on this Be'er Sheva. He asserts that this seems very unlikely since it seems clear to him that any child of Avraham was b'kedushah (conceived of a "converted," Jewish mother). How could she have not converted all the way either before she was expecting or after?

However, I am not sure what indication there is that Yishmael was indeed born b'kedusha, unlike the Ohalei Yitzchak assumes. Because Sarah told Avraham to marry Hagar for her own benifit, what proof is there that it was b'kedusha? After all, Sarah treated her as a shifcha even after Hagar was expecting!

Furthermore, see the Rambam in Nachalos 6, 9. Although the gemara in Kiddushin 17 mentions that a non Jew inherits min HaTorah, the seder of yerushah does not apply to a non Jew at all.
Although Yishmael was Avraham's son, he was born from a shifchah. Even if he is considered b'kedushah in some way, who is to say that if he leaves he doesn't forfeit his rights. It is plausable that a child of the avos born from a shifcha is Jewish and inherits only if he is treated as a child. If he is evicted he does not.

It is also possible that Sarah didn't mean from a halachic point of view. After all, when Avraham sent Eliezer to find a wife for Yitzchak, the Midrash (Breishis Rabbah Parshah 59 siman 11, brought in Rashi) records that he carried with him a document declaring all of Avraham's property to Yitzchak. Maybe this is what Sara meant.

Machaneh Yehudah (siman 282) explains that Avaraham was unsure about Yishmael since he didn't know if a very righteous person would come out of his descendants and make giving him the inheritance worthwhile. Sarah, who was much greater than Avaraham in prophecy, saw that there would not be any such righteous descendants. Maybe he means the second answer above (although he may mean the first or a different answer.

The truth is that the way I saw this whole discussion was from the other side: It is clear that Avraham removed any inheritance from Yishmael with the above document. The Mizrachi asks: how could Avraham avinu avoid Yishmael receiving any inheritance? After all, he fulfilled the entire Torah and in Kesuvso 53 we find that one should not tamper with his inheritance even to give his "good" son and remove from his "bad" son. It is in this context that the sources brought here discuss this issue.

I honestly did not have a problem with this question since bad in the gemara (that prohibits disinheriting a bad child) need not mean an idolater, just a less good human being for whatever reason. Chazal prohibited us to give the money to the better one, because of what may come out of the bad. But Yishmael was an idolater. The Maharam Shick (Choshen Mishpat, siman 43)writes that this rule only applies to someone who either doesn't treat his parents properly (Rambam) or isn't exactly perfect in his obligations to heaven (Tur) Not an idolater etc.

The Sadei Chemed and the Igros Moshe (Choshen Mishpat II siman 50) both concur with this psak so the Mizrachi's problem doesn't begin. Of course the Mizrachi clearly argues but the other luminaries may be explaining according to his understanding even if they would agree with the Maharam Shick etc in principle.

-Rabbi Micha Golshevsky

(Picture courtesy of middleeasternparent)

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Yerushalayim Back in Jewish Hands - 1967 Video

-Dixie Yid

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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Life Saving Help Needed for Our Friend's Child!

Our friends, the Landons' child with Neuroblastoma must undergo Antibody treatments at Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York. The treatments must begin immediately and they need a $125,000 deposit in order for the treatment to start. Please Please Please donate to their fund at Chai Lifeline.

Donation information can be found at Mrs. Landon's post and at my original post about their situation.

His name, for the purpose of davening for him, is Menachem Shalom ben Miriam.

-Dixie Yid

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The Freedom of Shabbos' Restrictions

I had a hargasha, a feeling, during Shalosh Sheudos which I wanted to share. No chiddushim. I just had a feeling of really understanding on a deeper level what the Mishna in Pirkei Avos 6:2 meant when it said "שאין לך בן חורין אלא מי שעוסק בתלמוד תורה," There is no greater free man than one who is engaged in learning Torah."

I was just thinking at Shalosh Sheudos how sad it is that Shabbos was about to end, and the battle would begin again. I realized that once all of the prohibitions of Shabbos are lifted, I would be "free" again to do all of the things needed for worldly life. And when you're "free" do those things, really you have to do them, since there's no excuse not to.

However, on Shabbos when we have no choice but to abstain from those worldly pursuits, the Yetzer Hara loses it's excuse to make us do things which take us away from Him. When I can do those weekday things, then I can't not do them. But on Shabbos, when I can't do them, it is such a liberating feeling to be free of it all. That's why the restrictions of Shabbos are such a breath of fresh air.

It almost feels like the teenager who doesn't really want to do drugs who feels liberated to have the excuse to tell his friends that his parents would just kill him if he did it. The restrictions of the parents aren't really restrictions at all. They allow him the liberty of giving the restrictions as the excuse for why he can't be a servant of his friends expectations of him.

The truth is that the higher level a person is on, the more Shabbos will infuse him with that freedom the rest of the week. The more a person internalizes the feeling of those restrictions that apply during the rest of the week, they become his excuse and his reason to be free of those desires, needs and distractions that pull him away from Hashem the rest of the week.

Oy Shabbos! What a mechaya! (breath of fresh air) Halevai (would that) we will all soon be in that state of Yom shekulo Shabbos, in the days which are totally Shabbos forever and ever!

-Dixie Yid

(Picture courtesy of blindmonkey)

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New Bilvavi Shiur on Tznius Now Online

The first shiur that the author of the Bilvavi Mishkan Evneh seforim gave in his new monthly series of shiurim on Tznius is now online. The shiur was entitled "Tznius From Another Angle," and was given at Cong. Aish Kodesh in Ramat Beit Shemesh, as I posted here.

In the shiur, he prefaced the discussion of tznius with an understanding of the difference between focusing on chitzonius versus focusing on pnimius (externality versus internality).

