Monday, November 28, 2016

והיה & ויהי

:והיה & ויהי

The Midrash and Gemara Megilla say 'אין והיה אלא לשׁוֹן שׂמחה' which means 'There is no [word] 'Vehaya' except for a language of happiness.'  And the Midrash also says that the word 'Vayehi' is a language of trouble.  How do we explain this?  There are many times in the Torah where it would be hard to explain Vehaya as implying happiness and Vayehi as implying trouble! (Though, as told over to me by the Bostoner Rebbe of Yerushalayim shlita's Shamash, the Gemara concludes that only when it says 'Vayehi bi'mei' does it connote tzar). 

But anyway, I asked Rebbe Tal Moshe Zwecker shlita (founder of Machon Be'er Mayim Chaim Publishing) the question, and he told me: 


"This Midrash Aggadah is using a play on words; VaYehi - can be read as Vay Hi - which means 'it is painful', and the derasha is that VaYehi therefore prefaces any painful sufferings whereas VeHaya is Simcha.  Obviously the Gemara will cite examples to back up the derasha but generally speaking, drush is not peshat so that you may well find pessukim that do not correspond to the Midrash's example because derashos by their very nature are not peshat; they are not the simple meaning of the passuk."


So I asked him: 


"So do all Vehaya's have to be Simcha and all Vayehi's have to be tzar?"


And he explained: 


"No because its a derush and not a peshat; its a homiletically explanation rather than the simple meaning of the passuk."


However, he told me that you can explain (if you can) every Vehaya in the Torah as Simcha and every Vayehi as tzar, for "we are allowed to use derush to learn and teach examples and illustrate ideas", as he said. 


And there are also some other explanations on this which I will, B'Ezras Hashem, list; one from HaRav Tzvi Kushalevsky shlita, and one from myself:

1) The explanation of what the Midrash said could lie in the very meaning of the words, according to Reb Kushalevsky shlita:  Vayehi means 'And it was', while Vehaya means 'And it will be'.  'And it was' is saying that something already happened - talking about the past (no matter how long ago).  But 'And it will be' is talking about the future - what is coming.  So perhaps we could say that this is the deeper meaning of what Chazal say:  

Vayehi, talking about the past, is lashon tzar (possibly) because the past is something that we cannot go back to.  Once a second ends, that second is gone forever (unless, of course, Hashem makes a neis).  So Vayehi is tzar. 

But Vehaya is talking about the future.  Something that is yet to come.  That is such Simcha! 
2) Perhaps we may say that Vehaya is lashon Simcha because the letters are the same as that of Hashem's Heilige Name.  But Vayehi does not have the same letters.  Teaching us that anything that centers around Hashem is happy and Simchadikke, and anything that doesn't, Chas V'Shalom, is not. 
Those are just some explanations to the seemingly difficult statement of the Midrash.  There are obviously many answers to the question, and if you have any or have heard any, please don't hesitate to comment and "explain away", my friends.
A big and special thanks to Rebbe Tal Moshe Zwecker shlita, the Bostoner Rebbe shlita and his Shamash, Reb Betzalel shlita, and HaRav Daniel Yaakov Travis shlita, for all their help and time.  May Hashem bless them and their families with only good forever, Amein vi'Amein. 
Have a wonderful, wonderful day and week everyone!

Friday, November 25, 2016

Parshas Chayei Sara

This Week’s Parsha – Chayei Sara:

Now, with Hashem’s Help, let us get on to the parsha: The first passuk/verse is ‘Vayih’yu chayei Sara; meiah shana, vi’esrim shana, vi’sheva shanim; sh’nei chayei Sara/And it was the life of Sara; one hundred years, and twenty years, and seven years, the years of the life of Sara.’ There are some things that need explaining here, and let us, with Hashem’s Help, begin to say over some Mefarshim/commentaries: 

1) Rashi HaKadosh quotes from Midrash Bereishis Rabbah, which explains that the phrasing of this verse teaches us that Sara Imeinu when 100 years old was as free of sin as a 20 year old, and when she was 20, she was as beautiful as a 7 year old.  Furthermore, Rashi HaKadosh himself says that this verse also teaches us that Sara Imeinu’s years were all equal in goodness. 

2) The Rebbe Reb Zusia of Anipole zt”l explains that ‘all of them were equal in goodness’ means that everything that happened to Sara Imeinu, she said ‘gam zu li’tovah/also this is for good.’  Meaning that she realized that since everything is from Hashem, it will all end up good.  HaRav Shalom Schwadron zt”l says a very similar thing.[1] 

3) What does it mean that Sara Imeinu when 20 years old, had the beauty of a 7 year old?  Says HaRav Moshe Feinstein zt”l:  A 7 year old does not use their beauty for leading others astray.  If they are beautiful, they don’t try to make others want to look at them, etc.  But rather, they have pure beauty.  So it was with Sara Imeinu, says Reb Moshe zt”l.  And all could see that her beauty was pure.[2] 

