Friday, June 23, 2017

Messages 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.  (

This Parsha is an especially good reminder for all of us to try to make sure not to be Gaavadikke (haughty).  And we must think about in our own lives how to implement Anivus (humility).  Perhaps someone pointed out a fault in us; should we look at it as a shot at our dignity, or a helpful point?  Maybe someone else got a position and we didn't; should we get angry that we didn't get it?

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).

Friday, June 2, 2017

Parshas Nasso Messages 5777

The Sages Say:

May Hashem bless you and guard you…’ (Bamidbar 6:24)

And guard you: “So that robbers should not come upon you to take your money.  For one who gives a gift to his servant, he is not able to guard it from all people.  And since they (robbers) come to close upon him (the servant, as is explained) and take it from him, what benefit is there to him from the gift?

But HaKadosh Baruch Hu; He is the Giver; He is the Guarder…” (Rashi HaKadosh from Midrash Tanchuma and Bamidbar Rabbah).


A “Lamdanishe” Insight: 

Speak to the Children of Israel and say to them; any man that his wife will go astray…’ (Bamidbar 5:12)

The Torah now has a new discussion:  That of a wife who, Chas V’Shalom, commits adultery -- or doesn’t, as the case may be.  In the language of HaRav Nosson Scherman שׁליט"א:

This passage deals with a woman who behaves in an unseemly manner, giving her husband good reason to suspect her of adultery, but there is no proof of either guilt or innocence.  The Torah provides a miraculous process that will either prove she sinned and caused both her death and that of her illicit lover, or show conclusively that she was faithful and thereby restore trust and love to the marriage.(The Stone Edition Chumash; p. 753).

The miraculous process of the waters was, as the Torah describes, the Kohen taking sacred waters in an earthenware vessel, taking some dirt from the Mishkan floor, and putting it in.  There was also a scroll on which the Kohen had to write certain things, and one of those things (see Mishnah Sotah) was Hashem’s Full Name.  He then had to erase the writing on the scroll into the bitter waters.  And after so, the suspected wife was to drink the waters.  If she was guilty, the waters killed her.  But if she was innocent, they didn’t.  

HaRav Yaakov Kamenetzky זצ"ל explains that, psychologically, a husband who seriously suspected his wife of acting inappropriately will still suspect her and not trust her, even if a court ruled her innocent.  Only Hashem’s Own Testimony will resolve things. 
Therefore, explains Rav Yaakov זצ"ל, Hashem, in this case, permits erasure of His Sacred Name in the bitter waters and performs such a miracle -- to set a suspicious husband’s mind at ease (Ibid. p. 754-755; from Iyunim BaMikra) and we might add, return peace to this couple’s home.

Mussar Message:

Holy he shall be’ (Bamidbar 5:6)
The Gemara derives from this that regular Nezirus is 30 days, because the word "יהיה" (‘he shall be’) is the numerical value of 30.
From this it is possible to see, until how is the greatness of the strength of the Torah, for even upon one numerical value that is in the Written Torah, it is arranged upon the hands of the Sages however many Pages in Maseches Nazir.” (The Chofetz Chaim זצ"ל in “Chofetz Chaim on the Torah").
Chassidishe Vort:

Parshas Nasso:

Based on Sichas Shabbos Parshas Nasso 5747, (from the Lubavitcher Rebbe -- Rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneerson זצ"ל), Rebbe Chaim Miller שׁליט"א writes:

Consequently, when we study the Torah now, after the giving of the Torah, we do not merely become educated and knowledgeable, but more importantly, our physical being becomes infused, strengthened and uplifted by the spirituality of the Torah.

To stress this point, the Parsha which we read around the time of Shavu’os is called Naso, which literally means “lift,” indicating how Torah actually elevates our physical existence to a higher plane.”

“From this,” he concludes, “we can learn that the Torah was not intended to be limited to the realm of the academic or even the spiritual.  Torah should affect us deeply, to the extent that even our ordinary, everyday activities become uplifted as a result of our exposure to Torah, fulfilling the Divine intent that the “upper worlds” and “lower worlds” should be in harmony with one another.” (The Gutnick Edition Chumash). 


