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 TorahAnytime.com.  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).


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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).

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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").

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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).

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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.

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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"))
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 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’.

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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).

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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).

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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).

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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 OU.org).

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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).

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A Gut Shabbos to all!



Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Yom Yerushalayim Sameach!

TheLakewoodScoop

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).

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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.

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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.

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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!

Monday, May 8, 2017

Mussar Drosha: Carrying out Mitzvos


Rebbe Menachem Mendel of Rimanov zt”l taught: A person should be particularly cautious, when doing mitzvah or a good deed, to carry it out to its completion.  People often discover all manner of obstacles that deter them from completing the mitzvah.  This is because the yetzer hara makes a special effort to undermine completing the mitzvah.  If one persists with the desire to complete it, Hashem will help him to do so. (As quoted in Four Chassidic Masters; p. 109-110).


Adds Rebbe Avraham J. Twerski M.D. shlita (Ibid. p. 110): “In Mesilas Yesharim’s chapter on Zerizus (diligence), Ramchal points out that one must have zerizus both when beginning a mitzvah and along the way.  It is not uncommon for a person to begin something with much enthusiasm, but gradually lose interest as one progresses.  Ramchal especially warns about procrastination, using the strong language that “there is no other danger as great as procrastination.” If a person decides not to do something, one does not deceive himself.  A procrastinator deceives himself, thinking “I will do it, but just not now,” and believes this to be true, whereas it is nothing other than the avoidance of something one does not want to do but does not want to admit it."


A Guten Tog to all and Kol Tuv!


Friday, May 5, 2017

Parshas Kedoshim 5777







פּרשׁת קדוֹשׁים

Speak to all the Assembly of the Bnei Yisroel……’

Explains the Alshich HaKadosh (HaRav Moshe Alsheich zt”l) -- and the Tosher Rebbe zt”l says this as well:  Why was it mentioned specifically in this parsha that it was said to ‘All of the Assembly of the Bnei Yisroel’?

Because to be holy is not just incumbent upon the leaders of generations and the high people: Every single person must strive to be holy (quoted in The Stone Edition Chumash) -- and we all can, as well!
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‘You shall be holy, for I, Hashem your G-d, am holy.’

This is why Hashem commands of us to be holy, because He is holy. Hashem is reminding us that indeed, because He is the source of holiness, we can become holy ourselves. Although it may seem difficult or even impossible, we should remember that Hashem is holy and He can help us come close to Him. We just need to pray to Him, to open our hearts a crack – the size of the eye of a needle, and He will pull us closer to Him.

May Hashem help that every Jew should be able to purify himself and become holy, and through this may we all merit being blessed with Hashem’s bounty. May everyone be helped with whatever he needs, and may we all merit greeting Moshiach speedily, in our days, Amen.
(The Nikolsburger Rebbe -- Rebbe Yosef Yechiel Michel Lebovits shlita; as quoted on Nikolsburg.org).

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You shall surely rebuke your fellow, and you shall not bear a sin upon him……’

Writes HaRav Aharon Soloveitchik zt”l: “In the English translation… “hocheiach tochiach” is translated as “rebuke” or “reprimand”.  This is not an accurate translation.  Hocheiach does not mean rebuke, and does not mean reprimand.  It really means “a proof”; something that serves as a raayah, for evidence is called a hochachah -- a proof.  Thus the Torah says, in fact:  You shall prove to your fellow -- to your chaver.

Prove what?  What shall you prove?  Obviously it means: “You shall prove to your fellow the wrongful path on which he embarks, the wrongfulness of his conduct.” Although the words are omitted, the meaning is implicit. 

But the question then arises, why, if that be the case, does not the Torah say, “l’amisecha -- unto your your fellow”?  If the Torah means “you shall convince, you shall prove unto your fellow the wrongfulness of his course,” then “amisecha -- your fellow,” is an indirect object.  How is it that the Torah employs the direct object -- “es amisecha” -- when the indirect object should be employed?  A very profound concept is contained in this verse, and and the key to it lies in the grammatical formulation of this mitzvah.

We find in the Talmud that whenever people are quoted as referring to the better side of their character, they speak of themselves in the first person, while if referring to the evil aspect of their character, then they refer to themselves in the third person.