In the course of the discussion, he told over a funny m'aseh that illustrated the point. He told over that at one point, the Gerer Rebbe was upset that people were being badly influenced by reading secular newspapers in Israel. So he encouraged the starting of the Israeli version of the Hamodia newspaper. As part of his efforts, he encouraged his chassidim to subscribe to the Hamodia.

There was one man who would get his copy of Hamodia, and as soon as he got it, he would throw it in the garbage immediately. At one point, he asked the chassid why he was throwing away the paper instead of reading it. The man responded that the Rebbe had told them to subscribe to the paper. He didn't say anyting about actually reading it!

With this illustration of superficial thinking, and many great teachings, the Rav introduced us to the topic of tznius, focusing on the internal, and not on the superficial.

Rav Itamar Shwartz: Tznius From Another Angle Part 1 (not downloadable - listen online)

-Dixie Yid

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V'l'malshinim - Introduction to the Prayer Against Informers - Audio Shiur

I am happy to present this past Sunday's shiur by Reb Yerachmiel from the Baltimore Community Kollel Tefillah Chaburah.

In this week's shiur, Reb Yerachmiel began the 12th (19th) bracha of Shemoneh Esrei; berchas "Ve'LaMalshenim".

In this introductory shiur, Reb Yerachmiel taught a maamar form the Sifse Chaim that provides important background regarding the circumstances surrounding this holy prayer and well as it's amazing author. Those who listen, however, will know doubt begin to feel the "Yiddishe cry" underlying this bracha, which screams out "O'Havei HASHEM Sin'nu Ra"; "those who truly love HASHEM, must hate evil".

CLICK HERE to listen to the shiur by either left clicking and listening right away or right clicking and selecting "Save Target As."

-Dixie Yid

(Picture courtesy of

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Monday, November 24, 2008

Modern Uberdox: What Bilvavi Mishkan Evneh Means to Me

Neil Harris: Opening My Heart

-Dixie Yid

(Picture courtesy of

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Moshav Band at Shlomo Carlebach Tribute Concert Last Week

-Dixie Yid

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Free Shiur by Rav Moshe Weinberger - More Hillulah Pictures

Thanks go to Rabbi Boroch Leff for pointing out that this shiur became available at YU Torah!

Rav Moshe Weinberger: Insights of the Chassidic Masters (mp3)

Also, I wanted to share a few of the pictures taken by Yitzi Mayer at my Shul's Hillulah for the Piaczena Rebbe, the Aish Kodesh on November 1st with Rav Weinberger and Yosef Karduner. I already posted my pictures, but his are better! By the way, you can order prints of the pictures there as well.

-Dixie Yid

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The Differences Between the Standard Sefer Torah and Rashi's

Rav Shaul Rosenberg, in his mp3 shiurim on Chumash/Rashi for the 7th aliya in Parshas Chayei Sorah, brought down an interesting phenomenon. He pointed out Rashi's comment on Breishis 25:6, regarding the gifts that Avraham gave to the sons of Ketura (Hagar), which says "וְלִבְנֵי הַפִּילַגְשִׁים אֲשֶׁר לְאַבְרָהָם, נָתַן אַבְרָהָם מַתָּנֹת." Rashi comments here that the word "הַפִּילַגְשִׁים," "concubines" is lacking the yud at the end of the word, right before the Ender Mem (Final Mem). Rashi says that this comes to teach that there was something lacking in the plurality of the word, implying that it was only one concubine, i.e. Keturah/Hagar. But Rabbi Rosenberg points out that our sifrei Torah today are not lacking this "yud." So it seems that Rashi had a different sefer Torah than we have, with minor changes of a letter here and there.

He brings down Rebbi Akiva Eiger, in the Gilyon Hashas on the Gemara in Shabbos 55b, which lists almost 10 other places in Chumash where Rashi/Midrash/Gemara have a slightly different text in his sefer Torah than we have today. (I have brought down this Gilyon Hashas right here in this post for convenience sake. The section on the right is the top half of this Gilyon Hashas and the part below this text is the bottom half of the piece. It wouldn't all fit in one jpg document without looking really funny. Click on the images to enlarge.)

The difficult aspect of this is that many people might feel that this fact contradicts the eighth fundamental principal of Emunah of the Rambam, which is "התורה ניתנה מן השמיים - להאמין שכל חמשת חומשי התורה כולם העתקה שהעתיק משה מדברי ה' והוא עצמו או מישהו אחר לא כתבו מעצמם אפילו אות אחת." One must believe that "all of the five books of the Torah are written by Moshe through the word of G-d and that neither he, nor anyone else wrote even one letter on their own." If Rashi's or some of the Amora'im's Sifrei Torah had even one letter different here or there, doesn't this indicate that there is a problem with believing that the entire text of the Trah that we have today is literally from Hashem without even one letter changed?

First of all, it is important to remember that the few discrepencies that have existed virtually never even changed the simple meaning of those verses even slightly. Here, for instance, the lack of a yud at the end of "הַפִּילַגְשִׁים" doesn't even change the simple meaning (only the drush) since the "kri," the pronounciation is the same either way. Other variations include an inverted "nun" earlier in Breishis. The bottom line is that the whole discussion is not really about whether the meaning of the Torah is in doubt, but rather is only as to minor differences in the text with regard to letters that are somewhat "expendable" as to the semantic meaning of the texts.

