Monday, September 17, 2018

HaRav Avigdor Miller zt"l on True Teshuva

We are happy to inform our subscribers of this unprecedented opportunity. A talmid chochom, a talmid of Rav Avigdor Miller zatzal, will be going to the kever of the Rav on Har Hazeisim before Yom Kippur, and he has offered to mention the names of any Toras Avigdor subscribers who wish. Please send in names and bakoshos as soon as possible so that we can forward them to him. גמר חתימה טובה.

Rav Avigdor Miller on Real Teshuva 

In some seforim they make it sound like doing teshuva is not so hard. It's a process, but it's not so hard. But in other seforim it says that it's a big avodah of changing who you are completely. What's the truth? 

In order to explain that, we have to ask: What does teshuva mean? What are you returning to? There are two kinds of teshuva. In order to repent for your sins, there are certain things that you must do, minimal requirements that you must be aware of, and then you have fulfilled the mitzvah of doing teshuva for that sin. You have to have חרטה, regret for your sins. Then you have to resolve that you won't return to those sins. You have to have קבלה על העתיד that you will forsake your evil ways. And you also have to ask Hashem for מחילה, and you have to say וידוי. Now, these are not very simple matters, but when you do these things properly you have fulfilled the basic requirements of of teshuva. 

But there is another teshuva, much more difficult. A much higher teshuva. And that is שובה ישראל עד השם אלקיך - Come all the way back to Hashem. Not just to "do teshuva" but to actually come back to Hashem. That is the real teshuva that Hashem wants from you. And that teshuva is endless. The pursuit of shleimus, of the perfection of trying to get close to Hakodosh Boruch Hu, is a life long endeavor. Moshe Rabeinu tried all his life and although he succeeded enormously, nevertheless he didn't fully succeed. Nobody can succeed completely. שובה ישראל עד השם. Come back to Hashem, which means not merely to stop doing aveiros. Hashem wants you to be perfect, as perfect as you can be. And that perfection means returning to Him, by keeping Him before you all the time. All day long. That's teshuva. 

All your life you must strive for more and more perfection. And it's a chiyuv, an obligation! Hashem says to us ומי יתן והיה לבבם זה ליראה אותי כל הימים - "If only their hearts would remain this way always, where they recognize My Presence before them" (D'varim 5:26). Hashem wants from us that same attitude that they had at Matan Torah when they heard the voice of Hashem. It was tremendous! Everyone was overwhelmed by the d'var Hashem at Har Sinai. The voice of Hashem! And Hashem said, "I want it to always be that way!" How could it always be that way?! That's a very difficult avodah, a teshuva that involves coming back to Hashem. 

So real teshuva, the תשובה שלימה, is a very real undertaking because there's a lot of work to do to achieve that attitude of feeling the presence of Hashem always. But it's an attitude that all of you can achieve. It just takes work. All our lives we have to strive to do the best we can, by constantly seeking more and more shleimus, by coming back to Hashem as much as possible. The more you think about Hashem, the more you are coming back to Him in real teshuva. 
TAPE # E-199 (August 1999)

Friday, September 14, 2018

Parshas Vayeilech Story 5779


A grandson of one of the great Chassidishe Rebbes once came crying to his Zeide (grandfather).  The Zeide asked him why he was crying, and the boy told him that he had been playing hide-and-seek with his friend.  He had hidden somewhere, but his friend had not come to find him!

Now the Zeide began to cry:  Hashem hides His Face from us, he said, and wants us to come and find Him.  But we don’t search Him out as we should…

Gut Shabbos and a G’mar Chasima Tovah to all!

Friday, September 7, 2018

Parshas Nitzavim/Rosh Hashanah Messages 5778

Parshas Nitzavim

You are standing today; all of you, before Hashem your G-d. . .’ (Devarim 29:9)

One of the suggestions of the Midrash is that ‘today’ can refer to every day.  Thus we see a very important lesson from this verse:  Every day we are standing before Hashem.  We are always in the King’s Presence!  And everything we do is right before Him and He sees it.  Knowing this, how can we possibly come to sin?...

