Monday, August 29, 2016

A Rebbe Story: "I Love Hashem!!"

A Rebbe Story: "I Love Hashem!!"

Okay; this is a Rebbe Story I just really want to share with you, as it is so inspiring, and it just deserves to be shared!!: 
One time, Reb Levi Yitzchok of Berditchev zt”l asked to be able to come over to Rebbe Baruch of Medzbuzh zt”l’s house for Shabbos. Since they held different customs, Reb Baruch zt”l asked Reb Levi Yitzchok zt”l to sort of do things like him, and then he could come over. 

So, Shabbos evening, they Davened Maariv, and the Berditchever zt”l had to try to contain his emotion, because he usually would Daven in a way a lot of us have never seen before. With passion, fervor, and he could not contain his love and passion, so he made lots of motions and movements too.  Sometimes he would get so intense, he would even jump around during Davening!  Wow!

Anyway, he was able to get through Davening without doing things like he usually did.  But when it came to the Shabbos night meal, a man went around serving different kinds of fish - sweet and salty.  This was because some had the custom to eat salty fish, and some sweet, at the Shabbos night meal.

And so, the man who was serving it asked Reb Levi Yitzchok; “Do you like sweet or salty fish?” The Berditchever zt”l could no longer contain himself, and he replied “Like fish?! Like fish?! I love Hashem!!!!!” And he threw up his hands towards Heaven with passion and fervor. 

But this is not yet the end of the story:  When he threw up his hands, they accidentally hit the tray carrying the fish.  Fish went flying, and a big piece of it landed on Reb Baruch's Tallis!!  The Chassidim didn't know what their Rebbe (Reb Baruch) would do.  However, he understood that the Berditchever zt"l was real and true in his service of Hashem, and so he told his Chassidim that he would never wash that Tallis, because the stains on it came from a true Eved Hashem. 

This Tallis was passed down from Rebbe to Rebbe, until it came to the first Munkatcher Rebbe (Rebbe Chaim Elazar Spira zt"l), who lived right before the Holocaust.  He foresaw what was going to happen, and asked to be buried in that holy Tallis.  And so it was.[1] 

Wow!  The Berditchever Rebbe zt"l loved Hashem so, so much, we cannot even imagine!  It is so inspiring to see this high level, for, though it might be hard for all of us to reach it, you never know, maybe we could. 

Let us all try to love Hashem to the level we are supposed to ("And you shall love Hashem your G-d with all your heart, and with all your Soul, and with all your might/resources", as we say in Shema every day), and may Hashem help everyone to do this always, Amein, so may it be His Will.  And, in this merit, may Hashem, Blessed is His Name, send Mashiach very, very speedily in everyone's days, Amein, vi'Amein. 

Have a terrific day everyone!

Refoel Berel

[1]©.  'Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev'.  Shiur given by HaRav Avraham Arieh Trugman shlita.  Uploaded by the channel 'Rabbi Trugman'. 

Sunday, August 28, 2016

A Rebbe Story: Rebbe Zusia zt"l's take on "Suffering"

A Rebbe Story: Rebbe Zusia zt"l's Take on "Suffering"

Okay; it's been a long time since we've done one, so I think it's time for another Rebbe Story

One snowy winter day, Rebbe Shmelke of Nikolsburg zt”l and his brother, Rebbe Pinchas of Frankfort zt”l went to see their Rebbe, the Maggid of Mezeritch, with a question:

They asked him how the Talmud (in Masechta Berachos) can command us to praise Hashem equally when bad things happen as to when good things happen.  In response to their question, the Maggid told his two students to go to the Beis Midrash, and see Rebbe Zusia of Anipoli zt”l.  He explained that Reb Zusia suffered from poverty and lots of trials and tribulations, and that he was more qualified to answer the question than he himself was. 

So Reb Shmelke and Reb Pinchas trudged through the snow to the Beis Midrash, to see Reb Zusia.  When they opened the door, they found the room freezing, and only one man sitting in it.  It was Reb Zusia, learning, with a burned-out candle by his side.  He looked up with his holy eyes, to see Reb Shmelke and Reb Pinchas.  The two told him their question, and of what the Maggid had said, and Reb Zusia replied something like “How can Zusia answer that?  For, in his entire life, all Heaven has given him, has been good.”[1]

What a powerful lesson!!  Some things that happen to us in life might seem like tragedies or unfair, but everything that befalls us is from Hashem (unless it is something we cause to happen to ourselves).  All that Hashem makes happen to us is for the best!! 

And if we, B'Ezras Hashem, take this to heart and try to put it into action, we will not look at "suffering" the same way.  For everything Hashem does is good and for the best, so why complain?  We just may not see the good at first, but we must accept that Hashem knows best. 

We should all be zocheh to realize these things, and if we do this, we will all be much happier people.
And may Hashem help every person to do this always, Amein vi'Amein. 

Have a wonderful, awesome day everyone and I hope these things help!!

Refoel Berel

[1]©.  'Winter in Mezritch.'  From 'Of Heaven and Earth - Stories of the Chassidic Masters'; written by HaRav Berel Wein shlita. 

