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Parshas Ki Sisa / Parah - Labels & Libels          17 Adar 5783

03/10/2023 02:42:26 AM


This Dvar Torah is L'Ilui Nishmas Yocheved bas Tzvi, Anita Bogopulsky z"l on her Yahrzeit 17 Adar

Books are the core instructional tools of education, the written material shaped to meet the age and appropriate teaching level for the student. Many of the Jewish publications are focused on middos - character development and the proper way a child, and every Jew should behave. One of my favorite books which I enjoyed reading to my children and now grandchildren, is a play on words titled “Labels for Laibel”. Laibel, a boy, was taught many lessons about labels. Laibel would go around and put labels on many different items. The obvious message of this book is one which I believe presents a very important lesson for our generation.  It would be a very valuable contribution to write an adult version of this story, bearing the same title, but written to serve the opposite connotation – we should not put labels on everything, especially people.  Unfortunately, people put labels on themselves. On my last trip to Chicago, it was pointed out to me that some people were wearing a certain brand of overcoat that cost the same as a typical monthly mortgage payment. I asked, ”How do you know”? My wife  explained that a certain patch or label is displayed prominently on the outside of the coat. This is not a new phenomenon; every piece of designer clothing advertises its brand (ironically, we pay the designer companies to advertise their brand for them). Does wearing an article of clothing, driving a certain car, living in a certain neighborhood, really express anything about the quality of the individual who wears the clothing, drives the car, or lives in an affluent neighborhood? The answer: maybe yes, maybe no. 

We are fresh off the vibrant, festive days of Purim (I am currently in Yerushalayim) whereby one of the major components of the day has been to dress up, almost becoming someone whom we either emulate or despise, or dress up for the fun of being a little goofy and wild. The symbolism of the type of clothing or the uniforms we wear are often used by others to identify who that individual is, and even more concerning, to interpret what they stand for. A person who wears a police uniform is assessed from two opposite viewpoints -  either someone who is there to protect me, or if I did something wrong, someone who is coming to get me. In Judaism, and I’m sure in other religions as well, a person is identified and labeled according to his or her attire. Even cultural dress may dictate a certain bent on a person’s religious beliefs and association.

The dress code on Purim is certainly relaxed but nevertheless still must be within the guidelines of Halacha. Within the accepted parameters of Purim, we can take on a different identity; whether it is to make a statement or not is not the point. Rather, it is a reflection of a different component of whom we are which we allow to emerge and take center stage for the day. Unfortunately, the other three hundred sixty-four days of the year we find ourselves mostly dressed with and assessed by a single overt label. That label is, unfortunately, the measure of who we view ourselves as being or think who another person is and what he or she is all about. We look at and tend to judge someone through the lens of viewing how they dress and from that viewpoint determine how they think, how religious and observant they are, judging them by the ‘label’ we see them wearing. It is interesting to note that we say Purim is Yom K’Purim; the day of Yom Kippur and the day of Purim are very much related to each other. There are many beautiful interpretations, but I’ll share my own connection that I have not seen anywhere.  Yom Kippur is a day so holy that the Satan does not have the ability to influence us. The gematria, the numerical value of השטן – HaSatan - The Satan, is three hundred sixty four. It is that number of days which indicate when the Satan can harm us. But the one day, number three hundred sixty-five, the day of Yom Kippur, is hands off. So, too, is the day of Purim. During the entire year, for three hundred sixty-four days, the Satan influences us to label others and judge them by what they are wearing – viewed from their outer garb -  and not for whom they might be when viewed from within -, from their hidden selves. Only on, Purim that one day of the year, The Satan does not cause us to sin by thinking ill about a fellow Jew.

The basis for our flaw- passing judgment and labeling others - is because we do not live up to the honor of being a Tzelem Elokim, to be in the image of God. Hashem is able to see through the exterior, the outer trappings of a human being; Hashem knows the  essence which defines who we really are and what we are genuinely about. We have fallen short of a very simple directive that the rabbis have taught us:  מה הוא רחום, אף אתה רחום  - Just as He is merciful, so, too, we should be merciful. We are here to emulate God, to take on the image in which He created us. God is multi-dimensional; His many characteristics, His multiple character traits, are known as Middos. The character traits were used by Moshe Rabbeinu to defend the Jewish people in the aftermath of the greatest national sin committed by the Jewish people, the golden calf.

In this week’s Parshas Ki Sisa the Torah states in Shmos 34:6"ה' ה' קל רחום וחנון, ארך אפים ורב חסד ואמת. נצר חסד לאלפים נשא עון ופשע וחטאה, ונקה לא ינקה פקד עון אבות על בנים ועל בני בנים על שלשים ועל רבעים"   - “Hashem, Hashem, God, Merciful and Gracious, Slow to Anger, and Abundant in Kindness and Truth; Preserver of Kindness for two thousand, Forgiver of Iniquity and Willful Sin, and Error, and Who Absolves – but does not absolve completely; He remembers the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and upon the grandchildren, upon the third and upon the fourth”. These are the Thirteen Middos/Traits of Hashem that we need to follow. It was this formula that Moshe Rabbeinu defended the Jewish people with to avoid them being wiped out. There is a Mitzvas Asei/Positive commandment to walk in the ways of Hashem within their capacity as it states in Devarim 8:9 והלכת בדרכיו  - and you shall go in His ways. The Sifri in Parshas Eikev 11 - מה הקב"ה נקרא חנון אף אתה חנון, וחסיד וגו'  - in all Middos/character traits that Hashem is described, so, too, every man needs to imitate and copy Him in His ways. Reb Chaim Vital, in his work Shaarei Kedusha Shaar Gimmel, writes that these Middos/traits are not counted among the six hundred thirteen commandments because they are the primary function and fundamental part of the Mitzvos. Without these concepts it would be impossible to fulfill the Mitzvos of the Torah. I might add that it is truly impossible to live up to what a true human being needs to be. The Vilna Gaon echoes these points in his commentary to Megillas Esther 10:3: “Hashem is multi-faceted without names and without labels.  His traits are to see through everything – every one and every thing.  If we emulate Hashem and use His Middos in the way we look at others and the way others look at us, we will all be able to drop the labels and see each individual Jew in Klal Yisrael as a unique, one-of-a-kind person to be respected, not judged. When all these individuals, each with his/her own unique brand come together, we will become that one unique nation among the world known as Am Yisrael, the one and only!     

