Saturday, July 22, 2017

Quick Motzaei Shabbos Thought

As this Shabbos was coming to a close, I heard a very sad perspective from a man with whom I am very close about how many people are sad and depressed about their lives. 


And it really got me thinking; #1 about trying to help people to not be as depressed, etc., but #2; when we see people, we often jump and judge them, for whatever it might be.  But do we stop and think about the fact that their "imperfections" could perhaps stem from problems and difficult things which they are, Rachmana Litzlan, going through?... If someone says or does something perhaps offensive to us, maybe they aren't just trying to make us upset... Maybe we shouldn't get angry or retort, but consider the fact that perhaps there is something making them upset and try to help their life to be more pleasant, and not, Chas V'Shalom, less...

HaKadosh Baruch Hu should give us all much Siyata D'Shmaya in our lives and pick everyone up from tough and depressing times.  Amein.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Mussar from Parshas Masei

These are the journeys of the Children of Israel, who went out from the land of Egypt, according to their legions…’ (Bamidbar 33:1)

 The Baal Shem Tov zt”l explains that all the forty-two journeys that Klal Yisroel traveled are analogous to a person’s life:  

 Birth -- leaving the womb -- can be likened to Yetzias Mitzraim (the Going out from Egypt), the beginning of the Jewish People’s travels through the Wilderness.  The ensuing journeys lead onward through life and to the ultimate destination, Eretz Yisroel -- or, for each individual Jew, Olam HaBah (the World to Come).  (Quoted in The Peninim Anthology).

 A person mustn’t just stay in one place and be satisfied with who they are now:  We all must continue journeying in the right direction on the road called Life, and always continue moving forward in our Service of Hashem.  May Hashem help everyone with this, Amein.

 *******

 And they journeyed from Rephidim and they encamped in the Wilderness of Sinai.  And they journeyed from the Wilderness of Sinai and they encamped in Kivros HaTaavah.’ (Bamidbar 33:15-16) 

Rephidim, we are told, is the place where the Jews ‘loosened their grip on the Torah’ -- (we were given some laws before coming to Sinai).  But, Rashi HaKadosh explains (Shemos 19:2) from Mechilta that just as our coming to the Wilderness of Sinai was with Teshuva, so too our traveling from Rephidim was with Teshuva.   

Based upon this, we may derive a lesson from the above verses:  With Teshuva, a person can go from not doing so good, to being on such a great level, as we were at Sinai.  With Teshuva, you can go from Rephidim to Sinai. 

But, the flip side is also true:  We can never grow complacent, because a person can go from a very high level -- Sinai -- and come to a level of Kivros HaTaavah, Chas V’Shalom.  We must always be careful and watch out for the Yetzer Hara’s traps… (Tal U’Matar). 

Chazak Chazak V’Nischazeik and a Gut Shabbos to all!

Mussar from Parshas Mattos


And the kings of Midian they killed upon their corpses, Evi and Rekem and Tzur and Chur and Revva…’ (Bamidbar 31:8)


In the Torah’s narrative of Klal Yisroel’s defeat of Midian, says HaRav Yissochor Frand shlit”a, we read a name that we are vaguely familiar with:  Tzur.  Tzur’s first appearance in the Torah was at the end of Parshas Chukas, as the father of Kozbi, the woman with whom Zimri sinned publicly.  


Midrash Tanchuma tells us that Tzur was the greatest of the five Midiani kings, but he was listed third by the Torah of the five because he readily sent his daughter to commit a public immoral act.  


We have to wonder, says Rav Frand, when we read such a Midrash:  Does Tzur really care?  Does it bother him in the least if the Torah lists the Midiani kings and places him third instead of first? (And a very similar thing happens with Ephron, he mentions).


Explains Rav Frand shlit”a, in truth, these questions stem from a false perception that we all possess to some extent:  As long as we are here in Olam HaZeh (this world), he says, the physical world seems so real to us and Olam HaBah (The World to Come) seems so far off that we consider the physical world a reality and the spiritual world somewhat fantastic.