Also, great authorities througout history have compared hundreds of Torah scrolls and ascertained that while individual or small groups of Sifrei Torah have cropped up through time with some variations, collectively, there is only one collective authorotative Torah text. This is explained in the following passage by Rabbi Dovid Lichtman in his paper, "The Accuracy of Our Written Torah":

Despite the Rambam's efforts to ensure the perpetuation of one standardized text, divergent scrolls began to propagate once again. A contemporary of the Ramban, the RaMaH (Rav Meir Halevi Abulafia -- early 13th century), undertook to reesttablish a text of exceptional accuracy. The RaMaH again used the eclectic process, surveying hundreds of old and reputable scrolls. (RaMaH did not have the Ben Asher manuscript at his disposal.) The resultant text was published in his work "Mesores Seyag la'Torah." Given the great effort that RaMaH invested in this project and his standing as a leading Halachic authority, his work became the definitive standard until today, certainly with regard to orthography (see Ohr Torah, Minchat Shai and Keset ha'Sofer).

I hope these resources will be useful in understanding that these variations have existed, and that great minds like Rav Akiva Eiger and others understand and write openly about it, and that it raises no problem with our Emunah. Kol tuv!

-Another article addressing this topic by Rav Noach Weinberg HERE.

-Dixie Yid

(Picture courtesy of Andrew Aitchison)

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Sunday, November 23, 2008

Rav Shlomo Zalman - Another Great Video - Documentary

I posted this video of Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach on Thursday. Subsequently, I found this 9 minute Israeli documentary clip on the life, teachings, and influence of Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, a Gadol who was also the Rosh Yeshiva of "Kol Torah." This documentary also has a lot of great clips of Rav Shlomo Zalman, as well as information on his seforim and influence. Kedai to see!

-Dixie Yid

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Friday, November 21, 2008

Rare "New" Video of Rav Kook, Rav Sonnenfeld

I had never seen this video before. It is with come kind of reception with a Brittish Minister in Eretz Yisroel, before the Medinah. In this video, you can see Rav Kook, Rav Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld, and Rav Yaakov Meir. I had previously posted a video of just Rav Kook and Rav Sonnenfeld, which seems to be from the same day.

-Dixie Yid

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Thursday, November 20, 2008

New Discovery Upends Evolutionary Theory

Scientists have discovered an organism that changes their understanding of evolution. In the course of explaining the discovery, this article at the Discovery Channel explains "a mysterious time in the evolution of early life known as the Cambrian Explosion. Until about 550 million years ago, there were very few animals leaving trails behind. Then, within ten million years an unprecedented blossoming of life swarmed across the planet, filling every niche with hard-bodied, complex creatures."

But for me, the real money quote in this explanation was this: "It wasn't a gradual development of complexity," Matz said. "Instead these things suddenly seemed to burst out of a magic box." (emphasis added)

A Designer? G-d? No way. It must have been a magical box!

-Dixie Yid

(Picture courtesy of Matz/NOAA /Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute)

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Special Forces Soldier' in Iraq - Perspectives from the Ground

I usually do not post anything about political or secular topics, except occassionally in jest. However, I am in touch with a Special Forces soldier in Iraq ("SF"), who believes in the Torah and is committed to keeping the Sheva Mitzvos Bnei Noach. In this case, I think his insights from the ground in Iraq are invaluable and so rare for us to hear. In these two e-mails, he explains what the issues really are in Iraq, what the people really think of America's involvement there and the prospects, on a derech hateva level, for a positive outcome there. I think you will be riveted and hear things that you never knew before. I want to clarify though, that he is speaking only for himself, and in no way are his statements to be construed as an official statement of policy by the U.S. military.

He wrote me this e-mail in late August:

...As for you questions about Iraq, in general it is a very complicated place, which I imagine can be said of any country. Iraq is a very classically arab country in the sense that they are extremely particular about hospitality even if they don't want Americans in the country.

For the most part, Iraqis are not supportive of the American presence in the their country, but I think that you would be hard pressed to find any local nationals wouldn't prefer to be in charge of their own country. That being said, most Iraqis aren't going to pick-up weapons and start fighting with us since they realize that America is trying to help even if it is doing a poor job of it.

One of the big problems that I see is that we as Americans are used to throwing money at problems. However, up until the present we have thrown our money at temporary solutions instead of long-term solutions. I was talking with a city council member for one of the largest cities in Iraq the other day and they took turns lecturing me about how Iraq has plenty of their own money and what they really need is advisors and experts not a bunch of money.

Electricity is always a problem for Iraqis, although that has been the case the entire time that Sadaam was in power.

As far as politics are concerned the tribes in Iraq need to step up and take a lot more initiative with governing their country even if it means that we stop trying to force an American democracy on them. (redacted) I think that will be a good thing since it is a much more natural fit for Iraqis.

As far as the security situation, it has gotten drastically better over the past couple months, but Ramadan is approaching so we might see a surge of activity. One thing that the news is not focusing on at all, but is a daily reality for us, is Iran's Revolutionary Guards and Hizbollah's involvement with insurgent activity within the country.

But, deep down Iraqis are just like everyone else in the world, they want to see their children grow up to be prosperous and they want to go about their lives. Overall, I can not stress enough that Iraq is a complex country and nothing should be evaluated with it in a hasty manner. But if we pull out to soon the country stands a high chance of completely falling apart.

He wrote me the following e-mail last week, explaining to me the effect that he thought Barack Obama's election in the U.S. would have on the future of America in Iraq:

I don't read much of the American press while I'm over here so I'm not sure what is being reported and what isn't being reported.

One of the big things that is of concern right now is that the UN resolution runs out at the end of December and if it isn't renewed then we don't have any rightful legal basis for being here. And, politically, it is unlikely that it will be renewed because the UN will likely not renew simply out of one last spiteful act against the Bush administration with the implicit understanding that Obama's campaign has already
made public their intention to take troops out of Iraq.

