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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

Parshas Matos/Maasei - Departures & Arrivals    29 Tammuz 5779

07/31/19 12:41:03

Jul31

Well it’s back to the skies again, taking a different look from the tube. You may recall some of my past observations: “It’s all About God” in March, 2015, “The Dreaded Middle Seat” in December, 2017, “Traveling Light” in June, 2019, and another oldie from May, 2016, about “Davening on Planes”. Most of those discussions centered on things other than the passengers accompanying me on the flight. From time to time, I do engage in conversation with a fellow passenger, Jew and non-Jew alike, on various topics from “Are you from San Diego?” to the obvious inquiries about Israel and Judaism. I try to be polite, answering all the queries, depending upon how tired I am and also, in truth, upon how engaging the other person is. The route from San Diego to New York will invariably have people who are either living in New York and visiting San Diego or visiting New York and living in San Diego. Since I’ve lived half my life in each city, I make suggestions to those who are coming and going from coast to coast.

A study from British Bank HSBC in 2018, reveals that over half of the airplane passengers have struck up a conversation with a stranger while on a plane. The findings suggest that one in seven fliers makes a lasting friendship while flying, while 16% add a new business connection to their network. Now that many airlines are testing out inflight Wi-Fi, the opportunities for making connections aren't limited to shooting the breeze with your immediate neighbors. The airplane app Inflighto has a chat function which allows communication between pilot and passenger, while also promoting conversations between travelers on board. Naturally, airborne connections aren’t always ‘plane sailing’. About 48% of surveyed passengers were freaked out if fellow passengers removed their shoes; 65% are put off if another traveler displayed rudeness to a flight attendant and, of course, drinking too much is another no-no, with 46% listing it as a complaint. If you want to impress your seat buddy, respecting their personal space is -- of course -- integral. Some 37% of people hate it when passengers take up too much space in the overhead locker and 32% get overtly upset if someone uses the arm rest. Falling asleep on someone's shoulder (30%) and snoring (26%) also tend to be buzz kills. So, if you're considerate and respectful, perhaps a connection is out there just waiting on a plane you are about to board. It's just a matter of figuring out which of the 107,000 daily scheduled flights they happen to be on.

As progress through the three weeks, about to approach Rosh Chodesh Ave and the beginning of the Nine Days, we all try to do our best in the mitzvos Bein Adam LaChaveiro, the commandments between man and man. Following a flight to the East Coast only a week ago, I was struck about how many ways people find to interact with total strangers while on a plane. For the most part people on a plane are so courteous to each other. Utterances of please, thank you, excuse me, can I help you with that, and so forth are only a few of the comments I am accustomed to hearing during travel. It is also interesting to consider that the chance of every seeing those individuals again are highly unlikely, while our friends - and particularly family members who are closest to us - we tend at times to be obnoxious and rude to. I’ve sometimes wondered what happened to “that person” I was talking to on the airplane,: did they get the job, have a good visit with those they were headed to spend time with, did their trip meet their expectations or not? Is the interaction on planes limited to short, brief comments? Is there a determining factor regarding whether or not it is strictly an on-the-plane situation or beyond? The answers to this and all situations are found in the Torah.

In this week’s Parshios Mattos/Maasei the Torah states in 33:1 אלה מסעי בני ישראל אשר יצאו מארץ מצרים לצבאתם ביד משה ואהרן “These are the journeys of the Israelites, who had left Egypt in organized groups under the leadership of Moshe and Aharon”. Why does the Torah need to say they left Egypt under the leadership of the two leaders? Who else would have been led them? The Midrash addresses this issue saying since the redemption of from Egypt came about through the hands of men of flesh and blood, it could not lead to an eternal state of Geulah/redemption. In other words, it is inevitable that another exile will follow this one - even after the redemption. What will make the difference between one exile and the next is determined by who is exercising it. If human beings are in charge, then it’s not permanent and a follow-up exile will occur. In contrast, when Hashem, with His honor and dignity, takes His people out of exile, it will be the last time. That final redemption will be final and eternal.

This idea is based upon the principle that man is finite and that which we do is not permanent or forever; it is subject to change from time to time and from situation to situation. In differentiating man and God, Hashem’s existence is infinite and eternal. Therefore, when Hashem does something it remains forever perfect, because He is perfect and complete. There is no need for something else to occur. When Hashem does it it is done. This is hinted to in the very first verse of the parsha: “These are the Journeys of the Israelites” noting many journeys, even after this one- departing from Egypt. These journeys and redemptions were performed by Moshe and Aaron, mere mortals who are limited by lifetimes and cannot be defined as eternal.

In a beautiful and keen Remez/hint the Roshei Teivos esplains: The first letter of each of the first four words of the parsha stand for the different exiles to come. The first letter of each of the first four words of Masei are ‘aleph, mem, beis, and yud’. Rabbi Ari Nachum Lubetski in his sefer Nachal Kedumim explains that the ‘aleph’ is for Edom, the ‘mem’ is for Madai, the ‘Beis’ is for Bavel and the ‘yud’ is for Yavan. These are the four exiles post the Egyptian story: Babyloniyan, Persian, Greek and the current Roman exile.

*Reb Yisroel Friedman, the Rebbi from Rhuzin, comments on a more philosophical angle regarding these exiles: Anytime the Torah says V’Eileh, it adds and connects to what was said previously. Here the word is Eileh - without the vav - disconnects and nullifies that which came before it. These travels of the Jewish people represent each person’s travels throughout his lifetime. When a person is on the wrong path, he needs to change direction and cut himself off from his previous actions. We are constantly traveling; we need to realize when to change course or maintain the course we are on. This three-week period is a time of re-setting our moral and halachik compass of life. This is a time we each need to focus on changing the way we treat others and making sure all future travel looks back at the mistakes of the past and the bright ultimate redemption in the near future.

Ah Gut Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

 

*Ruzhin is the name of a Hasidic dynasty founded by Rabbi Yisroel Friedman (1796–1850) in the town of Ruzhyn, Ukraine. Friedman was the first and only Ruzhiner Rebbe. However, his sons and grandsons founded their own dynasties which are collectively known as the "House of Ruzhin". These dynasties, which follow many of the traditions of the Ruzhiner Rebbe, are Bohush, Boyan, Chortkov, Husiatyn, Sadigura, and Shtefanesht. The dynasties of Vizhnitz and Vasloi are related to the Ruzhiner Rebbe through his daughters.

Parshas Pinchas - Is it the Luck of the Draw or is it the Law?                         23 Tammuz 5779

07/26/19 08:58:23

Jul26

As many of my readers are aware, I tend to do a fair share of shopping. It is a way for me to relax, save money and get some free exercise. Two stores that I frequent are Costco and Walmart, and while they vary significantly in quality and price, they do share a common practice: receipt checking. Many people think the swiping of your receipt with a highlighter upon exiting Costco is a joke. I now have three reasons why this quick swipe makes sense - two in my favor, one in theirs.

The first situation applies to a person who may have accidentally left his cart unattended following checkout. At Costco, no one could walk out with that person’s cart because the person who mistakenly left the cart was still in possession of the receipt. The second scenario actually occurred when I was in the process of leaving Costco with a full cart and somehow the person checking out my receipt questioned how many cartons of eggs I had just paid for; instead of the three cartons listed on the receipt, I had four cartons sitting in the cart. I felt as though they suspected me of stealing that fourth carton, but it was really an obvious mistake on the part of the cashier. This checking is done to keep losses down and also to provide an added level of checking and control on the checkout process. Since that incident, I assumed that the routine checking of the receipt was for their benefit - until a recent visit. Last week, I shopped at Costco in New Jersey, and, with a full-to-the-rim cart, the clerk glanced at the receipt and said, “Did you buy two packages of a certain meat?” After we inspected the cart, we discovered that the cashier had double charged me, and this fellow caught it! I was amazed and flabbergasted that he was able to glance down at the receipt, look in the cart, and find the discrepancy - this time in my favor! I finally came to really appreciate why Costco checks the receipts! Costco checks every customer as they exit; Walmart checks randomly. Still… must I allow the store to check my receipt?

The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution provides "the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation. The Fourth Amendment guards us against unreasonable searches and seizures. The California Penal code 490.5 states: " A merchant may detain a person for a reasonable time for the purpose of conducting an investigation in a reasonable manner whenever the merchant has probable cause to believe the person is attempting to unlawfully take or has unlawfully taken merchandise from the merchant's premises."

Costco’s checking isn’t random but sort of mandated, while Walmart is sort of a lottery pick. These two choices are found in the Torah in a few places. In this week’s Parshas Pinchas the Torah states in Bemidbar 26:55,56 אַךְ בְּגוֹרָל יֵחָלֵק אֶת הָאָרֶץ לִשְׁמוֹת מַטּוֹת אֲבֹתָם יִנְחָלוּ.

עַל פִּי הַגּוֹרָל תֵּחָלֵק נַחֲלָתוֹ בֵּין רַב לִמְעָט : “However, hereditary property shall be granted to paternal families through a lottery system. This is how the land shall be divided. Whether a group is large or small, its hereditary property shall be divided by a lottery system”. Rashi explains a tribe that was larger in population received a larger portion of land than that given to a smaller tribe. Although the portions were not equal, since they divided the land according to the size of the tribe, they did so only by means of the lot and the lottery assigned the portions by means of Ruach HaKodesh, the Holy Spirit – assigned absolutely through the hand of Hashem.

There is a debate in the Talmud Bava Basra 117 regarding whether the land divided was based upon the number of people per tribe at the time they left Egypt or by the number of people at the time they entered the land. Reb Yoshiya says it was divided according to the number of people who left Mitzrayim, while Rebi Yonasan maintains it was divided according to the number of Jews entering the land. A second question debated was regarding whether the land was divided according to the number of people per tribe or was divided equally among the twelve tribes? The Malbim explains it was through the Goral/lottery that the inheritance was divided. The lottery determined in which area of the country the inheritance of each tribe would reside, but it was divided equally among the tribes despite the size or the number of people in the tribe. The Sifri maintains that lottery clarified between the many and few (of each tribe’s population), therefore the larger tribes received a larger portion than the smaller tribes received. The Goral decided the place of the inheritance of that tribe and its borders.

The Midrash Tanchuma explains that the actual Goral/lottery had an additional component, another miracle in addition to the dividing. The Goral/lottery announced itself above that which the Urim V’Tumom displayed on the Kohen’s chest by calling out, “I am the lottery to assign this portion for this tribe and this area to this tribe”.

The Rabbis expound on the Midrash Tanchuma that the Goral was a blessing so that no tribe would be jealous or angry at another tribe for receiving a larger or smaller portion. Everyone understood that the Goral came from Hashem for the better and the better. Similarly, Rabbeinu Bachya explains this method separated the Jews from quarreling and arguing against one another and ultimately brought about Shalom.

The Costco version of checking is a lottery that stipulates everyone is singled out; no one is different. This is comparable to the benefit the lottery had regardless of being a member of a large or a small tribe. It was for the benefit of all. So, too, regarding Costco. Their checking works for the benefit of the company and the customer, it’s from Heaven. On the other hand, the randomness of Walmart could easily create animosity between the employees and the customers.

During the three weeks, called Bein HaMitzarim, we recall the difficulties of the time. M’Tzarim and Mitzrayim are the same word, both meaning pressure and narrowness. The debate of who the land was divided for was during the in-between time which spanned from leaving Egypt to entering the land. Let us treat each other with an equality and evenness and recognize that the lot each of us has in life comes from God and to be happy with it. It is with this recognition that we should be Zocheh/merit to leave this Galus/Exile as we did when leaving Egypt and enter the phase of returning to Eretz Yisrael, entering the land in the Geulah Shelaima, Amen!

Parshas Balak - Who is the Test For?                 15 Tammuz 5779       

07/17/19 12:37:30

Jul17

Following up on last week’s message, I would like to share another aspect of experiences from my high school academic career. I was not particularly into test taking or, for that matter, even studying for tests. Despite the advice of educators proclaiming that cramming for an exam is not very beneficial, I, knowing better, reasoned the opposite. “Why should I study or prepare in advance of a test, taking the risk of possibly forgetting the material? I reasoned that it was much better to buckle down and study twenty minutes before the exam. That way the material would be fresh in my mind.” Believe it or not, this strategy did meet with limited success; I did get some of the questions right.

Looking back at my adolescent view of tests, I continue to consider what is the testing process really for? Most educators will tell you that a test is given to measure and assess the student’s growth of knowledge, formally measuring how much information the student retained, was able to process, and apply. I am of the belief that tests in actuality determine the quality and effectiveness of the teacher! Think about it. What student wouldn’t want to do well on an exam? Surely, most students would do whatever it takes to succeed, providing he or she was genuinely motivated and encouraged by the teacher. I believe that the results of student performance on classroom tests are a direct reflection of the focused teaching techniques of the teacher,

I tried using my theory of teaching when answering my parents each time I had to have the tests and quizzes signed off by one of them in order to show the teacher that my parents had been informed and therefore kept in the loop of my academic performance - or lack of. I would defend my lower grade on an exam with the following argument: There was a ten-question test and each question was worth ten points. I got five wrong for a whopping fifty percent, while everyone else in the class scored ninety percent. Obviously, all of them had gotten one of the ten wrong. After carefully analyzing the data of the test, I realized that each student got a different question wrong. That meant that I was not the only student to have gotten that question wrong. To the contrary, each one of the questions that I got wrong another student also got wrong. So, I could surmise that it certainly was not I; it was the teacher who got it wrong. I suppose I could have admitted that occasionally it was my fault, especially if I happened to be the only one who got the wrong answer, but that wasn’t the case!

A teacher’s effectiveness is measured through the growth of his or her students’ love of learning the material; it can be seen through the stimulating, creative and challenging way of presenting the material being taught. My Rebbi, Rabbi Reznick, was all of the above, particularly when it came to giving an exam. He created a twenty-question multiple choice test. . By design, a multiple-choice test has three to five choices and you must choose the best answer possible. Typically, the choices were preceded by letters A,B,C,D. My Rebbi created self-motivation throughout the test with the choice of selection being different numbers such as 4,9,15, or 19. A different set of numbers was presented for each one of the twenty questions. A student could answer each question in order, but if he chose the third answer which, for example, would be 15) he would answer question number 15 instead of question two. If the student answered all twenty questions and did not come back to a question that had already been answered, it meant that the student got them all right and a one hundred percent on the test. I do remember one brilliant fellow, HaRav Shlomo Goder, A”H, who was able to get a perfect score, not by knowing the material per se, but by figuring out the mathematical system. As one could see, tests and their purpose have different goals in different situations. The Torah is replete with leaders and foes of the Jewish people who lived and died by their tests. One such individual who almost passed the test but ultimately failed was Bilaam HaRasha, Bilaam the wicked.

In this week’s reading of Parshas Balak, the Torah states in Bamidbar 24:10 “ויחר אף בלק אל ‘ ‘ “‘ויאמר בלק אל בלעם לקב איבי וגו.בלעם ויספק את כפיו: Enraged at Balaam, Balak struck his hands together. “I called you,” Balak said to Balaam, “to damn my enemies, and instead you have blessed them these three times!” HaRav Yitzchok Shmelkish*in his sefer Beis Yitzchok quotes the Beis HaLevi**and asks why Balak was so angry at Bilaam. Didn’t Bilaam at the very outset tell Balak that he would not speak what God did not tell him to say? But Balaam said to Balak, (Bamidbar 22:38) “And now that I have come to you, have I the power to speak freely? I can utter only the word that God puts into my mouth.” From the beginning Bilaam gave full disclosure that he did not know whether he would be able to curse the Jews. Why would Balak be so angry after the fact?

It is understood that when a person says, “I can’t do such and such a thing,” we know there are two ways to interpret the intent. For example: a person tells his friend go to over to a certain respected individual and, for a great sum of money, slap the person across the face! There is no question any normal person would say, “I can’t do that.” If he turns to another person and asks him to lift the wall of a city for a great sum of money, so, too, here the person would reply, “I can’t do that.” Even though both responses were identical, there is a great difference between them. In truth, in the first case he could carry out the request (or the test), but his sense of decency and normalcy does not allow him to carry it through. In the second scenario, it is simply physically impossible to lift the wall of a city. The practical difference between “I can’t” in the two scenarios is one does not think it is worth it while the other is just incapable. Perhaps, for a lot of money someone would slap another, and if he was smart would tell the recipient of the slap that he’d split the money with him. As far as lifting the wall, all the money in the world could not change the facts on the ground.

When Balak approached Bilaam, at first he was offering money that he thought just wasn’t enough and for that reason to curse the Jews, an honored people, would take more than that. So Balak offered more and Bilaam responded that even if you give me all the money in the world, I can’t do it. Balak viewed Bilaam as the first case while Bilaam was looking at the lifting the wall case.

When we test people and challenge them, it must be something that they can accomplish if they believe it is worth it for them. We can’t challenge and test children or adults with something beyond their capabilities. A teacher, parent, boss or employer that gives a test that is too difficult or material that was not properly explained is the “I can’t” factor - the wall. Creating a test, trial or a task that requires the motivation to prepare, to work hard to succeed is the first case scenario. The Ribbono Shel Olam tests each and everyone one of us daily. Our job, our responsibility, is to see the benefit side of what we gain and how we grow from those experiences and not to get down on ourselves. Let us all rise to the test and all say “I CAN”.

