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Parshas T'Tzaveh - Did They Call My Name?    10 Adar 5780

03/06/20 00:19:28

Mar6

From the day of a baby boy’s bris or a baby girl’s naming, a person hears his name anywhere from five hundred thousand to a million times over a seventy-year life span. Throughout our lives there are times we want to hear our name being called out and other times when we absolutely do not want to hear our name called. If we are in a contest that calls out names to advance to the next round, we would want to hear our name called. On the other hand, when I attend jury duty, I do not want to hear my name being called because that means I was selected for a jury pool and I would not be able to leave early.

There are situations when we are in doubt as to whether we heard our name or not. For example, background noise or static can make it difficult to discern whether our name was announced or not This may occur at an airport terminal, or during a raffle or an auction. Also, the reason why my name is being called will have a direct effect upon how clearly I am able to decipher if my name was announced or someone else with a similar-sounding name was being called. I always find it quite amusing how some people ask me if I am related to Bogomilsky, and I ask them why they think I am related to that family. ? They typically explain that the names are so close and sound familiar. I tell them the two closest possibilities that we are related is that we were all at Har Sinai and our names are consecutive in the Brooklyn phonebook, but other than that the names are NOT the same!

There is a certain sensitivity to our names because our names are our specific identity. The Gemara Brachos 7b explains that our name is our essence and an insight to our personalities and our future. If someone calls us by a name which we do not approve of or relate to, we are hurt. On the other hand, when we are called by a name which we relate to or approve o,f we are proud. Our surname, family name, or last name is the portion of a personal name that indicates a person's family. Depending on the culture, all members of a family unit may have identical surnames. A given name, on the other hand, is unique for that particular individual and a further clarification may include a second or middle name. In the Torah we find a few places where a person is called by his name and then repeated a second time. For example, when Hashem called out Avraham, Avraham. Avraham responded, “I am here.” Avraham appreciated the feeling of endearment by hearing his name twice. There are many different reactions a person must have hearing his or her name being called. The reaction to hearing or even not hearing your name hinges upon the circumstances surrounding the reason why your name may or may not be called. A powerful illustration of this was discussed by my Rosh Yeshiva, Rabbi Wein of Yeshiva Shaarei Torah.

Rabbi Wein YB”L told about his experience walking around the children’s exhibit of Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem. Years later, I had same experience when visiting Yad Vashem. An ongoing recording of the names of the one million children murdered by the Nazis, Yimach Shmom V’Zichram, is starkly heard by everyone entering the children’s exhibit. The voice recites the name of each child, the city where he or she came from, and the age of the child when he or she was killed. Rabbi Wein, who was just about the age of those children when he was growing up in Chicago, was waiting to hear his name being called, but it was not. Rabbi Wein found himself wondering why his name hadn’t been called. After all, he was the same age as many of the children whose names were being called out, albeit from cities and towns far away from the streets of Chicago’s West Side. Nevertheless, Rabbi Wein identified with those children. Perhaps he had survivors’ guilt, giving him the drive to make a difference in the world, to be a part of the rebuilding of the Jewish people. There were others in history who felt the same way when it came to cementing a place in history.

From parshas Shmos until the last portion of the Torah V’Zos HaBracha, Moshe Rabbeinu’s name is mentioned in every Parsha except for this week’s Parshas T’Tzaveh. Many are familiar with the reason why Moshe’s name is omitted this week. The remez, hint, is due to the fact this Parsha always coincides with the 7th of Adar which is the day of Moshe’s death. To symbolically recognize his absence from the world his name is left out this week. This only answers the fact of why it would be this week, if his name should be deleted at all? Did Moshe deserve to have his name to be left out, even though it’s just one Parsha? Many commentaries explain how after the debacle of the golden calf, God was so angry at the Jewish people that He was ready to get rid of them and start a new nation with Moshe at the helm (keep in mind Moshe was on top of Har Sinai at the time of the golden calf). Moshe argued, defending the people by reasoning that if God wiped out the Jews, the other nations of the world would question Hashem and declare how terrible Hashem is to take His people out of slavery only to kill them out in the desert. Furthermore, Moshe said, “If You wipe out the Jewish nation, then kill me along with them.” Moshe was the captain of the ship that was sinking, the last one off to safety, putting himself alongside the people. Moshe declared, ”If you wipe them out, then erase me from the book that you wrote”. Once Moshe made that statement, Hashem felt He needed to pay heed to the intent and even though He did not destroy the Jews He nevertheless ‘erased Moshe’s name’.. Hence God did not write Moshe’s name in this one portion and arranged it to occur on the week that Moshe died.

A difficulty still exists, however. Why would Hashem punish Moshe for trying to defend Am Yisroel? Reb Shimon Sofer explains that leaving out Moshe’s name is not a punishment; it is, to the contrary, a reward! Hashem gives Moshe a one-time honor of Moshe being the decider and giver of the Mitzva directly to the people without Hashem first commanding him to do so. The very first word of the Sedra is "ואתה" “and you” Moshe will command the Sons of Israel. This is similar to a king who gives permission to one of his servants to rule for a day. Because Moshe was willing to sacrifice his own name, Hashem rewarded him by establishing the Mitzva of the priestly garments. Sometimes even when you don’t hear your name being called, it is nevertheless loud and clear as to who is being called!

Ah Gut Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Parshas Teruma - Welcome to Shul!                   3 Adar 5780

02/28/20 09:21:27

Feb28

We started off as a small family forced to evacuate and leave town. We ended up in a foreign land which at the beginning was very good because Hashem had arranged for the infrastructure to be there before we arrived. While it was a nice place, perhaps we overstayed our welcome, because the locals seemed to grow unhappy with our continued presence. Without actually telling us outright, they clearly implied, “You want to stay longer? Fine, but from now on under our conditions and our rules.” Within a short period of time, we were no longer enjoying our lives. We were oppressed with long hours of extremely hard, physical labor and unbearable living conditions. At our wits end and not knowing what else to do, as a last resort we just yelled out to our Father until He heard us and began making plans for us to leave.

We left abruptly with little time to pack provisions needed for our family which had not grown to a few million people with no clear direction as to where and how to flee. We wandered for forty-nine days, traveling through a river, a desert and finally ending up under a mountain where we were given an opportunity to accept upon ourselves a mandate that would unite us and bring our dispersed family back together again. Our now united, large family needed to have a central location where we could always be near our Father. We were commanded to make a house for our Father which would sit in the center of the entire camp/community/family. Unfortunately, it did not take long for differences of opinion and different desires to bubble up the surface.

My Rebbi/Rosh Yeshiva Rav Berel Wein YB”L always joked over serious matters. One of his many famous insights was regarding the time davening would begin in the Beis HaMikdash and whose nusach/text was to be used. Every group or sect emphatically felt that their customs would be the ones used in the Temple, and the time they preferred to begin and conclude would obviously be the choice to be followed. It is important to highlight a fact that we Jews do get along well with each other when under attack, times of duress and when facing a common enemy. Fortunately, however, there are times when we do not face an existential threat from our enemies and that, unfortunately, is when we become our own worst enemies. Until now the Jewish people are, by and large, okay with each other; when our families come to Shul, we often go our own way to daven, to learn, or to play.

I remember watching a Jewish video about twenty years ago about the Jewish family. One of the scenes (obviously staged for the video) focused on entire families – parents, children, other relatives - arriving and leaving Shul all together on Shabbos. This was clearly beautiful, symbolic gesture suggesting that every family, along with the entire community did one and the same thing together, strengthening themselves individually as a family and also collectively as a community. The image stuck in my head of family members holding hands, talking and walking happily together to and from Shul. The Shul/Synagogue is a central point of families bonding in a common effort that establishes and maintains a Jewish community. This is due to the center of our attention being Hashem, residing in the Mishkan which is in the center.

In this week’s sedra Teruma the Torah states in Shmos 26:1 "ואת המשכן תעשה עשר יריעות שש משזר ותכלת וארגמן ותולעת שני כרובים מעשה חושב תעשה אותם" “ - Make the tabernacle out of ten large tapestries consisting of twined linen, and sky blue, dark red, and crimson wool, with a pattern of cherubs woven into them”. Reb Yakov Krantz of Dubno (1741-1804), famously known as the Dubno Maggid, in his sefer Ohel Yakov explains the “Mishkan” in the following manner. The Midrash Yalkut Shmoni describes Hashem speaking to Moshe, “Make a Mishkan for Me because I desire to dwell close to my children.” When the angels heard this, they asked the Master of the Universe, “Why do you go down to that lower world? Your honor and praise is here with us in heaven.” Hashem responded, “By your life should I do as you say? Rather my praise is to fill the world.” The Dubno Maggid explains that there are some people who, like the angels, say that Hashem is so high, so great and holy, that it is beneath His dignity to place His essence among this world. The lower world that we are in is a drop in the bucket compared to the upper spheres and higher worlds. The truth is that God’s presence even in the upper world is not enough to meet Hashem’s greatness. The upper worlds are zero in comparison to Hashem, and with all of that He still wants to lower Himself to lead the world. This is because He wants everyone to know and recognize His reality in the world and that He alone runs the world.

In the previous discussion of the Yalkut, the angels missed the point of God’s decision to be in the lower world. They [the angels] exclaimed that God’s praise is only here with us in heaven. Hashem responded to the angels that the upper world, all the heavens, are also beneath the honor of Hashem. Hashem told the angels that His will is not limited to the upper world; it includes the lower world as well. Hashem’s desire is to fill all of the worlds He created.

The Shla”h HaKadosh Rav Yeshaya Horowitz explains this in a similar vein. We recite in Hallel a verse from Tehilim 113:6: “Who is like Hashem, our God who dwells on high, yet looks down so low in the heavens and upon the earth?” Even though He is so high, He desires to come down to be with us in His lower world. To Hashem, being that He is above all, both the heavens and the earth are below. He therefore seeks to fill the entire universe, even the areas that appear lower but are nevertheless part of the entire world, with His presence. God wants to be a part of our lives, to reveal Himself to each and every one of us. We have the obligation to recognize Hashem throughout the world. When we build our Shuls, homes and continuously strive to build up ourselves, allowing Hashem to come down and to be a part of our lives, enlightening us and expanding our awareness and awe of the majesty of Hashem so we can more profoundly appreciate the entirety of God’s existence.

Parshas Mishpatim/Shekalim - Did Ralph Branca Ever Find Out The Truth?                       26 Shvat 5780

02/21/20 08:32:19

Feb21

Shlomo HaMelch taught אין חדש תחת השמש - there is nothing new under the sun. America’s favorite pastime has been plagued by the now-famous sign-stealing scandal in baseball’s Houston Astros. Many people have heard of Bobby Thomson, who, in 1951, hit the shot that was heard round the world - a home run that was full of controversy regarding what Bobby knew and when Bobby knew It. Specifically, did Bobby Thomson, who hit the game-winning home run that put the Giants in the World Series vs. the Yankees, know what pitch was coming before he hit it out?

When Thomson was asked point blank if, in fact, he knew what pitch was about to be delivered by Branca, he at first demurred, speaking ambiguously. His response remains baffling. Fast forward almost seventy years, and the Astros, who admitted to foul play, are still short of coming out with the complete truth. In fact, as they tried to cover up, neither denying nor claiming any wrongdoing, more evidence and discovery of their lying surfaced.

Children are often caught up in situations that are challenged with wrongdoing. When asked if they committed the offense or not, they often do not tell the truth for fear of being punished. One of the basic rules my wife and I imbued within our children was to always tell the truth. To be honest, there were times when one of our children did get into trouble, told the truth, and got punished while his or her friend lied, avoiding any punishment. Nevertheless, we reinforced the Mitzva of not lying, emphasizing that in the long run telling the truth avoids the danger of getting caught up in a web of lies. Telling the truth, as difficult and as embarrassing it may be, is certainly better than having to come up with more excuses and eventually get caught in a swamp of many more lies. Unfortunately, many studies have shown a widespread theory that kids who lie will do so successfully, reinforcing the act of lying. The fact that lying does exist is exactly the reason why we should be teaching them not to.

Parents are constantly being put on the spot by their children, and age is not a factor because I see this from very young children to grown adult children. Children often ask their parents difficult, challenging, embarrassing, uneasy questions. Parents are sometimes at a loss regarding how to respond, how to answer difficult questions. The best advice I can offer is to be straight up and tell the truth. Of course, it should be an age- appropriate response. Only necessary information needs to be shared, depending upon the type of question, the age of the child and the circumstances. Even though there is a principle in Jewish law known as Shitkah K’Hodaa, it is not necessary to share more information than needed at that time. While silence is tantamount to an admission, it is still not an outright lie or untruth.

There are few if any Mitzvos in the Torah that command us not only to observe them by not violating them; we are commanded to distance ourselves from the very temptation. No place in the Torah tells us to move away from non-Kosher food, or stay away from idolatry. The Torah commands us not to eat non-kosher food and not to worship idols. The Torah does not say “do not speak falsely”, rather it states “from falsity shall you distance yourself”. When it comes to telling the truth, or better yet not lying, the direction is a bit different.

In this week’s Torah Portion Mishpatim the Torah states in Shmos 23:7 "מדבר שקר תרחק, ונקי וצדיק אל תהרג כי לא אצדיק רשע" “Keep away from anything false. Do not kill a person who has not been proven guilty or one who has been acquitted. [Ultimately] I will not let a guilty person escape punishment.” The Torah states to “keep away” and the Hebrew ‘Tirchak’ literally means distance oneself from it. The Menoras HaMaor urges the need for people to know that one of the three pillars upon which the world stands is Emes/truth. When a person tells the truth, an abundance of goodness and blessing falls from the heavens. Dovid HaMelch says in Tehilim 85:12: “Truth will sprout from the earth, and righteousness will look down from heaven”. The message is clear: when mankind speaks the truth, righteousness is created in heaven and the land will yield forth blessings. The opposite, however, is also true. If people speak falsely, Hashem is angered greatly. It is for this reason that we find ourselves in the diaspora today, far from the house of God in Yerushalayim. Lying is a major cause of discord among people. It leads to theft and ultimately to the breakdown and destruction of society.

Some may ask how far one needs to go to keep away from anything false. The answer is simple…tell the truth. If something is ninety-nine percent true, we know it is false. For something to be true it must be one hundred percent truth; there is no room for anything false. Reb Avraham Abish from Frankfort Am Mein declared, “ If only a person understood how great the power of truth is, he would never come to say an untruth.” Learning to tell the truth isn’t necessarily easy; we need to learn about it and work on it like any other Mitzva. It is told about the Baal HaTanya that it took him twenty-one years to master truth telling. Twenty-one years you ask? Yes, seven years to know what the truth is, seven years to chase away and divorce falsehood from his mind and the last seven years to bring the truth into his realm of thinking. As found in so many studies, children tend to lie, building an immunity to it. It takes years of facing the truth to master it.

In Western culture there is a tradition of making a statement or at least an affirmation to telling the truth. The phrase’ I Swear to Tell the Truth, the Whole Truth and Nothing But the Truth So Help Me God’ is actually what Reb Yitzchok Abuhav meant in his sefer Menoras Hamaor. If I tell the truth Hashem will help me, but if I fail to tell the truth, He won’t. The Torah is known as Toras Emes - the Torah is Truth! Rebbi Simcha Bunim of Pshischa quips, “ We do not find the Torah itself taking measures to keep away from something except for this command telling us not to lie.” Unfortunately, lying and cheating is not a new challenge. Nevertheless, we, Am Yisroel, need to set the standards straight and not only tell the truth but remove ourselves from Sheker. Sheker - falsehood - will never last, but Emes - truth - will keep the world going and flourishing with the blessings it produces.

Ah Gut Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Parshas Yisro - Peer Pressure or Peer Support    18 Shvat 5780

02/12/20 18:43:39

Feb12

Words and expressions of speech can be very delicate and must be used in their proper context in order to convey the message intended. Seemingly simple words, physical expressions and figures of speech can have multiple meanings and thus need to be used with care. In addition, some sayings and expressions have a negative tone or connotation but can have a positive spin as well. I will illustrate with two examples. One of the boys in Shul told me he had recently made the school basketball team and needed to reschedule a learning session with me because he had “practice”. I quipped with him and said, “Why do you need to practice if you made the team? Surely,” I continued, “if you are not good enough and need to practice you would not have made the team.” I continued by saying, “If you are so good, why do you need to practice?” All of this jibing, of course, went right over his head. Similarly, when looking for professional help and you read the bio of the doctor, lawyer, or whomever, and it states that this individual has been in practice for over twenty-five years, you may stop reading and consider, “Do I seriously want to go to someone who, after twenty-five years, is still advertising and still practicing full time? Surely by now they should no longer need to practice!”

The second anecdote is similar yet different. The notion of peer pressure, almost to the degree that a person feels he has no choice but to follow and behave in the same inappropriate way that others are acting gives cause for concern. Everyone wants to belong and to be well-liked. Unfortunately, sometimes a person falls prey to the people they think are their friends, striving to follow in their footsteps in order to gain favor in their eyes. The mere thought of being “left out” is enough pressure from the peers that causes a person to do something even though he or she knows it is wrong. Unfortunately, I think we’ve all had the experience of peer pressure in our lives. Hopefully, it was a meaningless act to follow and did not leave any lifetime scars.

There is, however, another way to view “peer pressure” and that is to feel pressured to do the right thing and follow in the ways of the goody two shoes. I’m referring to the person who chooses to Perform an act or do something good and positive despite the fact you did not want to do it, yet doing it because of positive peer pressure. Peer pressure is common among children who are influenced by their peers. Is peer pressure good or bad? As mentioned above, peer pressure is not always a bad thing. Positive peer pressure can be extremely powerful, used to pressure bullies into acting more sensitively, kindlier toward other kids. If enough kids get together to create positive change, they can pressure each other into doing what's right!

For the pressure to work properly it must be aligned. The secret to breaking the peer pressure lies in balance. This is easily understood through considering the pressure found in tires. To receive the best results from tire wear, the pressure in all of the tires need to be aligned with an equal number of pounds of pressure. If all four tires do not have the same pressure, then they wear differently and break down. Similarly, peer pressure is only effective both in the negative and in the positive sense if all team up to work together. Once one person is not aligned with everyone else, there is a weak link and the pressure is no longer as intense to follow along. As with all behavior we find best practices from the Torah.

In this week’s Sedra Yisro the Torah states in Shmos 18:9 "ויחד יתרו על כל הטובה אשר עשה ה' לישראל אשר הצילו מיד מצרים" : “Jethro expressed joy because of all the good that God had done for Israel, rescuing them from Egypt’s power”. Rashi brings the Midrashic Aggadic interpretation: His flesh became a mass of cuts or prickles; he grieved over the destruction of Egypt. That is what people say: Regarding the proselyte, even until the tenth generation, do not put to shame a gentile (Armean) in his presence. A person is able to change his essence as explained by the sefer HaChinuch in the mitzva of not breaking the bone of the Korban Pesach. As we go through the act of performing a Mitzva, the very act itself transforms a person for the better. Unfortunately, by committing a sin, that person is transformed into a worse human being. And yet, even when a person learns to be better - or worse - the essence and root of whom the person is now becoming continues to influence that individual throughout his or her lifetime. As we see from Yisro, despite becoming as close to the Jewish people as possible with the leader Moshe as his son-in-law, Yisro still bemoaned the fact of Egypt’s destruction.

Reb Yisroel Lipshutz*, author of the Tiferes Yisroel, a commentary on the Mishna at the end of Meseches Kiddushin, shares an explosive understanding of who Moshe Rabbeinu was. When the Jewish people left Mitzrayim, Moshe’s name became famous throughout the world. A certain king sent a sculptor/painter to paint the face of Moshe Rabbeinu. He did so and when he returned to the king, the king turned to the wise men of his court to describe who Moshe was through his picture. The king wanted to know Moshe’s nature and character, and the nature of his great strength. The wise men responded that the person whom they are looking at has many bad qualities and overall is not a good person. They describe Moshe as being two-faced in business, haughty, money hungry and more. Whatever moral deficiencies there could be in a person they claimed Moshe possessed. The king was furious because all he had heard from anyone he asked replied the complete opposite. The king thought the painter/sculptor made a mistake. The two descriptions of Moshe did not agree: the painter claimed the wise men were wrong, and the wise men declared the painter was wrong. The king, therefore, decided to see for himself and made his way to the Jewish camp, going directly to Moshe himself in order to compare the picture to the description given of Moshe. After just a few moments, the kind reckoned that the wise men were the ones who had made the error in judgment regarding who Moshe really was and what he was all about. Moshe stopped the king and explained the following: “Both the painter and your wise men are incredible at what they see. They are both right. If I [Moshe] would have continued my life, following the natural course into which I was born, I would have lived up to the description of your wise men, I would have been a fool , just like a dried-up piece of wood. I am not embarrassed to tell you,” Moshe continued, “all the qualities that your wise men said I was lacking are all part of the natural make-up of who I am. But, with resolve, I strengthened myself to overcome and chase away the evil, to conquer it to the degree that I acquired the opposite character traits, making them second nature to me.

Moshe Rabbeinu, through peer pressure, was able to overcome and literally change who he was. It is without a doubt that Moshe “practiced” consistently to create this change and continuing in his new mode to practice throughout his entire life. Change is difficult, especially when working against peer pressure. If we create a peer support who emulates who and what we strive to become, such positive growth and accomplishment is within our reach. Sometimes a person needs to go against the grain, to consciously refuse to follow the temptation of the bad behavior group. It is this resilience and strength that makes a leader as great as . All of us can strive to develop that positive pressure and practice it so we can demonstrate our leadership in being the role models for our family and Klal Yisroel.

Ah Gut Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

 

*Yisrael Lipshutz ישראל ליפשיץ‏; 1782–1860 was a leading 19th century Ashkenazi rabbi, first in Dessau and then in the Jewish Community of Danzig. Rabbi Lipshutz was the author of the commentary “Tiferes Yisrael”, a well-known commentary on the Mishnah. The edition of the Mishnah containing this commentary is often referred to as "Mishnayos Yachin uBoaz". The commentary is divided into two parts, one more general and one more analytical, titled "Yachin" and "Boaz" respectively (after two large pillars in Solomon's Temple, the first Temple in Jerusalem). This is often considered to be one of the clearest and most useful commentaries on the Mishnah.