Friday, August 26, 2016

Parshas Eikev

This Week’s Parsha – Eikev:

Sorry for not uploading something last week, but here is this week's edition:  This week’s parsha is Eikev, and it discusses a lot of Mussar/rebuke (also discipline, or self-improvement) topics.  Such as not being haughty, and always remembering Hashem, and more.  The first part of the parsha discusses that if we listen to Hashem’s Commandments, then He will bless us, give us good things, etc.  Now, the Nikolsburger Rebbe (Rebbe Yosef Yechiel Michel Lebovits shlita) explains a beautiful concept in life:  Hashem is always close to us (not physically, but spiritually), and He never moves away.  However, how then can a person be far from Hashem?  Answers the Nikolsburger shlita, if we, Chas V’Shalom/Hashem forbid do aveiros/transgressions (sins) then Hashem does not move away from us – He never does.  However, we move away from Him!!!  He is naturally close to us, and we are supposed to move even closer to Him – getting closer and closer always.  But if a person, Chas V’Shalom/Hashem forbid sins, then they move away and farther from Hashem.  And Reb Lebovits shlita even goes further and explains that the person who moves away from Hashem will not receive the Berachos/Blessings which Hashem always sends us.  Hashem always sends us blessings, however, he explains beautifully, if a person, Chas V’Shalom/Hashem forbid sins and moves farther from Hashem, then these blessings that Hashem always sends us won’t even reach us (again, spiritually)!!  Hashem continues to send us all the blessings, but they just don’t reach us, because we moved too far away.[1]  (This is a deep concept, and it requires thought or maybe a better explanation.  Also, it is not to be taken on a physical level.  You can find the original text on on Parshas Pinchas, with the title ‘Reward for Mitzvohs’).  May Hashem help everyone to always come closer to Him, keep His Commandments, and serve Him properly and in truth forever, Amein vi’Amein, so may it be His Will. 
Now on to the parsha:  So the first passuk/verse in the parsha is ‘Vi’haya eikev tishmi’un eis hamishpatim ha’eileh, u’shi’martem va’asisem osam, vi’shamar Hashem Elokecha li’cha es haBris vi’es haChesed, asher nishba la’Avosecha/And it will be because you will listen to these laws, and you will guard them to do them, and Hashem your G-d will guard for you the Covenant and the Kindness that He swore to your forefathers.’  There are some nice Mefarshim/commentaries which I would like to share with you on this passuk/verse:  
1) Rashi quotes from Tanchuma which explains that, though in this verse ‘Eikev’ means ‘because’, it can also mean ‘heel’.  So this verse teaches us that even the Commandments which we regard lightly, and “tred on them with our heels” we must keep to higher levels, just like the other ones.  What is an example of a law which we “tred on with our heels”, i.e. regard lightly?  The Alter of Kelm (HaRav Simcha Zissel Ziv zt”l) explains that one of these things is the prohibition of bitul Torah/wasting time instead of learning Torah.[2]  We all know that we don’t treat this prohibition with enough gravity.  It is actually very serious, but we seem not to notice.  And a big lesson for us here is that we must try never to take any Commandment lightly.  All of them are necessary and very important.
2) The Baal HaTurim (HaRav Yaakov ben Asher zt”l) explains that the word עקב has the Gematria/numerical value of 172.  This, he explains, is the same number as the amount of words in the Ten Commandments (the set in Parshas Yisro). 
3) The Tzemach Tzedek (The Third Lubavitcher Rebbe – Rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneerson zt”l – not to be confused with the seventh Rebbe, who had the same name) says that the time of Ikvesa D’Meshicha (the generation right before the coming of Mashiach) is called ‘the heels of Mashiach’.  For two reasons:  A) Because this generation is spiritually the lowest, just like the heel is the lowest part of the body, and B), it is the generation when the “footsteps of Mashiach” can already be heard, so to speak.  And so he explains that this is the generation that will eventually actually keep the Commandments, and return to Hashem.  As Rambam says “The Torah has already promised that the People of Israel will return to Hashem at the end of their Exile, and they will be immediately redeemed.”[3]
4) The Apter Rebbe (Rebbe Avraham Yehoshua Heschel of Apta zt”l) explains that, as we saw before, the word ‘Eikev’ can mean heel.  This, since it is at the end of the body, can imply ‘in the end’.  So he says that the Torah is implying that ‘in the end’ we will listen to Hashem’s Commandments, so why not do so now?[4]  We always must listen to Hashem’s Commandments! 
5) The Kotzker Rebbe (Rebbe Menachem Mendel Morgenstern of Kotzk zt”l) explains, just like Reb Tzvi Hirsch zt”l did above, that ‘Eikev’ can imply ‘in the end’.  And so, he explains, the Torah is teaching us that ‘in the end’ the goal is ‘tishmi’un eis hamishpatim ha’eileh...etc./you will listen to these laws...etc.’ The goal of a person is always to serve Hashem and keep His Commandments.  And when you have been keeping them, then what to do next?  Continue keeping the Commandments!![5] The goal is always to serve Hashem, and may He help everyone to do this in truth and properly, always, Amein vi’Amein. 
6) The Lubavitcher Rebbe (Rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneerson zt”l) explains that, as we know, and have mentioned a lot, the word ‘Eikev’ can mean ‘heel’ and the heel is the bottommost part of the body.  And so, he says, the Torah is teaching us this:  Even the lowest part of our body must listen to Hashem’s Commandments and serve Him.  Every single part of our body we must use to serve Hashem, He is Blessed.[6]  This is a great lesson. 
7) The Nikolsburger Rebbe (Rebbe Yosef Yechiel Michel Lebovits zt”l) explains that, as we saw above, ‘Eikev’ (heel) can refer to the period of Ikvesa D’Meshicha.  And, additionally, he explains that the word ‘tishmi’un/you will listen’ can also mean ‘you will gather’ (such as in the verse in Shmuel I 15:4 ‘Va’yi’shama Shaul/And Shaul gathered....etc.’ So, he says, this teaches us that ‘Eikev’ – in the days of Ikvesa D’Meshicha, ‘tishmi’un’ we need to gather together, and that will help us to see whether we are doing right or wrong.[7]  It is very important for Jews to come together as a people and have Achdus/oneness. 
Now back to the parsha:  Moshe Rabbeinu tells the Jews that if we keep the Commandments, then Hashem will bless us in many ways, and he enumerates some of them.  One of them is that Hashem will make us consume (so to speak) the nations which Hashem gives us, i.e. delivers into our hands.  I believe the Torah here is talking about the nations who occupied Israel at that time.  We are not supposed to even have pity on those nations.  Also, we should not fear them, because we should remember what Hashem did to Paroah, when He saved us.  The Torah talks about some of the things which Hashem did for us that would help us realize not to be scared, because He controls the world.  If Hashem could save us then, He obviously can still save us!  It is hard as a human being, not to be scared of things; I mean, there are scary things, right?  But if a person relies on Hashem (as we are being told to in this verse), and realizes that He controls everything, then there is never anything to fear; except for Him, of course!  The Torah here is teaching us the lesson, and reminding us of the fact that Hashem can do anything!  Don’t fear other things; there is no need to.  Hashem can do anything, and He can protect you.  As HaRav Moshe Tuvia Lieff shlita discusses, remembering times where Hashem obviously protected you (which, for real is always and at every moment) can help you trust in Him.[8]  We must realize that Hashem controls the world!  Trusting in Hashem is a very, very fundamental and important thing in every person’s life.  And also, remembering always that Hashem is in control. 