Chazak V’ematz:

And Hashem said to Moshe; “One prince for a day; one prince for a day, shall they bring their offering for the Dedication of the Altar.’ (Bamidbar 7:11)

After this introductory phrase, the Torah goes on to list which Prince of the Jewish People brought his offering on which day, and it goes into detail of what they each brought.  The Midrash famously notes that, if you look, all of the offerings which the Princes brought were the same!  In every detail!  So then the question is asked; what was the reason the Torah has to go into detail with the offering for each Prince, when they were all the same?

 But there is a huge lesson in listing it this way:  It is easy to think, for example, during Minyan, when so many other people are Davening, does Hashem really care about my individual prayer?  Does it really matter?  I’m doing the same prayers as everyone else!

Comes along the Torah and it teaches us that Hashem never gets “tired” of our Mitzvos:  The entire Jewish Nation could be doing the same Mitzvah at the same time, and Hashem would love your Mitzvah just as much as if you were the only person in the world doing it.

And this doesn’t just go for our Mitzvos; it also goes for us in general.  There are so many people out there, but Hashem cares about each one of us. (Tal U’Matar).

(See Darkei Mussar on this, quoting from the Alter of Kelm -- HaRav Simcha Zissel Ziv זצ"ל -- for a very similar comment).


Maaseh B’Rabbi…: 

A visitor to the Chazon Ish (HaRav Avraham Yeshaya Karelitz זצ"ל) once complained that his Rav was not knowledgeable enough; he had no idea how much rain-water was necessary to make a Mikvah Kosher.

The Chazon Ish calmed the man down, saying: “Don’t worry, your Rav is a very learned person.  Go to him, ask him his opinion and explanation -- you can most definitely rely on his Halachic decision.”

The Rav in question received a telegram later that very day from the Chazon Ish.  It read: “PREFERABLE AMOUNT OF RAINWATER FOR MIKVEH 750 LITERS.  NO LESS THAN 648 LITERS.”

The Rav was confused by this unannounced telegram, but when his congregant challenged him later that day, the Rav was able to nonchalantly answer: “The Chazon Ish maintains that you need 750 liters for a Kosher Mikvah.  Why do you ask?”

The man was flustered, but he still did not trust his Rav’s expertise.  He personally checked out the Mikvah -- and found everything in order.  The Rav’s honor and erudition were thereby restored. (Visions of Greatness, Vol. VII; p. 144).


A Gut Shabbos to all!

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Shavuos Messages -- 5777

The Sweetness of Torah:

The Chofetz Chaim (HaRav Yisroel Meir HaKohen Kagan zt”l) quotes an opinion of some Rishonim, who hold that if you have honey, and you find little pieces of bee in it, you may still eat the honey.  Why?  Because the honey is so sweet, that it changes something from a davar tamei (impure thing) to a davar tahor (pure thing). (Though we do not hold like these Rishonim in this matter eating-wise).  

However, explains the Chofetz Chaim zt”l, the Torah is sweeter than honey:  And if honey can do that, then all the more so, when one learns Torah, it can change the bad in them to good!!  When you engross yourself in Torah, it can totally change and improve you. (Told over by Rebbe Avrohom Schorr shlit”a in a shiur on YouTube and  I highly recommend listening to the whole shiur, as it is very meaningful.  It is called: Shavuot: Everyone Can Improve Through the Honey-Sweet Torah).


The Torah:  By Hashem:

If we were told that there exists a book written by the Angel Gavriel, how we would yearn to read it!  And here we have before us a Book written by G-d Himself! (The Chofetz Chaim zt”l in Sparks of Mussar).


The Greatness of Torah:

Holy he shall be’ (Bamidbar 5:6)
The Gemara derives from this that regular Nezirus is 30 days, because the word “יהיה” is the numerical value of 30.
“From this it is possible to see, until how is the greatness of the strength of the Torah, for even upon one numerical value that is in the Written Torah, it is arranged upon the hands of the Sages however many Pages in Maseches Nazir.” (The Chofetz Chaim zt”l in “Chofetz Chaim on the Torah").