That being the case, if the SOFA agreement ("Status of Forces Agreement") is not ratified by both the US and Iraqi side then Coalition Forces in Iraq will be in a very awkward situation. As of right now it doesn't seem likely that the SOFA will be agreed upon because now that the Iraqi politicians realize that Obama will gladly pull out of Iraq, they have started to put ridiculous clauses in the SOFA so that it will never be accepted by the coalition Forces. Hence it appears as though Iraqi politicians are acting like they want a SOFA, but at the same time clearly working against such a thing ever being ratified by both parties.

It is a complicated situation that has become even more complicated with Obama's election. I think that the common misconception in the States may be that we aren't going to leave unless the SOFA is agreed upon. So when they talk about a phased withdraw in the SOFA, people think that the entire point of the SOFA is the withdrawal. It is most certainly not. With a SOFA in place we at least have a set, agreed upon timetable for certain activities within the country, but as long as it is not ratified we could be forced out of here tomorrow. The lack of a SOFA doesn't mean that we can stay here indefinitely, it actually means the exact opposite. In fact, one of the primary insurgent groups, which follows Muqtada Al Sadr, is against the SOFA because they realize that if isn't signed then we may have to pull out of here within a couple of months.

Don't get me wrong, we can't just pack up one night and fly back to the states the next day. There is way too much equipment over here for us to do that. The problem is that once the announcement in made that we are leaving, the entire atmosphere will change. I don't mean that fighting will start. Rather, insurgent groups will probably not conduct any attacks so as not to prevent us from leaving.

But once we make the announcement that we are leaving, Al Qaeda's entire focus will shift back to attack the states and that will be very hard to prevent due to the amount of practice they have had in Iraq. A drawdown of troops is one thing; a withdraw is a completely different animal all together.

As for the changes that people expect Obama to bring, Iraqis, and all Arabs for that matter, don't care about arguments stating that Obama isn't a Muslim. As far as they are concerned his name is "Barak Hussein Obama" and that is enough for them to know. The educated Iraqis have express amazement that America elected a president that has the "John Smith" of names in the Arab world. Obama's name has more in common with the terrorists of 9/11 than with the average American. This simple fact makes Iraqis feel as though he has an intrinsic connection with their part of the world. Thus, what the Arab world suspects is the Obama is going to basically reverse the current treatment of the Arab world. Especially of note is that most Iraqis realize that Obama is going to change the fortunes of the Palestinian people.

I think that the entire world situation right now is very tense and Obama has only thrown another wrench in the gears of the world, but we will have to wait and see what he actually does once in office. Either way, B"H that Hashem is in charge of everything and as Rebbe Nachman said, runs the world even better now!

(Picture courtesy of

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Video of Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach

This video shows a five minute compilation of videos of Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach. This was first time I'd seen any live video of him. Enjoy.

-Dixie Yid

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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

New Monthly Bilvavi Shiur - Modesty From Another Angle

Rav Itamar Shwartz, the author of the Bilvavi Mishkan Evneh Seforim, will be beginning a series of monthly shiurim. (Click on the above Flyer to enlarge.)

It will begin this Sunday, November 23rd, from 9:30-10:30 in the evening.

It will be entitled: "Modesty From Another Angle"

Location: Aish Kodesh, Rechov Nachal haMaor 4/2Ramat Beit Shemesh.

Men & Women Invited. The Rav speaks easily understood Hebrew. For details: 054-661-3752

-Dixie Yid

(News thanks to our friend Tuvia. Thanks Tuvia!)

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Secular Advocate for Shidduch Dating?!

Reva Seth: First Comes Marriage: Relationship Advice From the Wisdom of Arranged Marriages

I was surprised to see a story about a secular author who has basically found her husband by shidduch dating. People are shocked to hear that she got engaged after only seven dates. Now in our communities, that is not unusual at all, but in the secular world, this is a real breakthrough.

In this week's Parsha, Chayei Sorah, Breishis 24:67, the Torah says "וַיִּקַּח אֶת-רִבְקָה וַתְּהִי-לוֹ לְאִשָּׁה, וַיֶּאֱהָבֶהָ." "And [Yitzchak] married Rivka, and she a wife to him, and he loved her." As the Title of Mrs. Seth's book says, "[f]irst comes marriage." Only after the Torah says that Yitzchak married Rivka does it say that he loved her.

Even those of us who got married through Shidduchim often focus on the problems in the system. However, despite the narishkeit (smallness) and stress in the system, it is easy to forget that most of us get married after less time, in a more successful marriage, and with less heartbreak than those people who are without any kind of arranged dating.

In an interview from a blog called Lemondrop, the author points out that even for those people who are currently not in a culture where arranged dating is part of the lifestyle, they can learn from the system. The things she points out are already ingrained in our system of shidduch dating. She points out that one should not just meet people in social places like bars (obviously for us), as this causes people to end up together merely because they are attracted to one another, even though they are usually not compatible.

She also suggests making a list of things that one is looking for in order to be compatible. i.e. sharing a similar place in life, sharing similar goals and plans for life, etc. And then she says that one should not date people who don't fit these goals! It will be a waste of emotional energy and time from life.

Even though they were not orthodox Jews, my parents also met on an arranged date, and are happily married for over 40 years! My wife and I were set up and had went for a relatively long time (3 months) before we got engaged. We have a friend who proposed to his wife on within 48 hours of their first date (they weren't frum at the time either).

This sounds like a book with common sense advice that is a real chiddush (novelty) to the broader community! Let's hope some of it is taken to heart.

-Dixie Yid

(Picture courtesy of Simon and Schuster)

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Stories of R' Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev - Audio Shiur

Rabbi Tal Zwecker has shared with us the audio from his weekly shiur with stories of Reb Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev, the Kedushas Levi.

CLICK HERE to listen in!

