Tuesday, June 29, 2010

17 Tammuz, 3 Weeks not a Burden but a Time for Action

Some notes for 17 Tammuz and the 3 Weeks from today's Hakhel email:

Special Note One: Today is the Seventeenth day of Tammuz, a fast day by Takanas HaNeviim, which is no small matter. If we look at the number 17, we will soon realize that it is concomitantly the Gematria of each of “Oy”, “Chait”, and “Tov”. Thus, we see that the power of the day need not only lie in the negative, but can and must extend to the positive and good, as well.

We typically remember that the first frightful event that happened on this day was Moshe Rabbeinu’s breaking of the Shnei Luchos which contained the Aseres Hadibros, as a result of the sin of the Golden Calf. If only the people had shown enough faith to wait one more day for their venerable and venerated leader, their happiness and dancing would have resulted in the greatest Simchas Torah ever(!). Instead, we still feel the pain from the torturous event.
In fact, there was one prior significant event on this fateful day which preceded the breaking of the Luchos. The Luach Dovor B’Ito writes that the Yona, the dove sent by Noach out of the Ark, could not find a place to land and so returned to the Teiva (Bereishis 8:8). The obvious question is, why would Noach bother sending the dove out without any indication whatsoever (from Hashem directly, or otherwise) that the waters had receded? Was he taking a stab in the dark? We may posit that Noach sensed or knew that the day was right for renewal and joy. The fact that the dove returned indicated to him that it was he and his family, representing all of mankind, who were the ones not ready for this renewal. The same lesson carried through on this date to the Golden Calf, and thereafter the subsequent tragedies on this day in which our people’s spiritual growth was stunted rather than cultivated.

Today and the three weeks in front of us should not be viewed as a burden to be overcome, evidence by our expression to others to have “an easy time of it.” Instead, it should be a meaningful and important time in which we hope, pray and take action. Depression and despair should not be the hallmark of these days, for they may evidence a breach or lack of faith which is the antithesis of spiritual growth. We should learn from the gift of gravity that Hashem has given us to always keep both feet firmly on the ground despite the forces working against us.

It is the custom of some to recite “Tikun Chatzos” during the Three Week period--some even in the middle of the day. We may not as yet be on this level. However, we should remember that every day, three times daily in Modi’im, we thank Hashem “for the goodness given to us in the evening, in the morning, and in the afternoon.” What goodness is it that Hashem gives us at these especially designated times? We suggest that it is Tefillah itself. If we can conclude the Yehi Ratzon at the end of Shemone Esrei with Kavana during these three weeks, three times a day, we will have sincerely davened for the Beis Hamikdash and our redemption more than 60 times during this short period! Rather than wallowing in self-pity, we will demonstrate a renewal of our faith and have beautifully affirmed our supreme goals.
In the merit of our prayers, may we see with our own eyes the ultimate redemption at the beginning of the short period of special thought that lies ahead.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Avoiding Din, Increasing Torah Study, Brachot and Passing Over Middos

From Today's Hakhel Email:

Special Note Five: With the crisis situation and defeats of the previous weeks, we experience a feeling of fear and strict justice. Bila'am himself exclaimed, "Oi-Mi Yichyeh M'Sumo Kel-- OH! Who will survive when He imposes these?" (Bamidbar 24:23)
It would seem appropriate, especially as we enter the period of the Three Weeks, for each one of us to do what we can to avoid this din, this strict justice, upon us individually and upon our families. After all, Hillel teaches in Avos, "Im ain ani li mi li--If I am not for myself who will be for me?" (Avos 1:14) Last week, we wrote about the importance of Chessed, especially Chessed which is infused with Rachamim--True Mercy. The following are three additional recommendations--life vests supplied in turbulent waters:
1. The Gemara (Rosh HaShana 17A) teaches "For one who passes over his Middos (e.g., does not anger, does not take vengeance, and does not react--even when the situation may completely justify it)--Hashem will, in turn, pass over his sins. The Cheshbon is simple-you control yourself even when justified, and Hashem likewise controls His anger against you--even when justified.
2. The Gemara (Sotah 21A) teaches that the study of Torah does not only save one from punishment once punishment has commenced--but actually even shields and protects one before the onset of any new punishment, as well. The Gemara explains (based upon the Posuk in Mishlei (6:23)), that Torah is compared to the light of the sun, which unlike the light of a candle that eventually is extinguished, successfully provides light for a person day after day. In the summertime, when the Tinokos Shel Beis Rabban--the schoolchildren--study less than when in school, we should try to make up the slack by learning a little more ourselves.
3. It is said that in the name of Gedolim, that one should make Brachos aloud in order to cause others to answer "Amen." This special level of gratitude and faith serves as an affirmation and reaffirmation of Hashem's control over the world, obviating the need for Hashem to remind us personally in other ways. For an excellent review of this concept, you can order the tape "Attitude of Gratitude" (Rabbi Jonathan Rietti and Rabbi Yechiel Spero) from the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation at 845-352-3505.
As is evident from all of the above, Hashem is not asking that we stand on our hands, stretch or shrivel, or do 180 degree flips! Some nicely-made Brachos, some additional Torah study, some self-control in situations which last only a fleeting moment anyway, can be literally life-saving--and as troubles reach from Teheran to Emanuel, and from the Mediterranean Sea to Iowa, we must light up the darkness long enough and strong enough for us to survive until daybreak.