4) HaRav Aharon Soloveitchik zt”l also gives an answer to the above question about her beauty:  He explains that a 7 year old does not have gaava/haughtiness about their beauty.  She is not bragging about it usually, and again, it is pure beauty, and she is not haughty about it.  So it was with Sara Imeinu, says Reb Aharon zt”l.[3] 

5) The Chida (HaRav Chaim Yosef Dovid Azulai zt”l) notes that the word ‘ויהיוּ’ is spelled the same both forward and backwards.  This teaches us, he explains, that whichever way Sara Imeinu’s life was going – forward or backwards; well or not so well, so to speak, she always remembered that everything was for the best.  This is very important for everyone to remember. [4]

6) The Klausenberger Rebbe (Rebbe Yekusiel Yehuda Halberstam zt”l) explains that the repetition in this phrase ‘And it was the life of Sara...... the years of the life of Sara’ goes to teach us that she actually lived all the years of her life.  Meaning that, as we know, only serving Hashem is true life.  So Sara Imeinu actually lived – i.e. serve Hashem all her days.[5]  May we all have the merit to do so, Amein vi’Amein.

7) The Nikolsburger Rebbe (Rebbe Yosef Yechiel Michel Lebovits shlita) quotes the “Rashi”, which we quoted above, and he uses it to explain how Sara Imeinu served Hashem: Rashi HaKadosh from the Midrash had said that when she was 100, she was like 20 (with regards to sin).  So he says that this teaches us that Sara Imeinu always served Hashem with youth, i.e. fire, passion, and energy.  However, he says, she also served Him with the wisdom of age.  This is very important for all of us to do. [6] May Hashem help everyone to do so, Amein vi’Amein. 

8) Okay; one more for right now:  The verse said ‘sh’nei chayei Sara/the years of the life of Sara.’ And the HaKsav V’HaKaballah (HaRav Yaakov Tzvi Mecklenburg zt”l) explains that ‘sh’nei/years’ can also mean ‘two’.  So he says that this teaches us that Sara Imeinu lived a double life, so to speak.  She used both her physical and her spiritual – both facets of herself.  She used her physical body to help her spiritual self serve Hashem[7] – which is what we must all try to do. 

Okay, now back to the parsha:  Avraham Avinu came to eulogize Sara and cry for her.  And he was going to buy a piece of land with a cave, and it was called Maaras Hamachpeilah. Ephron ben Tzochar the Chiti said at first that Avraham could have Maaras Hamachpeilah for free, but Avraham knew that if he didn’t buy it, we are told, the land would later be disputed whether it was his. So Avraham and Ephron agreed on 400 silver Shekalim.

The passuk/verse says ‘Oveir Lasocheir/in a negotiable currency’ which Gemara Bava Metzia explains to mean something that would be considered 400 Shekalim in every place. But in some places the Shekalim were big, so Avraham ended up paying 1,000,000 silver Shekalim, because that would, in some places, be considered 400 silver Shekalim.  And Avraham Avinu buried Sara Imeinu there – in Maaras Hamachpeilah. 

After that, the Torah talks about how Avraham was going to have Eliezer Damaseik search for a wife for Yitzchok, and he made him swear that he wouldn’t take a wife for Yitzchok from the Caananim, but that he should take the wife from Avraham’s brethren.

Eliezer Davened to Hashem that He would provide a sign for him, so he would know if it was the right girl or not.  The sign was that when he would ask for some water, she would say that she would even draw water for his camels.

He had just finished Davening when he saw Rivkah, and Hashem answered his prayer, and she did the exact thing that he Davened for.  He gave her a nose ring that weighed a beka, and he gave her 2 bracelets that weighed ten golden Shekalim.  

Rashi HaKadosh quotes from Midrash Bereishis Rabbah, which explains that the 2 bracelets allude to the Shnai Luchos HaBris/The Two Tablets of the Covenant, and the weight of it alludes to the Aseres HaDibros/Ten Commandments that were written on the Luchos/Tablets. Anyway, Rivkah told Eliezer who she was, and she ran to her mother to tell her.  

Rivkah’s brother was Lavan, and when he saw the jewelry that Eliezer had given her, he ran out to him, because he was greedy, and he thought that Eliezer must be rich (according to Rashi HaKadosh from Midrash Bereishis Rabbah). 
Lavan invited him in, and Eliezer told him and Bethuel the story behind why he was there, and Bethuel and Lavan said that the matter came from Hashem, so they couldn’t say anything about it; so they were okay with it.  Eliezer stayed the night with them, and he was going to leave the next day. Lavan and Rivkah’s mother wanted Rivkah to stay for a while, but Eliezer wanted her to go. 

They brought it to Rivkah, and asked her if she would go with Eliezer, and she said yes.  So she went.  And when she and Eliezer were coming back, they saw Yitzchok davening Minchah in the fields.  And we know that, according to Gemara Berachos, Avraham, Avinu instituted Shacharis, Yitzchok Avinu instituted Minchah, and Yaakov Avinu instituted Maariv.   Midrash Bereisheis Rabbah explains that Yitzchok was so involved in his Davening that Rivkah said “This is certainly a great man!” So she asked who was coming towards them.