In the physical world, one can blatantly ignore or shrug off even the greatest of insults.  In Olam HaBah, however, all the false illusions of “the Real World” are exposed.  Every single person, even a person who had no spiritual values in this world, suddenly realizes that spirituality is all that matters.


As long as Tzur was here on earth, he would have snickered if we would have told him that he was being punished by being mentioned disparagingly in the Torah.  
As they look down now, concludes Rav Frand, -- or up, as the case may be -- from their rightful spot in the next world, Tzur and Ephron suffer extreme anguish because of their stinging emotion. (Rabbi Frand on the Parashah 2).
*******


And Moshe said to the children of Gad and the children of Reuven: “Shall your brothers come to war, and you will stay here?  And why do you dissuade the heart of the Children of Israel from crossing to the Land that Hashem gives to them?”’ (Bamidbar 32:6-7)


The Torah describes here how the people from the Tribes of Gad and Reuven had much livestock, and they saw the land right outside the Land of Israel, which was very good for animals.  So they brought the question to Moshe Rabbeinu; could they have that land as an inheritance, instead of a portion inside of Eretz Yisroel? 


And one of the things Moshe Rabbeinu replies (see the quoted verses) is that if they do so, they could cause others to not want to come across the Yardein.  
   
Rashi HaKadosh explains that he was saying that they would remove and hold back the hearts of the Jews from crossing over to Israel.  Because the People would reason that they are afraid of war and of the strength of the towns and people.  


From this it is possible to see the great power of influence that every person holds:  Moshe Rabbeinu was afraid that the children of Gad and Reuven could influence the rest of the Bnei Yisroel to not want to go into Israel -- and we too must be very careful to never, Chas V’Shalom, give any bad example.  
  
 But it also goes the other way:  If we can have such a negative effect on people if we act badly, Chas V’Shalom, then we also can influence so many people for good if we just make sure that we behave properly.  By doing as we should, we can help the entire world!


Often people like to tell others to do good.  But perhaps more important than that, is to show them to do good… (Tal U’Matar).


A Gut Shabbos to all!


Friday, July 14, 2017

Chofetz Chaim Al HaTorah piece

This is a photo of the original piece from Chofetz Chaim Al HaTorah which I quoted in the previous post:


Chizuk from Parshas Pinchas


Chizuk from the Parsha: 

These are the children of Binyomin according to their families, according to their countings, forty-five thousand and six hundred.’ (Bamidbar 26:41)

 These are the children of Don according to their families… sixty-four thousand and four hundred.’ (Bamidbar 26:42-43) 

Says the Chofetz Chaim (HaRav Yisroel Meir HaKohen Kagan zt”l): Here the Torah reveals to us that there is no wisdom and no advice opposite Hashem.  To Binyomin there were ten sons… and to Don -- only one son, Chushim son of Don, and this one son was deaf…  

And from this there is to learn, that whomever Hashem desires in him, He is able to make him successful from one son more than one who has ten sons… (From Chofetz Chaim Al HaTorah). (Not to say, of course, that Hashem did not desire in Binyomin).

 Adds HaRav Avraham Yaakov Pam zt”l: In life, one can never predict how things will eventually turn out.  At times, the accomplishments of a ben yachid (an only child) can be more than that of ten children.  Even in a large family, the ben zekunim’l (the youngest child born to older parents) can be the one who eventually brings his parents the most joy and nachas.   

One cannot give up on a person, no matter what the handicap or disability.Continues Rav Pam zt”l: It often happens that the one who is considered “least likely to succeed,” is the one who produces the greatest achievements.  Hashem has endowed every human soul with immense treasures.  Parents of handicapped children should take inspiration and chizuk from the accomplishments of Chushim, and realize that they, too, can see great nachas from their offspring. (From The Pleasant Way). 

A Gut Shabbos to all!