Ah Gut Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

 

*Rov of Lemberg passed away 9 Tishrei 5666/1906

**Yosef Dov Soloveitchik born 1820 in Nesvizh, Minsk, died 1892 in Brest-Litovsk, Grodno was the author of Beis Halevi, by which name he is better known among Talmudic scholars. He was the great-grandson of Rabbi Chaim Volozhin.

Parshas Chukas - Of Colors & Numbers              9 Tammuz 5779

07/17/19 12:35:19

Jul17

By the time this Parsha rolled along, school was out and I sighed a sign of relief. Believe it or not I was not the model student that one might assume,seeing and knowing me now. Elementary school wasn’t bad educationally, but I didn’t particularly enjoy going to school. I concocted any excuse to get out of going to school ~ a made-up stomach-ache, some clouds threatening an approaching drizzle, or even a medical appointment that I needed to recuperate from so I could go home instead of back to school. At least my grades were respectable, my behavior was in check and I consistently convinced my parents that I was trying my best. High school, however, was a completely different story.

Compounding my dislike of school, my grades and attitude during my high school years were painfully reflected on my report cards. I sometimes joked about my report cards, describing my grades in a rather creative manner. I would ask someone, “Do you know the highest number on my report card?” They’d reply, “No”. I wittily responded, “The highest number on my report card was the number of days I was absent.” When I was asked which periods of the day I liked the most, I would reply, “It’s a close call between recess and lunch, and that rest period, officially referred to “library” was a close second. Finally, to sum up my performance when completing a semester, I’d quip, “Overall, there was more red ink on my report card than black and white.”! But, as stated earlier, by this time of the year I was enjoying the well-needed summer vacation – a deeply appreciated break from a rough and tough school year. When my parents questioned me about my report card, I explained that this high school had a different scoring and marking system; the emphasis on higher and lower numbers were different, just like the red and black colorings represented different interpretations of the grading classification. I further explained that just as the category of mitzvos called ‘Chukim’ which, to the average person, don’t make sense, the report card really didn’t make sense based upon the way it looked. For some odd reason, I don’t think they actually believed me, but they continued to love me, nonetheless.

  1. halacha, Jewish law, numbers and colors teach us many different points, but it is not often that the two coincide and teach us some halacha. Such is the case regarding the mitzva of the Parah Aduma, the Red Heifer. As an aside, the one purpose of this mitzva and its process and procedure was to purify someone from corpse impurity and make him wholesome again. The significance of the color and number of non-red hairs on the cow is crucial to its validity as seen in the follow discussion.. In this week’s Parshas Chukas the Torah states in Bamidbar 19:2זאת חוקת התורה אשר צוה השם לאמר דבר אל בני ישראל ויקחו אליך פרה אדומה תמימה אשר אין :בה מום אשר לא עלה עליה על “Speak to the Israelites and have them bring you a completely red cow [at least three years old], which has no blemish, and which has never had a yoke on it”.

Rashi ,regarding the words perfectly red, explains this to mean that the heifer should be perfect in redness, that if there were as few as two black hairs on the body of the cow, it is disqualified. Even though Rashi says black hairs instead of red, it does not mean specifically black versus red, rather any color other than red, such as white. In other words, even if there were two white hairs, it would also be disqualified. The reason the Mishna teaches black hairs is to teach us something additional. That is that even if the hair was initially red and then turned black, perhaps because of aging, it is still invalid. Rashi quotes only a part of the Mishna, but there is more. The Mishna in Parah 2:5 states: If the red heifer had two black hairs or two white ones [developed] within a single hole or cavity, it is invalid. Rebbi Yehuda says, even if they grow from within one follicle, it is invalid. Rebbi Akiva maintains that even if there were four [hairs] or five, which were widely separated, they may be plucked out, the animal remains a valid Parah Adumah/Red Heifer. The halacha follows the first opinion that what disqualifies a cow from being a Parah Aduma is it must have at least two hairs from a single hole that are not red. Otherwise, one black or one white hair in one area and another black or white hair further away is still deemed acceptable as a Red Heifer. Once again, we need the Torah SheB’Al Peh the oral law to explain in full detail what the written Torah - She’Biksav - means. On a deeper level, is there a particular reason the Mishna chooses white and black as the alternative colors to red?

Rav Abulafia* in his master work Imrei Shefer expounds upon the words of Rebbi Moshe HaDarshan**. In Kabbala Cheit, sin is called ‘red’, and a merit is called ‘white’. The reason sin is red is because the sins a person commits come from his physical body; the body is sustained and dependent upon blood, which is red. As we read in parshas Acharei Mos, ‘…the life of a person is in his blood. Therefore, when a person sins with his body, the resulting act is colored red. On the other side, the mitzvos and good deeds a person performs creates merit which comes from the neshama/soul which resides in the brain and is called white. Therefore, when a person becomes angry or desires something and is out of control, his face turns red from his physical side. But when a person is calm and stands in awe and fear of Hashem and everything on that level comes from the neshama/soul, then his face remains a cool, pale white.

Reb Yehudah Aryeh Leib Alter, in his work the Sfas Emes, expounds the notion that the Parah Aduma is not invalid until it has two hairs together, but the Temimus, the perfection of man, to be perfect and blemish free to walk with Hashem, disqualifies with even one white hair. If a human being is missing a tiny bit of wholesomeness, whether it is in how he fulfills a mitzva or is lacking in his sincerity or in his fear of God, then he is not at all complete. Our goal is to strive to have fewer red marks on our records and more of the black and white that represent calm and effort from our souls. The symbolism of the ‘red cow’ is to reduce the infractions that it represents and use it to purify us from our misgivings. Numbers are significant, showing us the fewer of something odd or different the better it is.

Ah Gut Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

*Abraham ben Samuel Abulafia אברהם בן שמואל אבולעפיה was the founder of the school of "Prophetic Kabbalah". He was born in Zaragoza, Spain in 1240 and is assumed to have died sometime after 1291

** Moshe haDarshan (11th century) משה הדרשן was chief of the yeshiva of Narbonne, and perhaps the founder of Jewish exegetical studies in France. Along with Rashi, his writings are often cited as the first extant writings in Zarphatic, the Judæo-French language. Moshe was descended from a Narbonne family distinguished for its erudition.

As a Haggadist, Moshe ha-Darshan was considered a rabbinical authority, owing his reputation principally to the fact that, together with Tobiah ben Eliezer, he was the most prominent representative of midrashic-symbolic Bible exegesis (derash) in the 11th century. His work on the Torah, sometimes called Yesod, is known only by quotations found mostly within Rashi's commentaries (Rashi quotes him 19 times in his pirush Al HaTorah, and only twice in his pirush on Shas - once in Kesuvos 75b, and the other in Niddah 19a), contained extracts from earlier haggadic works, and midrashic explanations of his own.

Parshas Korach - Es Zol Zeyn Di Ergeste Zach As Khapanz Tsu Ir: It Should Be the Worst Thing That Happens to You        1 Tammuz 5779

07/11/19 22:21:01

Jul11

It was forty-two years ago of this Thursday - the week of Parshas Korach - when this story took place. Because my grandfather, a”h, couldn’t walk all the way to the Shul we attended, I had a week-end bar mitzva at a hotel in Belle Harbor, N.Y. This was a repeat of my brother’s bar mitzvah; five years earlier he had his bar mitzva there as well.

On Thursday morning my mother, a”h, and I went to pick up the yarmulkes and small pocket siddurim that would be placed in the gift basket for the guests. The yarmulkes came out fine, but the cover of the siddur did not look or feel the way I had anticipated it would look. I was disappointed, dejected, upset and a bit angry. My mother a”h was great under pressure, and as the pressure of the entire weekend was quickly closing in on my mother, she said to me in Yiddish, “עס זאָל זיין די ערגסטע זאַך אַז כאַפּאַנז צו איר” : “It should be the worst thing that happens to you”. Lo and behold, a few hours later my brother, a”h, took me along with a few of his friends golfing at a park near the hotel where the bar mitzva was going to take place. We delivered some of the things later that afternoon in what happened to be our new car, or at least new for our family (a new used car). After a very frustrating afternoon on the golf course followed by delivering the bar mitzva items to the hotel, my brother drove through a weird stop sign and totaled the car! Thank God no one was injured, but after I processed what had happened that day, I thought about those prophetic words my mother, a”h, told me. At the end of the day, all of us must understand that despite things in life not going the way we might want them to go can always be worse.

I wouldn’t categorize the following as a true epiphany, but the following incident brought me back to the wise words my mother, a”h, told me. A few weeks ago the Shul did not order rolls for Shalosh Seudos (the third meal of Shabbos) because we had accumulated a fair amount of freshly frozen rolls in the freezer. Rather than buy more, we chose to use what we had. Unfortunately, through a miscommunication, the rolls were not taken out of the freezer in time to defrost for the meal, and I started to build up a frenzy of anxiety. Then it hit me. So what! Is this the end of the world? Could we not manage? And so, I realized - what if they were frozen! Leave them out for a few minutes and they’ll be edible. But, more than that, I once again remembered the old lesson: this should be the worst thing that happens in Shul, that the rolls were not defrosted in time for Shalosh Seudos!

The question is what do we want to take away from any situation that isn’t as perfect as we thought or had hoped it would be? My intention relaying these two examples are that they stand as illustrations which I have observed in my life. I have no doubt that all of us engage in similar situations every single day of our lives. In fact, the Torah is replete with characters who see both sides in life. Some choose to focus on the fullness while others focus on what is lacking. This week we read of such an individual who only saw what he should have instead of what he does have.

In this week’s Parshas Korach the Torah states in Bamidbar 16:1"ויקח קורח בן יצהר בן קהת בן לוי ודתן ואבירם בני אליאב ואון בן פלת בני ראובן" : “Korach son of Yitzhar (a grandson of Kehas and great grandson of Levi) began a rebellion along with Dasan and Aviram, the sons of Eliav, and On, son of Peleth, descendants of Reuvain”. Now, even though we translated the word ויקח as began, it typically connotes taking or even buying. The Apter Rov, Rav Avraham Yehoshua Heshel of Apt, in his sefer Ohaiv Yisrael, relates a Midrash that Korach “took or bought a bad deal for himself. If someone has the merit, he takes himself and his friend with him to Gan Eden, Paradise, and if he does not merit then he will take his portion and his friend’s portion to Gehinom”. The Apter Rov explains that every kind follows its kind: bad follows bad, good follows good. When a tzadik or a good person rebukes the wicked and he deflects the rebuke, whatever good that person has will now follow the righteous one, and the whatever bad within the good person will be taken by the Rasha - the evil one. This, in turn, means the good of one will follow the good of the other all the way to the bank of Gan Eiden, while the bad of one follows the bad of the other all the way to the landfill and below. Korach ‘took’ the bad of Moshe and Aharon (the bad is a discussion point for another time) with him to the abyss when the earth opened up and swallowed him along with all his followers of bad. Whatever redeeming qualities Korach had were swallowed with him (Korach did have good things but that is also a discussion point and comparison to Moshe for another time).

At the root of Korach’s rebellion was the jealousy he bore towards his first cousin, Moshe. Korach felt that he should have been appointed the Kohein Gadol and accused Moshe of nepotism. Korach was a brilliant talmid chacham, and prior to this terrible event was respected by all. The Midrash Rabbah 18:1 informs us that he was one of the top officials to Pharoah. Gemaras in Pesachim 119a, Sanhedrin 110a and Targum Yonason Ben Uziel here in 16:19 describe Korach as extremely wealthy. The Zohar says in relation to Korach, ‘taking’ whoever chases and takes what is not his, it will run away from him, and more so, that which he has will be completely lost. Korach lost all that he had, and he did not gain from that which he sought out.

From our human perspective nothing and no one in the world is perfect. From above everything is correct, good and perfect. We are blessed with so much of the good, yet we get upset when things are not as perfect as we thought they should be. This concept is different than the definition of who is rich, someone who is happy with his lot. This is a nuance of when that last piece or the final touches are slightly off or completely gone, we should focus on the main part that we still have. If the cherry on top falls off or the icing gets wiped away, we still have the cake. That is the part of having your cake and eating it too. These little things should not bother us. We need to learn to just stop and remind ourselves that this should be the worst thing that happens to you and to me!!!

Ah Gut Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Parshas Shlach - Out of Sight, But Not Out of Mind      25 Sivan 5779

06/27/19 22:20:12

Jun27

The Jews of Chutz La’Aretz (outside of Israel) and of Eretz Yisrael have been somewhat separated these past several weeks regarding the weekly reading of the Parsha. Since the eighth day of Pesach fell on Shabbos, we, living here in the diaspora, read a section on Shabbos for Pesach. In Israel, that very same Shabbos was no longer Pesach in Israel, so those residing in Israel continued reading the next week’s portion according to the cycle. In years when Pesach creates a split, when the Jews in Israel are up to Bechukotai, the diaspora Jews combine Bechukotai with the previous portion of Behar, providing the diaspora Jews the opportunity to catch up with their Israeli counterparts. In a Jewish leap year such as this year, the split lasts until the Parshah of Massei, which in the Diaspora is combined with the previous portion of Matos, while in Israel these parsiot are read separately. From time to time Jews who travel to and from Israel are challenged by feeling somewhat in-between the diaspora and Israel.

This reminds me of the different idioms and cliches that describe this feeling of being caught between two sides. For example, nisht ahin un nisht aherr; no man’s land; sitting on the fence; is the glass half empty or half full, and so forth are a few expressions people use when they feel they are in the middle of something and are not committed one way or another. In sports, a football field has two sides and the yard lines go from one to forty-nine on each side of the field, but there is only one fifty-yard line which is smack in the middle. When the ball is exactly on the fifty-yard line, it is not on the defensive or the offensive side; it lies on neither team’s territory. Which side am I on? Am I going forward or am I still behind? A similar but different way to analyze our ambivalence is in a situation where we have gained experience from the past but are unsure about the future. We know where we have come from but the future remains unknown. Sometimes we may feel safer going back to a bad situation rather than taking a risk for a better future. At other times we know how bad the past was and will even blindly wander into the unknown future. This ambivalence is witnessed as the Jewish people begin their travels on the way to Israel.

As the Jews journey towards Eretz Canaan, Moshe and Aharon are dealing with an unhappy, thankless people who don’t stop complaining about their situation. Despite the fact that numerous miracles were performed on their behalf, a lack of faith permeated at least through the eirev rav – the mixed multitudes. As we find ourselves between Parshios B’haaloscha and Shlach, we look at Bnei Yisrael looking back at Egypt and ahead to Eretz Canaan. Last week in B’haaloscha 11:4, the Torah states: “The mixed multitude among the Israelites began to have strong cravings, and the Israelites once again began to weep. ‘Who’s going to give us some meat to eat?’ they demanded. ‘We fondly remember the fish that we could eat in Egypt at no cost, along with the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onion and garlic’. ‘But now our spirits are dried up, with nothing but manna before our eyes’. This is a clear statement looking backwards juxtaposed by a strong suggestion to return to Mitzrayim despite all the incredible miracles and favors Hashem did for Klal Yisrael. They would rather go back to a horrible situation – slavery - with difficult conditions rather than look toward a bright future awaiting them in their own land. The following is a personal insight on the people wanting to return to Egypt.

When Klal Yisroel complained, remembering all of the good foods and imagined benefits, we might suggest that they had a much better life during the year long plagues. True, they were slaves who could not leave Egypt, but the physical, hard labor had ceased and the Jews were living a normal life in Egypt! This, in my opinion was the worst twist of memory because klal Yisroel was forgetting the great chessed Hashem had done for them, remembering instead a life of comfort in Egypt. This is possibly what they were referring to when they complained, while totally forgetting all that had transpired during their slavery.

In this week’s Parsha Shlach we fast-forward to the Jewish people growing optimistic, looking forward to the future in Israel. In anticipation and preparation, they ask Moshe to send spies to survey the people and the land to determine how best to conquer it. In Bamidbar 13:27,28 the Torah states: ויספרו לו ויאמרו באנו אל הארץ אשר שלחתנו וגם זבת חלב ודבש היא וזה פריה אפס כי עז העם וכולי They gave the following report : ‘We came to the land where you sent us, and it is indeed flowing with milk and honey, as you can see from its fruit. However, the people living in the land are aggressive, and the cities are large and well-fortified.” The Kotzker Rebbe Rav Menachem Mendel of Kotzk asks were the Meraglim(spies) lying with their report? Did they fabricate things in their heart that wasn’t there? The Kotzker rav answers, “There is no question they spoke the truth of what they saw.”. If they didn’t lie, what was their sin? In his wisdom the Kotzker states that not everything which is not a lie is necessarily the truth.” Just because a person does not lie does not make him a man of truth. The truth is something that is not only on the surface; rather it goes deep within the recesses of an individual. Emes and Emunah, truth and faith, run through a person’s veins; a person does not just acquire truth easily, giving a cursory glance over a piece of land. Emes, truth, requires toiling over the matter and with wisdom and intelligence a person comes to the conclusion of truth and justice. The Meraglim / spies did not seek the inner truth of the situation in Israel; they looked away from the word of Hashem. Their sin ultimately lay in failing to seek the truth from the depths of where it lies - and that is from Hashem.