Parshas B'Shalach - Stuff is Not His Who Has It, but His Who Enjoys It       12 Shvat 5780

02/07/20 08:46:00

Feb7

Over time, nostalgia has taken on greater significance for me. . There are many Knick knacks from my childhood and from my children’s childhoods that I have saved, causing one of the few areas of contention between my wife and me. She wants to get rid of all the keepsakes; I see them as treasures. Please understand. I’m not a typical hoarder, because I don’t meet the five levels of hoarding. The National Study Group on Compulsive Disorganization created a clutter hoarding scale consisting of five levels of hoarding. I will not even share levels three to five because those levels clearly describe a disorder that does not, Baruch Hashem, apply to me. Even levels one and two are different than my kind of saving. Statistically, a Level 1 hoarder is defined as someone whose clutter fills the bathrooms and kitchen. A Level 2 hoarder has at least four pets, too many per local regulations. People with hoarding disorders often save random items and store them haphazardly. Some kind of hoarding disorder occurs in an estimated 2 to 6 percent of the population and often leads to substantial distress, leading to problems functioning. Some research shows hoarding disorders are more common in males than females. Hoarding also has a genetic component, but researchers suspect that what's inherited is not a compulsion to keep stuff, per se, but rather a crippling indecisiveness, according to David Tolin, Ph.D., director of the Anxiety Disorders Center in Hartford, Connecticut.

  1. issue isn’t really hoarding old used items, rather I tend to buy new things and put them away and not use them for a while. I have a stockpile of new socks, shirts, a suit or two and even a few pair of brand-new shoes never yet worn. I can only explain this phenom in either one of two ways. The first, as a genetic condition I inherited from my parents. In the basement of our house, we stored cans of food, boxes of cereal, tissues and toilet paper in quantities to last a lifetime. My parents did not live through the depression, but they were the children of immigrants who definitely were driven to save a penny or two. The second possibility is that I am preparing for an apocalypse when the malls will be shut down, Amazon will not longer sell everything I could possibly buy in a mall, and at last my stash of attire will save the day. I will be prepared with new clothing! The downside of putting things away is that by the time I’m ready to use this array of clothing they’ll be out of style and will probably no longer fit. However, on second thought, by the time I lose weight, the clothing will be back in style! While this line of reasoning is not unique, the line of thinking seems justifiable to me!

In this week’s Sedra the Torah states in Shmos 16:19,20: ויאמר משה אלהם איש אל יותר ממנו עד בקר “Moshe announced to them, “Let no man leave over any until morning”. ולא שמעו אל משה ויותירו אנשים ממנו עד בקר וירם תולעים ויבאש ויקצוף עלהם משה “Some men did not listen to Moshe and left a portion over for the morning. It became putrid, filled with maggots and worms. Moshe was angry with these people”. Why did Moshe get angry at the people for leaving over some food, attempting to save it for the morning? The answer lies in the preceding verses, leading up to the time they left over the food. In verse 16”18 the Torah stated that when the Jews went out to pick up the manna, some gathered more and some less. But when they measured it with an omer, those who had taken more did not have any extra, and those who had taken less did not have too little. They had gathered exactly enough for each one to eat”. Reb Shlomo Lunchitz in his commentary Kli Yakar explains that the story of the manna is a display of the known wonder that the sustenance and salary of a person is set for him from the beginning of his life to the end. An individual who tries to gather more than he needs in his lifetime leaves this world with nothing extra, because a person at the time of death cannot take it with him. So too, someone who only gathered a minimum in this world didn’t lack because Hashem gives to every living creature what he needs for survival. For this reason, a miracle took place: the measure of the manna was equal to all and the “extra” a person tried to garner was wormy the very next morning. This teaches us that whatever a person stores up to save for the morrow will go bad. In the end it will be wormy and full of maggots.

The Mechilta teaches us that the Torah was only given to the consumers of the manna. The way an individual seizes the Torah and delves into it is by toiling in Torah without the extras of life. The Torah scholar knows that all the extras are for naught and eventually get eaten up by others. The exception of picking up only manna for one day was Friday when the command was to take a double portion, one extra for Shabbos. That extra portion set aside for Shabbos did not go bad; it remained fresh even the next day. The manna was spiritual food , teaching us the lesson of taking an extra portion for Shabbos in the physical sense and relating to the extra Torah learned for the Shabbos day in the next world where every day is a complete day of Shabbos. The spiritual sustenance never goes bad; it lasts for eternity. This point of spirituality lasting forever is seen by the commandment Hashem gave to save and place a jar of manna in front of the Ark of Testimony in the place of the Luchos of the Torah. This was to show that the Torah was only given to those who merited eating the manna.

  1. is no question a person should use and enjoy things in the present while at times saving something for the future. How do we decide what to use and what to put away? Perishables should be used immediately while non-perishable items could be stored for a later time. Sometimes that works and other times it does not, as in my case where the items we store away may never be used. On the spiritual side, when learning Torah and performing Mitzvos, it’s a different story. The Gemara Shabbos 127a states: These are the precepts whose fruits a person enjoys in this world but whose principal remains intact for him in the World to Come. The physical foods of today should be treated as the spiritual manna of the past. We eat to physically live in this world but our principal – the spiritual sustenance lives on in the next.

 

Ah Gut Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Parshas Bo - The Rules of the Road                5th of Shvat 5780

01/31/20 11:17:36

Jan31

It is now forty years since I began driving an automobile. I took driver’s education and it was through them I got my license, but it was my mother, of blessed memory, who taught me how to drive. Ove the years I’ve heard that I have a reputation of being a New York driver. Some passengers in my car requested double seat belts and a parachute with an optional eject button just in case they needed access to an early departure. New York drivers are known to be aggressive; it is a direct correlation to the aggressiveness of daily life in New York city. In contrast, living in Charleston, South Carolina, cars can be sold with a horn because no one ever beeps such a rude, noisy device. The pace, speed and style of driving is completely different from place to place. I clearly experienced this throughout the years but learning to drive was in New York city. Years later, I needed to adjust my driving habits and change my skills while living in the south. Every culture, society, and people develop different habits in every area of life, including the art of driving. Once again, it is the influence of who, where, and why someone is in a place that directly affects how they drive.

Since my family and I have had the experience of living in different parts of the country, our driving habits have been shaped to conform to the patterns of that locale. When I am back in New York, I need to say to myself, “Okay. I need to revert back to my New York aggressive style of driving.” This may include any or all of the following: weaving in and out of traffic, cutting someone off, honking the horn until my palms ache, cut off careless pedestrians, and so forth. When I return to San Diego, I revert back to my definition of a less-aggressive driving style while still reserving the option of the old school driving whenever I deem it to be necessary.

Today, I live in a community that has a major university located in the heart of the neighborhood. Forty thousand plus students mill around what’s known as the College Area throughout each semester. There is an incredible drop in traffic school as soon as winter break, spring break, or summer vacation begins followed by an enormous rise in traffic as soon as school resumes. It is a great relief for those who live in the area during summer, winter, and the shorter breaks throughout the year.

Driving or walking through the streets unfettered by strolling students and cars and busses clogging the roadways can be a time-consuming and stressful experience. Just as there is relief and more air to breath when the students are gone, so too is there more stress and anxiety when the students return. All breaks, short or long, are not only a vacation for the students; they are also a much-appreciated vacation for those of us who live here. Drivers get quickly acclimated to open streets, allowing quicker access to and from the freeway into the neighborhood. Even the freeways see a decrease in the flow of traffic because all schools around the city are also on break. The flip side of this traffic swing is also apparent. During breaks I adjust my driving times based upon the joy of minimum traffic. Unfortunately, it takes a few days to recalibrate my driving times when the city streets fill up again. This phenomenon affected me no less than three times this week as I was running late due to the forgotten traffic conditions I now face until spring break. I was fascinated to learn that I am just a “subject” on driving patterns. Please read on…

A group of researchers from the University of Washington and the University of California at San Diego found that they could "fingerprint" drivers based exclusively on data they collected from the internal computer network of the vehicle their test subjects were driving. This is known as a car's CAN bus. In fact, they found that the data collected from a car's brake pedal alone could allow them to correctly distinguish the correct driver from 15 individuals about nine times out of ten, after just 15 minutes of driving. With 90 minutes driving data or monitoring more car components, these researchers could pick out the correct driver 100 percent of the time. Bear in mind, despite the recent study shown, the concept of travel is not a new one. It dates back thousands of years as we follow the Jewish people who, for most of our existence, have been on the road. A simple illustration of this found in this week’s Torah reading.

In this week’s Sedra Bo the Torah states in Shmos 12:37"ויסעו בני ישראל מרעמסס סכתה כשש מאות אלף רגלי הגברים לבד מטף" “The Israelites traveled from Ramses toward Sukkoth. There were about 600,000 adult males on foot, in addition to the women and children. In addition, great number of nationalities also left with them along with sheep and cattle, and a huge amount of livestock”. The Torah describes an incredible size of live traffic moving out of Egypt on its way to an unknown place, all following Moshe Rabbeinu to the promised land. We’ve learned how the Jews were forced to flee quickly, not even having the time to allow their bread to rise. Somehow, they managed to travel quickly despite the size of the camp. We know what it is like to go on a family trip, complicated by multiple generations, each person moving at his/her own pace. Children, especially young ones who want to walk and not be carried, are typically slower than the young, healthy adults. The senior population would yell to the younger generation, “Go ahead, keep going, don’t wait. We’ll catch up.” Despite and slavery and suffering, leaving a land they knew as home was also painful. Change is frightening, especially when traveling into the unknown. Nevertheless, with all of the obstacles and challenges, Hashem made it happen. Everyone was able to keep up the pace; despite their own patterns of travel, they stayed together. My guess from studying the sources was that no one bumped into others or stepped on the back of the sandal of the person in front of them. The miracles that included the actual leaving and traveling was no less miraculous than these other overlooked miracles. The people, all inexperienced travelers, adapted well to their surroundings. No one went too fast or too slow.

Our modern living style, overlaid with commuting, picking up our children, driving all over the place calculating when to leave and how much time is needed get to the next destination, relies routinely on the car’s nav system, WAZE, or Google Maps. It behooves us to keep in mind who is really controlling those apps. All of these devices, ingenious creations of man are, in fact, guides from Hashem. The prayer of Tefilas HaDerech is recited on trips when leaving a city or when departing for longer journeys. Even though we may not be obligated to say the Bracha/blessing of the wayfarer’s prayer, we should always keep in mind that the roads and traffic are still controlled by Hashem. If we keep this thought in mind, our driving will be safer, our blood pressure and anxiety levels will drop, and ultimately this will bring us to the Derech Hashem, the Path of God.

Ah Gut Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Parshas VaEira - Overcoming the Handicap          27 Kislev 5780

01/24/20 11:12:49

Jan24

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public and private life, including employment, education, transportation and access to all places available to the general public, became law in 1990. On occasion, I find myself giving a ride sharing a trip with someone who has a handicap permit. Typically, I and am told by the handicapped individual that he will bring the permit so we can make parking a bit easier and closer to the venue we are attending together.

There is no question as to the different reasons why a person is entitled to this placard and the necessity it provides and the validity that it justifies. Nevertheless, for a moment I think to myself, “Hey, that’s great, but wait a minute, Baruch Hashem I don’t have a disability., I should not take advantage of this.” After that thought, I realize that it’s not for me but rather for my passenger who legitimately requires it. But then I think to myself, why not drop this person off closer to where we are going and then park somewhere else, then getting the car when it’s time to pick the person up. The law allows the service provider or the vehicle to be a part of this permit because allowing the provider this extra benefit ultimately serves the disadvantaged person while allowing the provider some extra benefit as well.

In truth, we are all handicapped in different ways. Of course, the ADA has proven to be a great step towards directly helping many with physical disabilities. I write the following connection with great trepidation. I am not comparing someone with a disability who falls under the statute of the ADA; all of us have some kind of disability which is not specifically physical, such as spiritual, emotional or personal. This second group mentioned is not entitled to a placard, allowing them to park in a designated parking spot. These disability need to be identified by the individuals themselves. The reason it is important for an individual to recognize and identify such handicaps is so that they will be able to face them in order to work to overcome them.

I am one who has thought back to something that I overcame over a period of time. Perhaps, people look at me today as being outgoing, loud, outspoken, opinionated and the like. This has not been the case my entire life. As a child I was someone who for the most played alone, only rarely going to a friend’s house for a play date. I occupied my time with my cars and soldiers. My pre-teen years were dedicated to sports, yet, even then, played ball, creating games and challenges against myself, i.e. stoop, off the wall and one-on-one basketball. The one-on-one was me against myself. My high school years were a little more social, but I traveled to and from school alone and did not live near the friends I made in high school. Looking back, I’m guessing that it wasn’t until my later teenage years that I became more social but still in a reserved manner. As I entered Yeshiva, I actively took on more of a leadership role, but it did not come naturally; I needed to work on it. Fast forward thirty-five years and at times I feel I just want to be that shy guy, left alone to sit in the corner and not be bothered with constant obligations of communal spiritual leadership. In life, a person who is able to express himself and be a little more outspoken has some benefits (and sometimes detractions). But looking back, I think subconsciously I made these adjustments, understanding that to not do so would have limited my ability to do the things I do today. My situation (not a bad one) was, to a degree, some form of handicap; I needed to face my reluctance to leave my one-on-one inner contentment in order to develop my inner understanding of the need to reach out to others, to share and feel and grow through the awareness of how much each of us can gain through social and emotional experiences which are shared. My disability or challenge was not physical; it was emotional. There is a wide range of disabilities we each of us may find ourselves on the spectrum. Since no one person is perfect, by definition we are all imperfect. Once I recognize an imperfection, I focus inwardly, striving to correct and fix it to whatever degree possible. This notion of a physical yet non-physical disability is found within the most classic fundamental icon, Moshe Rabbeinu.

We are all familiar with the Midrash of Moshe sitting on Pharoah’s lap and was given the test of picking up some sparkling jewels or glowing hot coals. Moshe set out to pick up one of the precious gems, but an angel pushed his hand away towards the coals to pick up the hot, worthless piece rather than the glittering, valuable piece. Hashem sent the Malach (angel) to change course to convince Pharoah that Moshe was not so smart, that he couldn’t be the savior for the Jewish people. This event allowed Moshe to live and grow up as an Egyptian prince who one day might ascend to the throne and not to become the leader of the Jewish people. When Moshe picked up the hot coal, he immediately dropped it and brought his burning fingers to his lips to cool down. As a result, the Midrash explains that act created some type of speech defect in either Moshe’s tongue or on his lips. This physical limitation is brought up as a defense for Moshe to decline the mission for which he was hand-picked by God. We see this clearly stated in the Torah.

In this week’s Torah reading Parshas Va’eira, God gives a second demurral to Moshe. It states in Shmos 6:29,30: וַיְדַבֵּ֧ר יְהוָ֛ה אֶל־מֹשֶׁ֥ה לֵּאמֹ֖ר אֲנִ֣י יְהוָ֑ה דַּבֵּ֗ר אֶל־פַּרְעֹה֙ מֶ֣לֶךְ מִצְרַ֔יִם אֵ֛ת כָּל־אֲשֶׁ֥ר אֲנִ֖י דֹּבֵ֥ר אֵלֶֽיךָ׃ “God spoke to Moshe and said, ‘I am God. Relate to Pharoah, king of Egypt, that I am saying to you.’ וַיֹּ֥אמֶר מֹשֶׁ֖ה לִפְנֵ֣י יְהוָ֑ה הֵ֤ן אֲנִי֙ עֲרַ֣ל שְׂפָתַ֔יִם וְאֵ֕יךְ יִשְׁמַ֥ע אֵלַ֖י פַּרְעֹֽה׃ “Interrupting the revelation, Moshe said, ‘I do not have the self-confidence to speak. How will Pharoah ever pay attention to me?’. Rabbi Aryah Kaplan gives a unique understanding of Moshe’s lip or tongue handicap. This was not the first time Moshe mentioned this excuse. Looking back only a few verses earlier in Shmos 6:12 Moshe claims the same defense. Why does he repeat it again? The Netzi”v, in his commentary HaAmek Davar, explains “not only am I not capable of physically saying the words properly, but in the eyes or ears of Pharoah it would not be well taken.” Hashem took the second time as a sign of humility that Moshe is not on the level of the mighty Pharoah. Hashem in turn has mercy upon Moshe; despite his “shortcomings” Hashem blessed Moshe to succeed in every endeavor and overcame the speech impediment. It is not that he no longer had the impediment; this disability did not impede Moshe from growing and becoming the greatest leader of the Jewish people.

May we all take this great lesson to heart. No matter what challenges we all face, if we accept them with humility, Hashem will bless each and everyone of us not only to overcome but to succeed beyond our greatest dreams.                                                           Ah Gut Shabbos      Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Parshas Shmos - Heritage = Past, Present & Future     20 Kislev 5780

01/17/20 13:01:58

Jan17

Last month, my wife and I had the fortune to visit Prague, one of the nicest cities in Europe. Prague is one of only a few cities that was not bombed (intentionally) during World War II. The beauty and the quaintness of the city is just as it was four to five hundred years ago. One of the most interesting facts of the city is how Jewish life can be traced back almost a thousand years. Prague’s Jewish heritage is most noted for the famed Mahara”l of Prague, along with some of the greatest Rabbonim who lived and served in those communities. Although the city suffered and was oppressed by the Communist regime, Jewish culture was allowed to remain. This is particularly highlighted through the transformation of many of the Synagogues into museums as opposed to being razed.

The Jews of Prague were able to sustain a Jewish presence, carrying on our culture, traditions, and laws through the preservation of the museums. They had Machzorim, Haggadot, Chumashim and Siddurim dating from hundreds of years ago. The beauty and privilege of seeing them was enhanced by knowing that these precious Seforim contain the same words and prayers we are still saying today. One particular Tefilla stood out to me and my wife a little bit more than the rest: the prayer for the government and its leaders.

Every Shabbos, here at Beth Jacob and at many Shuls throughout the world, a prayer is recited for the welfare of the government and its leaders, Jewish or not. Many people think the origin of this prayer is from Pirkei Avos. Pirkei Avot (Ethics of the Fathers) 3:2 touches on the subject. Rabbi Chanina, the deputy Kohen Gadol says: ‘Pray for the welfare of the government, because if people did not fear it, a person would swallow his fellow alive.’ What makes this Talmudic reference all the more remarkable is that Chanina lived in the days of Nero- a ruler whose name has become synonymous with tyranny- and he heralded a long tradition of Jews praying for rulers for whom they didn’t particularly care.

But this is not the first place or source we find this reference. The origin of the prayer for the welfare of the government is biblical. It was following the first exile, as we sat by the waters of Babylon, that the Navi Yirmiyahu conveyed to us the following: וְדִרְשׁ֞וּ אֶת־שְׁל֣וֹם הָעִ֗יר אֲשֶׁ֨ר הִגְלֵ֤יתִי אֶתְכֶם֙ שָׁ֔מָּה וְהִתְפַּֽלְל֥וּ בַעֲדָ֖הּ אֶל־יְקוָ֑ה כִּ֣י בִשְׁלוֹמָ֔הּ יִהְיֶ֥ה לָכֶ֖ם שָׁלֽוֹם׃ “So said the Lord of Hosts… seek the welfare of the city to which I have exiled you and pray to Hashem on its behalf, for in its prosperity you shall prosper.” This was after 586 BCE. Not 200 years later Ezra recorded that in the rebuilt Second Temple it was the practice to offer sacrifices and prayers for the lives of Emperor Darius I of Persia and his children. Some six hundred years after that Pirkei Avos touches upon this.

As mentioned earlier, this tefila was said for rulers known to be tyrannical and anti-Semitic. In the 1740’s the Jews of Czechoslovakia were saying this prayer every Shabbos morning on behalf of Maria Theresa, the mother of Mary Antoinette. On December 18, 1744, Maria Theresa, queen of Austria and archduchess of Hungary and Bohemia, signed an edict ordering the expulsion of all Jews, first from Prague – all Jews had to depart by the end of January 1745 – and then, by June, from all her hereditary dominions, that is, from Moravia and Bohemia. Maria Theresa had a profound hatred of Jews. In 1777, she wrote, "I know of no greater plague than this race, which on account of its deceit, usury and avarice is driving my subjects into beggary.” Additionally, she was prey to rumors that Prague’s Jews had sided with the Prussians, and against her, during the city’s occupation in the summer of 1744, during the course of the War of the Austrian Succession. And yet with all this we still maintained the prayer as can be seen here. It is truly a support of our history and heritage which has an unbroken chain for over twenty-five hundred years, that in spite of centuries of hatred and persecution we have recited a prayer for the government despite their anti-Semitic view of Jews.

Throughout my years in the Rabbinate I’ve seen and heard calls for Discover your Heritage! Over time I’ve come to see that this this well-intended call falls far short of what is necessary. We cannot just stop when our heritage is discovered anew by those whose opportunities to learn about it have been awakened. We all need to learn about and strengthen our magnificent heritage. Everyone needs to learn more of our history, our treasures, our scholarship and our accomplishments; to just ‘discover’ our heritage is not enough.

Last week we concluded Sefer Bereishis. I described the first book of the Torah as one full of basic principles of faith learning from the forefathers how they each individually built the Jewish people. Sefer Shmos, the book of Exodus, continues to teach us, describing the Emunah/faith of the Jewish people throughout our history. We became a nation in Mitzrayim, exiting the land of our slavery accompanied by great cataclysmic miracles that devastated the land of Egypt. Through these miracles we and the nations of the world came to know Hashem. The Ramban at the end of Parshas Bo divides the book from when we left Egypt to the second half when we received the Torah on Har Sinai, whereby we received the Shechina (God’s eminence). The third section of Shmos is the Mishkan which leads to the service of sacrifices to Hashem by the Kohanim and Leviim. In the beginning of Shmos, it says a new king arose in Egypt who didn’t know Yosef. There is a famous Rashi here which gives two explanations of “not knowing Yosef”. The first is that there was an actual new king, a different person who did not know who Yosef was. The second interpretation is that it was the same old king who came up with new decrees, either trying to forget who Yosef was or ignoring the fact of all the good Yosef had done to save Egypt. I would like to suggest that he did not know the history and heritage of Yosef. Not the history and heritage you may be thinking of Egypt but rather the past history that Yosef represents from the time of Avraham, Yitzchok and Yaakov. In that he, Yosef, is in the continuing position of the previous generations. The new decrees did not recognize and could not foretell the rich heritage of the Jewish people that was now cemented in their becoming a nation.

