Friday, November 17, 2017

Parshas Toldos Messages 5778

Parshas Toldos: 

The Sages Say: 

And these are the generations of Yitzchok, son of Avraham, Avraham begot Yitzchok.’ (Bereishis 25:19) 

Because Scripture wrote ‘Yitzchok, son of Avraham’, it needed to say ‘Avraham begot Yitzchok’, because the mockers of the generation were saying that Sarah Imeinu became pregnant from Avimelech (Chas V’Shalom), for many years she lived with Avraham Avinu and had not become pregnant.

 What did HaKadosh Baruch Hu do?  He shaped the features of Yitzchok Avinu so that they would be very similar to Avraham Avinu’s, and everyone bore witness to the fact that Avraham bore Yitzchok.  

(Rashi HaKadosh from Midrash Tanchuma)


A Helpful Hint: 

And these are the generations of Yitzchok, son of Avraham, Avraham begot Yitzchok.’ (Bereishis 25:19) 

Very similar to what Rashi HaKadosh said above, the Baal HaTurim explains that the word ‘הוֹלּיד -- begot has the same Gematria (numerical value) as the word ‘דוֹמה -- similar.  This teaches us (or alludes to us) what Hashem did, that He made Yitzchok Avinu and Avraham Avinu look very similar.


Chassidishe Vort: 

And Yaakov was a wholesome man who dwelt in tents.’ (Bereishis 25:27) 

From this verse, explains the Shelah HaKadosh (HaRav Yeshaya Horowitz zt”l) we learn that the trait of wholesomeness (alt. innocence, such as simple faith in Hashem) is one of the highest traits.  Because from all the many good traits that certainly Yaakov Avinu had, the Torah praises him as an ‘אישׁ תּם’, a wholesome man.

(Quoted in A Chassidishe Vort)


A “Lamdanishe” Insight: 

And Esav hated Yaakov because of the blessing that his father had blessed him; and Esav said in his heart “Let the days of mourning for my father come and I will kill Yaakov my brother.”’ (Bereishis 27:41)

Esav was filled with rage at Yaakov Avinu, and resolved in his heart that he would avenge himself and kill Yaakov as soon as the days of mourning for Yitzchok Avinu began.  It is interesting that Esav doesn’t explicitly refer to the death of Yitzchok, but rather, ‘the days of mourning for my father’. 

The Kli Yakar (HaRav Shlomo Ephraim Lunschitz zt”l) explains beautifully the significance of this phrase:  In Yitzchok Avinu’s conciliatory blessing to Esav, he declared, “And it will be when you are aggrieved, and you may cast off his yoke from upon your neck.” The commentators interpret this to mean “When Israel neglects the Torah (Rachmana Litzlan), you (Esav) will have a valid reason to be aggrieved over his having taken the blessing, and then you will be able to cast off his yoke from your neck.” 

In his desire to vanquish Yaakov forever, Esav strategically planned to wait for the ‘days of mourning’ over Yitzchok Avinu, since as a mourner, Yaakov Avinu would be halachically forbidden from engaging in (almost all) Torah study.  Without the merit of continuous Torah study, Yaakov may be vulnerable to defeat (as implied by Yitzchok Avinu’s blessing to Esav) and that is how Esav hoped to succeed in exacting his revenge.

(From The Torah of Brisk on Sefer Bereishis)

 Baruch Hashem, however, Esav’s plan was foiled.

Mussar Message: 

And the children struggled inside of her -- ויתרצצוּ הבּנים בּקרבּהּ’ (Bereishis 25:23) 

Rashi HaKadosh quotes a Midrashic interpretation (Bereishis Rabbah) which says that the word ויתרצצוּ can also come from the word to run, רץ.  This teaches us that whenever Rivkah Imeinu would pass by a Beis Midrash, a House of Study, Yaakov Avinu would try to run to go there, and whenever she would pass by a house of idol worship, Esav would try to run to go there.   

But there is a big question that some ask; if we are taught (Gemara Niddah 30) that a Malach (Angel) teaches a baby the entire Torah inside the womb, why was Yaakov Avinu trying to leave to go to a Beis Midrash?  He was learning the entire Torah with a Malach!   