On both extremes the Jewish people failed, stumbling in the going and the coming. The land of Egypt was out of their sight, but it was still in their minds. Additionally, the land of Israel was also not in their mindset; they were unable to see the emes - the truth - of what Hashem had laid out for them. Each and every one of us may find ourselves at some crossroads in life when big, heavy decisions need to be made. In all situations we need to seek out Toras Emes - the ways that Hashem will lead and guide us. Pursuing the truth is not as easy as we hope, sometimes being drawn back to a comfortable situation but ultimately holding us back from growing. We should all be blessed with Siyata Dishmaya, to seek out the Emes from the Torah and from our sages, leading us to a fruitful, bountiful life so that we can serve Hashem with the fullness of total faith, trust and love.

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Parshas B'Haaloscha - What's All the Noise About?          18 Sivan 5779

06/20/19 22:48:42

Jun20

An oxymoron is a literary device in which two contradictory words are used together.A good example of the oxymoron is the phrase “deafening silence.” Have you ever read that ‘the silence was deafening’? Or were you ever told that ‘your silence is deafening’? How can silence be deafening? After all, it’s clear that an extremely loud noise – such as an explosion - is deafening, but silence is the absence of any noise. Rare is a time in my life that there is complete silence. Growing up in the city and spending time in the country always has its share of different kinds of noises. Perhaps some of us can remember walking in a dense woods or standing outside in the midst of a vast desert that, for just a few seconds is wrapped in quiet, free of bird sounds, free of rustling wind, or even the scurrying of some animal. This is an experience devoid of all sound, and the silence can be deafening. Otherwise, life is full of noises.

If you were to stop and think, or, better yet stop and listen, the myriad of sounds and noises our ears bring to our brains is truly incredible. In reality, it is the ear that brings all sound to the brain which then deciphers just what that sound is and where it is coming from. Rarely do we have the time to stop and listen for different sounds and messages that life sends to us. The hissing of a snake can warn us of danger while the howling of the wind prepares us for a storm. Frequently, we are able to tune out some sounds that are not directly related to us. For example, when a child cries or babbles in Shul, I only “hear” that sound if it is my child (or today, my grandchild). If, on the other hand, that cry or babbling was noise coming from someone else’s child, the sound is typically ignored. Please take just a moment to process or “hear” the following noises……Achoo, Babbling, Cough, Gargle, Gibberish, Hiccup, Hum, Chomp. Awooga, Bang, Boom, Beep Beep Beep, Ding Dong, Fizz, Flutter, Honk, Kaboom, Oom-pah, Ping, Plop, Slosh, Splash, Squish, Swish, Thump, Tick Tick Tick, Tick tock, Vroom, Whoosh, Zap, Ching, Clink. Bark, Bleat, Buzz, Chirp Chirp, Growling, Hiss, Hoot, Meow, Moo, Purr, Quack, Ribbit, Roar, Screech, Bells, Whistles, Crash, Clash, Wham, Smack, Whomp, Whump, Thump, Bump. This is just a short list of onomatopoeias, words that imitate, resemble or suggest the source of the sound that they describe.

In Judaism we have sounds that express grief and sorrow as well as happiness and joy. But, primarily the sounds we’ve grown accustomed to hear are associated with certain mitzvos, such as hearing the sound of the shofar on Rosh Hashana. In the time the laws of the Jubilee were being announced, we also heard the Shofar on Yom Kippur of the fiftieth year. Today, in Yerushalayim and other cities in Eretz Yisrael, the sound of some type of horn is blasted incrementally announcing that the time to usher in Shabbos is drawing near. This blasting of a warning horn to remind us of apporoaching time is not only symbolic; it reminds us of the blowing of the horn which took place during the Mishnaic period. Throughout the armies of the world, trumpets were blown to indicate the ‘charge’ into battle and were also blown to warn people to run for safety. The Jewish people were no different;the horn was also blown during battle as well as for other purposes, as is seen in this week’s parsha.

In this week’s Parsha B’Haalosecha the Torah states ותקעו בהן ונועדו אליך כל העדה אל פתח אהל מועד: “When both of the trumpets are sounded with a long note, the entire community shall assemble at the Communion Tent entrance.” )Bamidbar 10:3( Then, in verses 4-8, the Torah presents a few different variations of sounds either emanating from only one of the trumpets and the differences between short and long notes of both of the trumpets. The Meam Loez explains that when Hashem wanted to speak to the entire nation, the people were gathered together by blowing one long Tekiah from both trumpets. If the purpose was only to call the Nesiim - the tribal leaders - to gather together, then only one trumpet blew a long Tekiah note. If the purpose was to announce the moving or traveling of the camp, then both trumpets blew a TRT: Tekiah, Teruah, Tekiah. Since a Teruah was one of the sounds heard, the people knew it signaled that the camp needed to initiate travel. The Alshich teaches us that it was the sons of Aharon HaKohein who blew the trumpets and no one else. In addition to the explanation of blowing, further understanding reveals the need to repeat the blowing in each quadrant so that everyone heard and understood that it was time to pack up and go. Many commentaries, understanding the need for a variety of sounds to indicate different messages, considered the possibility that these sounds could easily have been a series of blows that differed one from the other. Upon investigation it becomes clear that there is more to the actual number of trumpets blown and the corresponding different kinds of sounds they produced.

The Netziv in the Haamek Davar says the reason why it says both trumpets were used is because it was clear to hear when two horns were being blown as well as to distinguish when either the sounds were different from each other or when one trumpet played longer notes than the other. Two trumpets were blown for the Kavod, the honor, of the multitude of Jews. It was a call for the entire people! This is in contrast to only one trumpet being blown for the Nesiim, the princes of the tribe, designating them as unique among the people. The Mincha Belulah explains that the leaders were called with one trumpet so as not to create jealousy among them if they were to be called by Moshe and Aharon. Should that occur,,someone would have to be called first and someone last, in contrast to using just one trumpet, allowing everyone to be called at the very same moment.

Rav Shamshon Raphael Hirsch explains the essence of the words Tekiah and Teruah - the long blast and the staccato. A Tekiah is a straight blast/sound whose root is Taukah meaning to thrust, stick, insert, or drive into. The sound of the Tekiah is solid and long, piercing the air, telling the people they cannot break and to go forward with force. The word Teruah is a rattling sound, more like a cry or a rattle. The Teruah is a sound that causes alarm and perhaps even panic. The root of the word Teruah is to be shaky. Rabbeinu Bachya relates that the Tekiah is a straight-forward sound, symbolizing the character of mercy as we see in the verse that states that Hashem extends His right hand in order to receive those who want to return. When it comes to the nation traveling, the Teruah is blown as a sign that the people were about to enter in battle, therefore giving a cause for concern. The Teruah is symbolic of the character of judgment, a significantly scary time for Am Yisrael.

Sounds are the instruments through which we determine what is occurring around us, for good and for bad. We should learn to cut out all the noise and static in life that is basically a distraction and focus instead on the beautiful symphony that Hashem conducts through the messages of sound.

Parshas Nasso - Traveling Light                           11 Sivan 5779

06/14/19 08:50:52

Jun14

Airport security is at an all-time high, but at the same time, I wonder… do we feel any safer than we did twenty years ago? On the other hand, with the help of the Almighty, travel to Eretz Yisrael has accompanied all of us with a sense of security and safety for many years. Anyone who travels to Israel knows the security drill they must go through. A person is grilled with a series of multiple questions and at different check points. Part of that drill is being asked if anyone gave you anything to bring and maybe deliver? The reason for this (and sometimes they tell you) is a famous story that took place on Thursday, April 17, 1986, at the Heathrow International Airport in London. El Al security agents thwarted an attempt to blow up an El Al plane in mid-air. The plane, a Boeing 747, was preparing to depart with 395 passengers and crew. This was the story….

The plan was to plant explosives in the belly of the plane; the explosives were to be transported by a duped and innocent passenger entirely unaware of their existence. El Al security agents at the London stop uncovered the explosives and prevented the terror attack. After the discovery of the explosives, local authorities took over and arrested the passenger, later also arresting the man who sent her, a Jordanian Arab named Nizar Hindawi. The passenger, a 32-year-old Irish woman named Anne-Marie Murphy, who was six months pregnant, arrived at the check-in desk some forty minutes before it closed. She was approached and questioned by the deputy security officer as part of routine passenger security checks.

No suspicious signs were revealed during her questioning. The passenger, who gave the impression of being a simple woman, responded in the negative when asked if she had been given anything to bring to Israel. During the questioning she was calm and revealed no sign of nervousness. When checking her baggage, suspicious signs came to light: A Commodore scientific calculator with an electric cable was found; the bag raised suspicion due to its unexpectedly heavy weight. The security officer’s examination of the bag revealed explosives concealed in the bottom of the bag, under a double panel. He called the police, and the passenger was arrested.

For many years I took things for people and always felt a little guilty and uneasy lying to the security agent when asked if anyone gave me anything to take for them. Of course, I, like many others, rationalized that we are the innocent ones and therefore didn’t want to go through the rigamoral of being truthful and having to go through a secondary security check. This charade ended abruptly about fourteen years ago when I was asked to bring back a pair of Tefillin for someone in the community. I had packed the Tefillin in my suitcase rather than take it in my hand-luggage along with my own personal Tefillin. My luggage was flagged and I was asked again if I was given anything to take back with me to the States. Again I answered in the negative. They challenged me and asked about the Tefillin. I was a cooked goose, covered with embarrassment. It was at that defining moment I said, “no more.” I will politely decline when asked to take something that would need to be packed (unlike an envelope of money or a credit card). Today we are limited in the size and weight of our belongings when we travel, at least by airplane. While it is true physical things carry weight, spiritual ones do not. Within nature there is another dimension that things that are spiritual do not necessarily take up space, time and or even weight. This is manifested in the carrying of the Mishkan’s holy objects through the desert by Gershon, Kehas and Merari, the sons of Levi.

In this week’s Parshas Nasso the Torah describes the work of the tribe of Levi. In Bamidbar 4:24 the Torah states: “Zos Avodas Mishpchos HaGershuni, LaAvod UlMasa”. “The Gershomite family shall serve by maintaining and carrying as follows. The Seforno breaks down the words ,and explains the work of maintaining occurred during the camping, while the carrying of the holy vessels took place during the traveling. As an aside, I always look at homonyms in their context. The word Masah spelled with an ‘ayin’ or an ‘aleph’ sound the same but have different meanings. Nonetheless, in this context they are used together to understand what was carried during the traveling.

We must keep in mind that although the order of birth had Gershon as the oldest, Kehas was given the privilege of carrying the most holy items. That was read in last week’s parshas Baidbar. Nasso begins with Gershon first being given the task of carrying the other items followed by Merari. The Shaar Bas Rabim explains the language of ‘masah’ - ‘carrying’ is used when describing the eldest brother Gershon, as well as when describing Merari it states ‘mishmeres masa’am’ – ‘to carry’. Unlike at the end of Bamidbar last week, the Torah just writes, ‘This is the service of the sons of Kehas’ but has no mention of carrying. The Gemara Sotah 35 teaches us that the Aron, the Ark, carried those who carried it. When the Jewish people traversed the Jordan River, the Navi tells us the Ark carried the Kohanim in the air from one side of the Jordan to the other. Even though all the other vessels of the Kodesh HaKadoshim (holy of holies) did not carry the Kohanim who were carrying the items, nevertheless they did carry themselves, and the Kohanim did not need to carry the vessels. Therefore, due to the holiness and importance given to Kehas and family, they did not have to be burdened under the weight of the vessels and therefore the Torah did not write masah’ - ‘to carry’. . However, the other brothers, Gershon and Kehas, carried the other parts of the Mishkan and needed to be counted as they physically carried those items.

Life is full of challenges and we are constantly balancing and juggling things in life such as family, livelihood, and religion. There is no question that while certain things are a burden and weigh us down, we must also realize that other things are not only light but sometimes weightless. Once we commit to the performance of duties to Hashem, we will be uplifted and carried by the effort and accompanying fulfillment. There is no doubt that by working on our spiritual pursuit we will be carried by the mitzva, which will, in turn carry everyone else along with us. Yiddishkeit is the spiritual security that we have within us as we go through life, and we should use it as we travel throughout our lifetime.

Parshas Bamidbar / Shavuos - Klal Yisroel's Wedding Dance                          3 Sivan 5779

06/06/19 09:44:57

Jun6

Living in San Diego, a comparatively small community, there are certain limitations regarding certain life-cycle celebratory events. As the old saying goes, “the only two things guaranteed in life are death and taxes”. The joyous occasions of Bris Milah, Pidyon HaBen, and Bar/Bat Mitzvahs do happen in all smaller communities, but weddings are the one event that don’t always take place here in San Diego. Weddings, by definition of terms, include two sides, meaning either the bride or the groom typically come from a different city. Today, with American Jewry spread out across the country, more often that not weddings of local people end up in distant locations more convenient for the families. Nevertheless, last week I not only attended one wedding, but two weddings - back -to-back - one in San Diego the next day the other in Los Angeles.

As I get older and attend weddings where I am older than more than three quarters of the attendees, I can focus and observe quite a bit regarding the individual aspects of the total wedding. There is singing at the Chosson’s tisch/table, followed by some dancing, escorting the groom to veil the bride, but nothing unique or especially exuberant. That outburst of unrestrained exuberance bursts forth when dancing at the arrival of the new couple as they enter the banquet hall for the first time as husband and wife. Jewish dancing is basic; it’s very circular. The men’s circles go around and round sometimes holding hands, putting hands on a fellow dancer’s shoulders, or just clapping. Next time you are at a wedding or simcha, take note of the formations of the circles breaking up and starting anew; look at the inner versus the outer circles. The inner circle starts off with the chosson and fathers, then reaches out to the grandfathers, siblings, relatives, and friends. The outer circles tend to be older people, guests who were invited from the ‘other’ side and people who are just not into or comfortable with dancing per se. An outside observer may think the only important circle is the one in the center with the guests of honor, or the inner circle of friends, and that the outer circle isn’t really doing anything. Each circle serves its own purpose. Ultimately, the outer circle lends support and protection to the inner circle; that inner circle does the same for the center circle. Similar to any army that has many divisions all of whom serve and support each other, no matter their position. There are a number of allegorical as well as real descriptions of things surrounding and supporting central figures.

A less well-known part of my youth occurred around the time of my Bar Mitzva. I was part of a boys’ choir. The lyrics from one of the songs on the album was “שיר המעלות הבוטחים ב"ה כהר ציון לא ימוט לעולם ישב. ירושלים הרים סביב לה וה" סביב לעמו מעתה ועד עולם”: “Those who trust in Hashem are as Mount Zion which cannot be moved but abides forever. Jerusalem is surrounded by mountains, and Hashem is round His people, from now and forever” (Tehillim 125:1,2). This verse reveals the symbolism that the relationship, or marriage, between Hashem and the Jewish people is eternal, like the rock-solid mountains surrounding the Temple Mount which elevated the Beis Hamikdash upon high.

Parshas Bamidbar is typically read prior to the Yom Tov of Shavuos. There are two places in the Torah that highlight the Jewish people surrounding something, in the desert around the Ohel Moed, the Tent of Meeting, and in Parshas Yisro when the Jews circled around Har Sinai preparing to receive the Torah, consequently coinciding with Shavuos. The Torah states in this week’s Parsha Bamidbar 2:2 “איש על דגלו באתת לבית אבותם יחנו בני ישראל מנגד סביב לאהל מועד יחנו.” “The Israelites shall camp with each person near the banner having his paternal family’s insignia. They shall camp at a specified distance around the Communion Tent.”

The Midrash Rabbah on this passuk tells us a great love did Hashem, Blessed is He, have for the Jewish people who made flags and banners just as the ministering angels made in Heaven so they could be recognized for whom they are. The Midrash quotes a verse that displays the love Hashem had for the Jewish people at this time. In Shir HaShirim 2:4 Shlomo HaMelech states:

הביאני אל בית היין ודגלו עלי אהבה”:He brought me to the chamber of wine (Torah delights) and my banner clustered my encampments about Him in love”. The house or chamber of wine refers to the Tent of Meeting. The Torah Temimah explains the Midrash that the house of wine refers to Sinai because the Torah was stored there in preparation for its giving from the time of creation, just as wine is stored in a cellar. Rashi explains the second half of the verse,”… and His banner upon me is love” refers the gathering of the tribes around the Tabernacle in the desert. That, in it of itself, was an act of love. The Vilna Gaon quoted in the Artscroll Shir Hashirim explains that the numerical value of יין - wine - is seventy, alluding to the seventy facets of Torah interpretation, which is an apt description that Har Sinai should be the ‘house’ of this revelation. The numerical value of ודגלו is forty-nine, which equals the forty-nine gates upon which the Torah can be expounded. The Gerrer Rebbe adds to this stating that the forty-nine of the banner hints to the forty-nine days of Sefirah, which is the time of preparation for receiving of the Torah on Shavuos morning.

