Sign In Forgot Password

Parshas Vayeilech / Yom Kippur                        9 Tishrei 5782

09/14/2021 08:41:56 PM


Almost two years ago God brought something upon the world to cause the world’s human population to grow  closer together. A pandemic ravaged all four corners of the earth. At the time, the scariest part was the constant unknown of how, why, from where and when the virus manifested itself.  The virus drew no lines between global socio-economic societies. Rich and poor, healthy and compromised, men and women, Jew, and gentile, all were affected by serious illness and far too many by death. It seems to be that every year there are tragic events that give us pause when we recite the holy prayer of Unesaneh Tokef. Overcome by the power and the awesome majesty of the words, together we sing who by….and who by…..With no rhyme or reason that we mere mortals acknowledge that some are taken and some are spared. These past eighteen months have unquestionably been a most difficult time for everyone, and the Jewish people are no exception.  Nevertheless, the Jewish people approached the complex issues they faced: camp, school, yeshiva, shul, weddings, and so forth, in a variety of ways, all determined by the status of the daily spread of Covid. There was one area, however, where observant Jews throughout the world saw some common ground: how to figure out ways to maintain the daily minyanim.  During the months of the pandemic,  connecting on Zoom worked for many, but later setting up small, makeshift minyanim became the common rule wherever possible.

The terminology in halachik terms for such measures to be taken is called a “Sh’as Hadchak”-  a pressing time. In difficult and challenging situations, such as a pandemic, Jewish law may not be fulfilled to the most stringent level. Instead an ipso facto approach is taken for the time being. One may ask, ”What is so bad about conducting smaller minyanim and gatherings in backyards, parking lots, and the like?” The answer is, if this is the limit of what we are permitted to do then we do it; it becomes the “best” scenario or the “L’Chatchila” for that time. The words “for that time” are critical. Once the limitations or the issues are no longer present and the risks and dangers are not what they once were, then we should not rely on leniencies; rather we go back to the ways things were or at least move toward that ultimate goal.

Shlomo HaMelech, King Solomon, writes in Mishlei 14:28 "ברב עם הדרת מלך, ובאפס לאם מחתת רזון"   משלי פרק יד פסוק כח: “In a multitude of people is a king’s majesty, but the ruin of His Princedom is in lack of people”. The commentator Malbim explains the first “people” (Ahm) refers to a nation united in loyalty to the king. The second “people” (L’Om) denotes a population united by a spiritual belief. Even where there is an impressive display of numbers, the minister in charge of legislating and regulating religion, will find himself helpless if there is a lack of people of religious faith and understanding. The Gemara in Yoma 26a and Brachos 53a states in many places that the performance of a precept with a multitude of people is preferable to performing it in solitude; also, the participation of many in the performance of a precept is preferable to one person performing the entire precept, such as the sacrificial service. It is also preferable for many people to discharge their obligation of reciting a blessing by listening to one recitation rather than by reciting the blessing by themselves. It is even meritorious to gather to witness the performance of a Mitzva, as in the case of the korbanos/sacrifices of Yom Kippur. 

Fast forward to our current situation. Although there are certain locations which still require smaller minyanim and gatherings, in many places the situation in general, regardless of growth or decline of Covid numbers, of  has become an excuse not to return to the Shul davening. People have gotten used to a no-frills davening with no Rabbi, no drasha/sermon, and no boundaries. In larger cities there are enough people to go around and create small, localized prayer groups where no one tells them how or what to do. I have heard directly from several my friends, Rabbonim and even strangers who shared this experience with me. One individual told me they now go upstate New York a.k.a. to the country for all the holidays and long weekends, stating, ”We are never going back to the pre-Covid days.”  A friend of mine in Teaneck told me that the Shul he used to attend is now only one third full; pre-Covid it boasted multiple minyanim and overflow standing room only events.

When the virus struck it brought Klal Yisroel closer together in terms of praying together from a distance, helping each other in times of need, going out of our way and sometimes into harm’s way for the unfortunate. In my humble opinion the sense of connectedness the Jewish people felt has not been greater since the six-day war in 1967. Despite the fact Hashem has shown mercy on the world with a vaccine battle against the virus, things have changed drastically - some for the better and some for the worse. The division among the general population regarding creating safe situations and at the same time giving an expression of freedom has been tested to the limits of our society. I will stay clear of policy, religion, politics, etc., and focus on one aspect that is germane to the Jewish people: the lack of cohesion in and out of Shul. The second to last Mitzva of the Torah #612 commands the Jewish people of the Mitzva of Hakhel: to gather.  

The Torah states in Parshas Vayeilech Devarim 31:12 "הקהל את העם האנשים והנשים והטף, וגרך אשר בשעריך, למען ישמעו ולמען ילמדו ויראו את ה' אלוקיכם ושמרו לעשות את כל דברי התורה הזאת" “You must gather the people, the men, the women, children and proselytes from your settlements, and let them hear it. They will thus learn to be in awe of God your Lord, carefully keeping all the words of this Torah”. The Mitzva of Hakhel is a once in seven-year event that takes place during Chol HaMoed Sukkos, the year following the Sabbatical (Shmittah) year. In today’s day without a Beis HaMikdash, we can fulfill the spirit of the Mitzva by gathering in the Mikdash Me’at, the small Sanctuary which is the substitute of the Holy Temple itself. 

The silver lining for an out-of-town community is the lack of choices. At times that frustrates a community, but on the other hand it lends itself to a more cohesive group, all doing the same thing together. I am sure that if the members of our Shul lived in larger cities with many more Shuls, they too would be “enjoying” the ‘alternative Minyan’. I am very proud of Beth Jacob; that we do come together under one banner and it is this allowance for people to gather together which fulfills the Mitzva of Hakhel. Through our dedication and efforts to come together and serve God, Hashem should bless us all with health and happiness and a year of growth in Torah and Yiras Shamayim.

Parshas Nitzavim - Excuses Excuses, Excuses   26 Elul 5781Rosh Hashana - Prayer of Desperation or Enthusiasm     1 Tishrei 5782                            

09/02/2021 09:23:40 PM


Parshas Nitzavim – Excuses, Excuses, Excuses

In this week’s parshas Nitzavim the Torah states in Devarim 29:17-18: "פן יש בכם......אשר לבבו פנה היום מעם ה' אלוקינו....פן יש בכם שרש פרה ראש ולענה: והיה בשמעו את דברי האלה הזאת והתברך בלבבו לאמר שלום יהיה לי....."   “Today, there must not be among you any man, woman, family or tribe whose heart strays from God and who goes to and worships the gods of those nations. There must be among you the root whose fruit is gall and wormwood. When [such a person] hears the words of this dread curse, he may rationalize and say, “I will have peace, even if I do as I see fit. Let me add some moisture to this dry [practice]!”

*Rav Tzvi Pesach Frank zt”l makes sense of the words והתברך בלבבו - why would one’s heart be blessed? He explains with a story of someone who desecrated the Holy Day of Shabbos and was rebuked by his contemporaries. He replied to them, “I will fix this and remedy what I did.” After Shabbos he donated a large sum of money to the poor and needy of Eretz Yisrael,  glorifying himself by saying, ”This will definitely be more accepted and will fix my error.” He then compounded this ‘fix’ by stating,   “If I had not desecrated the Shabbos, I never would have given the money to charity for the poor of Israel (who at the time were desperate for support). It is to this attitude Rav Frank explains the words the person is only flattering his own heart through his gift. In the very next passuk the Torah (Hashem) declares, ”You will not be forgiven by doing so.” A sin is not cancelled out by a Mitzva. This is the ultimate rationalization given after doing something wrong; by not being up front and honest the self-flatterer compliments himself for his donation. The proper response, as the Rambam clearly states, is to go through the three stages of Teshuva: 1) recognition of the sin, 2) regret for doing it, and 3) acceptance to never do it again. After doing so, if a person wants to throw a huge gift/donation to Tzedaka it cannot hurt. These three ingredients are what we will call out on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur ותשובה ותפילה וצדקה, מעבירין את רוע הגזירה

Ah Gutten Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

* Rav Tzvi Pesach Frank (20 January 1873 – 10 December 1960) הרב צבי פסח פרנק was a renowned halachik scholar and served as Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem for several decades (1936-1960). Rav Frank was born in Kovno, the son of Rabbi Yehuda Leib Frank and Malka Silman, who were active in the Chovevei Tzion organization in Kovno. He studied in Lithuanian Yeshivos, learning under Rabbi Eliezer Gordon, amongothers.                                                                                                                                                                   In 1892, he emigrated to Eretz Yisrael with his brother Tanchum, his sister Tzippora and his first cousin, Rabbi Shmuel Hillel Shenker. His parents arrived in 1893. Tzvi Pesach continued his studies in yeshivas in Jerusalem. His father was one of the founders of Chadera. In 1907, Rav Frank was appointed dayan in the Beis Din of the Eidah HaChareidus headed by Rabbi Shmuel Salant, the Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem. Rav Frank served on this Beis Din for nearly 60 years, eventually becoming Av Beis Din (head of the rabbinical court) and Rav of Yerushalayim.              

Rav Frank was active in establishing the office of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel and was instrumental in appointing Rav Avraham Isaac Kook as the first Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi. Rabbi Jacob Meir, the first Sephardic Chief Rabbi, had been in Palestine prior to the formal development of the office.



Rosh Hashana – Prayer of Desperation or Enthusiasm?

Next week Jews all over the world will gather, according to their practices, for the Yamim Noraim -the Days of Awe. These days are comprised primarily of the two days of Rosh Hashana and the one day of Yom Kippur. Whether it will be in person or via zoom, live, or recorded, indoors or outdoors there will be a sense of coming together for one purpose: to daven to God. How and when is not the issue, rather those who choose to participate in something of deep meaning and importance is because they  understand and feel the importance and significance of these days.

An almost universal component in every sanctuary includes the display of a verse bringing our attention to the place in which we stand and or reflecting on prayer itself. Classically, the verse instills fear and awe to the petitioner, creating  a serious mood encompassing a sense of awe. A few years back I davened in a shul that had a verse that I had never previously seen on top of the Aron HaKodesh -the verse from Tehilim 102:1 quoting these words of Dovid HaMelech: "תפילה לעני כי יעטף, ולפני ה' ישפך שיחו"  “A prayer of the afflicted man when he faints and pours forth his supplications before Hashem”. Rav Shimshon Pincus explains there is a certain uniqueness to the prayer of the afflicted one. The Zohar HaKadosh in Balak 195 says there are “three” who speak about prayer: Moshe Rabbeinu, Dovid HaMelech and the Ani -the poor or afflicted. “Tefillah L’Moshe Ish HaElokim” was not said by any other man. “Tefillah L’Dovid” was not said by any kind of king. But “Tefillah L’Ani” the prayer of the afflicted comes from the heart of those in deep distress. Of the three which is the greatest prayer of them all? The answer is the prayer of the poor, the afflicted man, is greater and will be heard before the prayers of Moshe and of Dovid and before any other prayers in the world. The reason the poor, downtrodden petitioner is answered before everyone else is because of a broken heart. Dovid HaMelech said קרוב ה' לנשברי לב Hashem is closest to the broken hearted, and God listens intently to his words since the Ani’s prayers open the windows of heaven.

It is truly a wonder how Moshe Rabbeinu, who was a man of God, whose prayer had the effect of the ineffable name of God that could cut through like a sword, still does not come close to the prayer of the poor, the downtrodden. In Jewish law a person can relinquish all his assets and make himself destitute. On Rosh Hashana we have another method of becoming ‘poor’- by davening with a broken heart. This person’s Tefillah will be heard sooner and faster;  it opens the heavenly gates for more Siyata Dishmaya/ Heavenly assistance. There is no question that as we approach Rosh Hashana, we might see ourselves as destitute and fragile after such a year like we have just been through. Nevertheless, I would suggest a different angle for our Tefillos this year and going forward. I will explain with a short parable.

When it comes to giving charity and supporting of institutions, people want to give to something that is growing, to build upon itself, to  not throw money into a black hole of desperation. Statistically speaking, people give more Tzedakah to someone who is collecting but is well-dressed, seen stepping out of a nice car and give less money to someone who is desperate. In truth, we should give more to those who look like they need more rather than those who present well.. So too, coming before the Ribono Shel Olam in a fit of despair will be answered without question, but perhaps we should come before God with a sense of honor and dignity. Should we only approach Hashem during times of distress or anguish? Should we pour out our hearts when we are afflicted and blacking out from grief or hunger? God should not only be accessed when WE need Him, but even when things are going well. We need to reach out to Hashem so that He can at least maintain the status quo of life for us, and not have less. On Rosh Hashana we should view ourselves with the opportunity to be in a better position to ask Hashem for the things we ask for throughout the entire year. Why wait to be in a situation that requires pleading out of dire need with nowhere else to turn? Wouldn’t Hashem prefer a relationship even when we are not desperate? Surely, Hashem would appreciate our sincerity that comes by davening with kavanah while never taking any of the gifts with which He has blessed us for granted.

Wishing You All a Kesiva VaChasima Tova & Ah Gutten Yom Tov

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Parshas Ki Savo - Who's Calling                         19 Elul 5781

08/27/2021 09:07:45 AM


GE6-4101. With this opening I am really dating myself. I never thought I would reach an age or feeling of being that l would realize I am thinking and writing about things that my children and for sure my grandchildren don’t know about. For those who do not know, GE6-4101 was my phone number during my growing-up years in Brooklyn, New York. We did not need to dial the area code in New York city because it was a 212 area code for the entire city. Years later,   the five boroughs’ area codes were divided, some remaining 212 and three others receiving the new 718. We had a relatively quick dial number because there was only one zero and no other above the number four. This description only makes sense when you consider we had a rotary phone.

The only cool feature we had on our phone was a lever on the bottom that could raise or lower the sound of the ringer. Perhaps we were considered well off because in addition to the wall phone in the kitchen that had a cord so long it was able to reach almost every room in the house, we had a desk phone in our parent’s bedroom. Fast forward from clunky cordless phones when the caller knew where you were to cellular phones where you could be located almost anywhere in the world. Even when cellular phones were introduced a person could still be identified as to where he was living based upon the area code. Only later could a person retain his or her number when moving or changing carriers. Now, when calling someone, we have no way of knowing where they live since the area code of the cell phone could be from a previously-lived location. This came to light this past week when a visitor in Shul met a member of the congregation who was his old neighbor. In exchanging phone numbers, the member, now residing in San Diego, gave his former neighbor his phone number which began with the area code from their hometown,  causing the visitor to chuckle while commenting, “oh yeh, of course it is ….”.

As I mentioned earlier, our original phone had a volume lever for the ring tone, but there was only one ringtone. Today’s cell phones come with a variety of ringtones and with applications to download ringtones to identify specific people using a variety of sounds and music of your choice. It’s common today to  make use of  different ringtones on their cellphones which sound out  various songs. This is particularly popular in religious circles where some have the song “Omar Rabi Akiva” as their ringtone; some have the song “Prok Yas Onoch”. There are so many different songs for different folks that one who hears a cellphone ring is frequently curious about what song is playing and how often the user gets to play name that tune. Is it “Perok Yas Onoch,” or “Yismechu HaShamayim” or “Hoshia Es Amecha”? However, the owner of the musically-gifted phone look to see who is calling or does he/she listen to the song? Rav Meilich Biderman teaches us a great lesson: using the cellphone as a parable to Shofar. Rav Biderman says the same scenario of the phone’s ringtone applies to the shofar blowing. Some people hear the Shofar blowing and pay attention to how adeptly the person blows the Shofar. However, we should really be paying attention to the fact that Hashem is talking to us through the Shofar, reminding us that we need to prepare ourselves to face Hashem! In addition, this act of keen listening certainly must be done in a joyous manner.

Rav Shlomo Wolbe zt”l said that if you were to ask anybody what is the happiest day in life, what would everybody answer? Certainly, the day of Moshiach’s arrival. However, the passuk says something else. We say this verse every Friday night in Kabbolas Shabbos Psalm 96, “The heaven will rejoice, the earth will exult; the sea and its fullness will roar. The fields and everything therein will jubilate; then all the trees of the forest will sing”. There will be joy in the heavens, through the trees, and in the sea, and everyone will rejoice. When? ”Before Hashem, for He has come, for He has come to judge the earth”.

 Before Rosh Hashana, being that Hashem is about to come to us, each of us needs to feel a great joy for every Jew who is about to connect to Hashem! “What is the joy?” you may ask.  When a king comes to visit you in your home, there is great joy. What do you do in preparation for the king’s arrival? You clean up your home and you scrub all the corners of the house. If you prepare properly then “Hashem will judge the world with justice”. The corners must be scrubbed and cleaned, and it must be done with joy.  We must pay attention to what the Shofar is telling us. The preparation in Elul - especially the last third of the month - should be done with joy. The critical moment to know when this moment arrives is highlighted in the manual.

In this week’s Parshas Ki Savo the Torah in Devarim 27:9 states: "וידבר משה והכהנים הלוים אל כל ישראל לאמר הסכת ושמע ישראל היום הזה נהיית לעם לה' אלוקיך" “Moshe and the Levitical priests spoke to all Israel, saying: Pay attention and listen, Israel. Today you have become a nation to God your Lord”. On this day Moshe Rabbeinu began to prepare for death. He gave the Torah scroll which he had written to the Tribe of Levi. The word ‘Haskes’, or take heed, is related to the word “kat,” meaning group or class. Moshe Rabbeinu told Bnei Yisroel to form study groups. The Torah can only be acquired through group study.  The Gemara continues to explain “a sword hangs over the head of those who study Torah alone and they become foolish”. Alternatively, Haskes is related to the word kosas, meaning “push yourself to the limit. Finally, Haskes can also be divided into hass and kasas, meaning “remain silent” and “crush. This describes the order of the Torah study. First, a person must remain silent and acquire knowledge”. Afterwards, he must crush, dissect, and then analyze the teachings he received.

Whether it be the phone or the Shofar, a person must interpret and analyze the lesson of what it is and whom it comes from. Just as we look at the phone screen to see who is calling, so too we should investigate the Shofar and listen to the messages that are transmitted, actively, with total focus receiving the ultimate word of Hashem through the ringtone of the Shofar.                                                                                                                                                                                                                     

Ah Gutten Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Parshas Ki Seytzey - Do Not Be Scared; Be Prepared                    12 Elul 5781

08/20/2021 11:44:24 AM


When addressing an audience, whether it is in person or on paper, it is best to tell stories and anecdotes that are relevant and important to the entire crowd. There are times when a speaker or writer presents commentary which is limited  to either men or women, resulting in those not in attendance or not reading a specific sefer not being totally informed.  In time and through resulting discussions, however, the ideas presented will ultimately be conveyed to all.  I write this by way of introduction to the context of what is seen only by men within an Orthodox setting. My intention here is to inform the women of something that happens on the bimah during the reading of the Torah.

When someone is called to the Torah, he is shown the specific place where the Torah reading will begin. This specific act is done so that when reciting the Birchas HaTorah, (the blessings on the Torah), the person will know precisely which section his blessings are being conferred upon. Technically speaking, a person saying the Brachos could have in mind his blessings on the entire Torah rather than on a specific section.   Usually, a person wants to say the blessing on the section that either he is reading himself or that the Baal Korei reads on his behalf. Most times there is no issue for the reader to show the correct place where the next reading begins. Nevertheless, there are two places (of which I am aware} in the Torah that an almost identical sentence is found quite close to that where he will currently begin. If the person receiving the Aliyah is shown the wrong place and predicates his Bracha on that area, it may very well be a blessing in vain. The ramifications of a blessing in vain in it of itself are severe and most probably another bracha would be required.  

The first is in Bamidbar 4:23, Parshas Nasso which begins נשא את ראש בני גרשון   and the end of the previous Parsha Bamidbar in 4:1 which begins the same way: נשא את ראש בני קהת If one is not careful it can easily be mixed up. The second location is the beginning of this week’s Parshas Ki Seytzei. In Devarim 21:10 the Parsha begins: "כי תצא למלחמה על איביך ונתנו ה' אלוקיך בידך ושבית שביו"  “When you wage war against your enemies, God will give you victory over them so that you will take captives.” In the previous Parshas Shoftim the Torah close to  Devarim 20:1 states   "כי תצא למלחמה על איביך, וראית סוס ורכב עם רב ממך, לא תירא מהם כי ה' אלוקיך עמך המעלך מארץ מצרים" :“When you go to battle against your enemies, and see horses, war chariots, and an army larger than yours, do not be afraid of them, since God your Lord, Who brought you out of Egypt, is with you.”

In both cases there is what is termed as “Smichus HaParshios” - a closeness or connection between the sections. In the former case, in both instances a census is being taken of the tribe of Levi. In the latter, not only are they both speaking about going out to battle, but there lies a greater message in addition to a similarity of words.  I heard a beautiful explanation taken from the first battle in Shoftim from a Rabbi Doniel Langer in Tom’s River. He asked, ”How is it possible when you see horses, chariots, and an army larger than yours, not to be afraid? It would be a natural instinct to be afraid.” He went on to explain, based upon Rabbeinu Yonah in Shaarei Teshuva, that if one looks at the end of the verse, it says ‘since Hashem took you out of Egypt’. If we pay attention to this, we realize that we got out of Egypt against all odds because of Hashem. As a result, we should apply the same principle here: when there is a large army we should not be afraid because Hashem will deliver us. Rabbeinu Yonah emphasizes the need to make the connection that if we look to Hashem there is no reason to be afraid. In truth, the words “do not be afraid” are really a hint, reminding us that if we recall Hashem taking us out of Mitzrayim, He will take us out of this precarious situation too.