Now back to the parsha:  Moshe also tells the Jews that we must keep the Commandments that he is telling us, in order that we will live, and multiply, and take possession of the Land (Israel) that Hashem swore to our forefathers.  Moshe also tells us about remembering the things that Hashem did for us in the Wilderness.  This is important for every person, for we should all remember how Hashem leads us personally through life, and how He always protects us.  At the beginning of the second Aliyah, Moshe Rabbeinu warns us not to forget Hashem.  And he discusses how we must be careful that when we eat and are satisfied, and have lots of good things, not to forget Hashem.  One of the things that could, Chas V’Shalom/Hashem forbid lead to this, is if our heart, Chas V’Shalom/Hashem forbid gets haughty.  Haughtiness is very bad.  In fact, the Baal Shem Tov (Rebbe Yisroel ben Eliezer zt”l) asks; why does the Torah not command us not to become haughty, but only tells us to guard against it?  And he answers:  If not being haughty, and being humble was a Commandment, a person, if they believed that they had performed it, might think, feel, or say that they have mastered one of the Commandments.  And this would then lead them to gaava/haughtiness![9] What a lesson! 

Anyway, sometimes, if Hashem blesses us with lots of riches, we might, Chas V’Shalom/Hashem forbid start thinking that it is because of us that we have this stuff!  If we think about this, it turns out that it is absolute foolishness:  Hashem is the One Who gives us every single thing we have, and we would, Chas V’Shalom/Hashem forbid think that it is from us, and forget Hashem?!  We must always guard ourselves against this. 
Back to the parsha:  Also in this Aliyah, Moshe again tells the Jews not to be afraid of the nations whom they will be fighting against, because Hashem passes over the Yardein/Jordan before them.  Moshe needed to encourage the Jews a lot, always reminding them to trust in Hashem.  However, Moshe tells us, do not, (Chas V’Shalom/Hashem forbid) think that because of our righteousness and the wickedness of the nations does Hashem bring us to take possession of the Land (of Israel).  Not because we are deserving, but because the nations are very wicked, and in order to establish the matter that He swore to our forefathers.  Not because of our righteousness, because we did lots of bad things.  And Moshe then follows up and tells us about some of the bad things which we did in the Wilderness, where we rebelled against Hashem.  Sforno (HaRav Ovadia Sforno zt”l) explains that by reminding the Jews about some of the bad things they did, he was proving to us that it, indeed was not because of our deservedness that Hashem was bringing us into Israel.  (True, reminding people of when they sinned when they have already repented for it is a bad thing, as Bava Metzia teaches us, but not in this case, for a lot of reasons). 
So one of the episodes where we sinned that Moshe recalled was the Cheit ha’eigel/Sin of the Calf, and he recounts the incident to the Jews.  And Moshe goes on to give the Jews a lot more Mussar/discipline (or rebuke, etc.).  Such as about fearing Hashem, clinging to Him, loving Him, serving Him, keeping His Commandments, walking in His Ways, etc.  He also reminds us of more Commandments.  Let us try to always remember Hashem and serve Him in truth, and may He help everyone to do this, Amein, vi’Amein, so may it be His Will. 
There are 111 Passukim/verses in this parsha. 
Have a wonderful, wonderful Shabbos everyone!!!
Refoel Berel