Parshas T'Tzaveh/Zachor - It's not what they call you, it's what you answer for!                      9 Adar 5783

03/02/2023 09:12:09 AM


Buddy, my long-time close friend, and I talk about old times and people whom we mutually know from past decades. We tell each other who we may have met from our mutual past and try to guess who they are, based on imbedded hints. On several occasions, Buddy told me he attended an event and a vaguely familiar-looking guy approached him  exclaiming, ”Hi Buddy! How have you been!” Buddy did not recognize this person, so after an uncomfortable space of time, Buddy confessed and excused himself, explaining,  “I’m sorry, but could you remind me who you are?”  At that, this individual expressed hurt that Buddy didn’t recognize him, even though it may have been thirty years since he last saw him! This has happened to me as well, and therefore Buddy and I have decided to be proactive, together coming up with the plan that when meeting someone who knows us  we do not recognize him to immediately introduce ourselves, thereby opening the opportunity for the other guy to introduce himself to us.

A few weeks ago I attended a Rabbinical conference hosted by the Rabbinical Council of California. A general protocol at conferences is to place a nametag around your neck or wear a badge with your name stuck onto your attire. Since it had been three years since this conference previously took place, it was a good idea to wear the name tags, especially because I recognized the faces but could not remember the names.  I personally never like wearing those tags, most times choosing not to wear one, helping me to remain under the radar at these events.  Truth be told, for this event  I did so because of the stretch of time since the last conference. Additionally, I reasoned to myself that there is sure to  come a time when I am going to need to wear a name tag - not for others to know who I am - but for me to remember who I am!

This week’s Parshas T’Tzaveh is famous for not having Moshe Rabbeinu’s name mentioned, something that does not previously occur  from the time Moshe was born until his death - essentially every Parsha in the Torah from Shmos forward. Nevertheless, while we may not have Moshe’s name mentioned in the parsha, the significance of names that are posted is accentuated. The Torah states in Shmos 28:21 "והאבנים תהיין על שמות בני ישראל, שתים עשרה על שמותם פתוחי חותם איש על שמו תהיין לשני עשר שבט"  -  “The stones shall contain the names of the twelve tribes of Israel, one for each of the twelve [stones]. Each one’s name shall be engraved as on a signet ring to represent the twelve tribes”. A few verses later, in Shmos 28:29, the Torah states "ונשא אהרן את שמות בני ישראל בחשן המשפט על לבו בבאו אל הקודש לזכרן לפני ה' תמיד" “- Aharon will thus carry the names of Israel’s sons on the decision breastplate over his heart when he comes into the sanctuary. It shall be a constant remembrance before God”.  Rav Shimshon Pincus zt”l explains that the Bigdei Kehuna, the Kohein Gadol’s garments contained hidden hints and deep secrets regarding the essence of a human being.   Often, the clothing we wear are a reflection of our souls, reflecting who we are, and what we are really all about. For example, if a person wears the clothing of a talmid chochom, a Torah scholar, then everyone sees that his primary focus in life is all about Torah. On the other hand, someone who does not do anything with his life will display himself with clothing that testifies to whom he truly is  - or is not. about his  With this in mind, the clothing that the Torah commands a Kohein to wear during the Avoda/Temple service reveal certain characteristics of a wholesome, complete person standing ready to serve God. Previously, in Shmos 19:6 ,“…and you will be to Me a Mamleches Kohanim V’Goy Kadosh, A kingdom of Priests and a Holy nation. Therefore, every Jew is viewed as a Kohein vis a vis his/her serving Hashem. With this in mind, we can learn many things about how we must serve Hashem.

There are two places where the twelve names of the tribes are mentioned on the Kohein Gadol’s garments. The Choshen/breastplate is described as having the names of the tribes on his heart as he approached the Sanctuary. This is a hint that teaches us it is possible for one person to carry the entire Jewish people within his heart, meaning to be able to love and worry for the entire Jewish people. The אֵפוֹד was a type of apron, which was worn by the Kohen Gadol. The Torah commands “then take two lazuli stones and engrave on them the names of the sons of Israel”. Typically, an apron has two straps that go over the shoulder, representing that a person can carry the entire Jewish people on his back. This means that a person can carry the entire Jewish people through the greatness and strength of the Torah. The Jewish people had giants in their midst, for example, Rashi, of whom it was said,  ”"If not for for Rashi, Torah would have been forgotten, or wiped from the memory of the Jewish people.” Other great personalities including the Rif, Rambam, and Ramban, also carried the Jews of their generations. In every generation there are those leaders who carry the Jewish people in their hearts and on their shoulders. These giants are there for us through the good and bad times.

We see that the names of the tribes that were on the hearts of the garments of the Kohein Gadol were twelve stones - separated from each other - while the names on the ephod, the apron of the Kohein Gadol, were only on two stones. From this distinction we can derive - and learn - a very practical law. If a person credits the people to learn Torah and attain a greater fear of Heaven, he clearly brings the people closer together as one.  Nevertheless, when it comes to loving a fellow Jew, it is not enough just to love them because they are Jews, descendants of   Avraham, Yitzchok, and Yaakov. Rather, one needs to love each and every Jew independently, just for being a Jew, not only because he belongs to the greater Jewish people.