Friday, July 7, 2017

A Message for Life from Parshas Balak


One of the first things we say in our morning prayers is ‘מה טּבוּ אהליך יעקב משׁכּנתיך ישׂראל-- 'How goodly are your tents O' Yaakov!  Your dwelling places O' Yisroel!'.

 The name Yisroel, we are taught, can refer to B'nei Torah and Gedolim, and the name Yaakov can refer to “regular” Jews.   

Also, it is of note that a tent is more of a temporary place, while a dwelling place connotes a more permanent place.  However, they both imply a place of Torah study, just one more temporary and one more permanent.  Now let us put this all together:

 How goodly are your Tents O' Yaakov!':  One might, Chas V’Shalom and Rachmana Litzlan think that if they are “just a regular Jew”, and they go to learn Torah only sometimes, the Beis Midrash (or any place they learn) being only a temporary dwelling place for them, it is not that good or important.   

But the above verse teaches us otherwise:  Every single good thing which we do is precious to Hashem; He does not overlook anything.  Thus, even if you have to be working most of the day, and then you come home pretty late, and go learn even a little; that is extremely precious to Hashem!  Don't get discouraged and think that your Torah is not important; it is very important!

 And the proof for this:  If you take the Gematria (numerical value) of the words ‘מה טּבוּ אהליך יעקב’ it equals 310.  What does that correspond to?  The word ‘ישׁ’ (which means literally ‘there is’ or ‘there are’).  ישׁ’ is the opposite of ‘אין’ (nothingness).  Meaning that whatever Torah you are able to learn -- it is not nothingness, Chas V’Shalom.  It is the very opposite. ‘There is’ much, much importance to it.

 And on the other hand, the verse says ‘Your Dwelling Places, O’ Yisroel!’:  To all people who can and are involved in Torah study etc. most of the day, realize just how important it is to Hashem.

 But there is something else we can see from the above verse:  A person is not stuck in one place; you can be in the first category which we discussed, and, with hard work and the Help of Hashem, enter into the second category.

 Perhaps these are some of the very reasons why מה טּבוּ is one of the first things we say in our daily Davening (prayers), as their importance is vital to realize early each day. (From the Introduction to Rays of Light: Adar).


A Gut Shabbos to all!

Friday, June 23, 2017

A Message for Life from Parshas Korach

Explains the Nikolsburger Rebbe (Rebbe Yosef Yechiel Michel Lebovits shlit"a):  Yaakov was the epitome of humility; his very name symbolizes humility, as it says (Mishlei 22:4) “Eikav -- The edge of humility is fearing Hashem.”

When a person is humble, like Yaakov Avinu, then he can attain fear of Heaven and carry the yoke of Hashem on his shoulders.  When a person submits himself to the wisdom and rulings of our Torah leaders, thereby practicing humility, then he can serve Hashem.  On the other hand, if a person is arrogant (Chas V’Shalom) and believes in his own wisdom, then he can cause tremendous damage to himself and to his entire generation.

This is why, explains the Rebbe shlit”a, the Torah doesn’t mention Yaakov when listing Korach’s ancestry:  The name Yitzhar (יצהר) is from the root word tzohar (צהר), meaning light.  Kehas (קהת) can mean to gather people, and Levi (לוי) connotes a strong connection to Hashem (from the root word meaning “accompanying”).
“And Korach son of Yitzhar son of Kehas son of Levi took…” says the verse:  Korach was a Tzaddik who achieved many lofty levels, including light, leadership (being able to gather people together), and connection with Hashem, but he fell short of achieving Yaakov -- humility.  (Nikolsburg.org).

At times humility entails seeing the bad in ourselves but at other times, as my father and Rebbe, HaRav Chesler shlit"a says, it is realizing that everything comes from Hashem:  Maybe we don't know best -- maybe someone else deserved the position more than us and maybe it was better for them to have it and not us (see above).  

Korach had a question of faith that really stemmed from a lack of acceptance of Hashem's choice.

We must learn to accept what Hashem makes happen -- realizing that He knows best and it will all be for the best, and may Hashem help everyone to do so, Amein.