Thus, when the Talmud quotes people as saying that they fulfilled a certain mitzvah, it puts the word ana, “I,” in the mouth of the person quoted.  

Should the Talmud quote people as telling that they were violators of the Shabbos, or that they were rude, then the term hahu gavra, “that person,” is used by the person quoted.  

We learn from this that within every person there are two personalities.  In every individual there is the ideal personality, aspiring towards that which is sacred, noble, worthy.  And simultaneously, every person is moved by certain animal instincts which lead him or her to sinful acts.  

The real personality is the one that is motivated by the lofty inclination.  That is the “ana,” the “I,” the essential inner self of the person; the animal instincts that impel one towards wrongful ways constitute only the “hahu gavra,” “that person,”a stranger, a trespasser who occupies one’s spirit……

The mitzvah of tochachah is based upon the belief that the true self is the “I” of the person, not the “that person.”  The “hahu gavra” is only a subterfuge that covers up and imprisons the real self.  

How can one correct another?  If you see that a person is addicted to sin, how can you change the person?  Not by calling names, not by reprimanding, but by proving to the person his or her true self……

The reason so many Jews feel incapable of t’shuvah is because they are not aware of their own spiritual strength.  They think that the acher is the real person while it is only a trespasser.  

The Torah says if you want to succeed in correcting Jews who are delinquent in their demeanor, then do not try to reprimand them.  Do not tell them, “You are no good,” “You are impure”; that is not tochachah.  Rather, tochachah requires that you convince the delinquents of their inner selves:  you shall retrieve your fellow……

Right now certain Jews are not chaverim, because externally there is a rude shell, a hahu gavra that imprisons their personality, frustrates them, and does not allow them to realize their potential.  
But with the proper approach and proper guidance, you can revive and regain the chaver so that this Jew will be a chavrusa to you.  This is the purpose of “hocheiach tochiach… v’lo sisa alav cheit” -- that you shall not incur guilt.  


Shall we then fail to realize why so many Jews are delinquent in their religious and moral demeanor?  Is it not because we, the so-called observant Jews, fail to inspire them?  Had we grasped the proper approach towards these Jews, then they would have been inspired to expel the shell that covers up their real selves. 

Were we to realize now the proper approach and the proper guidance, we would beyond any doubt succeed in retrieving and reviving the chaver, the amisecha.  If we fail to fulfill the tochachah, then it is our fault, and we share the guilt……” (From Logic of the Heart, Logic of the Mind).
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‘And you shall love your fellow as yourself…’

The Alter of Slobodka (HaRav Nosson Tzvi Finkel zt”l) explains on this that the Torah says that we must love our fellow ‘like ourselves’.

Just as we love ourselves instinctively, without looking for any reason, he explains, so too, we must love others without even looking for any reasons to. (Quoted in The Stone Edition Chumash).
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A Gut Shabbos, full of holiness to all!

Parshas Acharei Mos 5777







 


פּרשׁת אחרי מוֹת
Though the High Holidays are half a year away, the Torah portion we read this week reinforces our awareness of their importance by instructing us now about Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year.” (HaRav Dovid Nussbaum shlita; Sparks of Torah; p. 79).
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For in a cloud I appear upon the Kapores.’
 
‘And it’s Midrash:  He shall not come except if with the Cloud of Incense, on Yom HaKippurim.’ (Rashi HaKadosh from Gemara Yoma 53a).
 
The Chofetz Chaim (HaRav Yisroel Meir HaKohen Kagan zt”l) notes that the first Service the Kohen Gadol performs when he goes into the Holy of Holies on Yom Kippur is…… the Incense Service.  And Chazal have taught us that the Incense Service atones for the sin of Lashon Hara.
 
This is a lesson to us, Rav Yisroel Meir zt”l explains, just how severe Lashon Hara is. (From Shemiras HaLashon).
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‘And Aharon shall put upon the two he-goats lots; one lot “for Hashem”, and one lot “for Azazel”.’
HaRav Shimshon Refoel Hirsch zt”l explains:  We should imagine the service -- two goats, nearly identical (as Mishnah Yoma teaches) brought before the Beis HaMikdash.  The Kohen Gadol draws the lots, one ‘for Hashem’ and one ‘for Azazel’.  
 