[1]©.  'Parshas Pinchos 5776 - Reward for Mitzvohs'.
[2]©.  'Parashat Ekev'.  Shiur given by HaRav Elyakim Rosenblatt shlita.
[3]©.  Parshat Eikev - 'Parshah In-Depth'
[4] Four Chassidic Masters, page 216.  A PocketScroll© book.  A Shaar Press© Publication.  By Rebbe Avraham J. Twerski M.D. shlita. 
[5]; Parshat Eikev.  'Three quick Kotzker Torahs and a bonus Hafiz poem'.  From Ohel Torah of the Kotzker Rebbe zt"l. 
[6]©.  Parshat Eikev - 'Parshah In-Depth'.
[7]©.  'The Test of the Manna'. 
[8]©.  'Parashat Ekev'.  Shiur given by HaRav Moshe Tuvia Lieff shlita. 
[9]©.  Parshat Eikev - 'Parshah In-Depth'.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Tisha B'Av 5776

Tisha B'Av 5776:

Tisha B’Av is a very sad day; as we know, both Batei HaMikdash were destroyed on that day.  So now, we are not able to even offer the special offerings to Hashem!  And we cannot perform the special services that He wanted us to!  When we had the Beis HaMikdash, we could perform the service of Hashem to the ultimate level!  But, even though Hashem gave us this special House, we sinned and sinned, and He had to have it destroyed, and send us into Gallus. 

He was kind enough to grant us another chance, and we got a second Beis HaMikdash!  But, we sinned again!  And He had to make this one, too, get destroyed.  The Gemara (Yoma 9b) tells us that the first Beis HaMikdash was destroyed because of the sins of:  Avodah zarah; shefichus damim (i.e. murder), and arayos.  And we are also told that the second Beis HaMikdash was destroyed because of sinas chinam (between Jews).  So one of our goals in this time should be to rectify these things.  Surely we do not do the first three things (Chas V’Shalom!); however, maybe we are mean to fellow Jews.  And maybe we don’t like some of them, or treat some badly.  We must try to rectify these sins by doing the very opposite!  We should treat Jews very well, and we should love every Jew (like the command to love your fellow as yourself).  Then we can, B’Ezras Hashem rectify those sins!  So now let us move on to another topic of Tisha B’Av:

Actually, something people might not notice is that the Gematria of the Hebrew word חוּרבּן is 266.  This has the same Gematria as the word סוּר, which means 'turn'.  Tisha B'Av is a day where we have time to think about what we are doing.  Until Chatzos (according to some Poskim), we are not allowed to learn Torah, and so we are supposed to be sitting there, mourning.  Mourning over the Churban, and mourning over the sins that caused it.  So we can be thinking about the sins, and our own sins; the ones that we have done.  And it is a time to correct failings.  As we caused the Churban Bayis, so we must try to cause the next and final, indestructible one to be rebuilt.  So now we see how connected the words 'Churban' and 'Sur' are:  On Tisha B'Av, the day of the Churban, it is a time for us to concentrate on turning ('Sur' means to turn) away from our evil ways, and coming back to Hashem completely.  And Hashem should help everyone to do this, Amein. 

Furthermore, Chazal tell us that somebody who properly mourns over the Beis HaMikdash will merit seeing it be rebuilt!  And so, we see that it is very important to mourn over the Churban (destruction).  We should all be able to cry over the fact that the Beis HaMikdash is not around anymore.  But as HaRav Avraham Schorr shlita basically explained; you have to have felt the holiness to feel the lack of it.[1]  Ah, so this can be an answer to why we don't seem to have so much feeling about the Churban:  Because we haven't felt that Kedusha!  But this just shows how low of a level we are on.  The fact that we cannot feel the loss of sanctity, the loss of everything! 
We seem to live in a world bereft of feelings.  But we must not be like that, Chas V'Shalom.  We all must be able to mourn over the loss of the Holy House; to cry to Hashem to bring it back.  And the cold hard truth, so to speak, is that if we can't cry over the lack of Beis HaMikdash, then why do we deserve to have it back with us?  If we do not appreciate the specialness of it, then why are we worthy of having it?!  This might even be one of the deeper significances of what Chazal mean when they say that all who mourn properly over the Churban Beis HaMikdash will be zocheh to see it rebuilt:  That one who feels the holiness of the Beis HaMikdash, and who then also feels the loss of Kedusha because of the Churban is somebody who deserves to see it rebuilt.  If we, Chas V'Shalom, do not appreciate how special the House of Hashem was (and will be!), then how can we properly mourn over it? 
So, as HaRav Asher Weiss shlita explains, we should visualize the holy Beis HaMikdash going up in smoke right in front of our very eyes, and this will help us to feel properly sad about it.[2]  For we must be able to feel the proper sadness over the huge loss.  And this must be.  Rav Weiss shlita explains as well that we need to think about the Churban as if it is happening now – in the present.  Then we will be able to, B'Ezras Hashem, feel sadder over it.[3]  Why?  Well, to answer this, there is a question we need to ask:  Why are we not all on the floor, crying hysterically over the destruction of the Holy House of Hashem?  It must be that we do not really feel it so much.  Those who are zocheh to be at the Kosel HaMaaravi will likely feel it more, because they are connected to the standing bit of it (which is centuries and centuries old, part of the House of Hashem!  Can you imagine that?) and they feel the special Kedusha.  Then they begin to realize the absolute holiness of when the entire House was here!  And, now we see the answer to our question:  We don't feel connected to the Beis HaMikdash anymore!  It has been so many years, and we are not involved in the holy things that we should be involved in, so we, #1, do not even feel holiness as much, and #2, we do not connect ourselves to Hashem and the holy Beis Hamikdash.  Another thing is that for us to properly feel sadness over the Churban, we have to first realize how special and holy the Beis HaMikdash was (and will be). 
So visualizing the Churban right in front of our very eyes – recounting to ourselves the many, many great and awesome miracles in the Beis HaMikdash – will connect us, B'Ezras Hashem to that Holy House, and Hashem.  As this year's Tisha B'Av continues, we must try to take these things to heart, and really try to mourn properly over the Churban.  And if we do this, we will be zocheh, B'Ezras Hashem Yisbarech, to see the rebuilding of the Beis Chayeinu very speedily in our days.  May Hashem help us to do this, and may He very speedily rebuild His Holy House, Amein, vi'Amein. 