Gut Shabbos and a Guten Chodesh to all!

Thursday, June 15, 2017

The Glorious Opportunity of Today


HaRav Avigdor Miller zt”l was once asked: Is it possible for all Jews to prosper emotionally, spiritually, and financially, and realize also its purpose as the Chosen People in a country like the USA where we are such a small minority?

And he answered: America is a glorious opportunity.  It’s gold that’s offered to us.  It’s a tragedy that Jews come to this blessed country and fail to utilize it.  Here we could have brought upon ourselves the greatest success spiritually, and in every other means, but it’s a failed endeavor.  What happened, however, in reality?  In reality, the Jews have ruined themselves in this country.  Entire families have gone lost!  There are millions that are not marrying, not having any children, and their names are wiped out from history.  Besides the fact that so many are entirely ignorant of their heritage.  So it’s a tremendous opportunity that’s misused.  In America, you can do anything, it’s possible in America to build yeshivos in every village, all over the country.  Jews don’t have to spread everywhere, but wherever there are Jews, it’s possible to have a nation of all shomrei Shabbos, it’s a nation that up until now respected religion.  We would have been a nation of priests, we would have been highly respected by the gentiles.

          Today, who is battling against the ideals of religion?......  Therefore, it’s misusing one of the most precious opportunities in history.  I don’t know if since golus Bavel another such glorious opportunity had been presented.  However, it’s not too late, and the Jews, or some of the Jews, will regain their reason, and they can utilize the opportunities of America to succeed spiritually and materially. (From Q&A:  Thursday Nights With Rabbi Avigdor Miller, volume 2; p. 74).
*******
This applies to the entire world of today:  It is not just in America where we have this gorgeous opportunity:  Today is what we would call “a free world”.


People aren’t really regulated to a certain standard or behavior.  This means that we can, Baruch Hashem, behave like Frum Jews should, without getting thrown in jail or beaten.  However, people can also, for example, say anything they want essentially; dress how they want, etc. Chas V’Shalom.


It is a very tough time spiritually -- but it is also an absolutely tremendous opportunity to flourish in the Service of the Awesome King in this “free world”. 



Monday, June 12, 2017

A Rebbe Story: Neis Gadol!


This story was related by HaRav Nosson Meir Wachtfogel zt”l, who heard it directly from the attendant of the Chofetz Chaim zt”l: 

On a fundraising trip to Bialystok, the Chofetz Chaim zt”l and his attendant paid a visit to a simple resident of the city.  The woman who answered the door drew back in surprise when seeing her illustrious guests.  

“May I speak with your husband?” Rav Yisroel Meir asked gently.  

“I… I wish the Rebbe could speak with him,” the flustered woman replied, “but he isn’t well.” Her voice dropped to a whisper: “My husband has been paralyzed for several years now.” 

The Chofetz Chaim was unfazed: “Then it’s even more important that I visit him!  This is the Mitzvah of bikur cholim!” 

The woman led her guests up the stairs and to her husband’s room.  The thin, gaunt man lay motionless in his bed, appearing almost lifeless.  But his eyes opened wide at the sight of his unexpected guests, and a sudden light illuminated his features.  

“Good evening, Rebbe,” he managed to whisper. “It is kind of the Chofetz Chaim to take his precious time to visit me.  I wish I could stand up for the Rebbe.” The man dropped his eyes. “Please forgive me.” 

“It is my privilege to see you this evening,” the Chofetz Chaim said warmly. “Please allow me to shake your hand.” 

The man looked down, embarrassed at not being able to fulfill the Chofetz Chaim's request. "It has been several years since I've even held a glass in my hand.  How I wish I could lift my hand!" 

“Try,” Rav Yisroel Meir urged “Give me your hand.” 

The man reluctantly made the seemingly useless effort.  As he had expected, nothing happened.  

“Try again.” Encouraged the Chofetz Chaim.   