-Dixie Yid

(Picture courtesy of

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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Shlomo Carlebach Documentary - 6 Part Interview/Concert/Chasuna Videos

Thanks to Lucky Wolf at Gruntig for pointing this out! Below are all 6 parts of an Israeli Documentary about Shlomo Carlebach called "Givalt." It was recorded before a Klezmer festival in Israel in 1994, the same year that he was niftar. There are English subtitles for the parts of the interview in Hebrew. Also, it includes interview sections, a Chasuna he performed and a number of clips from concerts. I hadn't seen this before. Very cool!

-Dixie Yid

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Scientists' First Discovery of Nuclear Family in Pre-Avraham Period

Interestingly, scientists have discoverd their earliest evidence of nuclear families in the "pre-history" period. This family seems to have lived about 4,600 years ago in Germany, which would put them 500 years before the flood and about 800 years before the time of Avraham. It would also mean that they lived in about the year 1,169 from the creation of the world, which would correspond to about the year 2592 B.C.E. Fascinating!

-Dixie Yid
P.S. Timeline for Jewish History sefer Bereishis courtesy of Yaak:
Timeline Sefer Bereshis

(Picture courtesy of Discovery Blog)

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"Hashiva Shofteinu"- The Due Diligence Period Has Expired - Audio Shiur

Reb Yerachmiel has been kind enough to share his latest shiur from the Baltimore Community Kollel Tefillah Chaburah from this past Sunday.

This week's tefillah shiur at the Baltimore Community Kollel lead by Reb Yerachmiel Goldman enjoyed its fourth and final shiur on the topic of berchas "Hashiva Shofteinu" in Shemoneh Esrei, the bracha in which we ask HASHEM to return our Torahdik court system and Torah way of life to the world in conjunction with Yemos Ha'Moshiach.

Topics discussed include an overview and word for word explanation of this entire bracha, which required the defining and distinguishing between such common yet cryptic terms such as "Chessed", "Rachamim", "Tzedek" and "Mishpat".

Indeed, Reb Yerachmiel, himself a commercial real estate attorney, subsequently pointed-out that while his shiur would never declare "case closed" on a bracha of Shemoneh Esrei, nevertheless they are proud to acknowledge that the "due diligence period" has indeed expired.

CLICK HERE to get the shiur by either left clicking to listen to the shiur right away or right clicking and selecting "Save Target As" to download the .wav file.

-Dixie Yid

(Picture courtesy of

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Monday, November 17, 2008

Dying While Smoking - Don't Be Cruel...

Commenting on THIS POST from this morning, with the story of the Yid dying while trying to light his cigarrette on Shabbos, "anonymous" commented:

I don't think he was 'killed' for smoking on Shabbos. I also don't think I can, or anyone else, can understand God and his 'actions.'

I responded:

Anon, you are correct that one cannot ever claim to "know" why a G-d causes a particular thing to happen. If I would know the mind of G-d, I would be G-d.

However, it would be a mistake to not to take suffering as a signal to do teshuva.

As the Rambam says in Hilchos Ta'anios 1:2-3:

שבזמן שתבוא צרה ויזעקו לה ויריעו, יידעו הכול שבגלל מעשיהם הרעים הרע להן--ככתוב "עוונותיכם, הטו אלה" (ירמיהו ה,כה) לכם, וזה הוא שיגרום להם להסיר הצרה מעליהם.

ג אבל אם לא יזעקו, ולא יריעו, אלא יאמרו דבר זה ממנהג העולם אירע לנו, וצרה זו נקרוא נקרית--הרי זו דרך אכזרייות, וגורמת להם להידבק במעשיהם הרעים, ותוסיף הצרה וצרות אחרות:

"At a time when suffering comes upon them and they cry out and groan, everyone knows that because of their evil deeds, this evil has come upon them. As it says in Yirmiyahu 5:25, 'their sins caused these.' And this [response of teshuva] is what causes that fuffering to be removed from upon them.

But if they do not cry out and wail, but rather, they say, this thing happened to us because it is the way of the world, and this suffering is a coincedence - this [approach] is the way of cruelty. And it causes people to adhere to their evil deeds. And it causes additional suffering and other sufferings."

L'ma'aseh, don't be cruel to a heart that's true!

A subsequent comment by anon:

Nothing happened (suffering wise) to the survivor. 2. The guy who died can't do teshuvah anymore.

I agree that we should constantly aim to become closer to God. And that if something good or bad happens to us we should recognize God's message. I also believe that the Rambam you quoted is not applicable to the story you blogged; it is probably more appropriate for plagues and famines.

That said, the survivor should definitely not smoke on Shabbos as he should realize that 'life' is only temporary and easily extinguished but not because, although possible, God killed his buddy while trying to smoke on Shabbos.

As an aside I would venture to pin his demise on the disrespect to Reb Aharon Karliner -- as lighting a match on Shabbos is more severe then smoking.

And my response:

Something did happen to to the surviver! He saw his friend die on Shabbos while trying to smoke leaning over the kever of R' Aharon of Karlin!

I see you are now willing to pin it on something! :-) But I would tend to agree with you. It was probably related in some way to the combination of smoking on Shabbos with the disrespect to the Tzadik.

But I would disagree with you about the Rambam. There are plenty of places in Shas where the idea of suffering on an individual level is taken as a sign to do teshuva. The main one that comes to mind is Brachos 5a, where "אמר רבא ואיתימא רב חסדא אם רואה אדם שיסורין באין עליו יפשפש במעשיו שנא' (איכה ג) נחפשה דרכינו ונחקורה ונשובה עד ה' פשפש ולא מצא יתלה בבטול תורה." "...If one sees suffering coming upon him (singular), he should examine his deeds... If he searches and he finds no sins, he should attribute it [to the sin of] bitul Torah."

You see that the principal is the same with individuals as it is with the klal.