I would like to take it one step further and connect the first time the Torah mentions “…when you go out to war” in last week’s parshas Shoftim to the opening verse in this week’s Parshas Ki Seytzey. If we are successful in following the words of Rabbeinu Yonah and remember it is all due to  Hashem that our battles are won. When we are in battle and are not afraid of the enemy because we remember Hashem is the One who took our forefathers out of Egypt (despite all odds against us) then our enemies will be delivered into our hands. The beginning of this week’s Parsha is the fulfillment and also the conclusion from the previous week. When we go out against the larger army and are not afraid, then Hashem will deliver us. But if we do not remember Hashem and His capacity to deliver us as He delivered us from Egypt, then we should be afraid.

The battle which the Torah describes here is not limited to the simple pshat or understanding of a physical war in which the Jewish people engaged. Rather, the Torah can be viewed through each individual’s battle that he or she faces every day. We go through life facing adversity and challenges that are our internal struggles and battles. The inner strength one has is fueled by a feeling of support, which is Hashem. Faith is a powerful tool if we truly believe in it. If we only give it lip service, then the strength will not be there for us during our times of need. Moreover, if we are successful in applying our faith in Hashem, always bearing in mind and heart that He took us out of Egypt, then we won’t be afraid. Once we are no longer afraid, internally synthesizing that  it is Hashem who gives us the strength to overcome fear, then Hashem will deliver our enemies into our hands. The last words of the passuk “…so that you will take captives” describes the capture and defeat of the Yetzer Hora.  when we have overcome this challenge,  we own it;  we now can face any future similar situation.. Once we rise up against it the very first time and defeat that enemy, it no longer has the same power and influence over us. That is not to say the challenge and situation will never come up again, it surely will, but the next time we will be stronger because we’ve captured once before, and we can do so again. Hopefully by reading the Parsha we will absorb this lesson and apply it throughout these days of Elul and prepare for future battles in the coming year.                                                                                                                                                                                           

Ah Gutten Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Parshas Shoftim - The "Left Digit Effect"           5 Elul 5781

08/12/2021 07:34:30 PM


Have you ever noticed how some stores mark the price of their goods with a “$” sign while others don’t? This is not by accident. In fact, the decision to include or not include that little symbol makes a big difference. Over the past few years, pricing analysis specialists have determined that it’s far more effective to price goods without the iconic dollar symbol. It seems that when a currency sign appears with the price, we automatically connect it to our very own hip pockets or purses–and what is or isn’t inside there–leading us to believe that the item in question is more expensive than it actually is, meaning that $5 isn’t always $5 in our emotional thinking.

Similarly, if an old sales gimmick is to be believed, 1 cent can be perceived to be worth a lot more than 1 cent. We’ve all seen signs selling items for, say, $4.99, rather than $5.00. That’s because we tend to think of $4.99 as being more closely related to $4 than $5. Professor Robert Schindler, a marketing professor at Rutgers Business School, conducted a study of a women’s clothing retailer. He found that the 1 cent difference between prices ending in .99 and .00 had “a considerable effect on sales”, with items whose prices ended with .99 far outselling those ending with .00.

The 99-cent concept has been around for decades. David Gold and his wife started the 99 Cents Only stores in 1982. There are now nearly 280 branches across California, Nevada, Arizona, and Texas, and the chain was sold last year for $1.6 billion. But perhaps even more pertinent to this idea is how Steve Jobs managed to wrest the music industry back from file-sharing free downloaders with his 99-cents-per-song iTunes strategy. It made music so cheap almost everyone could afford to buy their favorite tune without causing too much pain in the pocket.

According to a study conducted by Kenneth J. Wisniewski from the University of Chicago, when the price of margarine dropped from 89 cents to 71 cents at a local grocery chain, sales improved by 65%. But when the price fell two cents more to 69 cents, sales jumped by an astounding 222%! Two pennies are worth a lot.

This method of not pricing items in round numbers is also called "Odd Pricing" — referring to the resulting odd price numbers like 69 or 99 cents. The practice of odd pricing has been used for more than a century. It's trackable as far back as 1875. At that time, a paper called the Chicago Daily News was founded. It sold for one cent. The problem was there weren't enough pennies in circulation. So, the owner of the newspaper went to the retail stores who advertised in his paper and asked them to lower the prices on their goods by one cent. The merchants agreed to help the paper out. Then the newspaper owner had barrels of pennies shipped in from Philadelphia to provide the circulation of change.

Every industry brings its own rules and nuances that the consumer does not realize what goes into the product. As many of you know I am now selling my second book in addition to the first one. Here, too, in the book industry pricing is a critical part of promotion and book sales. The price of a book is influenced by factors such as size, graphics, and content. Without going into detail, we priced the second book two dollars more than the first. The concern was not only the two-dollar differential;  it changed the left digit from a one to a two, namely charging 21.99 up from 19.99. The bigger issue I have encountered is the guilt I feel when I do not have exact change. Without fail when I tell  customers, “I owe you X,” they reply, “Don’t worry, keep the change,” or even worse, ”Put the change in the Tzedaka box.” Either way, I have concluded that there is a tinge of false advertising connected to all of this which can be interpreted as “a bribe” -  not in the technical sense, but in knowing customers will readily forego the few pennies. There has been occasion where a person gave fifty dollars for the two books and said, ”Keep the change.” As I said, it may not be a genuine violation of bribery, but I feel the spirit of the law is definitely being challenged. Perhaps I can explain why this may be so.

In this week’s Parshas Shoftim the Torah says in Devarim 16:19 "לא תטה משפט לא תכיר פנים, ולא תקח שחד כי השחד יעור עיני חכמים ויסלף דברי צדיקם"  “Do not bend justice and do not give special consideration [to anyone]. Do not take bribes, since bribery makes the wise blind and perverts the words of the righteous.” Reb Eliyahu of Vilna (Vilna Gaon) asks why does bribery potentially blind the wise, while in Parshas Mishpatim the Torah says in Shmos 23:8 "כי השוחד יעור פקחים"  “bribery blinds the clear sighted”? The Gr”a explains there are two necessary components to a judge and a Torah scholar. The first, is that a person needs to be wise to understand the laws on their own merits. The second is that a wise person must know the laws of business, transactional, buying, selling, and the shrewdness of man. This is necessary to understand the cunningness of man, to understand, perceive, and see deceit to protect the innocent. The Chacham/wise is related to the Torah while Pikeiach/clear-sighted is knowing the nature of mankind. The Torah points out the power and influence of “shochad/bribery” can have on both the wise and the clear-sighted individuals and blind them from the truth. Reb Bunim of P’shischa follows this with an explanation on the very next passuk with the words צדק צדק תרדוף   “Pursue perfect honesty”; leave no room for deception in business.

Although undercharging and receiving more may (or may not) fall under the category of ‘overcharging’, it is not the classical case. When it comes to many of the monetary and business laws of the Torah, we may not be in violation of the actual statute, but we may nevertheless be in violation of the spirit of the law. The spirit of the law is summed up by the directive of pursuing perfect honesty. Honesty is honesty, but perfect honesty is that element of the spirit of the law.

As we find ourselves going through the month of Elul, a time of introspection and review, we should take note and be extra careful in all areas regarding the basic laws and even the laws that may not pass the test of the spirit of the law. If we take the high road and go above and beyond the letter of the law while also maintaining the spirit of the law, then the Ribono Shel Olam will give us special consideration in reviewing our charges as well.

Ah Gutten Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Parshas Re'eh - Changing Human Condition     27 Av 5781

08/05/2021 03:12:19 PM


A few months ago my primary doctor retired and recommended a new physician for me. Being a new patient has both benefits and deficits. The benefit: Since I was a new patient  the doctor performed a thorough examination and ordered a battery of tests and blood work. The deficit: Since I was a new patient the doctor performed a thorough examination and ordered a battery of tests and blood work. One of the many recommendations he gave was to undergo a sleep test and also determine why my wife can’t sleep at night. The clinical interpretation of the study reported I spent 34.4% of the study (sleeping) with oxygen saturation below 90%; snoring was detected during 94.1% of the study. The solution to my wife’s insomnia was either for me to obtain a sleep apnea machine or for me to sleep elsewhere. Well, when it comes to Shalom Bayis, we all know that we need to give in a little, and that is exactly what I did; I received a new Resmed sleep apnea machine.

There are some contributing factors which lead to the need for a sleep-aid device. Ultimately, deep down we all know that this machine serves as a mask to the real solution: Sleep experts agree that excess weight is a serious contributor to sleep disorders. Losing weight would soon result in less dependency upon the sleep apnea machine.    

There are other situations where modern technology creates a means for helping us while simultaneously enabling us to continue the same poor practices and damaging lifestyle. This brings to mind a modern automotive feature which warns the driver with a series of beeps that increase in volume and frequency when  approaching too close to the vehicle ahead.  This feature, as incredible as it is, allows drivers to continue driving while texting or driving when drowsy, confident that the car will sound an alert when danger is imminent, allowing the driver to stop in time.  It is important to note, however that alerts, warnings, and other mechanisms merely override bad behavior and poor decision-making, encouraging false dependency upon the machine in place of following basic driving safety rules.  While there are numerous occurrences which we cannot control and that modern technology can be a major safety factor, we are also still expected to be alert and careful drivers. There is no question in my mind we should take advantage of those outstanding technological achievements, but we should also work on improving and protecting ourselves rather than putting us and others into compromising, potentially dangerous position.

A few safety examples range from use of child locks on cabinets and outlet plug protectors to sophisticated self-driving cars. These “good gadgets” give good protection but also allow us to slip into a sense of false security and safety. These tools are excellent safety devices but don’t work if they’re not put to use or if we become less actively involved drivers by paying less attention driving or to our children at play. This perception does not belong to me; it can be seen with clarity through the eyes of Torah

In the opening verse of this week’s Parshas Re’eh, the Torah states in Devarim 11:26 "ראה אנכי נתן לפניכם היום ברכה וקללה"  “You can therefore see that I am placing before you both a blessing and a curse”. Rabbi Moshe HaLevi Pollak in his sefer V’Ydaber Moshe writes that blessing or abundance and a plethora of what we tend to see as good isn’t necessarily so. Chaza”l teach us there are kinds of wealth that are guarded by the owner for evil  purposes. When the verse speaks about blessing, it requires the addendum from the next verse where it states 11:27 את הברכה......אשר תשמעו   The blessing…….[will come] if you obey the commandments of Hashem your God. If you perform Mitzvos and good deeds with your money, it will lead to true blessing. But if the wealth brings a person to false pride, jealousy, rivalry, and a competition, it will only lead a person to try to amass even more money and wealth.  Under those circumstances the potential blessing will end up cursing you. Rav Pollak parenthetically adds on the same rules which apply to the Eretz Yisrael. If the Jewish people fulfill and safeguard the Mitzvos, then Hashem will first give us and then maintain our dwelling in Eretz Yisrael; if not, we will be expelled. There is a great danger ahead if we turn away, trampling upon the ways of Hashem.   We, the Jewish people control the existential threat against Israel by acting properly and appropriately.  

The gemara Brachos 40b relates: “any blessing that does not contain mention of God’s name is not considered a blessing”. Anything that is good that does not recognize but dismisses the source from God will not be a blessing that will come to fruition. How often it is people give mere lip service, reciting the words but proclaiming that this blessing is the result of my hard work and effort.   With the help and guidance of Hashem we will receive Bracha - a blessing. With the focus, the spotlight, ourselves, the result will be a Klala - a curse.  

The Abarbanel gives a different twist, explaining that  the blessing is the observance, the obeying of the Mitzvos. The Mitvos I have been discussing are the ways of Hashem; it is our responsibility and duty to follow them in a healthy matter. The Mitzvos are the Derech Hashem - the path that Hashem set for mankind, avoiding outside mechanisms to get around it.

This is by no means an easy task. We have been conditioned to take the easy way out, using  whatever method available to have our cake and eat it to, rather than “changing our condition”. As we approach the month of Elul, a time for self-analysis and sincere introspection, perhaps we should try to work on our physical health and pay attention to the source of why we need intervention. Hopefully, we can rid ourselves of the intervention of outside stimuli and be healthier.  On a final note, if we earnestly work to control our activity and behavior in the physical way, we can, in turn,  master a change in our spiritual pursuits, leading a most wholesome, healthy life possible, serving  Hashem in the original form.

Ah Gutten Shabbos   

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky


Rabbi Moshe HaLevi Pollak (1845–1888), was a Hungarian rabbi born in Szerdahely. He studied under Avraham Shmuel Sofer. In 1872 he was appointed rabbi of Bonyhad, where he established a yeshivah which attracted students from all parts of Hungary. He was one of the founders of the Orthodox community of Bonyhad, which he developed to a considerable extent. He authored Va-Yedabber Moshe in five parts, on the Chumash and various Talmudic themes; Tikkun Moshe in five parts, sermons and discussions on Talmudic topics; and Birkas Moshe on tractate Chullin.

Parshas Eikev - Milk & Honey     21 Av 5781

07/30/2021 10:32:12 AM


I truly enjoy and benefit from writing a weekly Torah thought and sharing it with the masses. People often think that summer offers a break and more time to write and learn. For me it is the opposite. Having travelled to Israel, greeting guests and visitors in Shul sucks up a lot of time and mental energy. Even though I am physically back from Eretz Yisrael my heart and mind is still there. This week’s Parsha Eikev describes many elements and incredible aspects of the land of Israel. I was not able to prepare some of my own thoughts for this week, but I nevertheless want to share a beautiful piece of Torah about Eretz Yisrael from Rabbi Dovid Sacks of the Jewish Heritage Connection. These are his words:

When G-d appeared to Moshe at the Burning Bush, He told him "I will save Jews from the Egyptians and redeem them and bring them to a good and wonderful land that flows milk and honey.”  In this week’s portion, more than forty years after that revelation, Moshe once again refers to the land of Israel as a land flowing with milk and honey.

Shemen Hatov questions why Israel is so often referred to as the land that flows with milk and honey, when wine and oil are also plentiful and have an even greater value then milk and honey.

The Torah relates that both the Egyptian and Cananite cultures were the most decadent and immoral societies. The Jews in the desert were in between these two horrendous civilizations.

When the Jews under the leadership of Joshua conquered the land of Canaan, the land became transformed into Eretz Yisroel, a land that G-d personally watches over. It went from the worst to the holiest place.         

Logically, one would think that milk should be prohibited because milk actually comes from blood that has changed into milk. Just as we are prohibited to eat the blood of an animal, so too, its milk should be prohibited. The reason milk is Kosher and permitted, is because the Torah permitted it.

Although the Torah prohibits our consumption of the blood of an animal because blood symbolizes bloodshed and death, when the blood is transformed into milk, it represents mercy; just picture a mother feeding and nurturing her child. The same can be said about bees and their honey. Bees are non-kosher and prohibited to be consumed because bees sting and by nature are an annoyance. However, the Torah permits us to eat the sweet honey they produce.

With this preface we can gain understanding as to why the Torah specifically refers to Eretz Yisroel as flowing with milk and honey.

The charge to the Jewish people was to conquer and inhabit the land of Canaan and transform it from a land filled with immorality, idolatry and strife, and elevate it into a place of holiness.


A fitting depiction of the metamorphosis of which the land of Canaan is to undergo is the Torah’s reference to Israel, as flowing with milk and honey. Just as the source of milk and honey is something impure and prohibited, yet through a transformation they became permitted, so too, the Jewish nation’s purpose and objective was to turn the land of Canaan into a place of holiness where G-d watches closely all that occurs and provides all that is needed. This is captured by the land being called, “flowing with milk and honey.”

It is interesting that when the evil spies reported about the land of Cannan, they said it was indeed flowing with milk and honey but used this fact as a scare tactic showing the Jews the enormous fruit it produced to nourish the mighty and fierce giants.

Korach, when he led a rebellion against Moshe, also claimed that the lush land of Egypt had the propensity of flowing with milk and honey.

Both Korach and the spies didn’t get it. They perceived the blessing of flowing with milk and honey in the pure materialistic sense. Their error was that they failed to incorporate the spiritual blessing, purpose and meaning within the metaphor.

Within the holy script that is contained in the Tefillin we don, is a mention of the land flowing with milk and honey.

This is perhaps an imbedded reminder to help us keep focused on what the gift of the land of Israel is all about. Yes, it is materialistically lush, beautiful, and filled with material blessings, but it is essential and integral to incorporate the spiritual mandate to uphold the sacred status of the land. Thank you Rabbi Dovid Saks!

Ah Gutten Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Parshas VaEschanan - There's No Reward in Ice Cream      14 Av 5781

07/22/2021 06:38:16 PM


It did not take me long to decide what the theme of this week’s message would be. It was nineteen months since visiting with my father, parents’ in-law and other relatives. Although we speak and video chat quite often there is nothing that replaces being in person. Perhaps there is another significant approach to this recent trip to Israel was being in Eretz Yisrael itself. Rabbi Wein (who I had the opportunity to visit with) quite often described how previous generations would have tracked across Europe in the snow, barefoot, to merit stepping onto the holy soil of Eretz Yisrael, while we just must buy a ticket and fly. Well, Hashem has a sense of humor and that which we all took for granted was swept away with Covid. The hurdles we faced today to get into Israel are possible, but they do not make it easy. As a result, the past two weeks that I spent there was not taken for granted, and every moment was measured and treasured.

 The degree of appreciation of visiting was magnified by the fact there were very few tourists in Israel. Our entry point was having a first degree relative with an important reason to visit them. By and large there was very little English to be heard even in areas typically would have more English speakers than native Hebrew speakers. Nevertheless, the country is thriving in dealing with ever-changing Covid rules and restrictions on a social level, the BDS movement on a political level, rockets and terrorists on a safety and security level, and the existential threat of annihilation from its enemies in the region. Baruch Hashem, during our visit there was truly little “noise” from any rocket attack on our physical safety. On the other hand, interestingly enough, there were two news-worthy events; one that affects “Orthodoxy” both in Israel and abroad while the other is an attempt and an attack on Jews worldwide who live in and outside of Israel. The first was the disgusting attack on orthodoxy by a woman who made a choice to leave her orthodox lifestyle and bash it with a broad stroke against a tyrannical picture and description of an orthodox led life by women and a system that does not allow freedom for an orthodox woman in today’s modern age. This news event primarily created a lot of noise and reaction from Orthodox Jews in America and the enclave of Anglos in Israel. But the greater and more significant issue that left a bad taste was the announcement by Ben & Jerry’s to stop selling their product by the end of 2022 in areas of Israel pre 1967 borders. This decision is a political maneuver to hurt Israel in the world politically and in Israel financially. I am not going to discuss all the legal points and why this BDS attempt is false and hurts and backfires against the people it is supposed to help, namely the Arabs in Israel. I do want to comment and connect these two recent events how Jews from different parts of the Orthodox umbrella in one story line and religious and non-religious Jews throughout the world become galvanized to defend Eretz Yisrael.

There are too many reasons why Israel and Eretz Yisrael are important and critical for the Jewish people. Is it the fact that one who is careful to only eat Cholov Yisrael (milk products made with milking supervision by a Jew) be deprived of Ben & Jerry’s? Perhaps it is because Ben & Jerry’s is the only real ice cream made in Israel compared to the Israeli version Gelida? The answer of course is no. Israel will continue to exist with or without our former friends Ben and Jerry. The only reason to make a stink about the issue is because of its anti-Semitic undertones. But our love comes from the spiritual and holy essence of Eretz Yisrael that for Jews creates a stronger bond and connection to Hashem. The Mitzvos that are dependent on the land can only be performed there and we can only receive reward for those Mitzvos in Israel. This point is highlighted in a dramatic plea by Moshe Rabbeinu to enter and access Eretz Yisrael.  

In this week’s Parsha VaEschanan the Torah states in Devarim 3:25 אעברה נא ואראה את הארץ הטובה אשר בעבר הירדן ההר הטוב הזה והלבנון"  “Please let me [Moshe] cross over and see this good land that is on the other side of the Jordan, this good mountain and Lebanon”. As difficult as it may be to enter Israel today, it pales in comparison to Moshe being denied entry, end of story. One can ask, what was the main reason Moshe wanted to go in? The Gemara Sotah 14a relates the following: Was Moshe’s desire to enter the land of Israel due to the fact he desired the delicious tasty juicy fruits of Israel, and to satisfy himself in a physical manner? Rather, Moshe argued “there are many Mitzvos the Jewish people are commanded and can only be fulfilled in Eretz Yisrael. Let me in so that I can fulfill those Mitzvos and receive its reward”. God responds to Moshe “Is that all you are seeking is the Schar/reward, if that is the case, by your desire alone I will consider it as if you have done so and receive the reward”.

Reb Chaim of Volozhin in his work Ruach HaChaim 1:3 raises the question; do we think Moshe was only interested in the reward and not in the actual performance of the Mitzva? Clearly, Moshe’s attempt is to do the Mitzos not a means to get reward. If it is true Moshe’s intent is only to do the Mitzvos, why would God leave him off the hook and just offer him the reward? Reb Chaim explains Hashem’s response through a psychological insight to human behavior. Take for example a parent who wants to give a reward, gift, or present to their child. Since they love their child they just want to give, give and give. By giving a child the opportunity to do something the parent wants is a pretext to allow the parent to reward the child. So too our Father in Heaven uses the method of Mitzvos in order to five us reward. In essence Moshe was willing to do those commandments to get the reward while Hashem said you [Moshe] do not need to do them in your case I will consider it sone and I want to give you the reward. From Moshe’s perspective he wanted to give that nachas ruach the good feeling to Hashem so Hashem in turn would give the reward. Ultimately, the child in the case of a parent or a Jew in relationship to Hashem wants to do the Mitzvos so that He will have the reason and ability to continue showering us with good.

Eretz Yisrael in multi-dimensional and speaks to and for the entire spectrum of Klal Yisrael. From young to old, rich and poor, observant to non-observant and everyone in between Israel is a spiritual oasis and a land promised to our forefathers, given to the Jewish people. Eretz Yisrael is larger than just ice cream, it is the place that we yearn for the complete redemption and return not only to the physical growth and safety of Jews but to the spiritual connection it has for our people.    