Friday, June 25, 2010

A Nation Dwelling in Solitude - Parashat Balak

A nice note on the parasha in today's Hakhel email that also looks forward to Acharit HaYamim:

Special Note Five: In Parshas Balak (Bamidbar 23:9), we find the prophecy of Bila'am come to life before our eyes: "Hain Am Levodod Yishkon U'VaGoyim Lo Yischashav...behold, it is a nation that will dwell in solitude and will not be counted among the nations." As we see how the nations have turned --to the point where they have championed the cause of terrorists (really out to kill them too) against us--we see how disregarded and despised we really are to them--because of who we are. Perhaps one simple lesson we should take and apply for our times is to recite the bracha of "SheLo Asani Goy" with added kavana. Would we ever want to act like this?! Indeed, the joining of countries otherwise unfriendly with each other towards the common goal of hurting the Jew is reminiscent of the Midyan-Moav alliance for the same purpose, as described by Rashi in this week's Parsha. One thing is for sure, just as the foregoing Pasuk in the Parsha was fulfilled--so too will the later words of Bila'am to Balak in the Parsha also be fulfilled: "Lecha Iatzecha Asher Ya'aseh Ha'am Hazeh LeAmecha B'Acharis HaYomim--Come and I will advise you what this people will do to your people in the end of days.... May it come speedily and in *our* days--after all--it is all in one and the very same Parsha!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Visualizing the Beit Hamikdash

With the 3 weeks almost upon us, as we begin to decrease our joy and yearn for the Beit Hamikdash, it's a good time to visualize it in our davening and learn about it - so here is a great site I just heard about with links to places where one can learn about the details of constructing the Beit Hamikdash -
The reasoning for this being as follows (as quoted from the above site):
"Should the construction of My House be ignored because My children are in exile?"G-d declared: "THE STUDY OF THE TORAH'S DESIGN OF THE BET HAMIKDASH CAN BE EQUATED TO ITS ACTUAL CONSTRUCTION.Go, tell them to study the form of the Bet Hamikdash. As a reward for their study and their occupation with it, I will consider it AS IF THEY ACTUALLY BUILT THE BET HAMIKDASH!!!" (Yalkut Shimoni)

Thank you, Rabbi A for alerting me to the above site!

From Today's Hakhel Email, here is a discussion about visualizing the Beit Hamikdash in one's davening:
Special Note Four: In his classic commentary on the Mishna, Rabbeinu Ovadiah MiBartenura teaches that upon entering the Azarah, when bringing Bikkurim, one would recite the last Chapter of Tehillim (Tehillim 150)--“Halelukah Hallelu Kel Bekadsho.” In fact, we recite this very chapter daily as one of the climactic moments of Pesukei DeZimra. Why? Rabbi Shimshon Pincus, Z'tl, teaches that when reciting Pesukei DeZimra one should view himself as if he is in the Azara! We should not let the daily moment of our recital of this short but powerful Kepitel go by without visualizing our presence in the Azara--as we prepare to enter even further into the Bais HaMikdash, getting into the Heichal for Birkas Kriyas Shema...until we stand before the Kodesh Hakodashim itself as we recite Shemone Esrei. If we can begin to visualize ourselves in the Bais HaMikdash every time we daven Shacharis, coming closer and closer and closer to Hashem's Presence as we proceed through davening--we should naturally have a much easier time walking in, viewing and experiencing--and not only visualizing--the Third and Lasting Bais HaMikdash--may it come speedily and in *our* days!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Yearning for the Redemption

How "convenient" that today's Hakhel email speaks about our general topic of this blog!

Special Note Two: At a recent gathering, HaRav Mattisyahu Salomon, Shlita, spoke on the topic of Tzipisa L’Yeshua--yearning for the Redemption. In light of recent world events, he noted, Yeshua may not be too far away. HaRav Salomon taught that yearning for the Redemption is an Avodah SheBelav--our thoughts must long for the moment. When we recite the important words in Aleinu of “Al Kein Nekave...liros meheira--we yearn to speedily see soon your mighty splendor...to perfect the universe through Your sovereignty”, the words must emanate not from our lips, but from the recesses of our hearts and minds.
HaRav Salomon related in the name of the Chofetz Chaim the story of a man on the street who was impatiently pacing back and forth. When asked by a bystander what it was exactly that he was waiting for, he tersely responded “For my cab--my flight is leaving in two hours and the cab is not here!” Looking around, the onlooker then queried “But I see no luggage--where is your luggage?!” Startled, the man realized he had no luggage because he had neglected to pack! HaRav Salomon explained that we cannot legitimately say that we are “Mechakim Anachnu Lach” unless we have "packed"--for without the luggage there can be no real trip.

The twelfth of the thirteen Foundations of our Faith--the Ani Ma’amins succinctly describes our belief in the Moshiach’s arrival--there are really two elements. The first is BeVias HaMoshiach--that there is a Moshiach and that he will come. There is, however, a second essential belief as well. It is Ve’af Al Pi Sheyismahmaiah--even if there may be delay, nevertheless I anticipate every day that he will come. In other words, it is not enough to believe that there is a Moshiach and that he will come--one must also be a Mechakeh--truly and sincerely yearn and long for him to come daily. When saying the words “Achakeh Lo Bechol Yom She Yavo--I await his arrival every day, one is asserting an essential declaration of faith--that he expects Moshiach to come at any time.