The strength of the Jewish people lies in our past, present and future. But the past, present and future of the Jewish people are not single, divided times in our history. Rather our past, our present and our future are all linked intimately together by our belief, language, names, dress, and ideas that have kept us going and will continue to nurture us until the ultimate redemption, speedily in our day! 

Parshas Vayechi - Living Through Our Written Words     13 Teves 5780

01/10/20 12:50:16

Jan10

In 2005, at the conclusion of the eleventh completion of the Daf Yomi cycle, I was inspired to contribute to the Jewish world of learning Torah. As the excitement grew following the world-wide celebrations of this Siyum HaShas, more and more Torah publications were written to enhance the daily learning initiative. Highly motivated by the excitement of having completed this seven-and-a-half year cycle, I came up with an idea for making the daily learning of one page of Gemara come to life and grow in significance. I noticed over the years that Rashi, the main commentary and Tosafos, give a basic explanation and understanding of the text. In addition to the main purpose of their approach, I noticed that on almost every daf (a daf is both sides of the page) there would be a comment that was not particularly needed to explain the text. It was sometimes an insight into nature or life. At times it explained and also guided human behavior; at other times it was a soft rebuke. All in all, I thought it was something unique to call out every day, share thoughts regarding life experiences that relate to the learning or events of each day.

  1. eagerly began this project, striving to identify some insight into human psychology that I learned in Rashi’s commentaries. Each day I wrote a few hundred words, striving to highlight and illuminate the insights of Rashi which went beyond the textual understanding of the Gemara. Unfortunately, this keen commitment lasted for about nine days. This past Sunday as we again completed and began the new cycle of learning each day, I turned to the Gemara that I had used fifteen years ago, and I am now reviewing those highlights and am sharing the insights I had written with our Daf Yomi group. Nevertheless, feel a twinge of regret for not having continued pursuing my goal. Perhaps the silver lining in my not continuing was the initiation of writing of a weekly message a few years later. The project of writing a weekly message was manageable because it was only once a week. As look back, my weekly message is similar to the initial book in that I took a common or obvious event or feeling from our daily lives and related it back to something in the Parsha. These weekly writings eventually were published in book form. Now as I look back at my recorded insights of Rashi, was once again overcome with a desire to take on this challenge anew, I knew I could not if I were still writing a weekly message. Now, three years after publishing my first book, I signed a contract to write/publish a second one. Perhaps when I finish this book, I’ll take a break from the weekly writing and write a daily insight from that day’s daf Yomi.

When writing a book of this genre, the author must strive to maintain a consistent theme which clearly reflects and nurtures the purpose of the work. In addition, this challenge must also repeatedly reflect the importance of that theme to the reader, insuring from the outset that specific thoughts compliment and deepen both awareness and belief with clarity and personal appeal to the reader. This Shabbos we read Parshas Vayechi, concluding Sefer Bereishis. What was the Author’s intent throughout the book of Bereishis? Of course, there is no comparison with a human being writing a book compared to God who knows all. Nevertheless, what was the theme of Sefer Berishis?

A primary purpose of creation is knowing that Hashem created the world. This introduction is that the Neshama/soul is the center of our Emunah/belief. Hashem created His house. At the very beginning man must decide if he will look at this world as if he alone is in charge or if he stands in front of and ultimately answers to HaKasoh Boruch Hu. This decision must be made from the outset. It is an indication of whether or not he is a Ba’al Emunah or not. To make such a determination we study and learn about the three primary personalities in Bereishis: Avraham Yitzchok and Yakov. These are our Avos, our fathers, the core reason why the Book of Berishis is called by “Sefer HaAvos” the book of the fathers. Each believer has a unique characteristic that highlights his or her Emunah to God. It is that unique quality that brings out our sign of belief in Hashem. Avraham, Yitzchok and Yakov make up the face of Emunah through certain practices throughout our lives..

Avraham was the ‘mevater’ - a yielding person. He gave up his land, birthplace and family. He was willing to give up his life and be burned alive in Ur Kasdim by refusing to bow down to Nimrod. Avraham yielded to Sarah’s demand to send out Hagar and Yishmael, and then was ready to sacrifice his own son Yitzchok. Reb Zushya explains Avraham is willing to give up everything to serve God because of his belief.

Yitzchok was a ‘Parush’ - a reclusive, abstinent, and self-denying person. He separated himself for the Akeidah by separating and making himself like an Olah, a sacrifice to God. He did not go down to Egypt nor did he leave for Aram Naharayim. At the end of his days he went blind and was not able to see results of sins. Through these acts of separation, he elevated himself due to the endless Emunah and belief he had in Hashem.

Yaakov was a ‘sovel’ - a person of great patience. Yaakov served God with total devotion and patience. Yaakov was able to tolerate the shenanigans of his father-in- law Lavan. He endured the taking of Dinah and the selling of Yosef. He carried the burden of exile, going down to Egypt.

These are the qualities that shaped the essence of our Avos, demonstrating total belief, faith that Hashem created the world and is the one and only God.

  1. ultimate purpose of writing is to strengthen and deepen our Emunah and faith in Hashem. It is during the daily struggles of life, its ups and downs and challenges, that we need to see and reach out to Hashem. Whether it is from a Rashi pointing out something about our daily life or something that I point out in the obvious and not so obvious events of life that we see Hashem. This is the success of a sefer and concluding it, maintaining the theme of Emunah from beginning to end. The word Bereishis can be divided Barah Shis Hashem - created in six. It is within the creation of the six days that we can see God’s hand and develop recognition of Him to strengthen our Emunah. Just as we finish Sefer Bereishis we should see Hashem and continue to deepen our Emunah and belief in Hashem throughout the other twenty three books of Tanach, making our way through the Torah She’Baal Peh the Oral Torah with focus, devotion, and continued growth and depth of understanding.

Ah Gut Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

 

Parshas Vayigash - A Sage is Beyond his Years       6 Teves 5780

01/03/20 09:23:41

Jan3

By now many of you have read some of the stories, heard the testimonials or saw the 13th Siyum Hashas this past New Year’s Day that people participated in from around the world and centered in MetLife Stadium. For those who may not have yet, and those who have there is always another angle that we can draw from this momentous occasion. With that caveat, I would like to share a few ideas that have been buzzing in my head for the last few months.

A true sage is recognized years later when his teachings are finally understood and perhaps experienced. I remember when I was in Yeshiva, Rabbi Wein Y”BL discussed the laws of Sukkah and who and under what conditions a person may be Patur/exempt from eating in the Sukkah. Keep in mind Sukkos on the East coast and Monsey in particular brought an early winter and was uncomfortable to sit in the Sukkah. At what degree would a person be exempt? Rabbi Wein in his imitable fashion with his Midwest accent said, “it’s not about degrees or temperature but attitude and dedication. If a person had a ticket on the fifty-yard line of the Chicago Bears playoff game and it was twenty below zero with a windchill of fifty below would he still go to the game? If the answer is yes, then he is not exempt from Sukkah either. If there is mesiras nefesh for a football game, then there needs to be self-sacrifice for the Mitzva to eat and sleep in the Sukkah”.

Well here I was thirty-five years later experiencing a cold winter day at a famous football stadium not to watch a game but to share in an experience of achdus, ahavas Yisroel and Torah. Now, I must admit it was not nearly as cold of an example Rabbi Wein described, but coming from Southern California it definitely would be a challenging Sukkah question. But Rabbi Wein’s insight and analogy goes deeper than the surface. How is it that you see the “polar bear club” plunging into ice cold water in sub temperatures or football fans in Green Bay taking off their shirts during a game with blizzard conditions? The answer is commitment, tenacity, dedication and love of the game that they don’t even feel the cold. So too, at this Siyum HaShas ninety-two thousand people braved the weather and didn’t even feel the cold. I was thrilled to have finally understood the depth of a great sage’s words of wisdom albeit it took a while, that is another dimension of the beauty of Torah.

Another small episode but not insignificant by any means was brought out by a Halacha/law of Tefilla/prayer. In Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 125:2 Mishna Brura daled says to keep your feet together during Kedusha because one needs to have more intense concentration to sanctify Hashem’s name. In this merit Hashem will settle a special sanctity upon the person from above. Through this act we fulfill the verse ונקדשתי בתוך בני ישראל and I will sanctify Myself among the children of Israel. The AriZ”L was very careful and scrupulous in this matter. Siman 95 discusses the reasons why we keep our feet together during the Amida and basically for any other part of sanctification. The Siyum HaShas venue was in the afternoon creating a situation that just about everyone would have to Daven Mincha at the event, this should not have presented a problem because Mincha (as well as Maariv) was part of the program. We are cruising on the Garden State Parkway, the Turnpike wasn’t bad, and all in all the traffic getting to the stadium was pretty light but as we got off to the service road it became a parking lot! Needless to say, the venue officially kicked-off at one o’clock we were walking into the building at about half past one. We started to hear the repetition of Mincha reverberating and booming from the Chazzan on the main loudspeaker. As the Shliach Tzibbur reached Kedusha everyone who was late running to get inside stopped cold in their tracks put their feet together and in unison responded with the Kedusha of everyone from inside as well all around the facility. As I looked around the only people who kept on walking were the security guards, building staff and the like. I can’t imagine what they were thinking as the foot traffic came to a standstill. Typically, these same gentile workers who are working the football games, concerts and the like never see a crowd of people who are late stop and not continue at whatever cost to run in to not to miss any part of the sport.

The ultimate reason is that we were not at the venue for ourselves, but rather to make a Kiddush HaShem, to sanctify God’s Holy name through Tefilla and celebrate Limmud HaTorah. The establishing of Torah and its importance can be highlighted and focused on from the Torah.

In this week’s Parshas Vayigash the Torah states in Bereishis 46:28 "ואת יהודה שלח לפניו גושנה" “And [Yaakov} sent Yehuda to Goshen”. The Rabbis teach us the purpose of this mission was to establish a Yeshiva in Goshen so that upon the family settling in a new land, Torah will be available as a key component of their continued Jewish existence in the Galus/exile. I would like to share five key takeaways from Yakov Avinu’s message for all time and future generations when it comes to the learning of Torah. Keep in mind it was Yakov who was the יושב אהל the one who sat in the tent of Torah learning in his Yeshiva.

  1. Yehuda was able to set up the Yeshiva because the infrastructure and more important the desire for Torah learning was set in place years earlier by Yosef himself adhering to the Mitzvos and bringing up his own children Ephraim and Menashe in a Galus/exile situation.
  2. Yosef told his brothers don’t delay in getting their father. Many interpret the message in different ways. I would suggest there are different ways to build Torah, let’s not argue about which way, just let’s get it done.
  3. Yakov wanted a permanent place of Torah study. Kvius, is keeping something on an ongoing basis, daily Torah study perhaps something similar to the daily kinds of Torah available today, Nach Yomi, Daf Yomi, Mishna Yomi, something that is day in and day out never to miss a day.
  4. Yakov wanted a set time of learning as it gives structure to a person’s day. As Rav Hamnuna states in Sanhedrin 7a “a person’s judgement in the next world begins with the question did you learn Torah every single day?”
  5. It states in Avos D’Rebbi Nosson 13:2 the establishing of Torah is not only learning Torah but hearing and listening to Torah. Not only does one need to learn on a consistent basis, but he also needs to listen to Torah on a daily consistent basis.

The underlying message of Torah learning is that it’s our lifeline. A true commitment to daily Torah study of at least an hour a day has the potential to change the lives of individuals, families and communities. Let us all draw some kind of inspiration and commit our families made of individuals, mothers, fathers and children to support the love of Torah through establishing a new daily commitment to Torah study.

Ah Gut Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Parshas Mikeitz - Consistency Increase Capacity; Consistency Breeds Success            29 Kislev 5780

12/27/19 09:53:35

Dec27

A few years ago I took some flak for quoting a non-Jewish source as support for a dvar Torah message that I wrote. The intent was not, Chas V’Shalom/Heaven forbid to imply that we need a source outside of Torah to prove a point, especially where there are Torah sources to support everything. Rather, I used this quote as something contemporary, something everyone could relate to today. With this disclaimer, I present to you this week’s message!

Does Jerry Seinfeld still work so hard? Jerry Seinfeld’s response to this question is a master class in achieving incredible success. According to Jerry Seinfeld, his simple approach will never let you down.

Seinfeld is famous for his joke-writing routine. Early on he realized the only way to become a better comedian is to write better jokes -- and the only way to write better jokes is to write every day. So, he purchased a large wall calendar, hung it in his office, and every day after writing a new joke, he marked a red X over the date. He remarked, “After a few days, you'll have a chain; just keep at it and the chain will grow longer every day. You'll like seeing that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. Your only job is to not break the chain."

Seinfeld further explained that he read an article that said when you practice a sport a lot, you literally become a broadband: the nerve pathway in your brain contains a lot more information. As soon as you stop practicing, the pathway begins shrinking back down. Reading that changed my life. I used to wonder, 'Why am I doing these sets, getting on a stage? Don't I know how to do this already?' The answer is no. You must keep doing it. The broadband starts to narrow the moment you stop."

You can't control other people. You can't control timing. You can't control luck. When you think about it, there are very few things you can control except how hard -- and how consistently -- you work. So, if your definition of success includes, at least in part, traditional measures like wealth and professional achievement, consistent effort is the great equalizer.

In a few days thousands upon thousands of Jews from across the globe will be celebrating the seven-and-a-half-year journey through the sea of Talmud. The thirteenth Siyum HaShas will take place on January 1st, 2020. (Actual completion will be on Sunday January 5th) with venues in MetLife stadium in New Jersey to countless communities, Shuls and Batei Midrashim throughout the world. For those who are not familiar with this event, please Google it and be awestruck by the magnitude and the incredible effect Daf Yomi and the once-every-seven-and-a-half-year event has had on the Jewish people throughout the last century. There are many benefits to those who learn the daily page of Talmud and to those who support it. Recent interviews of wives and children of those who learn Daf Yomi explained the benefits they received and continue to feel through the Daf Yomi initiative in which their families participate. But to the individual, what is the primary benefit? Isn’t all and any Torah learning great? The answer is of course! All Torah learning is wonderful and great, but Daf Yomi and many other daily learning regimens give the student an increased capacity to learn as well as an increase in success in learning overall. Every day a person checks the box of another page, eventually to a chapter’s end, heading to the completion of an entire tractate. Ultimately, one looks back, realizing with awe that a number of Gemaros were knocked off, adding to the enthusiasm of beginning to complete one order after another and before long the entire Shas (Shisha Sidrei) is completed.

There is a tremendous amount of stamina necessary to carry this and other consistent processes through to completion. One can ask; “Is it because someone has the innate ability prior to beginning Daf Yomi which sets up the consistency required for day in and day out learning? Or is it an after-the-fact matter that once the person accomplishes the feat he recognizes the daily struggle and challenge which creates the perseverance? It is clear purpose and resolve that gives a person the drive to accomplish that which he sets out to do. This idea is found in the story of Chanukah and the episode of Yosef managing the food supply to Egypt and the other peripheral nations seeking out food during the region’s famine.

In this week’s Parshas Mikeitz the Torah states in Bereishis 42: 6 "ויוסף הוא השליט על הארץ, הוא המשביר לכל עם הארץ, ויבואו אחי יוסף וישתחוו לו אפים ארצה" “Joseph was like a dictator over the land, since he was the only one who rationed out food for all the people. When Joseph’s brothers arrived, they prostrated themselves to him, with their faces to the ground”. The Midrash Tanchuma 42:8 explains that Yosef himself sold the food, and why? Since he did not want to appoint anyone else to be responsible for the sale of food, he knew his family would eventually come down to Egypt to buy food. Therefore, he wanted to be the actual salesperson, enabling him to recognize his brothers when they arrived; they would receive food directly from him. The Ramban explains that it is not befitting a ruler of a land, second in rank to the king of Egypt, that he sell everyone a se’ah [a dry measure] or a half thereof of grain. It was for this reason that our Rabbis were impelled to say that Yosef had ordered at that time that all storehouses except one be closed so that he would be sure to meet his brothers. The Ramban continues to explain that this is in line with the literal interpretation of the passuk: it is possible that the people from all lands came before him, and he would question and investigate them. He would then command the officers to sell so much food to the people of that particular city. Therefore, it became necessary for his brothers, among all those who came from the land of Canaan, to come before him allowing him the opportunity to issue an order especially for them to support his father and family back home.

One could only imagine how busy Yosef would be as second in command to Pharoah. Yet, he felt it necessary to streamline the buying/selling of the grain supply to everyone and anyone who arrived to purchase. Not only was he directly involved in the sale, he was also interviewing and questioning those customers to determine what and how much food to sell them. This scenario undoubtedly took place seven days a week and well beyond regular business hours. Yosef did this on top of and in addition to his regular responsibilities. He was on a mission that required a daily focus and could not risk missing even one day for fear his family would show up that day, causing him to miss them. Each and every day that passed would ultimately bring them closer to seeing them. (Although Chazal tell us the Bnei Yisroel were the first to come from Canaan). Yosef was determined to meet up with his brothers. It would take a daily regimen on the part of Yosef to being the only person to mete out the task necessary to guarantee his success. He displayed consistency to every day and every customer. He was the only one who administered the distribution.

Perhaps it was Yosef’s tenacity and commitment that has been handed down to future generations of Jews to accomplish things, particularly in learning, to be consistent day in and day out, never missing a day, regardless of how many other things requiring attention. There is no question that this has contributed to our increased capacity to learn and retain much more than ever before and to feel and live the success for ourselves, our families, and all of Klal Yisrael. Chazak Chazak V’Nischazeik!

Ah Gut Shabbos & Ah Lichtiga Chanukah Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Parshas Vayeishev - If There Is Life There Is Hope                                     22 Kislev 5780

12/19/19 22:13:51

Dec19

As I flew back to the States, I contemplated this last trip as both long and short: short because it was only a week, but long in the sense of packing in history, family, cuisine, and most important, heritage. Flying from San Diego to Prague was uneventful, but the two and a half days were filled with sadness while visiting Tirezen and joy in seeing Jewish life rebounding only a few kilometers away in Prague. The continuation of the trip to Israel was highlighted by my first cousin’s son Eitan Adler, who piloted the plane from Prague to Tel Aviv. My wife and I immersed ourselves in Israeli society; we decided to open a bank account in Israel. As everyone promised, it proved to be a long, grueling ordeal thanks to much stricter banking laws due to money laundering concerns. Monday, the day I was leaving, I was sick in bed until I forced myself to get going by making one last trip to say good-bye to my father, have a quick dinner with my children, and attend my niece’s engagement party, all on the way to the airport.

If I could select the most important and meaningful part of this very busy and eventful trip, it was the second to last day. I picked up my father and had breakfast with him in Aroma. From there I are drove to Elazar, a town in the Gush which is about thirty minutes away in order to visit my aunt and uncle (my mother’s brother) who is recuperating from a fall that was so nasty it was touch and go whether he would recover. Without going into detail, my Aunt Libby and Uncle Eric had a major impact on me throughout my childhood years. I could never express the Hakaras Hatov - recognizing the good- they provided me. The visit could have lasted all day, but after an hour or so I headed to the Bet Shemesh cemetery and visited with my mother and brother a”h. At this point there was only one more person to visit in order to complete the circuit, my aunt Sonya, who like my father, is in late stages of dementia. So back I drove to the Ramat Eshkol neighborhood in Jerusalem to the old-age home. These individuals are the patriarchs and matriarchs of our family. To be honest, the visit at the cemetery was the shortest of all. The total years of age including my mother is four hundred thirty-four.

In a sense, each person I visited with was at a different stage in life. My mother, a”h, living in the next world, my father and aunt, existing in this world, and my aunt and uncle, bli ayin hora, enjoying and living life to its fullest. With God’s blessing they should all live until one hundred and twenty years. It was very special for me - and I think for my mother a”h as well - to have visited with her older siblings, all of whom were instrumental in our lives.

The transition between life and death is instantaneous, but that is only the physical death. Human beings possess a certain sense of when something bad happens to a person, particularly when someone very close and dear to you passes on. The ability to know if someone actually left this world is found in this week’s Torah reading, Parsha Veyeishev. It is in this parsha that we read the story of Yaakov’s children selling their brother Yosef, making up a story that Yosef, the beloved son of Yaakov, was killed by wild beasts. Yaakov Avinu was completely distraught. The family attempted to comfort him, but to no avail. The Torah states in Bereishis 37:35 "ויקומו כל בניו וכל בנותיו לנחמו וימאן להתנחם, ויאמר כי ארד אל בני שאולה, ויבך אתו אביו" “And all of his sons and daughters got up to comfort him [Yaakov] and he refused to be comforted. He said: ‘I will go down to the grave mourning for my son.’ He wept for his son as only a father could. Rashi quotes the Midrash Rabbah stating, “No one accepts consolation for one who is alive although considered dead, since for a dead person, it was decreed that he should be forgotten from the heart, but not for one alive.” Why didn’t Yaakov interpret the facts that were presented to him and accept the fate that Yosef, his beloved son, was no longer among the living? The most famous answer given is because Yaakov had Ruach HaKodesh, Divine inspiration, giving him the feeling that Yosef was still alive.