This is hinted with the twelve separated stones, for we know that the twelve tribes are like twelve distinct nations. Every nation has its own customs, laws, philosophy,  fundamental and philosophical differences apart from other nations which bring them to despise each other, eventually bringing them to war. So, too, this animosity at times existed between the tribes of Israel. Therefore, Hashem commanded that each tribe remain separated by a holy stone that was unique to its tribe, its people. The Kohein lifted the stones together, as one on his heart, because it was upon him to love every Jew as is, as they are, respecting each with their uniqueness, accepting every Jew from his tribe, along with his customs and traditions that he received from his father, despite all our differences.

As Purim approaches we are reminded how Haman accused the Jewish people of being a nation that was apart, and at that time, Haman was correct. We were not only physically all around the world, but we had overt division among us. When we repented the Jewish people, we didn’t make an effort to remain close physically and band together. Instead, we remained in our same location but succeeded to open up and treat every Jew as one person with one heart. Today more than ever before need to come together. We as the twelve tribes, and twelve distinct names must work to come together, to be one - the Children of Israel.        

Parshas Terumah - Preferred Seating               2 Adar 5783

02/24/2023 07:48:33 AM


The internet has affected everyone’s life in one way or another during the last twenty years. This week, the U.S. Supreme court  is hearing/heard arguments regarding how platforms recommend content. Besides social media, the Internet has altered the way we shop, learn, and engage in all aspects of daily life. To sum up one area, the internet has become “our agent” for many purchases.  Take airline tickets, for example. While I still have a travel agent handle my international flights, most of us now book the majority of our tickets directly online. What used to be a simple process, has now become a maze of online navigation. The most recent assortment of choices centers on choosing a seat, especially if that seat is to be the spot on which to spend six or more hours sitting.

We have gone from buying a first-class seat to the eventuality of (you’ll excuse me) buying the bathroom seat. In between those two extremes, we have moved from business class to the main cabin with five or six choices of Preferred seats. Not too many years ago, most of us tended to choose just plain economy seats.  No more. Now there is Economy Plus, paying more for extra legroom, or buying a window seat or an aisle seat, or choosing to pay a little more for the bulkhead. . On some airlines, Preferred seating includes economy seats that have standard legroom but are closer to the front of the aircraft, located in the first few rows immediately behind Economy Plus seats. In addition, there are other benefits to Preferred seating even before getting on the plane! When purchasing preferred seating, you not only enjoy a better seat in the Economy class, you’ll also receive earlier onboard service and, when you land, get off the plane sooner, so you get to wait for your luggage just a little bit longer (Sorry, ‘Preferred’ economy is not business or first class, so the luggage doesn’t get unloaded earlier – at least not yet).

There are other areas of life where the benefits of ‘preferred’ seating can have a positive impact. In a classroom setting, preferential seating means that a student's seat is placed in a location which is most beneficial for his/her learning in the classroom. For example, if a student tends to be easily distracted,  his/her seat might be placed away from doors or windows which tend to cause potential distractions. Some might believe that placing a student in a less- distracting location is just  accommodating certain students. Keep in mind that accommodations are not interventions. Accommodations change the environment in some way. For example, they may allow a student to have preferential seating in the classroom, close to the board or near the teacher to help the student to focus on the lesson and to avoid distractions. An intervention, on the contrary, teaches a skill.

A third and final concept of “Preferential treatment” is when it comes to priority seating -  a system whereby the diner arrives at a restaurant at the time specified in advance, or the diner is seated as soon as a table becomes available. Any one of these three seating situations has benefits. Sometimes such benefits cost money; at other times, it just requires a phone call to reserve. The second scenario appreciates the value of education and learning.

Other seats we tend to think of are driver’s seats, passenger seats, and finally, strategically positioned seats such as in shul. I take notice of where people sit and their choice of location when they come into shul. I believe the choosing of a seat tells a great deal about a person, whether it is sitting in an aisle seat or choosing to sit in the front or the back row. There are  many hidden mental messages regarding these seat selections. Through observation, I know most people will choose a shul seat that gives them the most flexibility to arrive late or leave early. It’s interesting to observe that when it comes to a sporting, or entertainment event, many people are willing to pay a lot more money for the box or orchestra seats for themselves. So, let’s consider a far more important seating choice: If I needed to buy a seat for God where would it be? Well, it’s a good thing that God does not need to rely on me to buy Him a seat. He figures out a way to get His own. and it is our job to figure out where it is.

There is an age-old question; ”Where is God”? There are two answers given: the first, most often to a child, is “God is all over”. The second answer, one that can be appreciated by a thinking adult, is the Chassidic master’s answer: “God is wherever you let Him in”. So which one is it? Where does Hashem sit? The first answer is God is not a corporal being who has physical characteristics. God does not need to sit. However,  the metaphor of sitting can be found in the Torah.

In this week’s Torah portion there is a most-often quoted passuk which the Torah states in Shemos 25:8 "ועשו לי מקדש ושכנתי בתוכם" .  Rav Nosson Shapiro*, in his sefer Megaleh Amukos, kabbalistically explains that these five words that make up this verse are a reflection from Bereishis  where the Torah states that שמים וארץ  heaven and earth were created בה' בראם  with the letter ‘Hey’ which is equal to the number five. The building of the Mishkan was comparable to creating heaven and earth. Betzalel knew the letters that God used to create the world as it is written in Shmos 25:9 "ככל אשר אני מראה אותך..." – “Like everything that I show you, the form of the Tabernacle, and the form of all its vessels; and so shall you do”. Speaking in terms of the five senses which a human being has physically, he also has five senses spiritually. The five physical senses were able to relate and therefore create the five spiritual pieces of the Mishkan: the Aron, Shulchan, Menorah, Golden Altar and the Copper Altar. So, too, the design of the Mishkan structure had ten curtains contrasting the Eser MaAmaros, the Ten statements of creation and the Ten Commandments at Har Sinai. Each one of the curtains was attached with five on one side and five on the other, demonstrating that the building of the Mishkan was a miniature world, a place where Hashem could constrain Himself within.   This portable Sanctuary of God would end up in the permanent building of the Beis HaMikdash where His presence was “all over”. Only later, the Temple would be destroyed, and at that point, one might think God was homeless, that there was no place for Him to sit and dwell.   This is why the answer to the apparent two questions is really one. At the point where there is no longer a sanctuary, we the beings with the five senses, create a world and a sanctuary for Hashem to reside within, and we become the “seat” where Hashem sits. At this point we decide how close we want to be to the action and to be closely connected to the best possible seat in the house. It all lies within us.

