Friday, January 12, 2018

Parshas Va'eira Messages 5778

Parshas Va’eira:

The Sages Say:

‘“Therefore say to the Children of Israel; ‘I am Hashem, and I will take you out (והוֹצאתי) from under the burdens of Egypt, and I will save you (והצּלתּי) from their work, and I will redeem (וגאלתּי) you with an outstretched arm and with great judgements.  And I will take (ולקחתּי) you to Me for a People…”’ (Shemos 2:6-7)

Rav Huna (zt”l) said in the name of Rav Binayah (zt”l) that the four cups that we have at the Seder correspond to the four expressions of Redemption used in the above verses:  והוֹצאתי (‘and I will take you out’), והצּלתּי (‘and I will save you’), וגאלתּי (‘and I will redeem you’), and ולקחתּי (‘and I will take you’).

(From Midrash Bereishis Rabbah 88:6)

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A Helpful Hint:

And also I established My Covenant with them [the Avos] to give to them (לתת להם) the land of Canaan [Israel]...

The Gematria of ‘לתת’ -- ‘to give’, notes the Baal HaTurim, is 830.  This alludes to the span that the two Batei HaMikdash stood for -- 410 years and 420 years [which, if put together equal 830].

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A “Lamdanishe” Insight:

And I will harden the heart of Paroah, and I will increase My Signs and My Wonders in the land of Egypt.’ (Shemos 7:3)

There is a well-known debate amongst the commentators; how could Hashem have hardened Paroah's heart -- apparently taking away his free will?  True Paroah was wicked, but shouldn’t he still be left with the free choice to repent?  This is indeed a good question, and B’Ezras Hashem, what I want to do this time is to bring a few different explanations and answers to it:

1) --- Sforno zt”l:  Without a doubt, if not for the hardening of Paroah’s heart, he would have let the Jews out of Egypt.  However, that would not have been out of repentance or submission to Hashem -- only out of that fact that he couldn’t take any more pain of the Plagues.  And this would not have been proper Teshuva at all.  

Therefore, Hashem strengthened Paroah’s heart [which didn’t mean that He took away his free will -- just the opposite], so that he would be able to endure the pain of the Plagues and not just send the Jews out of Egypt because of fear of the Plagues.  Indeed, as it says, ‘in order to put these signs of Mine in his midst’ -- meaning; that from them [and not the pain], [Paroah and] the Egyptians would come to recognize Hashem’s Greatness and return in true Teshuva, [and of course, in effect, send the Jews out of Egypt].

2) --- Chofetz Chaim zt”l (in Chofetz Chaim al HaTorah):  There are many people who ask how the Doors of Repentance could be closed in the face of Paroah.  Isn’t it a general rule that the Gates of Teshuva are never closed to even a very big sinner?

Rather, the matter is that there are some wrongdoers that from Heaven, they get helped to repent, as we pray, ‘return us in complete Teshuva before You’.  However, there are also other ones who heap up their measure of transgressions so much so, that help from Heaven to return is withheld, and it is up to the person to arouse themselves to Teshuva.  

Paroah was one of these cases:  HaKadosh Baruch Hu told Moshe Rabbeinu to let him know that he had gone very far in his wickedness.  And as a punishment for that, from Heaven he wouldn’t get help to return in Teshuva.  As it says, ‘for I will harden his [Paroah’s] heart’ -- meaning that his heart was now hardened, because from Heaven he would not be aided in the process of Teshuva.  However, the free choice was not taken away from him to return on his own [as later, he, Baruch Hashem, did].

3) --- Tal U’Matar (and see Sifsei Chachamim ק to Rashi HaKadosh here):  As we are told, after all the Plagues and Kriyas Yam Suf (The Splitting of the Sea), Paroah did Teshuva.  After all the Wonders, he repented.  

So perhaps the answer to the above question is staring us right in the face in the very verse quoted: 'And I will harden the heart of Paraoh, and I will increase My signs and My wonders in the land of Egypt.'

As we know, Paroah was very stubborn.  But even with a person like that, his stubbornness and wickedness can still be broken.  It just might take a bit more.