Rabbi Shmuel Yaffe Ashkenazi in his commentary Yefei Toar to the Midrash, lends meaning to Rashi’s words. After being told of Yosef’s death, proclaiming that a wild beast must have eaten Yosef, tearing him to pieces, Yaakov Avinu stopped and thought a second time and said, “Itis just conjecture that I surmised he is dead, but I have not given up hope in my heart to find him!” Therefore, he refused to be comforted, keeping the memory of his son alive in his heart, never ceasing to seek him out. In other words, Yaakov claimed that if there is life there is hope, and if we don’t know when that end will be, there is always hope that a different conclusion may be reached despite the dire reality of the situation. Yaakov Avinu gives us perspective that we don’t have all the facts even though we think we do. There are countless medical stories of teams of doctors trying to convince a family that their loved one will never recover. I’m not saying we should be blinded and turn away from what modern medicine knows. Nonetheless, doctors and medicine are not a perfect science; they don’t know everything. Therefore, we turn to Halachik decisors to determine and evaluate information in order to decide.

It is sad visiting with relatives who many refer as individuals without a quality of life, but WE never write anyone off. If they are alive and breathing, there is hope that they may recover from whatever they are enduring. The lesson is a great one. In the case of Yaakov and Yosef, the hope of Yaakov to find Yosef alive was, in fact, true. Perhaps, if Yaakov had accepted the information and grieved over his son’s death, he may never have sought him out; he may never have seen him again. For me, visiting with older relatives who are seemingly not living a life, are nevertheless very much alive. We still pray for their full recovery as we once knew them. It is a test of Emunah - of faith in Hashem. We therefore never ever give up from the hope, the emunah, that things will get better. In the case when a person is no longer physically alive and the visit is at a cemetery, we still hope and pray that their life in the next world is eternally sweet and comforting.

Ah Gut Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

 

R’ Ashkenazi was born in Turkey in approximately 1525, but his name indicates that he was of Ashkenazic descent. Some believe that he was a cousin of R’ Mordechai Yaffe (author of the Levush) and of another R’ Shmuel Yaffe, the father of R’ Yoel Sirkes (the “Bach”).

R’ Ashkenzai’s teachers were the sages Mahari ben Lev, R’ Shmuel Saba, and R’ Shlomo Alkabetz (author of the poem Lecha Dodi). In 1564, R’ Ashkenazi was appointed rabbi of one of the neighborhoods of Costa (now Istanbul). Together with other rabbis of Costa, R’ Ashkenazi signed a number of decrees meant to strengthen observance of the prohibition on lending with interest. It appears that he also headed a yeshiva.

Rav Ashkenazi wrote many halachic responsa. Although his own collection of the letters – entitled Bet Din Yafeh – has been lost, many of his responsa have been printed in other collections. He also wrote other halachic works. However, by far his greatest fame rests on his monumental commentaries on various Midrashim, in particular Yefeh Toar on Midrash Rabbah. He also wrote Yefeh Anaf on Midrash Rabbah to the Five Megillot, Yefeh Nof on the Midrash to Sefer Shmuel and other works. Ashkenazi died on 19 Elul 5355 (1595)

Parshas Vayishlach - A Game of Life                15 Kislev 5780

12/13/19 02:59:39

Dec13

Life today, at the dawn of the second decade of the twenty-first century, is markedly different than it was when I was a teenager forty years ago. For the most part, stereotyping anyone or anyplace is no longer acceptable. Despite this, stereotyping happens to be useful when explaining the differences and changes that have occurred over time. This is especially so when describing men’s and women’s experiences and opportunities regarding equality. With this disclaimer, I grew up watching sports which were all predominantly male. Most sports were ‘modified’ for girls, stereotyping the same sports played by boys to be more rough, rugged and vicious. There was, however, at one mirror-image game where the girls were clearly more aggressive and the boys were actually a bit more cowardly. The male version was called dodgeball and the female counter part was called Machanayim.

I’m not sure if all you reading this know what ‘Machanayim’ is; perhaps it was created and predominately played by religious Jewish girls. I personally never fully understood the game and only recently asked someone how it works. Machanayim is a souped-up version of dodgeball which requires greater killer instinct. Traditional dodgeball for boys is, by and large, a cowardly game consisting mostly of running for cover and retreating to the back line. As the other team threw the ball it lost velocity, making it catchable, getting the thrower knocked out of the game. Typically, when someone threw the ball, he would run to the back line as quickly as he could. In order to shorten the game, the teacher or counselor had to move the back line closer to the middle thereby narrowing the amount of area where one could run and hide.

Machanayim, a game played by girls in Jewish schools and summer camps, is similar to dodge ball. The name ‘Machanayim’ comes from the Hebrew word meaning "two encampments", or in this case, two teams. The Game Play is as follows: Players are divided into two encampments with the room split in two, the teams facing each other. The playing area does not extend all the way to the back of the room or court - the two far ends are left empty, and two volunteers, typically one of the better players from each team, are placed behind the opposing team. This player is called "the captain". In Machanayim team A has its captain on the other side of the field behind the back line of team B. Team B has its captain on the opposite side behind the line of team A. Each team can either throw the ball directly against their opponent with a face-to- face attack, or they can throw the ball to their captain, allowing the captain to attack the other team from behind. Essentially, the teams are constantly running back and forth because the back line can become the front line and vice versa. A player who thinks she can hide and hang out in the back is quickly faced by the captain of the opposing team, now directly in her face, forced to either try to catch the ball or run back again to what was previously the front. A ball is thrown into play at the start, although it is not activated (see below). The game is like dodgeball, in that players throw the ball at opponents. When player are hit, they are out. The difference between Machanayim and Dodgeball is that when a player is out in Machanayim, she are still part of the game. Rather than leaving the court, the player goes to the end area behind the opposing team, joining the original volunteer or captain from her team. The start of the game is the Activation: The ball is only eligible for use in getting others out once it has been "activated". To activate a ball, a player must throw it to any other player, on either team, without it hitting the ground. The ball is announced "alive" when it has been activated. As soon as the ball hits the ground, it is pronounced "dead" and needs resuscitation. Winning: When one team runs out of players (they are all behind the opposing team), the captain goes into the middle. The captain has more than one "life" (can be up to 3). Once the captain is out 3 times, the other team wins.

Earlier, I wrote that I am not sure who came up with this fancy game of Dodgeball or for that matter who named it Machanayim. Upon analyzing the game, one could conjure up the name be borne out of a separation of the two sides or two camps, each team against each other. But that simply could apply to dodgeball as well. I think the key in understanding the name is some or at least one member of each team/camp is on the other side leaving the camp split up. The word Machanayim is plural for the word ‘machaneh’ meaning camp.

In Torah study and commentary, we know there is a connection between one Parsha and the next. This is known as Smichos HaPArshios, loosely translated as either the closeness or the connection between one section (Parsha) and the one that follows. Last week’s Parsha ended Bersishis 32:3 stating "ויאמר יעקב כאשר ראם מחנה אלוקים זה, ויקרא שם המקום ההוא מחנים", "And Yaakov said, as I see this is a camp of Elokim, he called the name of the place Machanayim.” The very beginning of Parshas Vayishlah Bereishis 32:4 states: "וישלח יעקב מלאכים לפניו אל עשו אחיו ארצה שעיר שדה אדום" :“And Yaakov sent angels before him to Esau his brother to the land of Seir, in the plains of Edom”. Rashi in verse 2 explains there were angels of Eretz Yisrael that came to greet Yaakov Avinu to escort him into the land. Then in verse 3 Rashi says there were two camps, one from outside the land who came with Yaakov, and one from inside Eretz Yisrael who came to welcome him. In the next Parsha, Rashi, in verse 4 defines these Mal’achim as actual angels, leading us to believe that other commentaries would say they were just ordinary men acting in a messenger role.

From here we can infer that each camp was comprised of messengers that consisted of both ordinary and angelic beings - there was an ordinary camp that had a captain or messenger on the other side to help out from either direction. Whether the threat came from behind or from the front, the family was protected on all sides. Yaakov Avinu’s journeys throughout his life pave his children’s journeys in their future. Just as Yaakov had different kinds of protection and messengers from all sides, so too, we, the Bnei Yisrael, have angels from various sides looking after us, anticipating any danger in the future. There are signs that are sometimes very obvious and others that are hidden or unclear. From this perspective we should feel comforted, given the knowledge that we are protected, we are being looked after. It is up to us to focus in and recognize these signs, some simple and obvious, others unclear, complex. Regardless of the intensity, we all need to open our eyes and minds to what surrounds us. We need to look with deeper clarity and consider that perhaps this is my angel who is with me, shielding me and guiding my future.

Ah Gut Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Parshas Vayeitzay - FYI or TMI                            7 Kislev 5780

12/05/19 13:08:06

Dec5

Hey! You want to hear something? Why is it that we are tempted to hear newsy, kind of private or juicy things from others? Is it that we are just so nosy and want to hear all the gossip around town about everyone? Or maybe we just like to hear things that are informative, assuring a well-rounded view of the world. Information can be viewed as knowledge, and we all know that knowledge is a powerful tool. Knowledge can be used for good and… sometimes, as the cliché goes, we all know that a little knowledge can be dangerous. The reality is ‘information’ is a tool like any other and it depends upon who, where, when and why it is used.

Generally speaking, FYI and TMI are viewed as opposites. We enjoy hearing ‘FYI’, while ‘TMI’ causes us to cringe a bit, feeling unsure if we really want to hear all that. I remember the first time I heard the expression ‘TMI’. It happened to me. One Shabbos during the meal, I was entertaining our guests and must have gotten carried away. My wife abruptly interrupted, calling out “O.K., too much information!” After that, I don’t think I spoke again, opening my mouth only to insert a fork or a spoon. On the other hand, we are consistently fascinated with an ‘FYI’ spoken by a brilliant mind who shares a great amount of knowledge or information with others. Sometimes not enough is transmitted, while at other times it’s total overload! But taking a closer look, FYI can have different meanings and different kinds of messages. For example, a person will say ‘for your information’ in a condescending tone, implying that this is something you should know because you are oblivious to the forthcoming information. Other times, if you walk up to an information desk, they are pleasant and willing share information which you may have been able to research on your own. Nevertheless, they are typically calm and courteous when answering your questions. The Torah is full of information, but it is also a guide for life, helping us to navigate how to use the information it presents.

In this week’s Parsha Vayeitzay we read the story of Yaakov working for Rochel, initially for seven years so that he could marry her. Rochel’s father Lavan, however, has another plan in mind, switching Rochel for Leah, causing Yaakov to marry Leah instead. At this point Yaakov is devastated, willing to work another seven years more for Rochel. The Torah describes the sly tactics of Lavan, stating in 29:23: "ויהי בערב ויקח את לאה בתו ויבא אתה אליו ויבא אליה" : “In the evening, he took his daughter Leah and brought her to [Jacob] who consummated the marriage with her.”

*Rav Eliyahu KiTov in his Sefer HaParshiyot writes that the sages explained during the seven years that Yaakov worked for Rochel, he [Yaakov] sent gifts to be given to Rochel, but her father Lavan gave them to his other daughter, Leah. Despite the fact that Rochel knew her father gave away the gifts which were intended for her but were given to her sister, Rochel remained silent. In Pirkei Avos Rabban Shimon Ben Gamliel taught: “Myy entire life I grew up and was raised amongst the sages, and the only, the most correct thing I found for my body was silence. Rochel was steadfast in this principle, remaining silent despite the urge to cry foul. As a result her children, too, learned to remain silent. When Rochel saw her sister Leah receive gifts intended for her, she was silent. So too, Rochel’s son, Binyamin, was quiet. The ‘Ephod’ - the breastplate of the Kohein Gadol - had twelve gemstones. The twelve jewels in the breastplate were each, according to the Torah description, to be made from specific minerals, none of them the same as another, and each of them representative of a specific tribe whose name was to be inscribed on the stone. According to a rabbinic tradition, the names of the twelve tribes were engraved upon the stones with what is called in Hebrew: שמיר = shamir, which, according to Rashi, was a small, rare creature which could cut through the toughest surfaces. According to Rabbi David Kimhi and Rabbi Jonah ben Yanah, this Shamir was a stone stronger than iron. The stone that represented Binyamin was Jasper, in Hebrew . ישפהBinyamin knew of his brothers’ selling Yosef , but he remained silent. This is hinted to in his stone: by separating the word in the middle ,we get two words: ‘יש פה ‘: ‘he has a mouth, but he was silent’. Later on, in Shmuel Aleph 10:16, Shaul, a direct descendant of Binyamin, did not tell his uncle what Shmuel had said concerning the kingship. In Megilas Esther 2:20 Esther remains silent. She does not reveal her nation; she keeps quiet. The Midrash Tanchuma Parshas Vayeitzay 6 declares: Rebbi Yehuda says: The act of being silent is so great, that in the merit of Rochel being silent she merited to have a ‘double tribe’ - the two tribes of Ephraim and Menashe. Why was she silent? Rebbi Shimon Bar Yochai explains Rochel’s mindset. If I [Rochel] tell Yaakov that his gifts were given to Leah instead of to me, my father will become incensed; he will never allow me to marry him, promoting a greater distance between Yaakov,the great Tzadik, and me. Hashem said to her, “Because you were silent, I, Hashem will remember you at the right time.”

Rochel knew when it was important to give information (namely the signs that Yaakov gave her), to her sister Leah to avoid embarrassment. She gave information to her sister Leah that would be considered appropriate for her to know:, ‘for your information’ since you are going to need this.’ On the flip side, when it came to providing information about the misdirecting of Yaakov’s gifts by her father, Rochel believed that too much information would be damaging to her and her situation.

From our Parsha reading we clearly see an example of FYI when there is a clear purpose for sharing with someone else information that would otherwise remain private. We also see a clear example of TMI being withheld and demonstrated by the same person [in this case Rochel] because it would have caused her harm in the long run.

Information can be thought of as the resolution of uncertainty; it is that specific data which answers the question of "what an entity is", therefore defining both its essence and the nature of its characteristics. Therefore, before sharing any information (despite how tempting it might be), consideration should be given and a cost/benefit analysis should be drawn. Once again, let us take a lesson from one of our foremothers on how and when we should or should not share information, no matter how much we want to give it over. Always keep in mind that Shtika/silence is the golden rule unless the information is clearly appropriate and needed for the other person to know.

 

Ah Gut Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

 

*Avraham Eliyahu Mokotow (22 March 1912 – 7 February 1976), better known as Eliyahu Kitov, was a Haredi rabbi, educator, and community activist. One of his works - Sefer HaParshiyot 1961–76 – is a rich, comprehensive set on the weekly Torah portions. Although it is mainly based on Midrash and Talmud, early Biblical commentaries, and Chassidic texts, the imprint of the author is noticeable, and many of his own insights are blended into the text.

Parshas Toldos - Yearbooks                                  1 Kislev 5780

11/28/19 22:01:15

Nov28

The Jewish people are known as the ‘People of the Book’, due primarily to our everlasting connection to the Torah, studying and applying its wisdom to life and learning day and night for centuries. Even with the advent of the Internet and the availability of vast resources and texts online, we nevertheless prefer swaying back and forth, immersing ourselves in the traditional study method of learning from an actual sefer in front of us. Books serve many different purposes. They are a source of reference, deepening our knowledge, provide information, give us pleasure and enjoyment and even help us to improve our memory. Two stories, one related to me and the other to my wife, were recently told to us about a former classmate.

A few weeks ago, I received a call from someone in my past, and although I knew the name I could not place where I had known him. This individual let me know that was going to be in San Diego on business. He had the typical questions about davening times, food and lodging options. During the call, I gathered up the courage to ask the uncomfortable question of where we know each other from. He answered, that we went to high school together. My high school class had about one hundred twenty guys; we were not in class with every student. I don’t recall if we were ever in the same class, but I have no doubt that we were in the same grade. I could not picture what he looked like, and the picture I saw of him on his website did not help to connect me to his name. So, I thought to myself, “Hey, let me check our graduation yearbook!” Immediately, I reminded myself (as I’ve done for the past 38 years) that my class never published a senior yearbook, and therefore I could not look anything up in order to put a name together with the face.

A few days later a young man in his early twenties arrived in Shul on a business trip. He explained that he would be here for a few days . Something about him intrigued me. I am always cordial and welcoming to all of our guests, but rarely do I offer them more than a morning cup of coffee. In his case I felt a little different and knowing he was alone, I invited him for dinner. After Mincha /Maariv we walked home and had some small talk before sitting down to eat. The conversation turned to dating as we saw in him a potential shidduch for someone whom we know. He said that he is actually currently dating a girl and it was going well. He mentioned the high school she attended, and my wife exclaimed, “I went to that high school too!” Immediately the young man curiously responded that his mother also went to that same high school. He sheepishly asked my wife how old she was, and my wife keenly asked, “Well, how old is your mother?” At which point he stated his mother’s age, and my wife replied, “So am I,” and continued to ask what his mother’s maiden name was. Before he could even finish responding, my wife told him her first and last name. What were the chances of such a coincidence! Our guest then showed my wife a current picture of his mother, but it did not really look like her old self. At that, my wife jumped up, retrieved her high school yearbook, and lo and behold showed him his mother’s picture. My wife recognized an uncanny resemblance of this young man to her visual memory of his mother and was able to connect his facial features to those of his mother’s. At that point she was able to put a name to the face. 😊

The benefit of having a yearbook versus not having one was so striking to me as these two incidents occurred a week apart. The resemblance of mother and son were prominent and gave cheer to him. It is a great feeling to see the resemblance in siblings, of children to their parents and to other relatives as well. At times, it’s even necessary to prove that some are related to each other. This notion is can be seen in no greater place than in the Torah.

In this week’s parshas Toldos the Torah states in Bereishis 25:19 "ואלה תולדות יצחק בן אברהם, אברהם הוליד את יצחק": “These are the chronicles of Isaac, son of Avraham: Avraham was Isaac’s father”. Rashi’s famous comment regarding the text “Isaac the son of Avraham,”reiterated,, “Avraham begot Isaac”, for the scorners of the generation were saying, “From Avimelech did Sarah conceive, since for many years she tarried with Avraham and did not conceive from him.” What did the Holy One Blessed Be He do? He formed the features of Isaac’s face to be similar to Avraham, causing everyone to attest, “Avraham begot Yitzchok”. And that is why it is written here, “Isaac was the son of Avraham,” for there is testimony that “Avraham begot Isaac.”

Harav Yerucham Asher Warhaftig zt”l explains the words of קלסתר פנים: a similar face of Yitzchok to Avraham not in the physical sense but in the spiritual sense. The spirituality of Yitzchok was on the same level of his father Avraham. There were no differences in their hashkafa/outlook and in their understanding of the Torah/God/and the world. They were on the same page in all areas of Jewish and secular life. A person was able to have the same, identical conversation with Avraham and then with Yitzchok, and vice versa. When someone spoke to one of them it was equivalent to speaking to the other one; that’s how similar they were.

In the name of a great Gadol, HaRav Dovid Solomon, this Rashi is quite difficult to understand. Avraham was called HaIvri because the entire world stood on one side of belief while he stood on the other side in belief of Hashem. Avraham fought with Nimrod, the most powerful man on earth, battled against the major kings of the world, fought against all of the idolatry and practices of the world and emerged victorious. Now Avraham faced scoffers and needed the help of God to come to his rescue and make his face like his son’s in a miraculous way. Why did Avraham need Hashem’s help? Why was it necessary for Hashem come to his aid? The answer is, even the best firefighter needs help against a raging fire. The sad truth is, the power and strength of Leitzanus, of mockery and joking about things, is so powerful it can even strip away Avraham Avinu’s impeccable record of chessed, emes and greatness to the extent people would accuse Avraham of not being the biological father of his son Yitzchok. The power or influence of Leitzanus, mockery, is so strong that even a great warrior and man of unbelievable chessed such as Avraham Avinu needs help to defeat it. Therefore, Avraham needed Siyata Dishmaya - Heavenly assistance - to repeal that kind of rhetoric that spreads like wildfire.

Today, we face a scourge of leitzanus not only from outside the Jewish camp but even from within. Leitzanus is a tactic to shrug off and throw down our responsibility to the learning of Torah andto fulfillment of Mitzvos. It’s a tactic a person uses to make himself feel better by mocking those who are committed to learning and fulfilling mitzvos. We need the spirituality and hashkafa of the previous generations coupled, with heavenly assistance, to eradicate the midda of leitzanus in order to allow each and every one of us to serve HaKadosh Baruch Hu, looking in the Yearbook of our fathers and mothers, modeling and living life as they did.

Ah Gut Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Parshas Chayei Sorah - Cable Satellite Public Affairs Network             23 Cheshvan 5780

11/21/19 14:57:48

Nov21

Most Americans make decisions and arrive at conclusions based upon information that they hear, read or see through the media. For the average person, the political, religious, or sociological agendas are most profoundly affected through the the media outlets. I, like many Americans listen to soundbites of information from television reporters, internet news sites or the old-fashioned reading the daily newspaper. Perhaps one of the most dominating pieces of news in America today is the Impeachment inquiry of the President of the United States. I came to the realization that Americans are infatuated with instant gratification and will therefore listen to a sound bite or a twenty-second Youtube clip of something that is usually taken out of context rather than focus on reading or viewing an entire segment. Since we live our lives in the fast lane, we can only tolerate a minimum amount of information given over to us in a fast, efficient manner. The claim of not having enough time may or may not be true, but at the end of the day we are not getting a full picture of many things unless we apply ourselves to focus and pay careful attention.

Seeing myself getting caught up in the age of partial information, I decided to get a more wholesome picture of the Impeachment Inquiry of the POTUS. With great pain and consciously applied patience, I began watching the proceedings on C-SPAN. As an aside, if anyone wants to watch something boring and comical at the same time, tune into C-SPAN. I am not characterizing the network, but rather the content of the proceedings in the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee inquiry. I am not going to explain why I see it as comical and boring; I leave that to you to draw your own conclusions. One clear advantage of watching the entire proceeding (as opposed to a clip of someone’s statement) is to hear and see the statements of prosecutors and witnesses in full, from beginning to end, and quite often to hear them repeated. Hearing the full context of someone is eye-opening and refreshing particularly with regard to understanding the manipulation that occurs when words and situations are taken out of context.