*Nosson Nata Spira/Shapiro *1585 – 20 July 1633) was a Polish rabbi and kabbalist, who served as Chief Rabbi of Kraków. A student of Meir Lublin, Spira played an important role in spreading Isaac Luria's teachings throughout Poland. Spira was the author of a number of works, most notably the Megaleh Amukot. Spira descended from a rabbinical family, which traced its lineage as far back to Rashi. He was named after his grandfather, who was rabbi in Hrodna and author of Mevo Shearim (1575) and Imrei shefer (1597). Spira had seven children, three sons and four daughters. While serving as Chief Rabbi of Kraków, Spira refused a salary. He is buried in the Old Jewish cemetery in Kazimierz, Krakow.

Parshas Mishpatim - Bending the Rules? Maybe Just Follow Them!         27 Shvat 5783

02/17/2023 07:59:09 AM


I must confess that for the first time in the last thirty years, I did not watch the Super Bowl. I also must admit that it was not a religious reason that drove my conscience to intentionally miss the game, but rather circumstances on the day of the Super Bowl which prevented me from watching. Hopefully, Mitoch Shelo Lishma Bah Lishma, meaning, hopefully for doing something not for the right sake will lead a person to the right reason. A third and last declaration of guilt comes by way of watching a replay of one of the most crucial and significant plays of the game that, with a rule in question, caused a major influence on the outcome of the game.

If you did not happen to be one of the 130 million Super Bowl viewers, (more than 1/3 of the country - I will address this craziness in a future message), I will sum up the scenario: Picture having less than five minutes remaining to the game, score tied 35-35, a defensive holding call on a player who grabbed/tugged on the jersey of the receiver, thereby allowing the team to kick a game -winning  field goal with time basically expiring. The referee’s flag was called into question due to two factors: 1) The small infraction that very often is not flagged as a foul, and 2) The timing of the call, considering the score and the stage of the most important game of the year. One of the heartwarming revelations came in a post-game interview with the defender who admitted, ”Yes, I grabbed the receiver’s jersey”. The world (at least the losing team) will still argue the two facts  mentioned above - that the referee should not have called that penalty. Chaza”l teach us that everything that happens in the world should be reviewed and contemplated regarding how that situation relates to me.

There are few people in the world who don’t occasionally break a small law. The national speed limit of fifty-five mph is violated daily by millions of drivers. We know there is a bit of leeway, although technically anything above fifty-five (unless otherwise posted) is breaking the law. There are dozens of examples to cite where every human being and law-abiding citizen at times stretches and pushes the limit of the law, many times breaking it. The question is why? Why would a person who respects the law attempt to knowingly break it? The answer is two-fold; 1) Since everybody else is doing it, it’s ok, and 2) The enforcement of certain laws unofficially allows it and nothing is done. Nevertheless, if we were pulled over for an infraction or caught by the government for breaking a law, we would not have a good defense. Perhaps we could attempt to present rational reasons/excuses for our behavior which might influence the officer or judge. In case the officer or judge does not see it our way, however, we would be liable. This semi-rationalization may work for things in the physical world regarding our daily living in a society, but does this same thinking work in the spiritual world of Judaism? Unfortunately, the Yetzer Hora does whatever it takes to convince us to bend the rules, to make excuses, not only breaking the spirit of the law but sometimes actually breaking the law itself.

The Torah in this week’s Parshas Mishpatim states in Shmos 21:1"ואלה המשפטים אשר תשים לפניהם"  - “These are the laws that you must set before [the Israelites].” Rashi explains the word ואלה  - ‘and these are’ adds to the preceding. Just as the preceding laws were given at Sinai, so, too, these laws were given at Sinai. Reb Yitzchak Meir Rotenberg-Alter, the first Gerrer Rebbe, in his sefer Chidushei HaRim explains that the necessity of this is because people would err in their logic. Some people may come to think since ‘Mishpatim’ are logical commandments, they would be obligated through common sense. Perhaps they would even go as far to suggest that these Mitzvos that are ‘seicheldik’- common sense - that they were not given by God, rather they were created by man. Therefore, the Torah comes to testify that ‘these’ and ‘those’, these Mishpatim/laws are the same as the Chukim/statutes that are commandments which come from the mindset of Hashem, not man. Even these Mishpatim, these laws that man would come up with, are commanded to us through the will of Hashem and not because logic dictates that we obey them. Reb Yehudah Aryeh Leib Alter, the grandson of the Chidushei HaRim, refers in his sefer the Sfas Emes to an explanation by  Rashi that Moshe did not want to explain any of the reasons regarding the Mishpatim/laws to the Jews until Hashem Yisborach said the words, “that you must set before them” [the Jews]. This is because Moshe believed that if he explained the reasons to the laws, the people would perform the mitzva due to the reason, not because God commanded, we obey them and it was His will that we do so. And so God said to Moshe, ‘place them ALL [Chukim and Mishpatim] so they will perform and fulfill the Mitzvos because Hashem commanded - despite knowing the reasons explained behind the Mitzvos.