I would like to continue, though, a little further:  Every single person has a precious Neshama inside of them; as the Tanya (and others) brings down, it is a “piece”, so to speak, of Hashem.  And it is so holy!  Our Soul is actually almost like our own, personal Beis HaMikdash; inside of us!  We are supposed to guard it from the invading forces; the Yetzer hara, who wants to destroy our Soul.  And this is something to concentrate on always; though The Three Weeks remind us of this message.  We must always try to stop these invading forces, and keep our ‘Beis HaMikdash’ standing!  The real Beis HaMikdash may not be around, but we all sort of have one inside of us; and it is up to us to stop the invading forces from destroying it. 

Now, as we know, Hashem does not need to eat; however, when we offered Him offerings, it was called ‘the food of Hashem’.  So, though He does not need food, it was still called that.  I would like to propose a kavanah that would be good to have while we are fasting on Tisha B’Av:  As we know, it is because of our sins that the Batei HaMikdash are not here anymore.  And so, this is why we are not able to offer things to Hashem anymore.  Ah, since offerings are called ‘the food of Hashem’ (ki’vi’yachol), then we can understand the kavanah I am talking about:  Since we caused the fact that we cannot offer up ‘the food of Hashem’ anymore, how can we possibly even look at food?!  How can we think of eating?  (Again, in no way should anyone think that Hashem eats.  However, the offerings were still called ‘the food of Hashem’.  And I am trying to derive a lesson from the term used). 

We must mourn over the fact that the Batei HaMikdash are destroyed, and we cannot perform the service of Hashem to the ultimate, such as offering things to Him, but we must always try to serve Him to the best that we all can.  And you would be surprised how high a level that really is!  On Tisha B’Av, we must also mourn over our sins, because it was because of them that we are in Exile.  Now, I have been asked before, when I said this; ‘why should we mourn over our sins, when it wasn’t our personal sins that caused the Churban?!’  But the answer I gave, and am giving, is that we too, have our own package of sins.  And, the Sages (Yalkut Shimoni - Tehillim 137, 886; Yerushalmi Yoma 1:1 - 5a) have said that a generation that does not bring Mashiach is considered as if they had caused its destruction.  So, the fact that we have not yet returned to Hashem and brought Mashiach is our very own fault!  We know that we all have our own packages of sins, and it is up to us to repent for them, and return to Hashem wholeheartedly.  Every single moment in our lives, we have another opportunity to serve Hashem.  And let us all return now to Hashem, and serve Him in truth. 
These are a lot of thoughts that should pass through our minds on the Nine Days and Tisha B’Av.  And if we do what we are supposed to, repent to Hashem, and actually serve Him in truth, then we will be fulfilling our purposes in life. 
And, may Hashem make this the last sad Tisha B’Av, and the last one in Gallus.  As our Sages teach, Mashiach will be (maybe he already was!) born on Tisha B’Av.  May Hashem send Mashiach very, very speedily, making these the last hours in Gallus, and may He rebuild the Third, and final, indestructible Beis HaMikdash very, very swiftly, Amein vi’Amein, so may it be His Will! 
Have a wonderful, wonderful rest of Tisha B'Av everybody!  And may it be full of Teshuva! 
Refoel Berel
[1]©.  Do You Feel The Galut.’  Shiur given by HaRav Avraham Schorr shlita. 

[2]©.  ‘Tisha B’Av and Churban HaBayis.’  Shiur given by HaRav Asher Weiss shlita. 

[3]©.  ‘Tisha B’Av and Churban HaBayis.’  Shiur given by HaRav Asher Weiss shlita. 

In Loving Memory and in Honor of The Alter of Kelm zt"l

In Loving Memory and in Honor of The Alter of Kelm zt"l: 

Since the 8th of Av was the Alter of Kelm (HaRav Simcha Zissel Ziv zt"l)'s yartzeit, I would like to list some facts about him, some stories about him, and some of his teachings:   

Facts: According to some, Reb Simcha Zissel zt"l was born in the year 1824[1], but according to others, he was born in 1829.[2]  The town he was born in is Kelm, Lithuania (Russia at the time).[3]  He studied under the founder of the Mussar Movement, HaRav Yisroel Salanter zt"l.  And he became one of the pillars of the Movement’s foundation!  He was a very humble person.  Aside from that, he was very, very strong in serving Hashem.  Essentially nothing would he let stop him from serving Hashem.  He married a girl named Sara Leah, who was a daughter of HaRav Mordechai of Vidzh zt"l.[4]  In the 1860's, the Alter started the Kelm Talmud Torah.[5]  On the 8th of Av, in the year 5658 (1898), he passed away.  The story of his death alone is great, and we will discuss it later, B'Ezras Hashem. 