So if we put all this together, we can suggest that out of mercy for Paroah did Hashem do all this:  He knew that if He only performed a "minimal" amount of Wonders in Mitzraim, Paroah's stubbornness might have been broken for a little while -- but this change perhaps would not have lasted.  

However, if He would bring all the Makkos (Plagues) and Paroah would also see the Kriyas Yam Suf  -- then it would be just "too much", and Paroah would change for good -- as he did.

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Chassidishe Vort:

And Hashem said to Moshe and to Aharon, saying: “When Paroah will speak to you, saying; ‘Give for yourselves a wonder…’”’ (Shemos 7:8-9)

The question is asked; why would Paroah say ‘give for yourselves a wonder’?  Wouldn’t it have been more proper that he would say that they should ‘give to me a wonder’?

Explains the Noam Elimelech {Rebbe Elimelech of Lizhensk zt”l}; even a person who sees a lot of Miracles and wonders, it’s still a great and amazing thing with each and every one that they see.  Afterall, whenever Hashem performs a Miracle, it is amazing and novel.  However, with people who perform “magic” (sleight of hand), their tricks don’t really impress themselves and are nothing new because they know exactly how they did it, etc.

This, explains the Rebbe Reb Meilech zt”l, is what Paroah meant: ‘Provide a wonder that is even miraculous and new to yourselves -- not just some “magic” trick.’

(Heard from one of my Rebbeim)

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Mussar Message:

And Hashem said to Moshe: “Say to Aharon; ‘Stretch out your hand with your staff upon the rivers, upon the canals, and upon the lakes, and bring up the frogs upon the land of Egypt.”’ And Aharon stretched out his hand upon the waters of Egypt, and the frog (הצפרדע -- in the singular) came up, and covered the land of Egypt.’ (Shemos 8:1-2)

Brings Rashi HaKadosh from Midrash Tanchuma, that there was only one frog, and the Egyptians just kept hitting it and hitting it, and so it would break into swarms and swarms.  

Asks the Steipler Gaon {HaRav Yaakov Yisroel Kanievsky zt”l}; when the Egyptians who were hitting it saw that that only added to the frogs and made them multiply more, wouldn’t knowledge dictate that they should just stop hitting the frog so that the creatures didn’t continue to increase?!

However, answers the Steipler beautifully; what does the trait of anger say?  It says that since the frogs are multiplying, all the more so that they should hit it and get revenge.  And as the frogs continue to increase, so does the anger of the Egyptians’, and then they continue to hit it and hit it until eventually, it ‘covered the land of Egypt’. [This is what anger can do if, Chas V’Shalom, we let it.]

(From Bircas Peretz)

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Chazak V’ematz:

As we read about the Geulah (Redemption) from Mitzraim unfolding, I want to share an insight with you, B’Ezras Hashem, on the Geulah from this long and bitter Exile:

My Rebbe, HaRav Daniel Yaakov Travis shlit”a related that he was told (I think by HaRav Moshe Shternbuch shlit”a) that each and every person has the power to bring the Redemption.  Hashem is waiting, so to speak, for any one of us to do something very special -- and that will trigger the Geulah.  Whether it be overcoming a difficult challenge, the performance of a “little” good deed that doesn’t seem so special in our eyes, or even lots of things together -- each and every one of us can cause the Ultimate Geulah.  May it be very soon, Amein.

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Maaseh B’Rabbi…

In the Jewish year 5597, a powerful earthquake destroyed a lot of the city of Tzefas.  HaRav Shmuel Heller zt”l, the Rav of Tzefas at the time, sustained losses as well; his wife and three children perished in it.  Rav Shmuel himself was trapped under a layer of debris and he wasn’t able to climb out.  He then shouted, “If I will be saved, I promise that I will study Torah more vigorously.” Miraculously, the stones began to fall to the side, and he was able to crawl out.  

When one accepts upon themselves to study more Torah, it can bring big Salvations.

(Brought in Meoros HaParsha)

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A Gut Shabbos to all!

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Does anyone know any contact information for any big Gedolim? Thanks so much!

It would be really appreciated.  Please, if you know any contact information for anyone, post it in comments and/or send me an email at aishkodesh611@gmail.com.

Thank you so much and a Gut Voch!