Now, The Alter of Novhardok (HaRav Yosef Yozel Hurwitz zt”l) said that the quality of a person‘s prayer demonstrates their level of Mussar.[8]  Thus we see that Yitzchok Avinu was on a very high Mussar and spiritual level.  Rivkah and Yitzchok got married, and the Torah says that Yitzchok was comforted for [the loss of] his mother. 

Now we are beginning to move on to another Patriarch’s life, Baruch Hashem.  Anyway, the Torah lists in this parsha Avraham’s death.  He died at the age of 175 years old.  Though he actually died when Yaakov was 15, it is listed this way for a reason.  Also, the descendants of Yishmael are listed in this parsha, and Yishmael’s death is recorded. 

And Rashi HaKadosh quotes Rabbi Chiya bar Abba a”h who asked; why are the years of Yishmael counted?  And he answered that it was so we can trace through them the years of Yaakov Avinu, which shows us that Yaakov spent 14 years learning in Eiver’s Yeshivah. 
There are 105 pessukim/verses in this parsha.
Have a wonderful, wonderful Shabbos everyone!

Refoel Berel

[1] From  Shiur given by Reb Ari Mirzoeff shlita. 
[2] Stone Edition Chumash:  By HaRav Nosson Scherman shlita.  Artscroll/Mesorah Publications Ltd©.
[3] From  Shiur given by HaRav Moshe N. Reichman shlita. 
[4] From Google Groups - Be'er Mayim Chaim.  Torah WellspringsCompiled by Rebbe Boruch Twersky shlita. 
[5] From Google Groups - Be'er Mayim Chaim.  Torah WellspringsCompiled by Rebbe Boruch Twersky shlita. 
[6] From  Parshas Chayei Sarah. 
[7] From  Shiur given by HaRav Moshe N. Reichman shlita.
[8] From Sparks of Mussar.  By HaRav Chaim Ephraim Zaitchik zt"l.  Feldheim Publications Ltd.©

Mussar Drosha: Chayei Sara

Mussar Drosha: Chayei Sara:

This week’s parsha is Chayei Sara, and the start of it talks about Sara Imeinu’s age at her death. But the question is asked; this parsha is more about the death of Sara, so why is it called ‘Chayei Sara’ which means ‘The Life of Sara’?! And the answer that is given is that with righteous people; they hardly die: They live on, so to speak, way after their deaths.

A wicked person – once they die, they are gone and go to Gehinnom. And they, a lot of times don’t have something from them that people imitate. But a righteous person – when they die, their Souls go to Gan Eden, and their legacy lives on. People learn from them (at least we should!) a lot of times, and so they are living long after they died, really.

Take Rashi HaKadosh, for example: His commentary is learned by essentially every single person in the entire world who studies Torah. And, as HaRav Chaim Eisenstein shlita says, when you learn the Gedolim’s works, it is as if they are alive and standing next to you, telling you the explanation on the things.[1]
Or say there is even a very righteous person who nobody ever knew about. Their legacy still always lives on, because their life lessons and what they represented will always live on. And we will, B’Ezras Hashem/with the Help of Hashem, emulate those ways. But the point is that you see that righteous people always live on and never really die. However, we should all know that greatness was not limited to just those generations. We can reach the level that the great people of previous generations reached!
As The Alter of Slobodka (HaRav Nosson Tzvi Finkel zt"l) said, all of us have such a lofty Soul in us which can reach even the levels of Avraham Avinu and Moshe Rabbeinu.[2]

Each one of us has a priceless Soul that is so holy. And we all have the ability to become extremely great – just like those people! We have been invested with a Soul – a part from Hashem Himself, we are told. It is so holy, and can never die. We don’t even realize how holy it is – it is part of Hashem!!!
And the Chofetz Chaim (HaRav Yisroel Meir HaKohen Kagan zt"l) gave a nice mashal/parable to explain what life really is, that very much illuminates this concept very well: He explains that life is like a man who gives this poor person a huge loan. The person can do so, so much with it! The possibilities are almost endless, so to speak!
But, if the person merely took the money and put it away in a drawer, would the rich man not be very upset?! He gave the poor person so much money, and it could have been used for much good, but the poor person just put it away into a drawer and didn’t use it.
This, he explains, is what happens with us (sometimes): Hashem gives us a Neshama/Soul, such a special thing that can used for so much good! But if we, Chas V’Shalom don’t use it right, and ‘put it away in a drawer’ so to speak, Hashem will surely not be happy with this.[2] Not using or utilizing this precious, precious gift, Chas V’Shalom?! So much can be done with it! Do we even realize how much potential Hashem has given us all? (This stuff is honestly hard to put into words).
But we must always remember: Never give up on yourself: Hashem has given you a pure and holy Soul, and you always can reach the highest levels. Even if any of us, Chas V’Shalom fall, Hashem has given us all the ability to get back up. Our Soul is still within us, Baruch Hashem. And as long as it is, it is still possible to serve Him.
There is a very nice story about HaRav Yisroel Salanter zt"l that hopefully should drive this point home, so to speak: Late one night, Reb Yisroel zt"l chanced to a shoemaker’s home. The shoemaker was sitting and doing his work by the flickering light of a candle that was about to go out.
"Why are you still working?" Reb Yisroel asked him "The hour is late. Besides, your candle will soon go out, and you won’t be able to finish. "That’s no problem" answered the shoemaker "As long as the candle is burning, it is still possible to work and to repair."
Reb Yisroel was deeply impressed by these words, for if someone has to work for their physical needs as long as the candle is lit, kal vachomer/how much more so must someone work to serve Hashem and their spiritual improvement as long as the Neshama/Soul, ‘Hashem’s candle’ is still in them, i.e. they are still alive. This is a very powerful story that needs to be taken to heart.
But, anyway, on a different note: Another thing to remember about our Soul is since Hashem has given you such an awesome Soul, you must use it well. Think about how terrible it would be not to, Chas V’Shalom! May HaKadosh Baruch Hu help every single person to use their holy, precious for good and to serve Hashem, the Most Blessed, forever, Amein vi’Amein. And if we do this, with His Help, we will be guaranteed eternal life. Remember this.
Have a wonderful, wonderful Shabbos everyone!!
Refoel Berel