Teachings:  He used to say:  "Nothing in nature is perfect; everything requires perfection."[6]   He also taught:  "The workshop of Mussar is thought." A person's power of reflection and observation, taught The Alter, are the weapons in their struggle against tendencies.[7]  The Alter taught that if G-d-fearing people get together, then even without saying a word, they are proclaiming the glory of Hashem.  Why?  Because, he explains, their very presence demonstrates that there are G-d-fearing people in the world.[8]   Another teaching of his explains that we have a principle that the reward for a good deed that Hashem gives always outweighs His punishment for a bad deed.  Now, a meisis u'madiach (one who tries to lead Jews to idol worship), he explains, is punished with death even if their efforts were unsuccessful.  We can deduce from here, says the Alter, how great is the reward for somebody who tries to bring a fellow Jew closer to Hashem.[9]

Stories:  Once, the Alter and another scholar came to an inn.  The innkeeper was so excited to have these special guests, and she served them a lovely meal.  She was so excited that, during serving them, she spoke about her cows, chickens, etc.  The other scholar kept his head in his Sefer, not paying any attention to the talk of this woman.  However, Reb Simcha Zissel zt"l listened attentively, and acted like he was very interested in her conversation.  Before leaving, the Alter and his companion wanted to pay for the meal, but the innkeeper refused to accept any money, explaining that she did not want to lose the merit of the special Mitzvah she had done (by waiting on them, being hospitable to them, etc.) for a little bit of money.  After the two Rebbeim were well on their way, the Alter turned to his companion and asked him if he was concerned that he was guilty of robbing, because he had eaten and not paid!  "What do you mean?" The other scholar replied "We offered to pay her for the meal!" "True" said Reb Simcha Zissel zt"l, "But you saw how much satisfaction the woman derived from speaking to us, yet you refrained from paying attention to her conversation.  Thus you benefited from her meal without giving anything in exchange."[10]   

This is the story of his death:  According to some, he died when he was Davening, as he was saying the prayer Ezras Avoseinu.[11]   According to another account, people had put up a fan above his head to help freshen the air, and he was worried that it would fall and break!  Since it was someone else’s, he did not want this to happen.  And so, he gathered up his last strength, and removed the fan from above his head so that it would not fall or break.  And then his Soul departed.  The onlookers were amazed by this heroic effort, as even in the last moments of his life, the thing he was thinking about was making sure that something of somebody else’s did not get damaged, which is part of serving Hashem.[12] 

Have a wonderful rest of Tisha B'Av everyone!   

Refoel Berel

[1]©.  Page:  Simcha Zissel Ziv.  Section:  Early life.
[2] Sparks of Mussar.  By HaRav Chaim Ephraim Zaitchik zt"l.  Feldheim Publications Ltd©
[3]©.  Page:  Simcha Zissel Ziv.  Section:  Early life.
[4]©.  Page:  Simcha Zissel Ziv.  Section:  Early life.
[5]©.  Page:  Kelm Talmud Torah.  Section:  Under the leadership of Simcha Zissel Ziv. 
[6] Sparks of Mussar, page 64.  By HaRav Chaim Ephraim Zaitchik zt"l.  Feldheim Publications Ltd©. 
[7] Sparks of Mussar, page 64.  By HaRav Chaim Ephraim Zaitchik zt"l.  Feldheim Publications Ltd©. 
[8] Sparks of Mussar, pages 66-67.  By HaRav Chaim Ephraim Zaitchik zt"l.  Feldheim Publications Ltd©. 
[9] Sparks of Mussar, page 67.  By HaRav Chaim Ephraim Zaitchik zt"l.  Feldheim Publications Ltd©. 
[10] Sparks of Mussar, pages 76-77.  By HaRav Chaim Ephraim Zaitchik zt"l.  Feldheim Publications Ltd©. 
[11]©.  Page:  Simcha Zissel Ziv.  Section:  Kelm Talmud Torah. 
[12] Sparks of Mussar, pages 83-84.  By HaRav Chaim Ephraim Zaitchik zt"l.  Feldheim Publications Ltd©. 

Friday, August 12, 2016

Parshas Devarim Insights and Tisha B'Av

Parshas Devarim and Tisha B'Av:

