Rabbi's Blog

Parshas Pinchas - Zealots and Peace Makers    23 Tammuz 5776 

07/29/2016 06:46:27 AM

Jul29

Chaza”l taught “Eretz Yisrael Niknin B’Yisurin”, the land of Israel is acquired through hardship. This concept has evolved over centuries and can be seen even in today’s day and age. Everything in life is relative therefore the degree of difficulty in the realm of the land of Israel varies greatly from even one hundred years ago until today how much more so from thousands of years ago. Never the less any time we find a challenge in either moving or visiting Eretz Yisrael we are met with challenges and it becomes a subtle reminder that it doesn’t always come easy.

I am sitting in Yerushalayim thinking about my trip getting here. I left beautiful sunny San Diego on Monday morning and connected to a flight from Newark that would take me to Israel. Due to inclement weather and some mechanical issues my original flight from Newark due to leave at ten-thirty at night was finally cancelled at three thirty in the morning. It took approximately three hours to re-book passengers with different options, I personally transferred to a Delta flight from JFK and delayed coming to Israel by about eighteen hours. It was a difficult night for many of the elderly passengers, families with small children and foreigners in a strange land. For me personally it was a relatively small inconvenience, perhaps a little reminder not to take Eretz Yisrael for granted. But overall there was something that stood out but didn’t necessarily shock me, that was the relative calm and respect everyone had for the personnel of the airline that had to deal with some angry and upset passengers. Sure there was murmuring amongst the Jews themselves but all approached the gentile employees with respect, dignity and in a peaceful manner.

The experience in Newark was a subtle reminder of who we are a Jews, but was magnified later that day at JFK airport. Due to weather delays and FAA regulations related to pilots and crews time limitations other flights were cancelled. I passed a gate where they had just announced a cancellation. I couldn’t believe it but there was a riot that was about to erupt and security needed to be called in. It mimicked some of the anti-establishment riots and protests we’ve been witnessing across the U.S. with people chanting “no, no, no “over and over again while getting into the face of many of the airline workers. I and everyone else understand people rightfully being upset. Vacations planned, limited time to certain vacation destinations, timely events for families and friends to be together are impacted and disrupted by the cancellation. But there was a glaring contrast of cancelled flights that I witnessed first-hand between the situation at JFK and the one I was involved in.

We the Jewish people rationalize and reason why certain things happen in life. As difficult as it sometimes is to accept it, we nevertheless try our best. It is through the approach that “Gam Zu L’Tova” “everything is for the best”, or “we don’t know why things happen” are different approaches to difficult times but brings God into the picture thus bringing us closer to Him. I recently heard a beautiful word of Torah about the name of Hashem and the word Shalom which is one of God’s names. If we exemplify the middos of Hashem through peaceful action will we then acquire a stronger bond and relationship with Hashem.

The focus of peace is highlighted in the beginning of this week’s Parsha Pinchas. Following last week’s episode at the end of Parshas Balak, Pinchas rises up and kills Zimri ben Saloo and Kazbi bas Tzur as they committed a public act of immorality. Many had challenged Pinchas’ brazenness and quick action calling into question whether he acted properly or not. God backed up Pinchas as is stated in Bamidbar 25:12-13 “Lachein Emor Hinini Nosein Lo Es Brisi Shalom. V’Hayisa Lo uL’Zaro Acharav Bris Kehunas Olam, Tachas Asher Kinei LeiLohav Vayichapear Al Bnei Yisrael”. “Therefore I say; Behold I give unto him my covenant of peace. And it should be to him and his seed after him the covenant of an everlasting priesthood, because he was jealous for his God, and made an atonement for the children of Israel”.

The commentaries explain God made a covenant of peace with Pinchas because he defended His honor. The word ‘kinei’ describes Pinchas being jealous for Hashem and standing up for Him. The word Kinei is spelled with an aleph. I would like to use my literary license (and within Halachik literature) substitute the ‘aleph’ with the letter ‘hey’. The word still spells out ‘kinei’ but can also be read as ‘knei’ to acquire. Since Pinchas acquired something for Hashem it turned out to be an atonement for the Jewish people. The item that Pinchas acquired was Shalom/peace as his actions calmed this rebellious action of Zimri. There was a great deal of confusion and unrest at the time Zimri and Kazbi performed a sin in public. Pinchas restored the peace and calm that ravaged the Jewish camp.

The Torah’s message becomes clear with the understanding that in order for us to rise to the level of a Pinchas we do not necessarily need to seek out public sinners in order to defend God’s honor. Rather the secret to defending God’s honor is by bringing peace into every situation we find ourselves in. Whether we diffuse a fight between two friends in the way Aharon HaKohein did or create Shalom Bayis in a home and within family is the most obvious ways of recalling Hashem. Perhaps there is a greater way to bring and defend the honor of Hashem that is outside the realm of our homes, family and friends. It is the times we find ourselves under dire pressure and upsetting circumstances that test our patience. This is the time to display a more peaceful disposition that brings us closer to Hashem.

There is not a doubt in my mind that the way we fellow Jews acted during an awful situation of a cancelled flight created a covenant with Hashem due to the ‘peace’ in the manner we behaved. In contrast to the second group I mentioned earlier which did the complete opposite by creating a raucous and therefore brought discord and separation between them and God.

In conclusion the Ba’al Haturim writes the numerical value (gematria) of the word ‘shalom is three hundred seventy-six. The two words Zehu Moshiach (this is Messiah) also equals three hundred seventy-six. Pointing to the necessary component that will ultimately bring Moshiach is by providing and creating peace among ourselves and in all situations we seem to be in. Creating an atmosphere of Shalom/peace is something we are all capable of doing at many points of our life. Let us bring peace and strengthen the Bris/covenant that will ultimately be the cause of Hashem to rebuild the third Bais HaMikdash speedily in our day.

Ah Gut Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Parshas Tazria/Metzora - Seeing and Feeling what is not there            1 Iyar 5777

04/27/2017 03:24:47 PM

Apr27

Is the absence of noise silence? There’s a saying “you don’t know what you have until it’s gone.” Recently, two things occurred that I caused me to adopt a new saying: “It’s difficult to know when something annoying is no longer bothering you,” or “The absence of something annoying is difficult to pinpoint when it’s gone.”

Due to construction around SDSU, traffic had to be re-routed. For the past eight-months a San Diego Transit city bus, #115, was rerouted to use side streets, including Rockford, which is right in front of my house because the bus turning point was closed during construction. The bus, which is a safety issue particularly regarding children, was also an annoyance as it rolled down the usually quiet streets. A few days ago, I was thinking to myself,  wondering if the bus was still on this alternative route or had it returned to its original route? I cannot pinpoint the time this aggravation ceased. A second scenario wasn’t as grating but nevertheless was still a bit irritating. On my bi-annual visit to the dentist, I was interrogated by the doctor with a series of questions. One of the questions, “are my teeth sensitive to hot or cold” rang a bit too true. It just happens to be that some of my teeth have been sensitive to very cold foods, forcing me to move the food around to other parts of my mouth. The dentist recommended using Sensodyne toothpaste when I brush to cure the problem. Last week one of my family members asked me, “Did it help?” As I was slowly processing, trying to determine whether  it helped or not, I realized that the only way to know would be to test it out by eating something cold.  I had not done this, and therefore I was left to using my mind, trying to determine if the problem still persists or not. After focusing on whether the bus still rolls down my street or the tingling in my mouth still exists, I have come to the conclusion that both have stopped.

The notion that something is no longer there is more challenging to know when something is there. After scouring the double Parshios of Tazria- Metzora, I stumbled upon something similar where at one point in time something did appear and then was gone. The Torah in this week’s Parsha in Vayikra 13:2 states: “Adam Ki Yihiyeh B’Or B’Saro Se’es O Sapachas O Baheres, V’Haya B’Or B’Saro L’Nega Tzaraas, V’Huva El Aharon HaKohein O El Achad Mi’Banav HaKohanim”. “If a person has a white blotch, discoloration, or spot on the skin of his body, and it is suspected of being a mark of the leprous curse on his skin, he shall be brought to Aharon, or to one of his descendants, who are the priests”. The Gerrer Rebbe, in his sefer Sfas Emes, relates in a mystical fashion the significance of the ‘skin’ mentioned in this verse. Before Adam HaRishon sinned, the shine and radiance of Hashem permeated throughout the world and throughout the entire creation. By looking at what was created one could see the Creator. Basically, one could see God through and from within creation and the light from the seven days of creation was completely revealed. But after the sin of Adam and Eve in Gan Eden, they became aware of their bodies and Hashem made for them ‘Casnos Or’ - leather garments. The Torah is not only coming to describe the new wardrobe of Adam and Eve, but is giving us insight into ‘clothing’. At this point the leather garments (leather in Hebrew is ‘Or’ spelled Ayin, Vav, Reish - the  identical spelling of the word ‘flesh’ in our parsha) are presented to cover things up and hide that which had been revealed. The word ‘Or’ in Hebrew as I spelled it out earlier can also be pronounced Eevair, which means blind. Yehuda Aryeh Leib Alter, the Gerrer Rebbe, explains that it was difficult to see the light because of the curtain or veil of darkness that separated the two. He goes on to compare skin of the body to the ‘Or’ – the skin of the world.  The natural skin of a human being is porous,  allowing the skin to breath and excrete waste and perspiration from the body. The covering of the world, the Or, also has tiny openings like windows which allow the hidden light to peer through while the waste flushes out of those openings. When the natural skin breaks down and is afflicted, the spiritual infection causes the skin to crack and break open. When something bad happens in the world and the ‘skin’ or the covering of the world is damaged that is a sign that the true inner light needs to come out and shine on the world. 

The Negah/Affliction is a sign of an inner disease that needs healing which comes as a chessed performed by Hashem  to arouse a purification. Therefore, the leper is brought to the Kohain to heal because it was through the Kohain that he was deemed impure. In reality, the Negah/affliction is a necessary component of healing for the individual. A complete and dedicated Jew would be glad to see the afflictions which represent imperfections and shortcomings. The area of the body from which the Tzoraas appears is exactly where the purity will come from. Before the Negah appears, the impurity is sealed underneath the surface of the skin. Through the appearance of the affliction, it is now revealed that the person needs to become pure again. As the skin breaks the Or - light with an aleph, - breaks through the Or  -the skin with an Ayin - and brings about a purification process.

There are many things in life that somehow get in the way of what we perceive as being annoying. As a scab develops over a burn or a cut, it tends to interfere with our mobility, so out of frustration we sometimes pull it off too soon.  It can no longer protect and regenerate the skin which had been regenerating beneath the scab.

At times we experience something that annoys us like a bus making noise or a tingling sensation on our teeth that requires a subtle removal to once again appreciated the way things are supposed to be. Sometimes we actively remove something negative and reveal the positive and other times we go through the natural healing process that eventually brings out the light that shines forth from God’s world. 

Ah Gut Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Parshas Tzav - Custom Dipping                         10 Nissan 5777

04/06/2017 06:27:36 PM

Apr6

Over the past few months my life has been turned upside down. Any time someone loses a close relative the reality is that life is no longer the same as it was. How much more could one say about losing a parent. The mother who brought me into this world in whom I was physically connected to in utero and who I shared the most time in this world with is now detached once again from me. At birth, we separated from each other but were physically together in this world. Now we split again as she goes back to the spiritual world in which she was a partner in bringing me from.

The last few weeks have been filled with travel, arrangements in the wake of my mother’s passing and picking up some broken pieces. Everyone in life goes through periods of time when things are upside down and we tend to do things backwards or at least in a different order we normally do them. In general, everyone has their idiosyncrasies when it comes to doing things, but I’ve found this to particularly be true when it comes to food; how it is prepared and eaten.

There are a few common practices that people do differently, but one thing observant Jews do differently is preparing instant coffee on Shabbos. Generally, when making instant coffee the coffee goes in first followed by the boiling water, then cream and sugar if you like. But on Shabbos (for Halachic reasons to avoid cooking) we pour the water first and then add the coffee and other ingredients if we like. Proven from other areas of Jewish law the coffee would mix better the way we do it during the week and not on Shabbos. Therefore, if it wasn’t for Shabbos we would choose to do it one way and not the other. But there are other areas that some people do one way while others do it another. For example; do you pour ketchup on the side and dip French fries into the ketchup or do you pour the ketchup on top of the fries? When cooking hard boiled eggs do you boil the water and then put the eggs in or do you put the eggs in the water and boil it up together? A third scenario outside of food is the procedure of putting on shoes and socks. Do you put on both socks and then shoes or do you put on one sock then the shoe, and afterwards the second sock and second shoe?  I believe there are consequential differences in these examples and can the better way can be proven with good reasoning. Are there similar cases to these that the Torah could illuminate the proper sequence or proper procedure?

In last week’s parsha Vayikra (like I said earlier I myself don’t have everything straight yet) the Torah states in Vayikra 2:13 “V’chal orban Minchascha BaMelach Timlach, V’Lo Tashbis Melach Bris Elokecha Mei’Al Minchasecha, Al Kal Korbancha Takriv Melach”. “Moreover, you must salt every meal offering. Do not leave out the salt of your God’s covenant from your meal offerings. Furthermore, you must also offer salt with your animal sacrifices”. The Talmud in Menachos 21a explains that the sacrifices were salted before being paced on the altar. The practice of using salt when eating bread is traced back to this verse. In our day and age we don’t have the Beis HaMikdash and can no longer offer sacrifices. The Rama, Rav Moshe Isserles in Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 167:5 writes “the symbol of the Temple today is our home and the table represents the Alter. The food eaten at the table is symbolic of the sacrifices that were offered on the alter”. The primary component of our diet is bread and it was therefore charged with being the replacement of the meat that we offered daily.  This resulted in the bread being like the sacrificial meat requiring the need to use salt. Here again we face a dilemma; do we dip the bread in the salt or do we sprinkle the salt on the bread?

The Mishna Brurah Siman 1678 S’’K 33 writes that the Kabbalists require dipping the bread into the salt three times. One of the many connections bread and salt have are the Hebrew letters are the same when rearranged Lechem and mellach. The Gemara Brachos 5 explains the Bris/covenant that is mentioned here and by the Tochachah the public rebuke of the Jewish people in Devarim 28:69. The Bris mentioned here sweetens and perfects the meat of the sacrifice. So too the Bris mentioned by the rebuke contains Yisurin afflictions that soften a person and cleanses him from his sins. In short, the salt prepares the meat and the Bris of the hardship fixes the human flesh to be better.

Apparently, there are different customs as to dipping the bread into the salt or sprinkling the salt on the bread. The Rama just mentions bringing salt to the table to protect the people from tragedy. It was the Kabbalists who said it is insufficient just to bring salt to the table and not enough just to dip one time but rather need to dip the bread in salt three times. The bread represents the character of mercy while salt represents judgement. In a sefer called Derech Seudah it is written that bread should be dipped so that the Midda of mercy overcomes the Midda of judgement. The bread on top forced its way into the salt beneath it and overcomes the din.   

Yet in a few days we will all recline at the Pesach Seder and eat Matzah. Some authorities say that Matzah is pure it does not require salt whatsoever. Most others do require salt. The challenge of salt and Matzah is that if I dip the Matzah into salt it doesn’t cling to it and even if I sprinkle salt on the matzah id doesn’t absorb and usually spills right off. So, what do we do at the Seder, dip or sprinkle? (some hold that due to the statement in Mah Nishtana of dipping twice, the salt is not even one of those two times indicates we don’t dip for Matzah) Rav Yosef Karo says to dip like we do all year round. The Rama holds that at the Seder we do not dip Matza into salt at all as it is not necessary being ‘clean bread’. Nevertheless, we use salt even on Matza but on Pesach one Chasidic custom was specifically to sprinkle the salt onto the Matza and not dip. The reason not to dip was fear the Matza crumbs would remain in the salt dish and get wet due to the salt and potentially creating a fermentation and causing the crumbs to become Chometz. Therefore, sprinkling on top for Pesach was the proper procedure.

There are so many customs and practices that contribute to the make-up and beauty of the Jewish world. The customs we observe is the icing on the cake of the actual Mitzvos. Whether the icing is chocolate or vanilla is irrelevant, the important part is that we do the Mitzva and each group of Jews through our diversity picks the custom. If we focus on the primary and let the individual groups tweek it accordingly so be it. 

Ah Gut Shabbos and Ah Gut Yom Tov

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Parshas T'Tzaveh/Zachor - Changing Terminology           11 Adar 5777

03/08/2017 09:19:14 AM

Mar8

Hebrew isn’t “just” the modern language spoken in Israel today; it is also known as ‘Lashon HaKodesh’ - the holy tongue/language. We learn about the reason why we human beings speak so many languages from the Biblical story of the Tower of Babel. Since the time of Babel, language has continuously evolved, morphing into new dialects while incorporating older languages from conquering countries, causing the development of new languages. Thanks to the ease of communication and travel today, new words, “borrowed words”, and idiomatic expressions are continuously being added to virtually every language of the world.  I believe that there are two people who are the first to become aware of these new words: the professional Scrabble player and the person who first spoke that word.   

An additional form of ‘alternative wording’ – to paraphrase a newly-coined phrase-is also making its mark in different arenas. I’m sure many of you reading this will think of other examples, but here are a few of my own recollection. Throughout my childhood we never had a new car. Any time we bought a different car for the family, it was always a ‘used’ car. Now, years later the prospective buyer does not look for  an ‘old’ car to buy; he considers or tests out a ‘pre-owned’ vehicle to purchase. I attribute this change to the leasing business, whereby the exchange of cars on a more frequent basis grew popular in contrast to the good old days when one bought a car and held onto it for life, or at least until it simply died of extreme abuse and/or old age. Another subtle change was introduced with regard to a person’s job interview. One of the questions asked by the interviewer is, “Describe your your previous employment.”  This is a euphemism for “Why were you fired?” Nobody wants to admit that they were fired, so instead they would say, ‘I was let go due to the company’s economic downturn,” or “My position has been cut; it is no longer needed.” Despite these nuances of language, the person may still be telling the truth – there’s just a slightly a different twist of emphasis. Most recently I viewed a resume for someone looking to get married. In some circles resumes are exchanged between the respective parties to get an initial overview of the individual to determine whether  this individual might be compatible (at least initially on paper) or not. In keeping with the new euphemistic manner of description, it is now  the norm not to state that a person is divorced or widowed but rather to simply state  “previously married”. Language and the use of rather creative phraseology create an entire different perspective on things.

A further plunge into the use of terms is using the generic term  to explain a specific situation, thereby limiting its meaning. We are all guilty of using words and making them synonymous within the context of a referral. There is misuse in this application of language despite its wide acceptability across the world. Here are three examples that come to mind: Eight days after a Jewish boy is born, he must enter the covenant that Avraham Avinu made with Hashem on our behalf. The covenant is the ‘Bris’. A Bris is not a circumcision; it is a sealing of a covenant, a sacred promise. There are many britot (plural for Bris) that people make between themselves  which do not require a circumcision. The second term is ‘Ger’ which, simply translated, means a stranger or sojourner. In Jewish thought, there is a ‘Ger Toshav’ and a ‘Ger Tzedek’ and even a ‘ger’, referring to a stranger in a foreign land. Nevertheless, the common term ‘ger’ in the vernacular usually assumes a convert to Judaism, more appropriately titled ‘Ger Tzedek”. Lastly is the ‘Get’ - a Jewish bill or document. The word ‘get’ by itself does not mean a divorce but rather a bill, the proper term for a man divorcing his wife would be a ‘Get Isha’. There are other types of ‘Gittin’,such as when a man frees his slave.  To free a slave, the owner is required to give the newly-freed individual a ‘Get Shichrur’ which is a document of emancipation. Here again the typical meaning of the word ‘Get’ by itself has evolved to give  the impression it is talking about  a divorce.

Whether the change of wording is intentionally intended to convey a different message or, on occasion indicates a lack of understanding of the true meaning of a word, we know one thing: change matters. Adding or taking away a word from a discussion will change the flavor, intent and even the very meaning of the conversation. This idea of leaving out something is emphasized in this week’s Parsha Tetzaveh with Moshe’s name deliberately omitted. Putting aside that Moshe’s name being omitted in this Parsha is due to his statement of ‘erase me from your book’ when God was going to wipe out the Jewish people, starting again with Moshe, or because we read this Parsha during the week of his passing, there is another, very important message conveyed by the language used in Tetzaveh.

In this week’s Parsha Tetzaveh the Torah states in Shmos 29:46:

בתוך בני ישראל והייתי להם לאלהים.  שמות כט:מו  ושכנתי “And I will dwell amongst the children of Israel and I will be to them as a God”. These words sound familiar but are not exactly the same as the words we read previously in Parshas Terumah. The Torah states in Shmos 25:8:

 שמות כה:ח   ועשו לי מקדש ושכנתי בתוכם

“And make for me a Sanctuary and I will dwell in them”. I see these verses as the developing relationship between Hashem and the Jewish people. Relationships by their very definition continuously undergo change.  The players involved are constantly evolving. In a perfect world two parties in a relationship either both remain the same or change together in the same direction. That, however, isn’t always the case. The good thing about man’s connection to God is that He does not change, rather we change, thereby straining the bond. Essentially, these pesukim depict the evolution of a reconnection the Jewish people will have in the future. The fundamental union the Jewish people should have towards Hashem is to build a place for Him to reside in this world (whether that means in a physical building or within each person) and for us to be drawn to Him there. Unfortunately, throughout our long and tumultuous history we have not chosen this path.  We did not make that place for Hashem all the time and in all places. Since Hashem is the ultimate partner, He does not allow us to determine the relationship we have with him;  instead of Hashem waiting for us to let Him in, He comes to dwell among us to be a God for us. The Sforno comments that Hashem comes to dwell amongst us in order to receive our service with desire and to hear our prayers.

 

It is interesting to note that the Targum in both places uses the term ‘Ashrei’ meaning ‘fortunate is my dwelling’, as if to say Hashem is willing to do something that benefits both sides, even if He is the one making the move. This concept speaks volumes of advice for each of us in all of our connections to the array of people in our lives. In an ideal world we would stay connected to everyone all the time. Nevertheless, we should feel fortunate to have those special people in our lives.  Even if this  means that I should be the one to make that move to strengthen the relationship, so be it!