Friday, January 5, 2018

Parshas Shemos Messages 5778

Parshas Shemos:

Baruch Hashem, we have the privilege to begin a new Book of the Torah.  It is indeed like a new beginning.  Now, with the Help of Hashem, let us begin:

 The Sages Say:

And G-d called to him [Moshe Rabbeinu] from the midst of the bush…’ (Shemos 3:4)

A non-Jew once asked Rabbi Yehoshua ben Korcha zt”l; “What did HaKadosh Baruch Hu see to speak with Moshe (i.e. why did He) from the midst of the [burning] bush?”

And Rav Yehoshua ben Korcha answered him, “If it had been from the midst of a carob [tree], or from the midst of a sycamore [tree], so you would have asked me (i.e. you would have asked me the same question).  However, to make you go out divided (meaning ‘without an answer’) is impossible.  Why from the midst of the bush?  To teach you that there is not a place empty without the Shechinah (Divine Presence) -- even a bush.”

(Related in Midrash Shemos Rabbah, 2:5)

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A “Lamdanishe” Insight:

And Moshe went and he returned to Yeser [Yisro] his father-in-law, and he said to him; “I will go, please, and I will return to my brothers who are in Egypt…” And Yisro said to Moshe, “Go in peace.”’ (Shemos 4:18)

Asks the Alter of Slabodka {HaRav Nosson Tzvi Finkel zt”l}; how is it that Moshe Rabbeinu is going and asking Yisro about something that Hashem had commanded him to do?

The answer, explains the Alter, is that Moshe had to ask Yisro’s permission to leave in order to show gratitude for his help. (He wasn’t getting a second opinion or relying on Yisro’s authority more than Hashem’s, Chas V’Shalom.) Without gratitude, Moshe Rabbeinu could not have been a proper leader.

(Brought in Sparks of Mussar)

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A Helpful Hint:




(Shemos 1:1)
 

And these are the names of the Children of Israel who were coming…
ואלּה שׁמוֹת בּני ישׂראל הבּאים...

The Sofei Teivos (last letters) of the above words, says the Rebbe of Bendin, spell תהלים (if you rearrange them a bit).  This is to hint to us, he expounds, that in every time of distress and hardship -- such as Mitzraim (Egypt) -- Tehillim can be read and through this can come the Salvation.

(Quoted in Maayanah Shel Torah)

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Chassidishe Vort:

And these are the names of the Children of Israel who were coming to Egypt; with Yaakov, [each] man and his household came.’ (Shemos 1:1)

Tells us Rashi HaKadosh from Midrash Tanchuma and Midrash Shemos Rabbah, although Hashem had already counted the Tribes in their lifetime by their names, He counted them again after their death, to let us know how precious they are to Him, for they are likened to stars which He takes out and brings in according to their number and their names.  

Says the Sfas Emes {third Gerrer Rebbe -- Rebbe Yehuda Aryeh Leib Alter zt”l}; Jews are obligated to know that Hashem loves us.  And just like He created the stars in order that they should illuminate when it is the dark of the night -- so too, He created us so that we would spread the G-dly Light and bring Him in even to very dark and lowly places -- (such as Egypt was).

(Ibid.) 

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Mussar Message:

You shall make the work heavier for the men, and they will do in it…’ (Shemos 5:9)

Writes the Ramchal {Rabbeinu Moshe Chaim Luzzatto zt”l}, on the trait of vigilance: “Behold the matter of vigilance is that a person should be careful in his actions and his affairs, meaning to say, he should contemplate and survey upon his deeds and his ways, if they are good or not… And the one who goes in his world without reflection if his way is good or bad, behold he is like a blind person who is going upon the bank of a river -- that his danger is certainly strong and his bad is closer than his salvation [i.e. it is more likely that he comes to harm than not].  For the lack of protection [the risk] because of natural blindness or because of willful blindness -- [willful blindness] meaning the closing of the eyes [to our actions] with choice and desire [i.e. deliberately] -- are one [and the same].