Rav Salomon referred to the Rambam in Hilchos Melachim (12:5) which states that in the time of Moshiach there will not be any famine or war, no jealousy or contention. Everything we need will be plentiful as the sand. The times will be wondrous, as in lieu of physical (and yes, even technological) pursuits we will be involved only in the area of “LoDaas Es Hashem--spiritual elevation and fulfillment--with mankind at its summit. Our Avodah *now* is to yearn for these times--daily. We know that they will come, and that every day that passes brings us a day closer. Each day should be marked by our true and sincere prayers when we recite our Tefillos such as ‘Al Kein Nekaveh Lecha...VeSimloch Aleinu Mehaira…Ki MiChakim Anachnu Lach.” Certainly when reciting the Ani Ma’amin we should visualize the pristine joy of his coming on the very day itself.
We must think and long for the Geulah--for our longing for it will make it a reality!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Rubashkin Sentencing

Please send out the following (or something similar and respectful and sign it) to oipl@usdoj.gov to protest the injustice here.

This sentence is unfair. This sentence is excessive. This sentence is not in the public’s interest.

Why was Sholom Rubashkin targeted by prosecutors in Iowa and why is he getting 27 years in prison when others convicted of similar crimes have received significantly shorter sentences?
More than two dozen former senior Justice Department officials – including six former U.S. attorneys general – said it would be an “absurdity” for a sentence of life in prison, or anything close to it, for a 51-year-old, first-time, non-violent offender.

We, as concerned citizens, are watching the case of Sholom Rubashkin, and he deserves equal and fair administration of justice under the law.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Perashat Huqat: The Merit of a Misva

From today's Darke Abotenu/Moroccan Daily Halakha
Perashat Huqat
e"H Ribi Kfir Dadon s"t
Translated by: Zachary Lubat s"t

The Merit of a Misva

After war with Sihon, the king of the Amorites, 'Og, the king of Bashan, goes out to fight with the Nation of Israel. Hashem strengthens Moshé Rabenu a"h and says to him "al tira oto ki beyadekha natati oto ve-et kol 'amo ve-et arso" - "Do not fear him, for into your hand have I given him, his entire people, and his land". Why then was Moshé Rabenu a"h more afraid of 'Og than Sihon?

The Gemara in Nida brings down that 'Og was the fugitive who came to Abraham to notify him that Lot was taken captive. His intention though was for Abraham to go out and be killed. Therefore, when 'Og came to fight with Israel, Moshé Rabenu a"h was afraid that the merit of Abraham would stand for 'Og. This is why HaShem tells Moshé Rabenu a"h not to fear.

It says in the sefer "Mai Marom" chapter 5, that even though 'Og had evil intentions, he received great merit for this act since the outcome benefited Abraham. 'Og received such great merit that it lasted for 465 years, to the point that Moshé Rabenu a"h was worried that this merit would allow 'Og to defeat the entire Nation of Israel. We learn from here the greatness and merit of performing a good deed, even if that good deed was not performed with good intentions.

There is a story told of a soldier who disappeared during the First Lebanon War. His parents turned to the Baba Salé zs"l. The sadiq looked at the parents gently and made a blessing on a drink, sipped it, and said "to life"! He then added "venaqé velo yenaqé" - "He will surely not clear." No one understood what the Ribi meant. The Ribi assured them that their son would return home soon. Sure enough, a week later the son returned home and they celebrated by the sadiq. The Ribi turned to the soldier and asked him, which Misva protected him? The soldier answered that he prayed, kept Shabat, and put on Tefilin. The Ribi again asked the question, which Misva the soldier accepted upon himself? The soldier answered that every Friday he would clean the synagogue and kept this a secret. This explains the Ribi's answer "venaqé velo yenaqé" - "He will surely not clear," that the one who accepted upon himself to clean the synagogue, will not come to any harm. This is the merit of a Misva which protects and saves.

HaShem should grant us the merit to continue to grow in our fulfillment of the Torah and Misvot!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Earthquakes, Volcanic Ash and Makkot Out of Order

More from Today's Hakhel:

Special Note Four: While leaving Parshas Korach, we note that the world at large continues to be exposed to earthquakes-- most recently from the waters near India to the shores of San Diego , where "dozens of earthquakes” rattled the city. As these 'natural' events, or reminders, if you will, continue to occur, there may be something else going on during our lifetimes as well. Some compared the recent volcanic ash to the Makka of Barad in Egypt, because it consisted of both fiery and frozen elements. Several weeks ago, we noted the frog invasion in Greece. Most recently, there are reports of a "great locust plague" which may attack Australia, with risk to hundreds of millions of dollars worth of crops.