Ah Gutten Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Parshas Devarim/Erev Tisha B'Av - Ahavas Yisrael   7 Av 5781

07/15/2021 11:57:03 PM


I believe everyone would agree that by following a given set of instructions most people would be able to reach their destination and accomplish the goal they are trying to reach. If a person deviates ever so slightly, the detour creates a longer trip, possibly preventing or seriously delaying that which he was working to build or preventing him from attaining the goal. This rule of thumb applies to us all: perhaps we are a bit closer to where we need to be, but we have not gotten there just yet.

Almost another year has gone by since we mourned the burning of the Beis Hamikdash and the destruction of Yerushalayim. Unless something drastic takes place in the next forty-eight hours, we will be repeating the same process we have experienced the last 1951 years of fasting, lamenting, and mourning. Why is it taking so long to bring an end to the galus/exile? The answer is fairly obvious: we have not followed the directions delineated  to reverse the root cause of what brought about the initial exile. So…just what did cause the initial and subsequent exiles?

The sages in Yerushalmi Yoma 1:1 taught, "Any and every generation that has not brought about the rebuilding of the Bais HaMikdash, is as if the Bais HaMikdash was destroyed in that generation and in their times." So, what are we waiting for? After all these millennium don’t we know why the second Bais HaMikdash was destroyed? In fact, the same lack of merit resulting in its destruction has resulted in its not being rebuilt. The Midrash Socher Tov, Shmuel 31 states a frightening outcome of not yearning for the rebuilding of the Temple, "All the communities that fell were destroyed only because they didn't inquire after and demand the Beit HaMikdash." The Gemara Yoma 9b discusses the reasons for the destruction of the two Temples in Jerusalem.  It differentiates between the causes of the first destruction and those of the second: Why was the First Temple destroyed? It was destroyed due to the prevalence of three things: idolatry, immorality, and bloodshed. But why was the Second Temple destroyed, seeing that in its time they occupied themselves with Torah, mitzvot and acts of kindness? Because baseless hatred/Sinas Chinam prevailed. This teaches all of us that baseless hatred is equal to the three sins of idolatry, illicit relations, and murder. The severity of sinas chinam is clear: even a generation of charitable scholars can be punished for this sin. It is considered as grave as the three cardinal sins combined. The mention of sinas chinam as the root cause of the Second Temple's destruction is repeated elsewhere, with additional components. The Talmud Yerushalmi Yoma 1:1 state that during the Second Temple era, the people were avid in their Torah study and careful in their fulfillment of mitzvot. Destruction came upon them because the people loved money but hated each other.  Indeed, they hated each other with baseless hatred. The Midrash Eicha Rabbah 1:21 adds that during the Second Temple era, "People rejoiced over the downfall of others."  

*If hatred were always forbidden, under all circumstances, then it would be easier to curb the phenomenon of one Jew’s hatred for another.  However, because circumstances do in fact exist that allow one to hate another, the dividing line between permitted and forbidden hatred must be drawn.  When permissible, the “mitzva” of hate is unfortunately often much easier to fulfill properly than the mitzva to love another Jew.  Now, when it comes to the individuals whom we naturally would love, the mitzva is seemingly unnecessary.  It is when considering those individuals whom we might be tempted not to treat in the prescribed manner, for a whole host of reasons, that the mitzvot of love and hate bear most significance.

 To gain a greater understanding of this hatred, we must properly define it.  The term sinas chinam is rather strange.  People do not usually hate others for no apparent reason.  Usually, the reason to hate others is because they have mistreated us, are a bad influence, have different opinions, and so forth. Why would sinas chinam have been so pervasive during Second Temple times if it were really baseless? Evidently, the sinas chinam - which was so prevalent and widespread - was not "baseless" in the usual sense of the term.  Everyone numerous reasons to hate others. The Sages, however, view these feelings as baseless if they are not based on the permitted hatred.  In fact, the hatred allowed in certain cases is a constructive hatred, aimed at distancing bad influences; therefore, such hatred is limited in its scope and level.  Even so, there are numerous opinions which understand that hatred, even for these elements of society, is either disallowed in our time or severely limited. If so, any hatred which does not carry with it the Torah's permission is viewed as sinas chinam.  The Talmud, however, stresses the severity of this form of hatred. After all, despite the fact that the generation of the destruction was accomplished in Torah study and even acts of kindness, the phenomenon of baseless hatred was sufficient to lead to its downfall. Therefore, sinas chinam is akin to the three cardinal sins which led to the First Temple's destruction. Even when the Torah permits hatred, it does not neglect the responsibility of loving a fellow Jew*.

The current antidote to Sinas Chinam is the opposite…Ahavas Chinam - love for no reason or for free. The reason I say ‘current’ is it has no mention in the Torah or even in the Talmud. One of the earliest sources is attributed to the Pele Yoetz in 1824 and later to Rav Kook in 1930 in his sefer Imrei Phi. The question is how do we define Ahavas Chinam and how do WE apply it to OUR daily lives. Reb Mordechai Shlomo of Boyan told the following story to one of the sons of the Vizhnitzer Rebee of Monsey zt”l. The Ahavas Yisrael of Vishnitz once arrived in a city and bestowed a lot of honor to a very simple person. People hinted to the Rebbe, the Ahavas Yisroel, that this person is not a Rav/Rabbi in the city, he is not an honorable person at all. He is rather a simple person. Their hints were for naught as he continued to give him a lot of honor. They asked the Ahavas Yisrael later, ”What does the Rebbe see in this person that the Rebbe gave him so much honor?” The Ahavas Yisroel replied that the Bais HaMikdash was destroyed because of baseless hatred, we rectify it by having baseless love. The meaning or definition is to “love a simple person for no reason at all. I did not see anything in him, not Torah and not anything else. There is a concept that loving a Torah scholar is loving the Torah itself, but loving a simple person is loving the person himself; you love him for no reason at all”. We need to train ourselves to honor each other for no reason, unconditionally, even if the person does not deserve it”. This, the Vizhnitzer Rebbe said, will bring about the rebuilding of the Bais HaMikdash.

I suggest that from now on (not just the next few days until Tisha B’Av) we consciously embrace this attitude, committing to working on this important social obligation. We tend to go out of our way to greet someone important, wealthy, or influential but typically ignore someone who is not. Each and every one of us should go out of our way (at least once a day and keep a record of it) to say hello to someone or inquire of their well-being. By demonstrating our care and concern for the Chinam person, we will reverse the baseless hatred and do our part towards the rebuilding of the Bayis Shlishi B’Mheira B’Yameinu in the next few hours……….    


Ah Gutten Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky


*Adapted from an article by Rabbi Ari Zivotofsky in Jewish Action magazine.

Parshas Mattos/Maasei - How Long is Two Minutes             29 Tammuz 5781

07/04/2021 02:50:12 PM


A few years ago, after visiting our children, I took an early flight back to San Diego.  To make the flight I needed to daven at the earliest minyan possible.  Generally speaking, the earlier the minyan, the faster it goes; the later it starts the slower it goes. This minyan was the quickest davening I have ever attended, but I remained calm knowing the responsibilities some have and the sacrifice some make to be there at all. Nevertheless, I was most intrigued by what took place as soon as the davening concluded. Instead of people rushing out, someone learns/teaches a five-minute halacha from Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, and to my great pleasure that very day they completed the cycle of the entire sefer/book. I was intrigued by the quick pace of the prayers only to come to a halting screech, slowing up to learn a few minutes before dispersing. I was so conflicted during this experience. On the one hand I was not happy davening so fast, but on the other hand, I was pleasantly surprised at the patience and dedication the participants willingly gave to enjoy a few minutes of learning afterward. I debated with myself: if they were going to stay a few minutes later anyway, why not slow down the davening for three to five minutes?

Time is very much defined by individuals; some people have no time while others have all the time in the world. Time is also measured by individual habits which in turn are driven by expectation of how time is used. Time is finite: sixty seconds in a minute, sixty minutes in an hour, twenty-four hours in a day. We humans are creatures of habit programmed around time. We typically wake up and go to sleep at pretty much the same time every day. We schedule our driving, shopping, working, studying, and even davening/praying within a certain amount of time. It is for these reasons that if a certain activity ends two minutes early, it feels as though it went too quickly, while on the other hand, if something takes so much as two minutes more it feels like an eternity. I have observed this during our daily minyanim. Shacharis in the morning averages forty minutes on a day when we do not read from the Torah. If the Chazzan completes the service in thirty-eight minutes, people complain, ”How can they say the words so quickly? They are davening too fast!” On the other hand, if the davening takes forty-two minutes, they are on shpilkes, or they just leave early.

In the past I have written about the power of two minutes, whether it is the two-minute drill of a football game or waiting two long minutes for the person whom you are giving a ride. Sometimes we are on the waiting side, and other times we’re on the asking side of two-minutes, impatiently tapping and waiting. Perhaps the most familiar two-minute wait applies either to children responding to parents or one spouse to another saying, ‘I’ll be right out -  just give me another two minutes. These situations create anxiety and sometimes a feeling of resentment that there is no respect for my time.  I would like to suggest a new mind -set people should inculcate into their daily lives. I want to propose a new type of  five second rule that has no connection to eating food which has fallen on the floor.  When we enter a situation that either has a time allotment, a specific time frame, or being on time for an appointment,  we should employ the two-minute rule. Doing so provides a two-minute allotment in either direction before we get upset.  Everyone subconsciously allows a certain amount of time for everything we do, from waiting on line at the grocery store to dealing with a very short yellow and then quick red stop light. (It is not the first red light we are upset seeing in front of us; it’s the red lights twirling behind us after we whizzed by the first red light that proves to be pretty upsetting). In other areas of life, we see similar parameters given, such as an easement on property and the margin of error in statistics. The notion of giving up a little space and time is not foreign to those who search the Torah.

In this week’s double (2) Parshios of Matos/Maasei, the Torah states in Bamidbar 35:5 "ומדתם מחוץ לעיר את פאת קדמה אלפים באמה ואת פאת נגב אלפים באמה ואת פאת ים אלפים באמה ואת פאת צפון אלפים באמה והעיר בתוך, זה יהיה להם מדרשי הערים"      “You shall measure off outside the city, 2000 cubits on the eastern side, 2000 cubits on the southern side, 2000 cubits on the western side, and 2000 cubits on the northern side. This was in addition to the previous verse giving Leviim areas of land. Bamidbar 35:4 states: “The suburbs that you shall give the Leviites shall extend outward 1000 cubits from the city wall.” What draws the attention to the first mention of 2000 amos/cubits is the trope or cantillation note on it. Karne parah is a cantillation mark found only once in the entire Torah - here, and once in the Book of Esther, immediately following the identically unique Yerach ben Yomo trope, also found only one time in the Torah, here in Bamidbar 35:5.

Dr. David Weisberg in his work, “The Rare Accents of the Twenty-One Books”   suggests that the yerach ben yomo + karne para phrase is meant to call to mind a midrash halachah, a legal point in Jewish law determined from the verse. For instance, he claimed that the yerach ben yomo + karne para phrase of Numbers 35:5 is meant to remind the reader of the halachah that the travel limit on Shabbat is 2,000 cubits, and the Gemara Eruvin 51a derives that distance by analogy from this verse.       

An old friend of mine, Rabbi Chaim Jachter, a brilliant scholar, wrote a beautiful idea in Kuntres Kol Torah.  The rare trope sound in the Torah appears in Numbers 35:5 on the word B'amah (באמה, cubit), immediately following the word Alpayim (אלפים, two thousand), on which an equally exclusive Yerach ben Yomo is used, on the first of four occurrences of this phrase in the verse. In each of the phrase's four appearances is a different set of trope. The Yerach ben yomo followed by the Karne Parah is found on the first of these four instances. On the other three, respectively, are a Kadma V'Azla, a Munach Rivi'i, and a Mercha Tipcha. This is representative of the way mitzvot are performed in real life. When one first performs a mitzvah, being a new experience, it is performed with great enthusiasm. The unusual trope signifies the one-time occurrence of the mitzvah being a new experience. The second instance is on a Kadma-V'Azla, a note that is recited highly, showing that the high is still alive. The third is on a Munach-Rivi'i, a note that is going downward, showing that enthusiasm is going down. The fourth and final occurrence is on a Mercha-Tipcha, a common set that are recited in a lazy mode implying they are basically being recited without a melody, showing the monotony of performing a mitzvah after performing it so many times.

Two thousand amos may not only signify how far a person is permitted to walk outside the city limits on Shabbos. Perhaps the two thousand amos is a hint to the two-minute rule of being flexible in any direction north, south, east, and west. This allowance should give us pause, which in turn fewer would result in fewer issues between us. This is one more subtle reminder of how we each can bring Shalom to our people and is a sign to Hashem that we have patience and space for others. As a result so too, He will have space and patience for us and will show mercy upon His people.

Signing off from Yerushalayim Ir HaKodesh. I hope we can all be here together by next Sunday in the newly rebuilt third Beis HaMikdash speedily in our day!

Parshas Pinchas - The Cost & Benefit of Water  22 Tammuz 5781

07/02/2021 11:12:06 AM


Rarely do I write in real time, choosing instead to focus either about the past or about something current, but not literally as it is taking place.  As you are reading this message, our Shul has gone dry. No no, don’t get all nervous, there will still  be schnapps during kiddush. The schnapps will, bli neder, continue to drip. Over the last few weeks there has been a little river flowing at the entrance to the parking lot. Very few people have stopped to  look or inquire as to where is this water was coming from or why it was there at all. The water has been leaking from the main water valve to the Shul building. We thought it had been repaired a few days ago by simply tightening the valve. Apparently, that was not the root cause. This week another plumber came out and detected a leak in the line which requires extensive work resulting in a prolonged time with the water main shut off. Therefore, for those of you reading this who will be coming to Shul (or reading this in Shul), be prepared. There will be no water in the restrooms or sinks at Shul this Shabbos. Accommodations have been made to use the bathrooms in the adjacent apartment building.

Jewish thought and tradition teach us that water is life - Mayim Chayim. This is supported in a very physical sense. One may wonder how much water is on, in, and above the Earth. When all Earth's fresh water including all our planet’s lakes and rivers, we see the Earth as a watery place. In fact, about 71 percent of the Earth's surface is covered with water, and the oceans hold about 96.5 percent of all Earth's water. Water also exists in the air as water vapor,  in icecaps and glaciers, in the ground as soil moisture and in aquifers, and, not to be ignored… within all of us, our pets, our plants, all living things. Water never sits still. Our planet's water supply constantly moves from one place to another and from one form to another.

This water discussion must also address the fact that our bodies consist of about 60% water, varying from roughly 45% - 75%.  Interestingly, babies have a high percentage of water in their bodies, but this water content decreases with age. This may account for the need to drink more water as we age. Fatty tissue contains less water than muscle, so the percentage of water can vary with body type. Water is essential for health, vital for the maintenance of our numerous bodily functions including temperature regulation, cellular function, and waste removal. Every medical opinion  regarding overall health includes the need for drinking water.  As in all areas of life,  a proper balance must be found even with daily water intake. It is also possible to drink too much water, leading to other potentially serious situations. Water, as mentioned earlier, is, indeed life, but this adage   does not apply exclusively to the physical need.

We do not need to look for sources regarding water beyond Bereishis when God created the world, as this refers to all water prior to splitting up the waters below and above. One could argue the waters below are the physical waters while the waters above are the spiritual.. Nevertheless, “Mayim Chayim” - water of life - is both physical and spiritual, found spiritually-speaking later on in the Torah as well. I found a beautiful connection to spiritual water in a fascinating look into this week’s Torah portion.


In this week’s Parshas Pinchas the Torah states in Bamidbar 27:1 "ותקרבנה בנות צלפחד בן חפר בן גלעד בן מכיר בן מנשה למשפחות מנשה בן יוסף, ואלה שמות בנותיו מחלה נעה וחגלה ומלכה ותרצה"  “A petition was presented by the daughters of Tzelafchad, son of Chefer, son of Gilad, son of Makhir, son of Menashe, of the family of Yoseph’s son Menashe. The names of these daughters were Machlah, No’ah, Chaglah, Milkah and Tirtzah”.

The Apta Ruv, Reb Avraham Yehoshua Heshel in his sefer Oheiv Yisroel on this passuk quotes a familiar verse in Yishayahu 12: 2,3. The Navi states "הנה קל ישועתי אבטח ולא אפחד, כי עזי וזמרת קה ה' ויהי לי לישועה. ושאבתם מים בששון ממעיני הישועה"  “Here is the God of my salvation, I shall trust and not fear; for the strength and praise of the Eternal Lord was my salvation. And you shall draw water with joy from the fountains of the salvation”.  The word Yishua/salvation is called the holy crown from above and is where we draw the source for salvation, kindness and mercy.  These waters originate from two springs which represent  Chochmah and Binah - wisdom and intellect - reflecting on five sources from which water draws its strength.  Dovid HaMelech said, “Lift up the cup of salvation,” using the analogy of a cup as a receptacle to receive and hold wine, so too His eternal kingdom would have a receptacle to receive the five kinds of salvation from the Heavenly Kingdom of Hashem. The Zohar explains there are five Hebrew letters that have a ‘final’ letter associated with them, meaning when those letters are at the end of a word it sounds the same but looks different. Through a deep discourse, the Apta Rov shows a connection between those five final letters,  represented and connected to the word or name  - צלפחד  - Tzlefchod - the father of the five daughters who seek land as an inheritance in Eretz Yisrael. When it says ‘they came close,’ it means they grew spiritually closer to the Source from above.

Water and life are extremely precious;  we must take care to have an adequate supply in both physical and spiritual terms. As we find ourselves in the midst of the three weeks and have been witness to many tragedies befalling us, the Jewish people and the people of the world, we must direct our energies to the source of all. Hopefully, by doing so we draw not from a leaky faucet but from the Spring of Life, in both the physical and spiritual realm, to bring about the final salvation the גאולה שלימה במהרה בימנו אמן

Ah Gutten Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky


Parshas Balak - To Insure Promptitude            15 Tammuz 5781

06/25/2021 11:16:36 AM


Thanks to a recently upgraded cell phone, I’ve been presented with  days of figuring how things work and learning about all the newest additions I never knew I needed. One of the internal applications that comes with the phone is called ‘tips’, complete with the picture of a light bulb. Tips offers exactly what its name implies: it gives tips on how to use the device effectively and efficiently.  The meaning of the word ‘tip’ or ‘tips’ has many definitions all depending upon  the context of its specific usage.

A tip, or gratuity, is common in many service-related businesses. You may give a tip to a waiter in a restaurant, bartenders, toss a few coins or a dollar into fast food and coffee shop tip jars, and so forth. The money ‘tipped’ thanks people for their services. But something more common is being employed by restaurants today; they no longer give you the choice of tipping, instead include all gratuities in the bill.  These non-volunteer gratuities  typically range anywhere from eighteen to twenty percent!  A few weeks ago, I ate in a Florida restaurant that included the tip but I was not informed and I almost left a second tip not knowing. What can a customer do if the service was unsatisfactory?  Are we obligated to pay an ‘obligatory’ tip?  The answer is not so simple. You can request that the tip to be removed from the bill and not pay, but this raises some sticky possibilities.  According to Google, in 2009, such a case was thrown out of court: Theft charges were dropped against a no-tip couple. This couple actually went to court to defend their refusal to pay the obligatory tip

So…where did the concept of tipping originate?  There are many theories and references as to where and when tipping began. According to Michael Lynn, a professor at the Cornell University School of Hotel Administration, tipping in the United States began just after the American Civil War in the late 1800’s. Lynn suggests that wealthy Americans traveling abroad to Europe witnessed tipping and brought the aristocratic custom back with them to “show off,” or perhaps model their elevated education and class as an example to others. According to an article that appeared in The New York Times in 1897, there was a movement brewing against tipping in America. The anti-tipping group believed that tipping was the “vilest of imported vices” because it created an aristocratic class in a country that fought hard to eliminate a class-driven society. In 1915, six state legislators from Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Tennessee, and South Carolina attempted - and failed - to pass an anti-tipping bill that would make leaving gratuities unlawful.

Michael Lynn, the professor cited above,   states that in his opinion there are five basic motives for tipping. Some people tip to show off, others tip to help the server supplement their income and make them happy. Some people tip to receive continued future service, and still  others actually tip to avoid disapproval – we would not want the server to think badly of us.  Lastly, some people tip out of a sense of duty.

But there are other kinds of tips such as the giving of secret information or giving advice to be helpful, such as a stock tip, to be tipped off or warned about an upcoming event, giving a piece of advice or expert, authoritative information. Turning in this direction, an eitzah - a tip - is a piece of advance or confidential information given by one thought to have access to special or inside sources.

This eitzah – this kind of tip - is precisely what Bilaam was known for; he was a professional tipster. We first hear of Bilaam in Egypt as one of three (Iyov, Yisro and Bilaam) who were asked by Pharoah how to handle the Jewish problem. It was Bilaam who gave the advice to kill all the babies being born. We now hear of Bilaam once again, this time being hired by Balak to curse the Jewish people so that Balak could defeat the Jewish people. Although Bilaam had already tried to curse the Jewish people, his attempt did not work;  Bilaam’s success came only after all else failed, which we read at the end of the story.