“And behold, Yirmiyahu bemoaned upon the evil of the people of his generation, because they were afflicted with the affliction of this trait [of willful blindness].  That they were hiding their eyes from their actions without putting their heart to see what they [the actions] are:  If they should [continue to] do them or to abandon them.  And he said regarding them (Yirmiyahu 8:6), ‘No man regrets upon his evil saying, ‘what have I done?’ -- they all return to their course, like a swift horse in battle.’ And that is, that they were pursuing and going in the course of their habits and ways, without leaving time for themselves to scrutinize upon their deeds and ways, and it comes out [the result is] that they fell into bad without seeing [being aware of] it.

And he continues that “This is in truth one of the tricks of the Yetzer Hara and his cunning:  His work is constant to burden upon the hearts of people until there is not left to them respite to meditate and to look in which way they are going [i.e. what they are doing].  Because it knows that if they would only minimally put their heart upon [i.e. devote attention to] their ways, for certain they would immediately begin to repent from their [bad] deeds, and the regret would go and strengthen in them until they would abandon the sin completely.

“And behold, this is similar to the advice of Paroah the wicked, who said (Shemos 5:9), ‘You shall make the work heavier for the men, and they will do in it, and let them not talk about false matters.’ That he was [not only] intending to not let them have respite at all, so that they would not put their heart [to their troubles] or set advice against him, rather [he was also] trying to disturb their hearts from any contemplation, with [i.e. from] the strength of the constant work without break.

(Mesilas Yesharim; Chapter 2 -- ‘Explanation of the Trait of Vigilance’)

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And it is our duty to fight against the Yetzer Hara’s attempts to distract our minds from thinking about what we do, and indeed contemplate our actions and correct them, with the Help of Hashem.

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Chazak V’ematz:

And the daughter of Paroah went down to wash in the river (the Nile)... and she saw the basket [which Moshe Rabbeinu had been put in] in the midst of the reeds, and she sent her maidservant (אמתהּ) and she took it.

Rashi HaKadosh brings here that the Sages in Gemara Sotah 12b interpret אמתהּ to mean her hand (instead of her maidservant).  And they explain [that she stretched out her hand to grab the basket] and it grew many cubits [so she was able to reach it]. 

We learn from this, says Rebbe Menachem Mendel of Kotzk zt”l, that sometimes we are put into a situation that seems almost impossible.  But we must never think that it is indeed impossible.  We need to try and do what we can.  And if we put in our effort, Hashem will help us to achieve things way beyond our usual capabilities.

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Maaseh B’Rabbi…

Shortly after World War II, the Shulsinger Bros. Publishing Co. published a fine edition of the Talmud.  HaRav Moshe Feinstein zt”l was among the first to purchase a set of the expensive volumes. 

Once, while using one of the new volumes he momentarily left the room.  He had been using a dip pen and a bottle of ink.  While he was away, a student unintentionally knocked over the bottle, spilling black ink all over the page.

As the student stood in shame in shame, the Rosh Yeshiva returned to the room.  Upon perceiving what happened, however, Rav Moshe smiled pleasantly.  He assured the student that the Gemara still looked beautiful and, with a comforting glance, returned to study.
(Related in A Letter for the Ages)

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A Gut Shabbos to all!

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Cold and Snow

Shalom Aleichem.  I want to remind everyone to try to take precautions and be very careful in the upcoming snow and freeze.  The winds and visability are supposed to be pretty bad.

May Hashem protect you and your family.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Parshas Vayechi Messages 5778

Parshas Vayechi:

The Sages Say: 

And he [Yaakov Avinu] expired, and he was gathered to his people.’ (Bereishis 49:33)

[It says that Yaakov Avinu expired], but it does not speak of death.  Our Rabbis of blessed memory (Taanis 5b) said that Yaakov Avinu did not die.

(Rashi HaKadosh)

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A Helpful Hint:

And Yosef said to his brothers; “I am going to die, and G-d will surely remember [פּקד יפקד] you and take you up from this land to the Land that He swore to Avraham, to Yitzchok and to Yaakov.”’ (Bereishis 50:24)

Says the Baal HaTurim two beautiful things:  1) What Yosef HaTzaddik was saying is that he is only flesh and blood; today he is here, and tomorrow [i.e. at some later time] he will be in the grave.  But HaKadosh Baruch Hu, the Living and Eternal King, He will remember them [and take them out of Egypt].