Reb Aharon Kotler in Mishnas Reb Aharon explains that all areas of holiness and spirituality in serving God must have an order. The camping, traveling and the very design of the Jewish camp in the desert all had a particular order; everything, every aspect was intertwined and based upon each other. The extended explanation the Torah prescribes for the formation of each quadrant of tribes is special and unique; every tribe had its specific assigned location and prominence. The circles of the tribes formed the outer layer to the tribe of Levi; the innermost circle consisted of the Mishkan itself. On the passuk in Shmos 19 which describes the Jewish people camped around Har Sinai to receive the Torah, we became fused together as one one man with one heart. The Jewish people merited to receive the Torah because they respected each other - despite the positioning of where they were located.

When every soldier acknowledges his purpose and role and appreciates the other soldier’s purpose and role, then there is no jealousy between them, only love and support. The order of where everyone is in each given situation is important but only completed by the acknowledgment and acceptance of where they stand. So if you find yourself in the outer circle ,just schlepping along at a wedding, don’t think your presence and your participation is for naught. There is a real sense of belonging – and meaning - to the entire group dancing together to honor the groom – and for the women, to honor the bride. The Yom Tov of Shavuos comes to remind each one of us that we serve a purpose and an important role in the serving of Hashem. Whether you are the one making all the noise and excitement and receiving all the attention, or the quiet one going about his or her business, collectively we make up the total of Am Yisrael.

Parshas Bechukosai - Putting Out the Fires or Planting New Crops?                                               26 Iyar 5779

05/31/19 11:04:52

May31

Everything Hashem created in the world can be used for good or bad. For something to be a blessing, the right amount at the right time and place is needed; should any of these conditions be lacking, the blessing spells out a curse. The Tochacha or public rebuke of the Jewish people and foretelling of the future vis a vis the blessings and curses of the Jewish people, is found in two places: parshas Ki Savo in Devarim and the last Parsha in Vayikra, Bechukosai, this week’s reading. Bechukosai opens with a brief description of blessings to be showered upon us if we fulfill the mitzvos. The bulk of the portion then goes on to describe the devastation, through a series of seven curses, that will affect the Jewish people if we choose not to follow and fulfill the mitzvos of the Torah. Although the Torah does not mention all the ways the land will be destroyed, we know that fire is a force in the world which can devastate the land.

California and San Diego in particular are no strangers to wildfires. Unfortunately, raging fires have also become too common in Eretz Yisrael. Only last week, with temperatures way above the norm along with other factors, fires raged throughout Israel , wiping out entire communities, leaving behind charred cars and twisted homes. Baruch Hashem, the loss of life was minimal, but the utter destruction is devastating. I believe that many of the fires in Israel were ignited through arson, a truly heinous, dastardly, cowardly act perpetrated by our enemies. A young ,newly- married couple from our community lost all their belongings in one of these criminally-motivated fires.

On the other hand, although often harmful and destructive to humans, naturally occurring wildfires play an integral role in nature, returning nutrients to the soil through the burning of dead or decaying matter. Fires also act as a disinfectant, removing disease-ridden plants and harmful insects from the forest’s ecosystem. By burning through thick canopies and brushy undergrowth, wildfires allow sunlight to reach the forest floor, enabling a new generation of seedlings to grow. To be open and honest, there are opinions that differ from mine which claim forest fires increase carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, contributing to the greenhouse effect and climate change. In addition, ashes destroy much of the nutrients and erode the soil, causing flooding and landslides. Be that as it may, we know from the Torah that land does better with change such as allowing the land to rest or through the cleansing of naturally caused fire.

In a previous message I mentioned my rabbinic training. An additional layer which is part of my rabbinic responsibility is that of a fireman. Part of my job, as well as the core job of other community leaders and CEOs is putting out fires. During my early years as a young rabbi, a past president of the Shul gave me some sound advice: “Things are either neutral-to-positive or neutral-to-negative.” He explained that the goal is to make things progress by making neutral-to-positive decisions and to not waste time in the process. Negative energy is spent on exactly that: putting out the fires at this function, dousing out the fire because of this or that. When we get stuck in a situation where we find ourselves focused on extinguishing the pop-up fire here and there, we lose our focus: to properly move forward with our agenda. Although this principle is generally correct, I have noticed over the years that sometimes putting out a ‘fire’ does have some redeeming quality. It may put an issue to rest, or, through reviewing the issue reveal other positive issues that never would have surfaced otherwise. As far as our Parsha and the curses are concerned, there are situations when a curse is actually a blessing in disguise. We try to avoid the curses, but we should keep in mind that there is opportunity for building on a tragedy, causing brachos to grow through it all.

In this week’s parsha Bechukosai the Torah states in Vayikra 26:31: “Vnasati Es Areichem Charbah, Vahashimosi Es Mikdisheichem, V’Lo Ariach B’Reiach Neechochachem”. “I will let your cities fall into ruins, and make your sanctuaries desolate. No longer will I accept the appeasing fragrance of your sacrifices.” When reading this verse, it is necessary to review it carefully, for it is obvious that once the Beis HaMikdash is destroyed, of course there won’t be any aroma because there are no longer any sacrifices! Rashi quoting the Sifra explains in the following passuk Vayikra 26:32 “Vahashimosi Ani Es HaAretz, Vshamimu Aleha Oyveichem Hayoshvim Bah”. “I will make the land so desolate that even your enemies who live there will be astonished.” This is good dispensation for the Israelites, for the enemies will not find any gratification in their lan, since it will be desolate, stripped of its inhabitants. In truth, one can ask, ‘What difference would it make to the Jews if their enemies aren’t comfortable in our land after we’ve been displaced? “ Is this reasoning based on the simple, child-like level of thinking, “If I can’t have it, then they shouldn’t have it?” That is hardly the case when it comes to Am Yisrael and God destroying our land. The truth is there is a silver lining in the Tochacha, the public rebuking of the Jewish people. Despite the destruction of the actual land, the Kedushas HaAretz, the holiness of the land, is ever-present. The Kedusha/holiness is witnessed through the fact that the invading nations cannot find comfort in the land, causing them to leave. Those who invade our land don’t want to live in a holy place like Eretz Yisrael; they physically won’t want to. That is how we know the land was and is still holy despite God’s wrath of destruction upon it. From this we determine that their presence is not permanent, even though our land - Eretz Yisrael - is in a state of ruin. The final proof is that there will not be an aroma from the Altar, not even from a ‘Bamah’ a private altar which was only permissible prior to the Beis Hamikdash. One might think that since the Temple is destroyed, we can still offer Korbanos on a ‘Bamah’. This thought is halted by the verse that tells us there will not even be a sweet smell, due to the forbidden use of the private altar. The only reason the private altar is outlawed, despite the absence of the Beis HaMikdash, is because the holiness of the Temple is still here. The sanctity of the Beis HaMikdash was never nullified - even after it was destroyed.

The tochacha, the rebuke, manifested its ways on the Jewish people. Ultimately, it was a sign and a method for the Jewish people to do Teshuva, to return our devotion to Hashem. We should merit to see the clear Brachos/blessings and secondarily to see the bracha that emerges from the fire to rebuild, plant and to grow once again in preparation for Moshiach.

 

Parshas B'Har - The Strength of a Wall                 19 Iyar 5779

05/24/19 08:52:57

May24

When I had just entered my teenage years, my family moved into a semi-attached single-family home. Our attached neighbors, who were not Jewish, had their television set placed right up against the joining wall of our two homes. Every Friday night my ear was glued to the wall (sometimes with the help of a drinking glass), listening to the Yankee baseball games on WPIX. While I can’t say that the walls were paper thin, they were not soundproof. While I did not mind being able to hear the games through the wall, my parents were a bit more concerned, knowing that if we could hear them they could surely hear us. From time to time my mother, a”h, would yell at us and say, “Keep it down! The neighbors can hear everything!”

There are a couple of idioms using ‘walls’ that jump out at me. One of these is “I would love to be a fly on the wall”, meaning that you’d love to hear what will be said or see what will happen while not being noticed. The other idiom is, “Shhh! Be careful, the walls have ears.” We should be careful about what we say because people might be listening. Take care and watch what you say because the walls have ears.

There are a few places in the Torah when certain halachos are dependent upon and focused around a wall. For example, the holiday of Purim is celebrated in all unwalled cities of the world, with the exception of Yerushalayim, Shushan, and any other city which has been walled since the time of Joshua. Shushan, the capital of Persia, was a walled city when the Jews fought to defeat their enemies on the 13th & 14th of Adar, so Purim was to be celebrated on the 15th of Adar. Recognizing that Yerushalayim was also a walled city dating back to the time of Joshua, our sages decided that Yerushalayim, along with all cities of the world walled since the time of Joshua, would celebrate Purim on the 15th day of Adar. A second example of the walled city is in reference to the Metzora that we mentioned earlier in Vayikra. A few weeks ago we read about the metzorah, the person who becomes afflicted with tzara’as, a strict form of tumah (state of being ritually impure). We learned that the afflicted person is sent out of the city and must take up residence outside the city walls.

In this week’s Parsha B’Har a third example of a house within a walled city is mentioned. The Torah states in Vayikra 25:29 “V’Ish Ki Yimkor Beis Moshav Ir Chomah, V’Haysa Geulaso Ad Tome Shnas Mimkaro, Yamim Tiheyeh Geulaso”: “When a man sells a residential house in a walled city, he shall be able to redeem it until the end of one year after he sold it. He has one full year to the day to redeem it”. The next verse is particularly fascinating, stating: “V’Im Lo Yigael Ad M’Los Lo Shana Temimah V’Kam HaBayis Asher BaIr Asher ‘Lo’ Choma Latzmisus LaKoneh Oso L’Dorosav, Lo Yeitzay BaYovel”: “However, if it is not redeemed by the end of this year, then the house in the walled city shall become the permanent property of the buyer [to be passed down] to his descendants. It shall not be released by the Jubilee. On the other hand, houses in the villages that do not have walls around them shall be considered the same as open land (see Vayikra 25:25). “

Unlike the seller of a home in an unwalled city who can renege on the sale at any time, over here, after one year is up, the buyer can say, “I'm not selling it back to you.” That's a remarkable chumrah/stringency for a house in a walled city, a total aberration from the typical rules of real estate in Eretz Yisroel. A home in a walled city has a different law and a different status, than any home located in a place without surrounding walls. Why should this home be any different from another home?

The great Rav Avigdor Miller ZT”L explains that there is something truly unusual here. Hashem is making something apparent in these pesukim: that there is something special about a walled city. With regard to a house located within a walled city, Hashem does not allow fifty years to think about buying the house back. If it is to be repurchased from the new owner, it must be bought back now! It's now or never! So the owner of a house in the walled city weighs his options very carefully before selling his home. He understands that he's making a decision that will soon be irrevocable. He will have only one year to redeem it from the seller, and when that year comes to an end, he will have lost his home forever.

We see here Hashem's intention of encouraging the original residents of a walled city to remain in their ancestral homes. Hakodosh Boruch Hu wants the residents of a walled city to forever remain within that walled city. The owner of such a home is discouraged by Hashem from selling his home, warning him that if he chooses to sell it, his ancestral home will be lost to him and his descendants forever. . Hakodosh Boruch Hu wants people to remain in the walled cities; This is made clear in our parsha. There is something special about walled cities, something unique is necessary for us to study what it is about batei arei chomah (houses in a walled city).

We must ask ourselves, What is this holiness that seems to be caused by walls? What's so special about a walled city that makes it so different, so much more kadosh, than the unwalled city right next door? And what is it about a walled city that finds so much favor in the eyes of Hashem, that He encourages us, by means of the arei chomah laws, to remain living within its walls forever? To better understand this, we need to understand and accept a fundamental principle - a principle that we must be aware of all the days of our lives. The Rambam in Hilchos Dei’os (6:1) writes: “It is the way that a person is created, meaning that the nature of a human being is to be drawn in his attitudes, his ideas, and the way he thinks and acts, after those with whom he associates.” This means that you become what your environment is.

The word nimshach means that you're drawn like a magnet to the attitudes and behavior of the people around you. You don't have to do anything; just by being there, you're pulled along unless you fight back. If you're passive then you're going to be drawn along. The process is so smooth, so subtle, that you don't even notice how you’re changed until it's too late, until you're already in the Next World.

Everything relates directly to who your friends are, to the people with whom you associate. The Rambam stated that you'll be drawn after your acquaintances and your friends. The Rambam tells us that even acquaintances, neighbors, coworkers - anybody whom you meet will affect you. You must know that when you associate closely with people, when you live among others, you are automatically being shaped. Not only will you act the way they act, but you'll come to think the way they think, and your middos will become like their middos.

People who moved into a walled city tended to settle permanently, remaining there from generation to generation. The walled city, because of its strategic value as a safe residence, secure from external enemies, became a haven for people to move to, a safe place to raise a family.

When we understand what the Torah is trying to teach us in these pesukim of batei arei chomah, then we understand that our entire Olam Hazeh – this world we live in - and our entire Olam Habah – the world to come - depend upon what the Rambam says, “A man is pulled after his friends and acquaintances.” This is a statement of profound power. We are pulled by those with whom we are with. That's how it is and it can't be helped. And so, if someone is going to pull us, let's make sure that we're always being pulled by the right people, by the best of our people, into the welcoming arms of Hakodosh Boruch Hu! God said, “And we'll walk with Him forever and ever in the “walled cities” of strong Torah communities where we are forever inflamed with the desire to serve Him.

Ah Gut Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

 

 

Parshas Emor - Alarmist or Realist? The Changing Face of America

05/17/19 09:04:37

May17

The role of the modern-day rabbi has evolved and continues to do so ever so quickly. Long gone are the days when communities and shuls sought out and then prided themselves with the great Talmidei Chachamim - incredible Torah scholars – who filled their beis medrash with learning. The need need for gifted orators who dazzled an audience with their command of the English language and a vocabulary the size of the dictionary is rapidly fading. Without going into any depth of discussion regarding the current needs and desired wants of a community or pulpit rabbi, I will state one common character trait that the rabbis of today and of yesteryear must attain……. leadership. One major issue is that the Semicha/Rabbinic ordination program does not offer a course on “leadership skill- building”. Typically, an aspiring rabbi learns through a great deal of Torah material in order to meaningfully teach and lead the Jewish people, enabling them to in turn become more learned. The young rabbi strives to nurture students and congregants alike to grow in their relationship with God. To reiterate, there are no classes, no lectures in political science or even Jewish history from which to glean essential factual material. Nevertheless, in the back of my mind I always wondered if, and when, I might need to speak about politics and about the landscape of American Jewry.

We are approximately three generations removed from the Holocaust. I grew up in- between the first and second post-Holocaust generation. The word ‘anti-Semitism’ was just that - a word. Sure, we knew what it meant, but we didn’t actively feel it every day on a national or even on an international level. Today however, is a different story. Truth be told, a relative of mine from Israel said, “No place is safe,” in a remark after the collective recent events which took place here in America. I was quick to respond, “I think America is very safe. Am I fearful to go outside, to walk down the block with my kippah on my head? No! Are there delusional, hateful individuals in this country who may not like what I stand for? Of course. But I don’t feel as though we are living in 1938 Germany.

Anti-Semitism is not a new phenomenon in the world, and despite my lack of experiencing anti-Semitism when I was growing up, it was clearly there on the, lurking on heels of the Holocaust in the form of denying that the Holocaust had even occurred. The beginnings of the modern denial movement began in 1961. When David Hoggan published Der Erzwungene Krieg (The Forced War) in West Germany, claiming that Germany had been the victim of an Anglo-Polish conspiracy in 1939. Though Der Erzwungene Krieg was primarily concerned with the origins of World War II, it also down-played or justified the effects of Nazi anti-semitic measures in the pre-1939 period. Austin App, a La Salle University medieval English literature professor, is considered the first major mainstream American Holocaust denier. App defended the Germans and Nazi Germany during World War II. He published numerous articles, letters, and books on Holocaust denial, quickly building a loyal following. App's work inspired the Institute for Historical Review, a California center founded in 1978 whose sole task is the denial of the Holocaust. I have always harbored a deep fear of the deniers, particularly those who are protected by the First Amendment.. My greater concern, however, is focused upon elected officials who speak from the echelons of our government, professing historical knowledge. When popular mainstream newspapers become the platform for anti-Jewish rhetoric or when pervasive anti-Israel/Zionist (anti-Semitism in disguise) hatred is spewed across college campuses across the American landscape, I grow concerned. It is the first time in my life that I now see the clear need to formally act and speak out to protect the rights of our freedom and religion in this country. Of specific concern is the election of three new representatives – Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Rashida Tiaid of Minnesota, and Ilhan Omar of Michigan. All three representatives have made statements that reflect anti-Semitic tropes. All three are open supporters of BDS, the movement to boycott Israel. Ocasio-Cortez compared a migrant caravan trying to enter the U.S. illegally to Jews fleeing the Holocaust. Omar has made numerous anti-Semitic statements invoking Allah to expose Israel’s “evil doings”. We may not be prolific authors who are able to pen op-ed articles or possess outstanding speaking talent, standing up at rallies speaking out on behalf of the Jewish people’s rights. We are, however, capable of taking a stand, refusing to support any vehicles which spread hate. Just take an example from one of the leading rabbis in our country who cancelled his subscription to the New York Times. It behooves all of us to write, call, or email our elected leaders - on both sides of the aisle - of Congress to censure those politicians who are re-writing history to fit their agenda. Some of you may be thinking I am overreacting. You know something - I hope I am for the safety and security of our people. Nevertheless, we need to say something because this, in reality, is an attack on Hashem, as I will explain.