Taking things out of context can easily lead to falsehoods, slander, mischaracterization, character assassination and so forth. Basically, nothing good really comes out of it. On the other hand, listening or reading something in its entirety rules out the option of tricking someone because there will be full transparency established through viewing or listening to direct testimony or statements in their entirety.

In Jewish law we know that judges need to hear the testimony directly from the witness. Only rarely, perhaps in cases involving the death of a husband which could allow the wife to re-marry would we ever take hearsay into account. Otherwise, under normal conditions we would need to hear or read first-hand about something. An amazing example of this principle is read about, learned, and reviewed in rare display in the Torah. Generally speaking, the Torah is very careful not only in the quality of words used but also in its quantity. Each and every word the Torah uses is measured and will have a reason which crystalizes why it was used. For the Torah to repeat an entire section, it must have great significance.

In this week’s Parshas Chayei Sorah the Torah relates the story of Avraham instructing Eliezer his servant to find a wife for his son Yitzchok. The Torah relates Eliezer deciding upon the sign that Hashem will show him which would lead him to believe this would be the woman Yitzchok should marry. After these signs become a reality, Eliezer meets Rivka who takes Eliezer back to her home to meet her family. It is at this time that Eliezer reviews the episode of how he came to select Rivka through a sign from God that she was, indeed, the one. In Bereishis 24:13 the Torah states: "הנה אנכי נצב על עין המים ובנות אנשי העיר יצאת לשאב מים": “I am standing here by the well, and the daughters of the townsmen are coming out to draw water.”

Rabbeinu Bachya points out that on the surface this entire passage appears to be merely a repetition of what the Torah has already described to us. The Rabbis in Bereishis Rabbah 60:8 taught that the “small talk of a servant of one of the forefathers was dearer to Hashem than some of the Torah insights of the children of the patriarchs”. This concept is demonstrated in the fact that the Torah goes on to repeat everything Eliezer did, whereas the Torah was brief in discussing very basic laws which would apply to the entire Jewish nation for all generations. There is no question the Torah goes out of its way to repeat the entire encounter, report on Eliezer’s prayer and the side deal Eliezer makes with Hashem, as well as include the dialogue Eliezer has with Rivka without having a specific and unique motive. The Torah is obviously teaching us something of great value and importance. All the details of the story are matters directly related to the success of Eliezer’s mission. Just one example: the Torah mentions the עין המים - the well of water - three times, each time varying the syntax a degree. Here in 24:13 the well is simply described as ‘a fountain of water’. In 24:42 Eliezer says, “I arrived this day at the well”. In 24:16 the Torah says of Rivka that ‘she descended to the well’. The Torah mentions the same well in three slightly different ways: עין, העין, העינה The exact reason is up for interpretation, but according to the Toras Chaim the word Ayin is the actual letter Ayin which has the numerical value of seventy. Taking the first time it is mentioned equals seventy plus two more times it is mentioned, the actual word is repeated giving another two (not 140), totaling seventy-two, representing the Shem HaMeforash, the explicit name of Hashem. Eliezer invoked this attribute in order to secure for Yitzchok the Zivug – the mate who was most appropriate for him.

The repetition of certain words and the repeating of an entire section demonstrates not only an importance and significance but even more importantly, it gives us accuracy. There is no room for us to guess and surmise the clear intention of Eliezer to complete his mission to find a wife for Yitzchok and show the dedication he had to Avraham, his master, to do his bidding. The repetition rules out any suggestion that Eliezer was perhaps acting on his own or not in the best interests of his master, Avraham, and Avraham’s successor, Yitzchok.

This portion presents an immense lesson to us to learn from. When it comes to public affairs, one is obligated to get the entire story, not just the bits and pieces and the attention-getting headlines. With satellite capabilities we are able to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Truth, we must understand, is Emes which is one of the names of Hashem

Parshas Vayera - You Can, or You Can - Which One Is It?                       16 Cheshvan 5780

11/14/19 12:40:59

Nov14

The three-year lease on my car is due to expire in the next few weeks. I am once again faced with questions that I faced three years ago, deciding how I should go about my next means of transportation. Three years ago, my car basically stopped working and was not worth fixing; the car had no notable value. In order to make a long story short, I decided to get a new car rather than a pre-owned or, as they used call it, a used car. Spending the entire day at the dealership, I had to decide whether to buy a new car and finance it or to try something that I’d never done before, to lease it.

Anyone who has had the privilege of dealing with a car salesperson knows how frustrating it is to speak with someone who keeps reminding you that he is helping you to get the best deal possible. For those who have never had this wonderful opportunity, let me give you a quick synopsis. After reassuring me over a dozen times that he is going to take really good care of me, the salesperson asked, “What am I looking for?” So, we reviewed the type of car and features I’d like, and then came the pop question, “What can I afford?” We went over the numbers, and eventually, after waiting a good amount of time, I was told that the vehicle I want could not be had for the amount I wanted to spend. More time went by and I was blandly told that it was not possible to ‘give’ the car away for the price I wanted to spend, basically declaring that they would be ‘losing money on the deal’. Really?! Then there was the time I was ‘hondling’ with the salesperson and, as negotiations were breaking up, the manager was brought in ‘to see what he could do’ to make the deal work. As I walked out the door, the manager said to me, “What if I can close the deal for this price?” I said I’d think about it and then returned a little while later. I said to the manger, “O.K, I can do it for that price.” I thought to myself that now, finally we’ll have a done deal and be out of there in no time with my new car.” SCREEEEEEECH! STOP! He says to me, (the chutzpah) “I did not say I can do it for this price; all I said was if I can give it to you for this price, would it work?” At that point, I turned around went to the other dealership and completed an agreement there. That slight nuance of the word can make or breaks the entire negotiation.

While the power of suggestion is often deceiving, as described above, but it can also work as a measure for promoting something positive, useful and helpful. A statement or question can be understood from opposite perspectives - from good to bad or from right to wrong. *Rav Nosson Tzvi Finkel, the Alter from Slobodka, depicts the scenario between Avraham and the city of Sodom. Avraham Avinu was the foundation of Chessed (Kindness) in the world; Sodom, the opposite of everything Avraham stood for, was his adversary. The people of Sodom were the the epitome of callousness and rudeness sprinkled liberally with antipathy. They intentionally intensified their disservice to their neighbors and to each other.. Through their wickedness evil actions, they stood in complete opposition to Avraham. All the goodness that Avraham planted in the world was uprooted by the Sodomites and Amorites. One might conclude that if God considered getting rid of Sodom, the nemesis of Avraham, Avraham would be ecstatic!

Let’s look at the wording and language Avraham uses when speaking to Hashem:

In this week’s parshas Vayera the Torah states in 18:22-24: "ויפנו משם האנשים וילכו סדומה, ואברהם עודנו עמד לפני השם. ויגש אברהם ויאמר, האף תספה צדיק עם רשע. אולי יש חמשים צדיקם בתוך העיר האף תספה ולא תשא למקום למען חמשים הצדיקם אשר בקרבה" :: : “The men turned from where they were, and headed toward Sodom; Avraham was still standing before God. He came forward and said, ‘Will you actually wipe out the innocent together with the guilty? Suppose there are fifty innocent people in the city. Would You still destroy it, and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty-good people inside?’ Avraham’s question to God - will you actually wipe out the innocent with the guilty - is simply understood that the righteous did nothing wrong. Why do they deserve to die with the others? Why should there be collateral damage and punishment? When the angels left, Avraham stood in front of God. Would he have davened that the wicked should be wiped out and the Tzadikim should be left unscathed? If Avraham had done that then he would have been no better than the people of Sodom. Rather, he stood in front of Hashem and prayed not to destroy the wicked so the righteous will remain, but, on the contrary, to daven that because there are possibly fifty righteous people, Hashem would not destroy anyone – not the wicked and not the righteous. Avraham remained truthful to his beliefs and the to Torah and Mesorah of goodness. He did not pray for the downfall of Sodom, but looked instead to the strength of the good people so as to give the wicked the opportunity too change their ways from bad to good and therefore to survive.

The Amidah that Avraham had by standing in front of Hashem is the Amidah that we have today - to bring more goodness and to not necessarily destroy the people who do bad. Instead, we daven for them to change their ways. Avraham was asking how can you, God, wipe out the innocent with the guilty? Change the ‘how can’ to ‘can you’ really destroy the wicked if you have Tzadikim along with them? The answer, of course, would be no. Avraham rhetorically expressed that not only are You, God, not going to destroy the righteous people by exclaiming ‘how can you’ but stating that You, God, can save the evil because of the good. The Rokeach explained that האף תספה is not a language of anger but rather an expression of bewilderment and surprise. Avraham, through prayer, was able to change God’s disposition of Din/Judgment to Rachamim/Mercy. That is the power of Tefilla.

When we are confronted with a challenge and we ask ourselves ‘can we’ the answer is ‘we can’. It all depends upon our attitude. If we learn from Avraham that Chessed overcomes the evil even of Sodom, we ‘can’ change a situation regarding we view such challenges and direct our questions and prayers accordingly.

Ah Gut Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

 

*Rav Nosson Tzvi Finkel (1849 Russia – 1927 in the British Mandate of Palestine), also known as Nota Hirsch or Natan Tzvi Finkel, was an influential leader of Orthodox Judaism in Eastern Europe and founder of the Slabodka Yeshiva, in the town of Vilijampolė (a suburb of Kaunas). He is also known by the Yiddish appellation der Alter ("the Elder") and as the Alter of Slabodka. Many of his pupils became major leaders of Orthodox Judaism in the USA and Israel.

*Not to be confused with Nosson Tzvi Finkel of the Mir.

Parshas Lech Lecha - The Time Change           9 Cheshvan 5780

11/07/19 13:59:45

Nov7

Two weeks each year people are a little off their game. One week a person does not have enough time and the next week there’s a little bit too much time. This past Sunday most American changed their clocks to standard time, “gaining “an hour to the week. Personally, I try to be as systematic as possible, changing the clocks all at the same time, albeit for those who know me, different clocks are set at different times, some five minutes fast, some fifteen minutes fast, while others are set to show the actual, real time. Old-fashioned clocks and watches need to be changed manually, but our satellite-recognizing timekeepers automatically adjust to the time change. However, there are a few clocks in the “no time” zone that can, may, or are supposed to change by a receiving signal which does not always work. To add to this confusion, there was a question many in our state of California addressed: “Aren’t we now one of the states that voted not to change but rather to remain on Standard Time? If so, what happened?”

 

California voters approved Proposition 7 to end Daylight Saving Time on November 6, 2018. So…why did we still change our clocks this past weekend? It's a fairly straight- forward answer with a not-so-simple solution. The California Legislature needs to get a bill passed, and then Congress needs to approve it. So, what's next? The bill is currently pending a hearing in the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Congress has until December 2020 to act on these bills.


Not all states observe Daylight Saving Time, and by law, they are not required to do so.. Arizona and Hawaii don't currently observe DST, and Indiana only started observing it in 2006. According to a recent Associated Press poll, most people across the country want to stop the twice-a-year ritual of clock changes. There are dozens of other polls with mixed results whether to switch or remain and to remain on which one.

This past week someone manually turned the atomic clock in Shul back one hour. Looking up at the time only a few minutes later, the numbers had reverted back to the old time. People in the room were quite puzzled as to why it didn’t remain with the new time, especially when it should pick up an atomic signal to correct itself! At that point someone made a comment that maybe it’s time to change the clock. Someone else responded that we tried to change the clock, but it does not want to change! Obviously, the correct wording should be ‘adjust the time’ or just go buy a new clock. Nevertheless, the idea of ‘change’ the clock, meaning adjusting the time or replacing the apparatus, is something we all face as we transition through different stages of life. This is most apparent in people who “change” their names to change their destiny.

In this week’s Parshas Lech Lecha the Torah in Bereishis 17:5 states: "ולא יקרא עוד את שמך אברם, והיה שמך אברהם כי אב המון גוים נתתיך" “ - “No longer shall you be called Abram. Your name shall be Abraham, for I have set you up as the father of a horde of nations”. Then, in 17:15, it states: "ויאמר אלוקים אל אברהם, שרי אשתך לא תקרא את שמה שרי, כי שרה שמה"- - - “God said to Abraham, Sarai your wife, do not call her by the name Sarai, for Sarah is her name”. Immediately after the change Hashem says to both Abraham and Sarah, “I will bless you and increase you”. The Gemara Brachos 16b explains: that only the three are called the Avos (the fathers) and only the four are called the Imahos (the mothers). Who are the three? We know now they are Avraham, Yitzchok and Yaakov, but why not start with someone else, like Terach, Avraham’s father? The Torah describes Abram as old, being ninety-nine years old after Yishmael turns thirteen, which now brings the birth of Yitzchok closer. Even if we didn’t want to have Terach as one of the ‘fathers’, he IS the biological father of Abram and we can’t change that link. In fact, going up the ladder tracing the generations from Terach to Noach and further back to Adam, each and everyone one is referred to as the Avos. In the words of Chaza”l, is it possible to take a sharp knife and sever the generation between Abram and Terach so that the chain of three starts with Abram, continuing to Yitzchok and Yaakov? Apparently, when Hashem decided to plant the vineyard of Israel, He did it in a way that was intended to break the link from Terach to his son Abram, starting with Abram as the first and continuing to make the three with his son Yitzchok and his son Yaakov, thereby creating the Avos of three as we know it to be. But how?

When birth occurs naturally, the father is known to the child as his father, and the father of the father is known as the grandfather. In the chain of family tree, the child is the trunk at the bottom, the body is the father, and the branches of the tree are formed by the grandfather and further back through the previous generations. But there was one man who was older and, with his wife, no longer had the ability to have children in the ‘natural’ way. Hashem intervened and miraculously reverted both the man and his wife, Abram and Sarai, to their youth, enabling them to bear children. Since the chain of natural birth stopped with Abram, he was no longer directly connected to his father Terach, because if Abram was unable to have a natural child then the connection to the grandfather and previous ancestors no longer existed. Therefore, Hashem waited until Abram and Sarai were older, well past child-bearing age, and performed a Neis/miracle. Hashem caused them, in a sense to be reborn. A new beginning was created with Abram and Sarai and their Koach, their strength to have the ‘natural’ child would continue to Yitzchok and then to Yaakov, establishing the three Avos.

To demonstrate this nais/miracle to the new potential parents, Hashem changed their old physical bodies to new, younger ones. When a new child is born, the baby is given a name; to begin their new life, Hashem changed the names of both Abram and Sarai to Avraham and Sarah - new identities completely disconnected from Terach and Haran, the fathers of Abram and Sarai. Avraham and Sarah experienced a change in body and soul; their physical qualities changed from old back to young, and spiritually through the slight change of their names by the mere addition of a letter. . In addition, they needed brand new biological clocks that gave them the opportunity to have children specifically in the miraculous form to establish the chain and link of the Avos beginning with Avraham and not from Terach, his father.

All of us need to constantly review and evaluate who we are and where we are going as we progress through our lives. Sometimes we need to adjust and ‘change’ who we are in a slight manner - a little more or a little less - regarding how we go about our lives. That is the slight hour change, keeping the general time and connecting it to who we are as people. On the other hand, (no pun intended) sometimes we need to ‘change the clock’, experiencing a complete, new, thorough overhaul, putting completely new systems into place. Hopefully by recognizing time and place of where we and our families are, we can ‘change’ the clock and be right on time every time!

Parshas Noach - The Key to Kindness               3 Cheshvan 5780

11/01/19 09:10:06

Nov1

The Mishnah explains that the world stands on three pillars: Torah, Avodah and Gemilus Chasadim - the study of Torah, prayer and acts of kindness. Two of the three, studying Torah and Tefillah – prayer - can be done singularly, by an individual. There’s no question that prayer should be done within a Tzibur , with others together, and learning should be with a study partner with a place of study or a Bais Midrash setting. On the other hand, the mitzva of performing or participating in a Chessed, a kindness, requires at least one other individual, in order to perform the kindness for that person.. Without the other person it is impossible to complete the Chessed. The old cliché, ‘it takes two to tango’ first applied to the Mitzva of Chessed long before the dance was created. Unfortunately, the Mitzvos that are dependent upon one another are more difficult to do. In contrast, Mitzvos that are within our purview are typically within our control. We decide whether to do the mitzva or not; I can daven, choose when or even whether to learn, but it is impossible to complete the Chessed alone; I, the giver, cannot also be the recipient. Alternatively, I the recipient, require the giver.

During the month of Elul, the time of year we prepare for the days of Awe and Judgment, I found myself in Lakewood N.J. a small city with many observant Jews. In my view, a smaller Jewish community has fewer opportunities for Chessed than a larger one. This is not to say there aren’t needs in smaller communities, but the issues and needs multiply as the population expands. For example, we here in San Diego may see one ‘meshulach’/charity collector a week while in the shul where I davened in Lakewood had between fifteen and twenty such individuals every single morning. A second example of simple giving would be when a person might need a car ride because his or her car broke down or is in for repairs. In Lakewood, I could drive around all day as an unpaid ‘Uber/Lyft or taxicab driver, picking up Jews in need of such assistance all day long six days a week. Many families only have one vehicle, and due to the nature of the daily yeshiva schedule, school age children, young marrieds, the elderly, are always hitch-hiking to and from Yeshiva. In these two examples we clearly see opportunity to perform a chessed.

The following is the opinion of this writer,, so I will speak for myself as I’m not sure others feel the same way. Unfortunately for me, when I see collectors scurrying around the Shul collecting, a million thoughts ranging from why do they have to disturb our davening to why can’t they just get a regular job run through my mind. Regarding giving a rides to those caught without a needed car, I think to myself, why didn’t they plan this out? Why couldn’t they arrange to get assistance ahead of time? This is actually the reality of how some people operate, the looking for a ride IS their plan, someone collecting IS working, this is his livelihood. This has been the typical way I viewed these situations in the past. Now it was Elul, the month of introspection, a time to become that better person and develop an attitude towards others as we want God to have toward us. Therefore, I re-focused and analyzed these and other situations to focus on the potential Chessed and make it an actual, a real kindness. This did not require any physical change as to how I would do something, but rather it is a small change in personal attitude and how I approach this Mitzva, which is - no question - a challenge.

The key to kindness is to think about the situation beyond what we see in front of us. Forget about the kid I’m giving a ride for or the man going to yeshiva as being late or disorganized. Think instead about the result: it was because of me that this particular individual was abe to be where they needed to be, hopefully on time rather than late. This person will be able to daven a better Shacharis because I got him there on time. When I give some tzedakah to the collector, I don’t think about him but about the children he’s raising money to help who will have a decent Shabbos dinner or the money to purchase needed shoes or clothing, or the ability to purchase needed medication. By giving the extra dollar, that dollar will contribute to someone’s family to pay down excessive bills. We must realize that the Chessed we do goes far beyond the immediate person in front of us. Chessed, by definition of what giving is really all about, goes far beyond the current situation; that is the key to overcoming those challenging thoughts. This strategy is also found in the Torah for overcoming adversity.

In this week’s parshas Noach the Torah states in Bereishis 7:14 "המה וכל החיה למינה וכל הבהמה למינה וכל הרמש הרמש על הארץ למינהו וכל העוף למינהו כל צפור כל כנף": “They came along with every separate kind of beast, every separate kind of livestock, every separate kind of land animal, and every kind of flying creature - every bird and every winged animal”. The midrashim relate it was not a peaceful year for Noach’s family, who never had time to lie down and sleep for even one full night during the entire twelve-month period of the Mabul. They were responsible for all the thousands of birds, wild animals, domestic animals that had to be fed - each according its own schedule. Some ate by day others by night; it was a 24/7 operation for only eight people. The midrash Socher Tov 1:12 and Midrash Rabbah 28:9 teaches that while Noach was in the Teivah he constantly davened to Hashem and asked to be delivered from this prison; his soul was tired of the smell of lions, bears and panthers. Hashem said to Noach, “It is My decree that you shall not leave this confinement for a full twelve months!”

Rav Eliyahu Dessler in Michtav M’Eliyahu asks what was the purpose of Hashem assigning to Noach and his family this overly-burdensome task of keeping all of the animals alive? Rav Dessler answers that the destruction of the world was due to Chamas/robbery motivated by people’s ego.. To become the builders of the new world, Noach and his family had to work on themselves, cultivating within each of them the opposite trait. The opposite of taking is giving, the opposite of taking what you think is yours is to give back that which is yours. The taking from someone else can only be corrected by giving from yourself. These are the traits of kindness and mercy upon which form the basic principles of Chessed. When a person gives selflessly to a cause, he benefits through inner growth. Noach and his family needed to learn to see beyond the present, beyond the difficult and repulsive job they had in the Ark. The only way to see it through was to investigate the future; their efforts maintained the existence of animal life as was known before the flood.

The key to Chessed is seeing within, looking deeply and understanding that what is beyond the challenge that is in front of us lies beauty of giving beyond what we are able to see. Let us all master the Key to Chessed is having vision and understanding that our acts are not limited to the here and now but will have ripple effects to many others beyond the one person in front of us.

Parshas V'Zos HaBracha/Bereishis - The End is Actually the Beginning      26 Tishrei 5780

10/25/19 09:38:48

Oct25

When I was a Bachur, an unmarried Yeshiva student, a friend and colleague of mine, Rabbi Daniel Wasserman, asked me to help lead davening on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur in a Shul in Jersey City, N.J. At the time, I was not fully acquainted with the nusach (tunes or proper liturgy) of Yamim Noraim, the High Holiday tunes. It was recommended that I ask Cantor Jack Rosenbaum, Of Blessed Memory, to teach me the nusach. With trepidation I called him, and he invited me over to his home to discuss the matter. At the time I didn’t have any extra money to pay for the lessons and if I had to pay, I would essentially use the money I would earn from davening over the holidays and therefore not really come out ahead. He asked me how much I could pay, but before I was able to respond, he said I will make you a deal! If I would agree to do Shnayim Mikrah V’Echad Targum (read the Torah portion twice and the commentary Onkelos once), he would give me the lessons at no charge. I immediately agreed and not only learned how to daven for the High Holidays, which was a skill set I would use later in my career, I also learned through the Torah that year.