[1] From  Shiur given by HaRav Chaim Eisenstein shlita. 
[2] From Sparks of Mussar.  By HaRav Chaim Ephraim Zaitchik zt"l.  Feldheim Publications Ltd.©
[3] From  Shiur given by HaRav Moshe Tzvi Weinberg shlita.
[4] From Sparks of Mussar.  By HaRav Chaim Ephraim Zaitchik zt"l.  Feldheim Publications Ltd.©

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

A Rebbe Story: The Holocaust Niggun

A Rebbe Story: The Holocaust Niggun:

I saw a beautiful Rebbe Story some time back, and I wanted to share it with you, B'Ezras Hashem.  (The following was taken straight from  The Rebbe of Modzitz, Rabbi Shaul Yedidya Elazar Taub zt"l, had Chassidim throughout the major towns and cities of Poland.

One of these was Reb Azriel David Fastag zt"l, who was noted for his exceptional voice throughout Warsaw. Many came to the shul where Reb Azriel David and his brothers, who were also blessed with lovely voices, would pray on the High Holy Days.

Reb Azriel David would lead the prayers, while his brothers accompanied him as a choir. His crisp, clear and moving voice had a profound effect on all who heard him.  Reb Azriel David lived simply, earning his livelihood from a small clothing store, but his happiness and fulfillment came from another source -- the world of Chassidic music.

His moving tunes made their way to Otvoczk (a suburb of Warsaw), where his Rebbe, Rabbi Shaul Yedidya Elazar appreciated them immensely. The day a new niggun (melody) by Reb Azriel David arrived was a festive day for for the Rebbe. 

Dark clouds began to cover the skies of Europe -- the clouds of Nazism. In spite of the terrible decrees, the yellow patch and the ghettoes, most Jews could not fathom what was about to befall them. Only a few managed to escape the clutches of the Nazi occupation to safe havens.

One of them was the Modzitzer Rebbe, Rebbe Shaul Yedidya Elazar, whose Chassidim made a tremendous effort to save him. As the Nazis entered Poland, the Chassidim smuggled him out of Poland to Vilna, in Lithuania, and from there he made his way across Russia to Shanghai, China, eventually arriving in America in 1940. 

Meanwhile in Poland tens of thousands of Jews were being shipped off daily to their death in cattle cars that were part of the railway system. Roused from their warm beds in Warsaw in the middle of the night, husbands were separated from their wives, children wrested from the arms of their parents. The elderly were often shot on the spot, in front of their loved ones. Then the Jews were gathered and sent off in those trains to a place where their existence would no longer trouble the Nazis -- to Auschwitz, Treblinka, Majdanek. 

Inside the crowded cars, over the clatter of the cattle cars' wheels, rose the sounds of people gasping, sighing, weeping and dying. One could hear the stifled cries of children crushed together. But in one such car, headed toward the infamous death camp Treblinka, the sound of singing could be heard. 

It seems that an elderly Jew, wrapped up in his ragged clothing, his face white as snow, had made his way over to his neighbor on the death train, begging him to remind him the tune of Ma'areh Kohen sung by Modzitzer Rebbe during the Yom Kippur service. 

"Now? Now, what you want to hear is niggunim?" answered the other, with a hard look at the Chassid, thinking that maybe all the suffering had caused him to lose his mind.  But this Modzitzer Chassid, Reb Azriel David Fastag, was no longer paying attention to his friend, or to anyone else on the train. In his mind, he was at the prayer stand next to his Rebbe on Yom Kippur, and it is he who was leading the prayer before the Rebbe and all the Chassidim. 

Suddenly, there appeared before his eyes the words of the twelfth of the Thirteen Principles of Jewish Faith: Ani ma'amin b'emuna sheleima, b'viat hamoshiach; v'af al pi she'yismamaya, im kol zeh, achakeh lo b'chol yom she'yavo -- "I believe with perfect faith in the coming of the Mashiach; and even though he may tarry, nevertheless, I wait each day for his coming."