The Map of Life:  The Torah:

The Alter of Novhardok (HaRav Yosef Yozel Hurwitz zt”l) taught:  In wartime, the generals pore over maps to scrutinize tiny dots, each of which represent a river, a hill, or a valley.  

In this way, they decide where to advance and where to retreat; where to dig in and which places to avoid.  On the basis of the study of this map the battle is waged.

But an ignorant person who came into the room would be amazed to see the chiefs of staff studying tiny dots and would think them foolish for doing so!

Says Rav Yosef Yozel zt”l:  The map of life is the Torah:  Some ignorant people think that the Torah contains insignificant points; but they don’t understand that each “little” point is crucial…… (Sparks of Mussar).


Accepting the Torah Anew Each Year:

Many Gedolim teach us that each Shavuos we should accept the Torah anew.  Accept it straight from Hashem, the King of the World.  It is like the Giving of the Torah all over again.  

This means not just receiving it anew, but really accepting it in our lives; re-dedicating our commitment to it; and trying to not just learn it more, but to live it more.  In my eyes, Shavuos is like another chance; another chance at utilizing the great gift of the Torah, which we have unlimited access to, Baruch Hashem.

It is my hope that the above teachings will, B’Ezras Hashem, help everyone to accept the Torah in purity this year, and in that merit, we will soon see the coming of Mashiach, speedily in our days.  Amein.


A Chag Sameach and a Lichtiger Kabbolas HaTorah to all!

Monday, May 29, 2017

The Chofetz Chaim zt"l on Nasso -- and Torah

קדש יהיה (ו' ה)

יהיהבגמטריא שלושים, וסתם נזירות  ל' יום. 
מזה אפשר לראות, עד כמה גדול כח התורה, שעף על גימטריא א' שבתורה שבכתב נערכו ע"י חז"ל כמה דפים במסכת נזיר.

ה"חפץ חיים" זצ"ל, ב"חפץ חיים על התורה"))
 Holy he shall be’ (5:6)
He shall be” ("יהיה") is the numerical value of 30, and regular Nezirus is 30 days. 
From this it is possible to see, until how is the greatness of the strength of the Torah, for even upon one numerical value that is in the Written Torah, it is arranged upon the hands of the Sages however many Pages in Maseches Nazir.
(The Chofetz Chaim zt”l in “Chofetz Chaim on the Torah")

Friday, May 26, 2017

Parshas Bamidbar 5777

The Sages Say:

And Moshe counted them according to the Word of Hashem…(Bamidbar 3:16)

Moshe said before HaKadosh Baruch Hu: ‘How can I enter into the midst of their tents to know the count of their infants?’ Said HaKadosh Baruch Hu to him: ‘You do what is yours; and I will do what is mine.’ Moshe would go and stand at the entrance of the tent, and the Shechinah would go in front before him.  And a Heavenly Voice would go out from the tent and say: ‘Such-and-such infants there are in this tent’.  Therefore it says ‘according to the Word of Hashem’. (Rashi HaKadosh from Tanchuma 16).

As is explained, Moshe Rabbeinu didn’t know how he could enter the tents, as it would not be proper.  So Hashem told him how the count would be able to happen.  Thus, the count was literally ‘according to the Word of Hashem’.


A “Lamdanishe” Insight:  

To Shimon; Shelumiel son of TzuriShaddai. (Bamidbar 1:6)

In the Midrash Rabbah on Parshas Pinchas and Gemara Sanhedrin (82) it is taught that Shelumiel was called three names; Shelumiel ben TzuriShaddai, Shaul ben HaCanaanis, and Zimri ben Salu (the person who did the thing with Cosbi).  So then we might ask; what was his name?

And what appears on this writes HaRav Zalman Sorotzkin zt”l; that his name was Shelumiel ben TzuriShaddai, and when he was a righteous person he was called this name.  And when he began to turn from the Way of Hashem… and he stood up and changed his name and his father’s name to names… And since he changed his name, he changed to another man… to be a sinner and to cause sin to the masses, until they renamed him Zimri ben Salu.