In this week’s Parsha Emor we read about the blasphemer. In Vayikra 24:11 the Torah states: “ Vayikov Ben HaIsha Hayisraelite Es Hasheim VaYikalel, Vayavioo Oso El Moshe, V’Sheim Immo Shlomis Bas Divri L’Matei Dan”: “The Israelite woman’s son then blasphemed God’s name with a curse. The people brought him to Moshe. His mother’s name was Shelomith, daughter of Divri, of the tribe of Dan.” Rav Avraham Menachem Hacohen Rafeh from Porto, in his sefer Mincha Belula, a commentary on Chamisha Chumshei Torah, published in 1594, explains that the blasphemer cursed the ‘name’ in Hebrew. Hasheim are the same three letters that spell Moshe. In other words, he cursed God, but through Moshe. A few verses later in 24:15, the Torah repeats “Any man who curses his God will bear his iniquity.” The Zohar, quoting Rebbi Elazar, explains this in the following manner. When the Jewish people were in Egypt, they knew there were other world leaders who ruled over their people. These leaders had a connection or an alliance with the Jews in sharing the same belief in Hashem as the Jews. Hashem brought those leaders closer to Him to serve Him, which elevated them to the highest level of holiness. It is for this reason when the Torah says if any man curses Elokav (and singles out the word ‘Elokav’), it refers to any of the leaders who got close to Hashem. Even though they might worship other deities, nevertheless, I, Hashem says, “Chose them to be leaders in the world”. Therefore, ‘…anyone who curses them is cursing Me’. To review, if someone curses one of the non-Jewish leaders, he is held responsible as if he cursed Hashem, How much more so does this apply to someone who curses Moshe Rabbeinu, a leader of the Jewish people, and the Jewish people themselves are cursing Hashem!

As I see it, when leaders of the world speak out openly in favor of the Jewish people, they will be blessed. The flip side of this, however, is those who seek to vilify the Jewish people and their leaders will bear their own iniquity because their attack is, in actuality ,an attack on HaKadosh Baruch Hu. Hashem promised Avraham Avinu that those who bless you will be blessed, and those who curse you will be cursed. The intent is not solely on Avraham Avinu, but rather the essence is the blessing and cursing of Hashem. We are witnessing the blasphemers of Hashem in our day and age. Any attack on the Jewish people is a desecration of Hashem’s name, and they will be punished just as the Mekalel was punished in our parsha. We should merit to see the fulfillment of the God’s word and witness the downfall of our enemies and the blessings of our friends speedily in our time.

Parshas Kedoshim - Time for Real Introspection                            4 Iyar 5779

05/09/19 19:06:01

May9

The weeks between Pesach and Shavuos are meant to resemble a Jew’s spiritual preparation and elevation towards receiving of the Torah on Shavuos. We try to follow in the footsteps of the generation who left Egypt at the forty-ninth level of impurity who transcended to the forty-ninth level of sanctity. While the time to grow and work on becoming a better Jew and ultimately a better human being is not limited to this time of year, it should nevertheless be highlighted and emphasized. The other obvious well-known time of introspection takes place leading up to Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur when we/Moshe had ascended and descended Har Sinai the second time. The only reason there was a second time was because we sinned with the golden calf when Moshe delayed after ascending on Shavuos.

The average Jew thinks the level necessary to obtain the Torah must be so high that it is just about out of our reach today. The truth is that while the level is very high, there is a simple focus we need to zero in on in our daily lives to reach it. Perhaps I can explain the how, what and why we need to attain this level by illustrating how we are not doing what we need to do. Without becoming too controversial or critical, we can glean a great deal from how more and more Jews are losing sight of what is important in life. I would like to use the “Pesach Programs, Over stuffed smorgasbords, Over the top Bar/Bat Mitzva celebrations and the like” as illustrations. There are by no means any restrictions in Halacha to enjoy the permissible things life has to offer. Nevertheless, it should not become the goal or the purpose in life to overindulge in the pleasures of life. I was perusing through Jewish magazines that advertise the variety of Pesach programs available throughout the world. One common theme with regard to the focus of Pesach has become lavish meals with buffets, twenty-four-hour tea rooms, snack times, early bird dinners, and so forth. Chas V’Shalom/Heaven forbid do I say this about every Jew who attends a Pesach program is there only for the food, that is absolutely not my intention. There are, however, those who look forward to a ten-day gluttonous adventure that boasts “You can’t even tell it’s Pesach”! The rolls, bagels, the pizza and pancakes, where does it end? We need to honestly ask ourselves, “Is this a true, spiritual experience that will enhance my neshama? Is this what God wants from us? Is this the service to Hashem that He seeks from us?” This is only the most recent example that comes to mind as our digestive systems are still digesting the matza from Pesach. However, we must be cognizant of this whenever and whatever we do every single day. We must be confront ourselves with the question, “How is this going to make me a better person?” We need to ask ourselves after we did something or said something, “Did I make the world a better place as a result of my actions and deeds or not?” The strategy for accomplishing this is not a new kind of fad; it is something we find in the Torah.

In this week’s Parshas Kedoshim the Torah states in Vayikra 19:1, “Dabair El Adas Bnei Yisrael, V’Amarta Lahem, Kedoshim* Tihiyu Ki KadoshAni Hashem Elokeichem”: “Speak to the congregation of the children of Israel and say to them, be *holy, because I am holy.” The section opens with a uniqueness; the entire Eidah or congregation was to hear this. Rashi explains that from here we learn that this portion was recited at Hakhel because most of the Jewish principles are dependent upon it. I would like to explain the significance in two ways. 1. Rashi is telling us this had to have occurred during Hakhel because there are many mitzvos taught here. Among them the highlighted mitzva of ‘V’Ahavta L’Reiacha KaMocha’: ‘Love your neighbor like yourself’ which Rebbi Akiva paraphrased as the primary principle in Judaism (Jerusalem Talmud Nedarim Ch. 9). 2. Moshe speaking to the Jewish people in a gathering is particularly relevant when speaking of holiness. The key to many mitzvos is determined by the level of ‘kedusha’ - sanctity or holiness in which a person engages. Rabbeinu Yona writes in Shaarei Teshuva (Shaar Aleph Os 30, 31): The ninth level of repentance comes through the smashing of a person’s physical desires – with that he could fully repent. Man must implant within his heart the realization that desire causes him to sin and draws forth transgression with the cords of falsehood. He must withdraw himself from pleasures and not be pulled after his desire, even in relation to things which are permissible. He must follow the ways of separation and eat only to satiate himself and to maintain his body, as Shlomo HaMelech said in Mishlei 13:25 “The righteous eats to the satiety of his body”. The desire which is implanted in a man’s heart is the root of all his actions. Therefore, if his desire is properly ordered, instead of being served by all the body’s members, it will cause them to follow the dictates of intelligence so that all of his actions will be rendered fit. But to the fools who do not break from their desire but constantly pursue the pleasures of men, their desires will continue to pursue them. Ultimately, the desire pulls and tugs at an individual, drawing him to nonsensical sinning, creating an impediment to Teshuva unless they try to stop it.

Reb Moshe Chaim Luzzato, in his work Mesilas Yesharim, ch. 13, recognizes all the challenges and temptations we face in the world of physicality and the vulnerability we humans face because of our weak nature. Therefore, he recommends and instructs us that whenever possible in any and every possibly questionable situation in which we find ourselves to do whatever we can to remove ourselves from that situation. Do something to minimize the damage. For example, try to walk away after the first helping.

Since Kedusha is the separating from that which is permissible to us, it is considered the most basic and primary focus we need to have to elevate our souls through our bodies. This is the reason Moshe gave this commandment to the entire gathering all at the same time. A clear message is that Hashem wants us to become holy not through complete removal from society, such as fasting, celibacy, silence and the like, but to the contrary. Hashem encourages us through the mitzvos of the Torah to partake and participate in every permissible pleasure this world offers, with one caveat: to do so through becoming a Kadosh, to avoid overindulging in any area of pleasure in life.

Changing a trait is no easy task; it takes time and effort. Let us use the impetus of the Omer period to make those changes and not let it go by as lip service. Focus and concentrate during the day, find yourself in a situation that you (and only you know about) could decide to hold back on a pleasure or desire that you may even be entitled to and hold back a little. Become holier today more than you were yesterday and the day before. Through this Avoda (and it is no easy task) we can and will change who we are and what is truly important in life. When we figure out the Emes/truth of what Hashem wants from us we will be ready for another revelation such as the one we ALL witnessed together at the foot of Sinai.

 

Ah Gut Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

 

*The Hebrew word Kodesh in all its different forms is loosely translated or explained as holiness. A better term of understanding to being Kadosh would be to separate.

Parshas Acharei Mos - Knowing Someone is Feeling Deeply for That Person                              28 Nissan 5779

05/03/19 08:47:15

May3

Jewish Ad Network

This Dvar Torah is L’ilui Nishmas in memory of Leah Bas Reuvain Z”L Mrs. Lori Kaye

Terror strikes again, but for the people of San Diego it is of a different proportion. Whenever and wherever tragedy takes place, the individuals who are nearest to the tragedy are the most deeply affected. Typically, when we hear about a famine, fire, destruction, flood or any type of traumatic event which causes pain, suffering and loss of life, our reactions vary depending upon the proximity of the disaster to us. When a disaster or tragic event occurs across the globe we pause for a moment, make a comment, and move on with our lives as if nothing has really happened. Our lives are not directly impacted by an event which is not closely connected to ourselves.

The pain and suffering that victims experience is obviously far greater than could possibly be experienced by those who did not witness or closely experience the event. We all try to empathize with those who witnessed the horror; we contact our friends, neighbors, even acquaintances to check in on them when something awful happens. However, the closer we get to the pain, the more intense our reactions. What do I mean by that? Let me explain.

This past week I, along with many other San Diegans, received well wishes, through emails, text messages and the like asking how we are doing in the aftermath of the terror attack on the Chabad House in Poway. I received calls from national organizations and agencies looking after Jewish institutions. I received calls and messages from friends and family and from tourists and business people who frequent our city, all asking, “Are you ok? How is the community doing?” There is a marked difference in their tone when the questions switch from general concern to the next level of concern - when I was asked if I know any of the victims. In this case I responded, “Yes. I knew Lori Kaye, Z”L.” Immediately, there was overt concern for my welfare. Although I met her briefly, merely saying hello or exchanging a greeting over the years, it wasn’t until six months ago that I actually sat down and spoke with Lori for about half an hour. However, it wasn’t until I listened to the eulogies given by her closest friends and family that I realized that she was the person with whom I had chatted only a few months earlier.

On October 9th, 2018, a voicemail was left on the Shul number for me from Lori. In that message she introduced herself and proceeded to explain that she was a very good friend of Oren Lee (who I know) and closest family friends. As his birthday was approaching in a few days (I think it is October 11th) she wanted to purchase my book and have it inscribed as a birthday gift for him. I immediately texted her, and a few hours later she met with me at the Shul, playing Jewish geography and weaving connections within the Jewish community. Now, only now six months later, listening to the incredible stories and anecdotes describing Lori’s life and her accomplishments ,I find myself fully comprehending and appreciating that she bought not one but three of my books. I now picture my books sitting on a shelf somewhere in her home, purchased simply to make me feel good, using the purchase as a mechanism to support a Rabbi’s work.

A few days ago, I looked back at the text I sent to Lori, and I re-listened to the voicemail she left for me indicating the time of a meeting which I would so deeply appreciate six months later. So many people were touched by her; the reaction of those who know someone who also knew her grows more meaningful and impactful by her loss.

The reading for Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year, is the section describing the Kohein Gadol during High Priest’s service in the Beis HaMikdash on Yom Kippur day. That portion is taken from Vayikra, chapter 16. As was mentioned at the memorial service for Lori, it was this Parsha that was read in Israel the day she was murdered; we here in the diaspora will read the same portion this coming Shabbos, the week of her funeral and the mourning of Shiva for her.

In this week’s Parsha Acharei Mos, the Torah opens with the reference to the death of Aharon’s two sons, Nadav and Avihu. In Vayikra 16:1 the Torah states: “Vayidaber Hashem El Moshe, Acharei Mos Shnei Bnei Aharon, B’Karvasam Lifenei Hashem Vayamoosoo”. “And Hashem spoke with Moshe after the death of Aharon’s two sons as they came close/before God and died.” The most widely-accepted understanding of the death of Aharon’s sons took place because they apparently did something wrong. The Zohar HaKadosh, on the other hand, lends great importance and accolades to the death of Aharon’s sons. On this passuk the Zohar writes that when Tzadikim - righteous people - leave this world, ‘Din’ judgment leaves the world. Therefore, we read this portion and review the death of Nadav and Avihu on Yom Kippur so that their deaths should be an atonement for the entire Jewish people. God says, “Involve yourselves with the deaths of these righteous souls and I will consider it as if you offered the proper Yom Kippur sacrifices of the day to atone for your sins. During the duration of Klal Yisroel’s exile when they do not have the ability or the means to offer the Yom Kippur atonement sacrifices, let them, the Jewish people, have the remembrance of Aharon’s two sons. For they are equal to the seventy members of the Sanhedrin, the high court who served Moshe. It is through their deaths that the Jewish people merit atonement every year as we recall these men. For whomever is pained by the difficulties and afflictions of the righteous, or shed tears over them, HaKadosh Baruch Hu calls out his name and proclaims atonement for that individual’s sins.”

The sefer Etz Hadaas Tov illustrates the greatness of Nadav and Avihu from the wording of the verse. Nadav and Avihu died by ‘neshika’ - the kiss of death - after they had already gotten close to Hashem. The word describing their death is at the end of the verse, while the beginning of the passuk describes their actions of trying to spiritually get closer to God. All other Tzadikim die first and thencling to the Shechina, Hashem’s essence. The son’s of Aharon were unique in getting close to Hashem and then, after reaching heights no other Tzadik would attain, they perished.

Leah Bas Reuvain, Lori Kaye, was truly special. She got closer to Hashem by acting and living her life as a Tzelem Elokim, in God’s image. It was through the acts of loving kindness that she emulated Hashem’s ways; she grew closer and closer right up to her final moment of life. Yehi Zichra Baruch.

Parshas Metzora/HaGadol - Making the Jewish People Whole Again    6 Nissan 5779

04/11/19 09:07:43

Apr11

The daily impact of so many growing concerns from safety and security to the environmental issues which bombard us daily come at a cost of personal effort, money and time. I could discuss write each of these issues at length, but I’ve chosen to address the last one: the effect of time. Now this may sound silly, but after using the washroom, we dry our hands. At home we typically use a real towel, while in public areas paper towels were installed with proper dispensers. Along came the air dryer which in and of itself has been perfected to place your hands down into a dryer instead of holding up your hands while the water is running back down your arms.

We as Jews have two issues with electric hand dryers. The first is a time concern, as we are always in a rush. It takes longer to air dry our hands it takes to use a disposable paper towel. But all kidding aside, the second, and real issue is Shabbos. We can’t use the electric blower; we need to use those good old-fashioned paper towels. Before we get to the obvious problem with the electric blower, what is the story behind the ‘paper towel’?

Scott Paper Company was founded by brothers Irvin and Clarence Scott in Philadelphia in 1879. SCOTT® Brand Tissue with 1,000 sheets was introduced at a cost of 10 cents per roll. It was considered a medical item; print ads were used to increase awareness and address embarrassment. One day, Arthur Scott, head of the paper products company, had big trouble. An entire railroad car full of paper, unloaded at his plant, wasn't good for anything because the paper had been rolled too thick for toilet tissue, its intended purpose. Was he going to send the whole load back?

Meanwhile, Scott heard about a certain teacher in the city school system who had developed a novel idea to help fight colds in school. She gave every runny-nosed student a small piece of soft paper to use. That way the roller towel in the toilets would not become contaminated with germs. Scott decided he would try to sell the carload of paper. He perforated the thick paper into small towel-size sheets and sold them as disposable paper towels. Later, he renamed the product Sani-Towel and sold them to hotels, restaurants, and railroad stations for use in public washrooms. In 1931, Scott introduced the first paper towel for the kitchen, creating a whole new grocery category. He made perforated rolls of "towels" thirteen inches wide and eighteen inches long. And that is the story of how paper towels were born. It was to take many years, however, before they gained acceptance and replaced cloth towels for kitchen use.

The main issue with dispensing paper towels on Shabbos is the prohibition of tearing. I don’t know about you, but invariably after washing my hands in the washroom or prior to eating bread, the paper towel rips as I am pulling it out of the dispenser. This usually occurs when the towels are packed in tightly together. (When there are only a few sheets left, they fly out in enthusiastic bunches – far more than you need.) For me, this has been a problem of tearing on Shabbos, albeit accidentally and not wanting it to happen. Nevertheless, even though I am probably exempt from the violation of Shabbos, it is still a desecration of Shabbos. Perhaps we should seek guidance from the Torah on this matter and see if there are any recommendations… After perusing through the Torah, we see numerous references to the concept and application of water and washing, but not one word about drying. The issue of drying hands is addressed in the laws of washing for bread, but such washing is a rabbinic decree, not a biblical one.