Chazal (Yalkut Shimoni: Shemos 182) teach that all of the Makkos that Hashem brought on the Mitzriyim will in the future be brought again (based upon the Posuk in Yeshaya 23:5). Now, you may ask, "Could these recent events be allusions to the imminent Makkos, or even shades of the Makkos themselves--after all, they are not in the specific and well-defined order of the Makkos as we know them?” We may suggest that when Dovid HaMelech describes the Makkos in Tehillem ( Chapters 78 and 105), the Makkos are likewise not presented in the order that we are all familiar with. Perhaps this is a Remez, a hint to the Makkos of the final Golus, which will not necessarily be in the original order as well. We do not yet have a Navi to tell us. What we do have are the hearts of Torah Jews, which should be telling us what the Jews in Goshen were feeling when the 'extraordinary' natural events started to somehow become the ordinary in Egypt. In San Diego, the earthquake disturbed the major league baseball game, but they were able to forget about it and continued playing a few minutes after the tremor ceased (no joke)--almost like the hardening of the heart of the Mitzriyim to the 'natural' events, occurring 'coincidentally' one after the other, that befell them. We should know better. Those Jews who did not hear the message, or who did not want to hear the message, at that time were lost in the plague of 'natural' darkness--seemingly in a Middah K'Neged Middah for the darkness they had created for themselves. As far as we know, we have seen many dark events over the recent years, but we have not yet seen the plague of darkness in our day. By recognizing the Yad Hashem, by increasing our Yiras Shomayim, our Shivisi Hashem LeNegdi Somid--especially as the summer months approach where there are so many roadblocks and obstacles to Hashem's Presence before us--we too, like our ancestors then--will walk away during the plague of darkness with the riches of the world...because to us the 'natural' darkness will be a time when we merit a greater degree of all that we had been working on all along--basking in the light of Hashem's Presence!

Last Notes on Korach and Avoiding Machloket

I know that I have been neglectful in actually writing anything myself lately - but personally I think we need to take the following lessons so graciously provided by the Hakhel people to heart. There is serious machloket going on in Eretz Yisrael now and we need to really work on unity. I enjoin everyone, including myself, to
][''try to daven for peace among the Jews as well as with other nations. We can also be involved in practical ways by taking baby steps to avoid machloket in our own lives. We can try to diffuse arguments and not take sides in disputes and use our speech in positive ways. A good start can be to study one of the Chofetz Chaim's books about guarding our speech. Every positive step should bring us one step closer to the geulah!

Special Note Three: Before taking leave of Parshas Korach, we provide the following insights:

a. The Pasuk states--"VaYakumu Lifnei Moshe--and the [rebellious ones] stood up before Moshe". Some explain that the Pasuk is telling us that they stood *before Moshe arrived* so that they would not have to show him the respect of standing upon his arrival. We derive two great lessons from this. First, in order to be in a machlokes with someone, you must strip away the respect that you [really do] owe him--otherwise you will not be able to remain in a Machlokes with someone to whom honor is really due. Husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, uncles and cousins, in-laws and out-laws take heart--the degree of machlokes will be inversely proportional to the honor given to the person with whom you may have grounds to disagree. Second, we see the importance of standing in front of one who deserves our respect--whether it be a parent, Rav, Rebbe, or elder--instead of avoiding, forgetting about or ignoring the issue--make it a point to make it a part of your life for all to learn from. if only they had stood for Moshe Rabbeinu...thousands upon thousands of lives--and all their future descendants would have been saved. No act of respect is too small...

b. In the monumental work The Laws of Interpersonal Relationships by Rabbi Avrohom Ehrman, Shlita (Artscroll, p.80), the following words are brought as Halacha LeMa'aseh: "Even if one side is absolutely right and the other is absolutely wrong, both sides are obligated to make every effort to seek peace. Even if those in the wrong willfully continue to antagonize others, the side in the right is still obligated to maintain efforts to make peace. Failing to do so violates the prohibition against upholding machlokes. The Torah describes how Moshe sent messengers to Dasan and Aviram to speak to them, and Chazal comment that had Moshe not done so, he would have been guilty of upholding machlokes." when it comes to avoiding machlokes there is literally an extra level of care--of what you would have otherwise considered to be a 'midas chassidus'--to be a part of the Halacha LeMa'aseh itself!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Channeling the Yetzer Hara and the Power of an Hour

Great stuff as usual from today's Hahkel email:

Special Note Four: In last week's Perek (4:1), the Mishna teaches "Who is a Gibor? One who quashes his Yetzer Hora." Rashi to Sanhedrin (111 B) provides a great insight as to the higher form of Gibor one should strive for. Although one can simply deflect the Yetzer Hora--much like one distracts a baby in order to get him to stop crying, one can also channel the Yetzer Hora's seemingly patented drive and desire to sin into zerizus and hiddur in the performance of a mitzvah--just as the baby may be led to stop crying not by a petty distraction but by giving it a challenging, new or more interesting or learning experience. With this approach, the legs which are running to do an aveira--rather than simply stopping in their tracks--instead run to do a chesed or to get to Shul early; the tongue ready to speak sharp or biting words instead recall a d'var torah from the previous week's Parsha or speak gentle and calming words; the mind pondering something waste-filled or evil instead contemplates redding a Shidduch or figuring out how one can best help a neighbor or friend in need with a thoughtful measure of dignity and respect. In all of these circumstances, the vanquished Yetzer Hora is not merely put into prison to rot--but instead is used to build the very fort and castle of the Mitzvos and Ma'asim Tovim so necessary for one to realize his potential. It's great to beat the Yetzer Hora--it's even greater if you take his assault and turn his plans into a part of your offensive and success! If you are already ready to be a Gibor--why not try taking it to the higher level suggested by Rashi -- not only subverting the sin-- but converting it into your Neshama's delight!