There are different answers I have seen or heard, one that he didn’t want to be learning next to a person like Esav, another that perhaps he was showing us the importance of Ameilus (toil) for our Torah, etc.  And they are all beautiful.  

But then my brother Yaakov, may he be well, asked another question:  What about Esav?  Why was he indeed trying to leave to go to a house of idol worship if he was being taught Torah by a Malach?!  How could he have been?   

And indeed, we came to an answer and lesson from it:  Learning Torah is a great and awesome thing and should be done very much, but it doesn’t automatically make us a Tzaddik if we are, Chas V’Shalom, not going to put it into practice.  Learning in and of itself is a huge Mitzvah, but with it we must work on ourselves and try to perfect our character, fulfill the other Mitzvos, etc.

 Indeed, Shimon HaTzaddik (Avos 1:2) says, “Upon three things does the world stand:  Upon the Torah, and upon the Avodah (Service of Hashem), and upon Gemilus Chassadim (acts of kindness). 


Chazak V’ematz: 

And Yitzchok entreated opposite his wife, because she was barren, and Hashem allowed Himself to be entreated, and Rivkah his [Yitzchok’s] wife conceived.’ (Bereishis 25:21) 

We see that when Rivkah Imeinu was barren, what did Yitzchok Avinu do (and Rivkah as well, see Rashi)?  They Davened (prayed) to Hashem.  And He heard their prayers and answered them, even when things seemed bleak.   

We too must turn to Hashem with our own prayers whenever we are in need, etc. for He is there, ready to answer them.

(Tal U’Matar)


Maaseh B’Rabbi… 

The Gemara (Berachos 60b) relates a teaching in the name of Rabbi Akiva zt”l, that a person should always accustom themselves to saying ‘Everything the Merciful One does He does for the good’.  

 And the Gemara tells a story (in the same place, going on to 61a):  Rabbi Akiva was once walking along a road when he came to a town and he needed lodgings, but he wasn’t given any.  It might have seemed like something unpleasant, but he said and accepted ‘Everything the Merciful One does is for the good’, and he went to go stay overnight in a field.  He had with him a chicken (for waking him up -- Rashi), a donkey and a candle.

 However, a wind came and extinguished the candle, a cat came and ate the chicken, and a lion came and ate his donkey.  Certainly a seemingly hopeless situation!  But, Rabbi Akiva yet again maintained and said ‘Everything the Merciful One does is for the good’.  

 It turned out that on that night, an army came and took the town he had originally intended to stay in captive.  “Did I not tell you,” said Rabbi Akiva, “That everything HaKadosh Baruch Hu does, everything is for the best?”  And Rashi HaKadosh explains that if his candle would have been lit, the army would have seen him, and if his donkey would have brayed or his chicken would have called out, the army would have (heard and) come and taken him captive.  Indeed, everything that occurred was surely for the best! 


A Gut Shabbos to all!

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Parshas Chayei Sarah Messages 5778

Parshas Chayei Sarah:

The Sages Say:

And Yitzchok brought her to the tent; Sarah his mother; and he took (married) Rivkah, and she was to him a wife, and he loved her, and Yitzchok was consoled after his mother.’ (Bereishis 24:67)
And he brought her to the tent,’ and behold, she was ‘Sarah his mother’:  Meaning to say that she became the likeness of Sarah his mother.  All the time that Sarah was alive, a candle burned from the evening of Shabbos until the evening of Shabbos (i.e. from Erev Shabbos until the evening of Shabbos itself); and a blessing was found in the dough, and a cloud was attached upon the tent, and when Sarah died, they stopped.  But when Rivkah came, they returned.  

(Rashi HaKadosh from Midrash Bereishis Rabbah) 


 A Helpful Hint:

And Yitzchok went out to converse [לשׂוּח] in the field towards evening…’ (Bereishis 24:63)

Rashi HaKadosh comments from Midrash Bereishis Rabbah that the word לשׂוּח (to converse) is a language of Davening.  