A day before Shmini Atzeres/Simchas Torah I received a text from a father of one of my congregants who was spending this Simchas Torah in Israel visiting a different child. Last year he was here with his wife visiting his son and his family here in San Diego. Here is the exact text he sent me: “Last Simchas Torah, you challenged the tzibur (congregation) to take on Shnayim Mikroh v’Echad Targum. Today, B”H, I finished my first cycle. Thank you for the challenge.” That text totally made my Yom Tov one of the best. I realized how, in so few words of challenge and inspiration, it’s possible to create so much Torah learning. I’m not aware of any others who may also have been moved take on this challenge, but, even if it was for only one person, it sent shockwaves through me and in heaven because I know it helped him to grow.

The Kabbalists were awestruck at the veracity and enormity that is accomplished through reviewing SHM”T (Shnayim Mikra V’Echad Targum). The sefer Yesod Shoresh Va’Avoda and the Chasam Sofer in his Chidushim to Chullin says that by reading SHM”T, a person removes the small shell fragments that stuck on the Torah when Moshe smashed the Luchos/Tablets. The shell fragments are an impediment to fully grasping the depth and understanding of the Torah due to the negative influence of the smashing of the luchos. Reviewing the Sedra in this fashion removes that barrier. It is amazing how the simple reading of the verses has such force, allowing us to open up the deeper meaning of the Torah. The Shlah HaKadosh in tractate Shabbos, the Megaleh Amukos in Parshas Kedoshim, the Kaf HaChaim in 285:32, relates in the name of the kabbalists through reading of SHM”T that a person merits and prepares himself for the Neshama Yesierah, the extra soul we are given for Shabbos. That second neshama/soul is called אדם‘Adam’ which is a praise and crowning of all the names of mankind. Some other names such as ‘Ish’ or ‘Enosh’ are the simpler names, but the name אדם is the most noted. A hint to this is found in the verse Bereishis 2:10 "ויקרא האדם שמות לכל הבהמה ולעוף השמים ולכל חית השדה ולאדם לא מצא עזר כנגדו" - and he called them (all the animals) by their names, as Adam was given the task and charge to name every creature by knowing its essence. Adam had this special wisdom that gave him the ability to name the animals based upon their inner nature and essence. I would suggest it was through the neshama yeseirah that Adam had extra wisdom through which he was able to name the animals. We often hear that the essence of a person comes from his Neshama - his soul. Therefore, Adam was able to use his neshama to identify the other ‘neshamos’ of the animals (not meaning that animals actually have a soul but rather meaning their essence). Every Shabbos we receive an additional soul in its raw state. We decide if, how and when we will use it for something positive or negative, whether we will use it to give us more strength, wisdom, courage to make proper decisions for that coming week, or choose to do nothing with it. Week in and week out we take on the role of Adam HaRishon and can identify the essence of beings, situations and life’s experiences.

The very last parsha of the Torah וזאת הברכה - and this is the blessing that Moshe gave to the children of Israel - is the ability to take something from its end and start again. The Chasam Sofer writes that the last three words of the Torah Devarim 34:12 states לעיני כל ישראל - in front of all the eyes of the Jewish people - בראשית ברא אלוקים “In the beginning God created the world”. The Gemara Sotah 14a quotes Rav Simlai “the Torah begins with Chessed/kindness and ends with Chessed. In Bereishis, after Adam and Chava ate from the forbidden tree, they had knowledge of their nakedness. So, God, with kindness, fashioned leather clothing and dressed them to spare them from embarrassment. The Torah in Devarim 34:6 ends with a Chessed that it was God who took care of Moshe after he died, and He buried him [Moshe]. Reb Yerucham Levovitz, the Mashgiach of the Mirrer Yeshiva, said from here we see that the essence of the entire Torah is Chessed/kindness and caring for others as illustrated by Hashem in the beginning and in the end.

As the Torah begins with the six days of creation, it wasn’t until the seventh day that Shabbos, the day of rest, was created. One might question and think it is odd, why on a day of rest would you would have another neshama? The simple answer is Shabbos is resting after the week and preparing for the new week. Shabbos is a day of rest from creativity, but not a day of rest to nourish and fill the extra neshama that we will use in its wisdom for the upcoming week. Shabbos is the actual last day of the week, but it is preparing us for the new coming week. So too, at the end of the year we immediately look forward to the new year and what we will accomplish. We just concluded a seven-week period of feeding and nourishing our souls. Baruch Hashem I see many in our kehilla who are taking the old or last part and using it to continue nourishing the new year and new winter season, taking the spirituality of the neshamot yeseiros and applying it to nurture and continue the growth from that which was imbedded in them these past two months. I truly hope and pray that we do not look at the concluding of Elul, Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, Sukkos, Chol Hamoed, Hoshana Rabba, Shmini Atzeres and Simchas Torah as the end, but rather take all of this beauty which has nourished our souls to lead into the new beginning of a prosperous year, both physically and spiritually.

 

Ah Gut Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Parshas HaAzinu - Hashem Hashem, The All Merciful One       12 Tishrei 5780

10/11/19 08:43:37

Oct11

There is a standard tradition of asking for mechila – forgiveness - from one another before Yom Kippur. Typically, it is easier to ask forgiveness from someone who isn’t that close to you, such as an acquaintance or a person whom you are friendly but are not really close.. There are the other people who are very good friends and still others who are even closer, such as family. Throughout the year we are more likely to have run-ins and disagreements with people with whom we have close contact throughout the year. . Typically, shortly before Yom Kippur,, someone will approach you to ask for mechila/forgiveness. Immediately we respond, “Of course I forgive you.” Then, without missing a beat, ,we respond by asking forgiveness from from them. But I think there is one group of people who present difficulty with regard to this pleasant two-way forgiveness refrain. For this group, asking for mechila is only a one-way street. Let me explain. Children need to honor and respect their parents. They need to ask forgiveness; the parents do not have to ask forgiveness from a child. (A Rebbi may be in the same category as a parent).

As time and life goes by, not everyone is able to ask their parents forgiveness for a variety of reasons. One obvious reason is because the parent is no longer in this world physically. However, there are situations when a parent is here physically, but mentally the parent is in a different place. In my case my mother a”h is in the next world, and my father Y”BL, who is in this world but is not really aware of what’s going on due to his lack of sight and hearing, cannot respond. There’s no question that as a son I can be doing more for my father. I can call more often, visit a few more times a year, and overall be a better son. On Erev Yom Kippur, as I wished my father a Gut Yom Tov, I asked him forgiveness for anything that I may have done wrong to him or for anything I may not have done correctly for him. This tradition is something we do every year, but this year felt a little different. This past year has seen a decline in my father’s mental ability and diminishing recognition of the people around him. This is in addition to the fact that he is so far away. He is only able to hear a voice on Skype or telephone. Up until this year there was some type of reply, usually a ‘yes’ to the forgiveness from my father before Yom Kippur, but this year was different. There was no reaction after we spoke. No ‘yes’. This made me very nervous. Perhaps he does not forgive me for some of the issues I mentioned earlier, or perhaps there is something else completely different, something that I am unaware of. I keep thinking to myself, perhaps he heard me ask for mechila, and this time he is not ready to forgive me!

Two quick points came to mind, and I came to the realization that I should not be nervous after all. First, I know he doesn’t hear me, and I know his memory is compromised. I know this and I deal with this throughout the entire year. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, I KNOW my father, and despite having gotten angry a few times in his life, he is an extremely forgiving person. There’s no reason for this beautiful characteristic to stop now. My father’s kindness always came through; despite becoming angry, his strong compassionate nature would shine through. Therefore, I felt confident that despite the silence after my request there is no concern that his merciful side would not take over the Din/judgment. This relationship of a parent to a child is uniquely powerful in the sense that the father always has compassion for his child - under any circumstances. We may see the mercy and kindness by a human parent, but does it exist with our Father in Heaven?

In this week’s Parshas HaAzinu the Torah states in Devarim 32:39: "ראו עתה כי אני אני הוא ואין אלוקים עמדי, אני אמית ואחיה מחצתי ואני ארפא ואין מידי מציל" - “But now see! It is I! I am the [only] One! There are no [other] gods with Me! I kill and give life! If I crushed, I will heal! But there is no protection from My power!” Rabbi Shimon Betzalel Neuman, in his sefer Peninim Yekarim, asks why the verse repeats the word ‘Ani’? He explains, based upon a Rashi in Parshas Vaera Shmos 6:2, whereby God spoke to Moshe and said to him, “I am YHVH (Hashem). Whenever God uses the name ‘Hashem’ with regard to a Mitzvah, it’s an expression that He guarantees, is believed that He will pay the reward for the fulfillment of the Mitzva. Likewise, whenever the name of God is used in reference to punishment for a sin, the word Hashem is also used. This is because He is believed to pay a price to the individual for sinning. But this terminology begs the question: Why, by dishing out a punishment, do we use the term Hashem - the YHVH which is used exclusively as an understanding of mercy and not judgment? The classic,general rule is that the name Elokim is reserved for judgment, while the name Hashem is used to describe mercy. Here, by serving a punishment, shouldn’t we use the term Elokim and not Hashem?

The answer is that even when God punishes, it is done with a sense of rachamim/mercy. This directly connects to the way a loving father at times needs to punish his child; it is done in the most merciful way possible. This is what is meant when we recite the verse in Pesukei D’Zimra Tehilim 135:14 that Dovid HaMelech took from Haazinu 32:36 "כי ידין ה' עמו": “For Adonay judges His people”. Even at a time when God is judging and meting out punishment, He does it by mixing in Rachamim/mercy and actually removes the Din/judgment, leaving mercy. The proof is nuanced in the words, “But now see it is I. It is I; this is a guarantee or security that I, Hashem the merciful God Who will pay the reward and warn of the punishment. It is I [Hashem the merciful God] who is believed to pay. It is I, Hashem, and I alone; Elokim is not with me even when teaching or recording the idea of punishment. It is only Hashem and not Elokim.

As Yom Kippur passes we now try to live our life knowing that Hashem forgave us and that the character of mercy overcame the character of justice. As we enter into this new season heralded by the Yom Tov of Sukkos, we can feel a sense of security and compassion that is represented in the symbolism of the Sukkah. As we will sit in the Sukkah next week, we affirm the notion that God judged us with Hashem and mercy and not Elokim with judgment. Sitting, dwelling in the Sukkah immediately after Yom Kippur is a testament to our belief that we have gained atonement through mercy and not through harsh judgment. Let us bask in the glory of Hashem and let His mercy shine upon us and continue to guide and lead us throughout the year.

Parshas Vayeilech / Shabbos Shuva - Watch Your Step      5 Tishrei 5780

10/04/19 09:02:58

Oct4

Dictionaries typically provide an array of definitions to words The Oxford English Dictionary, granddaddy of all English-language sources of word definitions, also gives in-depth etymologies – detailed histories of the derivation of every word included its vast word . In addition to all dictionaries, there is also our personal dictionary in which each of us describes or explains something. For example, in my personal dictionary under the word “stubborn,” my definition is: when a person hears a rattling noise and ignores it, or when a car is not driving properly, simply disregards it. The ultimate for me is when I have an ache or pain, or something more severe and completely discount it, declaring that it’ll go away… eventually. Wel, I experienced something that fits this description in my dictionary. A few weeks ago my wife and I traveled to NY for a wedding and before returning home we did some extensive walking in lower Manhattan visiting “Ground Zero”. Upon my return, I felt an intense soreness in my foot which I initially ignored (of course), eventually attributing the continuous, gnawing discomfort to dancing at the wedding and the walking around town. My foot was swollen a bit and after diagnosing myself I took some Motrin and rested a bit overnight, feeling good-to-go the next day. But, alas, it was not getting better, and as each day wore on and I bravely continued to walk around, the soreness grew stronger each day. Finally, as Rosh Hashana was approaching, I began to think about this foot of mine more seriously and went to see my doctor who gave me, among other things, an authorization slip to have my foot X-rayed. Being rather busy, I pushed off getting the X-ray for a few more days, reasoning, “Why should I spend so much money on a co-pay for the x-ray?” I overcame my clarity of reasoning and went to get the X-ray. The technician told me, “You are going to have to see the doctor!”

I could not believe that I broke my foot! I did not remember any time when I may have banged it or fell or even twisted it, yet… x-rays don’t tend to lie. Initially, the doctor said my foot might require being surgically repaired. After my proclaimed disbelief, accompanied by my continuous questioning of the need to have surgery, the doctor managed to maneuver the bone, trying his best to help me avoid surgery if he could help my foot to heal externally. There were many thoughts and messages going through my mind at the time, but mostly, I was and still am in denial that I broke a bone! Let’s be real; it does not hurt that much. In fact, I have no pain at all. Besides a little swelling, I don’t see anything wrong with my broken foot compared to the other one. There’s just a little discomfort…

There is a teaching about the fact that we tend to attribute any bad things or omens that happen to someone at the end of the year as a good sign, indicating that we have completed any punishment on the previous year’s account and therefore can hopefully go into the New Year with a clean slate. I hope for me that is definitely the case! However, this also set my mind in place for the upcoming Ten Days of Repentance from Rosh Hashana To Yom Kippur. We read on both Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur the prayer Unesaneh Tokef. A line of deep concern is וְתִזְכֹּר כָּל הַנִּשְׁכָּחוֹת: You remember all that is forgotten. In a Tefillah “L’Eil Orech Din” we say, “The one who scrutinizes secrets”: "לצופה נסתרות ביום דין. In reacting to my broken foot, I cannot recall anything or any particular time that this injury occurred. But it did. As for me, it was a well-kept secret that I had broken my foot - even when informed that it was broken. I was in disbelief. I could not remember, but Hashem remembered. I could not see anything. But God sees all that is hidden, especially that which man can not see. Throughout the year, throughout our entire lifetimes, we do things that are wrong, but we don’t remember ever committing them. Even when there may be a hint from above that I’m hurting a bit because I may have broken something [committed a sin], I brush it off and say it’s nothing. ignoring the warning signs, disregarding them, remaining in denial, unable to make that connection. We can’t see the crack but the Almighty does, because He sees all. To God the world is seen clearly, for us, mere mortals, we would need an X-ray. And even with the X-ray we still can’t believe it. I am not saying that any illness or sickness is caused by a sin or that a wounded person is bad. We know that sometimes the righteous have difficulties in this world. Nevertheless, these are signs that Hashem is clearly trying to communicate with us. Whatever that message is, we need to take it seriously and not discard it. We need to pay attention and address it. We must be aware of the steps we take and follow a path that the Torah leads us upon. The leaders of the Jewish people literally led us, walked the walk, teaching by example and giving of themselves for the Jewish people. There could be no one more suited for this description than Moshe Rabbeinu’s:

In this week’s Parshas Vayeilech the Torah states in Devarim 31:1"וילך משה וידבר את הדברים האלה אל כל ישראל" “Moshe went {literally walked} and spoke the following words to all Israel, saying to them: Today I am 120 years old and I can no longer come and go”. The steps of Moshe Rabbeinu were not ordinary paces. They teach us everything that Moshe did in Torah and Mitzvos was done for the sake of the Jewish people. Rav Yosef Ben Meir Teomim* in his work Noam Megadim writes the strength of the community gives strength to the leader to reach higher levels and climb the spiritual ladder step by step to lead Am Yisrael to a higher place. Furthermore, Rav Teomim writes that even after Moshe finished walking, meaning after his soul departed from this world, he continued to lead the Jewish people. As he spoke these words and the Jewish people heard his voice, the lessons he taught continue until this very day. In fact, the words you are reading right now are words that Moshe Rabbeinu himself taught us and continue to do so.

We need to be cognizant of our actions and steps because they are all truly hidden, a known only to Hashem. This applies to the sins and to the Mitzvos as well. We sometimes forget the negative or positive impact we have on others, whether we see this or not. Therefore, the lesson for this year is not to tread lightly, to the contrary let’s put our foot down, making positive and strong imprints of Torah values and chessed and kindness to all around us. We, the observant Torah-filled community consist of each individual, every one of us must step up to the plate and fulfill the mandate of V’Halachta Bidrachav: We shall follow or walk in His ways!

Ah Gut Shabbos & ah Gmar Tov

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Parshas Nitzavim / Rosh Hashana - Pitching In                       26 Elul 5779

09/26/19 18:08:01

Sep26

This year the solar month of September ran neck and neck to the lunar month of Elul. The month of September is by and large the last month of baseball’s regular season preceding the playoffs, while Elul is the last month of the year prior to the post season’s high holidays of Rosh Hashana and Yom HaKippurim. It is during these critical months of Sept/Elul that we prepare for the Big Game, both joining as one in the same pitch.

On Rosh Hashana we hear the pitch of the Shofar blowing, creating a position for us to be successful on the day of judgment. Baseball season boils down to who is going to pitch. Going through the month, I recognized an eerie similarity in the realm of the pitch of the Shofar to the pitching rotation and strategy of who starts and who finishes the game on the mound.

Traditionally, one pitcher pitched the entire game. In the early days of Major League Baseball, substituting a player was not allowed except for sickness or injury. An ineffective pitcher would switch positions with another player on the field. The first relief appearance in the major leagues was in 1876 with Boston Red Caps outfielder Jack Manning switching positions with pitcher Joe Borden. Fast forward to the modern era, a relief pitcher (aka reliever, collectively the bullpen) is a pitcher who specializes is coming into a game started by another pitcher. The difference in usage patterns goes beyond when the pitchers are brought into the game. Unlike starters, who are given several days off after each appearance, relievers are expected to be able to pitch throughout several consecutive games. A relatively recent development in relief pitching is the use of relievers in highly-specific roles. Rather than using all relievers in essentially the same way, as teams do with their starters, managers now try to use each reliever in one of a small number of stereotypical roles that depend on the game situation and the opposing batter. The latest in baseball, an opening pitcher, more frequently referred to as an opener, is a pitcher who specializes in getting the first outs in a game before being replaced by a long reliever or a pitcher who would typically be a starting pitcher. Now, you may be thinking, how does this resemble the blowing of the Shofar?

The Shofar is blown throughout the entire month of Elul except for Erev Rosh Hashana. The Shofar blowing during Elul is just a short blast of Tekiah, Shvarim-Teruah Tekiah at the end of the morning prayer. There were some communities who blew Shofar in the evening after Maariv, but that custom is rarely practiced today. There are many people who can blow Shofar during the month of Elul, but usually they are not the same individuals who blow Shofar on Rosh Hashana. Being a Baal Tokeah (shofar blower) requires skill, stamina and talent. Sure, a few short blows is easy, but on Rosh Hashana the main blower/ Tokea needs to pace himself for the long one-hundred blasts of the day. Each word, i.e. tekiah , shevarim, or teruah, are considered one sound each. During Elul this equals a total of four sounds while Rosh Hashana this equals one hundred kolos/sounds. In baseball there is a reliever, if necessary. Does such a concept exist for blowing the Shofar? Can more than one person blow the Shofar on Rosh Hashana? The Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 585:3 states:אם התחיל לתקוע ולא יכול להשלים ישלים אחר ואפי' ג' או ד' ודי בברכה שבירך הראשון והוא שיהיו שם התוקעים האחרונים בשעת ברכה ואפילו אם בירך ולא יכול לתקוע כלל השני תוקע בלא ברכה ולא הויא ברכה לבטלה: If a person begins to blow the Shofar but cannot finish, someone else can finish. Even three or four people can relieve the starter, and not only can they participate, they do not need to make a Bracha if they heard it already from the beginning. The technical reason this arrangement works is the rule of Kal Yisrael Areivim Zeh BaZeh: every Jew is a guarantor for one another. In essence, we are all like one person, therefore even if another individual comes along to help and complete the blowing of the Shofar, it’s still considered the same one person who is performing the act or the Mitzva. The Shofar may be blown by one or multiple people can join and help. This is the classic example of a starter and reliever. The starter needs to pace himself while the reliever gives it his all right away. In this new age of baseball, with a reliever who starts the game for one or two innings, he gives it his all in the beginning instead of at the end. With regard to the blower of the Shofar, the main pitcher is the Rosh Hashana blower while the reliever - either in the beginning or the end - is the man who does the short stint during Elul. The Jewish people are not just a regular team for the here and now; we are a team that is strung together from game to game, each from one time period to the next.

In this week’s Parshas Nitzavim the Torah states in Devarim 29:13,14 “ולא אתכם לבדכם אנכי כרת את הברית הזאת ואת האלה הזאת. כי את אשר איננו פה עמנו עמד היום לפני ה אלוקינו ואת אשר איננו פה עמנו היום. “But it is not with you alone that I am making this covenant and this dreaded oath. I am making it both with those who are standing here with us today before God our Lord, and with those who are not [yet] here with us today.” On the word ‘yet’ Rashi explains that includes future generations. An obvious question exists: How is it possible to include the future generations in an obligation of a covenant without them being present? Rabbeinu Bachya comments consistently on both verses stating that it is not with you alone, referring to a father who was present. A father is the root and source for his children and for the future branches that will come forth from his [the father’s] roots. Therefore, if the roots were present at the signing of the bris/covenant, then whatever those roots bring forth later are connected and considered an offshoot from their origin. Regarding the second verse “…and with those who are not yet here with us” Rabbeinu Bachya explains those who are not here today in body, but who are here with us today in spirit or with their souls. Other commentaries mention that later generations are dependent upon the previous generations and the previous generations are dependent upon the later generations, vis a vis fulfilling the covenant. Meaning, it’s all or nothing. Those who are here now and those who will be here later; ultimately, Klal Yisrael is viewed as one large body stretching from generation to generation. We do not view the existence of the Jewish people in a vacuum, but rather on a continuum of existence. And so we learn that one Jew can relieve another Jew and carry on the responsibility of fulfilling a particular Mitzva or the ultimate leadership and mission of the Jewish people.

When we hear the blowing of the Shofar on Rosh Hashana, any one of us could be filling that position, taking on that role on behalf of each other. The halacha/law that states we are permitted to have a reliever or substitute for the Shofar blower is not limiting to being given permission to do so. Rather, it is a message that we are all there for each other; we are ready to step in for our fellow Jew in time of need. It is with this lesson in mind we approach the holy and awesome days of Rosh Hashana to let Hashem know that we are not only individuals, but we come as a nation. We come as a people as brothers and sisters ready to help one another. In this merit may we all be zocheh to a Kesiva Va’Chasima Tova, a Happy and sweet New Year!