 

The threat of the Jewish people being annihilated by Haman during the episode of Purim highlights this issue. The accusation that the Jewish people were spread out and did not get along - neither with Hashem nor with their brethren - was corrected by each of them making that move to come closer, to  rekindle the fraternity among the Jewish people. Keemu V’Kiblu - they affirmed and accepted - not only the Torah but the premise of K’Ish Echad B’Lev Echad; as one person with one heart. Just as we did at Har Sinai, so too we should see our attempts to be fortunate and to reach out and change the terms of what we have been used to. Let’s create some new language this Purim and bring about the greatest Ahavas Yisroel yet to be seen!

 

Ah Gut Shabbos and Ah Freilichin Purim Kadosh

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Parshas Terumah - The Art of Giving                              5 Adar 5777

03/02/2017 10:44:07 PM

Mar2

I would be remiss not mentioning something about the land of Israel, having had the privilege of being here for almost two weeks. Going to Eretz Yisrael on a Mission is mutually beneficial for Israel and for us, the visitors. Despite being a small group at the outset, we joined forces with another tour for the second half, meeting new people and going to places for the very first time. I, as a repeat visitor to many places I had previously seen, experienced many new insights, new discoveries, and new exhibits, in addition to viewing the many improvements throughout Israel.

Israel has dramatically changed over the course of its sixty-nine years of modern existence. Personally, I have  witnessed many changes over the last thirty-five years since the first time I arrived in Israel to learn. Everyone who comes witnesses incredible growth, constant building, and learns first-hand of the amazing contributions Israel gives to the world. I would like to share an observation that continues to occur in Israel. In my humble opinion (many, I’m sure, will disagree with me on this), Eretz Yisrael continues to thrive despite the vast cultural, economic, religious and social differences which exist amongst its people. Instead of pointing out or even highlighting the major differences that exist among the Jews of Eretz Yisrael, I will point out the central core and reason why all the diversity works. The answer is simple: it is Eretz Yisrael. It is Eretz Yisrael that draws all walks of life, fulfilling  the variety of purposes for why they came here - whether for religious or Zionistic or for political or personal freedom - Jews come here and establish an ultimate, common goal. The struggle is how each group feels its way, seeking  the truth and the correct path. In my point of view, it is refreshing to see the religious and non-religious, or non-observant, Jews get along with and appreciate each other just a little more than they did before. The relationship among the Jews of all backgrounds in Israel is far better than the relationship of their counterparts in the United States. One disclaimer: my observation includes mainstream groups. There are, of course, the fringe groups, the extremes to the far right and the far left,  that will never see eye to eye. Within those extreme groups, I don’t believe it’s likely that they even get along amongst themselves. It is not just any land that brings Jews together;  it’s the Holy land of Eretz Yisrael. It is ‘Kedusha’ that attracts all of us to each other, regardless of the difference in perspectives. In addition to ‘Kedusha’ – Sanctification – there was another unifying piece to the Jewish puzzle:  the Mishkan – the Tabernacle – the portable earthly dwelling place of God.

In this week’s Parsha Teruma we read about the making of the utensils and articles of the Mishkan. The one thing that created the ability for these holy items to perform their ’magic’ in the Mishkan was the collection of money to fund it all. The Torah states in Shemos 25:2 “Dabair El B’Ne Israel V’Yikchu Li Terumah, Mei’eis Kal Ish Asher Yidvenu Libo Tikchu Es Terumasi”. “Speak unto the children of Israel, that they take for Me an offering; of every man whose heart maketh him willing ye shall take My offering”. There are two parts to this verse: the first to give money to the building of the Mishkan and the second the manner in which the person gave the money.

The Netzi”v, Rav Naftali Tzvi  Yehuda Berlin, in his commentary Haamek Davar, explains an aspect of the donation process to the Mishkan. The Tosefta in chapter two of Gemara Megilla teaches us that any Keli/utensil that was first made for ordinary things can no longer be donated to Hekdesh. This is derived from the passuk “V’Asu Li Mikdash” - and you shall make for Me a sanctuary. The word ’Me” indicates exclusively made for Hashem and nothing else first. With regard to how the donations were made - either voluntarily or against their will - is derived from a Kal Vachomer. A Tosefta in the first perek of Bava Basra states that the Jews of a community were forced to contribute money to build a Shul in their city. This is derived from the biblical and positive commandment to build the Mishkan. The principle of Kal Vachomer applies here: If one must contribute to a Shul, having been assessed by the local Vaad, how much more so must one contribute to the collection of funds for the Mishkan, which was taken by the Gabbaim (collectors) against the will of the givers. Each person and family was assessed a fee according to their means.

Additionally, the Torah mentions ‘if the heart of the person wants to give’ which seems contradictory. The Netzi”v answers it was only the ‘Adanim’ or sockets that follows this that were specifically warned that the rich could not give more and the poor could not give less. However, anything additional was voluntary in nature, so much so that if a person found it within his heart to give more than the stipulated amount, it would be accepted. An additional point on the word ‘Tikchu’ -  it was taken - seems to indicate forcibly. In this case, someone who pledged and separated the donation out would be forced to give the money, even against his will. The reason is that once it is separated it no longer belongs to him; it belongs to God.

To include my own variation of the Netzi”v’s pshat is the act of forcing people to give the proper amount which they are obligated to give. This is only enforced if the individual has not  come forward, giving  it willingly. Everyone is given an opportunity to give the determined share of his own free will. But if a person does not live up to his shared responsibility which was determined by the Temple treasurers, then it was collected  by force against the will of the individual.

Every Jew has a certain obligation of giving that should be collected or given by the heart’s desire to give. If, however, the individual should renege this obligation, force may be needed. There are a few areas in every Jew’s life which require his contribution. I will only mention a few here. All of us are obligated to give to Eretz Yisrael, to the Shul we attend, and to the poor of our town. We must join our brethren who maintain and continue to develop Eretz Yisrael because they realize how important and holy it is. Our own sanctuaries, the Shuls of our communities, are like the Mishkan. Lastly, every human being is a small sanctuary within which God resides, and we must contribute to the well-being of that Holy receptacle.

We do not have the ability to force people to donate, to  give what they really should be giving. Nevertheless, every one of us should feel the pressure that I MUST give. People are not allowed to think they are giving because ‘They want to’.  It is mandatory to give;  there is no choice. If a person has given his full assessment and now wants to give an extra amount, that will be accepted as well. One should never feel he is doing a favor by giving tzedakah to the organization in Israel or to his Shul. Sorry, but it is an obligation to give!

Giving of ourselves, willingly meeting up to the obligation of giving our due assessment, is required of every Jew. Let us learn to appreciate the inner fulfillment of giving freely as expected and to give more - even when it is not expected.

Ah Gut Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Parshas Mishpatim - Do the Do's & Don't Do the Don'ts        28 Shvat 5777

02/23/2017 10:56:06 PM

Feb23

Recently, the Shul held a mid-week scholar/Rabbi visit who gave classes in our community. Rabbi Zvi Solomon, one of the senior Mashgichim of the KVH and the head of the Boston Shaatnez Laboratory, presented live demonstrations about how to clean produce and also taught and revived an awareness of the Mitzva of Shaatnez. Rabbi Solomon is passionate about his work and derives great satisfaction from witnessing Mitzva observance taken seriously. During the class on Shaatnez, I learned an important lesson from the Rabbi. He explained that these “kinds” of commandments aren’t the most glorious and sought-after ones by many. In fact, quite often these Mitzvos are taken less seriously by many who rationalize why they don’t need to do ‘all the things’ he prescribed. He noted that there are, as we know, ‘Chukim’ - the laws that don’t make sense (and a human being would not necessarily even think of such laws) and ‘Mishpatim’ - the laws that do make sense (a human being would come up with these laws). A true Oveid Hashem, a person who truly serves God, is the one who does the Chok Mitzvos, those that are difficult to understand and accept. Someone who only observes the Mitzvos that he/she likes and-or understands is really worshipping themselves, not God. These individuals choose to observe only the things that make them feel good, but that is not what the Torah and fulfilling the Mitzvos is about.

There are other Chok Mitzvos that are unfortunately taken lightly, meaning people don’t take the Mitzva seriously, resulting in the non-fulfillment or even violation of those commandments (for a full list please speak to me privately). I do understand that not everyone is able to fulfill every Mitzva, and I am no exception to that, but what is crucial is the acceptance of responsibility towards all six hundred thirteen Biblical commandments and the myriad of Rabbinic enactments and decrees. Anything short of an outright rejection of one Mitzva that a person says or feels he does not believe in is considered apostasy. Even the violation or non-fulfillment of a positive Mitzva that is declared publicly or displayed in a rebellious fashion would also fall under the same category. We live in challenging times and the test of our commitment is very strong. We sometimes fail in the application, but we may never falter in our belief, acceptance, and commitment.

Parshas Mishpatim contains 8.65% of the Mitzvos of the Torah: twenty-three imperative and thirty prohibitions. One of the positive commandments in this week’s parsha of Mishpatim is to make sure the “Mechasheifa” sorceress does not live. In Shmos 22:17 the verse states: “Mechasheifa Lo S’Chayeh”. Perhaps the reader will try to figure out if this Mitzva is a Chok or a Mishpat. As with all Mitzvos, even this one is relevant today despite the possibility that you may never have been a Harry Potter fan, such as myself. Nevertheless, the prohibition still exists today. Although we cannot carry out the punishments, there are perhaps people around today who may not be performing magic but are doing things in the same spirit as the sorceress.

What was the reason the Torah commanded that a magician (not an illusionist) or sorcerer must be put to death even if the offender was not Jewish? First and foremost, Rashi quotes the Gemara Sanhedrin 67b, teaching us that the commandment was for both male and female sorcerers and explains the Torah usage in the female because the M’Chasheifa (female) were more abundant than their male counterparts. Moreover, it is interesting to note that the Torah does not say they shall be put to death like most of the other times death is used, but rather ‘she shall not live”. Rav Naftali Zvi Yehuda Berlin in his HaAmek Davar explains the reason that ‘shall not live’ is used is because they create a danger or risk for all mankind and therefore are considered a pursuer of a life. As a rule, the Torah commands a person to kill his pursuer. Rav Sorotzkin, in his work Aznayim L’Torah, explains the juxtaposition of this Mitzva following the Mitzva of taking a woman by force in a forbidden manner. He explains that a man who desires a certain woman may turn to a sorceress so that though her powers the heart of the woman will be directed towards this man. Rav Sorotzkin goes so far as to say that even in his time he had heard of such things.

  1. today’s day and age, we’re confronted with society’s acceptance of individuals who choose their gender. New categories and classifications are springing up in every generation. The latest new gender that I have heard of is non-binary gender: the person can choose a gender that he/she wants to be one day and then morph over to the other gender another day. In modern times no one needs to turn to the sorceress to promote gender deviances. It is the society that gives us the opportunity. This by and large does not just go against the Jewish perspective and agenda, it goes against mankind, as mentioned by the Netziv.

The final question is why does this person in the Torah or this philosophical outlook need to be put to death, requiring that this way of thinking must be destroyed, emphasizing that it cannot live on? The Midrash Rabbah quotes the Gemara Sanhedrin 67b: “Rebbi Yochanan says: The reason the name of the sorceress is ‘Mechasheifa is developed from its root. Why is magic called Kishuf? Because it tries to destroy and contradict the design from above.” The word is an acronym for “Kachash Pamalya Shel Maalah”- It tries to destroy the heavenly decrees of how things should work on Earth. Black magic tries to contradict and change that which God created in the beginning of all time. This is an act of rebelliousness on the hands of the sorcerer/sorceress and therefore deserves the death penalty for promoting a different kind of idolatry whereby people worship their own new creations, openly going against what Hashem wanted.

We live in dangerous times where the fabric of not only the Jewish home is under attack, but the entire human species is under siege. There is no Mitzva that does not exist today, perhaps not in the identical physical way it once did, but perhaps in a more serious and dangerous fashion today. This is the spirit and philosophical reason behind it. Keep in mind every Mitzva applies today and we must be careful in its observance and in the fulfillment of all the Mitzvos in every day and in every generation.

Ah Gut Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Disclaimer: I am explaining why I believe this Mitzva exists in some shape or form today. I am fully supportive of helping those in need and am ready to guide them back to a state of being that the Torah commands us to be.

Rabbi Bogopulsky’s new book “Developing A Torah Personality” is available for purchase directly from him or Amazon

Parshas Yisro - The Light & Sound Show                   21 Shevat 5777

02/17/2017 03:01:48 PM

Feb17

Preventive medicine is always better than deferred maintenance, but nevertheless, some people feel that since they’re healthy, why bother going for regular check-ups. Others are afraid to go to the doctor for fear that they may find out something is wrong. Baruch Hashem, I feel healthy and therefore have no problem going to the doctor at least twice a year. In preparation for my physical examination, I have blood drawn to give the physician some internal information prior to the exam date. For the best and most accurate results, blood should be drawn while fasting, except for water. I choose to have the blood test taken as early as possible, but as a result I have to skip my morning cup of coffee – the “fix” that gets me going for the day. Upon my return from the doctor’s office, I make a bee line for the coffee machine and enjoy that cup with an overwhelming sense of satisfaction usually accompanied by an “Ahhhh,” an expression of relief and pure delight.

There are a few natural, guttural responses to taste, smell, and touch, but for now I will focus on the various responses there are to certain drinks. When I take a sip of my first cup of coffee in the morning, I let out a sigh of A”hhhh,” but a hot cup of tea that follows a heavy dinner is “Uhhhhh”. At the Shul Kiddush I hear reactions of “Ooooh” when someone drinks a new scotch or bourbon they have never tasted before. If someone eats something delicious, the typical reaction is ”Mmmmm”. Even the different sizes of the blue prize boxes at parent-child learning receives a different level of “ooohs” and “ahhhs”. When we worry about something, it’s either an ”oy vey” or “iy ya yih”.

There are also a few facial expressions that convey very clear emotions, communicating without any sound easily understood visual responses. . This kind of expression is magnified in our times due to the emoji’s and emoticons people use while messaging and writing communications via their computers and hand-held devices. Sound or facial expressions are often made at the beginning of something such as the start or at the end of a communiqué. Surely every individual decides where and when to use an expression, the question I ask is where is its use most effective?

Similarly, I ask myself; which is greater - starting or finishing something? As one proceeds through life, everyone begins many things but they don’t necessarily complete them. And everyone knows if you never begin you never come to be able to finish, so maybe it’s better not to start. I believe both starting and finishing are equally important, providing a sense of accomplishment when finished, and also meet up to the drive to start something despite the risk of not being able to finish it. Ultimately, when a person finishes either a cycle of something or begins something completely new, the end or the beginning should motivate a person to strive for greater heights.

Last week I completed my Sabbatical year of writing a weekly Dvar Torah; this Shabbos Parshas Yisro will begin the eighth cycle. I’ve noticed that as human beings we all have different reactions, some physical and some emotional. In addition, we each react differently at the start or end of an event. Let me explain. The taste and impact that a ‘sweet’ has on a person’s stomach varies based upon whether it is eaten at the beginning of a meal on an empty stomach or at the end of the meal for dessert on a full stomach. The reaction and response towards a situation varies as to when it occurs and the feeling is manifested through his surroundings. This idea is found in the amazing description of giving of the Torah.

In this week’s Parshas Yisro the Torah states in Shmos 20:15 “V’Chal Ha’Am Ro’im Es HaKolos V’Es HaLapidim V’Eis Kol HaShofar V’Es Hahar Ashein, Vayar Ha’Am Vayanu’u Vayamdu Meirachok”. “All the people saw the sounds, the flames, the blast of the ram’s horn, and the mountain smoking. The people trembled when they saw it, keeping their distance”. The Eben Ezra explains that when it says “They saw the sounds” it means hearing. In a similar vein in Bereishis 42 the Torah writes that Yakov saw that there was food in Mitzrayim. Obviously, Yakov did not actually ‘see’ but rather Yakov actually ‘heard’ there was food down in Egypt. The five senses that are joined together in one place above the forehead, meaning that while the sense of sight would typically refer to vision, the ability to see, to mentally process what the eyes “see” or to mentally process the sounds the ear is “hearing”. But these senses – seeing hearing, tasting, touching, smelling - all have more than one meaning.Rambam in Moreh Nevuchim (Guide to the Perplexed) writes the definition of ‘seeing’ means feeling and reaching an understanding. Another example of this is in Breishis 27 “V’Chein Ra’ah Reiach B’ni” Yitzchok smelled the fragrance of his garments, and blessed him. Yitzchok didn’t literally ‘see’ the smell of his son but understood the smell. Whenever it mentions the concept of seeing something it implies a level of understanding, of inner perception.

The Rosh, Rabbeinu Asher writes ‘seeing the voices and sounds at Har Sinai’ in actuality means he benefited from the sounds. There are other references in the Torah that infer that the term ‘saw’ is defined as receiving some type of benefit from what they saw. Rabbeinu Bachya explains from Tehilim 29:7 “Kol Hashem Chotzeiv LaHavos Aish” “The voice of Hashem hews out flames of fire”. They would literally see the fire at the giving of the Torah and then it says they saw the voices and the sounds.

There are many ways to communicate information, news, and feelings that we want to share with one another. At times we must be careful of the little gestures we make, both consciously or subconsciously. Subliminal messages can be very powerful. We need to realize that it doesn’t take more than a little sigh of some kind to let everyone around me know how and what I am feeling. People will ‘see’ you through ‘hearing’ some of the things that just come out intentionally or not. Let the noise and the sounds people hear be of satisfaction and appreciation for all what we are experiencing.

Ah Gut Shabbos Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

 

Abraham Ibn Ezra was born in Tudela, in the present-day Spanish province of Navrre, when the town was under the Mslim rule of the emirs of Zaragoza, later he lived in Cordoba. In Granada, it is said, he met his future friend (and perhaps his father-in-law) Yehuda Halevi. He left Spain before 1140 to escape persecution of the Jews by the new fanatical regime of the Almohads. He led a life of restless wandering, which took him to North Africa, Egypt, (in 1109, maybe in the company of Yehuda Halevi), and back again to Narbonne in 1161, until his death on January 23 or 28, 1164, the exact location unknown.

Parshas B'Shalach - What Going Green Really Means           14 Shvat 5777

02/09/2017 08:46:38 PM

Feb9

This coming Shabbos - the fifteenth day of the Hebrew month Shvat - is known at TU B’Shvat because the two letters used to illustrate the number fifteen is a ‘tes’ and ‘vav’, spelling out “TU”. The halachik and historical significance of this date is considered Jewish Arbor day, and the official beginning of the tree season. The Jewish holiday TU’ B’Shvat, the New Year for trees, usually falls in January or February. Even though the Spanish village of Mondoñedo held the first documented arbor plantation festival in the world, organized by its mayor in 1594, Jews have been reckoning with this concept for thousands of years. Today, the holiday is most often observed by planting trees or by raising money to plant trees, and by eating fruit - specifically grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives, and dates which are five of the seven species for which Israel is praised. Originally, the objective of this day was to calculate the age of fruit trees for tithing as mandated in Vayikra 19:23–25.

The first Mishna of Rosh Hashana discusses the four Rosh Hashanas in the Jewish calendar. The last one mentioned is the New Year for the tree when it blossoms. The date established by the sages was the fifteenth of Shvat to be this Rosh Hashana. But there is a dissenting opinion to Beis Hillel, and that is Beis Shammai which states that the date is not the fifteenth but rather the first day of the month. An analysis of the opinions of Hillel and Shammai by Rav Yosef Zevin Z”L explains that the difference of perspective is whether to focus on the actual (Beis Hillel) or on the potential (Beis Shammai). Rav Zevin gives many examples which support this philosophical outlook. These include (but are not limited to) increasing the number of candles as Chanukah proceeds, or decreasing the number; whether the bracha on fire is Me'orei ha'esh, or Maor ha'esh, which the Vilna Gaon explains refers to the original source of fire at bri'as ha'olam. Finally, Rav Zevin’s examples also include Rosh Hashanna for the new tree when it blossoms, the fifteenth of Shvat, or when the rain that enables their blossoming has finished falling,to be the beginning of Shvat.

Reb Tzvi Elimelech from Dinov, in his work “The Bnei Yisaschar,” (Month of Shvat 2:2) points out that in the Mishna Rosh Hashana 1:1, three out of four heads of the year are in the plural but the fourth one is in the singular, that being the New Year of the tree, not trees. Some explain that on Tu B'Shvat, although it is Rosh Hashana for all trees, there is one tree that we focus our attention on this special day. This is “THE” tree mentioned in the Garden of Eden and explained by the Rabbis as an Esrog tree. Therefore, the Bnei Yisaschar writes that "A person should pray on Tu B'Shevat to find a kosher, beautiful, mehudar esrog with which to fulfill the mitzvah." In fact, the Ben Ish Chai composed a prayer for a beautiful Esrog. I find it curious that for the Mitzva of Esrog there is a recommended day to daven for a ‘good one’ to perform the task in a superior manner. We don’t encounter a day to daven for whole Shmurah Matzos, a classic bow and arrow, extra cheesy cheesecake, a righteous ram for a holy shofar, or special olives to produce the best oil for the menorah! There are many references to trees throughout scriptures, teaching us many different things. Perhaps the tree isn’t necessarily speaking of fruit…

In this week’s parshas B’Shalach the Torah states in Shmos 15:25 “Vayitz’ak El Hashem, VaYoreihu Hashem Eitz VaYashleich El HaMayim Vayimt’ku HaMayim, Shom Som Lo, Chok U’Mishpat V’Shom Nisahu”. “When Moshe cried out to Hashem, He showed him a certain tree. Moshe threw it into the water, and the water became drinkable. It was there that God taught them survival techniques and methods, and there He tested them.” Most commentators ask what were the techniques and methods that Hashem taught Moshe?

Rabbeinu Bachya mentions that some commentators say that Moshe taught the Jews details about vegetation which they would encounter in the desert. He showed them which plants had therapeutic or medicinal value and, on the other extreme, which were poisonous. The word ‘Chok” applied to phenomena which were known pragmatically, whereas the word “Mishpat” applies to knowledge of the inner workings and the why and wherefore of the phenomena in question. Moshe was concerned that by teaching the natural powers of plant life people might consider themselves self-sufficient and become less dependent on God. Therefore, Moshe warns them that in the final analysis it is up to Hashem to heal and cure people.