In this week’s Parshas Balak the Torah states in Bamidbar 25:1 "וישב ישראל בשטים ויחל העם לזנות אל בנות מואב"  “Israel was staying in Shittim when the people began to behave immorally with the Moabite girls”. Rash”i , on the words, “to commit harlotry with the daughters of Moav”, explains it was through the "עצה"  the counsel of Bilaam, as is mentioned in Gemara Sanhedrin 106a. What was the advice Bilaam gave to the elders of Midian and Moav? Bilaam stated that even if you bring and gather all the armies of the world, you still will not be able to defeat the Jews. He argued, ”Do you think your armies are greater than the Egyptian army? Look what happened to them. They were drowned in the sea.”  Bilaam then said, “I will give you a tip. So long as the Jews do the will of their God, He fights for them, but whenever they violate His will, He fights against them.” At the time they were in Shittim, here chazal explain, ”Do not read it with a Shin sound but rather with a Sin or S sound.” With the S sound, the word is Satim, meaning to go astray like a Sotah woman who is accused of straying from her husband. The only way you can defeat the Jews, Bilaam stated, is by having the “husband” go against the “wife” - in this case Hashem against the Jewish people. The Midrash Yilamdeinu lists one of the four reasons the Jewish people merited to leave Egypt was that they were extremely moral and modest and did not violate the Arayos laws that were pervasive in Egyptian culture. The Gemara in Sanhedrin focuses on the first word of the cited verse וישב ישראל   - and the Jews sat or dwelled.  Vayeishev is a word of trouble, and Shittim is a language of Shtus, involved in silly stupid things. The Gemara is teaching us that when a person is sitting and doing nothing it leads to trouble, hence the cause which led the Jewish people to sin.

What Bilaam could not accomplish by cursing the Jews, he succeeded in doing through the enticement of the Jewish men to commit immorality, directly leading to the death of twenty-four thousand people. It took just one little tip - get the Jews to behave immorally and you will have a chance to defeat them. And he was right. Historically speaking, we can see the good and the bad that can come from ‘tips’.  As with all choices we face in life, nothing is completely bad or good. Rather, all ultimately depends upon the true intent, purpose and ultimate goal of that tip.

Parshas Chukas - Just Do It!!!   8 Tammuz 5781

06/18/2021 11:25:35 AM


This week’s Torah message is Sponsored by Bill, Steffi, Breana and Ethan Retin in honor of Rabbi & Leah Bogopulsky and the entire Beth Jacob community for welcoming us so warmly 21 years ago and making us feel like family ever since.

An interrogative word or question word is a function word used to ask a question, such as what, which, when, where, who, whom, whose, why, whether and how. They are sometimes called wh-words, because in English most of them start with wh- (compare Five Ws).

The question children persistently ask their parents is the proverbial, ”Why?”. The curiosity, wonder-filled searching of reasons for seemingly everything  is evident when innocent, inquisitive children, growing ever more aware of the world around them, ask the question, ”Why?”. I believe, with full confidence, that everyone falls into this category of questioning why. Whether we, throughout our childhood repeatedly asked our parents reasons for everything  or now, as parents on the receiving end of our children’s repeated questions of why, the most common answer is typically, ”Because”. So often, the answers to the questions presented by an innocent, curious child in a manner which is both age-appropriate and satisfying are difficult to frame appropriately. Of course, some answers can be modified and broken down to a child’s level, but other times they cannot. When a question cannot be explained, especially when the child follows up with another question of “but why”, the only ‘reasonable’ answer is simply “because”.  This simple escape-hatch  ‘because’ answer is likely the result of  one of two reasons:  because we cannot break a response down to a level the child will comprehend, and the second is simply out of frustration. When we reply with “because” due to the first scenario, it is a response given in a loving, compassionate manner. But when we reply “just because”, it is most likely tinged with frustration and a sense of losing patience thanks to the repetitive bombardment of questions from the wide-eyed, curious child.

These ‘why’ questions are generally broken down into two age groups: the younger, innocent children, and the older children who have typically reached the age of rebelliously challenging authority. I do not, Chas V’Shalom/Heaven forbid, mean children who are literally rebelling against their parents, but rather children who are at the age of feeling their oats by asking the for justification for whatever may have been told to do. At this stage of life, the line of questioning typically goes as follows. “Why do I have to do it if my sister does not have to” and vice versa. Or…”Why does our family have to do ’that’” when the family down the block does not do it?”” Why do I have to go to sleep so early when my friend Charlie does not even have a bedtime?” “Why do I need to make my bed if I am only going to mess it up when I go to sleep at night?” “Why do I have to clean up my toys if I am going to take them out again tomorrow?” And on and on. And one of my favorites: “If dinner consists of a protein, starch, vegetable, and dessert, why can’t I have dessert first and the main meal afterwards?” And, of course, we can’t leave out the most common question all children ask”  ”Why is the sky blue?” As Jews we recognize that these questions which begin with “why” are not exclusively asked in secular matters; they apply to religious areas of discussion and affairs as well.   

After all is said and done, an older child may feel the answer is inadequate and does not want to listen. Nonetheless, in my humble opinion, (and you know I am not so humble)- at least not when it comes to answering my children’s questions) I feel that at a certain point a good parent should follow up by not just saying “because” but by adding,  “Don’t like it? Well, that is just too bad, you still must do it.”  Kids have rules which they need to learn must be obeyed even though they do not necessarily understand or agree with.  Even though they would prefer not to do something they have been asked to do, they still must do it.   This holds true with regards to the physical, mundane parts of life and also with the physical, spiritual component issues of life. We as parents need to  realize that we can ask but also require our children to learn, daven, do chessed, by making clear that rules are rules – it is expected that they will do, obey what we clearly expect that they do.  After all, we are the parents – that is our job. It goes without me saying we must treat and teach and guide every child according to their specific needs, abilities, and ways, maintaining realistic expectations based upon each child’s level of understanding, with love and clear firmness.

Now, this may seem all good and dandy, but we must also be aware that if WE are not doing those same things that we are telling our children to do, then they will turn around to us and ask, ”Why aren’t you doing it?” Keep in mind, children may not need to actually verbalize this internalized justification so many words, but they are no doubt thinking it in their minds. And yes, with younger children, we may force our will upon them, but as they grow physically, mentally, and intellectually stronger, they will clearly see the double standard. My advice, my message is, ”Do not be self-contradicting”! Whatever we ask from our children, we must also be prepared to do no less than they are being told to do. This lesson is not pulled from some sociological book on parenting or raising children, rather the message and lesson is loud and clear from the Torah itself.

 In this week’s Parshas Chukas the Torah in Bamidbar 19:2 states: "זאת חקת התורה אשר צוה ה' לאמר, דבר אל בני ישראל ויקחו אליך פרה אדומה תמימה אשר אין בה מום אשר לא עלה עליה על"  “The following is declared to be the Torah’s decree as commanded by God. Speak to the Israelites and have them bring you a completely red cow which has no blemish, and which has never had a yoke on it”. The red hefer is the quintessential “chok” or statute. We know some of the obvious mitzvos referred to as Mishpatim;  here the Chok which we would not necessarily know on our own. The Gemara Yoma 67b summarized this beautifully. “Our Rabbis taught: My judgments/mishpatim you shall fulfill, i.e., such commandments which, if they were not written [in Scripture], they should by logic have been written. These are: [the laws concerning] idolatry, adultery and murder, robbery and “blessing” the Divine Name. And My statutes you shall observe, i.e., such commandments to which Satan objects, they are [those relating to] the wearing of sha'atnez, the chalitzah [performed] by a yevamah, the purification of the metzora, and the he-goat that is sent away on Yom Kippur. And perhaps you might think these are empty acts, therefore the Torah says: I am Hashem, I have decreed it and you are not permitted to criticize it.

In essence, Hashem is commanding us by both the Mishpatim that we understand and by the Chukim that we do not necessarily understand to just do it because ‘I am Hashem’. We may not like it, but we still need to do it. For some reason we all appreciate the adult or parent at a certain point just saying “you still have to do it” in mundane life matters. The two lessons merge: the authority at a point can require reasonable things without giving a reason to it. So, too, in the Torah world we, the children, must follow and just do it because our Father in Heaven commanded us to “JUST DO IT”!!!

Ah Gutten Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Parshas Korach - The Difference Between Taking & Giving         1 Tammuz 5781

06/11/2021 11:31:25 AM


Forty-four years ago, on the Shabbos of this week’s parsha,  my family and friends gathered at the Washington Hotel in Belle Harbor, N.Y. to celebrate my Bar Mitzvah. The location of this special weekend was a duplicate of my brother’s a”h Bar Mitzvah weekend which took place at the same location four and a half years earlier. The primary reason each bar mitzvah was moved to a hotel was because my grandfather was not able to walk to the local Shul where we davened regularly. Not to give the wrong impression, the hotel was a bit run down at the time of my brother’s Bar Mitzva, and to say the least, it had not been updated by the time my Bar Mitzva arrived. All in all, back in the day it was a beautiful event and a milestone in my life and in the history of our family. But as in any major event, especially in the Jewish world, no simcha occurs without stress, worry, and unplanned mishaps, and mine was no exception.

On Thursday, two days before this special weekend, my parents asked my brother to deliver a few things to the hotel for Shabbos. The drive took approximately twenty-five minutes, and it was a beautiful, sunny, June day. My family happened to have gotten a “brand new” used car which, for my family was regarded as a new automobile.  My brother, bargaining with my parents to make this round trip, asked my parents if a few of his friends could come along and go golfing on a course located in the same neighborhood as the hotel. I went along for the ride and, of course, to the golf course as well. It was an exasperating experience for me, a thirteen-year-old trying to play golf for the very first time without any prior instruction or guidance. I could not hit the ball very far; in fact, although I did get some chunks of dirt to go flying, I was unable to hit the ball at all. Finally, completely frustrated, I  picked up the ball and threw it as far as I could. I did not get a hole in one, but it did release my frustration. After this experience we drove to the hotel to drop off things for Shabbos. Now, if you do the math, my brother had only recently obtained his driver’s license. He was a good driver, but somehow when he drive into a triangular-shaped corner, he went right through a stop sign and totaled the vehicle, rendering it undrivable.  

Putting this all into perspective, a day earlier my mother a”h and I went to pick up the small pocket siddurim that were given out as a gift with the occasion of my Bar MItzvah stamped on the front as a token memento for everyone in attendance.  The siddurim did not come out the way I had envisioned, and I was completely dejected by the product. My mother a”h turned around to me and said to me in Yiddish, “This should be the worst thing to happen to you in your life.” How deeply prophetic were her words. Looking back, there is no doubt in my mind there was stress, anxiety, tension, hassle, worry and pressure, but it was never felt by me whatsoever. Typically, a thirteen-year-old does not pick up on these issues, but in my case, even more so because my parents did not lean into them. It is at such points and important events in life which lend to controversy and disagreement. What is the secret for maintaining calm during all the hullabaloo to successfully navigate the storm? Perhaps such insight comes from the portion I was to read that Shabbos.

In Parshas Korach we read about two major events:  the rebellion of Korach and his followers, and the giving and receiving of the Matanos Kehuna, the twenty-four gifts Kohanim were entitled to receive. The Torah states in Bamidbar 16:1 "ויקח קרח בן יצהר בן קהת בן לוי, ודתן ואבירם בני אליאב ואון בן פלת בני ראובן"  “And Korach, son of Yitzhar (a grandson of Kehas and a great-grandson of Levi), took to a rebellion along with Dasan and Aviram (sons of Eliav) and On son of Peles, descendants of Reuvain”. Contrast that verse with the following verse towards the end of the Parsha. In Bamidbar 18:8 the Torah states "וידבר ה' אל אהרן ואני הנה נתתי לך את משמרת תרומתי, לכל קדשי בני ישראל לך נתתים למשחה ולבניך לחק עולם"  “God announced to Aharon: I have given you responsibility for My elevated gifts. I am thus giving you all the sacred gifts of the Israelites as part of your anointment. These shall be an eternal portion for your descendants.” Rashi clearly explains the connection between Korach trying to take away the Kehuna/priesthood from Aharon and the giving of special gifts to Aharon. Rashi quoting the Sifrei writes, “This may be likened to a king who gave a field to his beloved friend but did not write or sign a deed of sale, nor bring it to the recording offices. There came a man who contested the ownership of the field. The King said to him (his friend) whosoever desires, let him come and contest your rights, Behold, I will write and sign for you a deed of sale and will bring it to the recording offices. Similarly, here: since Korach came and protested against Aharon and wanted to take the Kehuna, scripture comes and grants him twenty-four gifts of priesthood as an everlasting covenant of salt. For that reason, this section is adjoined here.”

The lesson learned is that whoever challenges the Tzadik and stirs a controversy against him will not reach their desired goal. To the contrary, in the end the Tzadik will be blessed and bestowed upon honor and gifts from heaven. Avoid the controversy and Machlokes because it does not do anything for the person; at the end that person suffers a tragic end as did Korach and his followers.

Machlokes and controversy is not  described unless in extreme cases such as Korach.  This applies just as strongly to each of us as we live through in our day-to-day experiences. Machlokes quite often arises out of jealousy, envy, and the like, ultimately leading to the demise or ruination of the instigator, even though this individual may sincerely believe in his/her cause and might have reasons for pursuing it.  All too frequently, if driven to pursue the cause anyway, it will most likely fail.  The way to resolve such situations is by giving. I look back at the events which occurred over four decades ago and clearly  see and reap the benefits of my parents continuously giving, clearly avoiding being upset at potential blowups and miscues from so many situations. We should all take in the good sense the lesson from Korach teaches us:  in so many different situations throughout our lives, focus on giving rather than taking.. Doing so will ultimately deliver a Bracha of success, nachas, and shalom for all on both sides of the issue.

Ah Gutten Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Parshas Shlach - With Strings Attached, Don't Forget the Context         24 Sivan 5781

06/04/2021 12:25:55 PM


Every Thursday morning either I or someone else drives slowly through the neighborhood, keeping one eye on the road while the other eye looks up towards the sky. This may seem a bit dangerous, and I do not advise anyone to do this unless trained by a professional Eiruv checker. For over fifteen years the Eiruv has been checked two days before each Shabbos or Yom Tov in order to resolve and repair any possible issue.  As with anything in life, it is always wise to “change things up” occasionally when viewing the same, identical scene week after week after week.  Over time, such repetitious viewing tends to desensitize the eyes and brain to any changes, taking for granted that everything is in order. Unfortunately, that is exactly what an ‘oversight’ is: when I see over the sight and actually not able to see that which I am meant to see.

One method of checking a majority of the Eiruv is to look at the location of the connection, where the line attaches to the pole. In truth, all one needs to do is look at the connection of each pole, and it obviates the need to see the continuous running of the entire line from pole to pole. It is obvious that if the line is connected on both ends,  we then can assume the Eiruv line is up at that section. Well, this method proved effective until it did not. I had checked the Eiruv on Thursday; that afternoon someone in the community was walking and saw something that looked like the monofilament line we use for the Eiruv. I am always appreciative of the eyes that are out there who report back when they see something is out of place. I would say there is a fifty-fifty chance that the report proves that some sort of problem was spotted.  Sure enough, as I drove over to check it out, I noticed that the string was still connected to the top of the pole but was drawn over some trees. On the far end the line was once again attached to the pole and the line extended vertically into the intersection. When looking at the top of each post,  the impression seen from the ground was that the line was still intact and attached at the pole, but the view was not clear enough to determine that some of the line was severed in the middle causing a part of the line to be loosely flying in the air. Normally if the Eiruv line breaks, at least one side of the line will drop down directly from the top of the post. 

This scenario reminded me of a certain lesson I have often talked about regarding something at the beginning and at the end. In Tehilim Tehila L’Dovid 145:20 Dovid HaMelech states "שומר ה' את כל אהביו, ואת כל הרשעים ישמיד"  “Hashem watches over all those who love Him, and will destroy all the wicked”. This loosely means God watches over those He loves but will destroy all the wicked. Imagine if someone walked into a lecture when this very verse was being presented, but came in a second late and missed the very first word of ‘watches’. The verse would be heard as follows. Hashem, all those He loves and all the wicked will be destroyed. If the individual came on time and heard from the very beginning but left a second early and missed the very last word  ‘destroy’, the verse would be heard as follows. Hashem watches over all those who love Him and all the wicked. Basically, missing the first word changes the meaning: Hashem destroys the good and the bad; leaving the lecture early, the message heard is: Hashem will safeguard both the loved and the despised ones. In this case the middle is intact while the extremes changed, similar to but in actually the inverse of the Eiruv whereby the sides were intact but the middle was missing. How often things in life are portrayed in a certain way - avoiding an outright falsehood but somehow leaving out the truth. To say the strings are attached but not mentioning that the middle is severed is relating information without full context or if you will, causing it to be “out of context”. We face these challenges every day whether in the media or by having to listen to a disagreement between two people. It is absolutely vital that we listen to both sides of the complete story, otherwise you run into trouble as per our own history…

In this week’s parsha Shlach the Torah relates the story of the “spies”. Some of the Jewish people did not fully trust that the land of our destiny would be the right place for us. Leaving the desert and entering a foreign land was concerning and troubling. Looking for reassurance, they asked Moshe to send messengers to check out the land. Moshe inquired from God, Who reluctantly agreed by having messengers observe the beauty and greatness of Eretz Yisrael and bring back words of excitement and encouragement for the next chapter of the Jews’ travels. We are familiar with the story of twelve “men” (Rash”i indicating important and righteous individuals)  of which ten brought back a lot of truth to what they saw but left out context to which Calev and Yehoshua had to “fill in” to complete the picture. The information they gave was a mixed signal.

 The Torah states in Bamidbar 13:27 "ויספרו לו ויאמרו באנו אל הארץ אשר  שלחתנו, וגם זבת חלב ודבש הוא וזה פריה"  “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.”  The very next passuk 13:28 states: "אפס כי עז העם הישב בארץ, והערים בצרות גדלת מאד, וגם ילדי הענק ראינו שם" “However, the people living in the land are aggressive, and the cities are large and well-fortified. We also saw the giant’s descendants there.” But they clearly left out the history up until now that Hashem has protected and advanced the Jewish people up until this point and guaranteed the success soon. This is the middle part of the string that lacked the connection, and so Calev had to show the connection from beginning to end. The missing context of the ten spies is to say that yes, it is a wonderful land, and Hashem has promised us and will fulfill the dream, despite the fact they are giants and so forth.

It is easy to pick apart an idea or an argument by leaving out some minor points. We have a limited ability to control and navigate the narrative of the world, but we can work on our own internal discussions. We need to be honest, not to defend ourselves by saying we are just leaving out a truth. That is out-right lying. Leaving out a truth is tantamount to a falsehood. In our conversations and discussions, whether with family, friends, or business associates, we need to not only connect the line at the beginning and end of the poles’ we need to make sure the line is continuous, even in the middle, not omitting  some context to the discussion.

Ah Gutten Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Parshas B'Haaloscha - Strengthening the Weak Brings Success to the Strong                  16 Sivan 5781

05/27/2021 04:03:10 PM


In business, people’s attitudes, and strategies are focused upon improving the successes and ditching the failures. This may be a great and important model designed for the physical world of Olam Hazeh - this world - but not necessarily applicable towards  attaining Olam Habah in the spiritual realm of the next world. Spiritually speaking, we need to focus on the times we stumble and fall to insure we do not fail again. I will share two stories to illustrate my point, one from a major athlete, the other a master Torah educator. The irony of these individuals is they both rank at the very top of a sport, albeit one professional and not Jewish, the other an amateur but an Orthodox Rabbi.

There is a debate between the generations as to who the GOAT in basketball is.  I, who hails from the older generation, will tell you it is hands down Michael Jordan. But I discovered an entirely different angle as to why he was the greatest. The following says it all.  "I've missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times I've been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed." Jordan's penchant for taking his failures and perceived slights and turning them into fuel for his success is one of his most notable traits. Although he is arguably the closest thing to a basketball immortal in the sport's history, he did have some ugly games. However, he has been able to learn from those performances, always improving  for the better. Michael Jordan did not focus on the great games; he focused on the average games.  The second individual, Rabbi Gershon Kramer, was undeniably the best overall well -rounded Jewish ball player. His name was synonymous with basketball in the Catskill Mountains for over three decades. During the year he was the best eighth grade Rebbi in the Tri-State area. Every year he took his class to visit Reb Moshe Feinstein zt”l on the lower East Side of Manhattan. While introducing the students, it was apparent that he mentioned that thirteen of the fifteen students were doing exceptionally well. He kept on lauding the praises of the thirteen to Reb Moshe at which point Reb Moshe grabbed the hand of Rabbi Kramer. He stared into the eyes of Rabbi Kramer and in a gentle soft touch and tone said, “It is so wonderful to hear how well these thirteen boys were doing…but what about the other two? Rabbi Kramer suddenly realized how easy it was to celebrate the successes, but how critically and perhaps more importantly it is to focus on the weaker students. Hashem wants the average under-dog to rise up and succeed as well. The Torah is replete with examples of seeking out the “not” in contrast with the “have” Here are two examples from this week’s reading.    

The first, in this week’s Parsha B’Haaloscha, the Torah states in Bamidbar 9:1-9 the situation of someone who did not participate and partake of the Paschal lamb on the Seder night. As the issue is brought up to Moshe Rabbeinu, Moshe tells them to wait as he retrieves the answer from Hashem. The results came in that there would be a second opportunity known today as ‘Pesach Sheni’, the second Pesach. The passuk states 9:7 "ויאמרו האנשים ההמה אליו אנחנו טמאים לנפש אדם, למה נגרע לבלתי הקריב את קרבן ה' במעדו בתוך בני ישראל"  “We are ritually unclean as a result of contact with the dead. Why should we lose out and not be able to present God’s offerings at the right time, along with the other Israelites?” The great Chaisidic master Rebbi Shlomo Rabinowitz of Radomsk* explains the words “why we lose out” as unique in the Torah. He writes we never find any other Mitzva in the Torah which is fixed on a holiday that has a “make-up” at a completely different time except for the Korban Pesach, the Paschal lamb. The Paschal lamb provides opportunity to fulfill the Mitzva one month later. The question is why? Rav Rabinowitz explains that the Jewish people were strong in their commitment to fulfill this Mitzva. They pleaded, beseeched, requested, and just about demanded a solution to their losing out on this Mitzva.  In this case the Rebbe points out that this as a sign for the future of Klal Yisroel to be stubborn and adamant with a strong heart and soul to inherit the land of their forefathers. In doing so it will form the impetus for Hashem to bringing the salvation.