And from this we learn continues Rav Sorotzkin zt”l; that a Jew who changes his name and his father’s name to names of gentiles, he commits lewdness to himself by way of going in the ways of the gentiles and in their statutes and is likely to sin and cause sin to the masses. (Oznayim LaTorah).

Mussar Message:  

And Hashem spoke to Moshe… in the second year from their Going out from the land of Egypt, saying:  Lift up the heads…(Bamidbar 1:1-2)

In the censuses of Sefer Shemos, the Jewish People were counted as a whole, but now, we were counted in Tribes and different units:

HaRav Yaakov Kamenetzky zt”l notes this, and he explains that until there was one Central Point for the Jewish People -- i.e. a Mishkan, counting us this way would have caused strife, etc. as we would all identify with our own Tribe.

But once we had the Mishkan -- the Central Point of the Jewish People, representing the Service of Hashem, the Jews could be counted in different Tribes and there would be no fear of arguments and strife. (The Stone Edition Chumash; p. 727 -- from Emes L’Yaakov).


Chassidishe Vort:  

And Hashem spoke to Moshe in the Wilderness of Sinai, in the Tent of Meeting…’ (Bamidbar 1:1)

The Torah was given on Har Sinai, the lowest of the mountains, to impress upon us the importance of humility.  

However, one must be cautious that humility, feeling oneself to be small, should not develop into atzvus (depression).  Service of Hashem requires that one be in a state of Simcha (joy).

Moed (as in the Ohel Moed -- Tent of Meeting) can mean like a Yom Tov (Holiday), a day of joy.  The above verse, ‘And Hashem spoke to Moshe in the Wilderness of Sinai, in the Tent of Meeting…’ can be understood to mean ‘(be) as humble as the Wilderness of Sinai, but joyful as a Moed’. (The Noam Elimelech -- Rebbe Elimelech of Lizhensk zt”l in Four Chassidic Masters; p. 58).


Chazak V’ematz:  

Parshas Bamidbar, as we know, most often falls around Shavuos -- usually beforehand. Explains HaRav Moshe Feinstein zt”l, coming into the Festival of Accepting the Torah (Shavuos), we might start thinking; maybe we aren’t that important.  Maybe I just don’t matter. 

But says Reb Moshe zt”l beautifully, comes along Parshas Bamidbar, in which a census is taken of the Jewish People, and it reminds us that we all count, and are important to the world; the Jewish People -- and most of all; important to Hashem. (Told over by HaRav Shalom Rosner shlit”a on

Maaseh B’Rabbi...

When Rebbe Chaim of Sanz zt”l (the Divrei Chaim) was only four years old, he could recite from memory all 613 Mitzvos, in the order given by the Rambam zt”l.

People asked him; “Why did you choose to memorize this material in particular?”

And he replied: “Soldiers are required to know all of the orders which their commander gives.  We Jews are also soldiers, in the Army of Hashem, and must, therefore, thoroughly know all of His orders and His orders are the Commandments of the Torah, the תּרי"ג Mitzvos!”

The young Reb Chaim zt”l paused, then added: “I yearn with all my heart to be a good soldier in Hashem’s Army.  That is why I chose to learn the Mitzvos by heart.” (Tales of Tzaddikim, Bamidbar p. 14).


A Gut Shabbos to all!

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Yom Yerushalayim Sameach!


It is truly beautiful and such a great zechus (merit) to have Yerushalayim -- and be able to go there too.  Thank You Hashem, our Father and King.  May You soon rebuild the Beis HaMikdash as well, and bring Yerushalayim back to its former beauty!

Friday, May 19, 2017

Message from Behar

When you come to the Land that I give to you, and the land shall rest a Shabbos to Hashem….’ (Parshas Behar).

The Torah relates the observance of Shemitah to the Jews’ arrival in the Land of Israel, ‘that I give to you’, explains the Alshich HaKadosh, to counteract the normal human feeling that someone’s property is their’s alone -- especially the land that they work.  The Torah emphasizes, therefore, that it is Hashem Who gives the Land. (The Stone Edition Chumash; p. 696).