Another commentary which discusses the bitter waters of ‘Marah’ turning sweet, on the words ‘He taught them about a certain wood’ teaches that this was the tree of life, the Eitz HaChaim from Gan Eden, which surrounded the bitter waters. When the Satan became aware of the presence of that tree, he removed it in order to confuse the Jews and to lead them into sinning, resulting in the Jews complaining about their lack of water. The Mechilta quotes Rebbi Nosson saying it was the tree of life that God showed to Moshe. Moshe then took a leaf from it and cast it into the water and the waters became sweet. Rabban Shimon Ben Yochai says He showed him something from the Torah, meaning not showing but rather teaching. The word in the verse does not say ‘and He showed him’, but the word ‘VaYoreihu’ means ‘and He taught him’. The word VaYoreihu is synonymous with teaching - as it is written in Mishlei 4:4 Vayoreini – which, in context, means ‘teach me’. He - Hashem -literally showed him words of Torah that are compared to a tree, as Shlomo HaMelech said in Mishlei 3:10: “Etz Chaim Hee LaMachazikim Bah”: “It is a tree of life for those who grab and hold onto it”.

There are medicinal qualities in a tree and in the vegetation which surrounds it. But these qualities only apply if combined it with the other meaning of the tree and what it represents…..Torah. The Jewish Arbor Day is not about the planting of the physical trees. It is perhaps more importantly about planting, securing and strengthening the tree of life, which is represented by the Torah. It is noteworthy to mention that the handles on the Ashkenazic Torahs are called the ‘Atzei Chaim’ - the trees of life. A tree produces shade, bears fruit, and even after it dies it can be used to build homes, provide fertility to the soil, producing the matrix for future trees, and so forth. So, too, the Torah provides shade and protection from the evil inclination, it bears fruit to the next generation, and it serves as the basis of our Jewish home.

This TU B’Shvat prayer is not only about the physical Mitzva of Esrog that we want to have for Sukkos. It reminds us to pray and daven for what the Tree represents and what its symbolism is all about. May we be zocheh (merit) to water, nourish and nurture our tree of the Torah that will give us the ultimate good life.

Ah Gut Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Parshas Bo - Do You Belong to the Congregation?          7 Shvat 5777

02/03/2017 09:52:31 AM

Feb3

An essential trait for any ‘living’ language is that expressions, usage of terminology, and definitions of words evolve over time. Dictionaries and thesauruses give multiple explanations and substitutions for words, phrases, idioms and jargons that are used to express context and situations. Sometimes the use of words acquires different meanings as we progress through our lives. For example, when, as a teenager I heard or shouted word ‘homerun’, for me it literally meant just that - someone had rounded all four bases during a game. But in the colloquial sense of the word, when someone says ‘he or she hit a homerun’ it might mean he did a great, fantastic job that just cleaned up the entire situation..

I recently encountered one of those words that I enjoyed when I was in grade school and have come to despise that very same word in my adult life. I recently purchased a new piece of exercise equipment through Amazon, complete with free delivery. Not fully appreciating the value of it coming assembled, I thought that I would be able to easily put it together. Unfortunately, my memory did not serve me well. The last time I bought a new barbecue grill, I bought the floor model that was ready to go because at that time I did remember the previous experience of buying a grill out of the box – which required assembly. I was too cheap at the time of ordering this piece of equipment to spend the extra twenty-five dollars for assembly, and besides the advertisement on the box stated, ‘assembles in minutes’. Little did I know that it took me two hundred forty minutes to get the thing assembled. Therefore, when I had the opportunity to buy it pre-assembled, I grabbed it. Now let’s fast-forward to the new machine. Thanks to my memory lapse and my enthusiastically naive attitude that I could put together the elliptical, I never thought of paying extra to have it assembled. After one week of having a huge box in our kitchen, I gave up on the thought of assembling it myself and called Amazon to take it back. The company offered to send someone to assemble it at about half the cost of the machine itself. Amazon itself offers a home service that will come to assemble your purchase through them at about a fifth of the purchase price. Ultimately, I hired a local person for the same Amazon price to assemble it for me.

I now cringe when I hear the word ‘assemble’, but this was not always the case. In my youth I got all excited when I heard the word ‘assembly’ because that meant more time outside the classroom. I’m not sure if the word ‘assembly’ is used today in elementary or high school, but back in the day I looked forward to any time there would be an assembly, preferably during a secular class. As a little boy I didn’t fully appreciate the experience of the ‘assembly’, only that we got out of class and attended a gathering where we could sit back, and didn’t have to take notes. Naturally, we also didn’t really need to pay attention, and ultimately were not held responsible or accountable for the purpose of the gathering. My euphoria of having an assembly was the typical reaction – and immaturity - of a little kid.

Neither my peers nor I appreciated the purpose and benefit to the statement of ‘assembly’ and its implications. The fact that the entire school, from the youngest kindergarteners to the really big eighth graders all attended the same event was a statement all to its own. The unity and purpose as a solid body coming together was the unsung victory of the cause under which we came to unify. The rows of students our age and reality of being part of a greater whole was an incredible silent message felt by the participants of the assembly. Unfortunately, in our society, including our Jewish society and community, is, in my opinion lacking of this powerful message. I don’t believe people understand or even minutely appreciate the value of an assembly. The secret of the Jewish people’s success was the ‘assembly’ – the meeting of the whole - which we read in the story of leaving Mitzrayim.

In this week’s parshas Bo the Torah states in Shmos 10:9 “Vayomer Moshe Binareinu Uvizkeineinu Neilech, B’Vaneinu U’Vivnoseinu B’Tzoneinu U’Vivkareinu Neilech I Chag Hashem Lanu”. “Young and old alike will go”, replied Moses. “We will go with our sons and our daughters, with our sheep and our cattle. It is a festival to God for ALL of us.” In the previous verse Pharoah, after being menaced by the plagues and second-guessed by his advisors, gives in slightly by almost allowing the Jews to leave Egypt, but catches himself. Instead of allowing the Jews to completely leave he asks Moshe and Aharon “Mi VaMi HaHolchim” “But exactly who will be going?” Pharoah is reluctant to send ALL the Jews away while Moshe and Aharon recognize the importance of EVERYONE leaving together!

Reb Moshe Elyokim Hopsztajn (1757 – 1828) the second Kozhnitzer Rebbe, the son of the Avodas Yisroel explains the concept of the young and old in the passuk. He learns the word not ‘with our young’ but rather ‘like in our youth’ ‘in our old age we will go’. The measure a person reaches in behavior and activity during youth will determine and be a foreteller for the same enthusiasm in later years. The Jewish people will always “go” with zest and zeal, always climbing higher and higher. There is a great advantage that old age brings a step up to society; they carry within them the blessings from life’s experiences. Keep in mind that the later years are connected and pull from the younger years - like the flame of a candle. Life is compared to wine; wine will be better with age only if the wine in its youth was good. If the wine was bad to begin with, as it ages it will turn into bitter vinegar.

A community that abandons its young is compared to an old age home, and a community that forces its seniors into the corners of the room turns those corners, those rooms, into an orphanage! Fortunate are the young whose wisdom of its elders are like a candle at their feet, and fortunate are the elders that the flame of the young strengthens them.

I see and witness a great deal of enthusiasm amongst the children of our Shul and community. Unfortunately, at times the parents of those children (who themselves were once enthusiastic about Judaism) feel a sense of slavery to the rigors of a religious Orthodox lifestyle. Their wine was at one point very fine which, if not properly stored and guarded, will quickly sour. We, the older generation, parents and, yes, even grandparents, must remain vigilant in our attitude towards an exciting feel of Torah and Yiddishkeit. Devoid of this vigilance there will no longer be our younger generation from whom our future will thrive and grow. .

I typically don’t quote non-Jewish sources, but I feel the words of Harry Chapin’s “And the cat's in the cradle” speak mightily to this issue. If I can take the liberty to modify the refrain to be "When are you going to do the things you sent me to school for dad?" "I don't know when, But I'll get together then, You know we'll do it then.” But as we all should know that “then” will never come back again, Dad. You know it will never come back then. We need everyone on this journey of life to live and flourish through the day-to-day, week-to-week challenges of a full, rigorous, religious, observant Jewish life. We need the commitment of both the young and the older in order for us, the Jewish people, to go forward just as we did when we left Mitzrayim. If you don’t want to listen to me at least listen to Moshe Rabbeinu in his response to Pharaoh,”Let My People (with the young and the old) Go!”

Ah Gut Shabbos Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Rabbi Bogopulsky’s new book “Developing A Torah Personality” is available for purchase directly from him or Amazon

Parshas Vaera - Don't Confuse the News with the Truth                  29 Shvat 5777

01/27/2017 01:33:26 PM

Jan27

Who and what do we believe in this day and age? The instant gratification syndrome is not limited in today’s society to food and pleasures; it extends to the information superhighway as well! People have no time or patience to read an entire article, so they come to a false conclusion based upon the headline. Media outlets know this all too well and are experts in framing things in a certain way so that unless a person reads the entire piece, his knowledge of the facts will, at best be spotty, and at worst he will be completely mislead. I am not even referring to falsifying of information, rather leaving out pertinent crucial information or other key true facts related to what is being reported.

The media and news reporting over the last six months has taken all this to a new level. It is more difficult to believe the one-sided reporting from either side of the aisle. To be honest, I don’t know and I do wonder how today’s journalism compares to journalism over the past century. For the record, I am not referring to the news publications that are found at the local grocery checkout counters, rather it is from the distinguished news publications that are ‘respected’ throughout the world.

Perhaps we Jews are more suspicious and less trusting because we see and read first-hand the biased one-sided news reporting against Israel. Perhaps we’ve become numbed from the hatred and Jew/Zionist bashing by a good portion of the world and see how corrupt the news information really is. The job or responsibility of news and media agencies is to bring light and understanding of life’s situations through truth. Unfortunately, the kind of news that is reported and how the reader’s digest it creates a darkness and falsehood. The news outlets are doing the exact opposite of what they should be doing. I personally have fallen victim to devious reporting in the past and as a rule I try not to give public statements that can easily be misconstrued. Unfortunately, the statements of politicians and the like are open for scrutiny and are always subject to the biases of those who are reporting.

There are many instances that words require explanation and interpretation. Sometimes words and statements are said quietly, in private and abridged, requiring understanding and context. This idea is common and is dealt with in the Torah and elucidated by our teachers. One such example is found in this week’s parsha Vaera. The Torah states 7:4 “V’Lo Yishma Aleichem Parah V’Nasati Es Yadi B’Mitzrayim, V’Hotzeisi Es Tzivosai Es Ami B’Nei Yisrael Mei’Eretz Mitzrayim Bishfatim Gedolim”: “This is why Pharoah will not pay attention to you. But then I will display My power against Egypt, and with great acts of judgment I will bring forth from Egypt My armies - My people, the Israelites”. The Sfas Emes, Yehuda Aryeh Leib Alter, quotes his father Rav Avraham Mordechai Alter on this verse stating: The reason the ten plagues were necessary was to remove the shell that covers that which is hidden from the original ten statements uttered to create the world. This was necessary to create a platform for the Ten Commandments to be given.

The Sfas Emes explains this Kabbalistic idea as follows. This world hides and removes the understanding from our minds that the primary source of all life and everything that happens in this world comes from the ‘letters of the Torah’. The statements that created the world are comprised of Hebrew letters. This is supported by the Mishna in Pirkei Avos 5:1 “With ten utterances the world was created. What does this come to teach us? Indeed, it could have been created with one utterance, but it was not. This was to exact punishment from the wicked who destroy the world that was created with ten utterances, and ‘Laseis Schar LaTzadikim HaMikaymim Es HaOlam Shenivr’u Ba’Asara MaaMaros’ to bestow goodly reward upon the righteous who sustain the world that was created by ten utterances”. The Tzadik knows and clings to the source of life that was lost through the ten utterances. It was the smack of each one of the ten Makkos which removed its cover and secret and became the Ten Commandments. In mathematical terms 10 statements + 10 plagues = Ten Commandments.

Deeper meanings to the Ten Commandments aren’t just words. Rather, the explanation of the word is ‘Dibur’/ speech, ‘Hanhaga’ behavior. The Zohar sheds some light and explains it based upon the words V’dibarta Bam B’Shivticha’….. U’V’Lechticha and you will speak to them when they sit……..and when they are on the road. All of our actions are performed through the words of Hashem, hence the idea that all of our actions should be done solely for the sake of Heaven.

We read about the hidden words in certain Tefillos such as in Maariv. In the first paragraph of Maariv the blessing begins ‘Asher Bidvaro Maariv Aravim’ ‘Who by His word brings on evenings’, that even in the hester/hidden there is recognition of the kingdom of heaven so that we recognize the honor of Hashem’s name even in the evening that represents darkness and things that are covered. Therefore, the words after the evening Shma is Emes VeEmunah (truth and belief) and the emes/truth is hidden during the exile. The Zohar in this week’s parsha mentions the ‘dibur/speech of Moshe was in the exile. This is reflected in Moshe describing himself as a person with ‘uncircumcised lips’ and ‘I am not a man of words’. But during Kabbalas HaTorah at Har Sinai things were in the open with the choice word of Dibur/speech again, this time ‘Vayidaber Elokim….Anochi Hashem Elokecha’ I am Hashem your God….

The language of the Torah and the way God speaks is something that requires the reader to look deeper than the surface. Glancing at a picture or some words of a headline is just one way of remaining in the dark and being blocked from the truth. A truth seeker needs to delve down and read the entire piece of news. A lesson to us all is to realize that just because the news reports something doesn’t necessarily mean it is the truth. The truth can only be discovered when everything is revealed and the true statements are uncovered. Sometimes there are painful plagues in order to bring about the best of what God truly wants from the world.

Ah Gut Shabbos Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Rabbi Bogopulsky’s new book “Developing A Torah Personality” is available for purchase directly from him or Amazon

Parshas Shemos - Brainstorming                     22 Teves 5777

01/20/2017 12:19:16 PM

Jan20

There is nothing in life which doesn’t require ‘Siyata Dishmaya’ - Heavenly assistance. Every waking minute, from the time we open our eyes in the morning until we rest our heads on our pillows at night God helps us with everything. But as the old saying goes, “God helps those who help themselves”. For me - in both my personal and my professional life - I try to manage things on my own with direct assistance from the One above. Nevertheless, there are emergency situations that none of us, me included, can manage alone and require the assistance of others. One such emergency is when then local eruv goes down at a point in the week which is past the ordinary time that we would be able to fix it. Due to the late hour, our eruv maintenance company can’t schedule the job to fix it in time for Shabbos. HELP! I need Siyata Dishmaya, but I need the help from others. Baruch Hashem I have some great people around to help, think, and brainstorm for a solution. As you are most likely aware, it sure has been storming in Southern California lately, and I have been racking my brains to keep the eruv as operational as possible, at least for Shabbos.

What is the definition and history behind the word ‘brainstorming’? Alex Faickney Osborn (1888–1966) was an advertising executive and the author of the creativity technique named “brainstorming”. Osborn began developing methods for creative problem-solving in 1939. He was frustrated by his employees’ inability to develop creative ideas individually for ad campaigns. In response, he began hosting group-thinking sessions and discovered a significant improvement in the quality and quantity of ideas produced by employees. Osborn outlined his method in the 1948 book Your Creative Power.

Osborn claimed that two principles contribute to "ideative efficacy", these being: deferring judgment, and reaching for quantity. Following these two principles were his general rules of brainstorming, established with intention to:

  • reduce social inhibitions among group members.
  • stimulate idea generation.
  • Increase overall creativity of the group.
  1. Go for quantity: This rule is a means of enhancing divergent production, aiming to facilitate problem-solving through the maxim quantity breeds quality. The assumption is that the greater the number of ideas generated, the bigger the chance of producing a radical and effective solution.
  2. Withhold criticism: In brainstorming, criticism of ideas generated should be put 'on hold'. Instead, participants should focus on extending or adding to ideas, reserving criticism for a later 'critical stage' of the process. By suspending judgment, participants will feel free to generate unusual ideas.
  3. Welcome wild ideas: To get a good, long list of suggestions, wild ideas are encouraged. They can be generated by looking from new perspectives and suspending assumptions. These new ways of thinking might give you better solutions.
  4. Combine and improve ideas: As suggested by the slogan "1+1=3",it is believed to stimulate the building of ideas by a process of association.

Osborn notes that brainstorming should address a specific question; he held that sessions addressing multiple questions were inefficient. Osborn envisioned groups of around 12 participants, including both experts and novices. Participants are encouraged to provide wild and unexpected answers. Ideas receive no criticism or discussion. The group simply provides ideas that might lead to a solution and apply no analytical judgment as to the feasibility. The judgments are reserved for a later date. Ultimately working together makes people learn, grow, and offer solutions to challenging situations which they would unlikely be able to resolve on their own.

So now back to our very stormy weather and the eruv situation. After much brainstorming with some of the best and brightest minds of our generation, we were on our way. It took a good number of hours during the week to come up with a plan of action that is far from perfect but hopefully will be a stop gap measure to temporarily keep the eruv up in that section. I’m not sure that I alone would have resolved the issue; this was a collective effort that met success. As there is nothing new under the sun, where in the Torah do we find the strategy of brainstorming?

  1. will take literary license to point out a very subtle scene that is overlooked by most of the commentaries regarding Moshe brainstorming the plan to take the Jews out of Egypt. In this week’s parsha Shemos the Torah states in 4:28: “Vayagaid Moshe L’Aharon Eis Kal Divrei HaShem Asher Sh’lacho, V’Eis Kal Ha’Osos Asher Tzivahu” - “Moshe described to Aaron everything that God has told him about his mission”. 4:29 “Vayeilech Moshe V’Aharon, VaYa’asfu Es Kal Ziknei B’Nei Yisrael” - “Moshe and Aharon went to Egypt, and they gathered all the elders of Israel”. At first Moshe tells Aharon, his brother, all that Hashem had told him. Then both Moshe and Aharon gathered the elders of the Jewish people. Why was all this necessary? The Ramban is one of the few commentaries to perhaps shed some light on this situation. Ramban explains which words Moshe told over to Aharon, which in turn were told to the elders. Moshe told Aharon all the words that were spoken between Him and God and all about how he resisted the mission! Moreover He, Moshe, had been sent against his will. This is the meaning of the word Kal/All. Moshe told Aharon not only what he had been instructed to do and say in Egypt, but all the words – even those surrounding Hashem’s choice of him (Moshe) to be His emissary. Perhaps Moshe was still unsure of his ability to lead the Jews out of Mitzrayim. Perhaps he wanted to discuss the situation with his older brother and with the elders, those whom he, Moshe, looked up to as well. Presumably Moshe went to inform and discuss the plan of Hashem that Moshe was the man tapped for this job, but he was either still looking for a way out or a way to get confirmation through the discussions that took place. I believe this is true, as it signals Moshe’s humility in another and continuing fashion as he did throughout his life.
  1. method of ‘brainstorming’ is a tool that not only could be used in business but it is an incredible instrument for family building, classroom and student unity, and overall team development. Once again, we detect Moshe Rabbeinu teaching Am Yisrael through being the role model and going through the experience of brainstorming and not solely relying on himself. This, in it of itself, is a sign of Anivus - humility something we can all learn to take a dose of once in a while.                                              Ah Gut Shabbos                                                   Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Rabbi Bogopulsky’s new book “Developing A Torah Personality” is available for purchase directly from him or Amazon

Parshas Vayechi - To Life To Life, L'Chayim       15 Teves 5777

01/12/2017 11:33:55 PM

Jan12

Last week I took a long trip to Israel for a very short time. It wasn’t my shortest stay in Israel, two previous trips consisted of two days each. Nevertheless, I was only there for three full days, a total of seventy-seven hours from the time I landed until I took off. As some of you know, the sole purpose of my trip was to visit with my aging parents. Although I found my mother to be in better health than I anticipated, I do not regret going for a minute. Living far away from parents deprives children of the great Mitzva of Kibud Av Va’Aim, the commandment to honor your mother and father. Even though I speak to my parents at least once if not twice daily, it pales in comparison to being there in person.

In Jewish thought and law there is a concept called “Schar Holicha” reward for going or reward for the travel itself. Therefore, on the flight home I calculated how many hours the total trip took from door to door, from touchdown to takeoff and other combinations including flying time to get to Eretz Yisrael. I came up with the following equation. As I mentioned earlier, the time from touchdown to take-off was seventy-seven hours plus the approximate fifteen hours of flying time, totaling ninety-two hours. This was all done for the sole purpose of honoring my parents. Lo and behold the gematria (numerical value of the Hebrew letters) of Kibud Av Va’Aim is also ninety-two!

Some people may argue that the number of hours returning should also be included as Schar Chazara, which is reward for returning. The logic behind including this time is that just as going, because if you couldn’t return you would not go in the first place, so the return calculation is also necessary. This is comparable to emergency personnel breaking Shabbos to save a life. They have to go to the hospital and then are permitted to return to their home base even though there is no longer an emergency. The reasoning behind it if we don’t allow the emergency personnel to return, they might not be willing to go in the first place. They would probably not want to have to remain in the hospital, spending Shabbos and Yom Tov away from their families, yet lives would be put a stake if they didn’t go to the hospital. In my case I don’t think Schar rewards for returning, so the hours of flying back are not included. There is no down side to staying longer with parents, especially if they happen to live in Israel.

We sometimes wonder what the reward will be for some or all the Mitzvos we do. The Torah clearly tells us the reward for honoring parents is long life. This is somewhat difficult to calculate. How can one figure out the formula of how much of the mitzva of kibbud Av Va’Aim parents corresponds to how long one lives.. Nevertheless, Rabbeinu Bachya offers a slightly different approach in particular to the life of Yakov and his son Yosef.