Closing his eyes, he meditated on these words and thought, "Just now, when everything seems lost, is a Jew's faith put to the test." It was not long before he began to hum a quiet tune to these words.

There, amidst the death and despair on the train to Treblinka, the Chassid was transformed into a pillar of song, bringing forth out of his bloodied lungs the song of the eternity of the Jewish People. He was unaware of the silence in the cattle car, and of the hundreds of ears listening attentively in amazement. He also didn't hear the voices as they gradually joined his song, at first quietly, but soon growing louder and louder. 

The song spread from car to car. Every mouth that could still draw a breath joined in Reb Azriel Dovid's Ani Ma'amin.  As if waking from a dream, Reb Azriel David opened his eyes to the sight of the singing train. His eyes were red from crying, his cheeks wet with tears. In a choked voice, he cried out: "I will give half of my portion in Olam Habbah (the World to Come) to whoever can take my song to the Modzitzer Rebbe!"

A hushed silence descended upon the train. Two young men appeared, promising to bring the song to the Rebbe at any cost. One of them climbed upon the other, and finding a small crack of the train's roof broke out a hole from which to escape. Poking his head out under the open sky, he said, "I see the blue heavens above us, the stars are twinkling and the moon, with a fatherly face, is looking at me." "And what do you hear?" asked his companion.  "I hear," the young man answered, "the angels on high singing Ani Ma'amin, and it's ascending to the seven firmaments of heaven!"

Bidding farewell to their brothers and sisters on the train, the two proceeded to jump off, one after the other. One was killed instantly from the fall. The other survived, taking the memory of the song with him.

He eventually found his way to Land of Israel (perhaps to the Modzitzer Rebbe's son, the author of Imrei Aish, who was in Tel-Aviv), and the notes were sent by mail to Rebbe Shaul Yedidya Elazar in New York.  Upon receiving the notes and having the Reb Azriel Dovid's Ani Ma'amin sung before him, the Modzitzer Rebbe said: "When they sang Ani Ma'amin on the death train, the pillars of the world were shaking. The Almighty said, 'Whenever the Jews will sing Ani Ma'amin, I will remember the six million victims and have mercy on the rest of My People.'"

It is told that on the first Yom Kippur that the Modzitzer Rebbe sang the Ani Ma'amin, there were thousands of Jews in the shul. The entire congregation burst into tears, which fell like water into the pool of tears and blood of the Jewish people. The tune soon spread throughout world Jewry.  "With this niggun," said Rebbe Shaul Yedidya Elazar, "the Jewish people went to the gas chambers. And with this niggun, the Jews will march to greet Moshiach."

Have a wonderful day everyone!

Monday, November 21, 2016

Parshas Vayera

This Week’s Parsha – Vayera:

Now, with Hashem’s Help, we will get on to the holy parsha:  The first passuk/verse is ‘Vayera eilav Hashem bi’Eilonei Mamrei, vi’hu yosheiv pesach ha’ohel, ki’chom hayom/And Hashem appeared to him in the Plains of Mamrei, and he was sitting at the entrance of his tent at the heat of the day.’ There are some beautiful Mefarshim/commentaries that I would like to share with you, B’Ezras Hashem/with the Help of Hashem: 

1) Rashi HaKadosh quotes from Gemara Bava Metzia 86b, which teaches us that Avraham Avinu was sitting at the entrance of his tent to look for passersby in order to take them into his house and be very hospitable to them.  Furthermore, the Gemara says that Hashem had made it hot (‘the heat of the day’), so that people would not be up and about.  That way, Avraham Avinu, who was still in pain from his Bris Milah/Circumcision, (which had been only three days before) would not have to trouble himself (and possibly make his pain worse) by caring for guests.  But when He saw that Avraham Avinu was very pained not to be able to have guests, He sent the Angels.  They were in the “guise” of men, and Avraham Avinu was then able to do what he did, and care for them. 