2) With the two פs (in פּקד יפקד), he alluded to them that just as he reigned [in Egypt] for 80 years, so too a redeemer who was 80 years old would come for them [i.e. Moshe Rabbeinu.  He is a redeemer in the fact that through him Hashem redeemed the Jews].

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Chassidishe Vort:

And Yaakov called to his sons and he said, “Gather and I will tell to you what will happen to you in the End of Days.”’ (Bereishis 49:1)

There is a very famous vort (lit. word -- usually a short Torah thought) that many bring from this verse:  Yaakov Avinu was trying to give his sons advice -- if they would gather together in unity and have Achdus (oneness), then that will bring the End of Days, i.e. Mashiach will come.  Indeed, may Hashem help us to do so, and send him very swiftly in our days.  

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A “Lamdanishe” Insight:

And he [Yaakov] blessed them [Ephraim and Menashe] on that day saying, “In you will Israel bless, saying: ‘May G-d put you like Ephraim and like Menashe’”’ (Bereishis 48:20)

Asks HaRav Shlomo Bloch zt”l; what did Yaakov Avinu see to set the blessing that Jews should be specifically like Ephraim and Menashe?  

And he answers; we find that Yaakov Avinu said to Yosef (earlier in this parsha -- 48:5), “Your two sons who were born to you in the land of Egypt… they are to me; Ephraim and Menashe like Reuven and Shimon they shall be to me.” When Yaakov Avinu said this, it was testimony and determined firmly that even though it is the way of the world (after Adam and Chava ate from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Bad) that there is Yeridas HaDoros -- that each generation is on a lower spiritual level than the previous one, with these two, [i.e. Ephraim and Menashe], they were on the same level as the sons of Yaakov themselves.  They would literally be equal in level to Reuven and Shimon, and Yeridas HaDoros would not apply to them.  

Says Rav Bloch zt”l, therefore there is no more beautiful a beracha (blessing) than this, to bless someone that Hashem make them like Ephraim and Menashe (to whom Yeridas HaDoros did not apply).  

(Brought in M’Shulchan Govoha)

(NOTE:  Although as we spoke about, the spiritual level goes down from generation to generation, the Alter of Slabodka -- quoted in Sparks of Mussar -- tells us that nevertheless, we are still created in the Image of Hashem, and we have the ability to regain former heights.)

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Mussar Message:

And Yaakov called to his sons and he said, “Gather and I will tell to you what will happen to you in the End of Days.”’ (Bereishis 49:1)

Yaakov Avinu called his sons together right before he passed away, and blessed each one of them.  Each with an individual blessing.  On the other hand, he alluded to them (see Chassidishe Vort above) that they should come together in unity.

This is a lesson for us all:  We are all individuals, with unique abilities, gifts, etc. But on the other hand, it is our responsibility to be one with our fellow Jews.  We can both be individual and also together.  And what a beautiful thing this can be -- us all being so unique, and yet in unity.

Yet, if we look into the Jewish World, we can see that there is, Rachmana Litzlan, a lot of dissension; a lot of non-oneness.  But I think it in large part comes back to an interesting and important point:  

I was once speaking to one of my dear friends about two certain things in Judaism that are very different.  And I was saying how they aren’t really that different in my mind and they can be together.  My friend, however, said something very profound: He said to me that just because things are different doesn’t mean they are contradictory.  

And I think this is the message:  Many people, when they see others holding differently than them -- different customs, etc. they look at it as contradictory.  For example Chassidus and Mussar.

However, we must realize that it is not:  As my friend said, we are all going towards one goal.  And that is to serve Hashem.  We are all unique, but yet together as the Children of Hashem.  And when we take this to heart, and, B’Ezras Hashem, put it into practice, then we will see Mashiach very speedily.  May it be so.

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And there is another lesson on this which my mother, the Rebbetzin shetichyeh explained:  The sum is greater than the parts:  We all have individual powers and strengths, but when we come together as a People, the strength and greatness is much bigger than if we just measured all individuals alone.

And she compares it to a town:  You need a baker, a shoemaker, etc. etc. Everyone plays a part to make the town a town.