The very first words of this week’s parsha Vayechi, Bereishis 47:28 states “Vayechi Yakov B’Eretz Mitzrayim Shva Esrei Shana, Vayehi Yemei Yakov Shnei Chayav Sheva Shanim V’Arbaim U’M’as Shana”. “Jacob made Egypt his home for seventeen years. He lived to be one hundred forty-seven years old”. Many are familiar with the Gematria of the word Vayechi equaling thirty –four, corresponding to the number of years Yakov and Yosef spent together. The first seventeen years of Yosef’s life prior to being sold is documented at the beginning of Parshas Vayeishev Bereishis 37:1 and the last seventeen years Yakov spends with Yosef in Egypt. But another reason the Torah uses the word Vayechi -and Yakov lived - is because Yosef gave him the physical sustenance to live. The seventeen years of Yosef supporting his father was Midda Knegged Midda, measure for measure, in that Yakov sustained Yosef the first seventeen years of his life. In an almost reversal of fortune whereby the reward of Yakov sustaining and raising his son Yosef merited him the likelihood to live another seventeen years, despite a famine in the land where surely many people perished. When a person gives something to someone, that person will merit to get it back. A parent’s love and dedication to their child is unconditional but nevertheless contains a special kick-back of sorts that whatever they give they will merit to get back when they need it. The irony of life and the life cycle we experience regarding how a parent takes care of a child, raising him and nurturing him to become independent and self-sufficient, flips around in the parents’ old age to be taken care of by the very same children they cared for.

Reb Yechiel Michel Wisser* in his classic work the Malbi”m gives an explanation on the words of “And Yakov lived in Egypt” putting the full cycle of life in great perspective. The end of a person’s life and the remaining days on earth are a measure of his entire life. Someone who lived a difficult life in pain, anguish and sorrow but had it good at the end of his life, forgets all the hardship and toiling and considers his entire life to have been lived in good times. The Sfas Emes comments the Gematria of the word ‘Tov’ good equals seventeen which corresponds to the last seventeen years of Yakov’s life. Despite Yakov lamenting over his difficult life, the end was good and overshadowed the dark challenges and difficulties of his life.

The lesson is that a person leaves this world in the state of being at the end of his life. If a person lives a life of sin but at the very end repents, he shares in Gan Eden - in the world to come. The converse is also true: if a person is a Tzadik his entire life but at the end does not live that same way, then it is considered a full life of wickedness. Unfortunately, in my career I’ve witnessed both scenarios where a person became observant and religious towards the end of his life. That person’s entire life is not only considered completely righteous but they themselves feel a fulfilled life. On the other hand, some people lived a religious and observant life, but in the end stopped and gave up the good practices. Such people lose out on the entire lifetime of goodness, not only in the spiritual sense but their physical life is also felt to be full of hardship and difficulty.

As one famous catcher of the greatest sports team said, “It ain’t over till it’s over.” The way the game ends is a reflection of the rest of the game. Let’s make our lives richer and more meaningful so that the end of the game reflects upon the entire game just as Yakov’s life at the end was ‘good’ and changed the perspective of his entire life.

Ah Gut Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

 

*Meir Leibush ben Yehiel Michel Wisser (March 7, 1809 – September 18, 1879), better known as The Malbim, was a rabbi, master of Hebrew grammar, and Bible commentator. The name "Malbim" was derived from the Hebrew initials of his name. He used this acronym as his surname in all his published works and became known by it in common usage

Parshas Vayigash - The Dreaded Middle Seat   7 Teves 5777

01/05/2017 01:04:06 PM

Jan5

Back to the air we go on another travel experience that I never look forward to  but always look back at when returning. An obvious rule in life is "a person has more options the sooner he makes a decision". Today, more than ever, if you snooze you lose. We need to  make decisions in a timely fashion so that we’ll be able to have the most and, hopefully, the best choices to confront. A person who waits until the last minute will have slim pickings available at best.

For many reasons that I will not share here, I took a last-minute (not literally last minute but within a week) trip to Israel. Aisle and window seats are usually selected first, leaving the middle seats to the last-minute traveler. As passengers settle into their assigned seats, the great mind battle begins as to who has the rights of the armrest. If the window or aisle passenger takes the arm rest, then the middle passenger is left with no arm rests whatsoever. When I am sitting in either the aisle or window seat, I try to leave the arm rest for the middle passenger seat, reasoning that I at least have the window/wall to lean against or the aisle to stretch out. I would hope to receive that same courtesy if I am stuck in the middle, but that isn’t always the case. Early on as the seating and boarding is going on, a quick, decisive, and bold move must be taken to conquer the space or else it is going to be a long  - and even more uncomfortable - flight. 

Many shoppers are aware that when there is a limited number of items going on sale it’s necessary to be quick to purchase. There are many good deals that are posted on websites for limited times and quantities. Certain areas of purchase have changed over time. For instance, a daily merchandise stores such as fruit stores had the best fruits and vegetables out in the morning, but by evening only the scraps remain. Today, stores are adequately supplied, allowing replenishing and restocking of shelves and bins throughout the day. In other categories, however, the saying 'first come first serve' is still in effect. A different side of this is the notion that ‘haste makes waste’;  sometimes a person should not act so quickly.  Nevertheless, there are two approaches  that  need to be addressed: on the one hand speed and the other hand not delaying. A person may not see the difference between the two, depending upon the situation.  At the end of the day how do we reconcile these important ideas of speed, not delaying yet using care and thought before doing something? Perhaps the answer lies in the famous incident of Yosef revealing himself to his brothers and instructing them what to do right now.

In this week’s Parsha Vayigash the Torah states in 45:9 “Maharu Va’Alu El Auvi Va’Amartem Eilav Ko Amar Bincha Yosef, Samani Elohim L’Adon L’Chol Mitzrayim R’Da Eiliey Al Ta’Amod”. Yosef said: “Quickly go up to my father (Yakov) and say to him, this is what your son Yosef said, God placed me as a Lord to all of Egypt, come down to me and do not stay there”. Only a few verses later Yosef says to his brothers in Bereishis 45:24: “VaYishalach Es Echav Vayeileichu, Vayomer Aleihem, Al Tirgzu BaDerech”. “And he (Yosef) sent his brothers and they went, and he said to them ‘do not tarry or quarrel on the way home”. Look at the difference in the instructions Yosef gives to his brothers. First he says ‘go quickly’ and later says ‘do not delay or do not quarrel which would ultimately lead to a slowing down’. Yosef’s selection of instructions depended upon the purpose or upon whom he was talking about. First, he tells them to go quickly.  Sforno explains the reason Yosef tells his brothers to ‘go quickly’ was to minimize the anguish of Yakov. Once he addressed his concerns for his father, he turned his attention to his brothers.  Daas Mikrah explains the word Tirgezu/quarrel in two ways. The first is to be understood as Yosef telling his brothers  not to be angry with one another, not to fight over the decision of having sold him as explained by Rashi. These words are similar to what the Navi Chavakuk said 3:2 ‘B’Rogez Racheim Tizkor’ Amid rage – remember to be merciful. Even though it is natural for you to be angry with each other, be merciful.  Take it easy on each other because it was all meant to be.  The second interpretation of Yosef’s words are ‘do not be afraid, do not be  in awe of the road which has robbers and highway men’. The fear of my ruler, of my power,is over them as well, and therefore they will not touch you. This is similar what we say in Az Yashir everyday ‘Sham’oo Amim Yirgazoon’ the nations will hear and be afraid’.

Yosef addresses his brothers and tells them to be quick and inform our father to come down to Mitzrayim. Their hesitation was the difficult, hard decision to leave Eretz Yisrael. Therefore, Yosef tells them the decision has already been made by God, that this is the plan.  They are to bring the family down to Mitzrayim. The ticket to travel is bought already, now don’t argue about anything in delaying that will make the trip feel longer, such as infighting. Pick your seats immediately;  don’t get stuck with something you don’t like.

No major decision in life should be made quickly without proper consideration and a thorough examination of its consequences. But as soon as a decision is made after everything is taken into consideration, then quick, decisive action must be taken. For example: Once a decision is made to purchase something of major importance and significance, then the purchase should be made ASAP in order not to lose out on it. This concept is consistent with Chazal’s statement of ‘Zrizim Makdimin L’Mitzvos’. Zerizus is difficult to translate, but most often it is described as diligence, industriousness, or zeal. This is a pre-requisite for doing Mitzvos. A person needs to be ready to do the Mitzva even though it may not be the time for it. Once that time comes, however, one needs to act immediately.

The lesson to be learned is once you know you are flying, buy your ticket immediately and choose your seat. If you get stuck with a middle seat, then board quickly and take possession of the arm rests, otherwise it’s going to be a long flight………………        take my word for it.

Ah Gut Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Parshas Mikeitz - Of Hangars & Silverware     29 Kislev 5777

12/29/2016 10:48:27 AM

Dec29

A few of years ago, I wrote about my Rebbi’s theory regarding ‘multiplying hangers’. It’s a well-known but as-yet unproven theory that hangars reproduce, multiplying quickly in our closets. This theory of reproduction also entails the phenomenon that they produce multiple kinds of hangars, morphing from metal to plastic to wood and anything in between. Now, after many years I have come to realize that there is something else in the household that seems to diminish overtime without anyone noticing until it becomes a significant loss. This loss has occurred in my house over the years, but I was starkly reminded of how it probably occurs due to a recent incident related to me by my daughter.

One Motzai Shabbos my daughter finished washing her dishes and sorted out the silverware to place back in the drawer. After meticulously cleaning, drying and putting away the silverware, she couldn’t believe that she only had one soup spoon left from the set of eight! She could not believe it! What happened to all the soup spoons? She and her husband quickly went to the garbage can and realized that my son-in-law had already thrown out the trash. He quickly went out to the communal trash bin where luckily (or perhaps mazal?) their easy-to-spot white trash bags were peacefully lying. (The rest of the building uses the dark colored trash bags.) Lo and behold, as they sifted through the chicken bones and dirty paper plates, they recovered seven soup spoons that had been accidentally thrown out by some of the well-intended guests. My sister, who should live and be well, never throws out her trash after Shabbos until all her silverware is present and accounted for. The silver lining of the story is that because so many spoons went missing at the same time it was obvious that they may have inadvertently been thrown out. In my house, however, we have five partial sets of silverware due to the slow but sure attrition of losing one here and one there slowly but surely going off, alone and unnoticed, to silverware heaven.

Certain things in life increase while others decrease without our paying attention to them. I think it would be a fair observation that we are focused more on the loss of things rather than the gain. We can always use another hangar or two, and if we have too many we just recycle them. Silverware, on the other hand, tends to become a little embarrassing when we slowly realize that we don’t have enough for the number of place settings at the table. The notion of recognizing the loss more than the gain is apparent in this week’s parsha and is also connected to Chanukah.

This week’s Parsha Mikeitz opens with the two sets of Pharoah’s dreams. In Bereishis 41:2-8 Pharoah has two dreams: one with the seven healthy fat cows followed by seven skinny cows devouring the fat ones, and the other which displayed seven fat, good ears of grain growing on a single stalk when suddenly another seven ears of grain grew behind them and swallowed up the seven fat, full ears of grain. Pharoah didn’t wake up when dreaming pleasantly about the abundance of cows and grain; he awoke when dreaming of the consumption of the good by the bad. The Baal Haturim says when the bad stalks are mentioned, it is not written as it is with the good stalks. “V’Hinei Sheva Shibalim Dakos Ushdufos Kadim” “And behold seven ears, thin and blasted with the east wind…” The seven ears of corn were growing on one stalk. The good years were all equally good, and therefore it wasn’t as apparent that it was so good. In contrast, the bad years were not equal. Each year was worse than the preceding one.

In Bereishis 41:8 the Torah states: Vayisaper Pharoah Lahem Es Chalomo, V’Ein Poseir Osam L’Pharoah”. “And Pharoah told them his dream, but there was no one who could interpret them for Pharoah”. The verse is clear: he was not satisfied with his astrologers’ interpretations. The Midrash in Breishis Raba 89 retells the interpretations of both dreams, intertwined as one. The first dream - seven fat cows - represented seven daughters being born to him and the eating of them would be burying the daughters. The second dream was interpreted as Pharoah as conquering seven nations and the other part depicted those same nations rebelling against him. Many commentators ask what was it about those interpretations that Pharoah didn’t like?

The Ohr HaChaim HaKadosh explains the term ‘Pharah’ was not the king’s actual name; it was the title for the king of Egypt. All the kings of Egypt were Pharoahs, and despite the fact he was not Jewish, the king was on a higher level than ordinary citizens, and so his thoughts were loftier as well. The interpretations his magicians gave were of a more personal nature and a bit ordinary and therefore Pharoah did not accept them. Yosef, on the other hand, interpreted his dreams to mean that there would be a famine in the land of Egypt and throughout his kingdom. Seven good years and seven bad years was something he related to as a king of the entire nation; it was not about him personally. The reason is a king is to his nation likens to the heart of a person – the heart gives life to all the other limbs. It was at that point when he awoke from the dream. An additional comment found the Gemaa Brachos 55 mentions that Pharoah woke up at that moment since he knew that the dream would come true. The Gemara states there are three dreams that come true: one of them is dreams of the morning. The passuk mentions that it was the morning. A spirit filled Pharoah because he realized that this was a dream which would come true for both the good and the bad.

Pharoah did not wake up when he saw the good - the blessing of abundance that would be a part of his country. He woke up only when seeing the downside - famine. He didn’t focus on how many hangars he was blessed with, but rather was astounded and shocked to have lost so much silverware. There are many lessons to take away from this story and Yosef’s interpretation. As we continue towards the end of Chanukah, we light an additional candle each night, following the opinion of Beis Hillel. Beis Shammai says we start with eight and go down to one, taking away one candle each night. Chanukah is a time to grow and expand the level of Torah commitment to mitzvos and learning. We need to grow and increase, building upon the previous accomplishments, taking care not to lose that which we’ve gained so far. Let us focus on the positive, on the potential growth within each of us and our families. Chas V’Shalom we shouldn’t wake up suddenly one day realizing how much silverware and how much of our spiritual life was thrown out inadvertently. Let us count the blessings as they come and do whatever is necessary to maintain the blessings to light up our physical and spiritual lives.

Ah Gut Shabbos & Ah Lichtiga Chanukah

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Parshas Vayeishev - The Winning Drive           22 Kislev 5777 

12/21/2016 06:56:05 PM

Dec21

We often reckon the passage of time by generations, but just how long is a generation? As a matter of common knowledge, we know that a generation averages about 25 years—from the birth of a parent to the birth of a child—although it varies case by case. We also generally accept that the length of a generation was closer to 20 years in earlier times when humans mated younger and life expectancies were shorter.

My tenure in San Diego and at Beth Jacob is within the range of seeing the transition from one generation to the next. This community, just like all other communities, witnesses people and families come and go. Some move to other cities or other countries while others move up to a different world. In any case, there are many interesting people and characters who make up the flavor and personality of the community. Some people are quiet, reserved and keep to themselves while others are boisterous, overt in their opinions and feelings, and always visible. One such colorful man who lived in the Beth Jacob apartments for many years was Mr. Solowitz z”l. For those who knew him, there is no need to describe him. This is not the place (nor do I have the space) to elucidate to those who did not know him even a small vignette of the uniqueness and special qualities of who he was.  Nevertheless, there is one detail that I will share, which is one thing that he and I had in common - the New York Yankees baseball team.

Mr. Solowitz had a very sharp and insightful mind. The Yankess had won the World Series four out of the last five years at the end of the century and then went cold. He shared a great insight with me as to why the current Yankees team (at that time) would not win again. He said the players lost their hunger, their drive, their enthusiasm and even their adrenalin to win again. There was very little left for such a dominant team to prove their prowess any longer, and without the inner motivation to do so they could not win. Other teams who had the drive and need  to prove their prowess and also had young players who were hungry for recognition and success would assume the top and win a World Series. The lesson of being ‘hungry’ for something, whether it is in sports, education, Torah or relationships is the key to success and winning.  Momentum is a critical part of continued growth; once that begins to slow down it is only a matter of time before we start to lose, giving  back some of that which we gained.

One of the keys to success in life in general and religion in particular is the ability to continue and maintain momentum, to create a snowball effect to build on past successes. In my career I have seen the continued upward growth of individuals and families in spirituality and overall service to Hashem. Unfortunately, I have also witnessed the unravelling of hard work and self-sacrifice of other individuals and families. The reason for  growth - or negative decline -  is determined by how determined each person is to maintain that desire and hunger for more, as opposed to giving in to  a feeling of complacency encompassed by the inner gnawing of the refrain, “Come on.  How much more do you want me to do? What do you want from me?” This latter phenomena can be found both in baalei teshuva and in families who were observant their entire lives. The common denominator is that people are tired and just want to get a break and take it easy. Many of the good, religious habits that they once prided themselves on are now just memories. The mitzvos, learning, davening, chesed, etc. that were part and parcel of their identity  have gathered dust and cobwebs. Religious observance could almost be viewed as a passing fad that came and is now gone - a ‘been there done that’ phenomenon. This notion is counter to the philosophy of the Torah where we actively apply the rule ‘there’s no rest for the weary’. Interestingly,  it appears  in the opening verse of this week’s parsha. {Parsjas Vayeishev, 37:1 which states:   “Vayeishev Yaakov B’Eretz M’Gurei Aviv B’Eretz Canaan”. “Meanwhile, Yaakov settled in the area (Chevron) where his father had lived in the land of Canaan.” The most common traditional interpretation of “Vayeishev Yaakov” is the opinion of Rashi. Yaakov wanted to dwell in peace, but there sprang upon him the troubles of Yosaif. Hashem said: “Is it not sufficient for the righteous that which is prepared for them in the world to come, but they seek to dwell in peace in this world also!” It sounds as though Yaakov had lost his drive, his sense of wanting more -  and this is the absolute truth. Yaakov does indeed want to dwell in peace, but not the peace I  described earlier  - that he wanted to have it easier, to take a break from Torah and Mitzvos. To the contrary, Yaakov  saw the opportunity to sit in the beis medrash all day and not have to go to work.

The passuk comes to teach us that as long as Yakov was in Chutz La’Aretz/ outside of Israel and on the road travelling, he continually sought to acquire more physical things of this world and to increase his estate of cattle and sheep. Yaakov was a workaholic outside of Israel. This is supported by the statement  in Bereishis 31:40: “By day I was consumed by the scorching heat, and at night by the frost”. But upon entering the land of Canaan, Yaakov immediately declared a religious asylum. Yaacov no longer felt the need to physically work, for when he came to his father’s house in Eretz Canaan he was ready to serve Hashem from two sides. On one side was the place where his father Yitzchak and grandfather Avraham had lived. On the other side was the greatness of the land itself - our Holy land, the sanctified land that God chose for him and his descendants.  Yaakov no longer had a desire to amass physical wealth and items of this world. Rather, he felt the only reason he worked so hard when he was outside of Israel was  so that he could retire from the physical and focus solely on the spiritual, just as his predecessors Avraham and Yitzchok had done. He no longer wanted to go out to shepherd his flock as he had done  before he left Israel. Avraham and Yitzchok in their old age separated from the money and acquisitions in order to devote themselves completely to Hashem and prepare to receive prophesy, living fully under the influence of God. Yaakov wanted to do the same thing as Avraham and Yitzchok: to sit in peace and tranquility, to learn Torah, to do as his fathers had done.   

Yakov wanted to sit back in peace and tranquility from the life of Gashmiyus/physicality and put his efforts into Ruchniyus/spirituality. The hunger and drive was just revving up again in pursuit of loftiness. I feel there is an unspoken regression today, much more so than a generation or two ago. Perhaps, as life grows easier and less demanding, we take our Yiddishkeit (Judaism) for granted which may lead to this deterioration.  Or perhaps even the opposite may be true: as we grow older we face more stresses, more pressures either from within our families or from without from our personal disappointments.  Regardless of the causes for this potential deepening malaise, everyone reading this needs to think back to a time when they were doing more, when they were actively, enthusiastically growing spiritually. This is not the time to only focus on olam hazeh, forgetting or neglecting all the Torah and Judaism we fought and struggled for. There is room for both. Make some time to get back to the greater heights of our past and bring them back into the present.

 

Ah Gut Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Parshas Vayishlach -Symptomatic not Problematic      16 Kislev 5777

12/16/2016 03:22:19 PM

Dec16

At a recent RCC conference I was reminded of a basic rule in life: when to focus on the general and when to focus on the specific. The speaker, who was discussing his involvement in Jewish divorce proceedings, reminded me of this rule through a short anecdote. He related that someone called up his rabbi on Erev Pesach, stating  that he and his wife were in a terrible fight arguing whether or not they should eat ’gebrokts’* on Pesach. The speaker explained that the issue of this household was not the question about ‘gebrokts’, but rather the essence of their Shalom Bayis. If they are arguing about this on Erev Pesach, there are far larger  problems with the relationship.  

In an unrelated matter, the United Jewish Federation of San Diego announced a partial cut in 2017 and a complete end of all funding in 2018 of many vital Jewish causes in San Diego.  Every one of  the schools which provide  Jewish Education is slated to be included in these cuts. Our Jewish schools depend heavily on these funds;  it is deeply disturbing that the community had not been made aware of these moves until now. The schools still have an opportunity to receive the monies through grants given out by the UJF, but such avenues for grant monies are never  guaranteed. The reason I bring this up is first and foremost this is a great loss of financial support for local Jewish education. The bigger and broader issue, however, is that this move by our local UJF is only symptomatic of a far greater problem. Everyone should take a good look at the focus of UJF and what it is supporting. It plans to fund programs to help Jews maintain and reconnect to Judaism. This is similar to giving person oxygen after we cut off his air supply. The greatest fundamental source of Judaism is Jewish education, primarily the Jewish education received during a child’s critical early years of development. It is truly horrible; actually it is sinful to process the idea that a UJF of any city would even consider cutting the funding of its local schools which are the future of the Jewish community! The greater larger and broader problem is the shift in value system that Jewish Federations across North America stand for. The very future of the Jewish community is being threatened by cutting off its life source.   