(Tal U’Matar)


For you know that we dwelled in the land of Egypt, and that we passed through in the midst of the nations through which you passed.  And you saw their abominations and their disgusting idols of wood and stone, silver and gold that were with them. Perhaps there is in you a man or a woman or a family or a Tribe, whose heart turns away today from with Hashem our G-d, to go to serve the gods of those nations; perhaps there is in you a root growing gall and wormwood.’ (Devarim 29:15-17)

A person might, Chas V’Shalom, think that if they do a certain “small” transgression, or maybe they have a small character flaw, etc. it isn’t such a big deal -- after all, they aren’t big things, and it doesn’t make them a terrible person…

But such lax thinking is detrimental:  Because we must understand that bad things usually start out small… and then they sprout -- from “little” things into serious problems.  Not often does someone become a bad person overnight. It takes time.

Now we can understand the warning the verse gives us:  Watch out for “bitter roots” -- because they can, Chas V’Shalom, sprout into much bigger things.  You must do what you can to eliminate bad things while they are still at their root, and before they can sprout.  So are “little” sins or character flaws, etc. a big deal? Yes. A very big one. And important to try to get rid of.*


* See the explanation of HaRav Nosson Sherman shlit”a -- The Stone Edition Chumash, pg. 1088.


I cause to bear witness in you today the Heavens and the earth:  Life and death I have put before you; blessing and curse; and you shall choose in life. . .’ (Devarim 30:19)

I instruct you that you choose in the portion of life, like a person who says to his son, “Choose for yourself the nice portion in my estate,” and he stands him upon the nicest portion and says to him, “This one select for yourself.”

And upon this it says, ‘Hashem is my allotted portion, You support my lot’ (Tehillim 16:5).  You rested my hand upon the good lot, to say, “This one take for yourself.”

(Rashi HaKadosh from Sifri)


It is taught in the Gemara (Rosh Hashanah 16a-b); why do we sound a Tekiah and a Teruah while we are sitting, and then also while we are standing?  In order to confuse the Satan.  

The blasts of the Shofar that are blown before Shemoneh Esreh, are termed, “Tekiyos DeMeyushav --Blasts while Sitting,” and the blasts that are blown during the Shemoneh Esreh are called “Tekiyos DeMe’umad -- Blasts while Standing.” This Gemara is saying that, although, in order to fulfill the Biblical requirement of blowing the Shofar on Rosh Hashanah, it would have been sufficient to blow Tekiyos DeMe’umad alone (those that are blown while standing Shemoneh Esrei), the Rabbis, nevertheless, enacted an additional set of Shofar blasts, those that are blown while sitting,* in order to confuse the Satan.

How do the additional blasts of the Shofar confuse and confound the Satan?  Rashi HaKadosh explains that the Satan will not prosecute when he hears how Klal Yisroel observe the Mitzvah of Shofar so lovingly, blowing many times more than the Torah actually requires.  HaRav Aharon Kotler zt”l, explains Rashi to mean that the Satan, whose mission is to prosecute against Klal Yisroel for their sins, will be too discouraged to prosecute, when he observes them fulfilling the Mitzvah of Shofar so lovingly and so enthusiastically, beyond what the Torah requires.  He thinks that surely HaKadosh Baruch Hu will favor Klal Yisroel and not reckon with his (the Satan’s) allegations and charges.

The Gemara teaches further that Rav Yitzchok says that every year that the Shofar is not sounded at its beginning, evil shall occur at the end of it.  What is the reason? Because the Satan has not been confused.  The Bahag -- Baal Halachos Gedolos -- zt”l (brought in Tosafos) explains that this refers to a year when the Shofar will not be blown due to an אונס, ones, an accident.  It is then that evil will occur.  But if the Shofar will not be blown that year because Rosh Hashanah falls on Shabbos, it shall, nevertheless, be a good year.  [The Shofar is not blown on Shabbos by Rabbinic decree, so that one will not come to carry it where prohibited on Shabbos.]