The second incident is at the end of the Parsha when Miriam is stricken with Tzoraas, leprosy. The Torah states in Bamidbar 12:15 "ותסגר מרים מחוץ למחנה שבעת ימים, והעם לא נסע עד האסף מרים"   “For seven days, Miriam remained quarantined outside the camp, and the people did not move on until Miriam was able to return home”. Rashi explains the cloud of glory did not move, so the people obviously had to wait. But the Ohr HaChaim HaKadosh explains that the passuk says, "והעם לא נסע"  -“the people did not travel.” The matter was not because of the cloud; rather it was because they [Bnei Yisrael] themselves had agreed not to travel without Miriam, so as a sign of honor to her they waited. Imagine! An entire nation of over three million people waiting for just one person! Nevertheless, everyone recognized how Miriam would have felt being left behind and the embarrassment it would have caused.

We have two prime examples in this week’s Parsha: showing sensitivity for Miriam while also showing the drive to perform a Mitzva of Korban Pesach. I see the Korban Pesach related to, L’Havdil, the Michael Jordan story of pursuing that which is lacking and finding ways to improve and accomplish more. The story of Klal Yisroel waiting for Miriam relates to Rabbi Kramer understanding the importance of the ‘other’ two students who might have been left behind. They too are important and need sensitivity in making sure we wait for them to catch up, not leave them behind like Miriam.

We too should take the lessons from the great ones both in the physical and spiritual worlds. No one in Klal Yisroel should be left out or left behind. We should all strive to perfect our imperfections and lift those who are down. Through both means we will collectively build our people and reach the greatest heights of who every one of us is capable of becoming.

Ah Gutten Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Parshas Nasso - Cease-Fire...Meant for Whom?      10 Sivan 5781

05/21/2021 11:05:23 AM


At this moment as I sit here typing out this message, a unilateral cease-fire is being implemented between Israel and Hamas. I am going to stay non-political and express my feelings as a Jew, albeit not an Israeli citizen. I believe that the Jews in Israel should determine their choices and not be shouted at by Jews – and politicians - living in the comfort of America. Perhaps the best advice I can give to American Jewry is similar advice I give parents/in-laws to their children: open your check books and be quiet.  So too, when it comes to Israel, we Jews in America need to open our wallets/check books and give generously without any strings attached.

There are many opinions about the latest cease-fire, whether good or bad, too early or too late, and, as an additional aside, if it is actually worth anything at all. It is interesting to note that the typical dictionary definition of a cease-fire reads as follows: A cease-fire is a temporary suspension of fighting, typically one during which peace talks take place; a truce. In the current situation I do not believe there will be any peace talks. This is most likely  no more than a cessation of the rocket attacks from Gaza into Israel. True and lasting peace talks can exist only when there are two legitimate sides vying and positioning for a better end, demonstrating at least overt tolerance towards each other’s values and needs. The only position our enemy, in this case Hamas,  holds is to annihilate us and rid us from all of Israel.

In my view, shared by the written opinion of quite a few others,  it is utterly shocking how much influence the media has over people. Propaganda worked throughout the years prior to and during the Holocaust; unfortunately, such hate-riddled, time-warped propaganda continues to play a major – and dangerous - role today. Our enemy during this recent conflict is Hamas, yet the people of the world openly, by and large, view this terrorist organization an equal to Israel with full rights to ‘reclaim their land’ – defined by them as all of Israel. It’s important to remind ourselves that the United States does not engage formally with Hamas, which it has labeled a terror organization. The United States must rely on countries such as Egypt and Qatar to wield influence on the group. I am not sure statistically throughout history how many cease-fires have succeeded or failed in attaining a full-fledged peace,  but we all know that this cease-fire is only temporary. The word “peace” when it comes to Hamas, is a relative term. Peace is achieved by two sides agreeing to a future of non-hostility, by recognizing publicly a need to respect the existence and differences of each other. Hamas, by agreeing to this cease-fire, is using it as  an opportunity for a time-out. The question is for how long. The animosity and hatred that is embedded in Hamas and their cohorts of terror against Israel  can only be defeated in the short term with Hashem’s help. The long-term solution resides within our own ability.

Chazal, in several places throughout their teachings, note that only when when Klal Yisrael is at peace with itself will Hashem provide sanctuary and peace for His people and their land. When our hearts are dedicated to Hashem (in a sincere fashion, not just lip service) then Hashem will protect us. From the words describing Yaakov and Eisav of hearing the voice of Yaakov or the hands of Eisav, we see the value that Hashem puts on peace, placing His own name on the line. I would like to suggest that the real cease-fire is not in the hands of the United States, the European Union or the Arab states; it lies within the reach of us, the Jewish people,  as I will explain.

In this week’s parshas Nasso the Torah relates in Bamidbar 5:23 the law of Sotah. The procedure is described as follows: "וכתב את האלות האלה הכהן בספר, ומחה אל מי המרים"  “The priest shall then write these curses on a parchment, and dissolve [the writing] in the bitter waters”. The Rabbis taught that it was necessary to dissolve or erase the name of God so that peace can be achieved and brought between the two parties who were at odds with each other, namely the husband and the wife. HaKadosh Baruch Hu, The Holy One Blessed be He, orders that a book or scroll should be written with sanctity - containing His holy name -  only to be erased and dissolved in the bitter waters. The Mahara”l, Rabbi Yehuda Loewy, explains the Torah (Hashem) permitted the erasure of His name because it was specifically through the act of erasing Hashem’s name from the scroll that peace was attained between a husband and his wife. When there is peace between a man and his wife then the Shechina (God’s presence) is among them and resides in their home. This comes because of erasing Hashem’s name. In no way does this act push away the Shechina. To the contrary, it brings the Shechina back. True, the ineffable four-letter name of Hashem may be erased, but it is only being replaced by another one of God’s names – the name ‘Shalom’. Therefore, it is not necessarily an erasure but rather a joining together of another name of Hashem, a description of Shalom, which now firmly links the couple together.  

In life we sometimes need to erase things that we feel are sacrosanct and cannot be erased or done away with. We feel strongly about certain principles and laws that we cannot forego under any circumstances. This is particularly true when it comes to our views of Jews of different stripes.  We must accept that there are different strokes for different folks. Each of us feel things must be done our way or the highway. Tolerance – the ability to acknowledge the opinions of others who do not agree with ours – is too often lacking in our Jewish world. Jewish people collectively must come to the realization that people, especially Jews, do not always agree on everything. It is equally important to understand that we do not have to always agree with each other; we must respect and demonstrate tolerance towards each other. We must develop and hold dear to a deep and abiding mutual respect despite our differences. This sincere and mutual respect must exist in order to achieve a true Shalom bein Adam LaChaveiro: a true peace between man and his fellow man.  

By giving in or giving up something that we feel we cannot give up because it is too holy,  stop and think again about where true holiness comes from and where it needs to go. Clearly, when there is dissension within the ranks of the Jewish people, the Shechina will not enter to be a part of us. Perhaps when we give up something that demands from the other, choosing instead to create tolerance, deepening harmony, and finally genuine respect, then the Shechina will easily join everyone together.

The cease-fire must begin within our own families and within our Shuls/Synagogues. Within the Orthodox community, a ‘cease-fire’ – a giving in to the other -  needs to be the lead example. Once we can accomplish such inner growth and overt tolerance and respect, then we will be able to bridge the gap to the non- orthodox and or non-observant segments of the Jewish people , displaying a cease-fire through genuine tolerance and open recognition that we are all brothers and sisters of one family. Through this cease-fire, we will achieve true peace and have the name of (God) - Shalom - in every Jewish home here and in Israel, reaching the level of Shalom Al Yisrael!

Parshas Bamidbar/Shavuos - Solidarity with Am Yisrael 5 Sivan 5781

05/21/2021 11:02:59 AM


One of the many delights of my job is the variety of people and daily issues I deal with.  Without getting into any details, the diversity of topics faced by a pulpit Rabbi ranges from marriage to divorce, birth to death, from laws of mourning to issues addressing education, policy making, kashrus, eruv, family guidance (for those who seek it out), giving of classes, teaching, community concerns and needs, Israel, and so much more. On any day I may receive several questions in one area, such as marriage, or focus on a variety of matters running the entire gamut previously mentioned. In a nutshell, life is never boring. Moreover, it gives me the opportunity to connect with everyone in the community and to hone in on the halacha and proper way the Torah instructs us to lead our lives. It is fascinating and eye-opening to deal with individuals asking unique questions from their distinctive worlds.

Part of what gets me so excited and intrigued on so many multidimensional issues of my vocation is the complex interaction this daily weaving of individual specific needs and concerns generates, linking every segment of Jewish life and the Jewish people. Obviously, no two Jews are alike, and everyone is in a different place and position in life, be it older or younger, single or with a family, older or younger children, different stages of learning, diverse levels of observance, and ultimately, a distinctive charting of their Judaism. With over a quarter century in the Rabbinate, this process has given me the ability to deepen and nurture my own learning and growth. Through this process my views and understanding of people in general - and Jews in particular - have evolved and matured. One size really does not fit all;  the identical question asked by two people separately will often receive two different answers. Hopefully, each will receive the correct answer, and the proper decision for each of the petitioners will be dealt with accordingly.  

We live in troubled times; the Jewish people are now facing complex geopolitical and accompanying antisemitic challenges as we speak and as I type. The diversity among the Jewish people is great and complex, and we struggle daily to address and repair the differences between us. Most recently ,however, as demonstrated in Operation Guardian of the Walls and the Meron tragedy, Jews from all walks of life put their differences aside and bound together as brothers and sisters should. Unfortunately, it takes a calamity to remind us of how close we really are to each other. Deep down we know and appreciate the value of every Jew, of how much each one of us means to the other. This is recognized by the parsha of the week we just read and the upcoming Yom Tov of Shavuos.

In this week’s Parshas Bamidbar 1:1 the Torah states "וידבר ה' אל משה במדבר סיני באהל מועד, באחד לחודש השני בשנה השנית לצאתם מארץ מצרים לאמר"   “God spoke to Moshe in the Sinai Desert, in the Communion Tent on the first [day] of the second month in the year of the Exodus, saying:” On this verse Rashi gives us an insight on how the Jewish people should value each other. Rashi writes,”… because of their love before Him, He numbers them every time. When they went forth from Egypt, He numbered them, and when they fell because of the sin of the Golden calf, He numbered them so as to ascertain the number of those who remained. And when He came to cause the Divine Presence to abide among them, He numbered them. On the first day of Nissan, the Tabernacle was erected, and on the first of Iyar He numbered them.” It was the love Hashem has for His people that He counted the Jews a number of times. Now it is true that when a person counts something, the goal is to get to the total number, but this total cannot be reached without everyone. It is the Yachid, the individual, that is the most important component of this count.  Hashem, by counting repeatedly, is demonstrating the importance of the individual over the group.   

This all may sound so unique, but in truth it is not. The notion of ‘one-hood’ stands out in the upcoming yom tov of Shavuos.  Klal Yisrael readied itself to receive the Torah. The Torah was given not only to the Klal - the group - but also to the Prat -the individual. The Jewish people gathered at Har Sinai and the passuk in Shmos 19:2 describes the scene:"ויסעו מרפידים ויבאו מדבר סיני ויחנו במדבר, ויחן שם ישראל נגד ההר"   “They had departed from Rephidim and had arrived in the Sinai Desert, camping in the wilderness; Israel camped opposite the mountain”.  Despite the obvious, that the entire Jewish people were there gathered around the mountain, the Torah sneaks in the word encamped in the singular. Rashi’s famous explanation "כאיש אחד בלב אחד"  . The singular of vayichan is to be interpreted as one man with one heart. The heart does not necessarily mean the physical meaning of heart but rather the singular meaning of one mind set. Rashi concludes with, “but all the other encampments were with complaints and with strife”.

What does the ‘one mind set’ really mean? I would like to suggest “one mind set’ means we all think in the same terms; that while each of us is unique, we accept and respect each other for our differences. ‘One mind set’ does not mean we all must think the same way or even practice the same way. Practically speaking, how do we get to this realization that the mind set must be to respect and accept each other as a starting platform? The answer goes back to what I said earlier -  at times of trouble we forget our differences and appreciate our similarities. To accomplish depth of respect and commitment to each other, we need to strengthen and reinforce the ahava, the love for each other. We must move beyond mere lip service, we need to create settings where we see our fellow Jews not as distant or removed, different from ourselves, but rather as close to us, as our brothers and sisters.

The Yom Tov of Shavuos and Parshas Bamidbar could not come at a better time. The combination of recognizing the importance of every Jew, bringing each of them together under one banner, is essential to strengthen us as truly One People. Let us practice tolerance for our fellow Jew and unite in appreciating everyone’s individual contribution. There are numerous examples in the Torah describing how effective we are joining individual- to- individual to make up the Tzibbur.  Let us use the counting of every Jew and the Yom Tov of Shavuos to demonstrate and re-enact the time of Har Sinai. Let us stand together today under one banner just as Klal Yisrael did at the base of Har Sinai 3333 years ago.


Ah Gutten Shabbos & Ah Gutten Yom Tov

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky


Raising a Community, a Family and Ourselves along with Developing a Torah Personality can be purchased by clicking here via my author page at Mosaica Press.

Parshas B'Har/B'Chukosai - Re-Reading a Book       25 Iyar 5781

05/07/2021 11:10:39 AM


One of the most annoying but perhaps hugely beneficial phrases I have heard was repeatedly recited during my elementary and high school years. While passing out tests, my teachers always told us to  ”Make sure you go over, review, and check your work.” This phrase stood as a constant reminder to us that once you handed in your paper there was no way you could ask for it back should you remember something later. The annoying part in elementary school was that after we handed in our test, we could do other work, read, or do anything else so long as we were quiet. In high school, the entire period was dedicated to taking the exam and therefore once we handed in the exam we could leave. This was especially tempting if it happened to be the period before gym, or better yet, the last period of the day. It never dawned upon me until recently that I was usually the first one to finish and never bothered looking any test over, while the smartest guys in the class held onto their exams until the very last minute. I am not sure if they became smarter because they went over their work, or they were just smart and knew that it was beneficial for them to review if they had the time. I would guess it was probably a combination of the two; I had neither. (They may have had a higher GPA, but I had a better shooting-from-the-floor percentage.)      

Review, in general, is possibly the most effective method of learning, not only about retention but also helped to gain clarity and a deeper understanding of the material. One of my Rabbeim in Israel, Rabbi Liff, always reminded us of his Rebbi, Reb Chaim Shmuelevitz’s  (famed Rosh Yeshiva of the Mirrer Yeshiva in Yerushalayim) slogan “aoyb ikh hat nisht barikhtn, es s vi aoyb ikh keynmol gelernt” -  loosely translated:  ”Im Nishta Chazird Nisht ke Learnt”. If you do not review, it is as though you never learned it in the first place.  At the top of every page of Gemara/the Talmud there are four wider lines of Rashi and Tosafos which serve as a hint to review at least four times. The Gemara in Pesachim 72a says, "One, who reviews a subject 40 times, is guaranteed it will be rooted in his memory as if it were placed in his pocket." The Mishna Brura 114:41 says, "Reviewing one’s studies 101 times ensures that they will not be forgotten. The Gemara Chagiga 9b teaches us that you cannot compare reviewing something one hundred times to one hundred one times.

Why is it necessary to emphasize the concept of review repeatedly? The answer lies in the fact that review is one of the major keys to success. If that is the case, why is it so challenging? The answer is nothing short of common sense; review is boring. We think we know this material already. Learning something new for the first time is exciting and desirable; it’s new knowledge for us to gain. Review, on the other hand, does not give us that same push or drive because we think we know it; it is old. Yet the oldest book in history is one that we review over and over again every year: the Torah. The reason we do so without complaining is because it clearly does teach us something new each time. But that lesson should carry forward to any type of study and review.  

Unfortunately for me, bad habits don’t die young. Fast forward from my school days to today, I still do not review things as much as I should. This reality, or better yet nightmare of having to “go over, review, and check my work”, reared its ugly head a few months ago. I had been working on a second book and there is an editing process that seems to never end. In essence, I am constantly reviewing the same material, looking for errors and omissions. The process has taken over two years and some of the material was almost outdated. It was during the final review that I read something that needed to be re-written in order to make it current.  Surely today we read books or watch movies that are not current and clearly not as interesting. By reviewing, I was able to catch one of those outdated messages and bring it up to speed. This, of course, is all necessary because I am human, and to err is human. The Torah, on the other hand, is immutable and therefore will never have this problem. The Author of the Torah wrote it for all time, only as God can do: no mistakes, no errors, no omissions, and no rewriting will ever be necessary. This lesson itself is found in the Torah.

In this week’s Parshios of B’Har and B’Chukosai the Torah describes in Vayikra 25 verses 25-34 the redemption of land from a Jew who ran into financial difficulty and therefore needs to sell his land in Israel. This applies not only to the redemption of land but to repossessing houses in walled cities that a man was forced to sell when he became destitute. While the laws of redemption vary if a house is in a walled city or an open field, in each scenario there exists the ability to reclaim the land within a certain time frame, thereby allowing the individual to return to his ancestral property. Why is it so necessary to retain the same piece of land? Why can’t he or his close relative just buy a different piece of land? I would suggest - with some literary license (Jewish drush) - that a person knows his land. He knows the land that he worked on previously and going back to it will yield a better product overall.  By working his old land, he will be doing Chazara/review on something he has already studied. He knows it thoroughly and does not need to learn it anew.

This week we conclude the book of Vayikra, and as per the custom for the completion of every Sefer, we call out the words “Chazak, Chazak, V’NisChazeik”. When we review and learn the Torah over again, it ultimately gives more and more strength. The introduction to Mesilas Yesharim, ‘Path of the Just’, tells us ”He [the author] is not coming to teach us anything new. Rather he comes to review those things we already know.” We are familiar with the notion that an angel comes to teach the entire Torah to a baby in utero, and legend has it the Malach touches the baby on top of the lips and the baby forgets all the Torah which had been learned. If that is the case, why learn it in the first place? The answer is straightforward: once something was learned it is easier to relearn it the next time.

To you, my readership, you may readily see that my messages do not contain some incredible new ideas. I choose, instead, to take the ideas, the concepts, and scenarios of everyday life and through them remind us all how to view them from a Torah perspective. Thoughts and ideas are not merely the things that you all know; by packaging them in a unique and different way, by presenting them from a different angle or perspective, it helps us to see, to focus with new insight. It is a Chazara/review of important lessons which help and guide us as we live our lives, which, in turn, help our families grow,  and ultimately strengthen our community. Therefore, it is with great thanks to Hashem, and my personal joy that I announce a Chazak Chazak for the publication of my new book Raising a Community, a Family, and Ourselves. Wishing you all continued growth, strength, and ever-deepening chochma/wisdom as we continue to grow together.……..


Raising a Community, a Family and Ourselves along with Developing a Torah Personality can be purchased by clicking here via my author page at Mosaica Press.

Parshas Emor - Don't let our Differences Divide us, let them Unite us!            17 Iyar 5781

04/29/2021 10:10:11 AM


This Dvar Torah is in honor of Shmuel Yaakov Eden on his Bar Mitzva Parshas Emor!

A few weeks ago, while attending a wedding, I struck up a conversation with another guest whom I did not know. He shared a question with me and proceeded to propose an answer.  The question: Which is the correct version of counting the omer – "yamim la’omer" or "yamim ba’omer? Is there a content difference or only a grammatical one between them? I think we can all agree there is no shortage of opinions and answers when discussing Jewish practice and halacha. Halacha itself has a wide range of biblical and rabbinical commandments, complimented by decrees, enactments, and the accompanying variety of customs – some of which are pretty funky. There are some customs where Jews will accuse each other of being a heretic for not practicing specific halachas as they do, while there are others who throw their hands up in the air and say to each other, ”Who cares! Does it really make a difference?” I will illustrate this with two customs that occur relatively at the same time - only one day apart. On Pesach, some eat gebrokts (soaked matzah), whiles others do not eat gebrokts. Some go to the extreme of not even placing matzah on the table for fear it might get wet and become chometz. Others label this concern insignificant. This relates back to the question posed by my new acquaintance -  pronunciation when counting the Omer: is it Ba’Omer or La’Omer? Before we delve into that battle, let us understand the essence of the Mitzva of the Omer.

In this week’s parshas Emor the Torah states in Vayikra 23:15 "וספרתם לכם ממחרת השבת מיום הביאכם את עומר התנופה, שבע שבתות תמימת תהיינה"  “You shall count seven complete weeks after the day following the [Passover] holiday when you brought the omer as a wave offering”.  Omer is the measurement of barley brought as a korban on the second day of Pesach; it is the accepted rabbinic parlance when referring to the korban. The measure of the Omer was 1/10 of an Ephah. A Biblical Ephah is approximately ninety-three cups of dry US flour. The Omer, therefore, came out to be 9.3 cups of dry flour. The ‘counting’ of the omer, is just that. A mitzva to count 49 days starts on the day the korban ha’omer is offered. Somewhat separate from the Korban Omer (offered specifically one time on the 16th of Nissan) and the subsequent counting of 49 days towards Shavuos, is the mourning period for the death of Rebbi Akiva’s twenty-four thousand students. There is a machlokes (a debate) whether in our times, when there is no korban ha’omer, the mitzva of sefiras (the counting of) ha’omer is Torah law or Rabbinic (see Beis Yosef, Orach Chayim 489).