Every community – every individual within every community- must evaluate, must work to  address the causes of such a decision. The most obvious challenge facing the Jewish people today is to assess the way the world presents Zionism as the primary cause of many of the conflicts in the world. We should all realize that it’s not Zionism that the world truly takes issue with. Rather ‘Zionism’ is just a more politically correct phrase or modern semantic excuse for anti-Semitism. The issue of how the world views the Jews and - even more so - how the Jews interpret those views - is nothing new. This criticism, and the accompanying Jewish fear of the criticism, is found in the Torah and highlighted in this week’s parsha which addresses Yakov’s  concern regarding what the world will think and say about him. The concern is after Dinah was taken by Shechem, when Shimon and Levi plotted to retrieve her, but along with saving her killed  the entire village.  

The Torah states in Bereishis 34:30 “Vayomer Yakov El Shimon V’El Levi Achartem Osi, L’Havisheini B’Yosheiv Ha’Aretz Ba’Canaani U’VaPrizi, Va’Ani M’Sei Mispar V’Nesfu Alay V’Hikuni V’Nishmaditi Ani U’Beisi”. “Yakov said to Shimon and Levi, ‘You have gotten me in trouble, giving me a bad reputation among the Canaanites and Perizites who live in the land. I have only a small number of men. They can band together and attack me, and my family and I will be wiped out’ ”.  Yakov is worried, yet his sons reply, ”Shall we allow our sister to become a harlot?” It appears as though Yakov was worried about world opinion while his sons only cared about saving their sister.  Truth be told, Shimon and Levi did not limit their mission against Shechem Ben Chamor just to save Dinah. With a cursory look at some of the previous verses, we can determine that Shimon and Levi not only wanted to save their sister but to punish Shechem at the same time. Perhaps this is why Yakov was upset. It was on the third day after the entire town had been circumcised, the men were hurting and basically incapacitated. At that point in verse 34:25 Shimon and Levi kill all the males. In verse 26 they killed Chamor and his son Shechem,  and then they took Dinah out and saved her.  

A question is asked: Why didn’t Shimon and Levi just take Dinah when all the men of the town were aching? Why did they first kill everyone and then take her out, which had been their goal? The Midrash explains that the passuk points out that they came to the city with ‘Betach’  - a guarantee. They were confident their mission would be successful in the merit of Yakov, their father, in order to save his daughter. It was the merit of Yakov that gave them protection and cover for their mission.  Therefore, they were concerned that once they saved Dinah and took her out of Shechem’s house, the merit of their father would no longer be in effect.  Yakov was not interested in killing anyone; his only desire was to retrieve Dinah, his daughter. As soon as Dinah was saved he would not have a desire to do any harm to them. At that point, then, protection and shield of Yakov would no longer protect Shimon and Levi for that which was against his will. Shimon and Levi realized that as long as Dinah was still ‘captured’ they had the protection of their father and were free to do as they wished against the people of Shechem. Therefore, they took advantage of the situation by taking revenge against the people who took their sister Dinah.

The deeper issue for Shimon and Levi was to stick up for the family and never allow such a disgrace to occur within the family. The hard lesson we need to take away from this is that there are times when tough action must be taken and difficult decisions need to be made. They may not be politically correct or justified in the eyes of the world, but nevertheless Am Yisroel needs to do what is necessary for our honor and security - despite what the world says. Let the Jewish community stand up for San Diego’s Jewish future and recognize the value and vital importance of Jewish education, core to our existence, essential to our future.  

Ah Gut Shabbos                              Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

 

*Gebrokts – Allowing the Matzah on Passover to get wet before eating

Parshas Vayeitzay - Handling Adversity while Shopping    9 Kislev 5777

12/09/2016 01:48:40 PM

Dec9

There a very few things in life which stress me out, but that doesn’t mean that things don’t concern me or that I don’t care about dire situations. There are challenges and difficulties which require patience and guidance for any number of given situations. Each of us deals with the challenges we must confront differently. For some, these trials may appear easy while for others, such situations are very difficult. Regardless of how each of us face challenge, we all should strive to make them less stressful whenever possible.

Too often we use or misuse the term stress in a way to express a situation. We need to narrow down the areas of life which cause us to use the term ‘stress’. Stress is the pressure or tension exerted on a material object. Stress is also more and more frequently used in a medical or biological context. Stresses can be externally induced either from the environment, psychological, or social situations, from illness, or from a medical procedure. For me the most appropriate definition of stress is the first definition:  pressure exerted on material objects.

When I go shopping, I go to buy something that I need, while others I know just go shopping whether they need something or not! For me, shopping for basic things - such as food and small articles -  is a relatively soothing and therapeutic activity because doesn’t require a lot of brain power. On the other hand, when I must buy something - let’s take a suit, for example - and it may very well cost well over one hundred and fifty dollars (I’m frugal!), I begin to go into stress mode. Depending upon the item, necessity and cost will determine the stress level that I experience. The most severe and highest level of stress that I endure is the process of buying a car. Over the years my wife bought vehicles when I was out of town which made it relatively stress-free for me. Last May we needed to get rid of our beloved mini-van and purchase something else. Last week, during a routine maintenance checkup of my car, a major problem was discovered that would require a new engine. The first difficult decision I needed to face was to either put the money into the old car or put it towards something new. As I stressed over this decision for about a week, I finally listened to the advice I had sought out to part with my car, not an easy thing for me to do as I get attached to ‘things’.  My old care was sentimental to me. It had been my mechanical pal, my trustworthy means of transportation, and I was about to reject it for a newer, better object.

The ultimate stress test for me is buying and negotiating the purchasing of a new vehicle. For those who have gone through this process, you know it is a cat and mouse game of who is going to give in first and by how much? Everyone knows that the initial price is way too high and negotiation is required.  At first, the salesman is extremely nice and courteous and expresses a few times that I shouldn’t feel any pressure today. After I choose the vehicle that I would like to buy, the initial intake of information begins. They basically ask what can we do to earn your business today. What can we do that you drive out with a new car today? It sounds like they are willing to accommodate and work with you at almost any cost. They ask what amount I have in mind to pay and then the tone of conversation changes. “Do you want us to lose money (yeh right, they’re losing money)?” The standoff begins and I personally spend an entire day just trying to position myself for the best price and not wanting to feel that I am getting ripped off.

While the “game” of purchasing a car leaves me in the void as to just who was actually the winner, we all  know that when it comes to a Tzadik, Hashem watches out for the righteous and will make sure the money they have and spend is to their benefit. This is apparent in the words we read this Shabbos.

In this week’s Parsha Vayeitzay, Yakov Avinu works for his future father- in- law, and after marrying Rachel and Leah continues to work for him. In Bereishis 29:15 the Torah states: Vayomer Lavan L’Yaakov Hachi Achi AtahVa’Avaditaqni Chinam? Hagida Li Mah Maskoortecha”. “Lavan said to Jacob, ‘Just because you are my close relative, does it mean that you must work for me for nothing? Tell me what you want to be paid.”.A few commentators mention the fact that Lavan referred to Yakov as his brother. Lavan is asking about the wages in a cynical manner loaded with diabolical intention. You, Yakov, are thinking that I am your brother and you are trying to win me over by thinking I will get free work out of you. You, Yakov, are trying to trick me into offering free, cheap labor only to lure me into a situation that I will end up paying you a fortune for your work. Lavan felt that anything that is given for free as a gift will end up costing him a lot later. Lavan says to Yakov, “You are flattering me that you are willing to work for free so that later you will ask for a great favor.  You are expecting to receive so much more than I can afford. Yakov answers, stating simply, “I only came to marry your daughters and I don’t want or need anything else.”

In Bereishis 31:7 the Torah states: Va’Avichen Heisel Bi V’Hechelif Es Maskurti Aseres Monim, V’Lo N’Sano mElokim L’Hora Imadi”. Yakov said to his wives: “Your father swindled me and changed his mind about my pay at least ten times, but God would not let him harm me.” Later in 31:41 Yakov again mentions in speaking to Lavan ‘you changed my wages ten times!” Hashem protected Yakov and through the miracle of breeding the speckled, ringed and spotted animals was able to become a very wealthy man despite Lavan’s attempts to keep it all for himself.  

I’m would be comfortable to say that Yakov’s experience with his father-in-law Lavan was a great challenge. Nevertheless, a person with Yakov’s character and trust in Hashem would lead one to believe that he got the best price for his situation. The more emunah/faith and bitachon/trust in Hashem we develop within ourselves, the more our stress levels regarding all difficult situations will be reduced.

Ah Gut Shabbos           Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Parshas Toldos - Stepping into the Cold                 2 Kislev 5777

12/01/2016 10:54:42 PM

Dec1

This Dvar Torah is L’Ilui Nismas Michoel Yehoshua Ben Reuvain Z”L  Mr. Michael Emanuel

As we are leave the months of November and Cheshvan, the weather is beginning to change. Even here in San Diego we are feeling the beginning of fall and the prelude to winter. As the temperature dips into the low fifties and even into the high forties, I begin to feel a chill in the late night and early morning. Just as in the heat of the summer when I turn on the air conditioning in the late afternoon to cool off the house, so, too, I now put on the heat during  the early hours to take out the nip of the chilly morning air.

I recall the winter days as a youngster growing up in New York. We would place our clothing on the radiators to warm them up so that we could get dressed and not be so cold. The other alternative was getting dressed in bed under the covers and keeping warm until we had to get up to go to school. Do I miss those days? Not really, but there is still one memory that I have of the cold that affects me to this very day. I believe everyone can relate to this memory regardless of the climate in which you grew up. . Taking a hot shower early in the morning on a cold day is so warming. It really takes the chill out.  As you stand under the steady stream of hot water, your body becomes thoroughly warm. The only challenge is shutting off the water.  As soon as the water was turned off, frigid reality set in.  Stepping out of the shower sets off big time chill – a contrast I can still feel. and shut off the water. As the water stops and you step out of the shower we are thrown into a It takes a few moments to adjust from the soothing warm water to the chilly air. As a child, I remember my mother quickly wrapping us up in towels from head to toe. And now, as adults we cover ourselves up as quickly as we can. Despite the initial discomfort, we feel great after being in a confined area with warm water all around us. Those who take baths share the same feelings (perhaps even in a more significant way) of being immersed and then having to leave that safe comfort zone.

This is a scenario that we all go through at some stage in our life. One morning, as this scene was taking place, I contemplated the feeling and impact of life. Yes -  life. I realized why we feel so good when we are under the water and so challenged when we leave. The reason for this is similar to something every single human being goes through one time in life: the process of being born. Every child in the womb is comfortably surrounded and immersed in warm water. Almost instantaneously the baby is forced out of the warm, quiet, dark, peaceful surroundings and is thrust into the outside world. A place that is cold, loud, bright, and full of confusion and chaos. I think the greater the quality and care the fetus receives while in the womb becomes a later reflection of what type of life and challenges  will be met throughout life. This concept is part of creation and God’s ultimate design. We see it very clearly in the Torah as well.

In this week’s parshas Toldos we read of the conception of Yakov and Esaiv and the ensuing life they shared in very close and tight quarters in their mother Rivka’s womb. The Torah states in Bereishis 25:25 “VaYeitzay HaRisgon Admoni Kulo K’Aderes Sei’ar Vayikr’u Shmo Eisav”. “The first one came out reddish, as hairy as a fur coat. They named him Esau”. The Sochatchover Rebbe in his sefer *Shem Mishmuel homiletically explains Eisav’s name to mean ‘Asu’ complete. The letters of his name and the Hebrew word for complete are identical, describing Eisav as being born complete some say like an adult. But it is difficult to comprehend that Eisav was like an adult in the physical sense. Rather, he Eisav was like an adult because he was set in his ways;  his mold had already hardened, not allowing him to grow spiritually. The description of Eisav is of a person who has no need to work hard and raise himself up from one level to the next. This was the essence of Eisav and what he stood for. Yakov, on the other hand, has a different explanation as to why he was given his name. The Passuk 25:26 states: “V’Acharei Chen Yatzah Achiv, V’Yado Ochezes Ba’Akeiv Eisav, Vayikra Shmo Yaakov. V’Yitzchok Ben Shishim Shana B’Ledes Osam”. “His brother then emerged, and his hand was grasping Eisav’s heel. Yitzchk named him Yakov - Jacob. Yitzchok was sixty years old when Rivka gave birth to them.” The name “Yakov” is derived from the word Eikev, which means heel. The heel is the lowest part of the human body, representing humility. The heel is considered small and insignificant by itself, as if someone who has yet to reach any of his potential. Indeed, every day and every time he needs to search, to  seek out different ways to grow and improve. Every day this type of person begins anew - from scratch - from the bottom up. Each day is a new day. The growth of one day into the next isn’t taken for granted; it’s begun again from the bottom, both physically and spiritually. Such a person does not look back at yesterday’s accomplishments feeling satisfied and complete; he strives continuously to reach new plateaus, always striving to rise to the next level. Yakov is the individual to emulate as a ‘work in progress’ type of individual, never letting up or stopping. Yakov did not emerge into this world complete but rather emerged to become completed.

Yakov teaches us, his children, that the most important goal in life is to keep on striving and to continuously grow in Yiras Shamayim (fear or awe of Heaven) and as a human being. In order to grow we need to leave the comfort zone and face the cold world by bringing some of the warmth that we were wrapped up in and share it with the world.

Ah Gut Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

*Shem Mishmuel  is the name of a nine-volume collection of homiletical teachings on the Torah and Jewish holidays delivered by Rabbi Shmuel Bornsztain, the second Sochatchover Rebbe, between the years 1910-1926. A major work in Hasidic thought, it synthesizes the Hasidism of Pshischa and Kotzk in the style of Sochatchov, and is frequently cited in Torah shiurim (lectures) and articles to this day

Parshas Chayei Sorah - Shabbat Chevron       24 Cheshvan 5777

11/25/2016 12:29:54 PM

Nov25

Despite  post-election confusion, fears and uncertainty, raging fires, Thanksgiving, and anti-Semitism, the city of Chevron is on the mind of Jews throughout the world. It will be remembered that this Shabbos corresponds with the reading of the Torah passages which relate to Avraham’s burial of Sorah at the Cave of Machpela, located in Chevron. Every year, on this Shabbos when these pesukim are read, Jews from around the country go to Chevron in commemoration of this event. Chevron will see thousands of visitors this Shabbos. Unfortunately, however, Chevron won’t be the only city with Jews flocking to it this year.

From time to time I write about Eretz Yisrael and its ongoing challenges with the Arabs and their incessant desire to destroy us. Every few years a new wave of terror and a new kind of terrorism attacks Israel. As we Jews in America are enjoying a long week-end vacation in excess of 80,000 Jews in Haifa alone continue to be evacuated from their homes as raging, fires – caused by a lethal combination of open admission of terrorist-inspired arson compounded by unfortunate strong winds -  continue to burn across Israel, coming too close to many communities while simultaneously scorching huge swaths of Israel.

The adage that ‘time heals all’ isn’t all that true. Rather, with the passing of time we tend to forget how bad things were. No matter what kind of uncertainty a person or nation faces with the passing of time, circumstance become clearer and fears - in most cases - are calmed. Here in America by and large post-election issues are hopefully becoming clearer in the minds of those who initially expressed fear. One major issue, however, in my opinion, is the opening of a new wave of anti-Semitism on a political level on both sides of the aisle. (I will address this in greater detail in a future message). The State and entire Land of Israel is once again fighting terrorism, and I am confident that with the help of the Almighty this too shall pass. Unfortunately, in life and even in wars that are won, many people are hurt and die. Such is true with the ongoing battle of terrorism; we will win but there will be a cost.

Very few people, in fact, very few nations, have the resilience of the Jews -  especially those of us who live in Eretz Yisrael.  It is really a wonder how, after thousands of years of being displaced and exiled from Israel (at least now in the spiritual sense),  we remain deeply attached to the Land. We have been divided as a people, spread out to the four corners of the earth, and yet there remains the indomitable spirit of our identity, our open contributions to all of humankind, our love for Eretz Yisroel in our hearts. This spirit gives us strength to be successful in every country to which we were exiled. In the natural way of life, any other nation would have blended into its new society and forgotten about where they came from, but not us. With all that has transpired over the centuries, we continue to be pulled and deeply connected to Eretz Yisrael. Where do we get this love, desire and national stamina to keep on going, to continue to hope and dream of returning to our homeland? I believe an answer to this question is buried in a passuk in the Torah.

In this week’s Parsha Chayei Sorah 24:6 the Torah states: “VaYomer Eilav Avraham, Hishamer L’Cha Pen Tasshiv Es B’ni Shama. Hashem Elokei HaShamayim Asher l’Kachani MiBeis Auvi U’MeiEretz Molad’ti Va’Asher Diber Li Va’Asher Nishba Li Laymore, L’Zaracha Eten Es HaAretz HaZos Hu Yishlach Malacho L’Fanecha V’Lakachta Isha Livni Misham”. Avraham speaks to Eliezer his servant with regard to finding a wife for Yitzchok. “Be most careful in this respect,” replied Avraham. “Do not bring my son back there! God, the Lord of heaven, took me away from my father’s house and the land of my birth. He spoke to me and made an oath. ‘To your off-spring I will give this land.’ He will send His angel before you, and you will indeed find a wife there for my son. If the girl does not want to come back with you, then you shall be absolved of my oath. But no matter what, do not bring my son back there.”  In examining the wording of these verses Don Isaac Abravanel asks, “Why does Avraham instruct Eliezer not to bring his son Yitzchok ‘back there’?” Yitzchok was never there in the first place! Rather, shouldn’t it  say, “Don’t bring my son there?” 

The Midrash Lekach Tov explains Avraham’s warning to Eliezer his servant in verse six on the word ‘L’cha’: Be careful in this respect of ‘going’ because Hashem told Avraham ‘Lech L’Cha Mei’Artzecha’…. Hashem commanded me to leave that very same place and come to the land of Canaan. Avraham did not did not want to allow Yitzchok to leave or to be taken out of Eretz Yisrael. Despite the fact Avraham knew his children will eventually be exiled, he nevertheless insisted that Yitzchok remain to establish and solidify the Jewish people to be connected to the land.  Yitzchok had been instilled with a great level of sanctity that would sustain and strengthen the people and their commitment to the Land of Israel for the future. The Zohar adds that Avraham wanted Yitzchok to remain with him and not the people there so as to learn from Avraham the ways of Hashem and Torah.

It was critical for Yitzchok to stay in Eretz Yisrael and through him the love and desire of the Eretz Yisrael would be transmitted to Klal Yisroel despite the fact future generations would be forced to leave Israel. This is indicated by the words ‘rak’/only two pesukim later in verse eight. The gemara learns out and derives a halachik principle, stating the word ‘rak’ is a MI ‘UT, meaning a limitation to what was previously learned. This implies that only Yitzchok would remain;  his son Yaakov would eventually run away, actually back to the old family in the exile.

Therefore, in the absence of Yitzchok going with Eliezer, Avraham promises him that Hashem will send an angel so as to assure that Yitzchok need not leave. There are many excuses and rationalizations (some good some bad) to leave Eretz Yisrael when the need arises. Nevertheless, Avraham’s trust in God that He will send an angel to help and allow Yitzchok to remain is the timeless pull we feel within ourselves. We hope and pray that HaKadosh Baruch Hu sends the angels again to protect Eretz Yisrael and our brethren now and in the future. I  suggest that through the mesiras nefesh the Jews are now enduring through this latest terror, God will send the angels  - just as He did for our forefather Isaac,  allowing him to remain in Israel - to all of us to remain as well. The Jewish people should only travel away from their homes on their terms to pray and be by the Meoras HaMachpeila,  not to be forced to flee  due to terror. May Hashem send a full and speedy resolve for Acheinu Kol B’nei Eretz Yisrael.

Ah Gut Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Parshas Vayera - Religious Phobias                  16 Cheshvan 5777

11/18/2016 09:19:02 AM

Nov18

A Phobia is an extreme or irrational fear of or aversion to something such as fear of water, fear of heights, fear of crowds of people, and so forth. Judaism has its own phobias, specifically with regard to spiritual matters. Perhaps a more specific example is a phobia borne out of halachik issues. I will mention two examples; if you have any others, please feel free to share them with me. There are two situations that are heard by many people: the first is they don’t want to be ‘fleishig’.  Someone who has eaten meat is not permitted to eat dairy for a period of time depending upon his particular custom of waiting anywhere from three to six hours. The second religious related phobia is ‘bentching’. Some people are averse to eating bread or food that requires washing and the need to recite Birkas HaMazone, the Grace after meals.

A sure sign of this food-choice phobia is based upon the often-asked question, “How many slices of pizza can I eat without having to wash/bentch?”  Another telltale question is, “Are the tortilla ingredients made from corn or wheat?  Which would require washing/bentching?” Then there are those people who are on different kinds of diets, specifically a low or no carb diet, who ask if they are obligated to wash and eat bread on Shabbos or Yom Tov. In all fairness to the bad rap that bentching gets, we should seriously review whether it is deserved or not. There is a fair evaluation of a situation of whether or not to wash, dependent upon if there is water readily available and a proper cup to wash with. But in halacha, even if a person does not wash, he still must say the Birkas HaMazone if bread was eaten. Now if we consider the time it takes to say the Birkas HaMazone the Bentching, it probably takes at most three minutes - reading slowly - and most people probably say it in half that time.

This halacha/teaching of the requirement to say Birkas HaMazone excludes the challenge of Rabbi Eliezer ben Samuel of Metz. Rebbi Eliezer, who died in 1175 ,was a Tosafist and the author of the halachik work Sefer Yereim which was published in Vilna in 1892. The Meshech Chochmah on this passuk in Bereishis 18:5 quotes the Yereim. He bases his opinion (which we do not follow) that if a person only eats but does not drink during the meal, he is not obligated to say the Bentching. He uses this logic to show why Avraham only gave the angels bread to eat, and their hearts were satisfied and were immediately able to get up and go without the need to bless afterward since there is no mention of drinking in the verse. 

The fact that there is such a notion of a seudas Mitzva, a mitzva meal that hints to us that the concept of washing, eating bread, and bentching can’t be all bad. To the contrary we find in this week’s parsha the importance of bread and bentching. In Bereishis 18:5 the Torah states “V’Ekcha Pas Lechem V’Saadu Libchem Achar TaAvoru Ki Al Kein Avartem Al Avdchem, VaYomru Kein TaAseh Ka’Asher Dibarta”. “I will get a morsel of bread for you to refresh yourselves, then you can continue on your way. After all, you are passing by my house. “All right,” they replied, ”Do as you say.”