The Gemara Bava Metzia 85b tells a story about washing hands. Eliyahu HaNavi used to frequent Rebbi's academy. One day it was the New Moon and Rebbi was waiting for Eliyahu HaNavi, but he failed to come. Rebbi said to him the next day: 'Why didn’t you come yesterday?” He replied: “I had to wait until I awoke Avraham, washed his hands, he prayed and I put him to rest again; likewise to Yitzchok and Yakov.” “But why not awake them together?” Eliyahu replied, “I feared that they would wax strong in prayer and bring Moshiach before his time.” There was no mention of Eliyahu drying the hands of the forefathers. Perhaps one could suggest it is implied that drying is the second half of washing and is therefore inherently understood. Nevertheless, we only find the imperative to dry when washing for bread in contrast to all other times when we wash our hands. The times we are instructed to wash our hands include when arising in the morning, coming into close contact with a corpse, after using the restroom, cutting our hair and nails ,and more. We specifically need to dry our hands when washing for bread for two reasons: (1) if we accidentally touch another person’s hands which were not cleansed, then we need to wash again and (2) the bread would become repulsive to eat after getting wet from our hands, hence the need to dry them. Eliyahu HaNavi is a central and key figure in the future, heralding the ultimate redemption of the Jewish people.

This week’s Haftorah, selected from the Navi Malachi, depicts the great battles and miracles that will lead up to that redemption. There are two Gemaros that mention the last three prophets of Bnei Yisrael. Sotah 48b which says Chagai, Zecharya and Malachi were the last prophets, and the Gemara Yoma 9b which states that with the death of Chagai, Zecharya and Malachi, Divine Inspiration departed from Israel. The concluding words of the Haftorah are the final words that complete the section of Neviim as part of Tanach. Who else but Eliyahu himself does the Navi Malachi give a last message for the future? The Navi Malachi 3:22 states: “Remember the Torah of My servant Moshe, whom I commanded at Chorev (Mt. Sinai) with rules and laws for all Israel. Behold, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before the arrival of God’s great and awesome day. He will bring back the hearts of parents by means of their children and the hearts of the children by means of their parents, lest I appear and strike the land a devastating blow”.

A clear reconciliation and joining together of the polar tides of life is necessary to bring about the redemption. Many leaders were able to pull one segment of the Jewish population and at best left behind the other half or at worst tore away from them. It takes the ultimate leader to pull the extremes of the Jewish nation and bring them together without harming and ripping one half. This is the drying factor that is representative of that ultimate Geula. The solution to the paper towel issue on Shabbos is to grab hold of both ends of the paper towel and slowly bring both ends simultaneously towards each other. This simple act prevents the paper towel from tearing. Getting our hands wet and washing them is the first part of purification. Drying our hands is the culmination of that purity and is accomplished in its entirety and completeness by bringing all of Klal Yisrael together from the four corners of the physical world and the four corners of our spiritual world. Through the symbol of not tearing, and more importantly, bringing the towel ends together may we merit to see the words of Chagai come speedily in our time!

Parshas Tazria/HaChodesh - The Making of a Mensch      28 Adar II  5779 

04/04/19 10:01:05

Apr4

The Yiddish word ‘mensch’, German for human being, is loosely translated as "a person of integrity and honor". The opposite of a "mensch" is an "unmensch", meaning an utterly unlikeable or unfriendly person. According to Leo Rosten, the Yiddish maven and author of The Joys of Yiddish, the colloquial term ‘mensch’ translates to mean "someone to admire and emulate; someone of noble character”. The key to being 'a real mensch' requires nothing less than character, rectitude, dignity, a sense of what is right, responsible, and decorous (that would be polite and refined). The term is used as a high compliment, implying the rarity and value of that individual's qualities. But is that the true meaning or connotation of the word mensch?

Rabbi Wein, YBL”C, explains a section from the morning prayers: “L’Olam Yhei Adam Yirei Shamayim BaGalui U’Baseter”-“A person should always be God fearing in the open and in the closed or behind closed doors.” Rabbi Wein, in his imitable fashion, put a comma after the word ‘Adam’ to be read, ”L’Olam Yhei Adam” – “A person should always be!” Don’t worry about being God fearing. First and foremost, be a human being…be a ‘mensch’. Man, Adam HaRishon, was created B’Tselem Elokim, in the image of God. The first man from the time being formed is called ‘Adam’ and continues to be referred that way until another stage is created, that of his partner, Chava. In Bereishis 2:22 the Torah states: “God built the rib/side that he took from the man into a woman and He brought her to him”. The next passuk states: “The man said, Now, this is bone from my bones and flesh from my flesh. She shall be called Woman (Ishah) because she was taken from man (Ish). When man and woman are together, they share the extra letters that of yud and hey, representing Hashem’s name. We are fused together and built around the name of God and ultimately to represent Him in this world as He does from above. The challenge we face as human beings is to always ensure that we live up to that lofty status. Shlomo HaMelech describes man as ‘There is no individual who graces the world who doesn’t sin’. This ruins and blemishes the purity of the image we are supposed to live up to. So, what do we do about becoming and maintaining the Adam within all of us?

In this week’s parshas Tazria we once again hear the term ‘Adam’. The Torah states in Vayikra 13:2 “Adam Ki Yihyeh B’Or B’Saro S’es oh Sapachas oh Baheres, V’Haya B’Or B’Saro L’Nega Tzoraas, V’Huva El Aharon HaKohein, oh El Achad MiBanav HaKohanim”: “If a person has a white blotch, discoloration, or spot on the skin of his body, and it is suspected of being a mark of the leprous curse on his skin, he shall be brought to Aaron, or to one of his descendants, who are the priests”. Rav Mordechai Leiner* in his sefer Mei Shiloach points out there are four levels or rungs to the makeup of an individual,: Adam, Gever, Enosh, and Ish. The paramount of the list is Adam, as it says in Bereishis “God created Adam in His image” and “Because in the image of God was man formed”. If there is some type of skin condition, he is brought to the Kohain. Every person who develops some type of leprosy and impurity is brought to the Kohein to regain the Kedusha/holiness. An Adam on such a high level cannot merely sit and remain with the impurity,; he must be brought to the Kohein so that Hashem could purify him to the level he had been at the time of creation with the original Adam, Adam HaRishon.

Sinning is the animalistic tendency that comes out when we lose sight of the holiness of man. The term ‘Gever’ symbolizes the strength of man to overcome those tendencies; the term ‘Enosh’ is humanity ,another description supporting that we are superior to our animalistic side. As we sin we lose a part of who we are as an Adam. It is interesting to note how man was created from the ground and a part was taken and then brought back to him. In today’s scientific world this is known as regeneration, whereby cells can reproduce and regenerate, sometimes creating complete new organisms. The Hebrew word to regenerate is ‘Arucha’ which is the same root for length and long. With Tzoraas /leprosy, the area of the skin affected must be ‘brought’ to the kohein and examined to determine if the skin is afflicted. If it is, it’s as if the skin is not there. If decided that it is leprosy, the skin needs to regenerate itself, making itself new and wholesome again. We need to make ourselves in the image and form that God made us in the beginning. When the skin does produce again it goes through the process of ‘Arucha’, literally regenerating, signifying it continues. With a refreshed and healthy body with which the skin rejuvenated itself there will be Aruch, long life will extend to a longer life.

The Midrash Tanchuma Tazria 8 explains the unique connection between Hashem the King to His subject Adam in contrast to a human king and his servant. Why is it when a person sins against Hashem, that Hashem brings physical signs such as leprosy to the body? It is because the character and Middos of God are different than that of a human being. A king of flesh and blood punishes a sinner by striking his body with ropes, chains, leather straps (made from hide) and the like, while Hashem strikes the person from within his own body, as it states, “The leprosy is stricken in the body on his flesh (the hide of the human).

In Pirkei Avos/Ethics of the Fathers, Hillel said, "In a place where there are no men, strive to be a man. For man, read mensch, which means striving in our pursuit of the Tselem Elokim, the image of God. Where there is a deterioration of man, by virtue of mankind sinning, we must take control and bring back the image in which we were created; we must strive to bring back the original plan of man to live forever and never die, for it is only due to our sins that life as we know it is cut short . This relates directly to what we read about Adam and Chava being kicked out of Gan Eden because of the sin and death that had been decreed upon them. Let us ‘Make Man’ and become the shining example of a Tzelem Elokim, a true Mensch in the image of God.

Ah Gut Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

 

*Mordechai Yosef Leiner of Izhbitz (1801-1854) was a Rabbinic Chasidic thinker and founder of the Izhbitza-Radzyn dynasty of Chassidus. Rabbi Mordechai Yosef was born in Tomashov to his father Reb Yaakov the son of Reb Mordechai of Sekul, a descendant of Rabbi Saul Wahl. At the age of two his father passed away. Rabbi Mordechai Yosef became a disciple of Reb Simcha Bunim of Peshischa where he joined Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Kotzk and Rabbi Yosef of Yartshev; both were also born in Tomashov. When Rabbi Menachem Mendel became Rebbe in Kotzk, Reb Mordechai Yosef became his disciple in Kotzk. In 1839, Rabbi Mordechai Yosef became a rebbe in Tomaszów, subsequently moving to Izbica.

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

Parshas Shmini/Parah - Are We Raising Children or Do We Raise Our Children Up?      22 Adar II 5779

03/29/19 08:47:45

Mar29

Parshas Shmini – Are We Raising Children or Do We Raise Our Children Up?

One of my mottos with regard to educating and raising children is “school is for information; home is where they learn”. The average Jewish family spends hundreds of thousands of dollars on Jewish education - the information which, in turn, feeds applied learning. Those dollars are invested in our children’s future, and like any other investment, active involvement is required: our children’s needs and progress have to be checked and nurtured to yield the best results. The home, however, is the epicenter for our children to learn how to conduct themselves, to develop a depth of understanding of the values we, their parents, hold dear. Home is where the information our children receive in school or yeshiva is truly ‘learned’. A good chef uses prime ingredients, treating each item with respect and care in order to create a masterful meal. Our children receive information (ingredients) from school and bring them home to ‘digest’. The home is the crucial environment for creating the best possible level of applying those pieces of information, nurturing a matrix which synthesizes the ingredients for a life of clarity of values, proper conduct, and respect. For a master chef, proper cooking utensils, precise temperatures, and, above all, timing, are essential details. The learning at home, the creation of the product, has many components which in a profound way, relates to the food produced by the master chef. The home is not limited to parents. It includes siblings, nutrition, safety, security, and so forth. Everything contributes to the end result!

Money spent on tuition is the cheapest part of educating our children. That may sound ridiculous, but in a sense, it is far easier to write a check (maybe even easier or less work to pay by credit card) than to guide, nurture, and ultimately help our children truly learn through synthesizing the ‘information’. It is the real learning that takes place in the home that is so challenging and, in most cases, ignored or overlooked. As parents we have an obligation to nurture the information that our children receive. There is no question that as parents when we observe our children doing something wrong, we reprimand them, teaching and instilling the proper course of action and behavior. But are we working on troubleshooting in advance prior to the incident to avoid any dangerous behavior or mishap? Are we as parents only reacting to situations that have already occurred, or are we trying to think ahead so as to avoid situations that can spare the hurt and pain a child may suffer either physically, spiritually or emotionally?

By definition, the term ‘parent’ means sacrifice, from the moment the child is conceived until the parent is no longer able to care for their child. As parents, we need to understand that we must sacrifice, not only for our children’s physical well-being, but also for their spiritual well-being. When a child asks for something spiritual (within reason) that may cost time, money or effort, the parent must figure out a way to nourish and nurture that request. If we desire our children to grow up with sincere religious and observant commitment, we need to show them we are committed to that very goal for ourselves and for them, even when it may be inconvenient. If a child wants to grow more connected to Judaism, we should do whatever it takes. Imagine a scenario where a child wants to daven with a minyan and is makpid/strict upon himself, making sure to always attend minyan. Perhaps an extreme example: Consider the child who arrives in Los Angeles from Israel in the late evening. After a grueling twenty-five hours he wants to head north to Los Angeles to catch the last minyan and then drive back down to San Diego. I can’t speak for most, but I’m sure a few kids at that point would like to go straight back home and daven privately without a minyan. I’m also sure that most parents at nine-thirty at night would rather drive straight home instead of driving north from the airport to L.A., finally arriving home at one in the morning. The parent in question wants to show and encourage the right thing to do. Not only doesn’t he complain, he is overjoyed by the commitment and dedication of his son. He must do whatever it takes, within the limits of possibility, to insure his child receives the religious training, learning and experience despite the hardship that may fall upon the parent. These are the attributes we parents need to inculcate within our persona, openly expressing , the desire to our children that we will do anything spiritually and religiously for them.

This has been the case for parents and children throughout history. We sometimes find tragedy when proper supervision is not provided especially when it come to adult children. We find this in this week’s parsha Shmini where we read about the death of Aharon’s two sons Nadav and Avihu. In Vayikra 10:1 the Torah states: “Vayikchu Bnei Aharon Nadav VaAvihu Ish Machtaso, Vayitnu Bahein Aish, Vayasimu Aleihen Ketores, Vayakrivu Lifnei Hashem Aish Zara Asher Lo Tziva Osam”. “ Aharon’s sons, Nadav and Avihu each took fire pans, placed fire and then incense on them. They offered it before God, but it was unauthorized fire, which God had not instructed them to offer”. In truth a Jew must do and perform every Mitzva by immersing and giving of himself to such an extent that his soul is spent - to the degree that he is lifeless and completely out of energy after doing a Mitzva. If that were the case, wouldn’t it be nearly impossible to do another Mitzva after expending all his energy on just one command? Rav Pinchas Yustman* explains that the Mitzva itself, being that it was commanded by Hashem to perform, aroused the person and gave renewed strength and vigor to him so that he looks forward to doing the next one. Quoting the words ‘VaChai Bahem’: ‘And you shall live by them’,explained by all ‘not to die from them’. Even if we ‘kill’ ourselves over a Mitzva, the very act of doing the Mitzvah with all of our being allows us to become stronger and do more Mitzvos.

Nadav and Avihu did the service in the Mishkan with the highest regard and an incredible measure of mesiras nefesh/self sacrifice. They did this to the degree that they actually killed themselves. Why? The renewed energy of the performance of their Mitzva did not work this time. Why? The reason given is because only after doing a Mitzva, a Mitzva literally means something we were commanded to do. In this case there was no command; Nadav and Avihu did this on their own. This is noted by the special cantillation mark ‘meircha kefula’ a double meircha on the word ‘Lo’ meaning they were NOT commanded. As great as they were, Nadav and Avihu acted on their own, without direction from Hashem. Their father Aharon knew they were great and righteous men; he couldn’t fathom them doing something wrong.

We as the parents need to guide our children when to do the Mitzva when we are commanded and not to do the Mitzva when we are not commanded. It’s not about us; it’s not for us to determine if or to decide when. At the time that Hashem when He wants us to do the command, we do it. We need to be all-encouraging, to consistently nurture the desire of our children to fulfill their Avodas Hashem. This, will in turn, will give them the strength, courage and attitude to want to do more.

 

Ah Gut Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

 

*Pinchas Menachem (Elazar) Yustman (1848–1920) The Piltzer Rebbe, also known by the title of his main work, the Sifsei Tzadik ((and in his early years known as Reb Mendel of Ger) was a Chasidic Rabbi who after the passing of his brother-in-law Rabbi Yehudah Aryeh Leib Alter, became a Rebbe for some Gerrer Hasidim, in Pilica, Poland.

Parshas Tzav - Chassid Meets Misnaggid        15 Adar II 5779

03/22/19 09:35:49

Mar22

Parshas Tzav – Chassid Meets Misnaggid

Last Shabbos I experienced the ironic situation of two events coinciding thousands of miles apart. My son’s Litvisha Yeshiva in Israel chartered a plane which flew the entire student body and administration to Mezibush in the Ukraine in order to spend Shabbos at the site of the founder of Chassidus, Reb Yisrael ben Eliezer, more commonly known as the Besh”t or the Baal Shem Tov. While in Mezibush, they also visited the gravesite of Reb Levi Yitzchok of Birditchiv. Both the Baal Shem Tov and Reb Levi Yitzchok of Birditchiv were icons of the Chassidic world and movement. The Lithuanian-style Yeshiva received an infusion of fervor, drawing powerful energy from the aura of the Chassidic masters hundreds of years since their passing. That very same Shabbos, thousands of miles away in San Diego, my wife and I hosted a Belzer Chassid from Borough Park for Shabbos who was stranded here while on a business trip. The Chassid dressed in full regalia - bekesha with his shtreimel - celebrated, experienced, and received an infusion of some Litvishe Judaism.

While a student, I primarily studied in Lithuanian-style Yeshivos which adhere to textually- based learning. This style of learning is in contrast to the Chasidic style of service to Hashem that puts a greater emphasis on singing, dancing, and eating. The Chassidic movement was founded a little over three hundred years ago, circa 1700,by the Baal Shem Tov. The Lithuanian leadership at the time took exception to this newly-founded manner of Avodas Hashem (service to God) and vehemently opposed it, and hence becoming known as the ‘Misnaggdim’ - the ones against. I don’t claim to be a historian, but the separation between these two groups remained steadfast for about two hundred years, until the crossover began, creating a growing acceptance to the Chasidic manner. After the Holocaust, whereby both the Yeshiva and the Chassidic worlds were decimated, the feelings of difference dropped and the acknowledgement of each movement took hold. While each rebuilt independently, by the early 1970s the groups merged in certain areas of Jewish life. Orthodox Jewish leadership was shared between the Roshei HaYeshiva and the Grand Rabbis of the various sects of Chassidim. Chassidim began enrolling in some Litvishe Yeshivos, while many Litvish or Yeshivish individuals began to undertake certain customs and practices from the Chassidim.