This is mystifying.  According to the Bahag, how could there possibly be a good year for Klal Yisroel if Rosh Hashanah were to fall on Shabbos?  By Rabbinic decree, there is no sounding of the Shofar!  What will confuse the Satan from prosecuting against Klal Yisroel?

HaRav Aharon Kotler zt”l answers that, according to Rashi, it is not the actual blast of the Shofar which confuses the Satan, but rather what it reflects -- namely, the love and affection which brings Klal Yisrael to blow beyond what the Torah requires.  Perhaps we can extend this concept to the Mitzvah of Shabbos.  Just as the love and enthusiasm for the Mitzvah of Shofar is so effectual that it discourages the Satan from prosecuting against Klal Yisroel, so too will the love and enthusiasm for the Mitzvah of Shabbos discourage the Satan.  When the Satan will see an entire Klal Yisroel refraining from blowing the Shofar, as a safeguard, so as not to even inadvertently carry it on Shabbos, that display of love for Shabbos will dishearten and deter the Satan.  This love and regard for Shabbos has even more consequence here, as Klal Yisroel is refraining from blowing the Shofar on Shabbos despite the fact that it is necessary to confuse the Satan.  What a remarkable love for Shabbos is displayed here!

(From a Dvar Torah of my Rebbe, HaRav Elyakim Rosenblatt shlit”a)

* Strictly speaking, it is permitted to sit, however the universal custom nowadays is to stand even during the blasts before Shemoneh Esrei (Mishnah Berurah 585:2).


Maaseh: The Kedushas Levi {Rebbe Levi Yitzchok of Berditchev zt”l} was once very sad for a period of time.  The day was the Goyishe new year, and he had a shocking request for his Chassidim:  He asked some of them to take him to the bars in town!  The Chassidim of course protested, but Rebbe Levi Yitzchok was adamant, and they had to give in.

So they took him to the first bar, and the non-Jews were drinking, and acting wild, and all that.  And, wonder of wonders, after seeing them, Rebbe Levi Yitzchok smiled!

The Chassidim asked him if he had seen enough, but he replied that he wanted them to go to another bar!  Another bar?! But they could not disobey, and they brought him to more bars.

The next day, the Chassidim couldn’t wait to ask the Berditchever their questions about his strange behavior.  And so, after Davening, they asked him.  Answered the Berditchever zt”l:  He always would try to find reasons for Hashem to forgive the Jews and look favorably at them, and he hadn’t been able to find something.  But when he saw how the non-Jews acted, he could testify to Hashem to look at the Jews, who welcome in the New Year with Teshuva and improving our ways -- as opposed to the Goyim who act extremely wild and do sins on their new year…

(Heard from my father and Rebbe, HaRav T. S. Chesler shlit”a)


A Gut Shabbos, and Kesiva v’Chasima Tovah to all!  
May HaKadosh Baruch Hu inscribe you and your entire family in the
Book of Life, and bless all of you with a year full of all good things and blessings!

Friday, August 31, 2018

Parshas Ki Savo Messages 5778

Parshas Ki Savo

And you shall take from the first of all the fruit of the ground, that you bring in from your land that Hashem your G-d gives to you, and you shall put it in a basket, and you shall go to the place which Hashem will choose to dwell His Name there.’ (Devarim 26:2)

This is the Commandment of Bikkurim -- First Fruits.  When the Beis HaMikdash stood (may it soon stand once again), we would take the first of all the seven species of produce which Israel is known for (see Rashi HaKadosh to the second verse), put it a basket, and bring it to the Beis HaMikdash.  But what about now; what about when we don’t have a Beis HaMikdash and cannot perform Bikkurim in the prescribed way?  How can we, in a way, fulfill it?