Hakhel Note: Chazal taught us as well in last week's Perek (4:21) that one hour of Teshuva and Ma'asim Tovim in this world is 'yofeh'--better than all of Olam Haba. Let us contemplate the awesome nature of this statement. One hour of good deeds in this world is greater than the goodness of a World to Come that is go great that our corporal being cannot even fathom or imagine. The Mishna does not qualify its reference as to an hour of good deeds by clarifying that it is referring to one hour of Rashi or the Ramban's life, or the good deeds of Rebbe Akiva Eiger, the Vilna Gaon or the Chofetz Chaim. Rather, it clearly refers to any one's hour and any one's good deeds. Here, one is on common ground with the Gedolim of all previous generations and of his generation--he has the same potential to make the next hour shine more brilliantly than, using the Tanna's words, 'all of Olam Haba'. Can we find *at least one hour a day* which we consciously choose to make more 'yofeh' --better than all of Olam Haba? The greatness resounds within us --as we hoist up and elevate an Olam Hazeh that is sinking so low to all the world all around us to a very, very special place in the Highest of Heavens above. When someone asks you-- "Do you have the time? You can answer--"I have even more than that--I have the hour!"

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Tribute to Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu of Blessed Memory from Arutz-7

Rabbis Porat and Bakshi-Doron Remember Rabbi Eliyahu

by Hillel Fendel

Following the death of former Chief Rabbi of Israel Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu on Monday, Arutz-Sheva heard from various rabbis about their relationship with the deceased. Rabbi Eliyahu would generally visit Arutz-Sheva once or twice a year, especially before Passover, for a live phone-in program where listeners would ask questions in Jewish Law; he would often answer with a short anecdote and a succinct ruling.

Rav Eliyahu Bakshi-Doron, who succeeded Rabbi Eliyahu as the Rishon LeTzion (Chief Sephardic Rabbi) in 1993, told Arutz-Sheva:

“What a great loss, and how sorely we will miss his leadership. He was a dayan (religious court judge) for 30-40 years, and then when he became the President of the Rabbinical Courts [as Chief Rabbi], he strengthened the entire dayanut network... I know how Rabbi Eliyahu was personally connected with all the rabbis, even from abroad; he himself would answer the phones… He was a great Torah giant, one who knew how to lead; now there is no one to turn to. You can see that there are people who already feel that they have no leader, and especially in the case of the religious-Zionists…”

Buried Next to the Hida
Rabbi Bakshi noted that Rabbi Eliyahu was buried next to the famed sage Rabbi Chaim David Azulai (the Hida), who lived in Hevron but spent his last years in Italy, where he died some 200 years ago. In 1960, then-Rishon LeTzion Rabbi Yitzchak Nissim appointed the young dayan Rabbi Eliyahu to oversee the re-burial of the Hida in the Land of Israel – which he did successfully. “Burying Rabbi Eliyahu next to the Hida is therefore so very appropriate,” Rabbi Bakshi said. “I remember the Hida’s [second] funeral, and the one who did it, and who also performed the purification [washing] process was Rabbi Eliyahu. There are rumors that he saw him whole. He was known for the special honor he showed the dead, and he often performed the purification, as in the case of Rabbi Atiyah. He ruled on various [Jewish-legal] issues for the burial societies…”

“Rabbi Eliyahu's familiarity with Kabbalah was well known. His father, Rabbi Salman Eliyahu, was a close student of the Ben Ish Chai, who was a giant in Kabbalah, as well as Halakhah [Jewish Law], and it is therefore no surprise that Rabbi Salman’s son would study Kabbalah. But his greatness was that it remained concealed, not like others who display it on the outside. He dealt with it quietly, and only once in a while would he give out any hints… May his merits defend us.”

Rabbi Chanan Porat, Torah scholar, former MK, and settlement leader:

"We certainly feel the great loss of Rav Eliyahu. When I see his image in my mind, I think of the verse in the Scroll of Esther, 'And Mordechai would not bow or kneel [before Haman].' He stood with strength and courage, without compromising or flattering, but at the same time, always with pleasantness. I met with him dozens of times, and always noted this special trait, as well as his modesty and even humor. But none of this took away even the slightest from his uncompromising strength and firmness."

"Rabbi Eliyahu knew how to combine the traditional Torah world, some of which was perhaps far from the Zionists' views, with uncompromising adherence to the Land, as well as love of the country and the army and its self-sacrificing soldiers. During the uprooting [from Gush Katif], I saw the pain in his face, and he did whatever he could to prevent this national disgrace, and to help the residents there whom he loved so much… He never broke down or weakened, but rather continued his path, and he especially held himself strong during the long months of his sickness. This is a great loss, yet we must continue along his path and with his spirit of faith, careful adherence to Torah and all its details; he was among the great Halakhah [Jewish Law] decisors, while at the same time displaying love of nation and land. We will try to walk along this path as well." (IsraelNationalNews.com)

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Great Perspective on Current Events!