The man bit his lip in concentration, coordinating all his strength to lift his immobile hand.  Beads of sweat formed and rolled down his temples.  His wife gasped from her place in the corner when her husband’s long-paralyzed hand began to move!   

The Chofetz Chaim’s face beamed, reflecting the happiness of the Bialystok man and his wife.  He took the man’s hand warmly in his own and shook it heartily.  The Chofetz Chaim’s attendant looked on in amazement.  

“How can I thank you, Rebbe?” the man asked.  The tears flowed freely from his eyes. “You healed my hand...”

Rav Yisroel Meir turned to his attendant and said: “Take his other arm.  Let’s sit him up.”

Now the man began to protest: “But Rebbe, I haven’t moved a single limb for years.  It’s a miracle that I moved my hand!  How can I possibly sit up?” 

But the Chofetz Chaim and his attendant went ahead and slowly propped the man into an upright position.  The man looked around, amazed at the view he had not seen in so long.  Tears coursed down his wife’s cheeks as she witnessed her husband’s transformation. 

“Thank you, Rebbe,” he whispered. “You’re a miracle worker!” 

But the Chofetz Chaim was not finished:  He proceeded to instruct his attendant to stand the man up.  Slowly, slowly, the man stood up on two feet, released from the bed that had been his prison for so long. 

The Chofetz Chaim zt”l humbly took his leave from the man’s house, as he was showered with thanks and praise.  It was just a few days later that the man learned to walk normally again, completely unaided -- except by Hashem in Heaven. (Visions of Greatness, Vol. VII; p. 150-152).

Monday, June 5, 2017

A Rebbe Story: The Specialist


“Please Rebbe, you must help me” wept the stricken Jew before Rebbe Mordechai of Neschiz zt”l:  The Rebbe asked him what the trouble was and the man replied that he was critically ill.  He had consulted many doctors, but none of them held out any hope for him. “Only you can help me, Rebbe, now that all hope is gone!” he said.  

“Hmmm.  And have you been to the specialist from Anipoli yet?” the Rebbe asked. 

The ill man wrinkled his forehead in surprise and replied that he had not heard of him and had not seen him yet. “Well then, you should go to him at once.” the Rebbe advised.   

Hope rekindled in his heart, the dying man packed a few belongings and set off.  The journey was not comfortable in the least, but finally, he reached Anipoli.  The man jumped out of the coach -- already feeling better.   

He stopped the first person walking by and asked him where the specialist lived.  The man looked at him in bewilderment and replied “Specialist?  Here, in Anipoli?  There is no specialist living here!  You must be mistaken.” 

The dying man told the passerby that there was no mistake -- a great man sent him there to consult the specialist about his illness.   

He turned away from the passerby, found another local resident and asked him about the specialist.  The man looked at him as if he were crazy and told him that they didn’t even have their own doctor!   

The dying man now realized he must be the one mistaken.  But still, the Rebbe had sent him here.  There must be some explanation.  

“Well then, what do you do here when someone becomes ill?” he asked falteringly.  

“Now that is a different question altogether,” the man said. “If someone falls ill, we pray to Hashem to cure him.  It is as simple as that!” 

Crestfallen, the Jew saw that he had nothing else to seek in Anipoli and took the first coach back to Neschiz.  He returned to Reb Mordechai zt”l and poured out his painful story to him -- telling him that there was no specialist in Anipoli -- they didn’t even have a general practitioner, and that his trip was all in vain.   

The Rebbe raised his eyes questioningly. “And what do people do when someone becomes ill?  Did you find out?”  

“Yes” the unhappy Jew replied weakly “Since they have no doctor, they pray to Hashem to cure them.” 

“Aha!” said the Rebbe triumphantly, “That is the answer.  That is the Specialist I wanted you to consult.  Hashem!  He is the Ultimate Healer.  He is the One to Whom you must turn in your suffering and pain for only He can help you!  As it says in the Torah (Parshas Beshalach) ‘For I am Hashem your Healer.’ (Tales of Tzaddikim, Shemos; p. 94-96).