We might feel that it is our land; but the Torah lets us know that the One Who is commanding us regarding the Shemitah is the One Who gives us the land -- and everything else -- in the first place.

A Gut Shabbos to all!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Hold on one second... and don't get angry

It is written: “Remove anger from your heart.” For the attribute of anger, like pride, must be banished from one’s heart entirely; one must go to the furthest extreme to avoid it.
The fundamental step in avoiding anger must be taken at the outset, because once one begins to become angry, he loses control of his mind and soul.  He does not know what he is doing.  Even when anger would seemingly be justified, one should control himself and not be angry…… If one loses control and expresses anger against someone, he should apologize that same day. (Rebbe Zechariah Mendel of Yarislav zt”l in Darchei Tzedek -- quoted in A Path for Life; p. 166).

Friday, May 12, 2017

פּרשׁת אמוֹר

פּרשׁת אמוֹר:

One who mocks the poor is scorning his Maker’ (Mishlei 17:5).  

The Gemara states that one who comes within four amos (cubits) of a grave must hide their Tzitzis, lest they “mock” the dead, who cannot perform the Mitzvah.

~~(Now, you might be wondering how the Gemara is speaking of scorning the dead, when the verse quoted is speaking of a poor person:  But actually, a poor person is, in some way, likened to a dead person; see Gemara Nedarim 64b.  Of course, though, this should not be taken as meaning that they are really dead at all, Chas V'Shalom.  But the comparison is made.)~~

Explains the Alter of Slobodka (HaRav Nosson Tzvi Finkel zt”l); imagine we are going to Daven at the graves of Tzaddikim (righteous people).  We are certainly free of any thoughts of scorning them!  And yet our Chachamim (Sages) still ordered us to hide our Tzitzis!

How much more so, says the Alter, when we walk among the living -- who are sensitive to every nuance of another’s behavior towards them -- should we take care not to cause them any shame or embarrassment, for we would thereby be scorning our Maker. (Quoted in Sparks of Mussar; p. 163).


My dear brothers and sisters!  Now, as we read about the Omer in this Parsha – also and live in it --  let us think about and meditate upon why it is sad!  Is it not mainly because Rabbi Akiva zt”l’s students did not treat each other with the proper respect?

But let us now all look at ourselves -- perhaps we are guilty of that transgression.  Perhaps we have treated others without respect!  

The Omer was originally a very joyous time!  In fact, the Ramban zt”l says that it was like a Chol HaMoed.  

Just think about that:  Such a joyous, special time…… and it became very sad because of…… Jews not treating each other with the proper honor and respect.  That is what great destruction strife and the like can cause.


But now, B'Ezras Hashem, I would like to go further:  Our Gedolim tell us that, in Egypt, the Jews had deteriorated to the 49th level of impurification.  And then, as we know, HaKadosh Baruch Hu, in His Great Kindness, took us out from there.  The Omer was the period of time, they explain, in which the Jews got purified and prepared to go up to Har Sinai to receive the Torah.  (7 weeks for the 49 levels).  That was the time of sanctification and purification.

And then; as we came to Har Sinai, the Torah says (in Parshas Yisro): ‘ויחן שׁם ישׂראל נגד ההר’ -- ‘And Israel encamped there, opposite the Mountain’.  

Comments Rashi HaKadosh from Mechilta: “Like one man with one heart……” (He derives this, it is explained, from the fact that the verse uses the singular form of the word – ‘ויחן’).

At Har Sinai, when we were ready to accept the Torah, we were together.  We were ready, as one people, as one family, to receive the Torah from our Father in Heaven.


How will we turn the Omer back into a happy time?  The above is the answer:  By returning to how we improved on the very first Omer:  We really tried to improve ourselves, and we reached Achdus (oneness).  

If the Omer is sad mainly because of a lack of oneness -- then if we can, with the Help of Hashem, treat others better, and show them more respect, thus bringing oneness; it will not only turn the Omer back to a happy time, but it will bring Mashiach speedily in our days, may Hashem will so, Amein Vi’Amein.

A Gut Shabbos to all!