Now the goats part ways.  The goat that was ‘for Hashem’ is slaughtered as an offering to Hashem.  The second goat -- the one for Azazel, ‘stands alive’ as the verse says.
 
If this goat could think, it would likely be very happy that it was to remain alive!  If it could compare itself to the other goat, it would probably become very proud of itself.  It would say “Look at the difference between us! Certainly, he was brought on the holy Altar, but he lost his life in the process, while I, on the other hand, am alive and well!”
 
And after he was led to the mountainside of Yerushalayim, his pride would only expand within him.  What a wonderful thing, to step into the free country.  When he is taken up to the cliff, he feels even more fortunate, as he looks over the grand sight below him.  
 
Of course, if this goat knew what was going on, it would not be having these thoughts at all! One quick push off the cliff, and him and his pride are left splattered on the rocks below.
 
This is the story of a Jew’s life:  Two paths lie before every Jew; the path of serving Hashem, and the path of the people who lead a secular life, merely enjoying the pleasures of life.  The second group of people are far from Torah and Mitzvos.  
 
The first path sometimes requires sacrifice, such as not doing certain desires of ours, and having certain so-called ‘restrictions’.  However, all this is worth it, as through this, one merits gaining entrance into Hashem’s Holy Sanctuary.  These great people acquire good things in both worlds.
 
The people, who just go after their desires, may appear to be right at times, Chas V’Shalom, as they might have sweet-looking lives, because they are just doing what they want. But in the end, we see which way the lives of the members of the two camps go, i.e. the good people and bad people.
 
When the bubble of the bad people bursts, and they realize that the pleasures of life are but nothing, them and their dreams are left ‘splattered’.
 
The two goats on Yom Kippur, should remind us all of the ongoing battle between the Yetzer Tov, who tries to convince us to take the good path, that of the first goat, and the Yetzer Hara, who tries to convince us to go in the bad path, that of the second goat -– the one ‘for Azazel’. And we must always listen to our Yetzer Tov, and take the good path, serving Hashem to the best of our abilities. (From BiMaagalei HaShanah -- quoted in The Torah of Brisk and other Gedolim:  Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur).
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‘And he shall send it, in the hand of a timely man, to the wilderness.’
 
Rebbe Lazer Brody shlita notes that the designated man to go with the goat for Azazel really isn’t talked about much -- even though his job is so important!  He is almost like the “unsung hero”, so to speak.
 
However, this goes to teach us a lesson, he explains:  Every single Jew (and person in general) is important.  No matter who you are -- and no matter how little you are talked about.  
 
The Jewish People is compared to a body -- and without even one of all the cells, organs, limbs, etc. (Chas V’Shalom) your body would not work as well.  So too, with every Jew.  (Chassidic Pearls -- quoted on Breslev.co.il).
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A Gut Shabbos, full of holiness to all!

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Refuos and Yeshuos for HaRav Refoel Shmuel Yaakov Bornstein shlita

Baruch Hashem, HaRav Refoel Shmuel Yaakov Bornstein shlita's condition has improved significantly!  

Please continue to Daven and say Tehillim for Rav Refoel Shmuel Yaakov ben Yehudis Tziviah, bi'soch shaar cholei Yisroel.

כבוד לתלמידי חכמים

כּבוֹד לתּלמידי חכמים

Chazal make an interesting statement in Gemara Shabbos (112b): ‘If the earliest Sages were like Angels, then we are like men; if they were like men, then we are like donkeys


Asks HaRav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv zt”l:  Why is the Gemara saying ‘if’ they were like angels?  Is there any doubt that the earliest Sages were on an incredibly high level?!


However, he explains, it is only a matter of how we look at it:  If we look at the earliest Sages as Angels; if we realize that we cannot fathom their holiness -- then that shows that we are human beings.  


But, says Rav Elyashiv zt”l; if we (Chas V’Shalom) look at them as ordinary people, similar to our own level, then Chazal say something not very complimentary about us…… (From The Light of Torah; p. 5).
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This Gemara applies in our times, as well.  Each generation has Sages who are above the level of ordinary human beings, and we must understand that we cannot fathom their wisdom and greatness. (Ibid.)