2) Asks HaRav Moshe Feinstein zt”l; what was Avraham Avinu so upset about?  If there are no people there, there is no Mitzvah of caring for them to perform!  So, in effect, there was no Mitzvah he was “not doing”!  And he answers beautifully:  Avraham Avinu was not one of those people.  He did not just accept that “there is no Mitzvah to perform”.  He loved Hashem so, so much, that all he wanted to do was to do Mitzvos and serve Hashem.  So it pained him so much to not be able to have the opportunity of fulfilling a Mitzvah.  And Reb Moshe zt”l even adds further that we must try to learn from Avraham Avinu this passion for serving Hashem.[1]  And may Hashem help every single person to serve Him with the proper passion and fire forever, Amein vi’Amein. 
3) Rashi HaKadosh also quotes from Gemara Bava Metzia 86b on a different note:  The Gemara explains that when Hashem appeared to Avraham Avinu, He was doing bikur cholim/visiting the sick.  Avraham was in pain after his Bris Milah/Circumcision, and Hashem “visited” him, so to speak.  We must learn this perfect lesson from Hashem, and try to visit sick people, if there are any, Chas V’Shalom.  (Also, may Hashem heal all currently ill people very speedily, Amein vi’Amein). 
4) The Or HaChaim HaKadosh explains another reason for Hashem appearing to Avraham Avinu at that very moment:  He explains that when a person does a Mitzvah, (such as Avraham Avinu had just done, when he had circumcised himself), He reveals Himself to them (in a way).  For example, say we do a Mitzvah (may Hashem help us to!), Hashem will then reveal Himself a little more to us, and let us feel Him a little more than we usually would. 
5) The Nikolsburger Rebbe (Rebbe Yosef Yechiel Michel Lebovits shlita) quotes the “Rashi” which we quoted above, which says that Avraham Avinu was sitting at the entrance of his tent ‘Li’r’os im yeish over vi’shav; vi’yi’kaneisam bi’veiso/To see if there was a passerby and return him and enter him into his house.’ The word ‘over/passerby’ can also mean ‘transgressor’.  And ‘vi’shav/and return him’ can be talking also about returning people to Hashem.  So he explains that, aside from trying to find people to take them into his house, and care for them, he also watched for people who had sinned, so he could return them to Hashem, and bring them ‘into his house’ implying the House of Hashem.  And Reb Lebovits shlita just adds also that this goes to show us that nobody is beyond repair.  We can all be returned to Hashem.[2]  And may Hashem help everyone to return to Him fully and in truth, Amein vi’Amein. 
6) The Nikolsburger Rebbe shlita says another thing we can learn from this verse:  The Torah says that Avraham Avinu ‘was sitting at the entrance of his tent.’ And he explains that this teaches us that we must always guard our entrances (meaning the entrances in our bodies, such as the eyes, mouth, etc.), and “sit” there, so to speak, watching them.  Making sure that nothing bad comes into them (such as eating non-Kosher food, Chas V’Shalom, or looking at something we are not allowed to look at, etc.) and nothing bad comes out of them (such as saying something bad, etc.). [3] This is very important. 
Back to the parsha: Hashem sent Melachim/Angels to Avraham Avinu, who looked like men. They were: Refoel, Gavriel, and Michael.  They told Avraham that at that time the next year, Sara would have a son. What time of year was that?  According to the Gemara, it was Pesach.  A bit on in the parsha it talks about how Hashem was going to destroy Sodom, Amorah, Admah, Tzevoiim, and Tzoar, (but Tzoar didn’t end up being destroyed). 
Avraham didn’t want the places to be destroyed, and so he Davened to Hashem, and asked that if there was 50 Tzaddikim/righteous people there, Hashem should save it, and he asked about 45, 40, 30, 20, and 10.  Hashem said that He would save it in every case that Avraham asked about.  Rashi HaKadosh quotes from Targum Yonasan, who explains that there had to be 10 righteous people in each city for it to be saved, so when Avraham asked about 50, he was asking that all five cities be saved. 
When he asked about 45 (according to Midrash Bereishis Rabbah), he was asking that Hashem count Himself as one of the righteous ones in each city in order to save all of them.  When he asked about 40, he was asking that four of the cities be saved, when he asked about 30, he was asking that three of them get saved, when he asked about 20, he was asking that two of them get saved, and when he asked for 10, he was asking that one of the cities be saved.  But the cities didn’t have enough righteous people to be saved.  And the Melachim/Angels came to Lot, and they had to make sure that he left Sodom.  After some time, he left with his wife, and his two daughters.  When Hashem overturned Sodom, Amorah, Admah, and Tzevoiim, Lot’s wife looked back, so she was turned into a pillar of salt.  
Okay, so, later in the parsha, the Torah says that Hashem “remembered”, so to speak, (because He never forgets anything) Sarah, ‘Vi’Hashem pawkad es Sara/And Hashem accounted for (or ‘remembered’) Sara’. Hashem gave her a son, and he was named Yitzchok. Hashem was so merciful with Avraham and Sara, as He is with the Jews, their descendants.  We just don’t realize how grateful we should be to Hashem for all His kindnesses. Every second is a great gift from HaKadosh Baruch Hu that we should try to use well.  A precious gift!  Another moment of life in which we can accomplish so much.  This concept is beautifully illustrated in a just absolutely beautiful story about the Chofetz Chaim zt”l and his grandson, told by HaRav Aryeh Leiv Kagan zt”l, his son.
It is in the book written by HaRav Shimon Yosef Meller shlita, The Torah of Brisk and other Gedolim, the one for the Yomim Noraim/High Holidays.  Once, the Chofetz Chaim (HaRav Yisroel Meir HaKohen Kagan zt”l)’s grandson asked him how old he was. 
Reb Yisroel Meir looked at him, but didn’t say anything.  His grandson figured that he didn’t want to answer the question, so he didn’t ask again.  Some time later, Reb Yisroel Meir gave his grandson an envelope with some money in it.  But his grandson did not even look to see how much money was in the envelope! “Why did you not open the envelope to see how much money I gave you?” Reb Yisroel Meir asked.  And his grandson replied: “A gift from my Zeide/grandfather is very precious to me; it doesn’t matter how much money is in the envelope.  And besides, it’s not proper to count out the money one received in front of the one who gave him the gift.”
The Chofetz Chaim zt”l explained: “It’s exactly the same regarding your question about my age!  Life is so precious, such a wonderful gift from the Creator.  Can we possibly appreciate the value of the smallest moment of life?  And besides,” he continued “what does it matter how many years of this gift we have received from Hashem?  As you said ‘One doesn’t count out the gift in the presence of the Giver’.”[4] What an incredible story! 
Okay, but back to the parsha:  Yitzchok was given a Bris Milah/Circumcision at 8 days old, as Hashem commanded. When Yitzchok was weaned, Avraham made a great feast. 
Late in this parsha is Akeidas Yitzchok/The Binding of Yitzchok.  Avraham was 137 years old when it happened, and Yitzchok was 37. 
Targum Yonasan says that Sarah died during the Akeidah because the Satan told her that Avraham had actually shechted/slaughtered Yitzchok, and she died.  HaRav Yaakov Kamenetzky zt”l says that her time had come to die, but when the Satan told her the lie about Avraham shechting/slaughtering Yitzchok, that is just how she died.  Back to the parsha: Hashem told Avraham to bring Yitzchok up as an offering.
And the passuk/verse says ‘Vayashkeim Avraham baboker/And Avraham got up early in the morning’ which gives us a great example of his zerizus/alacrity (which means that he got up quickly to go and do something).  Even when Hashem had told him to offer up Yitzchok, the son who had been borne to him in his old age, and was so precious to him, he still got up early to do Hashem’s Will.  He demonstrated such bounding love for Hashem! 
So, on the third day, Avraham brought Yitzchok up on the Mizbeach/Altar that was on Har Hamoriah, the place where the Beis HaMikdash was destined to be, we are told. However, when Avraham was about to shecht/slaughter Yitzchok, an Angel of Hashem called to him, and told him not to slaughter Yitzchok, and not to do anything to him.  Hashem just was testing Avraham – He didn’t really want him to slaughter Yitzchok. 
So, Avraham lifted his eyes and saw a ram entangled in the brush, and he brought it up as a korban/offering to Hashem, instead of Yitzchok.  Rashi HaKadosh quotes from Midrash Tanchuma, which tells us that this ram was prepared from the Six Days of Creation! 
Actually, there are so many great explanations and insights given by Gedolim on the Akeidah, and if you would like to hear some of them, please just comment and ask me. 
Have a wonderful, wonderful week, full of holiness!