Two differences stood out during the visit of the Belzer Chassid: one food the other prayer. He did not know where he would end up for Shabbos and brought food in just in case he would end up staying in a hotel room by himself on Shabbos. Through an old SEED bachur, he connected to me, and we hosted him for Shabbos, along with all his ‘heimishe’ food. The loose meaning of ‘heimish’ is ‘from the home’, but its intended meaning is food that would be acceptable to certain standards of Kashrus. The following may seem odd to some readers, but he chose to eat his food and it did not bother us one iota. To the contrary, I wanted him to feel at home; whatever it takes to make a guest feel welcome is certainly worth that effort. The fact that he ate food with Hechsherim that he uses did not bother me. We shared beautiful Shabbos meals together, albeit with different foods. The kuntz/trick is to find the commonalities and not the differences. We became good friends over a Shabbos through demonstration of genuine respect and admiration for each person’s right to his or her standards. Such overt respect builds deep appreciation for mutual understanding and friendship.

The other difference is that many Chassidic dialects pronounce the Hebrew vowel ‘oo’ as ‘ee’, hence the word ‘hu’ is pronounced as ‘he’. Even though ‘hu’ in Hebrew means he and the word ‘he’ in Hebrew means she, it is still an acceptable pronunciation. In fact, Jews throughout the world have different pronunciations, yet all such variances are all acceptable for the constituents of that group. To put this in perspective, Chassidim are not the only group who use that pronunciation. Temani -Yemenite - pronounce every ‘hu’ as ‘he’. This is not something relegated to Chassidim; this case and all other examples are fueled through the local influence and traditions that were maintained and held onto throughout the exile and diaspora. While we are aware that Krias HaTorah should be heard within each group’s custom and dialect, an Ashkenazic non-Chassid will fulfill his obligation even when hearing a different-sounding word. In Sefer Vayikra we are challenged by the many times these words are used, particularly with regard to the sacrifices.

In this week’s parshas Tzav the Torah in Vayikra 6:18 uses the word ‘he’ for a sin offering while in 7:6 the word ‘Hu’ is used in describing a guilt offering. The Gemara Zevachim, 10 Rabbi Eliezer, says in the Mishna that an asham – a guilt sacrifice - slaughtered not for its sake is also invalid. The Gemora cites a braisa, with a dialogue between Rabbi Eliezer and Rabbi Yehoshua about the status of asham. Rabbi Eliezer says that both asham/guilt and chatas/sin are brought for transgressions. Just as a chatas is invalid when slaughtered not for its sake, so, too, an asham is invalid when slaughtered not for its sake. Rabbi Yehoshua replies that a chatas/sin is different, since its blood is applied on the top half of the Altar. Rabbi Eliezer replies that a pesach is also invalid when slaughtered not for its sake, although its blood is not applied on the top half, proving that this distinction is irrelevant. Rabbi Yehoshua replies that the pesach has a set time, while an asham does not. Rabbi Eliezer replies that a chatas does not, and still is invalid, proving that this distinction is also irrelevant, but Rabbi Yehoshua replies that he can repeatedly challenge both the chatas and pesach source with each one’s respective distinction. Rabbi Eliezer offers another argument from these verses. Just as the verse of chatas says chatas hee – it is a chatas, and the verse of the pesach says pesach hu – it is a pesach, and these teach us that they are only valid when offered for its own sake Therefore, the verse of the asham which says asham hu is an asham, teaching us that it is invalid when offered not for its sake. Rabbi Yehoshua replies that while these verses of chatas and pesach are in the context of slaughtering, which are required, the similar verse of asham is in the context of placing the sacrifice on the Altar. If the sacrifice is never placed on the Altar, it is still valid, so that verse cannot be teaching anything that will invalidate it. Rabbi Eliezer finally says that the verse says kachatas ka’asham – like the chatas and like the asham. This association of the two teaches that they are equivalent; both are invalid when slaughtered not for their sake. Therefore, the pronunciation can go either way.

The Jewish people have endured a long Galus/exile and have developed in many different yet complimentary ways. Whether Sephardim, Ashkenazim, Chassidim or other variations, we are a part of each other for better or for worse. As far as Chassidus and Misnaggdim are concerned, I think in today’s world there is a little Misnaggid or Litvak in every Chassid and a little Chassidus in every Litvak. Am Yisroel Chai!!!

Ah Gut Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Parshas Vayikra/Zachor - Where Past, Present & Future Meet                           7 Adar II 5779

03/14/19 09:38:43

Mar14

One of Rabbi Wein’s classic statements with regard to raising children is “God punishes children by making them parents”. My Rosh Yeshiva has keen insight into relationships - family, business, and, in particular, child rearing. His consistent focus has always been to create a ‘mensch’, who by definition would be a Ben Torah but the contrary was not always the case. Rabbi Wein witnessed at least two, sometimes three generations, commenting on the pattern that developed from father to son, and from son to his son, each behaving and responding in a certain way when they were young, and all sharing the same similarities when they grew older.

I believe we all, at least one time in our childhood, made the cavalier statement, “When I have kids ,I’ll never do this or that!”. Or…“I’ll never do what my parents did to me to my kids.” Of course not! But, lo and behold, just one generation later we hear parents who as children resented these statements when their parents said them repeating the exact same things. One of my own children recently remarked, “Did I act like so and so when I was his/her age?” The child is acting out in a certain way, and the parents tend to treat their children the way they were treated when they were that age. There is also the other dimension of how parents make certain decisions based upon information only they understand. The children may know what is happening, but don’t really understand why. Children do not fathom that they have not got the right to know why their parents treat one child differently from their siblings. It’s important that parents explain to their children that they don’t need to know every reason for a parent’s responses to specific behaviors. There is no entitlement for a child (of a certain age, of course) to know everything. Answering a questioning child on why, why, why, may be replied with because, because, or because.

Nevertheless, a good parent will add a statement such as, “One day you will understand,” or “Right now you may not understand but one day you will.” This is a legitimate response to an inquisitive child. With time and patience, the cycle of children becoming parents and raising them as they were raised is then remembered. As the old saying goes, ‘What goes around comes around’ works and applies for good or poor disciplining or non-disciplining, spoiling or not spoiling. That which remains is the ability for children to accept that one day they will understand and appreciate how their parents raised them. This notion is one of the underpinnings of the entire story of Purim found in the Megillas Esther.

Chaza”l, the Rabbi’s of blessed memory, say that the recipient of a miracle does not recognize the miracle as it unfolds. There is no question that the amazing, wonderous miracles that are witnessed and seen by all, such as the splitting of the sea, is renowned by all. But the hidden miracles are not noticed and appreciated as miracles until later in the future. For example; there is no doubt that the killing of Vashti by King Achashveirosh would be the preparation to all that would follow. Similarly, three years later Esther is selected to be the next queen and taken to the king’s palace. No one had a clue as to these unfolding events. A few days later, a plot of two of the king’s chamberlains to assassinate Achashveirosh was discovered by Mordechai and told to Esther in the name of Mordechai. These are seemingly random occurrences which initially seem to have no major significance. Moreover, Haman is elevated to be the second highest official in the country. Who would have thought a Jew-hater’s rise to power would be something that would end well! The Chasam Sofer remarks that only at the end, when the major miracle that everyone witnessed, would all understand that the killing of Vashti was ‘like’ a Krias Yam Suf. This is because the recipient of the miracles doesn’t have the angle in their vision to see and appreciate the miracle of the One who performs it. This concept is echoed in the words of Dovid HaMelech in Tehilim 136:4 “L’Osei Niflaos Gedolos L’Vado, Ki L’Olam Chasdo”: “He who does great wonders, alone, for His kindliness endures forever”. Only Hashem Himself who performs all of the miracles knows; no man can grasp the miracles as they occur. Nevertheless, it’s a Mitzva and incumbent upon every man in the latter stages of his life to discern all the good Hashem has done for him from beginning to end. Everyone should recognize and perceive how the events in his or her life were a perfectly-sewn tapestry, taking care to tell it over to their children and grandchildren. Describing and telling over the miracles of one’s life to their children and grandchildren is a crucially critical component of Chinuch/education. The lesson to be learned by the child and grandchild is that they, too, should see and recognize the independent events as having a purpose and pattern that Hashem has performed for them.

The Chasam Sofer writes there is a remez or hint of this Parshas Ki Sisa describing Moshe meeting God on Har Sinai. The verse states “V’Raeesa Es Achorai, Upanai Lo Yeiraoo”: “And he saw Him from behind, but his face from the front he did not see”. At the time something occurs in the world and people are perplexed and ask: ‘Why did God do this or that?’ Only after some time are they able to see and understand retroactively that all these seemingly small, insignificant events are a preparation for Hashem to perform the big miracle.

A person who reviews the events and recognizes the master plan of Hashem strengthens his Emunah/belief in Hashem and receives great reward. How much more so the person who is able to have the Emunah as the questionable events are taking place. A person receives the greatest reward for having Emunah by the mere fact that he/she can identify the seemingly negative or benign occurrence and interpret it as the hand of the Almighty. We might ask God, why, why, why and need to answer the question ourselves because, because, because. A child does not have the intellectual capacity or brain development to fully appreciate a parent’s decision involving the child’s life. But we as adults should have the cerebral, intellectual ability to connect the dots, understanding that each event in our life is just one more step in the series of life that Hashem, our Father in Heaven is looking to set up the greatest miracle and ending for the Jewish people.

We should be Zocheh and merit to live through miracles of those of the time of Purim. Just as the result and the aftermath of Purim led the Jewish people to rebuild the second Temple, so too in our day and age we should recognize and witness the miraculous events of our time to ultimately see the rebuilding of the Bayis Shlishi, the third Temple speedily in our day.

 

Ah Gut Shabbos and Ah Freilichin Purim!

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Parshas Pekudei - Every Contribution Counts                                 Rosh Chodesh Adar II 5779

03/07/19 11:22:40

Mar7

In my message for Parshas Yisro I introduced the concept of gratitude and noted at the time that I had omitted some key individuals and institutions which shaped me throughout my childhood and adolescence. that message I wrote, “Since I would like to give proper credit to a few more people and organizations, I will take the liberty to write about them independently over the next few months, giving proper homage, albeit very delayed.” One such person omitted was an integral part of my childhood years from about age eight to thirteen.

I was born and raised in Borough Park, a neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York. My family lived within a few blocks of two sets of aunts, uncles and cousins. My mother, A”H, has a brother, Rabbi Ziegler, who was the Rabbi of a small shul where we all davened. All my cousins and I learned how to daven and lead the prayers for Shabbos morning at that shul. My cousin Duvy and I are the same age. We started at the bottom by concluding the davening on Friday night and Shabbos morning with Yigdal and Adon Olam., graduating to Ein Kelokeinu, then to Pesukei D’Zimra, and ultimately - after bar mitzvah- to Shacharis and Mussaf. The opportunity we had was not wasted as we all learned the skill of conducting services from being the Gabbai to giving Divrei Torah, even learning how to run a shul. Some of my cousins became pulpit Rabbis, but even those who didn’t are fully capable of doing so.

I spent every Shabbos afternoon with my cousin (The Rabbi’s son) at his house. We played board games for hours and also reviewed some of what we had learned during the week with his father, my uncle Eric. Shalosh Seudos was spent with my aunt Libby, enjoying her amazing deviled eggs! From there we went to Shul, and after Havdala, as my uncle, the Rabbi ,was conducting “shul business” he instructed and encouraged us to clean and tidy up the Shul. My uncle gave us twenty-five cents per week to put all of the Chumashim and Siddurim back onto their respective shelves. At the time someone may have accused my uncle of violating child labor laws. For me, looking back at that small investment in demonstrating the Kedushas Beis Haknesses, the holiness of respecting and maintaining the shul became a part of my inner self; it was an invaluable lesson learned. When someone takes care of something, he ultimately shows respect for it and its environs. The lessons of tidying up a shul have remained with me for life. Since that time, caring for a shul has been instilled deep inside of me. Therefore, upon entering or exiting a shul am drawn to either putting chairs back to their place, throwing out the papers and tissues and organizing the seforim. Even today, I automatically tidy up, foregoing the twenty-five cents that I rightfully earned and deserved. This practice of caring for the shul and its property strengthened me in areas of Kavod Beis HaKnesses, honor and respect to a shul. To this I owe a debt of gratitude and Hakaras Hatov to my Uncle Eric, Rabbi Ziegler, my Aunt Libby and cousin Duvy. They gave me that framework during those early, formative years. I always wondered where my uncle identified this essential practice, especially for young children. I came upon the answer which is found in a related piece to the Mishkan.

The Torah in this week’s Parsha Pekudei states in Shmos 39:43 “Vayar Moshe Es Kal HaMelacha, V’Hinei Asu Osa Ka’Asher Tziva Hashem Kein Asu, Vayevarech osam Moshe”. “When Moshe saw that all the work had been done exactly as God had ordered, he blessed all the workers”. Rashi explains that Moshe said to them, ‘May it be His will, that the Divine Presence (Shechina) abide in the work of your hands.’: “And let the graciousness of Hashem be upon us and the work of your hands”. This ‘Vihi Noam is part of one of eleven psalms which begin with “A Prayer of Moshe”.

The MaHarsham* in his sefer Techeiles Mordechai explains the double usage of ‘the work had been done,’ based upon the Alshich’s commentary on the verse “V’Asu Li Mikdash in the beginning of Teruma which explains that in addition to the actual building of the Mishkan itself, there is an additional component of building – You. The verse ‘make me a sanctuary so that I can dwell in it’ is, in actuality, in two parts: the first half is the physical building; the last words make a place for Hashem to reside within each of us. So, too, in our Parsha,, in addition to the work that was done to build the physical structure, the spiritual structure was also constructed within each of themselves. Based upon these two components, Moshe blessed the people. ‘Umaaseh Yadeinu Konina Aleinu is the physical building; Umaaseh Yadeinu Konineihu is the completion of the individual. The Midrash Tanchuma in Nasso 29 understands the Shechina of Hashem resting within those whose handiwork was and continues to be a part of the Mishkan. Today’s Mishkan is represented in every community shul. Moshe blessed them for this world when the Jews of the desert built the Mishkan. HaKadosh Baruch Hu will bless us for Olam Haba when the upkeep of the Mishkan/Sanctuary/Shul is maintained.

The book of Shemos ends with the completion of the Mishkan’s building. At the conclusion of each sefer we call out the words ‘Chazak Chazak V’Nischazeik: Be strong, be strong, and be strengthened’. With the accomplishment of building the Mishkan, the Jews became stronger, strengthening their identity and connection to Hashem. When one takes out time and puts forth effort to build something, he cherishes it and creates a deeper, stronger bond between the builder and its occupant. Subsequent to the construction comes the upkeep and maintenance, whether it was for the Mishkan, Beis Hamikdash or for every Beit HaKnesset / Shul in today’s day and age. The ongoing commitment to maintain and beautify the Mishkan strengthened those who did the work and again bonded with the occupant of the Mishkan, namely God.

Our Mishkan - our Shul - is built and stands as the place in which Hashem resides. We can strengthen the physical building by donating to fix, repair and maintain the physical structure. We strengthen our commitment through those acts. Secondly, when we take the time to tidy up our shul, especially after Shabbos we strengthen ourselves and form an ever-deeper love and commitment to Hashem. If we all participate in both segments, each one will ‘Chazak’ – strengthen - ourselves in two ways so that collectively we ,as a Shul, a community and people, will reach the level of ‘V’Nitchazeik’ and we will all come to be strengthened by each other’s involvement and care for God’s home away from home.

Ah Gut Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

 

*Rabbi Sholom Mordechai Schwadron (1835–1911) was known by his acronym Maharsham. He was a foremost halachic authority whose main works "Shailos Uteshuvos Maharsham" and "Daas Torah" are widely studied sources of practical Jewish law. Among his prominent works are Mishpat Shalom on Choshen Mishpat. He was well known as a very lenient rabbi. He also authored Techeiles Mordechai, a three-volume commentary of the Torah.

He was born in 1835 in Złoczów to Moshe Schwadron, a Torah scholar, and studied under Rabbi Yoel Ashkenazy. After his marriage he was bequeathed a wood business and was hesitant to become a rabbi. However, he did so at the age of 31. It is known that after each din Torah (case in a rabbinical court), he would explain to the loser the reason he lost until he understood clearly. If the person was unable to understand, he would tell him, "You must have a good friend or family member that is a Torah scholar. Send him to me and I will explain it to him so you will feel that you were done justice." He lived in Berezhany where he acquired the nickname Gaon of Berezhany. He died there in 1911. His grandson, Rabbi Sholom Schwadron, was known as the "Maggid of Jerusalem".