This week’s parsha is Devarim, and it begins the Book of Devarim.  It is noteworthy that the Sages tell us that this Sefer/Book was spoken by Moshe himself, however, it was not quite Moshe.  Explain the Sages, the Shechinah/Hashem’s Presence spoke from Moshe’s throat.  Now, this book is mostly Moshe Rabbeinu recounting things that happened in the Wilderness to the Jews, and giving them rebuke and Mussar.  It is very fitting that this parsha comes right before Tisha B’Av, because we get this Mussar and rebuke, to think about trying to change our actions.  Maybe what we have been doing is wrong.  Maybe we have been rebelling against Hashem.  This is something that we are supposed to get from rebuke.  It is telling us what bad we have done, so we can fix it!  Now, if a person is, Chas V’Shalom/Hashem forbid haughty and arrogant, then they likely won’t want to listen to the things that people have to say about them, unless they are saying something good about them.  But if somebody tries to give them rebuke, then they will probably not listen to it, not take it to heart, argue with the person, and defend themselves – thinking almost nothing bad of themselves.  How will they then get better?  How will they repent to Hashem for their misdeeds?  They most likely won’t realize or think bad things about themselves, so they won’t think about things to repent for, and so they won’t repent wholeheartedly, thinking ‘What have I done wrong?’ or ‘I am so great’, etc.  A person must be able to recognize their own faults, and realize when they do a bad thing.  Don’t let your Yetzer hara/Evil inclination get hold of you, so that you will, Chas V’Shalom/Hashem forbid not realize your faults.  It is even worthy to Daven/pray to Hashem to reveal your faults to you.  And now we see one of the great things of rebuke:  If you haven’t realized all of your faults (or even close to all) then this rebuke will help you realize them.  Then you can fix them!  So don’t, Chas V’Shalom/Hashem forbid get angry at a person who gives you rebuke (even if they don’t do it the right way), learn from it!  If you can get good out of something, get it, because you might not have that opportunity again.  This is, in effect, one of the concepts which the Bostoner Rebbe (Rebbe Mayer Alter Horowitz shlita) told me:  He basically told me not to look too, too much into the future, but more in the present, because the opportunities I have now could be once-in-a-lifetime opportunities, and I can’t pass them up.  Also, that right now is right now, and if I spend too much time looking into the future, I will waste right now!  And then I will have wasted so much precious time for possible growth!  And, in fact, this goes for everybody and for all times.  And, on the topic of rebuke and realizing faults, Tzaddikim/righteous people used to (and likely still do) Daven/pray to Hashem to reveal their faults to them.  Why don’t we?  Don’t we want to realize our faults too?  Ah, but it seems to me that most people don’t actually want to hear their faults, or bad things about themselves.  Either this, or we don’t look deep enough at our actions, and we might, Chas V’Shalom/Hashem forbid be blinded by our Yetzer hara/Evil inclination into not seeing our faults, and only seeing the good things about ourselves, as we discussed earlier.  There are many instances in history where people would not accept rebuke, and so they even got violent.  Such as when people tried to beat the Noam Elimelech (Rebbe Elimelech of Lizhensk zt”l) for rebuking them, and I believe it happened also in the Books of Neviim and Kesuvim.  We all need to be able to take rebuke, and learn from it, so that we can correct our failings, B’Ezras Hashem Yisbareich/With the Help of Hashem, He is Blessed.  And, since Parshas Devarim always falls on The Three Weeks, (this year it is the day before the Fast of Tisha B’Av), let us discuss how we can connect this idea to Tisha B’Av.  How?  Let me try to give a possible answer:  As we know, both Batei HaMikdash were destroyed because of the Jews’ sins, and Tisha B’Av is the day on which both of them were destroyed.  And we know that if we had taken rebuke better, realized our sins more, and actually tried to fix them(!), then the original Beis HaMikdash likely would have never been destroyed.  But what can we do about it now?  What is done is done, right?!  Ah, but this thing is not done.  Because, as we know, with the coming of the Mashiach, Hashem will rebuild the Third Beis HaMikdash (may this come very speedily in everyone’s days).  And if every Jew repented to Hashem, then it would come right now!  So this is how we can all rectify what happened in the past:  By all of us returning to Hashem with all our heart, and serving Him in truth!!  And, in this merit, we will be able to greet the Mashiach very speedily in our days, and we will see the Third Beis HaMikdash, built by Hashem – which will never be destroyed – very speedily in our days.  May Hashem help everyone to do this, and may He make this happen very speedily in everyone’s days, Amein!  Let us all try to repent fully to Hashem, and may this be the last Shabbos in Galus/Exile, Amein!  These are some good thoughts and intentions for Tisha B’Av and the Nine Days. 
Ok, now on to the parsha:  The first passuk/verse is ‘Eileh HaDevarim asher diber Moshe el kol Yisroel, bi’eiver haYardein, bamidbar, ba’aravah, mol suf, bein Paran u’vein Tophel, vi’Lavan va’Chatzeiros, vi’Di Zahav/And these are the words that Moshe spoke to all of Yisroel, on the other side of the Jordan, in the Plain, opposite (or towards) the [Sea] of Reeds, between Paran and between Tophel, and Lavan and Chatzeiros, and Di Zahav.’ 
There are many commentaries on this, which I will quote:  1) First, Rashi quotes from Sifri, which explains that these “places” that the Torah enumerates here actually refer to the times when the Jews angered Hashem, but Moshe did not want to say the sins explicitly, so as not to embarrass the Jews.  We will, B’Ezras Hashem/With the Help of Hashem, enumerate the explanations soon. 
2) Why would Moshe speak the words to ‘all of Yisroel’?  Rashi quotes from Sifri, which explains that he did this, so that there wouldn’t be people who could say that if they were there, they would have listened to the rebuke, but they weren’t.  Therefore, he rebuked ‘all of Yisroel’. 