Refoel Berel

[1] From  Shiur given by HaRav Shalom Rosner shlita. 
[2] From
[3] From 
[4] From The Torah of Brisk and other Gedolim:  Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur.  By HaRav Shimon Yosef Meller shlita. 

Sunday, November 20, 2016

A Winter in Mezeritch

A Winter in Mezeritch:

I saw this beautifully animated Rebbe story on YouTube some months back, and I wanted to, B'Ezras Hashem Yisbarach, share it with you:

Hope you all like it, and have a wonderful day!!

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Mussar Drosha: Vayera

Mussar Drosha: Vayera:

Baruch Hashem, we are now on to a new parsha – Parshas Vayera.  Now, we may ask, is this really a new parsha?  We have been doing it every year for.... how long?  But I will tell you that it really is new every single time you learn it.  The same with every parsha.  Hashem has made the Torah so, so deep and full of messages and lessons.  And there are new ones to see each time. 

So now, B’Ezras Hashem/with the Help of Hashem, let us start talking about the parsha:  One of the big things in this parsha is where Avraham Avinu and Sara Imeinu had Yitzchok Avinu.  Hashem, in His Great Kindness, promised a son to Avraham, and, of course, upheld His Word.  Now, we must think about the fact that Avraham was 100 years old, and Sara was 90 when they had Yitzchok.  Obviously, essentially no one would expect to have a child at that age.  But they did! 

In fact, Rebbe Avraham Schorr shlita says that the entire story of Yitzchok Avinu’s birth is to teach us to never give up.  A 90 year old and a 100 year old had a baby.  Never lose your faith and trust in Hashem![1]  His Salvation comes in the twinkling of an eye!  Your average person would have already given up a long while ago, but Avraham Avinu and Sara Imeinu didn’t!  They trusted in Hashem.  Hashem can make anything happen!  So don’t despair and think that “Oh, this won’t happen”.  Because, you know what; our Gedolim have taught us that if you truly trust in Hashem, then He will give you what you need.  And you must strive to fully trust in Him.  People, unfortunately, usually have doubts about the fact that if you trust in Hashem, things will work out totally, (I am not trying to say that you do......).  But if you truly have faith in Him, He will save you from everything.  In fact, I will bring you a few wonderful stories on this: 

1) So, one night, The Alter of Novhardok (HaRav Yosef Yozel Hurwitz zt"l) was learning in his house of solitude in the woods, and his only candle burned out.  Because of this, he was not able to continue his learning, and he was very upset about the Bitul Torah (wasted time that could have been spent learning Torah).  But, Reb Yosef Yozel zt"l, who completely trusted in Hashem, had total faith that Hashem would help him.  He walked outside into the night air, and suddenly, a stranger (likely either Eliyahu HaNavi or a Malach/Angel) came up to him, handed him a candle, and disappeared.[2]  Thus, Hashem saved Reb Yosef Yozel zt”l from Bitul Torah. 