As a Rabbi and teacher, I regularly receive ‘shailos’/questions in halacha or Jewish practice. All too often a question is accompanied by the words “and the reasons no longer apply today” so why do we still do this,  or even must do this? I’ve said many times that it is okay to ask a question, but it is unacceptable to question a practice or a Halacha. Nevertheless, people still ask, “Rabbi, does God really care if I do something a minute too early or a minute too late? Does God really care if I eat this or that? Does it really make a difference if I do this or not do that? I’m a good person, isn’t that all that counts? The resounding answer to all these questions is “YES!” If a person believes in Hashem as the God of the universe, the King of all kings, the Being that gave us the Torah, is the Author of all its nuances and details, then YES everything makes a difference and who are we to say or question otherwise. True, a person has a yetzer hora, and we are only human, therefore we might come to sin, but at least we know we sinned, and it does make a difference.

We live in a society that wants everything to be permissible. On top of that, we want all to be blessed, to be assured that it is okay.  The influence and norms of society creep into the Jewish world affecting us in the worst ways, tearing down the sense of what makes us different from the other nations of the world. If we were playing any game or sport in this world and we did not go by the rules and follow the rule book, we would be considered cheaters. We might not feel the obligation and necessity to follow the laws of the Torah in its strictest sense by going by the Book. If we do not go by the book in every detail as it was presented at Har Sinai, then we are cheating the system, and ultimately, we’ll lose the game.

Let us strengthen our commitment to Torah observance, close the self -made, manufactured loopholes, and re-accept the Torah as we say on Purim: Kimu V’Kiblu, Mah SheKibel Kvar - We have held and accepted that which we have already received (on Har Sinai)!

Parshas Yisro - Interest vs. Interest                   19 Shevat 5783

02/10/2023 09:31:35 AM


Have you come across words that are spelled the same but have different meanings? Or words that are spelled differently, but sound the same? These words are called homophones, homographs, or homonyms. Let’s have a quick look at their differences  Homophones are words that sound the same (Greek phonos – sounds) but are different in meaning or spelling. Homographs (Greek graphein – writing) are words which are spelled the same but differ in meaning or pronunciation. Homonyms (from Greek onyma – ‘name’) can be either homographs or homonyms or both homonyms and homographs. Homonyms are words that have the same spelling and pronunciation but typically have different meanings. For example, ‘quail’ meaning to cower, to cringe in fear, and ‘quail’ meaning a type of bird. are homonyms. Many homonyms differ in meaning when the word could be used as a noun or a verb, or as an adjective or a noun. The easiest way to distinguish and know how to emphasize the pronunciation is to look at it within the context of the sentence. Although homonyms have different meanings, I often found there is a connection between the two usages of the word. Let me explain.

Surfing the web I found many homonyms, but the word “interest” did not make the list on many websites. I found the word “interest” is very interesting (excuse the pun), especially in connection to the economy and to Torah. During my junior year of high school, I started working and saving my meager earnings. As a high schooler I did not have expenses that were in any way similar to the expenses of adults.  I had no car payments, home mortgage, or school loan paybacks. I had the advantage of not only saving my money, I could make more money by putting it in the bank and earning interest on my savings.  . For those with loans, the interest rate was so high it was difficult to get out of debt, but that which hurt others helped me. So much so that shortly after I turned seventeen, that July interest rates were a staggering 19%! I had no idea that it was not a good thing for the economy or for the general population; I was simply happy that my money was making money.

Fast forward almost forty years. In early 2020, the Federal Reserve cut interest rates from 1% to 0% as an emergency measure to stimulate the economy due to the negative economic effects of Covid. The U.S. economy then jumped back from its shortest recession ever recorded, partially supported by a massive policy stimulus. Just about everyone lost  ‘interest’ in interest-bearing accounts. By 2022, however, as the inflation rate hit 40-year highs, the central bank had to make its first rate increase in over two years. Following Federal Reserve meetings, interest rates were hiked 50 basis points, followed by 75 basis points increases two times shortly afterwards. With rates rising, there is a renewed interest in “interest”. As you can see, as the rates rise people become interested again. The word ‘interest’ follows its dual meaning: people are interested in interest. And then, there is yet another understanding of the word “interest”. 

The definition of “interest” is the state of wanting to know or learn about something or someone. What is a personal interest? Personal interests are activities enjoyed during a person's free time. Such interests can include hobbies, sports, artistic expression, leisure activities, volunteering, cultural activities, spiritual practices, learning pursuits, and personal development. The most significant common thread is an interest in learning or in doing something new. There is no question in my mind that the most beneficial interest a person can have is the pursuit of knowledge.  This intellectual pursuit especially applies to the Jewish people, known as the “People of the Book”- meaning the Torah. We learn, attempt to observe and practice the moral, ethical and ritual teachings of the Torah. The Torah is our conscience, our moral code, and the law of the world. Unfortunately, not everything in the Torah resonates with us on a platform of physical understanding;  at times we prefer to observe only those Mitzvos that we personally understand or happen to agree with. Logic dictates that knowledge which we find interesting and relevant finds a place in our memory.  We must be interested in what we study for it to stick with us. Nevertheless, a Torah lecture, class and the like, no matter how profound, inspiring, witty, or engaging, will never make us into better people unless we have or consciously develop a spark of self- motivation upon which the words of Torah can build. The Talmud writes similarly: One learns only a Torah topic which interests his heart (Avodah Zarah 19a). I find this true not only for myself but, I feel confident, for many others as well. The Gemara Avoda Zorah 19a brings a passuk:  "כי אם בתורת ה' חפצו" א"ר אין אדם לומד תורה אלא ממקום שלבו חפץ, שנאמר (תהלים א, ב) כי אם בתורת ה' חפצו the passuk is interpreted: “But his delight is in the Torah of the Lord”.  Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi explains: A person can learn Torah only from a place in the Torah where his heart desires and shows interest.  It is stated in Tehillim 1:2: ‘But his delight is in the Torah of the Lord’, meaning his delight is in the part of the Torah that he wishes to study. A person often studies and learns topics which are of personal interest.