3) Asks Rashi; why does it say ‘in the Wilderness’, if they were, at the time, in the Plains of Moav?  So he explains that the Torah here is referring to when the Jews had done bad things and angered Hashem ‘in the Wilderness’, when they said (Shemos 16:3) ‘If only we had died [by the Hand of Hashem]’. 
4) Rashi quotes from Sifri, again, which explains that by saying ‘in the Plain’, the Torah here is referring to when the Jews sinned in the Plains of Moav with worshiping Peor (Bamidbar 25:1-9). 
5) Rashi quotes this time from Gemara Arachin 15a, which explains that the Torah says ‘opposite (or towards) the [Sea] of Reeds’, as a rebuke to the Jews, because of the fact that they rebelled at the Sea of Reeds (twice!). 
6) Rashi quotes from the Midrash, where Rabbi Yochanan says that we have received the entire Torah, but we have not seen any place called Lavan or Tophel!  And he explains that they refer to when the Jews complained about the Mon/Manna, because they spoke foolishly (Taphlu – from the same root word as Tophel) about the Mon/Manna, which was white (Lavan).  And he also said that it could refer to when the Jews sinned with the Miraglim/Spies. 
7) Rashi quotes from the Midrash, which explains that ‘Chatzeiros’ can refer to the sin of Korach and his assembly, which took place in Chatzeiros.  And he also quotes from Sifri, which explains that it could also be referring to the sin of Miriam when she spoke against Moshe, which happened in Chatzeiros, yet the Jews did not learn from that not to slander, and they slandered Hashem! 
8)  Rashi now quotes from the Midrash, Sifri, and Gemara Berachos 32a, which explain that ‘Di Zahav’, can mean ‘Enough gold’.  And this can refer to the Cheit HaEigel/Sin of the Calf, where Hashem had granted the Jews ‘enough gold’, but they used it for a sin!  We should never use anything that Hashem has given us (which is essentially everything!) for bad, Chas V’Shalom/Hashem forbid. 
9) So, also, Rabbeinu Ephraim ben Shimshon zt”l explains that the word ‘Eileh/These’ has the Gematria/numerical value of 36.  And the word Devarim has the same spelling as the word dabarim/leaders.  So he says that, as we know, there have to be (and are) 36 special Tzaddikim/righteous people in each generation.  And this verse teaches us, if we take the Gematria/numerical value of the word Eileh/these (36), with translating the word Devarim as dabarim/leaders, that the real leaders of each generation are the 36 special Tzaddikim/righteous people that we have.1 
10) Now let us get into some Chassidishe Mefarshim/commentaries:  The Alter Rebbe (Rebbe Shneur Zalman of Liadi zt”l) explained that when, in Parshas Bereisheis, after Adam and Chava sinned, they hid, and Hashem called out to them, asking where they were (איכה), it is the question that He asks every person.  Hashem knows where everybody is, of course, so he could not have been asking where in the Garden Adam and Chava were hiding.  But, as Reb Shneur Zalman zt”l explains, Hashem asks every person, ‘Ayeka/where are you?’ meaning; where are you in life?  Are you doing what you are supposed to and moving forward?  Where are you?  Hashem knows where we are, but He wants us to recognize where we are and come back to Him in truth.  So, what does all this have to do with this passuk/verse here?  Explains the Nikolsburger Rebbe (Rebbe Yosef Yechiel Michel Lebovits shlita):  The first letters of the words ‘הדברים אשׁר דבּר משׁה אל כּל ישׂראל’, if you switch them up a bit, spell ‘Adam ayeka/Adam, where are you’?  And he adds that this that the Gematria/numerical value of the word ‘איכה’ is 36, which is the same as the word ‘לו’, which means ‘to him’.  This teaches us, he explains, that Hashem asks this question to every single person directly – to you!  Where are you in life?  And he even continues, and explains that the word איכה’ (Ayeka) has the same letters as the word ‘איכה’ (Eichah), as in the thing which we read on Tisha B’Av.  This teaches us, explains the Nikolsburger shlita, that if we all had only asked ourselves ‘ayeka/where are you’ before, then we would not be mourning now, and reading Eichah on Tisha B’Av.  We would we really good people, and Mashiach would have already come!2  But now, we must start with this (if we haven’t already been doing it), and we must keep asking ourselves this question, and continue moving forward in serving Hashem.  Hashem should help everyone to do this, Amein, vi’Amein.  This is  such a big lesson for Parshas Devarim, Tisha B’Av, and really, all times!  And we must take it to heart, and, With the Help of Hashem, put it into action.  
11) There is a Chassidishe Master, who explains that the words ‘vi’Lavan va’Chatzeiros/and Lavan and Chatzeiros’, come and teach us a lesson:  He explains that we learn from these words that if somebody thinks that they are lavan (which means white), meaning that they think that they are clean of sin, then they are only in ‘Chatzeiros’, which can come from the word for courtyard.  Meaning that if a person thinks that they are a great person, then they should know that they are only in the outer courtyard of serving Hashem and sanctity, and they are not even close to the inner, and higher levels.3  This is a big, big lesson.  Don’t think that you are great:  Realize your faults!  This is like what we discussed earlier. 
12) Okay, one more Mefaraish/commentary for this passuk/verse:  So in this verse, one of the “places” enumerated is Di Zahav.  There is a Chassidishe Master, who explains that this can mean ‘enough gold’ (as we saw in the Rashi earlier).  However, this can come to teach us, he explains, that a person must realize that they have ‘enough gold’!  Meaning that whatever Hashem gives you, is enough, and it is what you are supposed to have.  So don’t get ungrateful and always want more (in material things), be happy with what Hashem gives you!  We have ‘enough gold’, as it were, and we need to start appreciating what Hashem gave us, and gives us.4 

Ok; that was the first passuk/verse of Parshas Devarim, with a lot of commentaries. 
Have a wonderful, wonderful Shabbos everyone!
Refoel Berel

1©.  'Parashat Devarim Gems 5775.'  Shiur given by HaRav Moshe Meir Weiss shlita. 
2©.  'Parshas Devorim, Shabbos Chazon - Where are we?'
3©.  'Chassidic Gems Devarim3 24.'  Shiur given by HaRav Elyakim Rosenblatt shlita. 

4©.  'Chassidic Gems Devarim3 24.'  Shiur given by HaRav Elyakim Rosenblatt shlita.