Chazal (the Sages) teach us that Yitzchok Avinu was establishing Mincha at that time.  And in Gemara Berachos (Daf 26), it is taught that the three Davenings of the day were set up by the Avos.  Avraham Avinu set up Shacharis; Yitzchok Avinu set up Mincha; and Yaakov Avinu set up Maariv.  

Actually, the second letter in all of their names allude to the Tefillah (prayer) which they set up:  אברהם; the ב alludes to the Davening of the קר, (morning), which is Shacharis.  יצחק; the צ alludes to הצהרים, (the afternoon), which is the time for Mincha.  And יעקב; the ע alludes to Maariv, the Davening of the ערבית, (evening time).

(From Vi’Karasa L’Shabbos Oneg)
Chassidishe Vort:
And it was the life of Sarah; 100 years, and 20 years, and 7 years, the years of the life of Sarah.’ (Bereishis 23:1)
The Midrash (Bereishis Rabbah 58:3) relates that Rabbi Akiva zt”l was once expounding Torah when he noticed some of the audience dozing off.  In an effort to spark their interest, he told them that Esther, being descended from Sarah Imeinu who lived 127 years, merited to become queen of 127 provinces.  How was this statement meant to spark the interest of the drowsy audience?

The Chiddushei HaRim (the first Gerrer Rebbe -- Rebbe Yitzchok Meir Alter zt”l) gives a beautiful answer:  Rabbi Akiva, he explains, was demonstrating the extreme value of time, for each year of Sarah Imeinu earned her granddaughter Esther rulership over an entire province.  Similarly, the time spent sitting and listening to him (Rabbi Akiva) expound Torah could earn his listeners untold reward.  How could they forgo such reward by dozing off?
(Quoted in Talelei Oros)
Mussar Message:
And Avraham was old, coming in days, and Hashem had blessed Avraham with everything.’ (Bereishis 24:1)
There is a very big lesson that we can learn from the word ‘everything’ in the above verse:  
Many things happen to us in life.  Some are very good and we thank Hashem for such blessings.  Others don’t seem such…
But what we have to understand, though, is that those things are also good and for the best.  The happenings that don’t seem so great -- and even very bad at times -- are for our benefit as well.  Hashem only does good things.  But it is sometimes hard to realize…
You see, the verse says that Avraham was blessed with everything.  It doesn’t go and list everything we think is good.  No!  It says that ‘Hashem had blessed Avraham with everything’.  Meaning also the things that we would think of as bad -- because they too are blessings and messages from Hashem. 
Hashem knows what is best for us, and He makes thus happen.  If everything we hoped would happen happened, things would not end up as joyous and ideal as we would think… Hashem knows what needs to happen.  It is just up to us to accept and understand this.
The Chofetz Chaim zt”l (quoted in Meoros HaParsha) gives an analogy:  Let’s say a person walked into Shul when somebody was saying the verse in Ashrei: ‘Hashem guards all His loved ones, and all the wicked He will destroy’ -- ‘שׁוֹמר ה' את כּל אהביו ואת כּל הרשׁעים ישׁמיד:  But he happens to miss the first word in the verse.  It would then sound like Hashem, all His loved ones and all the wicked He will destroy’ -- ‘ה' את כּל אהביו ואת כּל הרשׁעים ישׁמיד, or perhaps he missed the last; it would then sound like: Hashem guards all His loved ones and all the wicked’ -- ‘שׁוֹמר ה' את כּל אהביו ואת כּל הרשׁעים, both of which would be terrible verses!
Explains the Chofetz Chaim zt”l:  Since we don’t see the whole picture, some things look very bad to us.  But that is because we “only hear part of the verse”, i.e. we only see part of the picture.  If we knew and saw the Supreme Plan behind everything, we would understand and not question that everything is indeed for the best.
Indeed, Avraham Avinu was blessed with everything.
(Tal U’Matar).
Chazak V’ematz:

In this parsha, we read about the match (or shidduch) between Rivkah Imeinu and Yitzchok Avinu.  Avraham Avinu sent Eliezer Damaseik, his loyal servant to find a proper match, and the entire affair was guided and aided by Hashem, and there were many open miracles.