From Today's Hakhel Email:

Special Note Two: As events continue to unfold with potential new ‘peaceful’ flotilla protesters supported by the general backing of world governments at large, all attempting to assist a terrorist government, we are reminded of the incredibly prophetic words of Dovid HaMelech in Sefer Tehillim. There are fifteen Chapters of Shir HaMa’alos (Songs of Ascent) in Tehillim, with each Chapter beginning with the phrase ‘Shir HaMa’alos’ (A Song of Ascents) except, that is, for Chapter 121, which instead begins ‘Shir LaMa’alos’ ( A Song To The Ascents). In the peirush on ‘Shir LaMa’alos’ (Chapter 121) attributed to Rashi, the commentary notes that this Chapter begins differently than the other fourteen Chapters because it was really the first one to be recited as the Levi’im began to ascend the 15 steps in the Beis HaMikdash. The explanation that is given for why it is presented as the**second** Chapter of Shir HaMa’alos in Tehillim is because of “Ain Mukdam UMeuchar BaTorah--the Torah does not provide a chronology or history of events.” Based upon the tribulations that we are now being subjected to, however, we may have a better understanding as to why we recite Chapter 120 (a regular Shir HaMa’alos) and only then Chapter 121 (Shir LaMa’alos). In Chapter 120, Dovid HaMelech on behalf of K'lal Yisroel laments as follows: “Oiya Li Ki Garti Meshech…Woe onto me, for my drawn out sojourn” [some learn that this refers to our Golus Edom]. He continues: “I have dwelt with the tents of Keidar "[Radak and Ibn Ezra learn that this refers to the Bnei Yishmael, the Arabs]. “Long has my soul dwelt with those who hate peace” [referring to the two groups in the previous Posuk]. Chapter 120 then concludes with the words “Ani Shalom Vechi Adabeir Heima Lamilchama--I am peace, but when I speak, they are for war.”
So, here we are in a situation where we are attacked in the guise of ‘peace flotillas” (threatened to be accompanied by the 'legitimate protection' of Iranian and Turkish military vehicles), we find ourselves crying out to the world: “No! You have it all wrong! We are for peace!--Look at how some of the best trained naval commandoes in the world entered onto the ‘Peace Ship’--it is *they* who are for war--look at how we were attacked.”
What happens to our cries? To our sincere entreaties? To our appeal for logic and common sense? Let us see what the Navi tells us. In the 'next chapter' to the story, Chapter 121, Dovid HaMelech describes the situation: “Essa Aini El HeHarim--I lift my eyes to the mountains.” In The Artscroll Tehillim (By Rabbi Avrohom Chaim Feuer, Shlita, p.1510, writes as follows:

“Besieged people look to the mountains hoping to see friendly forces coming to reinforce them (Ibn Ezra) or, the mountains allude to the powerful forces that can save the beleaguered Jewish people. In exile, Israel futilely looked to the mighty heathen monarchs to act as their protection, but the Jews are bitterly disappointed when these treacherous, arrogant ‘mountains’ betray them (Sforno).”

We can look to the ‘mountains’--even the friendly nations of the world--but there is really no one to turn to. So who will help us out of this debacle, this potential catastrophe?! Dovid HaMelech provides the climatic conclusion: “Ezri Mei’im Hashem Osei Shamayim VaAretz--my help will come from Hashem, Maker of heaven and earth!!” The nations of the world believe that they can bully us, taunt us, torment us and overpower us--but the great truth is that we have the Maker of the World on our side. Because He made the world all problems, all difficulties, all potential disasters and calamities are readily and amply within his power to control, curtail or turn over in the way that Sodom was turned over, or with 'the breath of his nostrils' the Egyptians were forever vanquished at the Sea. It is our role to know and understand this very well, believe it, and actually express it in our everyday actions. We can begin by reciting this exhilarating Pasuk --"Ezri Mei'im Hashem...!' (better yet, these two Chapters) one or more times during the day.

In fact, we say daily in the Shira “Hashem Ish Milchama Hashem Shemo”--HaRav Gamliel Rabinovitch, Shlita, teaches that this Pasuk reminds us that even when we are in the midst of a Tzara or a war, we must always remember that it is Hashem Who fights our wars, and it is Hashem in Whom we are to place our complete trust. It is, thus, Hashem with Whom we must bond, through our sincere and improved Tefillos and through Shevisi Hashem LeNegdi Tamid--recognizing Hashem’s presence in every aspect of the world at large’s existence and in our private lives as well. The incredible acquittal of R’Shalom Rubashkin on 67 counts of accusations demonstrated that to us yesterday in a pleasant and rewarding way. May it be a Siman Tov for the Jewish People. During these troubled times, let us recall, remember, reiterate--and live--“Ezri Mei’im Hashem Osei Shamayim VaAretz!!”

Friday, June 4, 2010

23rd of Sivan - Muchan L'Tova

From Today's Hakhel:

Special Note Five: Tomorrow, the 23rd day of Sivan, is one of those special days especially mentioned in Tanach. Many of you may remember where. In Megillas Esther (8:9), the Pasuk records that on the 23rd day of the 3rd month--“Hu Chodesh Sivan” (which is the month of Sivan)--the King’s scribes wrote all that Mordechai had dictated to them. While we may not have the exact text of what was written other than that the Jews could destroy their enemies, we do know that Achashverosh had permitted them to write in the letters--“Katov Bi’Eynechem--whatever is favorable in your eyes, in the name of the King...”

The Luach Dovor B’Ito writes the following about this very special day:

One should try to recite the relevant Pesukim in Esther (Esther 8:3-17).