The author of the sefer asarah mamaros, Reb Menachem Azarya MiPano, writes that the Neshama Yeseira (extra soul) that comes to a person on Shabbos benefits greatly from Birkas HaMazone, the Grace after Meals. This is a ‘new Mitzva’ that does not take place in the upper spheres. The ordinary or regular Neshama/soul is given to a person his entire life. That soul is constantly involved and intertwined with the Guf/body in every aspect -  both physical and spiritual. In contrast, the extra soul that we are given on Shabbos has a limited capacity on Shabbos alone. The Neshama Yeseira  on Shabbos does not have a physical partnership with the body; it is rather like a spiritual angel. As a result it benefits exclusively from Mitzvos performed on Shabbos and particularly from the Mitzva of Bentching.   

With this we can understand a certain phrase in the Zemer Kol M’Kadesh Shvii sung on Friday night. Reb Zvi Elimelech Shapira, in his sefer Igra D’Kala on Parshas Vayera, explains further the benefit of Birkas HaMazone. At the end of the piyut (poem) it states: ‘Soadim Bo L’Vareich Shalosh P’Amim’ -  ‘and feast three times on it in order to bless you’. The word ‘soadim,’ translated as feast, connotes an idea of being satisfied with ‘it', the ‘it’ being the bread that creates the meal. One might think that the word and language ‘in order to bless’ is superfluous with regard to the physical sense.. It is the meal and the washing over bread and the Birkat HaMazone that gives one an opportunity for the blessing to take hold of something, namely the meal. The primary goal and purpose of the meal is for the extra soul to receive additional spirituality. Sometimes spirituality comes from physical things if we elevate those things  for a higher cause. Reaching a higher spiritual plain from something physical is a greater challenge, particularly when it comes from food. On Shabbos, though, the meal itself brings a higher level of kedusha/holiness that nourishes the neshama yeseira.  

Whether the phobias are physical or spiritual, we need to overcome them. People should seek out help to overcome their phobias. We all should overcome physical phobias such as going into water,  journeying up to a high point  to see a beautiful scene or being part of a large gathering of people, If the phobias are spiritual – not wanting to be fleishig or not wanting to wash -  we are depriving ourselves of greater spirituality and nourishment to our weekday soul and on Shabbos to our Neshama Yeseira. 

Ah Gut Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

 

*Menahem Azariah da Fano (also called Immanuel da Fano, and Rema MiPano) (1548 – 1620) was an Italian Rabbi, Talmudist, and Kabbalist.

Menachem Azariah de Fano was a disciple of Rabbi Moshe Ben Yakov Cordovero, to whose widow he offered 1,000 sequins for her husband's manuscripts. Even as a youth Fano had some reputation for learning, as is shown by the fact that Moses Cordovero (d. 1570) sent him a copy of his Pardes Rimmonim. Fano was a patron of learning. When Rabbi Yoseif Caro, shortly before his death in 1575, sent Kesef Mishneh, his commentary on Maimonidies' Yad ha-Ḥazaḳah, to Mantua for publication, Fano, at the suggestion of Dei Rossi, assumed part of the expense and took charge of the edition.

According to a report of Immanuel Aboab, Fano lived for some time in Reggio Emilia. Numerous pupils flocked to him from Italy and Germany, and he was held in general respect for his learning and character.

Fano's authority as a Talmudist is evident in a collection of responsa ("She'elot Teshubot me-Rabbi Menaḥem 'Azaryah," Dyhernfurth, 1788) containing 130 chapters on various subjects connected with religious law and ritual questions. They are distinguished by precision of style as well as by the author's independence of the later authorities. At times, he even decides in opposition to Joseph Caro (e.g., No. 32), and holds changes in the ritual to be justifiable in certain cases (see, e.g., No. 25).

**Igra D'Kala, on the Torah, Parts 1-2, by Rebbe Zvi Elimelech Shapira of Dynów, author of Bnei Yissaschar. Lemberg, 1868. First edition. With approbations of Rebbe Chaim of Sanz, who writes, "The greatness and piety and holiness of the Rabbi, the author, is known and famous throughout the world…and who will not be enlightened by his holy works which have already been published… and many have traversed in their light. 

Parshas Lech L'cha - It's Time to Exit                  9 Cheshvan 5777

11/09/2016 04:05:24 PM

Nov9

While driving through the streets and cities of America, it’s interesting to try to match the names of the cities to the religious and social orientation of the area. I am always amused when I see biblical names of towns and cities such as Bethlehem, Jericho, Dothan, Beth-El, Goshen, Hebron, Lebanon, and even Jerusalem. A Jew can almost feel as though he is  in Israel even when in the diaspora!  Perhaps there is a subconscious reasoning behind the names we see in the United States as a small reminder of the original cities in Eretz Yisrael. It may not be so far-fetched to reason that these names were chosen for the benefit of Jews, strangers in a foreign land, to help us remember our roots.

Interestingly, as I drove in Israel this past summer, I took note of a sign on the road near Ben Gurion airport that read: “No exit from Kibbutz Galuyot”. Many are familiar with the concept of a ‘kibbutz’ as a type or style of communal living. Kibbutz Galuyot, loosely translated, means the ‘Gathering of Israel’ or the ‘Ingathering of the Exiles’, also known as Ingathering of the Jewish Diaspora. It is the biblical promise of Devarim 30:1-5 given by Moshe to the Bnei Yisrael prior to their entrance into the land of Israel. He foresaw that the people of Israel would sin in their new land and would therefore be exiled. However, he also foresaw the people's return to their homeland. During the days of the Babylonian exile, writings of the prophets Yeshayahu and Yechezkel encouraged the people of Israel with a promise of a future gathering of the exiles returning to the land of Israel. The continual hope for a return of the Israelite exiles to the land has been in the hearts of Jews  since the destruction of the Second Temple. The Jewish people have been in golus/exile for more years than we want to think about. This two-thousand-year exile was not the first.  Chazal teach that there are four Galuyot the Jews will endure Babylonian, Persian – Purim - the threat of our annihilation, Greek - Chanukah, and Roman which continues to this very day. Prior to the Jews living in Eretz Yisrael an exile was foretold by Hashem to Avraham Avinu that his children would be exiled.

The road sign “No exit from Kibbutz Galuyos” is letting the driver know that from this vantage point it will not be possible  to get to the kibbutz. A slightly different spin on the wording of the sign can be viewed not only as the kibbutz itself but rather that there is no escape from the ingathering of the exiles. In the tenth benediction, we ask that God “sound the great shofar” and “raise the banner” to gather the exiled Jews from around the globe and to return all of us to the land of Israel. The use of the shofar and the banner to signal the return of those exiled are themes in the Navi Yeshayahu 27:13 and 11:12, respectively.

We ask that God gather our dispersed from the “four corners of the Earth” –another quote from Yishayahu 11:12. Israel is the place towards which we would have Him gather us. The Midrash Tanchuma describes Israel as the center of the world. Furthermore, Jerusalem is in the center of Israel, the Temple is in the center of Jerusalem, and the Holy of Holies containing the Ark is in the center of the Temple. Accordingly, the focal point of the “four corners of the Earth” is not only our land, but ultimately the location of our Temple, the site of our service to God. No matter where a Jew will be, when Moshiach comes we cannot exit out of the system that will bring all Jews back to Israel.

There is a famous debate with regard to understanding a law based upon a verse in this week’s parsha that alludes to a different understanding of where the diaspora boundaries are to be determined.

In this week’s Parsha Lech L’cha the Torah states in Bereishis 15:13: “Vayomer L’Avram Yadoa Teidah Ki Ger Yihyeh Zaracha B’Eretz Lo Lahem, Va’Avadoom V’Inu Osam Arba Meos Shana”. “And God said to Avram, know for sure that your descendants will be foreigners in a land that is not theirs for 400 years”. The land that Hashem told Avraham about his descendants being slaves was the land of Egypt. There is a law or a Mitzva prohibiting a Jew to live in Egypt. A person is permitted to tour and vacation in Mitzrayim but is forbidden to move there permanently.  The Rambam Maimonidies in Hilchos Melachim 5:7 states: “it is permitted for a Jew to dwell/live any place in the world except for the land of Egypt”. Following this law, Hilchos Melachim  5:8 it states: “it is permitted to return to Egypt for business and trade, but one is not permitted to remain there. Maimonidies continues, stating: “it appears to me that if a Jewish king conquered the land of Egypt through the direction of the high court, then we would be permitted to live in Egypt.” The Rogatchavor, Rov Yosef Rosen asks what is the novella in that. Isn’t it true that any land a king of Israel conquers through the order of the Beis Din has the same status as Eretz Yisrael proper? The same law applies to the expanding of the borders and annexing land that borders Israel.  Those lands would also become part of Eretz Yisrael itself.  Therefore, in the case of conquering Egypt, it should be permissible to live there because it is no longer considered Egypt but rather now would be part of Eretz Yisrael!

From here the Rogatchover proves that Egypt will never be sanctified with the sanctity and kedusha of Eretz Yisrael, rather the Jewish people are permitted to dwell there when captured. Rav Avrohom Kook in his sefer Mishpat Tzedek disagrees and maintains that under those circumstances even Egypt would be infused with the Kedusha/holiness of Israel if conquered according to Jewish law. Rav Kook says this is the novella of the Rambam. The Rogatchover explains the law of the Rambam differently based upon our verse here in Lech L’cha.  When the passuk states “Ki Ger Yihyeh Zaracha B’Eretz Lo Lahem” -  “that your descendants will be foreigners in a land that is not theirs” has double-worded language. The word ‘ger’ means a foreigner, so is  ‘in a land that is not theirs’ repetitive? “Rather,” he explains that the repetition of the concept teaches us the following: Hashem is telling Avraham that the Jews will be foreigners in a land that will never become theirs. Even if we capture and conquer the land according to Jewish law,  the land will never be incorporated into the land of Eretz Yisrael.

The previous discussion is about the first time the Jewish people had to leave Canaan and end up exiled in Egypt. Hashem tells Avraham we would have to endure this for a time that according to Chazal was cut down from 400 to 210 years. Today we are in the last and the longest of the exiles in Jewish history. We have certainly paid our due, let us all hope and pray that Moshiach is on his way and we will all return speedily in our day.

Ah Gut Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Parshas Noach - Cut Your Losses & Start Again     3 Cheshvan 5777

11/04/2016 01:03:24 PM

Nov4

Everyone needs to have a schedule or a routine and even though most of us would prefer to break the routine every now and then, most people accomplish far more by sticking to an organized daily plan. Schedules and routines come in all shapes and sizes, ranging from following a daily diet  to studying, to  exercising, organizing work, and even planning vacations. Maintaining a schedule or routine is a major key to success. Unfortunately, this is all well and good until we go ‘off’ schedule and break the routine. Invariably, everybody will ‘go off’ at some point, perhaps due to unexpected events or emergencies, or just because we can experience ‘burn-out’ which may require a change in routine.   I tend to falter from the former reason;  my usual schedule and daily routine break down during the Jewish holiday season. For me, it is essential to get back to the routine as soon as possible, but easier said than done.  

Truth be told there are at least two types of routines that each of us maintain: the private one and the communal one. Getting back on the public schedule - such as going to work - is a bit easier because most of us have no choice.  At least for me I find the private routines such as personal dieting or necessary projects to be more challenging to return to. We often have a dilemma when we fall behind on something; do we skip to where we are supposed to be or do we choose to just continue where we left off and try to eventually catch up?  A perfect example of this is Daf Yomi or any daily learning; when you fall behind do you skip and try to come back to it later or just trudge on from the current Daf? My nature is just to plow forward and try to gain ground slowly, eventually catching up. The answer, in my opinion, depends upon how far behind you are and then evaluate or assess whether it is even possible to catch up.  This varies from person to person and from subject to subject. I find that I need to keep on going without skipping for fear that I will never go back to the area I skipped over. Perhaps others, especially if they are very disciplined and organized, feel more confident, knowing   that they will return to the portion they skipped and would rather skip now and resume the schedule they had previously maintained. Of course, if a project is eminently due, it is mandatory that you must stick with that particular project. Otherwise, without anything pressing, it is preferred and recommended by many that you skip over the missed material in order to be current with the group or your own creative schedule. Personally, I have a stubborn personality and therefore it’s difficult for me to skip. I tend to force myself to march along, and at times fall way behind, never able to catch up. I would like to suggest that the Torah in Parshas Noach recommends skipping when we are behind and come back to skipped-over material later.  

Noach, his wife, and his children were the only people in the history of the world to see the world before the flood, during the flood, and after the flood. They lived through three different ‘worlds’, witnessing changes in the world from before, during and after the flood. After the Mabul/Flood the world was not as spiritual as it had originally been from the time of Adam and Gan Eden.  Noach met Adam HaRishon and probably heard about the paradise of Gan Eden where Adam and Chava once lived. Now, as Noah exits the ark he enters a new world, a world that is different from the original world which existed before the flood. He even waits until Hashem commands him to leave the ark, perhaps feeling the difference in this new world. Noach, being the new ‘first family’ of the world, attempted to bring the world back to the time of the very first days of creation. Nevertheless, the world was different. Noach had go back to work, just as  Adam had to after he was kicked out of Gan Eden. The Torah states in Bereishis 9:20-21 “Vayachel Noach Ish Ha’Adama Viyata Kerem. Vayeisht Min HaYayin, Vayishkar VaYisgal B’Soch Ohalo”. “And Noach began his career as a man of the earth and planted a vineyard.  He drank from the wine and became intoxicated, and uncovered himself in his tent.” This sounds like a very average man of the earth and not a person who was seeking spirituality. What went wrong?

Noach’s life and schedule was interrupted, but he felt compelled to try to return, to pick up where he left off instead of starting fresh.  He should have just adjusted to his new environment, working to create a new life despite the strange differences of life as he saw it compared to life  pre-flood. But there was something that made him think to go back, to try to return to the way the world was before the flood. The *Targum Yonason Ben Uziel explains the previously- cited verse ‘V’Ashkach Gufna D’Moshchei Nahara Min Ginunisa D’Eiden’ “And Noach began to become an individual working the land, and he found a vine that emanated from a river that flowed from Eden. And he planted his vineyard, and on that same day it blossomed and produced ripe grapes and he squeezed them yielding wine.” Finding a vine in a river that came from Gan Eiden, the original place where Adam had come from, was taken as a sign (perhaps from Heaven) that he should try to bring the world back to that place and time. It is conceivable that he was correct, but unfortunately he also sinned with some fruit,  got drunk and blew the opportunity for the world, in short, he behaved as Adam had behaved.

Hashem created the world to continue forward in a physical way while trying to bring back the spiritual life that existed previously. Every one of us is a Noach and an Adam.  We must continuously seek out ways to get the world back to its pristine state of paradise. This can be accomplished by looking at the spirituality and reinforcing it, avoiding the same mistakes that we make over and over again.

Ah Gut Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

 

*Yonasan ben Uzziel was one of the 80 tannaim who studied under Hillel the Elder during the time of Roman occupied Judea. He is the author of Targum Jonathan and a book of kabbalah known as Megadnim.

Yonasan ben Uzziel is mentioned in the Gemara Sukkah 28a.

According to Zev Vilnai, Rabbi Shmuel ben Shimshon wrote about the tomb in 1210: "There is a large tree next to it, and the Ishmaelites [Arabs] bring oil and light a candle in his honor and make vows in his honor." An illustration of Yonasan ben Uzziel's tomb appears in "Ancestry of fathers and prophet, a book printed in 1537.

The tomb of ben Uzziel is located in AmukaGalilee near SafedIsrael. It is customary to visit ben Uzziel's tomb on Rosh Chodesh, the first day of the lunar month, and on 26 Sivan (the day on which he died, although visitors arrive all year round. A practice that began in the 17th century was to pray at the gravesite for a good marriage partner, for children, satisfaction from one's children, a good livelihood, health and happiness. Many unmarried men and women pray there for a match. Doing so is considered a segula (propitious remedy) for finding one’s mate within the coming year.

Parshas Bereishis - The Rhetorical Question    26 Tishrei 5777

11/01/2016 04:42:21 PM

Nov1

Often in life a person’s strength can also be his weakness, and his weakness can be a strength. Take for example the trait of humility. When exercised in situations that require a person to be humble, it is a strength. On the other hand, if the situation calls for boldness then humility might be out of place. The midos/character traits of an individual are not the only things in life that can be both positive and negative, depending upon the situation. There are countless ways we think, communicate, share and express ourselves, frequently illustrating this dichotomy. I, like everyone else, have a few areas of strength which can, at times, be considered a fault.

One of the few criticisms my wife gives me is how I try to access information from our children. When I wand to learn if they’d  done something either good or bad, I tend to pose the question  in a quizzical or indirect way. Sometimes the way I ask the question goes right over their heads, causing them not to provide me with the answer I was looking for. For example, if I wanted to know what they learned in school I would ask, “So what did I get for my paying tuition today?” They wouldn’t know how to respond, I grew frustrated and everyone got upset. My wife said to me, “Be direct; don’t ask ambiguous questions. If you want to know the answer, ask them straight out what they learned in school that day.” In my mind, I was using a Talmudic exercise and method by which asking something one way can solicit more information than the actual question was seeking. Through my question I hoped they would understand that school wasn’t free;  I am paying for their education, so I want to know that I’m getting my money’s worth. My wife, on the other hand, felt it necessary to split the question from other anticipated answers and  to be open and direct.  To get  straight to the point. I know my wife and I disagree, but I think the disagreements are borne out of her thinking in a practical manner and I from more of a philosophical one. Not that I am saying my wife is wrong, but I think the Torah and Hashem at times also choose to use indirect questioning as opposed to direct questioning.

In this past week’s Parshas Bereishis the Torah in at least three instances uses a line of questioning that Hashem, who is asking the questions, surely knows the answers. After Adam and Chava (Eve) sin by eating the forbidden fruit, God, in Bereishis 3:9, states: “Vayikra Hashem Elokim El Ha’Adam Vayomer Lo, Ayekah?” “God called to the man, and He said, ‘Where are you?’” A few verses later - 3:11 - the passuk states: “Vayomer Mi Higid L’chja Ki Eirome Ata, HaMin HaEitz Asher Tzivisicha L’ViltiAchol Mimenu Achalta?” “God asked, ‘Who told you that you are naked? Did you eat from the tree from which I commanded you not to eat?’ ” We all know that Hashem knew where Adam and Chava were, and we also understand that God knew Adam and Chava did indeed eat from the forbidden fruit.  A third case in point in this parsha is after Kayin  (Cain)kills Hevel (Abel). Hashem comes to Kayin in Bereishis 4:9 and states: “Vayomer Hashem El Kayin, Ay Hevel Achicha?” “God asked Kayin, ‘Where is your brother Hevel?’ ” Once again we don’t doubt the fact God knew that Cain killed Able his brother. If so, why does Hashem ask  the rhetorical questions about the whereabouts of Adam and Chava (Eve) and ask Kayin (Cain) where his brother Hevel (Abel) was?

The commentary Meam Loez explains that even though Hashem knew where to find Adam and Chava He felt it necessary to engage in some innocent talk after seeing the fall of Adam due to his sin. The Torah, ultimately Hashem, is teaching us some simple Derech Eretz: if a person sees an individual do one sin and the sinner recognized his sin, then you should not yell at the sinner at that moment. Perhaps, if we are too harsh on the sinner at that moment, he will not be able to withstand the pain. Therefore, it is appropriate to wait a while, giving the  rebuke a little later.

A second reason is brought down in the Midrash Rabbah, quoting a Midrash Tanchuma in Tazria. The reason Hashem ‘called out’ to Adam was to speak with him in a non-threatening way, hoping, perhaps that the sinner would express regret  and repent. Two names of God are used in this verse: Hashem and Elokim - one representing mercy, the other judgment. The name ‘Hashem’, displaying God as merciful, was used first . G-d pleaded with Adam:  ”Ayeka”  ”Where are you?” ”Come back and do teshuva.”

A third reason for  rhetorical questioning is supplied by Rashi as he includes the approach to Kayin (Cain) also for the sake of Derech Eretz, mentioned in Derech Eretz Zuta 91: A person should not burst into his friend’s home suddenly. He should not startle his friend. Every man should learn this form of Derech Eretz from Hashem.  He stood at the entrance of Gan Eden and called out to Adam.

In these three instances (and I’m sure we can find more) the rhetorical question, Hashem intentionally asking a question which He the answer to was an open act of  kindness and Chessed and from the earliest times of this world  Hashem is engaged in teaching and instructing us how to do a kindness, how to extend ourselves to someone who has stumbled. 

The next time you find yourself asking a rhetorical or obvious question, make sure there is a purpose in asking it in that way. Whether it is posed to a child, an older student, a teacher, a co-worker, a colleague or even to your Rabbi, make sure it doesn’t sound supercilious, presented without apparent reason. The rhetorical question is a question that shows some love and care for another individual. Your purpose is  to help bring out the best in that individual. The rhetorical question isn’t actually being addressed  to the person you are speaking with; it is, in fact being addressed  to you, the questioner, by asking yourself what you are trying to accomplish through asking this question.  If you are not sincerely trying to help, then you would be better off  skipping the rhetoric and asking the question directly. Let us keep in mind that Hashem, being merciful, posed the question with derech eretz.  Therefore, shouldn’t we, wanting to bring out the best in another individual, also always question with chessed and derech eretz? 

Ah Gut Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Parshas Vayeilech - The Master Key                     5 Tishrei 5777

10/07/2016 01:27:03 PM

Oct7

This Dvar Torah is L’Ilui Nishmas Eliezer Ben Avraham a”h, in memory of Mr. Larry Greenbaum

Throughout history communication has evolved and changed in tandem with society, culture, and vagaries of life. . As we know, speech is a major form of communication, and one outgrowth of speech is the ever-evolving use of slang. Most words have multiple meanings, depending upon context – sometimes connoting positive and good, while at other times conveying meanings which are negative and evil. Two weeks ago my wife discovered that her car was ‘keyed’. ‘Keyed’ in this context, in my opinion, is an act which earns the person who has done this reserved spot in the seventh level of Gehinom. It is the ultimate, senseless act of destruction and malice that a ‘human being’ can commit. A person just takes a key and scratches the length of the side of a car or a portion of it just for the heck of it. When a person sees his car was keyed it’s as if the offender has scratched out the skin of the person. To add insult to injury, these hoodlums never ‘key’ an, old beat-up car - only a nice new one.