Teaches the Chiddushei HaRim zt”l:  The Torah lists the many miracles that took place with Yitzchok Avinu’s shidduch so that we should know that every shidduch has miracles; they don’t happen according to the rules of nature.
(Quoted in Meoros HaParsha)
Maaseh B’Rabbi…

There is a famous story told that once, HaRav Yisroel Salanter zt”l came to a village, and he went to the local inn.  The innkeeper, noticing that Rav Yisroel was very distinguished (and then perhaps learned), asked him if he was a Shochet (ritual slaughterer).  Because he had an animal that needed to be slaughtered and it was a burden to bring it to the Shochet in town.  

“No.” Rav Yisroel replied, though. “I am not a Shochet.”

After some time, Rav Yisroel came to the innkeeper with a question of his own:  Could he perhaps lend him a ruble?  The innkeeper replied that he didn’t even recognize him, and he should trust him?!  

Said Rav Yisroel Salanter zt”l to the innkeeper, “Let your ears hear what your mouth speaks!  With money, I am not trustworthy for it until the point of one ruble!” But yet with Shechitah (ritual slaughter), upon which there are many laws in the Torah, he trusted him after merely inquiring after each other’s welfare!

(What a lesson Rav Yisroel was teaching that innkeeper and all of us, as well:  We seem to often be more worried about our money and material possessions than transgressing Commandments from the Torah!)
A Gut Shabbos to all!

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Parshas Noach Messages 5778

I apologize I am so late in posting this, but here are a couple of insights on Noach:

1) Rashi HaKadosh quotes from Gemara Sanhedrin 108, which says that the decree (that the Mabul would happen) on the people of that time was sealed only because of stealing.

But what does this mean?  Surely they did other bad things that were perhaps worse!  So why specifically was the Decree sealed because of theft?

Explains HaRav Avraham Yehoshua Heschel zt"l (chief Rabbi of Krakow in the mid-1600's -- not to be confused with the Apter Rebbe zt"l who had the same name):  We have another question that comes to us, (besides the one above); why didn't Hashem first take away these people's possessions, as it is taught in Midrash Vayikra Rabbah, that Hashem does not first punish a person themself, as we find with reagrds to afflictions (such as Tzaraas, etc.) that first He afflicts the person's house; and then their garments -- and if they do not do Teshuva (Chas V'Shalom), then He will actually afflict them.  

So why in this case, asks Rav Avraham Yehoshua, did Hashem not do thus?  Why did He just bring the Mabul and not take away their possessions first?

Answers Rav Heschel zt"l beautifully; this works when the things actually belong to the person (or people, in this case).  But since with the generation of the Mabul, almost everybody was a thief, what they had wasn't their own, and so HaKadosh Baruch Hu had to go straight to punishing them. (Quoted in Yagdil Torah).

2) The Torah tells us that Noach was a Tzaddik (righteous person), perfect in his generations.  On that, Rashi HaKadosh quotes from Gemara Sanhedrin 108 two opinions of what that means; one of them says that if Noach had lived in a better generation, he would have been an even better person!

From here we can see the power of influence:  One's surroundings and the people around can affect their behavior -- no matter how much we say we are unsusceptable to bad influence.  Noach could have been an even bigger Tzaddik, if he was around better people...

But then we must think to ourselves; what kind of influence are we giving off?  By just improving ourselves we can improve so many others; but unfortunately, and Rachmana Litzlan, the opposite can be true as well...

And on the other hand, the story of Noach also gives us Chizuk:  It shows us that we do have the power to go against the grain.  We can stand up to the strong push in the direction of evil and say "No." If in the company of people -- who don't necessarily have to be bad, but are doing something bad, Chas V'Shalom, we can stand strong and not do that thing.  And may HaKadosh Baruch Hu give us all the strength to always go in the right direction and stand up to the evil in the world, and may He soon eradicate all evil, Amein.

I wish you all a wonderful week and a Gut, warm, Shabbos!