-Dixie Yid

(Picture courtesy of citirooms.blogs.nytimes)

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He Died From Smoking on Shabbos

Here's a funny and sad story I heard from R' Reuven Boshnack, who heard the ma'aseh from R' Mordechai Twerski in Flatbush, who heard it from his uncle, Rav Michel Twerski of Milwaukee, who the story actually happened to.

Reb Michel was on a bus in Eretz Yisroel and he met an old Russian Jew who was not frum and they started talking.

This Yid told Reb Michel that in the old days around Minsk, no one would break Shabbos publicly. If anyone wanted to smoke on Shabbos, they had to go out of town where it wasn't too public. They usually went to the cemetary.

One Shabbos, he went with a friend on Shabbos to smoke in the cemetary. He lit a match and the wind blew it out. He lit another match, but that was blown out too. Eventually, they lit every match in the matchbook, and they were all blown out. Really wanting a cigarette, his friend remembered that by the kever of Reb Ahron of Karlin, there was a light that was constantly lit.

They went over to the kever. In order to reach the fire, this man's friend had to lean all the way over the kever of Rav Aharon Karliner. While he was leaning over, trying to light his Shabbos cigarette, he was struck with a heart attack and died immediately. The whole experience was very upsetting for this Jew.

"So," Reb Michel asked him, "Did that experience cause you to change anything about your life?"

The man admitted that he did have to make one change. From then on, he had to find a different buddy to smoke on Shabbos with!

Oy! Hashem open up our hearts to hear your messages to us!

-Dixie Yid

(Picture courtesy of wikimedia)

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Dixie on My Mind - Smokey Mountain Cabin & Dixie Dad's T-Shirt

Above are pictures from my Dixie Mom and Dixie Dad's house in the Smokey Mountains. Enjoy the beautiful fall colors behind Dixie Dad! My wife and I and the Dixie Kids will soon, IY"H, be spending the weekend back in Dixie for the first time in over two and a half years. Aaaah. We'll enjoy the lake, the quiet and the company. Though we like our Shul, community, and our kids' schools, it'll be good to spend a few days away from life in New York.

Incidentally, my parents are hilarious. They also picked up some Stars and Bars Dixie Yid paraphernalia, which you can see Dixie Dad sporting in the pictures below. Also, I put up some Dixie Yid Jack Daniels Old Time No. 7 Blog logo paraphenalia, with the design courtesy of Dan Weinstein HERE.

-Dixie Yid

(3/4 of the pictures courtesy of Dixie Dad. The fall folliage picture is courtesy of Dixie-First-Cousin-Once-Removed)

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Sunday, November 16, 2008

Ora Rachel bas Tziporah Bracha Needs a Refuah Sheleima

Received from Rabbi Michael Green of Sharfmans:
Dear Friends and Family,

Two weeks ago, on the second day of Mar Cheshvan, we were fortunate to welcome a sweet and adorably cute baby girl into our family. To that end, I ask each and every member of Klal Yisrael to please continue to intensify your already potent and precious Tefillos, Torah Learning and Tehillim for a complete refuah shelemah for our daughter:

Ora Rachel bas Tziporah Bracha

Without going into much detail, she remains in the NICU, infected with a serious virus. Accordingly, it continues to wreck havoc on various systems throughout her body ranging from her liver to her platelets. Truth be told, just in the first two week of her life, there have been very positive signs, but some, unfortunately, not-so-great ones as well. Chasdei Hashem, she is now breathing on her, we can hold her for intervals at a time, and she enjoys several daily feelings of her mother's milk from a bottle. Plus, she very much enjoys the singing and strokes of her Abba and Ima and much much more!

At this junction, I'd like to publicly thank everyone who has/continues to provide us chizuk and assistance in navigating this medical situation from Rabbi Fuerst in Chicago and Rabbi Yitzchak Berkowitz in Jerusalem to Mrs. Aviva Feiner in New York and Mrs. Sarah Lipman in Jerusalem. Likewise, our neighbors and friends, colleagues and more, continue to support us with love and nutritious meals.
Indeed, we are aware of thousands of people learning Torah for her on a daily basis as well as luminaries ranging from Rabbi Elyashiv shlita to Chachom Ovadia Yosef shlita. Moreover, stories such as a young boy in our neighborhood who has decided to recite Tehillim on Ora's behalf throughout his entire bus ride to school is simply heartwarming for us to hear!

Please utilize the koach ha'tefilla that we as Klal Yisrael has and arouse everlasting rachamem in Shamayim. Please feel free to forward this to any of your friends and family—fellow members of Kal Yisrael to also take upon learning and Tefillah on her behalf.

In advance, I thank you all, for your incredible and inspiring efforts thus far and hoping for the ongoing Tefillos and zechuyos to bring a speedy refuah shelemah for
Ora Rachel bas Tziporah Bracha
Shavuah Tov!

Rabbi Michael Green
Overseas Director
Bnot Torah/Sharfman's

-Dixie Yid

(Picture courtesy of dentonhospital)

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The Compulsion to Do an Aveira Must Be Treated Like an Addiction

In her second post about my and Rabbi Maryles' posts about some of the factors which are related to Jews going off the derech, Frumhouse wrote that the key to increasing the chances of Baalei Teshuva staying on the Derech is maintence in all areas of life. In the course of her comments, she wrote:

As an example, an ex-smoker might feel momentary relief in a cigarette during a stressful moment, but the pain of addiction and fear of cancer will be a quick reminder of why they quit in the first place. The drag of a cigarette can never be as sweet as those first puffs taken in ignorance of the consequences. Additionally, there will also be the sting of personal failure ingested with each inhale. Similarly, imagine the frustrations of a chronic dieter who struggles to lose weight, reaches a modicum of success, only to give up the difficult fight and pack the pounds back on. These analogies illustrate why I believe that BTs who go off the derech are never truly satisfied with their choice to revert back to their former lives. I realize that I am likening becoming frum to overcoming an addiction. However, I believe that this diagnosis is correct for many of us.