Usually the usage of the word ‘key’ is positive. The Hebrew word for ‘key’ is ‘Mafteiach’ , meaning the thing with which one opens an object, idea, or opportunity. A key or Mafteiach opens locks, doors, opportunities, and is the word used for an index and many other things as well. The ‘Key’ is used in many ways to define and describe something. Here is a list of some of the times we use the word ‘key’:

  1. A metal instrument by which the bolt of a lock is turned
  1.  A means of gaining or preventing entrance, possession, or control
  2.  Something that gives an explanation or identification or provides a solution the key to a riddle an aid to interpretation or identification
  3. One of the levers of a keyboard musical instrument that actuates the mechanism and produces the tones or a part to be depressed by a finger that serves;  one unit of a keyboard
  4. A system of tones and harmonies generated from a hierarchical scale of seven tones based on a tonic such as the key of G major
  5. The tone or pitch of a voice and the predominant tone of a photograph with respect to its lightness or darkness
  6. A small switch for opening or closing an electric circuit, i.e. a telegraph key
  7. The set of instructions governing the decipherment of messages
  8. A free-throw area in basketball

In classical Jewish thought we view keys as the entrance way to places and things we need. The Gemara Taanis 2a states: "R' Yochanan said: Three keys the Holy One blessed be He has retained in His own hands and not entrusted to the hand of any messenger: the Key of Rain, the Key of Childbirth, and the Key of the Revival of the Dead". The three keys mentioned here by the sages are all tied to the source of existence. Through them God "touches" our world at three central stations in life - inception, being, and resurrection.

We can infer from Reb Yochanan’s statement that there are other keys that are entrusted to the hands of many messengers. Perhaps we can suggest the key of health, sustenance, and livelihood just to name a few. Have you ever asked yourself, “What key am I holding?” Do the keys that I have work anymore, or are they keys that one time worked but do not now because the mechanisms were changed or because there are new locks? I sometimes find old keys which I have not used in many years, yet they could probably still open something up if only I knew what. Sometimes we have the keys, but for some reason they just don’t work. This situation is found in this week’s Parsha Vayeilech.

In Devarim 31:2 the Torah states: “Vayomer Aleihem Ben Meah V’Esrim Shana Anochi HaYom, Lo Uchal Ode Latzeis V’Lavo, VaHashem Amar Eilaiy Lo Sa’Avor Es HaYarden Hazeh”. “He said to them: Today I am 120 years old and I can no longer come and go. God also has told me that I would not cross the Jordan”. *Rav Mordechai Yosef Leiner of Izbica in his sefer Mei HaShiloach explains the words, “I can no longer come and go”. On this day Moshe Rabbeinu reached wholesomeness and truthfulness and God inscribed His name onto Moshe. For as long as a person does not complete himself in this world, he is still able to reach higher limits. At the same time of pursuit, the person runs the risk that Chas V’Shalom he could lose all that he had gained previously. But once a person reaches that level, he can never fall and lose that which has been gained; He cannot reach any higher. Moshe is declaring he reached a certain height and can no longer go lower or even higher. Moshe states that he can’t lose what he gained in this world because Hashem stamped him for all his deeds that he had already acquired. At the same time he can no longer gain any more.

The Aseres Y’Mei Teshuva are days to help us to get all of our keys together, to figure out which keys still work and which keys are no longer needed.  We are in control of many storehouses of blessing. Each of us has the power to control the key to our destiny for this coming year and for the future of our families and Klal Yisrael. May we a make use of our keys to develop ourselves for the good and to be blessed with a year of brachos, health, and nachas.

Ah Gut Shabbos & a Gmar Chasima Tova

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

 

 *(1801-1854) was a rabbinicHasidic thinker and founder of the Izhbitza-Radzyn dynasty of Hasidic Judaism.

Rabbi Mordechai Yosef was born in Tomashov in 1801. His father Reb Yaakov , was the son of Reb Mordechai of Sekul, a descendant of Rabbi Saul Wahl. At the age two Rabbi Yosef became orphaned of his father. He became a disciple of Reb Simcha Bunim of Peshischa where he joined Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Kotzk and Rabbi Yosef of Yartshev; both also born in Tomashov. When Rabbi Menachem Mendel became Rebbe in Kotzk, Reb Mordechai Yosef became his disciple there; then in 1839 he became a rebbe in Tomaszów, moving subsequently to Izbica.

His leading disciple was Rabbi Yehuda Leib Eiger (1816-1888), grandson of Rabbi Akiva Eiger. His students included Rabbi Zadok HaKohen of Lublin (1823–1900), his son, Rabbi Yaakov Leiner (1828–1878) and his grandson RabbiGershon Henoch Leiner of Radzyn. Mordechai Yosef Leiner is buried in an ohel on the Jewish cemetery in Izbica.

Parshas Nitzavim - Don't Get The Run Around, Go Direct!        27 Elul 5776

09/30/2016 09:04:52 AM

Sep30

Many business models preach that customer service is the most important component for success. There was a time when many customer service phone operators asked at the conclusion of the call, ”Did I answer all your questions? Did I resolve all of your issues?” And so forth. I must admit that such ‘closing’ questions make good business sense. On the other hand, however, the operator would have parroted those words whether I were satisfied or not, and even when it was clear that my issue was not resolved.  The fact remains that actually getting to speak to a human customer service operator only occurred after pressing a number of prompts or just repeatedly saying, “operator” until getting  to speak with a live person. In the old days a customer who needed help simply called the company and a genuine living, breathing person actually connected with the caller from the beginning.

Unfortunately, those days when anyone calling for help or advice actually spoke to a human rather than a computer are long gone. My latest experiences have been to go through a series of prompts before finally connecting to an operator by pressing zero. Lately, however when I attempt to press zero the prompt says, ‘I’m sorry.  This is not a recognized option.’ After a few attempts, the system says something to the effect of ‘thank you for calling. Good bye!’. “AGGUHHH!” I yell and stammer into the phone in total frustration. This aggravation and ‘wonderful customer service experience’ has happened to me across the business sectors: airlines, banking, credit cards, you name them.  They’re all run by the same robotic computers! I also experienced a similar issue when trying to contact and actually communicate with someone from their website. Many websites have a ‘contact’ tab to press. I usually go there to retrieve a phone number, but once again I am finding more and more sites that have taken away that customer service phone number. The bottom line is that there is no one to talk to anymore if I have an issue which could so much more easily be addressed by speaking with a human being.  On one hand, the tactics employed by these companies are becoming accepted and are overall seemingly successful. On the other hand, clients, customers, and others are frequently disappointed, frustrated and completely dissatisfied. I predict that in the short term this telephone computerization will help companies build their bottom line profits. In the long run, however, this inability to resolve issues or even to hear what the issues are will lead to the collapse of many companies. The psychology of avoiding direct communication is to try to make a person give up and give in to the company’s way of doing things. Perhaps some readers will disagree with me, arguing that by thinking these companies are too big and strong.  Their way of doing business will be forced upon us and they will succeed. Our feelings of frustration and helplessness are just something we must all learn to deal with. In truth, at the moment I do feel helpless, but eventually even the mightiest that are doing a disservice will fall. In my mind it is customer disservice and dissatisfaction, and that is no way to successfully grow any business.

This attitude of indifference runs totally opposite to that of the Jewish People, particularly with regard to our relationship with God during the month of Elul and while preparing for the Yamim Noraim – the Days of Awe – Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. In our case all forms of communication are open to reach Hashem. This notion is emphasized in this week’s Torah portion. In this week’s Parshas Nitzavim Moshe feeds off of the rebuke from last week’s portion and segues into the reconciliation and reestablishment of the Bris/Covenant the Jewish people had with God on Har Sinai when we received the Torah. In Devarim 30:2 the Torah states: “V’Shavta Ad Hashem Elokecha V’Shamata B’Kolo K’chol Asher Anochi M’Tzavecha Hayom..” -  “You will then return to your God your Lord, and you will obey Him, doing everything that I am commanding you today..” When looking through the Parsha you will find the offer to do Teshuva/return three times. In verse 8 it states V’Ata Tashuv V’Shamata B’Kol Hashem and you will repent and obey God. Then in verse 10 it states: “Ki Tashuv el Hashem Elokecha B’Chol L’Lavicha U’Vchol Nafshecha” -  “And when you return to God your Lord with all your heart and soul.” Interestingly,  the verse also mentions “…with your heart and soul” three times - each time alongside the idea of repentence and return.

 Rav Dov Zev Weinberger, in his sefer Shemen HaTov, explains the levels of Teshuva that actually began in Parshas Ki Savo when Hashem says you will have blessing and curse come upon you. The potential for a blessing lies in the ability to return while the potential for a curse lies in the inability to repent and return. For now, though, we only need the very first step, or level. It only requires us to have an emotional stirring in our hearts, to just open up our conscience to repent.  Once the opening is there, even through the smallest crack in our souls, we will be brought to a level of Teshuva out of love and fear. Therefore, the passuk doesn’t immediately jump out at us and declare that Teshuva reaches all the way to the throne of the Honorable One, for this is only the beginning of the process.

Once we make the effort, once we make the first move, Hashem helps us through the process. As soon as we pick up the phone for customer service, Hashem immediately responds with ‘U’Mal Hashem Elokecha Es L’Vovecha V’Es L’vav Zaarecha’- ‘And Hashem will peel back and open up your heart and the hearts of your offspring. This,  the Be’er Heitiv writes, is an acronym for the month of ELUL. It is one of the reasons we begin the process slowly - by rising early in the morning from the beginning of Elul -  to recite Selichos (according to the Sephardic custom).

One verse later,the Shelah HaKadosh mentions that the matter is close to us in our mouths and in our hearts, and that we are able to do it. This is a reference to three things:  the mouth, the heart and the limbs, all of which are necessary to repent. These three things  - mouth, heart, and limbs in Hebrew are ‘Peh’, ‘Lev’, and Evarim, which the Chasam Sofer writes is a remez, a hint, to the word Peleh -  a wonder! The concept of Teshuva is a remarkable, wondrous gift the Almighty has given to us. In truth, these three parts of our bodies are connected to every part of the Torah in terms of speech, thought, and action. Specifically, regarding repentance, these items are at the top of the list. It all begins with a thought, which will later turn into speech, and ultimately result in action.

To begin, we only need a thought in the right direction; just picking up the phone for some customer service. After the initial act of picking up the phone to dial, we do not have to listen to any prompts or push any buttons. The customer service agent  - L’Havdil the Ribono Shel Olam -takes it from there, leading us through a series of steps that raise our awareness and consciousness, causing us to want to repent on a higher level.  Hashem wants to bring us closer and make it easier, bypassing all of the prompts and going straight to the top. Let’s keep this in mind as we enter the New Year of 5777.

 

Ah Gut Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Parshas Ki Savo - Take The Cell Phone Challenge      19 Elul 5776 

09/21/2016 08:28:07 PM

Sep21

Every week I share an insight into daily life and connect it to the Parsha of the week. Sometimes the message is spiritual,  other times it is educational. I always hope that the underlying message of each story or situation resonates personally with the reader. I hope this week’s  message will benefit everyone (including me!) physically and spiritually. Technology has improved quality of life for everyone, but it comes at a great cost. Without keeping the benefits of technology in check, it can actually destroy a person spiritually and even kill or injure us physically.

Many things that you are about to read are not new; they are reminders and suggestions intended to maximize the benefits of technology and not lessen the life we had before purchasing the gadget. To date, the single most powerful mass-produced technology worldwide is the smart phone, which is basically a hand-held computer. We all know the dangers that come along with smart phones, but the specific danger of ‘distraction’ the phone creates while driving and during davening is cause for growing alarm.   There are statistical studies showing the danger of texting and general cell phone use while driving. Many challenge the use of statistics in that the data is misrepresented to prove a point. The idea of statistics being manipulated is summed up by a few great quotes.  Mark Twain said, “Facts are stubborn things, but statistics are pliable.” or George Canning’s quip, “I can prove anything by statistics except the truth.”  Now some people will argue that, statistically speaking, they are willing to take a chance given those statistical analyses.  If you ask me my feelings about statistics, I would say whether or not statistics are overstated or overrated, we still should not want to become a statistic! Henry Clay once wrote, “Statistics are no substitute for judgment.”

I recently watched a video of a fatal car crash which was caused by texting. I also have come to notice more and more frequently how my davening and the davening of others are interrupted, curtailed, and destroyed because of cell phone use in Shul. I am guilty as charged, but would like to help myself and others work on this issue  - in the car and in Shul. In order to tackle the addiction, we need to use a formula or some form of method to reduce the incident levels of infraction to the point that we are able to feel comfortable driving and davening without an ounce of temptation to even glance at our phones. I thought about a method that is recommended for other challenging Mitzvos that need correction.

The crusade against smoking and speaking loshon hora/bad speech  has gained momentum and slowly but surely these issues are coming  under control. The ultimate goal is to convince ourselves that we have the ability to control  our desires; it is up to each of us individually to decide if and when we should activate that control. We cannot allow our impulses to encourage us to do something that is harmful to our bodies or to our souls. We all know that declaring I am never going to speak loshon hora anymore just does not work. One technique used in curtailing  evil speech or slander is to set aside a few minutes a day and commit to not speaking lashon hora. Smoking a cigarette can be postponed for a few minutes, delaying  gratification. This has been a successful method used to curtail  any sin. The cold turkey method may work for some very strong-willed individuals, but most of us will not measure up to that very large, cold turkey!  

I have challenged myself to reduce and eventually never take out my phone during davening or while driving. The technique that I am using is as follows: Each and every time I get into the driver’s seat or at the stated time for beginning to pray, I tell myself, ‘I am not going to take out my phone on this ride or at this tefilla service. I am not going cold turkey saying, “I will never….” It’s much more effective to take one ride, one prayer service at a time. Everyone should be able to develop the ability to put down the device, turn off the sound, just avoid the phone, or keeping it out of reach at least for a few minutes. If anyone seriously feels he cannot detach himself from the phone and absolutely must check an e-mail or feels that need to text on impulse, he has a serious addiction and should seek professional help. I would like to suggest that this cell phone issue and its resolution is found in the parsha.

In this week’s Parsha Ki Savo the Torah begins with the Mitzva of Bikkurim - The bringing of first fruits. A portion of this Mitzva is a verbal confession or vidui that the Jew performed the Mitzvos properly. In Devarim 26:13 the Torah states: “V’Amarta Lifnei Hashem Elokecha Bi’Arti HaKodesh Min HaBayis, V’Gam N’Sativ LaLevi V’Lager, LaYasom, V’L’Almana, Kchal Mitzvoscha Asher Tzivisani Lo Avarti MiMitzvosecha V’Lo Shachachti”: “You must then make the following declaration before God your Lord: ‘I have removed all the sacred portions from my house. I have given the appropriate ones to the Levite and to the orphan and widow, following all the commandments You prescribed to us. I have not violated your commandment, and have forgotten nothing.” Yehudah Aryeh Leib Alter, 15 April 1847 – 11 January 1905), also known by the title of his main work, the Sfas Eme,s asks on this last part of the verse: ”Just because a person fulfills a Mitzva, does that mean that he won’t forget about it?” To the contrary, he answers. “It is possible to forget about a mitzvah, even though it appears to the eye that he is doing the Mitzva. When is that? When a person performs a Mitzva without intent, without thinking about it. “He performs the Mitzva while remaining  basically distracted from the very Mitzva at hand. Only because he is so accustomed to doing that particular Mitzva and having performed it many times over is he able to continue to do the act without even thinking about it.   He is able to routinely go through the motions of the mitzvah while thinking about something completely different. Similarly we text while driving a car without even thinking or needing to concentrate on the road because we are so accustomed to it. This is forgetting the Mitzva even as we are perfunctorily doing it. The doing of a Mitzva must be accompanied by its intent, giving complete, total focus on the important act he is currently doing.  The method of curing the problem is alluded to a number of times in the Parsha. Take notice how many times the word or words of Hayom Hazeh ‘this day’ appears in the Parsha. It is a reference to do something just today and work on it day by day and time by time. The Sfas Emes specifically addresses this by alluding to some parting words Moshe said to the Jewish people. In Devarim 29:3 Moshe explains to the people that a person does not see the benefit or realize the culmination of something until the end. Moshe says: “Ad HaYom HaZeh - But until this day, God did not give you a heart to know, eyes to see and ears to hear”. He explains that all of the miracles and wonders that Hashem did for Bnei Yisrael in the desert were not natural according to nature. Only until now, after the forty-year drive is over and the long prayer service in Shul is complete, can we appreciate things that happen -  one step at a time. Only at the end of these one-time things do we appreciate the totality of the effort. 

As we begin to say ‘selichos’ we should keep in mind to be aware and sorry for the past misdeeds and not have to say ‘I am sorry’ when we can’t reverse the damage we may have caused to ourselves or to others. Please join me in taking the cell phone challenge (no phone during driving or davening) before we destroy the neshama and the body that Hashem will be judging in only a few days from now.

Ah Gut Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Parshas Ki Seitzay - Watching My Weights & Measures        12 Elul 5776

09/13/2016 05:21:15 PM

Sep13

After a busy summer spent primarily in Eretz Yisrael, our trip home was diverted to New York to attend my nephew’s wedding, an event that was scheduled after we had already purchased  tickets to return directly to San Diego. After the wedding we continued our journey back west,  stopping in Chicago for the weekend before continuing on to San Diego a few days later.

At the airport we had an experience that I still cannot believe actually took place. We know that airlines have raked in millions of dollars on baggage fees. One area where baggage handlers seem to have had some discretion was on the fifty-pound weight limit, and occasionally allowing  a bag go through that was a pound or two over the limit, freeing the passenger from reshuffling the contents of the suitcase or taking out something to get the suitcase  under the weight limit. Airlines caught on to this, and I believe some of the scales automatically register an ‘overweight’ message if over fifty pounds, forcing the attendant to charge the extra fee. As the first piece was only about forty-six pounds, I knew that if the other piece of luggage was a few pounds over I could maneuver things arounds.  I did notice, however, from the corner of my eye, that the scale, when empty, still registered 2.5 pounds. I thought it would re-set itself soon after, but it didn’t. I placed my second bag on the scale, and sure enough it was overweight by three pounds. The agent pronounced, “Overweight,” and, as I removed the luggage from the scale, it still registered  2.5 lbs. I pointed this out  to the agent, yet he adamantly stated, “The scale said it’s overweight.” I asked if I could weigh my luggage on the next scale. He said, ”Yes.” Sure enough, it was under the limit! I turned to him and said, “You see -  the scale is broken.” He replied  in an angry and aggravated tone, ”I don’t have anything to do with the scales.” This is outright fraud, but at the moment we were shocked as he made us feel that we were in the wrong.  I was afraid to appear as if I were making a Chilul Hashem, so we walked away. A few seconds later we regained our composure and took a picture of the empty scale, displaying the weight still registering 2.5 pounds. We wrote a letter to the airline threatening to report this to the U.S. Department of Weights and Measures. As of this printing we are still waiting for a response to our complaint.

I have before never experienced an outright denial of fraud. In all of my life’s experiences, it is the customer who is always right, especially when he really is right. This situation was totally foreign to me. When I was a senior in high school, I worked at a take-home food store on Fridays. The owner, who was a tough and strict business man, was, at the same time extremely honest. He instructed the workers to weigh the coleslaw or any dish without the liquid. Then, after pricing, added the liquid. The scales also were preprogrammed to take off for the tare. [Help!!! for the what?? tape?? Don’t understand this word!] Here I was seeing with my own eyes the Torah law of being honest with weights and measures. As far as a Torah law is concerned, this discussion falls under the category of stealing, which is one of the seven Noachide laws and, to my knowledge, even airlines are obligated to keep. This is not solely a Jewish discussion it applies to all of mankind. It is interesting to note that one of the major causes the Mabul destroyed the world and cut off life as they knew it was because of ‘chamas’. Chamas has a few definitions (of which none are very nice) in addition to evil and treachery. Chamas refers to stealing in a certain manner. One of the words we use to describe our faults in Viduy/Confession is Chamasnu. There is a connection between integrity and being dishonest to living a long life or being destroyed. This comparison is found in this week’s parsha.

In Parshas Ki Seitzay the Torah in Devarim 25:15 states: “Ehven Shelaima VaTzedek Yihiye Lach, Eifah Sheleima VaTzedek Yihye Lach, L’Maan YaArichu Yamecha Al HoAdama Asher Hashem Elokecha Nosein Lach.” “You must have a full, honest weight and a full, honest measure. If you do, you will long endure on the land that God your Lord is giving you.” Conversely, anyone who is dishonest and has dishonest weights or measures is repulsive to God your Lord.”  The Sefer Pninim Yikarim (an unknown author of a collection of Torah commentary in the last century) says we need to explain the connection between honest weights or measures and long life. The Gemarah Sotah 9a states: Amar Rav Hamnuna, Ein HaKadosh Baruch Hu Nifrah Min Ha’Adam Ad SheTimalay S’Eiso: God does not punish a person until his plate is filled with sins.  Someone who intentionally ‘alters his scale,’  thereby making his basket or scale appear to be full, will be judged sooner than he would have been. By cheating with his weights or measures, the scale only looks full but he is actually giving his friend less. In reality he is only short changing his friend a few bucks, but he now brings with him the full scale as it appears to God and will begin his retribution for his lifetime acts. We can now understand why, if a person is righteous with his measurements and weights,  his plate will not appear to be full prematurely, his honesty giving him the opportunity to extend his life. Someone who is honest is not in a hurry to fill his basket with aveiros so as to be judged quickly preferring to delay the process as long as he can to increase his days.

We can now apply this concept of cheating and stealing through weights and measures and death. Stealing - ‘chamas’ -  was a major factor during the time of Noach. It was this stealing that forced God to bring the calamity of the world immediately or even before Hashem would have normally done so. Hashem grants a person time in this world to do as much good as possible while only tolerating evil up to a point.