2) (Note:  People are not sure if the Rav in this story is the Shelah HaKadosh (HaRav Yeshaya Horowitz zt”l) or the Alshich HaKadosh (HaRav Moshe Alsheich zt”l): 
One Shabbos, the Rav delivered a derosha/sermon in which he discussed that a person’s income is decided on Rosh Hashanah, and, no matter how much you work, you will get no more than what is decreed for you.  The Rav’s sister was married to a simple but very righteous Jew, who was a porter with a horse and wagon.  He heard this derosha/sermon, and the next day (Yom Rishon/Sunday) he Davened slowly, and after breakfast he sat down to say Tehillim.  He didn’t have to work! 
When his wife (the Rav’s sister), asked him why he wasn’t going to work, he replied that the Rav had said that whatever Hashem decreed would come to him no matter what, and so he could sit and learn.  His wife replied “That’s not what the Rav meant”, but he said “It is exactly what he meant; if you don’t believe it, ask him for yourself.” So she went to her brother, the Rav, and told him how he must be more careful about what he says in his derashos/sermons, because her husband had taken it to heart and would not go to work!  The Rav replied “If he is sincere in his trust in Hashem, his livelihood will indeed come to him.”

So, one day, a man came to “the husband’s” door, and saw the horse and wagon.  He wanted to know if they were for rent, and apparently, they were.  But this man happened to be a highway robber, who had buried his loot.  He rented the horse and wagon, and took them to dig up his loot.  However, after he had taken everything out and loaded it in the wagon, when he went down in the pit to check if he had left any coins, the dirt walls of the pit collapsed on him and killed him.  The horse, now laden with all the money, and gold was left alone.  But, somehow, it found it's way home by habit., and the Rav’s brother in-law became very rich.  And the Rav told his sister that this happened because her husband’s faith had been so simple and complete.[3] 

3) This one only happened likely around 20-30 years ago:  HaRav Daniel Yaakov Travis shlita (author of the Praying With Joy series and many other books) had just gotten married, and he and his wife were down in Rio De Janeiro, when suddenly, two huge thugs came over to him:  One started to choke him, and the other kept going through his stuff, looking for money, etc.  But the man choking him just wouldn’t let go.  If he didn’t breathe soon, Reb Daniel Yaakov would die!
Suddenly, the story about The Brisker Rav (HaRav Yitzchok Zev Soloveitchik zt”l) popped into his head:  About how he always thought about the fact that Hashem controls the entire world, and so no harm would come to him, as HaRav Chaim of Volozhin zt”l taught. 

So, one time, he was walking in a territory filled with Nazis (may Hashem erase their name), and he lost concentration on Hashem’s Oneness for a tiny bit, and immediately a Nazi came over to him.  He then regained full concentration, and the Nazi just walked away without saying anything!  (That is an awesome story in and of itself...) But, anyway, when Reb Daniel Yaakov thought about this story - about that Hashem controls everything, the men suddenly just ran away, and he was saved, Baruch Hashem.[4]  Wow!  See how Hashem protects us?

Now, on another note:  Unfortunately, most of the time it may look like your job is what makes you money and is how you put food on the table - but it is really Hashem.  It is only because He lets you have money and food that you have that stuff.  And the same goes for everything else. 

In fact, just recently, I heard a beautiful shiur from HaRav Daniel Yaakov Travis shlita (author of the Praying With Joy series, and many other books) very similar to this topic:  One of the things he discussed was that when you walk into a room and turn on a light, it is a test of faith. 

How?  Because, as he said, it is a test about whether you think that the switch and electricity turned the light on, or Hashem did.  Of course, He did.  Now, he did add that, yes, there is electricity, etc.  But Hashem controls it all.[5]  (Of course, though, Hashem, in His Kindness, has given us the power to choose and “control” what we do.)  May HaKadosh Baruch Hu help every single person trust in Him wholly – one of the very foundations of life – forever, Amein vi’Amein, so may it be His Will. 

Gut Nacht, and have a wonderful Shabbos!

Refoel Berel

[1] From  Shiur given by HaRav Shalom Rosner shlita.
[2] Sparks of Mussar, pages 122-123.  By HaRav Chaim Ephraim Zaitchik zt"l.  Feldheim Publications Ltd.
[3] Four Chassidic Masters - Page 54By Rebbe Avraham J. Twerski M.D. shlita.  The PocketScroll® Series.  From Shaar Press.
[4] From  'Ein Od Milvado.'  Shiur given by HaRav Daniel Yaakov Travis shlita.  
[5] From  'Ein Od Milvado.'  Shiur given by HaRav Daniel Yaakov Travis shlita.