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Parshas Bereishis Message 5778

It is that exciting time of year again when we begin anew the Torah, and I would like to share with you a short Bereishis message (please feel free to quote):

Says the Alter of Slobodka -- Rav Nosson Tzvi Finkel zt"l:  Adam HaRishon was formed by the "Hands" of G-d in His Image and endowed with great spiritual powers.  After Adam sinned, the lofty attributes of man began to degenerate, and as generation after generation continued to sin, man continued to degrade himself spiritually and physically.  Nevertheless, man is still born in the Image of G-d and with the ability to regain his former heights. (Sparks of Mussar).

As we begin the Torah anew, this is such an important message for us to take to heart:  That if we really try to, we can yet again regain the lofty spiritual levels trod by the Gedolim of old, and even of the Avos (forefathers)!  Is it hard to do this?  Well, becoming great isn't easy... But we can -- and must -- try, and put in a little extra effort.  And you know what; if we really strive to serve Hashem better and to a higher level, He will surely help us.  May He do so always, Amein.

May HaKadosh Baruch Hu give you and your family a very Chag Sameach, a Gut, meaningful Yontiff, and of course, a Gut and inspiring Shabbos Bereishis.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Please be Mispalel for The Spinka Rebbe shlit"a

Please say Tefillos and Tehillim for the Spinka Rebbe shlit"a, HaRav Moshe Elyakim Beriyah ben Chana.  

Spinka Rebbe at Shacharit
Yeshiva World News reports (with the photos as well).... "The Spinka Rebbe from Bnei Brak, the eldest of the Admorim in Israel was transported to the hospital on Sunday morning. The 96-year-old Admor, who lives on Yehoshua St. in Bnei Brak, was taken to Sheba Medical Center in Tel Hashomer after he was was not feeling well. The Rebbe was suffering from a shortness of breath.

The Rebbe was in the midst of Davening Shacharis when the incident occurred. Already yesterday he had complained that he wasn’t feeling well and the issue apparently escalated this morning. Emergency medical volunteers from Hatzalah who responded to the incident provided the Rebbe with first aid treatment at the scene.

On Thursday night the Admor held a tish in honor of the 40th Hilula of his father the previous Admor. After the Admor received treatment at the scene he was transported to the hospital.
The public is asked to pray for the health and recovery of Moshe Elyakim Beriyah Ben Channa among the cholei amo Yisrael."

Spinka Rebbe at the Tish on Motzei Chag

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Sukkos Message 5778

At the Seudah, Motzaei Yom Kippur, my father and Rebbe, HaRav Chesler shlit"a related a beautiful insight into this time of year, that I would like to share with you:

On Yom Kippur, he says, we reach a high level by denying ourselves (i.e. afflicting ourselves by not eating, etc.) and by not concentrating on the physical.  

But then, a little bit afterwards, we have Sukkos -- a time when we rejoice in the great Festival with lots of various "Gashmiusdikke" (physical) things. (We eat nice food, we drink nice drink, etc. -- but it is all for real part of the service of this time).  

We could reach a high level when we separated from physicality, says my father shlit"a.  But now the test is; can we serve Hashem to a high level even while involved in physical things?  Can we still rejoice with "Gashmius" but yet in purity?

May Hashem help everyone to do so and give you and your family a Gut Yontiff, and a very Chag Sameach -- with true joy, and also a Gut Shabbos.

Chag Sameach everyone!

Friday, September 29, 2017

Yom Kippur Message 5778

Rav Yisroel Salanter zt"l used to say: "How great is the Mercy of HaKadosh Baruch Hu upon us!  For if He had given us the Command of Yom HaKippurim to observe only once in seventy years to forgive us for all of our sins, this would be considered for us great fortune and very supreme kindness!  And now that He has given us this opportunity each year, how very much do we need to feel our fortune and the kindness of Hashem upon us!" (HaMeoros HaGedolim).

Rabbosai!  Now that we do have this opportunity, we must use it well.  It is not only the chance to have a clean slate (with Teshuva), but also a new beginning in a way.  

As we discussed for Rosh Hashanah, we need to try to have lasting Teshuva and lasting changes for the better.  But how do we do so?