As we now mentally prepare to approach the New Year, we look forward to a year of life and not death, of health and of goodness. To a degree we can control the scales of justice by controlling the scales of how we measure our goods and wares. Equally  important is to make sure our weights and measures aren’t too heavy in judging others but rather to go lightly on that scale allowing us to merit a long life this coming year.

Ah Gut Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Parshas Shoftim - Whose "Roll" is it?                  5 Elul 5776

09/08/2016 04:41:14 PM

Sep8

The book “Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus states that most common relationship problems between men and women are a result of fundamental psychological differences between the genders. The author exemplifies this thesis by means of a metaphor: men and women are from distinct planets;  each one is acclimated to his/her own planet's society and customs, but not to those of the other. One example:  men's complaint that if they offer solutions to problems that women bring up in conversation, the women are not necessarily interested in solving those problems, but mainly want to just talk about them. The book asserts that men and women can be understood in terms of distinct ways they respond to stress and stressful situations. Do I need John Gray to tell me this? The answer, of course is no! If I learn, study and follow the Torah, I recognize and understand the different roles and missions males and females have to complete this world we live in together.

Men and women are inherently different in the obvious physical ways and in the non-obvious emotional ways. There are many menial tasks and jobs that take place in a house. There are some homes with rules and jobs and or specific chore delegations such as taking out the garbage and washing dishes. Nevertheless, there are a few tasks done by either husband, wife, or by sons or daughters. One such task, oddly enough, is the replacing of toilet paper on the roll. This may sound strange, but I would like to take a virtual poll. When replacing the roll, does it hang flush against the wall or just hang in mid-air? Now, I do know that toilet paper comes in different colors such as blue and pink, but without further stereotyping, the poll would only solicit from homes using white toilet paper. I would like to postulate that the results of the poll, based upon my household, is that when women hang the roll, the paper is faced away from the wall, and when men replace the roll, the paper is hung close and flush to the wall. I’m not sure if I will get any measurable quality data about this question from this article. One thing for sure is that men and women are different and, no matter how many scientists, psychologists, and psychiatrists chip into this discussion, none of us really know why. The main reason we don’t know why is because the Torah (Hashem) did not go out of His way to tell us. The question is… why not? Why does God give us more information and reasons behind the Mitzvos?  The answer is not one that I or many of you would think of.

In this week’s parshas Shoftim 17:16,17 the Torah states: “Rak Lo Yarbeh Lo Susim V’Lo Yashiv Es Ha’Am Mitzraima L’Maan Harbos Sus, Va’Hashem Amar Lachem Lo Tosifun Lashuv Baderech Hazah Ode. V’Lo Yarbeh Lo Nashim V’Lo Yasur L’Vavo, V’esef V’Zahav Lo Yarbeh Lo M’ode”. “The king however, must not accumulate many horses, so as not to bring the people back to Egypt to get more horses. …He also must not have many wives, so that they not make his heart go astray. He shall likewise not accumulate very much silver and gold”. The Gemara Sanhedrin 21b and Rambam Hilchos Melachim 3:2 explain that although polygamy was permitted, and was common for kings, the Jewish king was forbidden to have more than eighteen wives.

* On the pesukim warning a king not to have too many horses or wives, the Yalkut Shimoni points out the answer as to why the Torah doesn’t give reasons why not to do things. Rebbi Yitzchok said: Why is it that God didn’t just tell us the reasons behind the Mitzvos? He answers that there are two Mitzvos where the Torah actually does reveal the reasons and a person actually ended up sinning because he did know the reason why he shouldn’t have done what he did. The Torah, as cited earlier, states that a king should not take many wives. The reason was “Lo Yasur L’Vavo “ – “Do not turn his heart away”. Shlomo HaMelech, King Solomon, said:  “I will take more wives (Shlomo had seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines. Melachim Aleph 10) but I will not turn”, meaning I can handle the test, therefore I can marry many wives because they will not influence me. Unfortunately, even the wisest man who ever lived underestimated the lure and temptation, and it did not please God. In addition, the Torah warned the king not to have too many horses. Once again the Torah gave the reason: so that the Jews should not return to Egypt. Apparently, Egypt was the center for horses and it would bring the Jews back there, and this is forbidden. Shlomo HaMelech brazenly stated: ‘I will have many and will not succumb to go back to Egypt’.    At this Rebbi Yehoshua Ben Levi quotes Sanhedrin Yerushalmi 2:6 and states: The Book of Devarim ascended and prostrated itself before the Holy One, Blessed is He, and said, ‘Shlomo wishes to uproot the letter yud from me. He is transgressing the prohibition of acquiring many wives and many horses. The word ‘Yarbeh’  - a multitude -  begins with the letter yud. Hashem replied, Shlomo and a thousand like him will cease, but not a word from you the Torah will cease.

This most important Midrash teaches us a fundamental approach in the performance of Mitzvos. Shlomo HaMelech, the wisest man, looks at the reason the Mitzva is given and says that it won’t affect him. We have heard about the challenges and the tests that go along with a person winning the lottery and having instant wealth. At one point or another we all have said “it’s okay. Let me win the lottery and I will handle the tests.” Basically, we convince ourselves that we can overcome the challenge. Clearly, if Shlomo HaMelech was unable to measure up to avoid transgressing this prohibition, then certainly we should understand that this applies even more clearly to all of us.

We do not know why the Torah and even the Rabbis, for that matter, instituted certain commandments and enactments. There is a danger if we think we know the reasons and then think it won’t affect us or, worse, that those reasons do not apply to me. Somethings in life are and will remain secrets. Situations occur which remain unanswerable;  we aren’t necessarily entitled to know the background of why such and such is taking place. Let us work on our not judging others or judging situations which people find themselves struggling with. Ultimately, we do not know the reasons behind them, and, frankly, we are probably better off not knowing what the reasons are in the first place.

Ah Gut Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

 

*The Yalkut Shimoni or simply Yalkut is an aggadic compilation on the books of the Torah. From such older aggadot as were accessible to him, the author collected various interpretations and explanations of Biblical passages, and arranged these according to the sequence of those portions of the Bible to which they referred. The author of the Yalḳuṭ cannot be determined with certainty. The title-page of the Venice edition ascribes the composition of the work to R. Simeon of Frankfort, "the chief of exegetes" ("rosh ha-darshanim"), and this was accepted by David Conforte and Azulai, who called him Simeon Ashkenazi of Frankfort.

Parshas R'Ay - What's on the Other Side?        29 Av 5776

09/01/2016 11:11:36 PM

Sep1

Seasons occur opposite each other on on either side of the equator, so the equinox in September, referred to as the autumnal  or fall) equinox in the northern hemisphere is known as the vernal, or spring equinox in the southern hemisphere.  Based upon the solar calendar, the true last day of summer is September 22nd which is also the day of the fall equinox. In the lunar calendar Rosh Hashana tends to be the official end of summer and the beginning of fall. For both the lunar and the solar calendars, the ceremonial days  marking the end of summer this year are Labor Day and Rosh Chodesh Elul which occur one day apart.

Summertime is traditionally a time for rest and relaxation and a change of scenery. Outdoor activities are a staple opportunity during the summer.  Major downsides to many attractions such as amusement parks are the high rate of attendance and the exorbitant cost of admission. Amusement park lines can easily have  forty-five-minute waits for rides that will last for ninety seconds. The ride, however, tends to be truly exhilarating and thrilling. It is also true that we get more value per minute waiting on line in contrast to the cost basis of each second on the ride.  As with many events in life, it often takes a long time to arrive. In order to distract customers from the long waits on lines, innovative technology keeps our minds occupied. For example, newspapers and magazines may be available to read while waiting to see a health professional while video monitors continuously review safety and security measures while waiting to get through the TSA check points. But perhaps the biggest gimmick of all are the video monitors viewed while waiting for the alpine slide. In addition to the video monitors displaying safety guidelines, they  play clips of riders enjoying the ride screaming while their hands flew up as they reached the finish line. I am pretty sure these videos are used to create more excitement for what the person waiting in line is about to experience. Quite often, though, there is great anticipation and build up to something, but only until it finally approaches. Once our turn finally arrives, the time passes  so quickly and the ride is over before we know it. A few weeks ago we took our grandchildren on an alpine slide in Kiryat Shmoneh. We waited in a long line for a long time, and after the ride my grandson excitedly popped off the ride and said, “Can we go again?” Of course, no one was in the mood to wait again, so off we were to the next “exciting” adventure.  

Life has many different kinds of ‘lines’ which we all wait on. The thrill that comes once in a while is worth waiting for, but, generally speaking, waiting on long lines is just that: waiting on long lines with a disappointing, less-than-thrilling experience at the other end.  I believe this is true when it relates to practicing religion as well. We have read about the Islamic Jihadist who is promised a wonderful experience after he dies for the cause. In Christianity, it is taught that as long as a person believes in J.C. even at the last moment of his life he will go to heaven, no matter what type of human being he was in his lifetime. Perhaps we are not attracted to the Avoda Zara/Idolatry of the past, but the worshipping of things in today’s world is stronger than ever.

The worshipping of Idolatry does not emerge out of thin air. In order to be drawn to Idolatry there needs to be some type of thrill or attraction. This powerful attraction typically comes in the form of a charismatic person followed by indoctrination. Once in a while the convincing comes through a miraculous feat and thrilling experience. This is where we drift off the path of following Hashem and begin to focus on other things and even other religions. Hashem warns us of the possibility that we may be attracted by some sign or trick. One of the age-old questions is, “Why would God allow non-Jewish prophets to perform miracles, permitting the luring of questioning Jews?”  

The answer is found in this week’s parsha R’Ay. In Devarim 13:2,3 the Torah states: “Ki Yakum b’Kirbcha Navi  O Choleim Chalom V’Nassan Eilecha Os O Mofeis. U’Bah HaOs V’Hamofeis Asher Diber Eilecha Laymore, Neilcha Acharei Elohim Acheirim Asher Lo Y’Datem V’Naavdeim.” “When a prophet or a person who has visions in a dream arises among you with a sign or miracle, and on the basis of that sign or miracle, says to you, ”Let us try out a different god, let us serve it and have a new spiritual experience,” Rashi teaches us that Hashem gave the ability to perform signs and miracles to false prophets in order to test us. The Ba’al HaTurim says the gematria of the word ‘b’kirbcha is the same as ‘this is the woman’ and the word navi is the same as ‘V’Haben’ and the son’ (referring to Mary and her son, J.C.)

The *Steipler Gaon Rav Yakov Yisroel Kanievsky zt”l, in his sefer Chayei Olam, says that every part of a person’s day is a test: the poor man from one side the rich one from the other; the person at peace and the person in turmoil. An additional category of testing is the challenge of mistaken thoughts and misunderstanding. Tosfos in Gemara Avoda Zarah 27b says God gave permission to Satan to do and create things in the world in order to confuse and challenge us,  destroying our emunah, our belief in Hashem. The protection from this evil influence is Ahavas Hashem -  to actively love God. Rav Yehuda HaChasid, in Sefer Chasidim, says the only people who will fail in the sin of idolatry are those who have already defiled themselves with other sins.

Non-Jews and even non-believing Jews live their entire lives on line waiting for the excitement on the other side. Unfortunately, this is a false hope. They live their lives on line with great anticipation,  only to find out the reality. It was all false. We live in world of sheker, of falsity. We live in a world which is upside down, where people think this is the primary while the next world is secondary. The test, to demonstrate patience for the true belief in Hashem, is great. Let us not be lured by the attractions and flashy signs of this world, but instead  realize the emes, the truth, that the Jewish people live for and believe in.

Ah Gut Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Parshas Eikev - Prophecy Not Fantasy Comes True       22 Av 5776

08/26/2016 08:46:48 AM

Aug26

My Rebbi Rabbi Wein YB”L used to say “the reality never lives up to the fantasy”. Much of our life is lived in a fantasy state looking forward to things that hopefully will play itself out according to our vision. This should not be misunderstood to think we should not plan and dream in life, but rather enter into a situation knowing we might not fill that expectation. Second, there are times that the fantasy does live up to our expectations. The question though is: why in many situations does the rule apply? After thinking about this, I asked myself what is it that guarantees the fantasy or the dream? Is it a matter of planning better in order that the outcome comes to fruition?  

The simple answer is no. We can and should plan but there are many factors and variables that are out of our control. There are elements in life that we are unaware of that we did not take into account and then there are things that occur after we’ve made the plans that alter the original plan. We can only do our part to ensure the reality lives up to the fantasy but with no guarantees. Ultimately it is up to God to determine how much of the fantasy becomes reality. I am sure there are many reasons and factors that go into the process but we are not privy to them.

The only One that can plan and execute a perfect fantasy or prophecy that matches the reality can only be planned by Hashem. The promises and prophecies that Moshe outlines in this week’s parsha are truly remarkable to take place in a country in the Middle East. Parshas Eikev is full of detail in how the land of Israel is going to flourish from east south west and north. Israel today is the most advanced and developed country within the last seventy years. The population growth of the country has challenged it in every area of life. Yet Israel continues to respond to the ever burgeoning challenges it faces.

To illustrate I will point out a few a few areas of incredible ingenuity that I observed the past few weeks.  The population in Yerushalayim is possibly at its height in history. With so many people and cars in the city travel was getting difficult. Well, it’s easy for a city that is growing just to build new roads and expand, but Jerusalem is not a planned city. The engineering feats and ways to build new thoroughfares such as the Begin highway dissecting the city and maximizing the area now going from the north to the south of the city is ingenious. The newish light rail that took some time to build has proven very effective and now a new super train from Yerushalayim to Tel Aviv (25 minutes) is scheduled to be completed by 2018. The food industry for both domestic and export is growing despite the BDS anti-Semitic movement.  With Jewish/Israeli agricultural technology there is almost no piece of land that isn’t ‘fertile’ to grow something. The drip irrigation system is able to maximize the precious commodity of water by using a little and producing a lot. Tourism is a major contributor to the economy. Despite being located in the powder keg of the world Israel is able to weather the storms of terrorism that try to prevent and scare tourists away. For me, as many times as I have visited Israel there is ALWAYS something new to see whether a new excavation, museum, or a modern fun activity. One last example is in the area of defense. Israel continues to exist despite the physical threat from its enemies. Israel’s defense and security know how is sought after by other countries. The technology and expertise has prevented our enemies from carrying out their plans.  

In this week’s Parsha Eikev the Torah in Devarim 8:8 states “Eretz Chita U’Seorah V’Gefen U’T’eina V’Rimon, Eretz Zeit Shemen U’Dvash”. “A land of wheat and barley, the grapevine and the fig and the pomegranate, a land of olive oil and honey”. The commentary Onkelos explains it to be a land that sweats and makes oil and honey. Later in Eikev 11:9 on the words ‘Eretz Zovas Chalav U’Dvash’, a land flowing with milk and honey Onkelos translates the word zovas as works rather than the traditional definition of flow. The Chasam Sofer explains there is an apparent two-step process that the land of Israel must undergo in order to produce in an abundant fashion. In describing the greatness of the Jewish people the Torah in Devarim 26:19 states: U’Lisitcha ElyonAl KKol HaGoyim Asher Asah L’Tehila L’Sheim U’Litiferes” And I will place you on top of all the nations of the world and it will be a praise, for my namesake and for glory”.

The Chasam Sofer uses these two verses to explain how the milk, honey, olives and oil connect. The Jewish people are compared to oil that when mixed with water it floats to the top. But the oil floating and reaching the top only comes after a lot of hardship, affliction and pain. Olive oil is produced by crushing and smashing the olive and pressing and squeezing out its precious liquid. So too the Jewish people are made to float to the top only after we are made into that precious oil. The Jewish people in the end receive honor and be blessed by all only after going through hardships, endure pain and suffer. The past one hundred years has been tough for Am Yisrael, but the budding and oozing of the rich oil is hopefully starting to flow.

This olive or Jew through the smacking and difficulty will gush forth the precious oil. At that point it (it being the Jew and the land of Israel) will be a producer of Dvash, honey. Dvash is an acronym for Dei’ah, Binah, Seichel, knowledge, intellect and understanding. The Gemara Bava Basra 158 teaches “Avira D’Eretz Yisrael Machkim” The air or environment of the land of Israel makes one wise. The land flowing with honey isn’t only taken literally, but metaphorically speaking it is the land and the people of Israel who will produce like honey.  The honey of wisdom and brain power that has brought great technology, science, agriculture, medicine, security and urban development to Israel today.      

There is no question that the accomplishment only comes from the Almighty, our Father in Heaven. Ironically it is in the very same parsha that the Torah describes the greatness of the land as we are seeing in our times that He warns us not to think it is our doing. We must be careful not to think “Kochi V’Otzem Yadi” is our strength and the handiwork of man that made all this for us. It is not a coincidence but rather by design that Hashem warns us to recognize it comes from Him.

It is the land that makes us wise and Hashem Who gives us the ability to create, invent and implement the dreams that we dreamt for centuries now come to be a reality in our lifetime. May we continue to recognize and thank Hashem for what we are experiencing today and let it continue to the ultimate prophecy of Yeshayahu “Sason V’Simcha Yimatzey Va Todah V’kol Zimra” in the Bayis Shlishi that should be built speedily in our day.

Ah Gut Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Parshas VaEschanan - Drugs and Societal Norms        15 Av 5776

08/19/2016 06:38:26 AM

Aug19

For me, Eretz Yisrael has a big influence on how I think and see the world, especially when I am here. Looking through a lens of the land that Hashem promised our forefathers Avraham, Yitzchok and Yaakov I read and learn the words of the Torah with a different passion. These Parshios of Sefer Devarim have a particular influence as it describes the land in many ways and many times over. I will try to illustrate this in this week’s parsha VaEschanan with the following parable and pesukim in the Torah.

There is a story told of two childhood friends that parted ways after their teenage years. One friend went on to become a very successful businessman and led an extraordinary comfortable life, both physically and spiritually. The other friend did not become wealthy by any means but was not really poor and surely felt he lacked nothing. One time the wealthy friend was going to pass through the city of his childhood friend. He got in touch with him and let him know he would like to visit. His friend was excited as well to see his old buddy.

The day of his arrival came. After the initial greetings at the door of handshakes, hugs and kisses they spent a good while just trying to catch up on each other’s life as much as they could. They shared some drinks and food and the wealthy visiting friend eventually needed to go to the bathroom. After he came out of the restroom they resumed their conversation, chatting, and reminiscing of the old days while at the same time catching up to the present day. As the time passed so quickly it was time to go. Before leaving the wealthy friend took out his check book and wrote out a very large check and stuffed it into the hand of his friend. The host friend looked and said “what is this for?” the wealthy friend said “don’t worry I understand your situation. I have plenty of money and I want you to have it”. The host friend was very confused and said “I and my family are fine we don’t need this money”. Once again, the wealthy man insisted and the host also insisted and asked “but why do you think I am poor?” The wealthy friend said “I know it may be embarrassing for you to admit you need it. When I went to the bathroom I happened to peak in your medicine cabinet and I was shocked to see that it was empty! I then realized you don’t even have money for medicine! At that the host friend responded and said: “You think because I don’t have any medicine in the cabinet it is a sign of poverty? I don’t have medicine in the cabinet because we Baruch Hashem are all healthy!” If I or my family need medication I would go buy it, but right now we don’t need it.

Thank God we live in a time when medication controls a whole host of illnesses and diseases and gives extended quality of life to many more people than in the past. One question we can ask is “should we buy medicine before a problem occurs or only afterwards”. Chaz”al the Rabbis of blessed memory teach us that Hashem in the order of the world, created the refuah/the healing before the Makkah/plague. God has already provided the answer either in medication form or the know how to eventually correct and heal a person or situation he or she find themselves in.  Any issue whether it be physical or spiritual has the “fix” already in motion by God.

Rav Shimshon Raphael Hirsch explains a central difference between the Jewish people and the gentile world as well as Eretz Yisrael and the rest of the world. The Torah states in Devarim 4:5 “R’ay Limadeti Eschem Chukim U’Mishpatim Ka’Asher Tzivani Hashem Elohai, La’Asos Kein B’Kerev HaAretz Asher Atem Ba’Im Shama L’Rishta”. “See, Behold I (Moshe speaking to the Bnei Yisrael) have taught you statutes and laws that which Hashem commanded me, to do in the midst of the land that you have come to inherit and dwell in”. Rav Hirsch explains the norm of settling land and the establishment of a country. Most civilizations will first settle and live in a place together for a certain period of time. Only after a few months and sometimes even years will they begin to establish laws and statutes for the benefit of the inhabitants. The establishment of the laws and statutes will follow the spiritual and physical situation of the people at that time. But they do not and really cannot establish laws and ordinances for the future when the situation doesn’t call for it yet. This is why laws are constantly changing in different parts of a country, state and city as it modifies according to the population and make-up of the area. In short, by the other nations establishing laws come after the dwellers.

RSR”H contrasts the rest of the world to the Jews. The Jewish people are unique and one of a kind. Hashem gave the Jewish people statutes and laws prior to going into Eretz Canaan. “Behold I have taught you the laws and statutes…..to be able to do them as soon as you enter the land. These laws and statutes are for all time, circumstance and situation that the Jews find themselves in for all future generations. This is fitting for a later verse that speaks of the Jewish people as “Rak Am Chacham V’Navon” a wise and insightful people….and “Umi Goy Gadol Asher Lo Chukim U’Mishpatim Tzadikim K’Chol HaTorah HaZos” “who is like this great nation that has statutes and righteous laws like this Torah”. In short, by the Jewish people the laws were given even before we inhabited the land. The Torah

Rav Hirsch was born in Germany in 1808 and died in Germany in 1888 and to my knowledge never made it to the land of Israel. Never the less he had the understanding of all Chazal that the Torah is the guide book of the land of Israel in the past, present and future. Many of us do have the privilege to come and be in Eretz Yisrael. Learning about the land of Israel of today and the history of the Jewish people from Sinai till today shows beyond a shadow of doubt that we the Jewish people are the chosen nation and Eretz Yisrael is our homeland and the Torah is the immortal gift that Hashem uses to bring it all together.

Ah Gut Shabbos (from the holiest land in the world)

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Fri, 28 April 2017 2 Iyyar 5777