In the name of the Makover Rebbe, Zt’l, the day is Mesugal for nisim v’niflaos, as implied by the Pasuk referred to above--“Now, write [on this day] about the Jews what is favorable in your eyes in the name of the King”--which also refers to the King of the World. Thus, just as Mordechai subsequently left the King with many royal garments (ibid., 8:15)…so can we!
In 1940, the Russian Government told thousands of Jewish refugees in Eastern Galicia that they could register as Russian citizens. Rebbe Itzikel of Antwerp, Z’tl, advised them not to register. On the night of the 23rd of Sivan, the Russians exiled to Siberia all those who had not registered as Russian citizens. The exiled thought this to be a horrible decree, but the Rebbe told them that the 23rd of Sivan is “Muchan L’Tova--prepared for the good,” and that no bad would come out of their exile. A year later, in Sivan 1941, the Nazi’s YM’S, invaded Eastern Galicia and killed the Jews who remained--the exiles to Siberia remained alive.

Let us harness the powers inherent in this day, through our own personal Torah, Teshuva, Tefillah and Tzedaka so that the King writes beautiful letters on our personal behalf, and on behalf of all of K’lal Yisroel!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Kivros HaTaavah Anniversary - an auspicious time?

This is from today's Hakhel Email:

Some great stuff about breaking desires, teshuva, talking in shul, etc.

Special Note Four: Last week’s Parsha, BeHaaloscha, describes how the meat-mongers (for want of a better term) among the Dor Deah, who had otherwise witnessed so many great events, had their fleishig consumption request fulfilled--they received the slav “until it would come out of their nostrils” (Bamidbar 11:20). Fittingly, the location of the terrible desire and the horrific aftermath that resulted was renamed “Kivros HaTaava--the graves of desire.” After this difficult and horrible ordeal, the Parsha made it a point of telling us that Bnei Yisroel left Kivros HaTaava and traveled to Chateizros. Incredibly, according to the Seder Olam as brought in the Siddur Bais Yaakov, TODAY (the 20th of Sivan) is the very day, described in last week’s Parsha, that the 30-day stay at Kivros HaTaava ended. We might think, then, that it is an auspicious time for great events to occur. And it most likely is. However, to date, two great tragedies are marked by this date. First, the Second Crusades in France took place. More recently, the 1648-1649 Cossack Massacres (known as the Gezeiros Tach V’Tat) in the Ukraine/Poland are specifically marked on this date. The Rabbonim of the time required all able-bodied women over 15 and men over 18, to fast and recite special Selichos known as the “Selichos of the 20th of Sivan.” In fact, it is recorded that this day was especially chosen because it can never (under our current calendar) come out on Shabbos, and the Rabbonim wanted to make sure that a year did not go by without properly remembering and repenting on this date.

It is well known that the Tosfos Yom Tov, HaRav Yom Tov Lipman Heller Z’tl attributed the Cossack Massacres to talking in Shul. He accordingly composed a special Mi She’Berach to be recited on behalf of those who refrained from talking in Shul, which is recited to this very day.

A true story we have reported in the past: A young man had arrived early to shul, and, realizing that there was not yet a minyan, he took out his cell phone and began to have a friendly telephone conversation. When an onlooker said, “Shmoozing--in Shul--on a cellphone?!?” He responded, “What’s the difference between talking to a friend, and talking on the phone?” The absurdity of talking on the cell phone in Shul did not strike him, but then again, he seemed pretty comfortable with engaging in ordinary conversation with his friend there, as well. The young man did, however, comport with the onlooker’s request. In this regard, we suggest that every reader take part in helping build a new or higher level of decorum and respect in his/her Shul. Perhaps one can begin with a sincere remark (NOT “SHUSH”) to a thoughtless congregant, or requesting the institution of the Tosfos Yom Tov’s bracha, given by the Rabbi or Gabbai. Let us never forget that, according to the Tosfos Yom Tov, one of the Gedolei HaDor at the time of the Gezeiros, the direct result of Shul talk was (if you have learned only a little bit about the calamity) literally ravage and massacre in its grossest form.

Let us return for a moment, however, to our departure from Kivros HaTaava on this day--why did it not become an auspicious time forever? Why is this very day marked by such suffering, such torture, such pain? Perhaps the answer belies the question. It may simply be that we have not sufficiently left the taavos--the improper desires--that we began with.
The story is told of a formerly wealthy man who was so beset by creditors that he could not leave the confines of his home for fear of his well-being. His Rabbi came to visit and comfort him while the man was eating dinner, and noticed the finest French wine on the table. When asked about the wine, the man replied, “Rabbi, I crave it. I simply crave it. I cannot be without it.” In truth, it is not the fine wine of this once-wealthy individual that should concern us, but our own behavior. The Ra’avad writes that breaking a desire is a key factor and display of Teshuva. From that extra helping of unhealthy food, that tempting smorgasbord, that unnecessary electronic (adult) gadget (no, there is no Mitzva to discover every last trick your cell phone can do), that extra measure of honor...even that extra pair of shoes are really serious mistakes, as they could (and probably will) mean the stunting of both one’s physical and one’s spiritual growth. As Akavya ben Mehalalel taught, “I would rather be a fool in the eyes of all my entire life, rather than a rasha in the eyes of Hashem for one moment.” Even the adage: “A second on your lips, forever on your hips” should ring true to our ears at the moment of temptation. It would seem that if we can consciously combat at least one temptation daily--we will be on the road of taking ourselves out of the graveyard of temptation and its historic tragic aftermath--to the pinnacles of success. How our world would have been different if Adom and Chava did not fall prey to the one temptation of the Eitz Hadaas.
Let us each do our part to begin with this--yes, auspicious--day to travel from the Kivros HaTaava to the true Gan Eden we can experience in the very same world.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

More Things to Bring the Geulah

Some more Hakhel notes about Achdut, avoiding strife, sharing/teaching Torah, giving the benefit of the doubt, etc.