Ah Gut Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Parshas Ki Savo - The Purpose of Elul                 19 Elul 5779

09/18/19 17:58:38

Sep18

There is a famous story told of the Chofetz Chaim, Reb Yisrael Meir Yisrael Meir Kagan, Zt”l and his student Reb Elchonon Wasserman Zt”l. The story relates how Reb Wasserman spent the month of Elul with his Rebbi the Chofetz Chaim. The story goes that when Rav Elchonon Wasserman’s son was born, he approached his Rebbe, the Chofetz Chaim, and asked his permission to travel home for the baby’s bris. The Chofetz Chaim responded, “Will you be the Mohel?” implying that it is more important to remain in Yeshiva and not to interrupt his learning. Rav Moshe Shmuel Shapiro, zatzal, in his sefer laments the fact that in today’s generation every single simcha - be it a bris, wedding, or sheva brachos, is a reason to take a week off from yeshiva, even to travel out of the country, just to attend the event.

The month of Elul is critical to properly approaching the Yemai HaDin, the Days of Judgment. Today many people shy away from those words, implying the upcoming days are viewed as being harsh and full of exacting punishment. In truth, the days of Elul and the days of Awe are opportunities to get back into a better, more focused routine of the cycle of mitzvos, applying conscientious effort to growing closer to Hashem. It should be likened to an adult son who left home and keeps brief contact with his parents, but later in life recognizes he has the opportunity to call his father and mother on a daily basis and reignite the closeness he had as a child being loved and nurtured by his parents.

Last weekend I attended a very special wedding of a very close friend of mine. A relative of mine asked me, “How are you able to leave your Shul just a few weeks before Rosh Hashana?” Looking back, the timing of being in Lakewood New Jersey for a few days during the month of Elul was mind opening. Lakewood, including its expansion to surrounding areas, has become one of the largest Jewish communities in the country, not only known for the array of kosher food in supermarkets, but also for the numerous eateries for breakfast, lunch and dinner and everything in between. It is a city no doubt wrought with challenges, but equally no doubt it is a place where a Jew can flourish and become a Ben Aliyah, a person of spiritual growth. In a few weeks the words ותשובה ותפילה וצדקה מעבירין את רוע הגזירה:“Repentance, Prayer and Charity remove the evil decree” will be upon our lips and minds. I found myself inspired and witnessing ways to shape the days of Elul and its purpose, just by being in a setting surrounded by this powerful focus. The following description of how and why helped me to grasp a little more deeply on this month of Elul, transcended to the level of an everyday life experience. Shuls are packed for Shacharis, Mincha and Maariv; everyone goes to Shul to daven - the grocer, the butcher, the investment banker, the plumber, electrician, and H-vac guy, the Rebbi from the Cheder and the young men learning in Kollel. Today, Lakewood consists of men and women in all facets of work trying to make a living while simultaneously immersed in a full, spiritual, observant life. In the morning, Shuls are filled with young and some middle-aged men, who come to learn for an hour or so before Shacharis. With fresh, hot, brewed coffee filling their veins, the sound of Torah learning reverberates throughout the building. Mothers and wives share equally in their husbands’ learning of Torah, davening with a minyan three times a day. The sacrifice the wives and the mothers make creates an environment of beauty and commitment from the home, clearly transmitting the message to reinforce that which girls and boys are taught in school - that Torah is the primary ingredient of a Jewish home; it must be central to every family’s core values. The amount of chessed seen and the opportunities for everyone to learn and do are endless. The art to becoming a true Baal Chessed and to be successful at it will be featured in a future article. For me, seeing it during this powerful month of Elul opened my eyes to something we can all work on with proper education and a fresh outlook. The vast number of Jews who do not reside in Lakewood or other large, dense, Jewish communities may not weave this deep connection to Torah or worse, we may be left out. This concern is addressed in the Torah itself, clearly stating that no one can say the Torah is exclusively mine. Rather, the Torah is meant for each one of us.

In this week’s Parshas Ki Savo the Torah states in Devarim 29:3 "ולא נתן ה לכם לב לדעת ועינים לראות ואזנים לשמוע עד היום הזה": “And God did not give a heart to understand, nor eyes to see or ears to hear until this very day.” HaRav Simcha Maimon, in his sefer Shiurei Chumash, quotes Rashi on the words “until this very day”. Rashi states: “he heard and explains that very day that Moshe gave the Torah to the sons of Levi… Later, it states in 31:9 that the Torah was given to the kohanim, the sons of Levi, and all the rest of the Jewish people came to Moshe and cried, “We also stood at Har Sinai and received the Torah. You gave it to us as well”. Why is it now that you give it only to your tribe of Levi, and they, the tribe of Levi, will come to us tomorrow and say Moshe gave us the Torah and not you, referring to the rest of the Jews? At his, Moshe was ecstatic and rejoiced on the matter and went on to say to Klal Yisrael, “On this day we have become a nation,” 27:9 "היום הזה נהיית לעם" ,Indeed,Moshe is saying, “Today I understand that you want to cling to the Torah and to have a desire in the Torah”. Up until this time the Jews observed the Torah, but at times we find people observing and keeping the Torah because they feel and know they have to do it, but maybe they don’t really want to do so. There may be “other” reasons why they stay observant and go through the motions of keeping the Torah, but in fact, they are not really a part of it. On the other hand, there are those who have a different approach and understanding of why they fulfill the Torah’s words. It is because their hearts desire to keep and observe the mitzvos. The difference between these two approaches to serving Hashem and keeping the mitzvos as commanded is recognized and identified when a challenge to do a mitzvah or to fulfill an edict of the Torah is only when they are forced to do so for some reason other than their clear and focused desire to do so. If a person’s heart motivates and drives the individual to observe the mitzvos, that person will want to do them even if not commanded for the sole purpose of getting closer to God. In other words, for some people, any excuse or reason not to observe a mitzva, even when it is something beyond their control, will be enough; they did what they could and are therefore content. By contrast, those who are committed to observing the mitzvoth would be deeply upset, seeking to do anything in their power to be able to fulfill the mitzvoth in order to fully observe the Torah.

Moshe, upon hearing the people demand the rights to the Torah become upset at the thought that Moshe was not giving it to them, that they could be removed from such obligation, made Moshe rejoice. Recognizing that the people exclaimed their desire to possess to also embrace the Torah gave Moshe cause for rejoicing. Torah learning, intense observance of the mitzvoth, a feeling of desire to grow in Torah and Yiras Shamyim is not exclusive to the Lakewoods, Borough Parks, and other such communities. We here in San Diego need to stand up proudly not just espousing lip service, proclaiming that the Torah is ours as well as theirs. We all need to make this Elul a defining moment in our growing closer to Avinu She’Bashamayim, our Father in Heaven.

 

Ah Gut Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Parshas Ki Saytzay - A Jew is A Jew is A Jew     12 Elul 5779

09/11/19 15:50:23

Sep11

My Jewish identity has always been a source of attraction to others since the earliest times I can remember. As a child growing up in Borough Park (or Boro Park as spelled by the natives!) I was chased by the local non-Jews, forcing me to try to be inconspicuous and walk on the other side of the street. During my high school years I traveled to school on the NYC subway, passing through neighborhoods that were not safe for anyone, especially Jews. I was taunted at times or stared down; I preferred feigning sleep or to fake doing my schoolwork (that was easy to do because I always faked doing my homework throughout high school). Relocating six thousand miles to go to Yeshiva in Israel gave me a completely different sense of pride and joy of being Jewish. Please keep in mind this was in the early 1980’s before the Intifada was conceived. We traveled in taxis owned and driven by Arabs and I shared an entire taxi ride with my cousins (local Arabs), being the only Jew in the cab. Returning to America for me was a religious culture shock, acutely aware of our minority status - even in NY - amongst the gentile population. It only took one incident of a car slowing down to have a bunch of young anti-Semites yell a few obscenities and display some vulgar motions to remind me of where I was, back in the exile. To this day, some yelling of some kind of anti-Jew rhetoric is not uncommon. Since I’m older now and down’t hear as well, I feel less upset by these ‘happenings’, especially since I’m never certain that the rhetoric is directed at me.

Despite my awareness and memory of open anti-Semitic insults remains very clear, the level of attacks of verbal anti-Semitism has not been an issue for me, Baruch Hashem. In fact, over the years I’ve felt a decrease in anti-Semitic name calling. I have written about the many questions I receive about Judaism and religion while I am out and about at a park, mall, or shopping. The questions asked of me typically range from when/what the next holiday is to is how much that individual loves, admires, respects, etc. Israel. Sometimes I get lucky and missionaries actually try to convert me. Recently, I was in a public restroom in the airport and the following situation took place: I was in the bathroom washing my face, trying to refresh from a flight when I was approached by a non-Jew. I was asked point blank by this total stranger, “What is the difference between an orthodox Jew and a regular Jew?” The question took me by surprise, I thought, and I believe Hashem put the best words into my mouth. I paused, looked back at him and said, “Nothing. There is no difference between one Jew and another.” Of course, we know there are differences in the way Jews observe the Torah from everything to nothing, but we are all inherently the children of the same Avos, - the same Fathers - Avraham, Yitzchok and Yaakov. The thread that we all share are the middos, the character traits that are seen in our DNA. There are certain Middos that are only found in a Jew who is either born Jewish or someone who properly converts to Judaism. Part of the conversion is converting the DNA to Jewish traits of Middos tovos. The Torah and Judaism allow for conversion to Judaism, some immediately, others after a few generations, and still some others who can never convert and become Jewish.

 

In this week’s parsha Ki Saytzay the Torah states in Devarim 23:4: "לא יבוא עמוני ומואבי בקהל השם, גם דור עשירי לא יבוא להם בקהל השם, עד עולם. על דבר אשר לא קדמו אתכם בלחם ובמים..." “ - ”An Ammonite or Moabite [*man] may not enter God’s marriage group. They may never enter God’s marriage group, even after the tenth generation. This is because they did not greet you with bread and water when you were on the way out of Egypt.” Abarbanel comments the Ammonites or Moabites did not give essentials even though Avraham Avinu showed special kindness to their ancestor Lot. Rav Eliyahu Lopian Zt”l elucidates that in dealing with the low life Amalekite where the Torah commands us to blot them out, nevertheless if they come to convert we accept them, but in contrast to children and offspring of Lot we do not accept converts. Regarding Amalek (which is found at the end of this week’s parsha) ,the Torah says “They did not fear God”, but if an Amalekite would accept upon himself the yoke of Torah and Mitzvos, then he would be fearful and in awe of Hashem and would be kasher and acceptable, as is the case regarding any other gentile from any other nation. But Amon and Moav had bad middos; they were destructive and denied and or did not recognize the good that had been done for them. Therefore, they will never be accepted into the Jewish fold and can not convert to Judaism. No exceptions, even to the tenth generation. Amon and Moav can never join the congregation of Hashem, forever.

Is the real reason we don’t accept the Moabites and Amonites into the fold because they didn’t feed us? Maybe we should judge them favorably and give them the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps they lacked the resources necessary to feed and sustain us. If they were a poor people, they would not have had enough bread and water to sustain to an entire nation. Reb Yonason Eybeshutz explains the reason we don’t accept them has nothing to do with food. This eternal denial of acceptance is due to the second part of the verse when the Torah states that they hired the non-Jewish prophet Bilaam to curse the Jews. It was the hatred they displayed by trying to curse us, to deny us any possibility for a future. Obviously, they would not offer us bread and water. We understand the wickedness of their intent; we will not judge them favorably because we know the core reason they refused us bread and water was due to their hatred of us. Someone who hates a people will not and should not deserve to become a part of that nation.

Am Yisral, time and time again throughout our history, has mobilized its forces and unified its energy to help out a Jew no matter who that person may be, anywhere across the globe. We are one body and one soul and at the core there really are no differences when we strip away and peel off the layers of black, white and all colors in between. Nevertheless, even though subconsciously and intellectually every Jew knows and feels this way, our emotions sometime get in the way, keeping us from demonstrating the kinship that we ultimately share. This Elul is the time to look beyond the surface of our differences and see the core of each Neshama, how every one of us comes from the same source. As we see Am Yisrael as an Am Echad, Blev Echad, Hashem, our father in heaven, will look down upon His children with mercy - as a father shows upon his children. Elul is about not about repairing, it’s about recognizing our similarities and looking beyond our differences and it’s about showing the world there is no difference between Jews!

Ah Gut Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

 

*Ammonite or Moabite man but not woman (Yevamos 69a) See Ruth 1:4, 4:13

Parshas Mishpatim - First & Foremost               5 Elul 5779

09/05/19 12:55:40

Sep5

A famous chef once explained to me that when food is partially prepared either by frying, roasting, grilling, or boiling, and the cooking process is finished off with a different kind of cooking, the taste will always follow the initial cooking method. Sometimes a person boils or cooks some meat and then throws it onto the grill for the flavor. The issue is that boiling the meat not only renders out the fat, it also causes the natural juices of the meat to be released. Take, for example, spareribs which require preservation of both the fat and the natural juices of the meat in order to maintain the true flavor of the ribs. Parboiling doesn't remove much of the natural flavor, but there will still be some loss. Simmering for an hour will result in a large loss of flavor, which can be tasted in the water. The meat itself can become quite dry after it loses its natural juices due to boiling or simmering. For best flavor and retention of moisture, whether chicken or beef, boiling is not recommended. Slow cooking with low heat accomplishes the same goals of tenderizing and rendering of fat without the loss of flavor or moisture of the meat.

This notion is supported in a few places in the Talmud: Kerisus 12b, Shabbos 71a in discussions regarding the liability of eating two pieces of forbidden foods if they combine to make a full size of a Kezayis - an olive size amount. The Gemara in Kerisus declares that if the two half-measures of forbidden food come from the ‘Tamchui’, an Aramaic word most often used in connection with a soup kitchen, but in this case it is used regarding two identical foods that are prepared differently do not combine to make the adequate measure (kezayis). Rashi in the Gemara Shabbos clearly explains this Tamchui as one boiled the other grilled and therefore for the purposes of cooking on Shabbos similarly do not combine to make the full measure and therefore are exempt from punishment. From here we see a clear distinction between the first half of something to its second half.

Things that are the first in life take and hold the strength and sway over everything that comes afterwards. This factor is found in the laws of kashrus with a technical term referred as תתאה גבר - “the bottom overtakes the top”. Generally speaking, when something is poured onto something, the mixture of the two is determined by the bottom or initial item or ingredient. This, perhaps, is the reasoning behind the cliché ‘first impressions are lasting’ and the supporting axiom ‘first impressions are so important’. Chaza”l teach that it’s not necessarily upon all of us to finish the task, but starting is something everyone needs to do. There are many references to the beginning or the first of something in life that, in my humble opinion, carries the bulk of that ‘something’ throughout our lifetime. A final and decisive issue complementing this concept I believe is the different friends and friendships we encounter from the cradle to the grave.

I have remarked and others have remarked to me that the friends that we have from our childhood and early adulthood are the dearest, most sincere and dedicated people we will connect with throughout our lives. Surely we make friends as adults and as we progress through life. Truth be told some of those friendships, once made, are so sound and strong that is as though we have known them since we were very young. For me, it was during my high school and summer camp years that I established the strongest of friends. Let me explain. The friends from my high school years, despite our different paths religiously and in terms of observance, have continued to remain close no matter our differences. We may not speak for a couple of years, but when we connect it’s as if we spoke and saw each other yesterday. Old friends, or our first friends are not judgmental; they are always there, ready to help, to laugh, and to hold us when we need them to do so. No one is counting who owes the other the next phone call, as is so often the case in later friendships. A few weeks ago, amongst our many visitors and guests, a man approached me after davening and began to quiz me, asking if I could guess who he is. He is (now Rabbi) Asher Dicker, a friend from the old neighborhood, someone with whom I had davened on Shabbos and had not spoken to or seen in thirty years. It was such an enormous feeling, such a powerful sensation which brought me back to my youth. As he is a noted talmid chacham, as we were saying our goodbyes to each other he departed with a dvar Halacha and a Torah thought. There is a Halachik rule that when two Mitzvos occur simultaneously, we perform the one that is more common than the other. For example, a classic example of this for a man is what does he don first, his talis or his tefillin? Since they are both obligations occurring for davening, which takes precedence over the other? We follow the ‘Tadir V’She’eino Tadair, Tadir Kodem’ that which is common and the other not common, the more common one goes first. Tallis is worn seven days a week while Tefilin (not worn on Shabbos or Yom Tov) is six days a week, so we put on the Tallis and afterwards the wrap the Tefilin.

Rav Dicker posed the following query: This past Sunday was Rosh Chodesh Elul and we add Borchi Nafshi to the end of the Rosh Chodesh davening. At the same time we began reciting L’Dovid Hashem Ori on Rosh Chodesh Elul. Which one do we recite first? In practice we said Borchi Nafshi first and then L’Dovid, but when we look at the rule we say Borchi Nafshi for RoshChodesh - approximately seventeen times throughout the year - while L’Dovid is said from Rosh Chodesh through Shmini Atzeres, clearly over fifty days! Reb Asher provided an insight that satisfies the challenge, and that is how do we view reciting something multiple times. Borchi Nafshi is recited every month, from month to month from one Rosh Chodesh to the next with a break in the middle, demonstrating each time we say it is its own time, thereby seventeen different times. On the other hand, we are told to recite L’Dovid during this ONE time period beginning Rosh Chodesh Elul and ending after Sukkos, but it is only recognized as the one time a year we say it and therefore it is the less common of the two. Hence saying Borchi Nafshi first is the proper order and saying L’Dovid is second.

The concept of tithing and the ‘first’ is a part of Jewish life in terms of the first gifts to God through the Kohanim as indicated in the Torah. In this week’s Parshas Shoftim the Torah states in Devarim 18:3: “וזה יהיה משפט הכהנים מאת העם מאת זבחי הזבח אם שור אם שה ונתן לכהן הזרע והלחיים והקבה" - “This shall be the law of what the priests receive from the people: When any ox, sheep, or goat is slaughtered as food, you must give the priest the foreleg, the jaw and the maw”. The Ramban (Nachmanidies) quotes the Rambam (Maimonidies) from his sefer Moreh Nevuchim III, 39 that the cheeks are given to the priests because they are the first part of the body of the animal, the shoulder is the first of the extremities of the body, and the maw is the first of the inwards, for the first of them all is given to the ministers of the Most High in His honor. This is just another example of how the first things of the world are unique and special.

The ultimate first and special are the first nation and the unique relationship we, the Jewish people, have with Hashem. Unfortunately, we don’t see ourselves as the ‘first’ ones of Hashem; therefore we fall short of acting in the manner that is called for. As a result we have strayed and fallen aside. Elul is the time to remember the ‘first’ of the year, and we, as the first nation, have the responsibility to carry who we are and what we represent and to reestablish the order of the world as it was in the very beginning.

 

Ah Gut Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Parshas R'Ay - Leaving Your Mark                    28 Av 5779

08/22/19 23:05:54

Aug22

As we all know, San Diego is a popular vacation and business destination. While businesspeople travel to San Diego year round to attend meetings, conventions, seminars, and the like, they are different than the tourist crowd. Although when a guest appears in Shul, I ask, “Are you here on business or for pleasure,” when they respond that they are here on business, I respond, “Your business here should be pleasurable.” On the other hand, Jewish tourists tend to visit our fair city at specific times of the year, depending upon their children’s school/yeshiva schedules, These calendar breaks also apply to winter vacation,. Some schools follow the secular school calendar, so vacations coincide with the non-Jewish holidays; other schools intentionally create a designated week-long break in January or February. The summer vacation is also organized around similar schedule issues. Some schools are off the full months of July and August while others schedule their summer breaks during the month of Av, resuming school the beginning of Elul. As we head into the new school year for everyone (after Labor Day and Rosh Chodesh Elul), I want to take a look back at some of the highlights and accomplishments of the past summer.

I am proud of the fact that Beth Jacob is a popular destination for so many tourists who come from the full spectrum of Judaism. Sephardim, Ashkenazim, observant and more observant, locals and foreigners all enter our Shul not only feeling welcome but also are immediately made to feel at home. We strive to provide an environment that is welcoming and warm, driving home the point that we openly make every effort to make every visitor’s stay that much more enjoyable, if that is even possible! The help we offer is accepted with appreciation and gratitude by our visitors, often expressing amazement at the warmth of our community At the end of their stay, whether it was a day or a week or more, I ask them if this was their first time to San Diego. If they say yes, I tell them “it won’t be their last visit either; they’ll be back, and we’ll look forward to their return.

Typically, the shul gets used - and abused - from the playground outside to the bathrooms inside and everything in between: the building and premises get used. the kelim mikva, Moishe’s Grill, our shul is a place to regroup and use as a base of operation. And still, this is the least of what we have to offer. The heaviest usage, without a doubt, are within the four walls of the Beis Medrash where davening, learning and the planning of vacation days take place daily. I announce to visitors and guests that the air conditioning blows all day, the lights burn throughout the night, water, tea and coffee available 24/6. The wear and tear on the Shul take its toll, but then again we are here to help and serve Klal Yisroel. Due in part to our hospitality, guests and visitors leave donations to the Shul for all these various reasons, either on-line, contribute cash to the office, write a check or use a credit card for donations. Some actually make use of the pink donation envelopes we have in the Beis Medrash. Last week I pulled one of these pink donation envelopes from the Tzedakah box. On the surface the two-dollar donation seems minimal, but the message is priceless!