In this week’s Parshas Yisro we read of the Aseres HaDibros, the Ten Commandments, which, according to the Shela”h HaKadosh, one can find all 613 commandments. The Torah states in Shmos 19:1: "בחודש השלישי לצאת בני ישראל מארץ מצרים ביום הזה באו מדבר סיני"  “In the third month after the Israelites left Egypt, on this day [the first of the month], they came to the desert of Sinai”. Rashi explains the words ביום הזה  - the same day - being the first of the month, the New Moon. It was only necessary to write  ‘on that day’; what is the meaning of ‘on this day’? It is to emphasize that the words of the Torah should be new to you as though He gave them to you today. This idea is highlighted by Shlomo HaMelech’s (King Solomon's) words in Koheles 1:9: "ואין חדש תחת השמש" - “There is nothing new under the sun.” Later in Koheles, Solomon says that the Torah is compared to a tree to those who take hold of it. The Gemara Chagiga 3b compares the Torah to a tree that is planted and is continuously growing and producing new leaves and flowers, and from those flowers come fruits. Since the time of Matan Torah (the Giving of the Torah), we have continued to delve deeper and deeper into the Torah, expounding upon its wisdom to no end. The Torah is given to each of us in the present, in the here and now, constantly deepening and broadening its roots and branches for all who cling to it, continuously causing renewed interest in growing and learning Torah.

The lesson is clear. As we invest our physical money, we are interested in the interest it will bear. In the intellectual realm of the Torah, the more interest we show in the Torah the more we are drawn to it, gaining ever-deeper interest in its newness. Through this interest, our investment continues to profit in both the physical and spiritual worlds of Olam Hazeh and Olam Habah, in this world and in the world to come!

Parshas B'Shalach - The Beginning of Life        11 Shvat 5783

02/01/2023 02:20:25 PM


This week’s Dvar Torah is sponsored by Ronnie & Susan Masliansky in memory of Rabbi Bogopulsky and Ronnie Masliansky’s grandmother Esther Rachel bas Nachum Bogopulsky & Ronnie’s grandfather Aharon ben Avraham Yitzchak Masliansky A"H.

Today, Thursday the eleventh day of Shvat, marks sixty-three years since my grandmother passed away. I never met my paternal grandmother and therefore never connected with her in a meaningful way. The two reminders I have of my grandmother are: (1) My sister is named after her, and (2) Since the time my mother passed away, I recited kaddish on the date of my grandmother’s yahrzeit because my father, who was living, couldn’t say it. For many years, my cousin recited kaddish for our grandmother, also someone who he had never known, for several years, but I did not recite kaddish because my parents were both alive. Now that my father has passed away, I no longer carry the responsibility to say kaddish for my grandmother. (The only kaddish obligation is for one’s parents, not for their parents – grandparents).. There is a debate as to whether one must honor a grandparent as a parent, and what just would those honors be?

One aspect of honoring a grandparent is drawn from a nuance of the brilliance of Rabbi Akiva Eiger. Rabbi Akiva Eiger (responsa, volume 1, no. 68) makes a fascinating statement concerning the obligation of a grandchild to honor his grandparents. Quoting from the Levias Chen, he writes that the obligation applies only during a parent’s lifetime; if the parent, who links the grandchild to the grandparent, dies during the grandparent’s lifetime, the mitzvah is no longer incumbent upon the grandchild. The distinction drawn by Rabbi Akiva Eiger is based on the teaching of a Gemara in Kiddushin 31a, whereby a son is obligated to heed the instructions of his father over that of his mother, because both he and his mother are obligated to honor his father. Since the mother is also obligated to honor her husband, the honor of the father takes precedence over that of the mother. Based on this reasoning, it is possible that the obligation to honor one’s grandparents is based on the obligation to honor one’s parents: A parent’s obligation to honor his own parents forms an obligation upon him to also honor his grandparents. Of course, according to this rationale, the obligation applies only during the lifetime of the parent. This rationale presents an elegant explanation for why a person is required to honor his father more than his grandfather. The obligation to honor one’s parent is a direct Torah instruction. The honor of one’s grandparent, however, is an indirect obligation, derived from the obligation to honor one’s parent. Accordingly, the direct mitzva is greater than the indirect mitzvah of honoring a parent’s parent. Based on this rationale, there is no room to distinguish between paternal and maternal grandparents; the obligation to honor grandparents  applies to all equally. (Also, it’s interesting to note that Rabbi Akiva Eiger’s rationale is not consistent with Rashi’s citation of the Midrash: Yitzchak was no longer alive at the time Yaakov brought his offerings. Thus, it seems that authorities who cite that Midrash will not concur).

Parents, grandparents, and previous generations are the link to our past. For the Jewish people, it was precisely during these parshios that the family of Klal Yisroel emerged. In this week’s parsha B’Shalach, we read how the Yam Suf split and that we walked across on dry land  witnessing the Egyptians following us and then being drowned as walls of water crashed down. A significant image to consider is the fact that the Jewish people “were in the sea”, totally enveloped and submerged by water as though they were covered by the waters of a mikva, undergoing a purification process. The Jewish people had just left Mitzrayim, emerging from the forty-ninth level of impurity and going through the Yam Suf, the purification moment of their Neshamos. When we immerse in a mikva, we emerge as new, purified. So, too, the Jewish people immersed themselves and came out as new - similar to the birth of a newborn baby emerging from an existence surrounded by fluids. When a baby is born, it enters this world with a clean slate, with a fresh, new and pure beginning of life.  

The following parable written by Dr. Wayne Dyer, entitled “A Conversation in the Womb – A Parable of Life After Delivery”, sums up our physical existence in this world and our spiritual one in the world to come.

In a mother’s womb were two babies. One asked the other: “Do you believe in life after delivery? “The other replied, “Why, of course. There must be something after delivery. Maybe we are here to prepare ourselves for what we will be later.”
“Nonsense” said the first. “There is no life after delivery. What kind of life would that be?”