Although she seems somewhat appologetic for comparing doing aveiros to addition, I think this is a very accurate analogy. Addiction is not only about alcohol and narcotics. It is about not being able to resist any kind of compulsion and not being mevatel one's self, nullifying one's self, to G-d. For instance, Rabbi Dr. Avraham Twerski has a Twelve Step Program for those with low self esteem. Groups also exist for Gamblers, Debtors, Clutterers and Workaholics.

When a person finds comfort in things that he knows are harmful to himself and others, he shares the same root problem that alcoholics and other addicts face. Doing aveiros in thought, word or deed fall into this category as well.

We could start other "Anonymous" groups to address these problems as well. We could have:

  • Shul Talkers Anonymous
  • Lashon Hara Speakers Anonymous
  • Bitul Torah Anonymous
  • Shmiras Ha'Einayim Anonymous

Let's say a person can't stop himself from talking in Shul, even though he knows that it's wrong and that he's passing up on the opportunity for davening to Hashem as well as the fact that he's distracting others. Or let's say that whenever a person's on the train, on the street or on the computer, he can't seem to stop himself from gazing at things that he is forbidden to look at. In either case, or a multitude of others, no matter how many times he tries to stop doing it, and no matter how much he knows that these things are destroying himself spiritually, he just can't seem to stop doing it.

As a summary, the twelve step programs take the following approach to this situation:

* admitting that one cannot control one's addiction or
* recognizing a greater power that can give strength
* examining past errors with the help of a sponsor (experienced member)
* making amends for these errors
* learning to live a new life with a new code
of behavior
*helping others that suffer from the same addictions or compulsions.

The first step is admitting that you don't control what you're doing wrong. There's no way to progress if you still see yourself as in the driver's seat, and that you "can stop doing it whenever you want to." The idea is recognizing that without turning to Hashem for help, you also cannot progress. As the Gemara in Kiddusin 30b says, "ואמר ר"ש בן לוי ... ואלמלא הקב"ה עוזרו אין יכול לו," "Reb Shimon ben Levi says that without Hashem's help [in conquering the evil inclination/Yetzer Hara], one cannot conquor it."

Whatever it is that a person can't stop himself from doing, he should view himself as being just as bad off as someone with an addiction. As long as one doesn't recognize the seriousness of his faults, he won't be able to even take the first step in correcting it. After that, one must turn to Hashem as their source of help and constantly recognize his faults and work to correct them.

May Hashem help us recognize our faults and turn to Hashem to help us correct them!

-Dixie Yid

(Picture courtesy of

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Friday, November 14, 2008

Rav Mottel Zilber's Shiur at Yeshivas Derech Hamelech

I have to thank Rav Baruch Gartner, the founder and Dean of Yeshivas Derech Hamelech for sharing this shiur. Rav Mottel Zilber, the son in law of Rav Moshe Wolfson, spoke at Derech Hamelech this week. CLICK HERE to listen to the shiur!

-Dixie Yid

P.S. Quite apropos to this post about those who criticize the recitation of Tehillim (!), it would be kedai to listen to this series of 10 mp3 shiurim by Rav Gartner, on how to receive the Torah, based on Rebbe Nachman's ma'aseh of the Chochom and the Tam.

(Picture courtesy of Derech Hamelech)

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How Did Driving Yishmael Out Effectively Disinherit Him?

I have a Jewish inheritance law question. In Breishis 21:10, in the 5th aliya of Parshas Vayeira, the pasuk says, "וַתֹּאמֶר, לְאַבְרָהָם, גָּרֵשׁ הָאָמָה הַזֹּאת, וְאֶת-בְּנָהּ: כִּי לֹא יִירַשׁ בֶּן-הָאָמָה הַזֹּאת, עִם-בְּנִי עִם-יִצְחָק." "She said to Avraham, "Drive out this slave-woman and her son, for the son of this slave-woman will not inherit with my son, with Yitzchok." (Translation: Metzuda) Although one could say this is talking about being Avraham's spiritual heir, the simple meaning here, and Rashi's comment, indicate that Sorah's concern was that Yishmael should not financially inherit from Avraham, even though he was Avraham's son. She intended to accomplish this by driving him out of the house.

I don't understand. How does living outside of Avraham's house diminish Yishmael's right to inherit from Avraham? For instance, Rambam in Hilchos Nachalos lays out the order of heirship for those that inherit when someone passes away. I don't see anywhere that a son being kicked out of his father's house causes that son to lose his status as an heir! Although if one uses various sideways methods of disinheriting a halachic heir, "the spirit of the sages is not happy with him," Avraham didn't even do one of those methods here. All Avraham did here was remove Yishmael from his home. He did not use one of these methods of getting around the law.

So does anyone know how there was any nafka mina, any effect in the laws of inheritance, by Avraham driving Yishmael out of the house? How did that act disinherit Yishmael?

It is true that Chizkuni on this pasuk says that Avraham had the din of a Ger and "ger she'nisgayer k'katan shenolad dami," a Ger is halachicly sepparated from all of his blood relatives which would mean that Yishmael would not inherit from him anyway. But I have two questions. One is that Yishmael would have been a non-child to him even if he had stayed in the home! So what did driving him out of the home have to do with inheritance even according to that pshat?! And furthermore, according to the simple meaning of the Torah, and according to the opinions that Avraham did not technically have the din of a Jew, Avraham would have still had the din of a gentile technically, and Yishmael would inherit from him notwithstanding his expulsion from Avraham's home! (See, Rambam Nachalos 6:11)

Any ideas?