Special Note Two: As we continue with reflection upon how a Torah Jew leads his everyday life, we received the following comment from a reader relating to how lay people should view the Rabbinic discussion on the anisakis worm found in some commonly used fish: “Two comments regarding the fish issue: Firstly, it is common to have contemporaries differ on many Halachic issues. For example, is a tea bag allowed on Shabbos in a kli shlishi? Some authorities say that it is permitted, and others, say that it is prohibited M’Doraisa. This should not be and is not a cause of feud. Secondly, it is common throughout Chazal that contemporaries have a difference of opinion on what a senior godol actually said or says. For instance, in the Gemora there are differences of opinions as to what a particular Tanna or Amora actually said. Sometimes situations are clear, and sometimes they are not. Each side may be certain of its viewpoint, but no unanimous opinion may exist. Unfortunately, sometimes the facts cannot be determined to everyone’s satisfaction, for whatever reason, whether or not we understand it and whether or not we are frustrated by it. This, however, should not lead to any sort of animosity or tension. For example, on any given P’sak of the previous Gadol Hador, R’ Moshe Feinsten Z’tl, all may understand it in the same way, and yet on other of his Psakim some may differ on understanding what the Godol’s intent was (or is, when he was alive). Let a person ask his own Rav what he should do. Remember it’s almost Elul, let's Dun Lkaf Zchus so that Hashem can reciprocate to us!”

Special Note Three: At yesterday’s Hakhel Shiur, Rabbi Ephraim Shapiro, Shlita, brought a tremendous thought from the Radomsker Rebbe, Z’tl. The Pasuk in Shir HaShirim teaches “Hasheme’ini Es Koleich Ki Koleich Areiv--I want to hear your voice, for your voice is Areiv.” The Rebbe taught that Hashem will listen to our voice in prayer--when we have Arvis--a sense of unity, responsibility, and feeling for each other. Rabbi Shapiro said that every evening before going to bed, a person should ask himself: “I davened Shacharis, Mincha and Ma’ariv--but, did I daven Arvis?”

In a very similar vein, he taught that Yaakov Avinu told Yosef to go investigate “Shlom Achecha, V’ Es Shlom Hatzon.” Why did Yaakov Avinu mention both of these as separate entities and investigations--what was he emphasizing? He was telling his descendants forever thereafter that unlike sheep whose main concern is to ensure that they have grass for themselves wherever they go, we are to look out for the welfare of our brethren--which is a wholly different approach to life. If we truly appreciate the infinite gift that we possess as Torah Jews, then it should be in our nature to help those around us spiritually as well. This is the “Shlom Achecha that Yaakov Avinu bequeathed to us. In a beautiful interpretation of Rebbe Yochanan’s teaching in Maseches Avos (last week’s Perek 2:9--and our lesson for the week). “Im Lamadita Torah Harbeh Al Tachazik Tova LeAtzemicha--if you have learned much Torah, do not hold the goodness to yourself,”--“Ki Lechach Notsarta-- for it is for this reason--sharing that goodness with others--that you were created!” For further information, see http://www.kiruv.com/. As Rabbi Shapiro suggested, if a person would spread his goodness to even only one other person, couple or family, he will have accomplished a great and eternal purpose in life!

How Should we Respond to Flotilla Events?

This is noteworthy from today's Hakhel Email:

Special Note One: The travesty and tragedy of yesterday’s events in the waters outside Eretz Yisroel (which according to one opinion is part of Eretz Yisoel itself) brings us a step closer to the important reality of the times that we live in. An earthquake in Haiti, volcanic eruptions in Iceland which affect millions in Europe, or even last week’s carpeting of millions of frogs over a Greek highway that caused its temporary closure may not have drawn our complete focus and attention. They too, of course, represent Hashem’s reminder of His ruling hand over the world. However, now that we have been attacked personally, the sting feels greater. To analogize, the recent other events may be viewed as Tzora’as on the house, and yesterday’s seaboard and worldwide attacks against us are more like the feeling of Tzora’as on one’s clothing. One thing is certain, we must react. To some, it may be with more Tefillah (either qualitatively or quantitatively), others will respond to the call with some additional Torah learning, and yet others will respond with a Chesed or Chasadim that go beyond the ordinary. But react we must, if we truly have Emunah--that nothing is happenstance, nothing is mere ‘news’, and that nothing is simply El Quada ploys to hurt Israel’s image in the international community. As we move toward the last quarter of the year of Tammuz-Av-Elul, let us take stock, and let us demonstrate to Hashem our Emunah in him by showing that we received the message--and that we are really and truly acting upon it immediately!

Additional Note One: Today, in the aftershock of the event, it may be a wise idea to give some additional Tzedaka, for if Hashem sees that we act charitably with others, he will act charitably with us. Additionally, as we come ever closer to our final redemption, we remember that “Veshaveha Betzedaka”… those who return, will return with the righteousness of their charitable acts.

Additional Note Two: Today is the Yahrtzeit of Rav Shlomo Yisroel Gelber, Z’tl. He always taught that Hashem expects of the person that he use the Sechel that was given to him personally. Especially in the circumstances we are in, each person must apply his own Sechel to what he can do and how he can do it--for his sake, and for the sake of K’lal Yisroel.