(Tal U’Matar)

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Chazak V’ematz:

And the days of Yisroel came close to die’ (Bereishis 47:29)

The Zohar asks; why does it say ‘days’ in the plural?  Doesn’t a person die on one day and furthermore at one moment?  So seemingly shouldn’t it have said ‘And the day of Yisroel came close to die’?

Answers the Zohar; when Hashem takes a person from this world, all the days of the person’s life come up before Him, and there is an accounting.  Fortunate [alt. praiseworthy] is the portion of a person, says the Zohar, whose days come close before HaKadosh Baruch Hu without any disgrace or shame… and therefore it is written with Tzaddikim (righteous people) that their days ‘came close’, because their days come close before Hashem without any shame [i.e. because the righteous used them well].  And that is why, explains the Zohar, it says ‘the days of Yisroel’; because it is not talking about the day of death, but rather about when a person’s days come before Hashem for an accounting [of how they were used].

Based upon what the Zohar says, we may get into a deep concept:  We are all given a certain amount of days -- and minutes -- of life.  And we have an obligation to try to use them well, i.e. for the Service of Hashem.  

But, time passes.  And we end up looking back at all the days in our past that are seemingly now gone… What can we do, though?  The past is the past and once a day -- or a moment for that matter -- is over, it’s gone, right?

The answer is no.  At least not necessarily.  The time that we squander on trivial things -- that is lost.  But the seconds, minutes, hours, etc. that we use to serve Hashem and for good things are never gone and never lost.  They all stay with us.

But what about the time we misused in the past?  Can we ever get it back?... The answer can be found in the Gemara (Yoma 86b): ‘Reish Lakish said: “Great is repentance for [through it] intentional sins become unintentional sins…” [Asks the Gemara], didn’t Reish Lakish say that ‘great is repentance for [through it] intentional sins become merits’...?  There is no difficulty; here [i.e. in the first place he was speaking of repentance] from love [of Hashem] and here [the second place] from fear [of Hashem].’

From this beautiful Gemara we can see that even time which we, Rachmana Litzlan, did not use properly in the past, we can almost transform into time well-used with Teshuva (repentance) from love for Hashem!  May we try to always use our time properly and thus take it all with us -- and upon the time that we didn’t use as well in the past, may we do complete Teshuva from Love of Hashem and get it back.

(NOTE:  Although this is true, we certainly cannot, Chas V’Shalom, use time on bad things and/or do bad and just think to ourselves that we will do Teshuva later, whether from love or fear.  Someone who does that has severe consequences -- see Mishnah Yoma 8:9).

(Rays of Light:  Adar -- based on many things)

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Maaseh B’Rabbi…

At Yeshiva Kesser Torah’s recent Hachnosas Sefer Torah, the Rosh Yeshiva, my Rebbe, HaRav Elyakim Rosenblatt shlit”a related a beautiful story that happened to him while he was studying in Beis Midrash Govoha under HaRav Aharon Kotler zt”l:

He was once walking through the Yeshiva, and he passed Rav Aharon’s office, which had glass on the outside that you could see through.  What he saw with his own eyes a person would hardly believe; Rav Aharon, who was sitting and learning, stood up and began -- for some unknown reason -- to dance!  

Rav Aharon soon noticed young Rav Rosenblatt and motioned him inside.  He told him to call Reb Chaim Epstein (now zt”l) -- who was one of the best talmidim (students) in the Yeshiva.  Rav Rosenblatt complied, and brought Reb Epstein.  He came in, and now, Rav Aharon and him sat down and began to learn for a little while!  

When they were finished and Reb Epstein left, Rav Rosenblatt, extremely curious, ran up to him to ask what was going on.  Reb Epstein told him something amazing:  There was a Beiur HaGra (commentary of the Vilna Gaon zt”l) that Rav Aharon had been struggling over for 25 years.  And at that moment (the moment when Rav Rosenblatt walked by and saw him) he had finally understood it!  So he got up and began to dance.  And as for why he asked in Reb Epstein to learn, it was apparently to share the solution with him.  

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Chazak Chazak V’Nischazeik!

A Gut Shabbos to all!