-Dixie Yid

P.S. I am actually writing an academic paper on the various methods of allowing one's non-halachic heirs to inherit while staying within the parameters of Jewish and secular law.

(Picture courtesy of floridaestateplanninglawyerblog)

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Thursday, November 13, 2008

Rejection Leads to Going Off the Derech

In the 5th aliya in Parshas Vayeira, Hashem assures Avraham that Sorah's counsel that he should expel Yishmael and Hagar from their home is correct. Then, Breishis 21:14 says that "וַתֵּלֶךְ וַתֵּתַע, בְּמִדְבַּר בְּאֵר שָׁבַע." "She [Hagar] went and wandered in the desert of Be'er Sheva." Rashi is bothered by the order of the pasuk which says that Hagar "went" and then "wandered." Rashi comments, quoting Pirkei D'Rebbi Eliezer, that she wandered back to the idolotry of her family.

It occured to me that despite the fact that in this particular instance, the rejection she experienced was warrented, Rashi is also saying that the natural result of being rejected by people is turning away from Hashem as well.

When a child is expelled from Yeshiva for less than l'shem shomayim reasons, or when a child is driven out of his or her own home, or when a boy or girl feels rejected as not being good enough by the parents one expects unconditional love from, even if they are never "kicked" out of their home, that kind of rejection leads one in the direction of wandering away from Hashem as well.

If we would know by a clear nevuah from Hashem that the consequences of such a rejection are warrented, as Avraham did, then it would be worth the cost. But none of us are getting such Nevuahs. We don't have to approve of the bad things that our children or our students do, but we must not reject or expell them as people. Otherwise they may go the route of Hagar, and turn not only from their families, but from Hashem as well, rachmana l'tzlan.

We have been writing a lot about what causes people to go off the Derech and I think Rashi's insight here is quite on point.

(B"H, though, Hagar [Rashi Breishis 25:1] and Yishmael [Rashi Breishis 25:9] both did Teshuva!)

-Dixie Yid

P.S. See Shirat Devorah's related post, which also links to this one for a great story with Reb Zusha and Reb Elimelech and the story that led to their birth.

(Picture courtesy of elearning2)

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Halachic Obligation to Learn Chassidus? Crawling Axe on R' Zwecker's Shiur

Crawling Axe has posted an interesting addendum with additional sources for those brought by Rabbi Tal Zwecker in the shiur I posted of his yesterday morning. Rabbi Zwecker spoke about sources from both the Baal Hatanya and the GR"A for the idea that one is obligated halachicly to learn Chassidus! Check out Crawling Axe's post!

-Dixie Yid

(Picture courtesy of jerulita)

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Free 48 Ways To Wisdom Shiurim - A Merit for R' Weinberg's Recovery

With thanks to Yosef Newman for pointing this out, Aish HaTorah is putting out the 48 Ways to Wisdom series of Shiurim by Rav Noach Weinberger online for free, as a zechus for the refuah sheleima of Rav Weinberg. You can access those shiurim HERE. Please have in mind that the Torah you learn from those shiurim should be as a merit for his recover.

-Dixie Yid)

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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Proper Place for Criticisms of Jewish Communities

I received the following guest Post from Yosef Hakohen regarding my link to Rabbi Horowitz's article on why frum Jews sometimes go off the Derech:

I have had teachers from both the Chareidei and Modern Orthodox (Religious Zionist) worlds, and I have lived in both worlds. I do not think that the reason Rabbi Horowitz cited is the main cause for people going off the derech, as the Modern Orthodox world also has a serious problem with people going off the derech, and you can't say that it is because their schools do not emphasize English-language skills.

I have spent most of my life trying to build bridges between different groups of Jews. I am therefore troubled by one type of reaction to Rabbi Horowitz's article: someone from the Modern Orthodox world who uses Rabbi Horowitz's comments as an excuse to snidely "put-down" the Chareidi world, which includes Chassidic, Lithuanian Yeshiva, Hirschian, and Sephardic communities. (Yes, the majority of the Hirschian community in Washington Heights has been affiliated with Agudath Israel of America, the leading Chareidi organization.)

One reason for the "put-downs" or "bashing" of Chareidim by some Modern Orthodox Jews is because some Modern Orthodox Jews feel very threatened by the growth and increasing strength of the Chareidi communities. In addition, some are upset that their own children have become Chareidi.

Many of us, however, have greatly benefited from the great teachers within the Chareidi world; moreover, we have greatly benefited from the deep spirituality and warm hospitality of many Chareidim. We should therefore be careful not to fall into the trap of belittling Chareidim.

Thoughtful discussion and criticism within one's own community, like Rabbi Horowitz's article, can be constructive, but it can be destructive when those from another community sieze upon his comments in order to promote their own negative views and stereotypes of the Chareidi world.

Shalom Al Yisrael,
Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen

I totally agree with Yosef's point. It reminds me of the rich man and the poor man. The rich man always quotes the ma'amar chazal that says that it is better for a man to work a menial job than to beg for money from others, to criticize the poor man for collecting. And the poor man always quotes the ma'amar that one must support poor people to the level that they were accustomed to, even if that was a very wealthy lifestyle, and how much the more so someone like him who was just trying to get by. The rabbi commented that they both had it wrong. The ma'amar about the poor man's conduct was directed at the poor man. And the ma'amar about the rich man's conduct was directed at the rich man. But that they both had it reversed and were both hearing the messages directed at the other. It helped them deflect from looking at and examining their own actions. The same thing certainly applies to those modern orthodox or others who constantly criticize chareidim rather than their own communities. It is atzas yetzer hara.

-Dixie Yid

(Picture courtesy of

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