The second said, “I don’t know, but there will be more light than here. Maybe we will walk with our legs and eat from our mouths. Maybe we will have other senses that we can’t understand now.”

The first replied, “That is absurd. Walking is impossible. And eating with our mouths? Ridiculous! The umbilical cord supplies nutrition and everything we need. But the umbilical cord is so short. Life after delivery is to be logically excluded.”

The second insisted, “Well I think there is something and maybe it’s different than it is here. Maybe we won’t need this physical cord anymore.”

The first replied, “Nonsense. And moreover, if there is life, then why has no one has ever come back from there? Delivery is the end of life, and in the after-delivery there is nothing but darkness and silence and oblivion. It takes us nowhere.”

“Well, I don’t know,” said the second, “but certainly we will meet Mother and she will take care of us.”

The first replied “Mother? You actually believe in Mother? That’s laughable. If Mother exists, then where is She now?”

The second said, “She is all around us. We are surrounded by her. We are of Her. It is in Her that we live. Without Her this world would not and could not exist.”

Said the first: “Well I don’t see Her, so it is only logical that She doesn’t exist.”

To which the second replied, “Sometimes, when you’re in silence and you focus and you really listen, you can perceive Her presence, and you can hear Her loving voice, calling down from above.”

The process of the Jewish people entering and exiting the sea was not limited to  birth/new life into this world of Olam Hazeh; it also served as a portend for the next world. The experience of Yam Suf was to demonstrate how Hashem takes care of us in this world and the next. This is an important lesson as there are many Jews who do not believe in a life after this world and therefore do not take this world with adequate seriousness. With that I will share an incredible piece of creative writing that I believe is one of the best presentations of a world to come.

Parshas Bo - The Makkos a Dual Message        5 Shvat 5783     

01/26/2023 11:18:58 PM


Each city, no matter its location, carries  its own labels. Some cities are known for their beauty, others for great entertainment and tourist sites. I currently live in San Diego, known to be the city with the finest weather in the country. I also lived in Charleston, S.C., known for its cobblestone streets, antebellum homes, and Fort Sumter, location of the first shots of the Civil War. Many of you have visited Jerusalem, the holiest city in the world. As most of you reading this message are aware, I was born and raised in New York City, notorious for its rude citizens.  But I must tell you, in my opinion, That New York can no longer claim that prize. New Yorkers have been going through a rather dramatic transformation.  People are more outgoing, friendlier, and not  as self-centered as they once were. One qualification – being friendlier and more courteous doesn’t mean you’re going to be invited over for dinner.  That would be going too far. Rather, should you courageously ask someone for directions, or just for the time, you may receive a response…or perhaps a note of recognition that you’re standing there.

While this newfound attempt at kindness, may be a step in the right direction, there is still something lacking, not only in New York but all over the world. When someone asks for directions or simply greets someone with a ‘good morning’, and receives a response, this is typically internalized with “Wow! Friendly guy.”  In other words, the response is something other than the expected non-response. The questioner then just continues along with his own business.  I will illustrate this with a recent occurrence. I heard the following exchange between two acquaintances – they knew each other but were most likely not best friends.  One morning a man noticed his acquaintance and immediately greeted him, remarking,  ”How are you doing?” The man replied, ”Today is my birthday. Today I am one hundred twenty years old.” Without missing a beat, the first man responded,” Happy birthday. Have a great day,” and continued on his way.

I find myself at fault, guilty in a different but similar way. The only rational excuse I come up with is the overload of instant information we receive on a daily basis. When I read the Jewish news or receive a solicitation for a certain need, I tend to see it, maybe gasp momentarily, give a krechts (a moan or groan), and say Rachmana Litzlan - Hashem show mercy to this situation. After that, I go on with my day,  thinking this situation is far from me, almost shrugging it off with a silent ‘I have nothing to do with it’. There are dozens of charities, fund-raising campaigns, all addressing needs that are so great, but if I don’t know the people involved, sadly, these calls for help do not affect me in the least. When I do know a person is going through hardship, I often reach out,  asking how I can help, who should I call, and so forth. Even then, after a little while this, too, starts to be forgotten.    

One may ask, what can, or should I do? I do not have the perfect answer, but a good place to start is just to try a little harder, making an effort to do a little more, sincerely feel the pain of others, to demonstrate, at least within us, that we are an intimate part of that Bayis/house. I would suggest that everything that occurs in the Torah is meant to be a lesson for Jew and gentile alike. Not all scenarios are obvious or clear, but I believe the ten plagues not only served as a direct punishment and measure-for-measure against the Egyptians; they also served as a lifelong lesson for the young nation of Israel.

In this week’s parshas Bo, the Torah states in Shmos 12:30"ויקם פרעה לילה הוא וכל עבדיו וכל מצרים ותהי צעקה גדולה במצרים כי אין בית אשר אין שם מת" “Pharoah stayed up that night, along with all his officials and all the rest of Egypt. There was a great outcry since there was no house where there were no dead”.  Rashi explains: If a first born was there, he died. If there was not (actually) a first born (son), the oldest of the house is called ‘first-born’. We need to understand why Moshe didn’t warn the Egyptians that if there was no actual first born son, then the oldest of the house would be killed. The answer follows a pattern seen throughout the ten plagues regarding how the Egyptians either defied the existence of Hashem, rationalizing ways to explain how things occurred naturally, or they tried to manipulate the system and get around the exact directive of Moshe. By getting around the exact words of Moshe, they could claim that the Jewish God is not all powerful. The tenth plague was no different from the others, so the Egyptians removed their first-born sons from their homes, placing them  in Jewish homes in an attempt to be spared from certain death. Therefore, if Moshe had warned the Egyptians ahead of time, causing them to remove their first-born from their homes, someone else would have been killed.  They would have forced their actual first-born sons to remain in the house so that the rest of them would be saved. This is why Moshe was silent; he did not reveal all the follow-up details of the severity and length this plague would reach. As a result, there were far more Egyptians killed, the actual first born found in the Jewish homes and also every head of every Egyptian house. This is all good, regarding how   we explain these events during the seder, how Hashem paid back measure for measure in a ferocious manner.