Rebbe Simcha Bunim of Peshischa zt”l asks a very similar question -- and he gives an answer too:  Says the Rebbe Reb Bunim zt”l:  In our generation, we can keep the Mitzvah of Bikkurim by making the beginning of the day holy. (Instead of sanctifying the first fruits, we sanctify the first moments of the day).  After rising in the morning, our first thoughts, words, and deeds should be dedicated for the Service of Hashem.

(Torah Wellsprings)


And you shall rejoice in all the good that Hashem your G-d gave to you…’ (Devarim 26:11)

If read in a slightly different fashion, the verse can be understood as ‘And you shall rejoice in all/everything -- the good. . .’ How do we rejoice in all that happens?  When we understand and realize that everything -- yes, even the difficult things -- are really good and for our benefit.

(Tal U’Matar)


This day Hashem your G-d commands you to do these Decrees and Ordinances, and you shall guard and you shall do them with all your heart and with all your Soul.’ (Devarim 26:16)

Every day, they should be new in your eyes, as if on that day you were commanded regarding them.

(Rashi HaKadosh from Midrash Tanchuma)


Maaseh:  A person once came to the Mirrer Rosh Yeshiva, HaRav Nosson Tzvi Finkel zt”l (named after his great-grandfather, the Alter of Slabodka zt”l), and asked him what he should think of (i.e. what concentrations/intentions he should have) when he blew the Shofar.

Now you would expect that perhaps the Rosh Yeshiva would reply that he should study Zohar and make sure to learn all the Halachos of blowing Shofar very well (which are, of course, also very important), but Rav Nosson Tzvi zt”l answered one word: “Others.”

(Heard from my Rebbe, HaRav Elyakim Rosenblatt shlit”a)


A Gut Shabbos to all!

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Chicken Alert


YeshivaWorldNews reports...

A public health alert has been issued concerning Empire Kosher products after investigating “multiple salmonella illnesses within the northeastern and mid-Atlantic United States,” according to the USDA.
The outbreak has killed a person in New York and sickened 17 people in multiple states: New York (11), Pennsylvania (4), Maryland (1) and Virginia (1) as of Monday, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Eight patients have been hospitalized.
Several patients who were sickened reported having eaten Empire Kosher-brand chicken, the CDC said.
The outbreak strain was found in samples of raw chicken collected from two facilities, including one that processes Empire Kosher-brand chicken, the agency said.
The raw chicken items, which may include raw whole chicken and raw chicken parts, were allegedly produced and sold to consumers from September 2017 to June 2018.
The illnesses date back to Sept. 25, 2017, with the most recent being reported on June 4 of this year. Officials said more recent cases of salmonella still may be reported.
The patients range in age from a baby younger than 1 to a patient who is 76 years old, the CDC said.
In rare cases, salmonella infection may spread into the bloodstream and then to other places in the body. It can be fatal if the person is not treated with antibiotics right away, the CDC said.
Symptoms of salmonella infection include diarrhea, fever and stomach cramps that occur 12 to 72 hours after being exposed to the bacteria, the CDC said.
Children younger than 5, adults older than 65 and those with weakened immune systems are more likely to develop severe illness when exposed to salmonella, but most patients recover within 4 to 7 days without treatment.
FSIS is concerned that some product may be frozen and in consumers’ freezers. Consumers who have purchased these products are urged to properly handle, prepare, and cook these raw chicken products.
FSIS advises all consumers to safely prepare their raw meat products, including fresh and frozen, and only consume chicken products that have been cooked to a temperature of 165°F. The only way to confirm that chicken is cooked to a temperature high enough to kill harmful bacteria is to use a food thermometer that measures internal temperature. Consumers should take proper precautions when handling raw chicken products. Proper hand washing after handling raw poultry, meat and eggs can greatly reduce the risk of bacterial cross-contamination to other foods and kitchen surfaces. It is important to prevent cross-contamination from raw poultry juices by washing counter tops and sinks with hot, soapy water.
Consumers and members of the media with questions can contact an Empire Kosher Specialist at 1-877-627-2803.
(YWN World Headquarters – NYC)