On the inside flap of these donation envelopes are choices as to how the visitor wants the donation to be directed - general fund, youth activities, library fund, etc. In the comment section someone wrote, “Ripped pg in a סידור”. Click here Mi K’Amcha Yisroel - Who is like Your people, Yisroel? A prayer book is used for praying, and if used in the normal way, then a person would not be liable to pay damages if it rips. Of course, if it was negligence then he would be liable. My guess is the person was not negligent; it was accidental, yet he still felt obligated to pay something for it. The deeper reason is things that belong to a shul are known as ‘Mamon Hekdesh’ - holy money. While the Beis HaMikdash stood, there was a Mitzva M’ilah: using holy things for personal, use which is a grave sin. The halacha is similar today in that the shul has sanctity. e should not use shul property for personal use unless permission is granted. People did not take things from the Beis HaMikdash because it was “just there”; it was forbidden to take without paying for it. Today’s shul is the representation of the Beis Hamikdash; no one should think the shul is obligated to offer something for people to use just because it’s there. Holy, consecrated things could be used if there is compensation for it. These words ring no louder than in the Torah.

In this week’s Parsha R’Ay the Torah states in Devarim 12:8 “לא תעשון ככל אשר אנחנו עשים פה היום איש כל הישר בעיניו": “You will then not be able to do everything that we are doing, [where each] person does what is right in his eyes.” *Rav Meir Dan Plotsky, in his commentary Kli Chemdah on Torah, explains this verse is a warning to the Jewish people. The warning was about how life would be different in Eretz Yisrael than it was during their time in the desert. Do not think that you will be able to do here in Israel that which you did in the desert. There was no obligation on any individual to bring Olah and sacrificial offerings to the Mishkan, rather every man could do whatever appeared right in his eyes. There was no obligation to bring a Korban, an animal, tithings in the desert for those Mitzvos are dependent and connected to the land of Israel. Sure, they brought sacrifices in the desert, but they were optional and of their free will in contrast to when they were in The Land. In Eretz Yisrael it was no longer optional; it was a requirement. Only after arriving and settling the land were the Bnei Yisrael at rest and ease and therefore had time to undertake these Mitzvos as an obligation. Up until that point the Jews were busy in the desert, traveling from place to place with minimal rest, knowing that at any moment they would need to pack up and go. Hashem did not add the obligation of bringing a korban or sacrifice during the forty years in the desert.

With the Beis HaMikdash destroyed and the Jewish people in exile, the Shechina, God’s presence, is found within the shuls and Batei Midrashim. The Kedusha and holiness exists in these places, thereby the premises and their contents are considered holy. If damaged, restitution is an obligation. Even if one would argue the point of not being obligated, I think everyone would agree that we should not look to take things from the shuls and Batei Midrashim. Rather, we should give and pay because it is considered holy money. These items are forbidden to be used for personal benefit unless authorized for ordinary, day to day usage. If we begin treating our holy houses with proper respect, we will prove that we are worthy to see the return of the Shechina in the permanent Third Beis HaMikdash!!!

Ah Gut Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

 

*Meir Dan Plotsky 1866 - 1928 was the President of Kollel Polen. He was a Talmudic scholar who authored the Kli Chemdah, a commentary on the Torah. He also authored the Chemdas Yisrael on Sefer ha-Mitzvot.

Plotsky was the son of Rabbi Chaim Yitzchak Ber Plotzker of Kutno, who was first a follower of Rav Chanoch Henich of Alexander, but who then became a follower of the Sfas Emes of Ger. At the age of nine, Plotsky was sent to learn in the yeshiva of Rabbi Chaim Eliezer Wax, the Nefesh Chayah, in Kalisz, president of Kupat Rabbi Meir Baal HaNes Kollel Polen. Shortly before his bar mitzvah, he became a disciple of Rabbi Avrohom Bornsztain (the Avnei Nezer), first Sochatchover Rebbe, whom he considered his lifelong rebbe muvhak (primary Torah teacher).

Plotsky married at the age of 15 and spent the next 10 years in Dvohrt with his in-laws. In 1891, he became Rav in Dvohrt. Later he helped expose the forged Yerushalmi on Kodshim, claimed to be discovered by Shlomzo Yehuda Friedlander, who also claimed he was a Sefardi named Shlomo Yehuda Algazi. At the age of 36 Rav Plotsky published his work on the Sefer Hamitzvos of Maimonides, called Chemdas Yisrael. In 1918, he became Rav of Ostrov-Mozbaisk in eastern Poland. He was voted chairman of Agudas Harabbanim of Poland, a prelude to Agudat Israel. At the age of 60, he left the rabbinate to head a large yeshiva in Warsaw, known simply as the Mesivta

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Parshas Eikev - Just Follow the Rules              22 Av 5779

08/22/19 23:05:18

Aug22

One part of a pulpit rabbi’s job is to comfort and give encouragement to those who are not well. One of the usual but deeply-felt comments I make as I take leave of someone is that the next time I see this individual I hope he or she will feel stronger and better and will be completely healed. In most cases once the patient leaves a facility, I follow up from time to time either by phone or text. The best scenario of all is when the tables are turned, and instead of me visiting a person who is not well , that person is able to visit me in my office! Last week I had an incredible visit from someone who, according to the logical course of the illness, should not have been sitting across my desk.

A renewed member of life and now of the Shul met with me after a long four-year battle with multiple life-threatening issues. For many years Dennis Mesnick volunteered for Beth Jacob, raising money for the shul to help continue spreading Torah values throughout the community. Dennis, for all the years that I have known him, was always upbeat, willing to help anyone, and a mensch. After battling serious illnesses these past four years, he consistently expresses no anger with what life has dealt him. To the contrary, he savors all that life still has to offer him. During our meeting, which I prefer to call a visit, we both tried to stay positive and not dwell on the past illnesses and continued challenges of life. Nevertheless, as we tried to stay away from the medical chat, it inevitably came up. One of the most fascinating lessons that I am aware of was reviewed again. The introduction to Path of the Just states, “I’m not here to teach you anything new, but rather to remind you of all the things you know already.” During our conversation Dennis told me about his wonderful doctors and mentioned one critical message. Due to Dennis’s condition, his doctor stated the following: “As long as you stay away from certain foods, you will live.” As he continues to improve, he keeps those words of his doctor close to his lips, adhering to that golden rule. The doctor did mention other patients who had the same condition as he but did not follow his advice. Correspondingly, the status of their health had fallen far from where it should have been. An interesting follow-up to this is that Dennis feels that his doctor is more supportive of him because he follows his advice religiously, making the right choices to be healthier. When one follows the orders and directions of any authority, there tends to be more support and encouragement from that teacher, parent, physician, employer and so forth. That has always been Dennis’ message: follow the orders and directions of those who are trying to help you.

While visiting people who need a Refuah Sheleima, it often happens that the person calls me “doctor”, instead of “Rabbi”. Obviously, this is not a sign of disrespect but a mere confusion of titles, since the title “doctor” is so often used during their ordeal. I not only take no issue with this slight confusion, I recognize the vital link between those who care for the physical to those who nurture and shepherd the spiritual. It’s not only the doctor to whom we should heed. Rabbis tell us that by following the Torah good will result for you and your family. This concept is clearly seen within the Torah itself!

In this week’s Parsha Eikev the Torah states in Devarim, 11:13-21, the second paragraph of the Shema whereby Hashem decries to the Jewish people והיה אם שמוע תשמעו אל מצותי אשר אנכי מצוה אתכם היום לאהבה את ה" אלוקיכם ולעבדו בכל לבבכם ובכל נפשכם “If you are careful to pay heed to my commandments which I am prescribing to you today, and if you love God your Lord with all your heart and soul…”This statement is followed by a guarantee of the blessings of sustenance, health and long life. Today we live at a crossroad between generations. The old school of thought is just that, old school: stick to what has worked for centuries in Jewish education for both old and young. The younger generation, however, feels they need something new and different. Reb Shlomo Luntzitz in his commentary Kli Yakar, emphasizes this point of the old school. Kli Yakar quotes Rashi, “If you listen to that which is old, you will hearken to that which is new. Chaza”l, the Rabbi’s of Blessed memory, teach Mitzva Goreres Mitzva - that the recompense for a Mitzva is a Mitzva, and understanding creates more understanding, namely from the old to the new.

The Kli Yakar then diverts relating something in reference to what Moshe stated: “With all your hearts and with all your souls…”, yet ‘with all your might’ it is not stated, as it is in the first paragraph of Shema. The reason ‘with all your might’ (Devarim 6:5) it is not mentioned here is because it is prevalent in every society to have an individual whose money is dearer to him then his body. Hence, the corny old joke of the robber saying to the victim, “Your money or your life!” followed by a long pause and the robber continues, “Nu?” The man replies, “I’m thinking, I’m thinking!” Rashi stated earlier "יש לך אדם": “You possess a man.” From those words we deduce that this character flaw is not prevalent in a community. We find this flaw in one individual or in a limited number of people whose opinions are invalidated relative to mankind. We do not, however, find this in a community or a congregation because the majority will discount the wasteful opinion and completely disregard it. On the other hand, according to what Rashi stated about a person’s ‘might,’ we deduce that in every attribute that He (Hashem) measures for you, whether it be for good or for evil.

In today’s day and age we need to go back to basics and not think that every new method of study or worship is now hip; I need something new, something different. Rather stick to the old, and eventually that old will feel new again in the present just as it felt in the past. There is no reason to change course after hundreds of years; it is best to stay focused following the Torah, observing the Mitzvos and serving God the good old-fashioned way. Unfortunately, the old saying “the squeaky wheel gets the oil” applies today. Those individuals who cry out the loudest seem to get the most attention, bending people’s ears to their false and corrupt ways of thinking. We should never apologize for the ultimate standards the Torah presents, providing us with a magnificent roadmap, guiding us how to live our lives. There is no need to cave in or compromise our principles and methods that have carried us for centuries in building Jewish communities throughout the world.

May Hashem give strength and wisdom to the leaders of our generation to rememberוארך ימינו כי הם חיינו and with this in mind continue to teach and guide Hashem’s children to remember to follow the medicinal orders of following God’s orders.

Ah Gut Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

 

Thank you to Rabbi Dr. Kanter for his commentary on the Kli Yakar in his sefer published in 2003.

Parshas VaEschanan - Pace Yourself, It is a Long Ride                        14 Av 5779

08/15/19 18:24:59

Aug15

Last week a group of young students rented a car for their vacation. Lo and behold, using different drivers and estimations of fuel in the tank, they ran out of gas on the freeway. As I shook my head in disbelief, they asked me if I’ve ever run out of gas? Baruch Hashem and Bli Ayin Hora I have not, but, I have had some very close calls. One clear instance comes to mind…In the back of my mind I remember that my car needed gas. Being the Chochom (stubborn in this case) that I am, I tend to fill up where I get a discount and therefore habitually arrange to shop at the Costco where they have a gas station. The indicator in my car told me I had 14 miles to empty. I Waze the directions from my house to that Costco and it calculated a distance of 14 miles. Perfect. I decided to take the chance and, while driving, I could only think to myself, ‘I better not run out of gas!’ I remembered a supposed truism that the faster the car is driven the more fuel it burns. Therefore, I tried driving at a reasonable speed of about fifty-five mph and staying in one lane. Staying in the one lane also kept me at a consistent speed since I did not need to slow down or speed up when changing lanes. Lo and behold, when I arrived at the gas station my fuel indicator read three miles to empty! Incredibly, I actually saved gas by using this method of driving. This was all substantiated in a study I later found on-line.

A U.S. News & World Report article in July, 2008, explained how to drive and maximize your gas mileage. By now, most people know the boring basics: Make sure your tires are properly inflated. Change your oil and air filter regularly. Remove heavy items from your car. Still, watch the drivers on any highway, and you'll see fuel being wasted in every lane. That's because many drivers these days simply don't know much about how cars work and don't understand the mechanics of mileage. Jack Pokrzywa, manager of ground vehicle standards for SAE International, which sets technical standards for the automotive industry, explained what makes gas mileage go up or down. Here are some of the most common mileage mistakes:

“Driving too fast. Everybody knows that highway mileage is usually better than city mileage. So the faster, the better, right? Wrong by a mile. Most American cars operate at peak efficiency—generating the most forward momentum with the least amount of fuel—between 50 and 60 miles per hour. There's nothing magical about that range, except that the government establishes the city and highway mpg ratings for cars by operating them within certain speeds for a short period of time. Automakers want to get the highest mpg ratings possible, so they engineer their cars to be most efficient at the speeds at which the government tests them. If the government tested at 30 miles per hour instead, then no doubt carmakers would engineer their vehicles to be most efficient at 30. At speeds over 60 mph, gas mileage drops off a lot more than most drivers probably realize. The aerodynamic drag created by a moving vehicle increases exponentially; it takes more power to overcome the added resistance, forcing the engine to work harder, therefore burning more fuel. A lot more”.

If your car has an on-board computer that displays your instant gas mileage, the difference between 60 mph and 80 mph will be obvious—and substantial. At 60, a typical four-cylinder car might average about 30 mpg; at 80, it could fall to about 20 mpg. In other words, your gas mileage going 80 miles an hour on an open road might barely be better than the mileage you get navigating stoplights and city traffic. The Torah is a full navigation system unto itself. In addition to giving us the route it also dictates how we should drive in order to get there efficiently.

In this week’s Parshas VaEschanan the Torah in Devarim 5:29-30 states: ושמרתם לעשות כאשר צוה השם אלוקיכם אתכם לא תסורו ימין ושמאל. בכל הדרך אשר צוה השם אלוקיכם תלכו למען תחיון וטוב לכם והארכתם ימים בארץ אשר תירשון. “Be careful to do what God your Lord has commanded you, not turning to the right or left. Follow the entire way that God your Lord has commanded you, so that you may live and do well, enduring for a long time on the land that you are going to occupy”.

*Rabbi Abraham Menachem Rapa of Porto (Rappaport) in his commentary Mincha Belula explains the words right and left not as directions but adding and subtracting. The definition of going to the right is understood as adding to the existing 613 mitzvos, while going to the left is the notion of taking away from the 613 mitzvos. Sometimes we think doing more or going faster is better - it pulls to the right. On the other hand, a person pulls to the left to decrease from the Torah’s mitzvos by going slower. In either scenario right and left is synonymous with faster and slower, resulting in something bad on both paths.

Rav Naftoli Tzvi Yehuda Berlin (the Netzi”v) in his commentary Haamek Davar on Torah explains, “be careful what you do” not to add or subtract mitzvos from the Torah that are between man and God. We are forbidden to alter that which we received and have a transition from Hashem. It states we are not deviate to the left or to the right because they are all Chukim - statutes - that are untouchable. The next verse, “follow the entire way,” reflects upon the mitzvos between man and his fellow man. “The entire way” is alluded to at the end of the second chapter of Talmud Bava Metzia as meaning Gemilus Chesed - acts of loving kindness - which refer to people. There again we are directed not to turn to the left or the right. We are to stay on the straight path of doing kindness, as there is no measure to this Mitzvah.

If we stay on a straight path in one lane, not veering to either side we will have the energy and the fuel to get to our final destination. Going slower or faster, left or right, only burns more fuel and energy , causing us to lose mileage, to fall short of our goal. Let’s keep or eyes on the fuel tank and stay on the straight and narrow path the Torah had paved for us, allowing us to have the ability to reach our destination with fuel to spare!

 

Ah Gut Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

 

 

*Mincha Belula, commentary on the Five Books of the Torah, by. Verona, 1594.

On the title page and on page 59/b are ownership inscriptions in Italian Hebrew writing: "Pinchas Chai Anav and his brother". [R. Pinchas Chai Anav (died in 1769), an Italian sage, Rabbi in Ferrara, close disciple of R. Yitzchak Lampronti, author of Pachad Yitzchak. The ten volumes of his monumental work Givat Pinchas were never printed. The Chida who met him in Ferrara, wrote about R. Pinchas, "…He was very clever and in 1755, I had merited a number of days enjoying his Torah thoughts at the time I was on a mission there in my youth.”

Parshas Devarim - It's All in the Transmission   7 Av 5779

08/08/19 09:16:26

Aug8

May this dvar Torah, together with the actions of their children, serve as a merit for refuah Sheleima to Avraham ben Chana and Mazal Bat Amalya Mali.

A few months ago I wrote a piece about taking things surreptitiously to Israel and how, after getting caught up in my own lie, I told myself that I will no longer take things to and from Israel for others. Well, I have a confession to make. In my mind I thought to myself that I would just take something with me in my carry-on bag. I would agree to take an envelope of money or a credit card that needed to get to a family member in Israel. Taking something small such as an envelope has its own set of challenges: having the person pick it up, finding a way to deliver it, and so forth. Sometimes the item just sits where I was staying, waiting to be given to the individual. Sometimes it is never retrieved.

On my most recent trip to Israel, I took an envelope from someone in our community for their daughter in Yerushalayim. I was completely shocked, awed, and amazed at the reception I received regarding this envelope. The people’s son-in-law did not wait for me to call him or track him down; he called me as soon as I touched down and was willing and ready to meet me wherever I was - any time any place. If that wasn’t enough, when Aharon came to meet me, not only did he say thank you, but he handed me a little gift. When I asked him what was this for, he replied, “Just a little something to say thank you for delivering this to us from my in-laws in San Diego.” I was completely floored. He was so appreciative that he felt it was not enough just to say thank you; he felt compelled to express his appreciation in action and deed.

I would not categorize this with the old cliché’ ‘action speaks louder than words’. I believe a person is sincere when they say, “thank you”. Dale Carnegie is quoted as saying, “Pay less attention to what men say; just watch what they do.” One need not look further than Chazal in Pirkei Avos where we find a similar concept that children learn by modeling behavior, primarily the behaviors of their parents and teachers. This also applies to co-workers, friends, and people who know you. It isn’t what you say that teaches or impacts others as much as what you do. This act was another way of saying “actions speak louder than words”. Don’t get me wrong. Saying thank you and showing Hakaras Hatov is one of the most important traits a person must have. Here, I’m taking it to the next level of demonstrating the ‘thanks’ through actions and not through speech alone. Perhaps I was so impressed because the common words ‘thank you’ are said quite often, but all too often without genuine appreciation. The fact that Aharon displayed his gratitude in an act rather than just in speech taught me a greater lesson with regard to showing thanks beyond a mere few words. In Hebrew, the duality of saying and doing something can be found within the same word as we see in the Torah.

In this week’s Parshas Devarim the Torah states at the outset of Devarim 1:1 אלה הדברים אשר דבר משה אל כל ישראל בעבר הירדן במדבר בערבה מול סוף פארןבין ובין תפל ולבן וחצרת ודי זהב"

“These are the words that Moses spoke to all Israel on the east bank of the Jordan, in the desert, and in the Aravah, near Suf, in the vicinity of Paran, Tofel, Lavan, Chatzeroth and Di Zahav”.

The word Devarim, here translated as words, also has a meaning of ‘something’ from the word ‘דבר’. That something that is tangible relates to it is here that Moshe ‘spoke’ rebuke in a veiled fashion by only mentioning the places where the sins took place, but also that at these places ‘something’ tangible occurred. Giving different meaning to a word often changes the direction,.In this instance, however, the words and the action are consistent in Moshe’s message. This idea is mentioned by Rav Dovid Adani in his workMidrash HaGadol.* Rav Adani comments, “Don’t read the word Deebare (spoke), but read instead davar with a patach, an ahhh sound, meaning thing. The reason is that Moshe was afraid to rebuke the Jewish people. Moshe reasoned this in his mind because of one thing he had said to them, “Listen here, you rebels,” and as a result he was held back from entering the land of Israel. How much more so if we were to give everyone this rebuke what the repercussions might be! Only after receiving permission from Hashem did Moshe proceed to rebuke Bnei Yisrael by word and place.

A second idea is that words can be spoken and/or written down. Perhaps these words of rebuke were intended to be applied both ways. To raise a question and present an answer, we turn to the Gemarah Temurah 14a which discusses these exact words of ‘Eileh HaDevarim’ - ‘These Are the Words’. We have’ also learned that Rabbi Yehudah bar Nachmeini, the meturgaman (one who said over the lectures) of Reish Lakish (to the public), taught: The verse states:’ Write for yourself these words’. It also states: For ‘al pi’ – ‘by mouth’ of these words. How can we reconcile these verses? This teaches us that oral teachings cannot be written down, and verses that are written cannot be recited from memory. In the school of Rabbi Yishmael, they taught, ‘these’, means that these you should write, but the orally-transmitted laws should not be written down. The Gemora answers, ‘Perhaps the case is different regarding a new interpretation’. This is apparent from the fact that Rabbi Yochanan and Reish Lakish used to carry and read books of aggadah (homiletics) on Shabbos. How could they do so? Isn’t aggadah not allowed to be written down as the Oral law is technically not allowed to be written? They expounded as follows: It is written: “There is a time to do for Hashem; nullify your Torah”. They explained it as follows: It is better that one letter of the Torah should be uprooted than that the whole Torah should be forgotten. The reason they could do so is because it was becoming impossible for people to remember the Oral law without writing it down.

Words alone should be enough in many areas of life. At other times, however, words just do not do justice nor do they make a lasting impression. The aftermath of needing the Oral Torah to be written down and a small token gift for doing someone a favor will last far longer than a simple ‘thank you’. Having written something down was meant to preserve the Torah for eternity. We are approaching Tisha B’Av and the culmination of the annual mourning period for the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash. Another suggestion to help with our middos and behavior amongst ourselves would be to end the lip service of how we behave towards each other, to sincerely display the ahavas Yisroel that is necessary to combat the sinas chinam which will ultimately bring the redemption speedily in our day.

 

*Midrash HaGadol or The Great Midrash, written by Rabbi David Adani of Yemen (14th century), is a compilation of aggadic midrashim on the Pentateuch taken from the two Talmuds and earlier midrashim of Yemenite provenance. In addition, it borrows quotations from the Targums, Maimonides, and Kabbalistic writings, and in this aspect is unique among the various midrashic collections. This important work—the largest of the midrashic collections—came to popular attention only in the late 19th century through the efforts of Jacob Saphir, Solomon Schechter, and Rav Dovid Zvi Hoffmann. In addition to containing midrashic material that is not found elsewhere, such as part of the Mekhilta of Rabbi Shimon, Midrash HaGadol contains what are considered more correct versions of previously known Talmudic and Midrashic passages.

Ah Gut Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Thu, April 9 2020 15 Nisan 5780