Getting back to the original question of la’omer or ba’omer, as I mentioned earlier, the risk factor of saying the wrong thing is exceptionally low. The Mishna Brura O.C. 489:8 explains that even if one leaves out the word entirely, the counting is valid, and it seems that even if the word were needed, both versions are similar enough to be valid. There are many authorities, both the rishonim (literally ‘the first ones’ - the leading rabbis and poskim who lived from the 11th to the 15th centuries)and the acharonim (the "last ones" – the leading rabbis and poskim living since the writing of the Shulchan Aruch – Code of Jewish Law – in 1563 to today, who fall on both sides of the coin. So… what more can we learn from this mitzva of Omer? Every Mitzva has the directions or the ‘how to’ perform the mitzva. Furthermore, I believe every Mitzva contains a message of a different dimension. In this case, my new friend suggested that the Omer is viewed as one long - or one whole mitzva - while others view each day independent of the other. Ba’Omer means "in or within the period of the omer, reflecting on just that one day". La’omer can mean "from the time of the offering of the korban omer or to the end of the counting. The former is more current on the day while the latter speaks more in terms of the totality of days. My new friend brought an interesting proof regarding his opinion that BaOmer is more correct. When it comes to the thirty-third day (this Friday), we do not say Lag La’Omer, rather Lag Ba’Omer. The fact we say Ba’Omer is because it specifically is referencing that one day of Lag, meaning thirty-three. In truth, we could say both forms are valid depending upon our intentions: are we speaking about a specific day or are we referring to the entire Omer period in general. The specific day is seen as the ‘prat’-  the individual, while the La’Omer is the Klal, or the general.

The ‘prat’, or individual day, is represented by the individual Jew, while the Klal, or general, represents the whole of the Jewish people, hence the wording ‘Klal Yisrael is not just a group; it is the totality of the Jewish people. Klal Yisrael is the sum of all the parts. Without the parts there is no whole, and without the whole we are just parts.

The Jewish people have both dimensions: we are individuals, and as individuals we each join to make up the Klal. The magnitude of this viewpoint is the subtleness of when we do this counting… the days of mourning for Rebbi Akiva’s students. The Gemorah in Yevamos 62b brings down this story. It was said that Rabbi Akiva had 12,000 pairs of disciples. All of them died during the same time period because they did not treat each other with respect. The world remained desolate until Rabbi Akiva came to our Masters in the South and taught the Torah to them. These were Rabbi Meir, Rabbi Yehuda, Rabbi Yosi, Rabbi Shimon and Rabbi Elazar ben Shammua;  it was these Rabbeim who revived the Torah at that time. A Tanna taught: "All of them (the 24,000 students of Rabbi Akiva) died between Passover and Shavuot". Rabbi Chama ben Abba or, it might be said, Rabbi Chiya ben Avin said: "All of them died a cruel death." What was it? Rabbi Nachman replied: "Croup." The Talmud speaks of 12,000 "pairs" of students and not of 24,000, ostensibly to stress the lack of unity of which they were guilty.  

The lesson to remember every day we count the Omer is the importance of every individual and the Klal - the entire group. It is no coincidence the death of the students who did not show proper respect to his individual study partner died during the days of the omer. Interpreted to represent both the individual and the Klal. The counting of the omer gives us an opportunity to work on our middos and character, of Bein Adam LaChaveiro. As the Omer is described in the parsha amongst the festivals of the year, it will be that when we act appropriately, when we practice Bein Adam LaChaveiro, the Yomim Tovim and festival cycle and observance will once again take place in the Beis HaMikdash. Then, the Omer offering will be brought, and the counting of the Omer will once again be biblical according to all opinions. On the question of La’Omer or Ba’ Omer, we still may have a difference of opinion, but we all respect that difference.  

Have a Spiritual Lag Ba'Omer & Ah Gutten Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky


Parshas Acharei Mos/Kedoshim - Living Jewish or Jewish Living       10 Iyar 5781

04/23/2021 09:10:17 AM


This Dvar Torah is L'Ilui Nishmas IMO Yehuda Leib Ben Yehoshua Heshel Bogopulsky z"l on his Yahrzeit 10 Iyar 

There is an old Yiddish expression “Shver tsu zayn ah Yid”: “It's hard to be a Jew”. This expression, or figure of speech, was used in a 1920 Yiddish-language comedy written by Sholom Aleichem about the difficulties dealing with Jewish-Gentile relationships in the Russian Empire. Throughout Eastern Europe, this expression was well known to every Yiddish-speaking Jew -  for good reason. Jews were routinely marginalized and discriminated against—if not flat-out persecuted—throughout every European country. In the United States this phrase took on a different slant, to the effect that in America it is difficult to be an observant, practicing Jew. At first, this was due to the rigors of obtaining the amenities and affordability to be an observant Jew. But in today’s day and age, it is more about the difficulties and downright interference of simply living the American lifestyle.

Too often people tend to contemplate the difficulties of being a Jew, frequently relating these difficulties to the Mitzvos/commandments that are forced upon them. There are many such Mitzvos which are commonly perceived as invasions to a person’s lifestyle - such as keeping kosher in and out of the home, observing Shabbos and the laws of family purity,  to name only a few. I would bet most people feel these difficulties primarily centered around Mitzvos between man and God. Those Mitzvos I mentioned earlier are prime examples of commandments that do not affect interpersonal relationships. Overall, people do not associate the principle of “Shver tsu zayn ah Yid” with the Mitzvos Bein Adam LaChaveiro, - the Mitzvos between man and man. ”Surely”, most would emphatically state, “we act appropriately with people.” Regrettably, this is the farthest thing from the truth; it is just as difficult, if not more so, to fully observe the laws between man and our fellow man. I believe that we, the Jewish People, do not comprehend the significance of the Mitzvos between man and man due to the influence of the secular world around us. It is rare to find a gentile who would be able to conceive some of the unique Mitzvos Hashem gave us. For example, one would think that it is fair to charge interest when loaning someone money. The money that I am giving as a loan will no longer be able to generate more income for myself, so why not at least recoup some of that potential loss? If someone wronged me, why couldn’t I take revenge to get even, wouldn’t that be fair? Who would not think it is a good idea to give special consideration to the poor? These, and countless other interactions among people, are everyday situations that the non-Jewish world is not commanded to observe, and yet we, the Jewish people, are required to adhere to all of them. Each member of the society in which we live plays a major part in our lives, influencing us greatly.  Therefore, each of the commandments affecting our interpersonal relationships – the commandments between man and man – prove throughout our lives to be both difficult and challenging.

In this week’s Parshios Acharei Mos/Kedoshim the Torah states in Vayikra 19:15 "לא תעשו עול במשפט לא תשא פני דל ולא תהדר פני גדול, בצדק תשפט עמיתך"   “Do not pervert justice. Do not give special consideration to the poor nor show respect. Judge your people fairly”. Rashi interprets the words ‘Judge your people fairly’ according to the plain meaning. There is, however, another interpretation regarding this line.  It reads: "הוי דן את חברך לכף זכות" Judge your fellowman in the scale of merit.”  I heard a remarkable new understanding of this concept. Being “Dan L’Kaf Zchus” - giving someone the benefit of the doubt - is not, L’Chatchila, done in the best possible way or occurring at the beginning, at first, initially. Rather, L’Chatchila, you should mind your own business. But, B’Dieved (in retrospect), you were judging somebody in a certain situation, and you should not have done so; therefore, at least now you need to judge that person favorably.  The reason we need to judge favorably is clear and basic: Who are we to judge at all! God is the only ‘Judge’ to whom a person ultimately answers, and this seems to be something we tend to forget about all the time.

This lesson of not judging and, of even greater import, understanding why we should not judge, can be taken to another level of appreciation. In Vayikra 19:3 the Torah states: "איש אמו ואביו תיראו ואת שבתתי תשמרו, אני ה' אלקיכם"  “Every person must respect his mother and father and keep my Sabbaths. I am God your Lord”. The Gemara Kiddushin 31 asks how do we show reverence or what constitutes ‘Morah’? The Gemara answers, ”He [the son] shall not sit in his [the father’s] place, nor speak in his place, nor contradict his words.” This Gemara is commenting on the ‘why’ when speaking of honoring a parent. The Torah concludes with, ‘I am Hashem your God’. Both you [the children] and your parents are obligated to honor Me. Therefore, do not listen to him [your father] to void My words. Yehudah Aryeh Leib Alter, also known by the title of his main work, the Sfas Emes, writes in his maamar of 1871 that this line is a hint by Hashem that we, the children, should not sit in the place of our father….our Father in Heaven! The Zohar HaKadosh writes that Hashem is the Father of the Jewish people. Hashem is telling us not to sit in His place.

In the words of Kedusha, the angels call out how Holy Hashem is, and that He fills the world with His honor. Hashem’s honor reigns throughout the world; we need to be careful where we sit - definitely not in God’s chair and place. The message is that we need to stop trying to run the world. Hashem is commanding us not to sit in His place and try to run the world. Why are we agitating, fooling ourselves to believe that by doing this or that we will be saved? Rather, we need to just do our Hishtadlus, our effort, and just sit back and comment as a devout Jew would say, ‘a Jew ought to allow himself to be led by Hashem’. The subtle reminder that ‘Hashem/ God runs the world’ is also learned out from the few key words in the verse ‘and keep My Sabbaths’. The declaration of Shabbos makes it clear that in six days God created the world and on the seventh day He rested. This expresses His kingdom.; it is Shabbos testifies that Hashem is the Creator of the world and runs and sustains all.

The phrase “shver tsu zayn ah Yid” – “It's Hard to be a Jew” caused great damage, pushing away an entire generation of those ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ stereotypical Jews from Judaism. I believe it was Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l who told parents to be careful of the message your children are getting from you when they hear you say those sighing, woeful words.  To summarize, I would like to rephrase that famous old Yiddish expression and say, “Shver tsu zayn ah Yid Ahn Gut” It's Hard to be a Jew without God”. If we connect our existence to remembering who is really running the show, then it will be much easier, and actually deeply fulfilling, to be a God-fearing observant and dedicated Jew!    

Ah Gutten Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky


Parshas Tazria/Metzora - Eretz Yisroel-There's No Place Like Home         3 Iyar 5781 

04/15/2021 09:57:39 AM


On May 14, 1948, just a little over three years since the Holocaust came to an end, the State of Israel was officially declared; on May 11, 1949, The United Nations General Assembly admitted Israel to membership in the UN by a vote of 37-12. The delegations of the six Arab countries (Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Yemen) walked out of the Assembly Hall in protest. The UN vote recognizing the State of Israel miraculously occurred. Unfortunately, only a short seventy-two and seventy-three years later, the Holocaust is either being openly denied, or perhaps worse, commended throughout the world. The State of Israel, which in 1948 did not have complete support from the world, now faces challenges even from those who supported it then. Today, despite Israel’s contributions to the world and being recognized as a beacon of democracy throughout the Middle East, continuously faces calls for its destruction and, again, maybe worse - is attacked and labeled as a racist and oppressive country.

Within a span of nine days many Jews throughout the world annually commemorate Yom Hashoah, Yom Hazikaron - Israel Memorial Day, and celebrate Yom HaAtzmaut, Israel’s day of Independence.  I carefully worded the fact that many but not all Jews observe these specific days. There are many Halachik reasons and arguments on both sides regarding the observance of these days. I will not divert into any of those discussions, choosing instead to focus on one word that connects all of these events: ‘Kodesh’- Holy - the same word that connects the Jewish people to Hashem. The Jews who were murdered during the Holocaust ALL died Al Kiddush Hashem, sanctifying God’s name for the mere fact that they were killed because they were Jewish. Additionally, each and every oneof the men and women who died while in the Armed Forces defending Eretz Yisroel all died Al Kiddush Hashem.  Each of the victims of terror who were murdered in Eretz Yisroel by terrorists ALL died Al Kiddush Hashem. The land of Israel is called ‘Eretz HaKedosha” - the Holy land.       

In a pre-Pesach article, I mentioned a few points from a discussion I heard from my Rosh Yeshiva, Rabbi Wein. Rabbi Wein told us of a custom which he continues to practice - the insistence on drinking wine from Israel at the Seder. At that point he maintained a continuation of the story of Yetzias Mitzrayim with the Jewish people headed to the land of their forefathers.

Today, some three thousand years after the exodus from Egypt, the Jewish people are once again entering and populating the Holy land of Israel. Many have heard that Israel is known as the ‘Start Up Nation’. Israel is a leader in so many products ranging from medicine, science, technology, food, beverages, and more. Israel has become the center of Jewish life and affords the comfort of being a Jew with all the amenities and fewer distractions than other places in the free world. Yet there seems to be a tendency for so many Jews to travel to other destinations rather than visiting  Israel.

We need to be aware of the importance of not only supporting Israel by purchasing Israeli products because to do so helps Israel’s economy,  but because things that come from the Holy Land are holy. But how did the founders of modern-day Zionism view Eretz Yisrael? In 1903, Theodore Herzl presented a plan referred to as The Uganda Scheme  to the Sixth Zionist Congress in Basel. It proposed the idea of creating a Jewish homeland in a portion of British-controlled East Africa. Herzl presented the plan as a temporary refuge for Jews to escape rising antisemitism in Europe. At the Congress the proposal met stiff resistance.  

To contrast this, one needs to read about how the religious leaders and great Rabbonim characterized Eretz Yisrael. An interesting source from the ערוך השלחן (Aruch HaShulchan}, written by Rav Yechiel Michel Epstein, came across one of my chat groups.  The Aruch HaShulchan first printed in 1884, many years prior to the establishment of the State of Israel in Eretz Yisrael. I mention the year to juxtapose the current events at that time, only nineteen years before the sixth Zionist Congress. Just as Rabbi Wein mentioned using Israeli wine at his seder, the Aruch HaShulchan wrote an important and eye-opening halacha on the mitzva of lulav and esrog. Rav Epstein wrote about the esrogim that were grown in the Carpathian Mountains and other surrounding regions, explaining that most were possibly grafted since the majority of the orchards were run by non-Jews.  Due to the great distances of the locations of these orchards, rabbis could only make occasional inspections of the esrogim to assure that they were not grafted and therefore approved for religious use.

Rav Epstein writes in Orach Chaim 648:29 as follows:

ולפי זה אין לנו שום היתר על אתרוגים, רק אותם שישראלים מעידים שיודעים הנטיעות מתחילתן, שאין בהם שום הרכבה. כמו אתרוגי ארצינו הקדושה, שבשם גדולי ישראל, ותלמידי חכמים, ויראי אלקים משגיחים על הגינות, שלא יהיה בהן שום הרכבה. אבל לאתרוגי קורפ"ו – אין שום היתר, אף בההכשרים שלהם, שידוע לכל שישראל מעטים שם, וכבושים תחת ידם, ויראתם על פניהם. ואיך ידעו מה שעושים על פני השדה בגינותיהם ובכרמיהם, אם ירכיבו אם לאו?ושמא תאמר: הרי אינם חשודים להכשיל רק מה שיש להם טובת הנאה, כמבואר ביורה דעה סימן קיח? איברא דזה יש להם טובת הנאה רבה, דידוע דכל מורכב גדל ממנו פירי יפה, וכל שאינו מורכב – הפירי אינה יפה. ובכל הפירות כן הוא. ואדרבא תקונם של אתרוגי קורפ"ו זה הוא קלקולם, דבאמת הם יפים מאד ואין דומה להם, וזהו מפני הרכבתם. ולכן כל איש מישראל אשר נגע יראת ד' בלבו – לא יקח רק אתרוגי ארץ ישראל. ואיך לא נבוש ולא נכלם בדבר מצוה שנוכל לקיימה מפרי ארצנו הקדושה, ליטול דווקא מארץ העמים? אוי לה לאותה בושה, אוי לה לאותה כלימה! ועל זה נאמר: "וימאסו בארץ חמדה". ולכן יש ליזהר בזה מאד מאד. (גם הלבוש, והמגן אברהם סוף סימן זה, והט"ז בסימן הבא – פסלום.)

(The following is a translation of the section in bold) “Therefore, every Jew who has a fear of Heaven in his heart – should only take an Esrog from Eretz Yisrael. And how is it that there is no shame and humiliation, with the ability to fulfill the Mitzva with a fruit from Our Holy Land, and instead specifically take from a foreign land? Woe to that shame, woe to that humiliation! Upon this the verse in Tehilim 106:24 states “And they despised the desirable land…”. Therefore, one should be very, very careful in these matters”.

There are many ways to show our love, affection, and dedication to Eretz Yisrael. Whether buying Dead Sea spa products, Tefilin, or Bamba, these purchases not only support the Israeli economy; they connect us to Eretz Yisrael. Every Friday night I offer Osem soup nuts and I remark, ”Who wants a taste of Eretz Yisrael?” Our diet both physically and spiritually should be nourished through Eretz Yisrael. We should all merit to live, breathe and walk the length and breadth of Eretz Yisrael as our forefather Avraham Avinu did when he was promised the Land from Hashem for his children in future generations.  


Ah Gutten Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Parshas Shmini - The Defining Moment          26 Nissan 5781

04/08/2021 02:47:08 PM


Well, I made it, Boruch Hashem! The last time was in March of 2020 that I did something at least three or four times a year which lasted from three to twenty-five hours each time. To tell you the truth, I was a bit anxious, nervous, and uncertain as to how I was going to actually get this done. These are just a few of descriptive phrases which attempt to describe my first air flight in over a year since the pandemic changed our lives. As you may know through some of my other writings,  I do not travel well. I have a severe degree of airsickness which periodically causes me to lose consciousness by passing out. I faced this upcoming trip with a confluent concern: getting back into flying and dealing with that entire experience now compounded by wearing a mask. Although my mask-wearing experience has not been a problem, I have tended not to wear a mask since receiving the second vaccine. However, wearing masks are mandated by Federal law in all airports and on all planes – no exceptions. Everyone must wear a mask throughout the hours of travel. This makes any long-distance flight a bit uncomfortable; there is no place to turn for a breath of fresh air. As a Jew I feel an extra pressure to not only be compliant but extra cautious to avoid a Chilul Hashem. 

When booking tickets, we chose to fly the red eye, hoping that some of the restrictions regarding mask-wearing would be relaxed once the lights were turned off and there was less activity in the aisle. The irony of this is that in the airport seating is spread out by blocking out every other seat. Initially, when air travel resumed, airlines boasted that all the middle seats would be blocked due to concern for safety and health measures. Well, the overnight flight we booked was cancelled and we were booked  on a daytime flight that was totally packed – there was not a single empty seat on the plane. When it comes to the airline making money, they can compromise on our safety by no longer having even a slight degree of separation so long as everyone abides by the mask-wearing requirement. Now do not get me wrong, I do believe masks make all the difference, but guidelines and enforcement need to be handled with more seichel.

And so, yes, the world has changed, and we need to go along and change with it. After 9/11 the world changed, and we adapted to the resulting new requirements. Today, those requirements, which were so burdensome when implemented, are today  part and parcel of our culture. An entire generation has grown up not knowing what life was like before 9/11. Sad as it is, a generation of children will grow up with mask-wearing for the foreseeable future, and adults will adapt one way or another depending upon where and what the local culture and laws demand. Change is part of our existence. It has occurred throughout the past 5781 years and will continue to occur so long as we humans inhabit this planet.  To be successful, we need to adapt to each new reality. Sometimes the changes are gradual; other times change is an instantaneous jolt. 9/11 and this Covid pandemic are examples of how lives become turbulently reshaped in a flash.

Many of our electronic utensils - refrigerators, air conditioners, washers, dryers, and so forth, come equipped with filters that eventually need to be changed. Filter changes give new life and extend the productivity of the appliance. We human beings filter the situations of life on a constant basis. Sometimes, to be productive and not break down, we also need to change our "filters". It takes time and effort to accomplish this filtration,  but in the long run (and even in the short run) such adaptation or change brings stability, focus, and the personal strength necessary to successfully navigate life.


There are defining moments in life. We find in the Torah examples of people and Mitzvos  which are defined by a single instance of dramatic change. Whether it be an Akeidas Yitzchok, Moshe throwing down and smashing the Luchos, or the spies returning with a skewed view of Eretz Yisrael, life changed instantly for those who witnessed these events. But there are other more subtle indications in the Torah regarding how things are dramatically altered for better or for worse, causing lifelong change to those affected.

In this week's Parsha Shmini, the Torah states in Vayikra 11:46 (the very last passuk of the parsha) "להבדיל בין הטמא ובין הטהור, ובין החיה הנאכלת ובין החיה אשר לא תאכל"  “With this law, you will be able to distinguish between the unclean and the clean, between edible animals and animals which may not be eaten”. Let’s learn Rashi: בין הטמא ובין הטהר. צָרִיךְ לוֹמַר בֵּין חֲמוֹר לְפָרָה, וַהֲלֹא כְבָר מְפֹרָשִׁים הֵם? אֶלָּא בֵּין טְמֵאָה לְךָ לִטְהוֹרָה לְךָ — בֵּין נִשְׁחַט חֶצְיוֹ שֶׁל קָנֶה לְנִשְׁחַט רֻבּוֹ: ‎הטהור‎‎ בין הטמא ‎ובין‎ BETWEEN THE UNCLEAN AND THE CLEAN — Is it necessary to say that one should understand to distinguish between the donkey and the cow? Have they not already been closely defined as to their distinguishing characteristics? But the meaning is that you should thoroughly understand how to distinguish between what is unclean for you and what is clean for you* -  between what is forbidden and what is permitted to you; between the case of an animal whose windpipe was only half cut through by the knife, and the case when the greater part has been cut through (in the former case the animal is forbidden, in the latter it is permitted as food) (Sifra, Shemini, Chapter 12 7). *The Sifsei Chachamim explains the “the unclean” is caused by your actions, and “clean to you” is based upon your actions. This means that even if you have a kosher species animal, you determine by shechting it whether it will be “kosher” for you or not. The Ramban writes of how much difference  there is between “the greater part” and the case regarding cutting through  only half of the windpipe The difference is only a hair’s breadth.

But the defining comment (Which is really a moment without the letter c.) on this passuk is that even though up until the very last moment when the knife cuts through the pipes, this animal is forbidden because it is still alive. There is a prohibition of eating from a live animal. As soon as the knife passes though, at that split second, the animal automatically becomes pure and clean to eat.