 

Parshas Vayakhel - Coming Together             23 Adar I 5779

02/27/19 21:01:12

Feb27

This Dvar Torah is L’ilui Nishmas Mr. Emanuel (Manny) Mittelman Pinchas Elimelech Ben Yaakov Shmuel Z”L

During the last 20+ years that I’ve been in San Diego I have witnessed hundreds of visitors who have come through the doors of our shul, Beth Jacob. Some visit for just a short brief time while others choose to stay longer. There is the person who drops in to catch a Mincha and those who flee the cold weather, enjoying our community for a few months. The duration of a person’s stay doesn’t necessarily leave an impact; some who stay a while and hang around may not add or contribute more than someone whom I may not even get to know by name. Sometimes, within the range of time that guests stay, I try to get to know our visitors a bit - some more some less. For many years we had a group of guests dubbed the “Snowbirds”, a group of older retired or semi-retired couples who joined us for a few weeks to two months.

A week ago Shabbos, on the 11th of Adar, Mr. Manny Mittelman left this world after ninety four years, leaving over one hundred direct descendants after he and his beloved wife, Bessie, of seventy years, YB”L, survived the holocaust. I watched his funeral from Eretz Yisrael and was moved deeply by the ninety minutes of hespedim/eulogies that were so aptly delivered by current and past communal leaders from the Detroit community in which he lived. I highly recommend that everyone take the time to listen to the entire service, or at least to some parts of it. I’m not going to repeat the eulogies here, but I will add an insight into who he was based upon the funeral itself.

A community is called a ‘kehilla,’ which stems from the first word of this week’s ParshaVayakhel Moshe”, and “Moshe gathered”. As I was viewing the funeral, not only did I pay attention to the eulogies, but to the people who delivered them. Mr. Mittelman was involved in all aspects of the Detroit Jewish community. He belonged to and associated with Jews from every spectrum across the Orthodox world. He was a part of Shuls, schools, kollelim, from the left to the right, from the modern to Chasidish and everything in between. The Maspidin/Eulogizers were from every camp within the Jewish world. The same could be said within his own family of children, grandchildren, great grandchildren and great great grandchildren, as they all grew up in his house and are all religious, observant Jews representing all kinds of stripes and colors. His own children, from Chasidic to modern, made up an incredible microcosm of the Jewish people. He accomplished all of this with the help, support, love and encouragement of his partner, Mrs. Bessie Mittelman, who should live and be well, who contributed actively and meaningfully to the shared life they built together.

Throughout the eulogies the video camera remained stationary, focusing on the podium from where the Rabbis and family members spoke. I am sure that had the camera been rotated, scanning the overflowing crowd of people in attendance, we would have seen a similar image of members of the entire Jewish community from one spectrum to the other. Mr. Mittelman had the uncanny ability to not only relate to everyone but to bring all factions together for one primary purpose: the honor of the Ribono Shel Olam, the Creator of the World. This ability was not limited to religious differences, it included people of all ages, from those who were older than he to young children. I have an eternally memorable picture of my own grandson reading to him from a siddur. He taught wisdom through the pearls of Torah that would spew from his lips; he demonstrated how to live as a Jew by being a role model for everyone, always displaying his Yiras Shamayim and Ahavas Yisroel.

Manny Mittelman’s ability to bring Jews together is consistent with the purpose and goals that Moshe aspired to in the desert with the Jewish people, particularly regarding the service and role of the Mishkan. In this week’s Parshas Vayakhel the Torah states in Shmos 35:1 “Vayakhel Moshe Es Kal Adas Bnei Yisrael, Vayomer Aleihem……And Moshe gathered the entire assembly of the Children of Israel and said to them….” The Sokotchove Rebbe says that the introduction to the Mishkan is the understanding of Vayakhel and gathering. The Jewish people stood at Har Sinai gathered together as ‘Ish Echod’ - like one man. Up until the Mishkan, independent, private altars known as ‘Bamos” were permitted; anyone could bring a sacrifice anytime at any place they wanted. Once the Mishkan was erected, however, the individual private ‘Bamos’ were outlawed, becoming forbidden. Everyone was required to bring their sacrifices to the Sanctuary. The existence of the Mishkan brought everyone together. The Mishkan rallied the entities to one place. But this was regarding the building of the Mishkan prior to sin of the Golden Calf. The Shem Mishmuel explains that after the sin of the Golden Calf, the only way to build the Mishkan was through the power of togetherness, by bringing Klal Yisrael together as one. Before the sin it was possible to build even with the strength of one part, even with the effort of one single individual. The Midrash states in Teruma, “Hashem said to Moshe that even one Jew is able to build the Mishkan.” The verse states: “any man who gives from his heart” can build the Tabernacle. Therefore, in Parshas Teruma which is prior to the Eigel HaZahav, the Golden Calf, there is no mention of ‘Vayakhel”.

The word VaYakhel -when Moshe gathered the nation - is identical to Mitzva 612 called Hakheil of the Torah whereby once every seven years, on Chol HaMoed Sukoos, the King of Israel would gather Klal Yisrael, all of the men, women and children, and read selections from the Torah. The Mitzva of Hakheil was all-inclusive. There were no distinctions between one Jew and another. The Mitzva reestablished a certain togetherness of Am Yisrael and acceptance towards one another. This was the unique ability, the rare quality that Mr. Mittelman possessed. Perhaps it was his witnessing of the horrors that took place against our people that created his open love of every Jew, independently and collectively. Many people speak about Ahavas Yisrael, but Mr.Mittleman demonstrated it throughout his life. That was the tribute he so deserved and received by the people who spoke about him and the people who were there to listen. His life was underscored by this attempt to build a Mishkan that we could all live within and be a part of. Yehi Zichro Baruch!

Ah Gut Shabbos

Parshas Ki Sisa - In the Merit of....                            17 Adar I 5779

02/21/19 14:01:52

Feb21

This Dvar Torah is L’Ilui Nishmas Imi Morasi Yocheved Bas Tzvi on her 2nd Yahrzeit 17 Adar

Last Motzai Shabbos I had one of the most delightful experiences in Israel. Fifteen post high school students learning in Yeshiva from our Beth Jacob family got together for a Melava Malka in Yerushalayim. At first, I was skeptical of the idea and then became concerned about the logistics, especially when we found out restaurants don’t take seating reservations on Shabbos night because they are jam packed. With Siyata Dishmaya (and the Rebbetzin’s management), what surely looked like what might become a natural disaster turned out to be a most successful get-together. Everyone enjoyed the company, reuniting with friends from the Alta Heim while relishing a good meal.

Today’s generation takes for granted the opportunity of learning in Israel following high school graduation. The concept of post high school students taking a year or two or more of learning in Eretz Yisrael has grown to become the norm over the last fifty years. What began as a single year abroad has blossomed into multi-year learning and, in many incidences has attracted some to join the IDF. Others choose to remain, making Aliyah. It is a tremendous zchus/merit for one to learn in Israel. Not everyone has the benefit or the merit to do so. Not to take anything away from those who are able to, but it has become much easier over time. My Rebbi, Rabbi Berel Wein YB”L, often described the love the previous generations had for Eretz Yisrael. He remarked, “Our grandparents would have trekked through Europe barefoot in the snow if they could reach the shores of Eretz Yisrael to learn Torah and live in Eretz Yisrael.” So, the open question: Why are we so fortunate to be given this benefit?

Our generation in general has witnessed an incredible increase in the learning and spreading of Torah. Only last Sunday our own Rabbi Danzger participated in an incredible event known as the Shasathon whereby hundreds of study partners learn approximately ten daf (20 pages) of gemara in one day, collectively beginning and completing the entire Talmud consisting of 2711 folios. Many of the participants raised money for an organization helping couples with infertility and other Shalom Bayis issues. Rabbi Danzger and his brother raised the sixth highest amount from the three million dollars donated. The individuals who participated had the merit to be a part of this monumental task. Many people think, “Oh, anyone can just do this.” I’m not convinced that anyone who wants to be a part of something so large or learn in Israel for an extended period is guaranteed the ability to participate in such an undertaking; it takes something much more than desire, but what is it?

Every day, three times a day in the Amida, we mention our forefathers and, in their merits, afford us protection, guidance, and the will to succeed. This is recognized as Zchus Avos - merits of the fathers. In the same vain Avraham, Yitzchok, and Yaakov did things for the children of Am Yisrael, our more direct forefathers did as well. Someone up the chain perhaps two, three, four or more generations ago from whom we descend did some great things and we are the beneficiaries of their acts. Someone, somewhere, someplace did something that earned some merit which has been awarded to a descendent of theirs. Who knows what act it was, but the result or benefit from it actualized in someone in their family chain the desire and ability to learn Torah. Learning Torah is not only meaningful for thevstudent, it gives great merit for amazing, incredible things to happen to a later generation as well. And so the cycle of merits rolls on so long as the opportunities are seized and something good and positive is done with that opportunity. This may all sound nice, but is there precedent to such a concept in the Torah? While we know there is precedent, where is such evidence to be found?

In this week’s Parshas Ki Sisa the second half of Matan Torah takes place and is not the ending that anyone would have thought of who was privileged to witness the giving of the Torah. As we know, a miscalculation occurred, and Moshe was thought to be late; in fact this purported belief even convinced some that he was dead, allowing the evil doers to strike and seize the moment of weakness of the Jews who felt completely lost. The creation of the Golden Calf ensued and before anyone could realize how far off they had strayed, they were worshipping the Golden Calf. Moshe is told about this by God and descends the mountain, throwing down the Luchos and confronting the people. The Torah states in Shmos 32:26: “VaYaamod Moshe B’Shaar HaMachaneh, VaYomer, Mi LaHashem Elaiy, VaYeiasfu Eilav Kal Bnei Levi”. “And thereupon Moshe stood at the gate of the camp and said: ‘Who is for God, let him come to me! And all the sons of Levi gathered together unto him.’ The Chasam Sofer teaches us that the word Kal or All of the sons of Levi gathered included Korach and his family, despite having disputes with Moshe. When it came to defend the name and honor of Hashem, they were with their brethren to help out.

The sefer Talilei Oros writes a story about the Chofetz Chaim regarding the need to appreciate the gathering of Levi. A student once entered before the saintly Chofetz Chaim and was asked, “Are you a Kohein?” The student replied in the negative, no, I am not a kohein. The Chofetz Chaim asked why aren’t you a Kohein? The student answered because my father is not a kohein nor was his father a kohein. The Chofetz Chaim pressed on and asked why his father or grandfather were not kohanim? The student was flabbergasted and didn’t understand the line of questioning by his Rebbi. The Chofetz Chain then peered into his eyes and said, “Do you know why I am a kohein and you are not a kohein?” Without delay he continued by explaining that following the catastrophe of the golden calf Moshe called out and said, ‘Mi LaHashem Elaiy?’ Who is for God let him come to me.’ At that point all the Levites gathered around Moshe and as a result merited the Kehuna, the priesthood. This included not only that generation, but also their children and their children’s children until eternity.

The Chofetz Chaim concluded by saying that it is from here that we learn the following. In the same manner, through acts of Mesiras Nefesh - self-sacrifice which goes against the majority, they merited the Kehuna. So too, if we answer the call to ‘Who is to Hashem?’ we will also merit that our children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren receive special and unique ‘zechusim’ - merits that will help shape and drive their lives in ways they never thought possible.

We are the beneficiaries from previous generations, together taking a stand for the honor of Hashem. We need to do the same for all the generations who will follow us for years and years to come. Through our actions and deeds we will afford great opportunities to our descendants, continuing the unbroken chain of Am Yisrael!

Parshas T'Tzaveh - It Ain't Over Till It's Over, Sir           9 Adar I 5779

02/12/19 11:42:52

Feb12

Yogi Berra was an unlikely athlete: 5-foot-7, 185 pounds. He got his nickname as a teenager because he resembled a yogi, or so the story goes. He was a notoriously bad ball hitter, reaching for pitches outside the strike zone, and yet he won the American League MVP award three times, and played on 10 world championship teams, winning 14 pennant winners (both major league records) in the course of his 19-year career.

Berra's most famous turn of phrase was probably "It ain't over till it's over." -- a deceptively simple statement of depth. What he meant was that we need to stay aware, stay focused, and, most important, never give up. Stand firm for your values, stand up for yourself. There are times in life when things don’t go smoothly, particularly in the beginning. Perseverance is a critical value, a trait a person must have and refine to get through some of the difficulties and push backs in life. Opportunity knocks on the door for someone willing to work hard to open it up. If a person tries to open a door only one time, giving up after one unsuccessful attempt, that person will never be successful.

I must admit to my utter dismay I am surprised and saddened by a certain attitude that I sense within the community. We have dozens of events in our community, not limited to davening, learning, lecturers, meals and more. I hope I am wrong, but my sense is that if something is not right at the beginning, a give up attitude prevails. When a lecturer begins a talk, the first few moments may not be immediately effective, but by the end of the talk the impact of what was said may be profound. Even in a series of talks, I have witnessed people who do not come back and listen to the other lectures, based upon their initial assessment of the first lecture.

Unfortunately for the student or the mature listener, people tend to shut down when the speaker is not a top-class entertainer. Lecturers tend not to be entertainers; they are presenters of ideas, concepts, things to mull over and learn through. Most of the time the later lectures or presentations far exceed the expectations of those in attendance, yet people lose out because they gave up too early. It is disappointing to me how a person has such lack of patience. If a talk for some reason just doesn’t match with prior expectations, all too often the baby is thrown out with the bathwater. When a person eats out in a restaurant and is displeased or not excited about the appetizer, he usually does not just get up and leave the restaurant Just because a person didn’t enjoy the first lecture, speech, or initial impression of the guest presenter is not justification for avoiding attending remaining lectures of Torah yet to be taught. ( I might add very strongly while I’m on the subject, that it is a shame and an embarrassment to our kehillah when speakers are brought in particularly on Shabbos and people choose to do other things - including learning during the lecture. To put it frankly, person who learns while a guest speaker is talking is making a statement that their Torah is more important or greater. It is honestly inappropriate. Secondly, if the average person sees the above-average person not going to the lecture or shiur, a message is sent that it’s not worth the time, causing others to perhaps not to attend. There is a certain derch eretz that needs to be addressed; people need to think about how their actions affect the klal.

The path to a person’s growth may not take place with the instant gratification of one lecture; such growth needs time to perk, to take root It is actually Chazal who say not to give up even when the sword is on your neck; it’s never too late. Furthermore, we see in this week’s Torah reading how necessary it is to go through difficult times in the beginning to actualize the sweetness of life later on.

In this week’s Parsha T’Tzaveh the Torah states in Shmos 27:20 “V’Ata T’Tzaveh Es Bnai Yisrael, V’Yikchu Eilecha Shemen Zayis Zach, Kasis LaMaor, L’Haalos Ner Tamid”. “You, [Moshe], must command the Israelites to bring you clear, illuminating oil, made from hand-crushed olives, to keep the lamp constantly burning”. The great Chasidic master R’ Chanoch Of Aleksander* explains the idea of the oil in a different manner than the more common teaching. Shemen/Oil and olive oil in particular is a hint for wisdom and knowledge. There is a specific type of preparation needed when a person wants to acquire knowledge. At first, a person needs to walk in ways of a bitter soul. A bitter inside and an olive represents or hints to the idea of bitterness. This bitterness will crush (Kasis) a person’s soul and lead the soul to loftier and higher levels. After that Hashem will help him open, enlighten his eyes in the service and worship of Hashem, referencing L’Maor L’Haalos Ner Tamid.

This has a similar idea regarding the wood of the tree that Moshe threw into the water at Marah (the place named bitter). According to the Mechilta in B’Shalach 25 “the water was bitter and became sweet with bitterness”. In the natural order this makes no sense and is difficult to comprehend. Obviously, it was a miraculous feat as is confirmed the verse in Shmos 15:25 that the ‘waters became sweetened’. The Jewish people felt they had done something wrong by complaining about not having water to drink. As the Torah describes in Shmos 15:24: “The people complained to Moses, “What shall we drink?” They went around feeling and acting bitterly down to their inner being. The Jews then proclaimed, “What have we done that we have sinned?” This bitter feeling played on their emotions, working on them, turning the water on their lips from bitterness to sweetness.

The Midrash Chadash explains why olive oil is different than all other oil. At the outset the olive is bitter but in the end it is sweet. So too the Jewish people and the nation of Israel will endure bitterness through the exiles in order to be sweetened by the time of Moshiach. A second analogy is just as the olive is first bitter then turns sweet, so too the Jewish people will live bitter lives in this world so that they may earn reward for the world to come. Lastly, the olive is bitter but in the end turns sweet, so to the Jewish people will not return and repent from their evil doings until they are pressed and crushed like the olive so that they will enjoy the sweetness of the redemption during messianic times.

The Shiur, class, meal, book, or event is not over until it’s over, don’t give up on it and don’t leave early for you may lose out on the most basic and important things necessary to grow as a Jew.

Ah Gut Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

 

*Rabbi Chanoch Henich HaKohen of Alexander was born in Poland, 1798-1870 (Adar II). Rabbi Chanoch was a disciple of Rabbi Simcha Bunam of Pshis'cha, Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Kotzk and Rabbi Yitzchak Meir Alter, the Chidushei Harim. Rabbi Chanoch was known for his great wisdom in niglah and nistar, the revealed and mystical aspects of the Torah. A man of miracles and wonders, he was known also for praying loudly with great excitement.

Sun, September 22 2019 22 Elul 5779