Perhaps we can glean the answer from a quick story that happened to me this morning:  I had just stepped out before going to do Shacharis, when I saw that some of our outside-rugs needed adjusting, as they had been blown out of position by the wind.  Now, this could easily have waited until after Davening, but I decided to take care of it really quick.  As I went to fix them up, however, a bee came buzzing right near me -- near my legs, mid-section, and even face and head -- and I had to stay almost totally still until, finally, it flew away.  

Well, I was glad it was gone.  Anyway, now I could fix the rugs.  But as I was doing so, yet again, this bee came buzzing all around me, and even landed on my one of my fingers.  Baruch Hashem, however, I didn't get stung and it buzzed away.  After this, I rushed back inside.  But I began thinking about the fact that maybe it wasn't just a bee just happening to fly around here at this moment, acting aggressive; maybe it was a message from Hashem that I should Daven first.  So indeed, I went to do Shacharis.  

After Davening was finished, I went back to fix up the rugs, and sure enough, (Baruch Hashem) the bee didn't bother me at all, and I didn't even see it


The message from this little story is that we might not be able to hear Hashem speaking to us like Moshe Rabbeinu, but maybe we can in a way... Indeed, Hashem does speak to us every day just like we speak to Him!  He sends us messages, but it is up to us whether we hear and take them to heart as we should, or Chas V'Shalom, take them as just coincidences.  The example of this I like to give is say you are about to go do something you aren't supposed to (whatever it is), and you trip.  Hashem is trying to tell you to not go do that thing!

And this is one of the ways to be a better person and have lasting changes for the better:  To try to listen to and internalize the messages Hashem sends us every day.


Before we finish, though, I would like to share with you something beautiful I heard from my Rebbe, Rav Moshe Shulman shlit"a:  He quotes from the Kedushas Levi (Rebbe Levi Yitzchok of Berditchev zt"l) who explains that the difference between having a broken heart (Sheviras Lev) and depression (atzvus) is that if we, Chas V'Shalom, did something wrong, that thing was bad -- we aren't bad.  What we did was evil, but deep down, we are still good people.  

It is up to us, with the Help of Hashem, to clean those bad things out of ourselves, and bring out our true selves -- not just for right now, but for all time, B'Ezras Hashem.

May Hashem inscribe you and your family and friends in the Book of Good Life, may you be helped to do proper Teshuva and have lasting affects for a long, long time to come, and may you continue to grow and grow -- and help others to grow -- in Torah and Mitzvos, for many, many, many more years in good health and be zocheh to see Mashiach Tzidkeinu with your own eyes, very speedily in our days!

Gmar Chasima Tovah, Gut Shabbos, an easy fast, and a Shanah Tovah U'Mesukah to you and your family!

Kol Tuv!

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Rosh Hashanah Message 5778

We begin to do Teshuva more around this time of year, but the question is; does it last?  Or does it just stay at the Yomim Noraim?

This year, let's try to make sure that we really do improve -- not just for 10-20 days, but to make a lasting change.  It's obviously easier said than done, but we should at least pick one thing to try to make a lasting transformation in.  Let's take the Yomim Noraim with us.  

And it is not too late:  We say in the Mincha Shemoneh Esrei today (as almost every other weekday) 'Bareich Aleinu es hashana hazos...' -- 'Bless upon/for us this year...':  Wait a minute; the year is basically over!  How are we asking for Hashem to bless 'this year'?!  

I heard from my Rebbe, Rav Moshe Shulman shlit"a an explanation in the name of the Ruzhiner Rebbe, or some say it in the name of one of his grandchildren: 'Yeshuas Hashem k'heref ayin' -- 'The Salvation of Hashem (comes) like the blink of an eye'.  Says the Ruzhiner Rebbe zt"l; even if it hasn't been the greatest of years, (Rachmana Litzlan), in the last minutes before Rosh Hashanah, Hashem can still help turn it into a great one -- even in the last seconds...

May Hashem inscribe and seal you and your family and friends into the Book of Good Life, and make this Rosh Hashanah  not in Gallus.  May we be able to perform all the Avodos of Yom HaKippurim like it was in days of old, Amein, Kein Yi'hi Ratzon.

A Kesiva V'Chasima Tovah, Shanah Tova U'Mesuka, and Gut Shabbos to you and your family!