 The name given to the knife used for ritual slaughtering is “chalif” which means ‘to change’. It is through this instrument - in less than a fraction of a second -which causes the animal to  ‘change’ from unclean to clean, from non-kosher to kosher. The laws of kashruth, according to Rav Hirsch, are not for bodily health; they are given to us by God to protect the moral integrity of our souls. Our lives are with these “moments” of change, transforming us for better or for worse; for good or for bad. Regardless of the results, we must continue to move forward, to power through these changes. Our focus must remain focused on recognizing these changes as they occur, filtering the decision-making process so as  to make positive change in our lives. Just as schechita must happen instantaneously, so too change occurs often without warning. When Covid attacked the world all of us were dramatically affected.  We all have changed. The question one needs to ask is ”Do you want to move on from the past or continue to live a life of stagnation, a life which resists moving forward?”

Ah Gutten Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Parshas Tzav/Pesach - The Seder, Putting your Life in Order!!!            12 Nissan 5781

03/25/2021 11:46:53 AM


This year will mark the three thousand, three hundred, thirty-third time that the Jewish people will be celebrating Pesach, the exodus from slavery. The history of the Jews is evidence to our eternity as a people, and Jewish history is the history of all mankind. One major secret to our continued existence and ability to survive has been the transmission of Torah from generation to generation. If the Jew fulfills the directive of ושננתם לבניך   - to teach our children, we will continue thriving until the end of time. Unfortunately, for some that teaching and the accompanying chain has been severed. The results, therefore, are no surprise: their children have become part of the eighty percent who died during the plague of darkness and did not merit to leave Egypt.

Please take note, mainstream commentaries explain the reason the Jews died while it was dark is because the Egyptians should not be able to say Hashem is killing his own people, not only us. I would suggest the Jews perished during the plague of Choshech/darkness not only in the literal sense but also figuratively; they died a religious death and were no longer interested in being Jewish, choosing instead to assimilate into Egyptian culture. To ensure that the transmission is successful, we need to actively teach our children, both in both mind and action, not only teaching Torah, but role modeling it as well. We must act as we preach; actions do, indeed, speak louder than words. There is no better opportunity to reset our life and goals for our family and ourselves than Pesach.

Although the Torah commands a father to teach his children Torah, there exists the concept of a “Shaliach”, a messenger for many mitzvos. Teaching Torah to our children is not an exception. In today’s society, children primarily are taught in a school system. Even in a “home schooling” situation, it is someone else who does most of the teaching.  Nevertheless, Chaza”l direct us מצוה בו יותר מבשלוחו  it is a greater to do a Mitzva yourself than through a messenger. Pesach is the time when we can learn from others and still maintain the obligation of teaching and transmitting the most basic and essential messages for our family’s future.

No matter how old a person is, he still learns from others, particularly when such learning is available from his or her Rebbi. I participated in a zoom session with my Rosh Yeshiva, Rabbi Berel Wein, who gave over to us (his children) some key points and takeaways of the most important things to discuss at the seder. I will share these priceless points so that you, too, can implement them, crafting an atmosphere that will leave an indelible impression on our families for years to come, transmitting something they will cherish and pass on to the next generation.

The Pesach seder is meant to be an experience for children. We are celebrating Cheirus, which means freedom. It should not be torture or an experience they want to forget about. They should be free to enjoy and be free of criticism, allowing them the liberty to be the stars of the show while the adults (of course choreographing behind the scenes) should be the audience, demonstrating accolades and woo hoos for the participants. Children should feel their own freedom, and as they mature they will come to appreciate the concept that every Jew needs to feel as if they, too, left Mitzrayim.

Kids look forward to certain events throughout the year, such as a special birthday party. We should make our seder look and feel like a fantastic birthday party for kids. It needs to be fun and active.  No child falls asleep or is bored at their own birthday party. This seder/party is filled with goodies, a game of hiding the afikomen and even a promised present during Chol HaMoed. Most of us enjoy participating in being given a chance to star or take on a great part. We should make it so for the children. If they view the seder as a party, they will look forward to next year’s seder throughout the year. Eventually, as they grow and mature, they will appreciate the story and the Torah that is involved in the story of the Jewish people.

The participants at the seder must appreciate the words אשרינו מה טוב חלקינו, ומה נעים גורלנו, ומה יפה ירושתנו Ashreinu Mah Tov Chelkeinu, Umah Naim Goraleinu, Umah Yafa Yerushateinu: How good is our portion, how pleasant our lot, and how beautiful our heritage! We cannot overstate it enough to relate the benefit and beauty that we have the Torah and the way of life as a Jew. Our inheritance is something we received and will give over to our children. We must feel it to effectively transmit it.Whenf children smell our lack of the above, they will sever this bond as soon as they grow up, (even a little) cutting the connection.  

An integral part of the seder is not only mentioning where we left, but almost equally important, where we were going. Our homeland is Eretz Yisrael, and we need to explain, teach and demonstrate our Ahavas  Eretz Yisrael, our love of the Land of Israel. I will always be thankful to the country we have so graciously been a part of, but I will not be apologetic to say we are only visitors and guests here in America. Rabbi Wein has a custom to drink wine specifically made in Israel. Sixty years ago Israeli wine was unheard of. Today, Israeli wine producers compete at the highest levels in international wine production. The Netzi”v, Rav Naftali Zvi Yehuda Berlin, upon receiving a bottle of wine from Israel, donned his Shabbos clothing prior to drinking this wine from the holy land. We, too, should devote some part of the seder to specifically focus on Eretz Yisrael, sharing this gift of the present state of Israel in our time.

Finally, we recite the most important words of the seder and if we don’t, we do not fulfill the night’s order. Whoever does not recite “Pesach, Matza and Marror” does not fulfill his obligation.  This is the underlying message to teach and give over to our families. The Pesach meal represents the best of times in our life. The Matzah, as we had to eat it quickly or not have a chance to let it rise, represents the unexpected challenges of life. The Marror, the bitter herb, was no better witnessed this past year during Corona. Death, illness, isolation, sadness permeated the entire world. It was a bitter lesson, especially for Klal Yisrael.   The life lesson is that as we taste many things in life, both sweet and bitter, we still have to make a bracha on it - for good or the bad. Life has its ups and downs and that is part of our heritage and history.  

We should be zocheh to merit the ability to fulfill these messages. As a result, we will put our life and the lives of our future generations in order through the Pesach Seder!

Ah Gutten Shabbos & Ah Chag Kasher V'Sameach

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky



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


Parshas Vayikra - Smack your Lips and Savor your Meal!!!                6 Nissan 5781

03/18/2021 10:17:56 PM


As a follow up to last week’s message regarding how to emerge from the pandemic, I wish to share an old insight that applies even more today than ever before. Everyone can highlight some of the good and bad things that took place this past year and, for most of us, can even see the silver lining packed within some of the challenges. Two areas of life were greatly impacted during Covid-19 - eating out  and davening/praying with a minyan. At least here in San Diego, our dining experience, albeit challenging even in the best of times, is now returning with limited in-door dining and seating. The same is true with regard to davening as more people get vaccinated.  Hopefully, the ability to “go back to normal” is approaching. Unfortunately, habits were formed, and people grew comfortable with what they now term “the new norm”. I was told by Rabbi Wein that we must go back to the “old norm” in conjunction with the benefits of the past year.  The following is a comparison of the similarities of eating and davening.

When it comes to eating out, people typically tend to choose between fine dining and fast-food joints. A fine dining experience will usually take a few hours to eat food that can typically be eaten in a few minutes. I remember eating in an Israeli restaurant with an all-you-can-eat menu. The experience was gluttonous. We were served seven different types of meats, chicken, and a plethora of side dishes. Diners were invited to taste as many of these delicacies as they wished. There was no time limit; diners were welcome to stay there for six hours, get up, walk around, go the bathroom, shmooze with diners at other tables, burp, and then sit back down to partake in more food. There is a distinct feel or sense of royalty when surrounded with the lavishness of eating in an environment of opulence. Truth be told, it kind of crosses the border on the prohibition of excessive eating (as discussed in the Gemara Pesachim 108a regarding eating of Korban Pesach), a negative commandment in the Torah.

At the conclusion of this amazing, yet luxurious eating experience, I reached the feeling of satiation whereby I might have been obligated to recite the full Birkas Hamazon despite not having eaten any bread. For me, the pleasure and enjoyment of this culinary experience was due to the fact that I could actually enjoy eating delicious food slowly, savoring every taste sensation with a sense of ease and relaxation. Typically, I would indulge myself by eating a good rib steak but would consume it quickly, not taking the time to appreciate the full flavor of the meat attained by eating more slowly. On the other hand, eating quickly, without proper chewing can wreak havoc on the intestinal track. Every dietician, doctor and health professional will tell you that eating slowly helps your digestion, keeps your weight in check, and helps to contribute to a more enjoyable lifestyle. Of course, there are situations when we have no choice, but that should only be the exception not the norm.

There are very few foods other than meat which are connected to an all -you- can- eat menu. I would like to suggest that there is a symbolic connection here regarding the relationship of meat to both a Biblical and a rabbinic view point. This week, as we begin Sefer Vayikra, the Book of Leviticus, our attention will now focus on the daily activities that existed in the Mishkan, the portable Temple which we just completed building, concluding with its inauguration. Probably the most active part of the Mishkan was the processing of animals for korbanos, ritual sacrifices and offerings. Animals were offered daily for the public and continually throughout the day for personal sacrifices. Sacrifices were offered for a host of reasons not limited to sin or guilt. Sacrifices were also offered for thanksgiving, free will, nazir, childbirth, and more. There was a constant flow of animals being led in, slaughtered, and essentially roasted on the mizbeiach - the altar. Meat was consumed by 'Hashem', the Kohanim, and their families. Some sacrifices were eaten and enjoyed by those who brought the offerings along with their families. The Navi Hoshea in 14:3 states: "Unishalma Parim Sifaseinu", "and let us render for bulls the offering of our lips”. The essence of the sacrifices is to become closer to Hashem, hence the word "Korban" which means to get close, is done through our lips.

When sacrifices were able to be brought, the closeness to Hashem came as a result of the offering itself as well as the eating of the meat. pToday, in these ost-Temple times,we are no longer able to bring offerings or experience the emotional power of connecting to HaShem through eating of the meat, we must be aware of the requirement that we have to use our lips in another way to get close to God This is done through prayer! When it comes to communal or private prayer, a person establishes habits regarding the way he eats, just as he establishes habits regarding the way he davens.  I am suggesting that there is, indeed, a correlation between the speed with which a person eats and the speed of his davening, or vice versa.  In other words, I am saying that there are people who daven quickly or slowly and people who eat quickly or slowly. A person does not process that his body actually adapts to a certain routine - whether it is eating or davening. After a period of time, each of us evolve and change, especially when it comes to the speed of davening. We now  have only one Shacharis minyan in Shul and have adapted a compromise speed between the pace of davening during the early minyan and the second minyan. This is especially true when we find ourselves in an environment which is different from that which we grew accustomed to. Someone who is used to daven quickly will, at times, find himself in a slower minyan. Similarly, a person who typically eats slowly may at times be forced to eat quickly.

We have already established the fact that doing things more slowly vis a vis eating -and probably davening -is healthier. During the busy work week, a person may not have time to eat properly or to daven slowly, for that matter. But I must add, a person does not tend to leave the table early, leaving food on his plate – especially when it is good.  So, too, a person should not leave davening early, leaving some of the prayers unsaid.  

With that said, therefore, when the 'opportunity' to 'slow down' occurs, we should take advantage of that time and enjoy it. This opportunity rolls around every week on Shabbos and on occasion of Yom Tov. Shabbos and Yom Tov meals need not be rushed. We can enjoy the food, ambiance, and atmosphere during each Shabbos and Y.T. meal. In addition, the tefillos on Shabbos and Y.T. should be viewed as an invitation to take in all that prayer has to offer. Just as we can sit down and savor a great meal by eating slowly, taking pleasure in every aspect of the meal, giving it time to digest, so too can we use our mouths to savor the taste and the beauty of the prayers. We have a chance to daven slowly, to think about the words and the meaning of the tefillos in a way which we may not have the chance to do during the week. This requires a change of mindset regarding eating, and, kal vachomer - how much more so - by davening. Stop and think. Digest this thought. Do we want to eat our words by half chewing, or chewing so quickly that we devour them without even tasting them? The korbanos, represented by our food, should be used to get closer to Hashem. Take the time to daven slowly and with greater kavana - concentration and understanding - of the tefillos. Hopefully, by eating more slowly on Shabbos and YomTov, we will train ourselves to eat more slowly during the week. Healthy eating habits contribute to becoming physically healthier. In the same vein we should enjoy and treasure slower davening on Shabbos and Y.T. Hopefully, that, too, will carry over to our davening during the week, even if it is on a Sunday or on a day off from work when we have more time.

Ah Gutten Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Parshas Vayakhel/Pekudei - As Covid Fades, The Lessons Remain     28Adar 5781

03/11/2021 10:26:55 PM


Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Click here for printable version

Milestones and anniversary dates are commonly viewed differently by the very people involved in those same occasions. Some place great emphasis on a particular date or time while others dismiss these occurrences as ‘just part of life’. Many people throughout the world will take note that it has been a full year since Covid-19 invaded our world,  , our families, our very way of life as we once knew it. For me, it was  both riveting and even frightening to take note of the  events we witnessed together steadily continue to unfold. Now, one year later, I am amazed how HaKadosh Baruch Hu -God - is allowing things to steadily return, at least partially, to life as we once knew it. 

This past week I received the second dose of the Covid-19 vaccine;  I felt liberated and healthy even though I will continue to wear a mask and socially distance during the next two weeks, allowing time for the vaccine to take its full effect. There was much halachik discussion as to what if any appropriate bracha or tefilla should be recited when receiving this and perhaps other vaccines or medical treatments. 

The following explanation of a proper bracha to recite under such circumstances is from Rabbi Dr. Aaron E. Glatt, Associate Rabbi, Young Israel of Woodmere, and Chief of Infectious Diseases & Hospital Epidemiologist at Mount Sinai Hospital of South Nassau. Based on Shulchan Aruch Orech Chaim 230:4 with the Mishnah Brurah Seif Kattan 6, it is proper and recommended to recite the following supplication to Hashem prior to undergoing any medical treatment or procedure. Certainly, this supplication is most appropriate to recite before receiving the lifesaving COVID-19 vaccine: The prayer in Hebrew is:  יהי רצון מלפניך ה' אלוקי שיהא עסק זה לי לרפואה (יש מוסיפים: כי רופא חנם אתה) In English, this is loosely translated as “May it be Your will, Hashem, my G-d, that this treatment will be for me for a cure (and some add, because You are a Healer who cures for free).” 

We continue to be patient for more and more people throughout the United States and around the globe to become safe and healthy against this virus. There were many lessons learned and practiced over this period. Some of those good practices fell by the wayside while others modified our personal well- being. These practices or even minhagim – customs - concern how we conducted ourselves, whether they be regarding interpersonal relationships or our own personal relationship with the Almighty. Some of the rules and regulations related to safety and health have eased, and, in some places, are no longer mandated. 

In Shul, signs were immediately posted at the onset of the pandemic mandating that we prepare a safe environment. I daven every day in front of a wall that has three signs posted for this purpose. The first sign reads ‘Prevent the Spread’ with four pictures illustrating- stay home if you’re sick; wash your hands; wear a mask; separate. The second sign reads ‘Cover your Nose and Mouth’ accompanied by a picture of a face mask, illustrating how to wear it properly. The third sign reads ‘Social Distancing is Required’, depicting a group of people each standing 6ft apart. We humans tend to grow tired of or even annoyed by dictums which recommend taking on precautionary but invasive practices or behaviors.   I am not here to dictate or to determine whether or not these practices should continue.  I am, however, relating the reality that some of these practices are no longer being… well, practiced! I continue to stand by the principle that we should not forget these seemingly simple but very important safety and health measures. These measures not only continue to protect others as well as ourselves; they also help to make the world we live in a better, more caring place. Therefore, for the sake of our spiritual health and well-being, we should continue to practice all the health and safety measures that have been so strongly recommended. This is learned out in an immensely powerful message in the Torah. 

The Torah, in last week’s Parsha Ki Sisa, relates the dialogue Hashem had with Moshe after God told Moshe to quickly go down the mountain because the Jews were sinning. In Shmos 32:7   "וידבר ה' אל משה, לך רד כי שחת עמך אשר העלית מארץ מצרים"  “God declared to Moshe, ‘Go down, for the people who you brought out of Egypt have become corrupt.’” Then, in Shmos 32:8 "סרו מהר מן הדרך אשר צויתם עשו להם עגל מסכה" “They have been quick to leave the way that I ordered them to follow, and they have made themselves a cast-metal calf”.  This one-to-one conversation takes a turn no one could expect or ever imagine. The Midrash Rabbah 46 (which, by the way, if not for the fact that it is written, we never would have been able to say or even think of such an idea) relates that when Hashem told Moshe to descend the mountain, he was holding the Luchos (Tablets). Moshe, not believing that the Jewish people sinned, said, “If I do not see it, I do not believe it!” How do we know that Moshe did not believe the Jews sinned? The question is, why didn’t Moshe break the Luchos earlier? The Midrash continues, stating: “We see here, that when Hashem told Moshe, ”Go down because your nation has sinned…” he held onto the Luchos and did not believe that the Jews sinned. Wait a minute! Who didn’t Moshe believe? Hashem! Hashem told him that the Jewish people had sinned, yet he didn’t believe it!! The Midrash continues: “Moshe said: “If I do not see it, I will not believe it.” This is confirmed by the Torah eleven verses later. Finally, in Shmos 32:19 "ויהי כאשר קרב אל המחנה וירא את העגל ומחלת ויחר אף משה וישלך מידו את הלחת וישבר אתם תחת ההר"  “As he approached the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, Moshe displayed anger, and threw down the tablets that were in his hand, shattering them at the foot of the mountain”. We see that Moshe only shattered the Luchos/Tablets when he saw with his own eyes. The Midrash goes on, ”Woe upon those who testify or say things they have not seen with their own eyes.” Is it really possible that Moshe Rabbeinu didn’t believe Hashem when He said, ”Your nation has sinned?” However, Moshe wanted to teach us an important lesson:  Even if one hears something from a trustworthy individual, even it it’s the Tzadik, the biggest Rabbi of the generation, he is not allowed to accept it and act upon it until he sees it with his own eyes or hears it with his own ears! 

I know that if we took the time to internalize the lesson of this Midrash, we would spare ourselves so much machlokes and conflict. If we just thought about this Midrash and its message, we would avoid so much pain and aggravation. Hashem Himself told Moshe, but Moshe wanted to teach us that even if the most trusted person tells you something, you are  not to act upon it until you verify it with your own eyes and ears. The lessons of the three signs in Shul not only give us practical advice; they give us a spiritual guideline as well. If you hear something which states that we can prevent the spread, it is correct to initially hold back in order to properly verify.  We should also remember that the mask is used to cover our mouths but also figuratively keeps us from jumping the gun and repeating something that may not be reliable because we heard it from someone else, who may have also heard it from someone whose information may not be reliable. Finally, if there is too much temptation, we may spread false information. In truth, our mask protects others, not ourselves.  It is the use of masks by others which, in fact, protect us.  Allegorically, if wearing a mask is not enough of a reminder to be quiet, then perhaps  social distance from others and wait until verification of something that is so important that we need to believe and repeat. Moshe held back to teach us this lesson. In today’s current situation, let’s take the lessons and benefits this pandemic had shown us and aspire to live as better Jews, to be leaders, representing truth and goodness, as well as safety and precaution, for all mankind.            

Ah Gutten Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Parshas Ki Sisa / Porah -  There is The King Who is aware of every Mask we put on!               21 Adar 5781

03/04/2021 06:36:37 PM


Malcolm X. Forbes said, ”Every story has an end, but in life every end is just a new beginning.” Just as Purim has come and gone, so too have the costumes and the opportunity to be someone we are not, or, perhaps, maybe someone who we want to be! And… as Purim came to an end, many of us wished we could just remove the masks of Purim and go back to our true selves, only to come to terms with the reality that we still need to still wear our Covid-19 masks for the health and security of  fellow citizens. While some states cancelled the mask order, other states, including California, are keeping the mask order in place for the foreseeable future. While many of us cannot wait until we are able to bare our faces in public once again, for others, wearing a mask has been a blessing, as discussed in the following excerpt from an English publication.  

Lee dreaded run-ins with old friends and acquaintances around town, finding these spontaneous interactions “extremely awkward”. He used to time his shopping trips to minimize the possibility of bumping into someone he knew, waiting until almost closing time before heading out. “Since I've been wearing the mask, my awkward interactions with friends and family have significantly reduced,” he says. Now, he goes to the shops whenever he wants, without worrying about whom he might see. He hopes that, even after the pandemic ends, it will still be socially acceptable to wear a mask.

As stated earlier, wearing a mask is, for most of us, an annoying but worthwhile sacrifice; it is one of the most effective ways to slow the spread of Covid-19. Still, most of us look forward to the day when we can remove the mask permanently and see each other full face-to-face in public.

While face-coverings fog our glasses, clog our pores, and make it harder to smile at strangers and recognize friends, some secretly relish the new mask-wearing mandates for reasons ranging from the convenient and expedient to the more complex and psychological. Some welcome the way face coverings reduce or change interactions that might otherwise spark social anxiety. But is this a helpful, coping mechanism – and what happens when the pandemic comes to an end?

In this week’s Parsha Ki Sisa the Torah states in Shmos 34:33,34 "ויכל משה מדבר אתם ויתן על פניו מסוה. ובבא משה לפני ה' לדבר אתו יסיר את המסוה עד צאתו ויצא ודבר אל בני ישראל את אשר  יצוה"  : When Moshe finished speaking with them, he placed a ??? over his face. Whenever Moshe came before God to speak with Him, he would remove the ??? until he was ready to leave, he would then go out and speak to the Israelites, [telling them] what he had been commanded. What is the ??? According to Targum Yonason, Moshe covered his face with a hood. The Radak and LeKach Tov stated that it was a veil, while Rashi believed it to be a mask!

We know that Moshe Rabbeinu was the ‘humblest of all men’ and that he acted with an incredible sense of humility, interacting with people in a subdued, modest manner.  Nevertheless, as nice as this viewpoint seems, it is problematic. On the flip side, Moshe was considered a Melech/King, as stated in the Gemara Zevachim 102a:  Hashem referred to Moshe as a king, or he had the stature and the laws associated with being a king. As the leader, Moshe had an obligation to lead and rule with a ‘high hand’ and to be careful about his honor. There is a law that some individuals, such as parents, may forego their honor, but a king, even though he may try to forego his honor, cannot do so. The honoring must remain!  

The sefer Mayana Shel Torah quotes in the name of Rabbi Akiva Eiger* that Moshe was forced to mask or cover over his humility and modesty; his strength as a ruler and the accompanying command of respect were requirements even Moshe was not permitted to relinquish. When he appeared before the people, Moshe needed to show his greatness as a leader and king.  A king does not bow to the people, therefore he covered up his true self as an ‘anav’. In the next verse when Moshe appears before Hashem, he removes the covering from his face, revealing the true and humble man, a man who lowered himself in stature, a trait for which he is praised.   

The irony of Moshe having to cover his face stems from an earlier verse 34:29: “Moshe came down from Har Sinai with the Luchos of testimony in his hand. As Moshe descended down the mountain, he did not realize that the skin of his face had become luminous - a קרן עור  - when Hashem had spoken to him”. The Iben Ezra explains the word Kauran Or, literally, “was giving off rays (‘horns’) of light”. Reb Chaim ben Moshe Ittar, the Ohr HaChaim HaKadosh, writes that Moshe merited to have this radiance of light shine from his face because of his incredible amount of humility. The Torah itself testifies to Moshe’s humility. When Hashem told Moshe to write the word humble - ‘Anav’ עניו - in Hebrew, Moshe wrote it חסר , meaning missing, written without the letter ‘yud’ like this ענו. This alone demonstrates the humility of Moshe. It is for this reason that Moshe merited to have a radiant face beaming with light. This is hinted in the following Midrash: “Rabbi Yehuda Bar Nachman said there was a drop of ink left in the quill of Moshe when he completed writing the Torah. That drop of ink was the exact amount needed to write the letter ‘yud’.  Moshe did not want to write about his own humility and therefore left the ‘yud’ out.. The rays and beam of light are the result of that tiny drop of ink which Moshe did not use.

We are now all witness to seeing how simply wearing a mask can serve as an equalizer among people. Whether we are mandated to wear a mask or not, there are times when it is still necessary for some people under certain circumstances to wear one. We should take this lesson of the mask seriously.  Take the time to see the similarities and differences among the people of the world, using our masks to humble ourselves to others and to Hashem, but to also be aware of the benefit of both the need for humility while also being bold when it comes to leading Am Yisrael and the world, helping everyone to see the ultimate light and Emes/Truth in the world.

Ah Gutten Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky


*Rabbi Akiva Eiger was born in Eisenstadt - the most important town of the Seven Jewish Communities of Burgenland, Hungary, (now Austria). He was a child prodigy and was educated first at the Mattersdorf yeshiva and later by his uncle, Rabbi Wolf Eger, at the Breslau yeshiva. Out of respect for his uncle, he changed his surname to Eiger. He therefore shared the full name Akiva Eger with his maternal grandfather, the first Rabbi Akiva Eger (1722–1758) (b. 5482, d. 15 Elul 5518), the author of Mishnas De'Rebbi Akiva who was rabbi of Zülz, Silesia from 1749 and Pressburg from 1756.

He was the rabbi of Märkisch Friedland, West Prussia, from 1791 until 1815; then for the last twenty-two years of his life, he was the rabbi of the city of Posen. Rabbi Eiger was a rigorous casuist of the old school;  his chief works were legal notes and responsa on the Talmud and the Shulchan Aruch. He believed that religious education was enough, and thus opposed the party which favored secular schools. He was a determined foe of the Reform movement, which had begun to make itself felt during his lifetime.

Among his children were his two sons, Avraham (1781–1853) and Solomon (1785–1852). His daughter Sorel (Sarah) Eiger Sofer (1790–1832) was the second wife of the Chasam Sofer (1762–1839), rabbi of Pressburg.

Parshas T'Tzaveh/Shushan Purim - The Truth & the True Weekly Message   13-15 Adar 5781

02/25/2021 05:18:01 AM


Once upon a time long, long ago, I wrote these weekly messages the other way around. Now for some of the old, I mean older readers, you might recall (but you probably do not, either because you ARE old, or perhaps you never really read these Divrei Torah. The reason I say you did not read these Divrei Torah is exactly the point. When I first began writing them, I discussed the “Torah portion” first and then segued that into the quirky, ridiculous, every-day and every person experience to which perhaps only I could relate. I do not remember (because I am also old) at what point in time I flipped around the Dvar Torah segment with the light-hearted mundane insight I wished to share. This format gave me some satisfaction; I felt that I was only wasting half my time discussing the Torah part because most people, if they did accidentally click open the email or sit on one of the printed copies in Shul, would read at least the first half, just as you are doing right now!  Gotcha!

Now, as for the younger or new readership who only know the current format, perhaps we should show them how the layout used to be. This way we’ll have created ונהפוך הוא  a reversal for everyone, possibly causing a surprise for me…and…maybe, just maybe… the reversal just might cause everyone to read the entire piece!   I repeatedly said maybe, but I am not holding my breath!  So… if you feel the urge, you can stop reading right now. But wait!  Ahhh, could it be that you are still reading because it is Purim time and everything in the world has the chance, opportunity, to change and flip around?  If, however, you do continue to read on (even though by now you have been given two occasions to stop), I will attribute this determination on your part to the essence of Purim: You are diverging from the typical act of exiting this email or putting down the printed copy. By the way, since Purim has an element of Yom Kippur - the Rabbis teach us Purim is Yom K’Purim. I will forgive you if you choose to go ahead and read this message in its entirety, planning next week to return to skipping over the light-hearted stuff, reading ONLY the Torah portion of the message.

You are probably wondering (or not) why I am writing about Purim. After all, Purim is on Friday and the Parsha is T’Tzaveh. Why write about Purim? Well, if I do not write about Purim now, then when? In reality, that is not the only reason. When Purim, or more precisely the fourteenth of Adar, falls on Friday, in walled cities – including, of course, Yerushalayim Ir HaKodesh – everyone residing within that walled-in area celebrates the unique “perfect Purim storm”, called a Purim M’Shuleshet” - a three-day Purim! Most people do not get over their hangovers after one day of celebration, let alone three! In Yerushalayim the the Megilla is read and Matanos LaEvyonim (giving of at least one gift to two or more poor people) are given on Friday; Al HaNissim is added to the Amida and to the Bentching on Shabbos; and the Purim Seuda and Mishloach Manos (sending of gifts) take place on Sunday. Now the Halacha stipulates that if someone who celebrates Purim on the 14th of Adar goes ahead and adds Al HaNissim on Shushan Purim on the 15th of Adar, they do not need to repeat that prayer. This almost implies that since somewhere in the world Purim is celebrated on that day, even though we are not supposed to add it, nevertheless, if we did say it accidentally, no harm no foul. This refers to saying Al HaNissim when not on your day. See below* if you forgot to say it on your day. Therefore, this Shabbos is also a day of Purim so I can write about it whether  you skip this reading this Dvar Torah accidentally or intentionally!   

Chaza”l teach us that whenever the name Achashveirosh is used in the Megilla, it refers to the actual Achachveirosh, but when it is preceded by ’HaMelech’,  the term refers to Hashem, the King of the world. We also read ‘HaMelech; every Shabbos and Yom Tov.  This is highlighted at the beginning of Shacharis on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, as the Chazzan begins with the word “HaMelech”.  For example, the opening of the 6th chapter of the Megillah calls out בלילה ההוא נדדה שנת המלך  - On that night The King could not sleep. Rashi explains that ’The King’ refers to Hashem. The Maharal of Prague, Reb Yehuda Loewy, asks,” If we wanted to hint to God in the Megillah, couldn’t we find a more appropriate way to hint to Hashem?” Perhaps the hint could have been phrased either in the name of Mordechai or Esther; why place the hint next to the name of the wicked Achashveirosh? Why, of all the people, would we choose the evil Achashveirosh? The Maharal teaches us an amazing insight: What we are actually looking at is erroneous! The reason we even ask the question, or the reason the question is set up this way is because we see the main character as Achashveirosh, while Hashem is hinted to be somewhere in the background. However, the reality is that Hashem is truly “The King”; Hashem was running everything. God has a collection of puppets and dolls. One puppet is named Achashveirosh and another puppet is named Haman.  Hashem was using them! In fact, there really is no Haman and no Achashveirosh. Everything was from Hashem Himself. This is the main idea of Megillas Esther, which should be read לגלות את ההסתר   - to reveal the hidden. Hashem is hinting to all who read and hear the Megillah that it is not Haman or Achashveirosh.”It is I!”, said Hashem! The Pashut Pshat, the basic meaning of HaMelech is Hashem, not a hint. Achashveirosh and all the other characters of the Megillah were nothing more than puppets. Hashem created an incredibly powerful puppet show.

This concept applies to us in our lives, too. The person bothering you is just a puppet. This can explain the Gemara that says, ”One is obligated to drink on Purim until he cannot differentiate between Arur (cursed be) Haman and Baruch (Blessed be) Mordechai. Sometimes a person may have an enemy and he thinks of him as his personal “Arur Haman”. He hates him, he avoids him. ”He’s my enemy!” Another person is his “Baruch Mordechai”. I must send him a fancy Mishloach Manos…He is my good friend…. The Rabbis want us to realize that there is, in effect, no friend and no enemy, they are only puppets. That is the purpose of drinking on Purim, to reveal the hidden; to realize that there is one King of the entire world; the rest of the world consists merely of puppets. You think that person is hurting or helping you……it’s not that person; it’s Hashem. After we drink, we do not know the difference between Haman and Mordechai, but we do realize that it’s all Hashem. This is the hidden reason of wearing masks on Purim; we think it is Ploni behind the mask only to find out it is Almoni. He is not who he appears to be, and that is the lesson of Purim. We think that a certain person is an enemy. He is not. It’s all from Hashem, the King of the world.

Let us internalize this lesson and put it deep in our hearts. With this inside of us, we can truly be “Marbim B’Simcha!  And be glad, thrilled and overjoyed that this is the end of this week’s message!

Ah Gutten Shabbos and Ah Frielichin Purim

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky


*Since this meal is obligatory on Purim, so is its Birkas HaMazon. The Maharshal and the Shela are of the opinion that if one forgot to say ‘Al HaNisim’ in the Birkas HaMazon, the Grace after Meals would have to be repeated, together with its ‘Al HaNisim.’ The majority of authorities, however, including the Shulchan Aruch, Mishna Berura, Kaf HaChaim and Chida, are of the opinion that one is not required to repeat the ‘Al HaNisim,’ because one may fulfill the obligation to eat a Purim Seuda without eating bread (see Magen Avrohom 695:9). Accordingly, our accepted practice is not to repeat Birkat Hamazon because of a forgotten Al HaNisim.

Parshas Terumah - My Holy Household Utensils      7 Adar 5781

02/19/2021 12:29:43 PM


Well, it is that time of year again when the spring-cleaning, aka Pesach cleaning, gets underway. If not for my wife, we would need to rent out a few fifty-foot-long storage containers to mass the collectible junk accumulated over the past three decades. I have come to realize that a hoarder looks at their ‘’stuff’ as nostalgia, while a ‘normal’ person confronts it as junk. As we pass through the different ages and stages of life, happily picking up new things, we shed the old. I do perceive this issue to be a bigger challenge nowadays than  a generation or two back.

I was thinking back to the first residence I lived in and wondered how we managed with such limited space. As I travelled back further into the recesses of my memory, I gathered we did not have an abundance of things. But I do recall certain unique items or utensils that were in vogue back then. For me, even though I no longer have those utensils, I have still retained the memories and warm feelings of these items recalled from my past. I will share a few of those unique utensils, especially the kitchen gadgets and containers along with other items as well.

We had a few items that were camouflaged as pieces of furniture. The television that sat in the living room was encased in a large piece of furniture that had mini sliding doors which closed to cover up the screen. The record player was also enclosed in a piece of furniture, encasing the motor completely within one half of its box while  the records were placed on the turntable housed on other half. When not in use, a  piece of wood was slid over the record side, displaying a rectangular piece of furniture on legs. In the kitchen were either four or six ceramic mini bowls which  my mother used to make vanilla and chocolate pudding. These were never used for anything else. I vividly remember putting the bowls, filled with hot, freshly-made pudding, on the window ledge during the winter to quickly cool down and gel  in time for us to inhale. This dessert was only served after our dairy dinner of the week, always on Thursday nights. Corn-on-the-cob was another food that had unique holders made up of two mini fork-like prongs for poking into each side of the cob. The holders  came in different designs; our happened to be in the shape of a cob of corn. Finally, we had dedicated grapefruit spoons. The specially-designed spoons had a wooden handle and at the end of the metal spoon were ridges that could dig into the grapefruit to scrape all the pith along with the pulp. This spoon came with a small matching knife to cut through the slices of a half-cut grapefruit. This knife would cut around the circumference and then cut the natural contour of the slices.

Every utensil had a specific role and function, and we would never dare use it for something else other than its intended purpose. These items were ‘holy’ and therefore were treated with special care and consideration. But it was far more than these particular utensils that defined and characterized my family. There were many other items, each of which had something special to add to the makeup of the house in which our family lived.

It goes without saying that each member  of a family – the parents and each of the children - together contribute to the environment and flavor of the house and its contents. The physical world is the abode and environment for family life; this applies to the spiritual realm as well. The physical house that represents the entire Jewish family was none other than the Mishkan/Tabernacle, the portable Temple that would eventually be exchanged for a permanent residence for God in the Beis HaMikdash.

Our ancestors went down to Egypt as a small family, but left as a nation with the Torah as our mandate; this family now required a place for the ‘King’ to reside and be close to His subjects. This week’s Parshas Teruma takes a sharp turn away from the people as a nation and its laws so as to focus on our nationhood by creating a Sanctuary for the King.

Rashi in Shmos 25:2 says, ”There were thirteen things which are mentioned in this reference (the materials to build with) and all of them were required for the work of the Tabernacle or for the vestments of the priesthood, if you will closely examine them.” Others calculate fifteen items that were necessary to build the Mishkan as a spiritual sanctuary for Hashem in this world. Rav Chaim Volozhin in his work Nefesh HaChaim (Shaar Aleph Perek Daled) explains that the Mishkan and later the Beis HaMikdash gathered and contained all the forces of the universe and the order of sanctity. All the rooms and the holy utensils were replicated from the model in heaven.  "בצלם דמות תבנית העולמות הקדושים"   “in the image of His likeness there are holy worlds”, referencing a sanctuary mirroring heaven and earth. All the materials used in the construction and the function of the finished products brought us up a rung in the ladder to heaven. These physical items, when used in a spiritual manner, will bring more holiness into the world. These same words are used in third bracha of Sheva Brachos, the seven blessings recited for a bride and groom under the chuppah and for seven days after their wedding. We shower blessings upon the newlywed couple to have what it takes to build a Jewish home known as a "בית נאמן בישראל"  “A true home in Israel”.  The third bracha is "אשר יצר את האדם בצלמו, בצלם דמות תבניתו, והתקין לו ממנו בנין עדי עד"  “Who fashioned the Man in His image, in the image of His likeness, and prepared for him – from himself – a building for eternity”. The way to create an eternal Jewish home is through having physical utensils  used in a spiritual manner.   

The message of replicating the sanctuaries of heaven and earth can be seen in our own homes. We, too, have dedicated utensils that can elevate our homes to climb the rungs of holiness. It is important to remember that the blessings of Sheva Brachos is the core connector for each newlywed couple, and the reminder to all of us as we grow through the love and commitment of bringing up and treasuring our families, how to reach and accomplish the goal of the eternal Jewish home. Keep in mind that all the cute knick-knacks and utensils are to be used in our sanctuary where we, too, have the ability to have Hashem reside within our home just as He does in His home.

Ah Gutten Shabbos,

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Parshas Mishpatim - Man's Best Friend    29 Shvat 5781

02/11/2021 03:12:09 PM


This D’Var Torah is sponsored by Daniel and Sandra Spivak in honor of their ninth Wedding Anniversary 

A few years ago, while in Israel, I noticed an uptick in the number of dogs being walked by their owners. It took me a while, but I came to understand that having pets in general and dogs in particular are a sign of affluence. When I was growing up I did not notice too many dogs in my neighborhood, and rarely did I find a Jewish home with a dog. My earliest recollection of dogs was walking past a fenced-in yard where large German shepherds were barking and howling, practically leaping over the fence any time I passed by. From my perspective, dogs were used primarily for protection or even to attack a perceived danger. Over time, the role of dogs has evolved not only from guard dogs, working dogs, and watch dogs, but even beyond the common role of household pets.    The view of seeing a dog as ‘man’s best friend’ is  just the  beginning of the evolution of the pet world. Today people invest considerable money to have companion dogs, service dogs, and mental health dogs. Pets are found happily snuggled inside doggy strollers and backpacks shopping with their owners and traveling on planes to vacation and work-related destinations. As a result, there has been a boom in the dog population over the last fifty years.  In fact, have you ever given any thought to how many dogs are  in the United States? There was a 2020 census of pets in households aligned with the 2020 United States Census. Wisdom Health, the world’s leader in pet genetics, conducted its own 2020 United States Pet Census. This parallel population survey sought to provide insights into the lives of our country’s cats and dogs, asking owners a variety of questions, including the size, breed, activity levels and overall lifestyle of residential dogs, cats, and other animals to better understand the lives of American pets. The overall pet population, according to the AVMA (American Veterinary Medical Association),included 77 million dogs and stated that 84.9 million or 67% of American households own at least one kind of pet. 63.4 million or 53% of American households own dogs. Most dog-owning households have one dog. Granted, most of today’s dogs are not the kind of dogs I described people having in the past.Throughout the millennia, the primary livelihood of many Jews was shepherding.  We know that many of the leaders of the Jewish people were רועים  / shepherds and, in fact, shepherding was one of the qualities Hashem looked at when choosing a leader for His children, the Bnei Yisrael. All the Avos, Avraham, Yitzchok, and Yaakov, Moshe rabbeinu, and Dovid HaMelech were shepherds. Hashem noticed how carefully they maintained their flock. This appealed to Hashem, noting  that a good and diligent shepherd would demonstrate the same attributes when appointed to lead His flock.

The German shepherd dog, a member of the herding breed, is known for its courage, loyalty and guarding instincts. This breed makes an excellent guard dog, police dog, military dog, guide dog for the blind and search and rescue dog. For many families, the German shepherd is also a treasured, loyal and loving family pet. These are qualities of goodness and kindness, unlike my childhood exposure to these same dogs. Therefore, there is ‘room’ for dogs within Jewish thought and living. Although we do not hear much about dogs in the Torah per se, it is by no means completely absent either.

There are but just a few places in the Torah that mention dogs; when the Jewish people left Mitzrayim, even the dogs did not bark at the Jews leaving. It is in this parsha that we find the second mention of dogs. In this week’s parshas Mishpatim the Torah states in Shmos 22:30 "ואנשי קדש תהיון לי, ובשר בשדה טרפה לא תאכלו לכלב תשלכון אתו"  “Be a holy people to Me. Do not eat the flesh torn off in the field by a predator. Cast it to the dogs”.  On the surface this verse appears normal and routine - give meat no longer fit for a Jew to eat to ‘his best friend’. But, as usual, the Torah is not here to tell us things that are normal or would be routine for us to do. We can see this throughout the entire parsha of Mishpatim which deals with laws between man and man; although we think something is straightforward, the Torah emphasizes our obligation for fear we may not do what is sensible.

The verse in discussion is not just an ordinary piece of meat that is not kosher, but specifically the ‘treifah’ meat of an animal that was torn and killed. Let’s take a look behind the scenes and go back a few frames to unfold the scenario. Let’s say I am a shepherd of my large flock. I have my trusted shepherd dog, guarding my sheep, goats, and maybe even cattle from other predators. One morning, I arrive to find one of my sheep killed and torn. What is my first reaction? How did this happen? Where was my trusted guard dog? I think to myself that my dog failed in his responsibilities by not doing the job of protecting my flock. I am furious at the dog and my instinct is to get a whip and punish the dog for sleeping on the job and causing me this loss. I ask, why would the Torah tell me to give this carcass to my guard dog who just failed me?

I learned the answer to this and have shared it over the years, but it bears repetition. Let us look back at how many days, months, and years my dog has been faithfully doing his job of protecting my herd. Thousands of nights and days he was on guard and watched over the animals and he kept them safe.  Unfortunately, for reasons unbeknownst to me this one time he did not or maybe could not protect all the animals and one was lost. The Torah’s incredible message is now, at the time when I think I may be entitled to be angry and hit the dog for failing, I should instead show hakaras hatov, gratitude for all of the times the dog did do his job and reward him with a fresh piece of meat.

I gave over this pshat during the Shovavim period while delivering a class on Shalom Bayis/peace in the home. We can extrapolate and expand the concept to any relationship between two people. A husband does many things for a wife and vice versa. Friends do many things for each other. It can happen that one time something fails, causing one spouse or friend to be upset at the other for burning the soup or not washing the last dish. Sure, we can be angry and hold it against the person, or we can take the message from the dog’s loyalty that sometimes we make a mistake and are even wrong in your eyes. Remember now, at the moment we think we should have the right to be angry with the other person, take the opportunity to thank them for all they have done for you in the past by buying them a gift or a treat. Show your appreciation for ALL they have done for us and forget about the one small mishap that took place now. This will truly create a Shalom Bayis in the House of Hashem!


Ah Gutten Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Sun, September 26 2021 20 Tishrei 5782