The bigger lesson, however, is intended for us, the Jewish people, living in a generation where we also echo the words, ”There is no house where there is no dead.” The phrase ‘there is no dead’ is not meant to be taken literally - in the physical sense - but rather in the spiritual sense. Across the board, we find homes with children who are ‘spiritually dead’;  if those children aren’t the first born of the family, then it is another child or even a parent who is no longer connected. Mind you, ‘spiritually dead’ does not necessarily mean they don’t keep kosher or are no longer Shomer Shabbos. To the contrary, they may be talking the talk… but not walking the talk. The message needs to be clear to those who feel that their house is immune, or ‘we made it’; we all need to be mindful of our neighbor, the brethren who may not be directly related to me. It applies to all of us who received and witnessed this message during the Makkah that preceded our immediate redemption. When we hear and read stories of the tragedies – all tragedies, individual as well as collective - occurring  throughout the Jewish world, we need to be more sensitive, we need to feel the pain of others as if it were occurring in our own homes. We should find ways to support the many organizations which are assessing the loss in each home and working to heal and rebuild the many broken and torn homes in our midst.

In the merit of Klal Yisroel, feeling for one another in a deeper, more meaningful way, we will herald the redemption in our day just as our ancestors did upon leaving Egypt.  

Parshas Vaeira - Potholes & Patches                27 Teves 5783

01/20/2023 08:33:54 AM


This week’s Dvar Torah is being sponsored by Rand Levin and Sari Kahn and family in memory of Rand’s father, Aryeh Leib ben Yisrael HaLevi on his Yahrzeit 27 Teves

From time to time, I look back over the quarter century since we started our new life here,  in San Diego. Each of us tends to review periods of our lives from different perspectives, memories, challenges,  the array of activities we’ve enjoyed and the many personalities we’ve encountered over the course of time. I am sure anyone who has lived someplace for an extended period of time grows accustomed to the common, typical  nuances of that location and revels at the rare occurrences as well. This winter in San Diego has brought rainfall to our region that I don’t remember having experienced in all my years here. What, you may ask, brought me to this realization? Did I compare the rainfall statistics over the last number of years? Was my lawn growing faster and greener this year? The answer to those questions is no. I came to this conclusion as I was driving, zig zagging through the streets to avoid newly formed potholes and, in some areas, new rivers of running water. This brought back memories of growing up in New York, seeing thawing mushrooms of potholes throughout the streets of Brooklyn, Queens, pretty much everywhere.

The last day of the Sukkos festival is an independent holiday called Shmini Atzeres. On that day we recite a special Tefilla – Tal - for the upcoming season of rain. The concluding verses are filled with the repetitive plea: גשמי ברכה ולא לקללה  - ‘Rain should be a blessing and not a curse’. Rain brings much that’s good, especially for a state which has continuously had to deal with severe drought. But rain also brings mudslides, erosion, and a slew of potholes. It was recently reported by Mario Escalera, a member of San Diego’s pothole repair crew: “They are everywhere right now.” He said he always knows his work will pile up when the rain clouds head to town. Despite the years of rarity of this event, for Escalera, rain clouds mean big potholes A spokesperson for the City of San Diego stated that San Diego had more than 15,000 reports of potholes in 2022. “We try to go for at least 30 potholes a day,”. He laughed when asked if rainstorms meant “job security.” “It’s good for us, but sad for the citizens of this city,” he shrugged. When asked about the job, Escalera stated that other drivers had been at constant risk of losing their jobs throughout these past years of drought. However, throughout 2022, potholes remained on the growing ‘to do’ list, part of San Diego’s ‘Get It Done’ app. The City of San Diego said it took crews an average of nine days to patch each pothole in 2022. That was a vast improvement from 2021, when crews averaged 19 days to close a complaint. I’m amazed but not surprised at how many potholes there are and how long it takes to fix them.

Perhaps not everyone reading this will hit a pothole or even know what it is. So, for clarity, potholes are typically small, but on occasion can quickly become rather large bowl-shaped depressions in a paved surface. In other words, they can be quite dangerous. They tend to have sharp edges with vertical sides at the top of the hole. These hazardous depressions are most caused by water seeping into cracks throughout the surface of a road.  These cracks, combined with the vibration of tires running over them, cause the asphalt to collapse.  The City of San Diego repairs more than 30,000 potholes per year using materials such as a hot patch compound and bagged asphalt. And that’s during years of drought.  This latest series of rare storms will make this previous number of potholes seem minimal.

It’s expected that things will erode and breakdown over time. When a natural disaster hits, however, massive damage and destruction can occur without warning in minutes if not seconds. We have all read about, watched, or witnessed countless natural disasters here and abroad. Nevertheless, the ten makkos/plagues which devastated Egypt were basically a onetime occurrence (although some of the plagues occurred again at other points in history). The plague that reminds me of the ‘pothole’ issue occurred with the seventh plague, ‘barad’/hail, which is the last of the plagues listed this week.

In this week’s Parshas Vaeira the Torah states in Shmos 9:22 "ויאמר ה' אל משה נטה את ידך על השמים ויהי ברד בכל ארץ מצרים, על האדם ועל הבהמה ועל כל עשב השדה בארץ מצרים" “ “’God,’ said to Moshe, ‘Stretch out your hand toward the sky, and there will be hail throughout all Egypt. [It will fall] on man and beast, and on all outdoor plants all over Egypt”. The Midrash Madregas HaAdom explains that the plague began as mere rain because Hashem hoped  the Egyptians would still stop and repent from their evil ways. Eventually, the rain was converted into a storm. Thunder crashed, lightning struck, and the earth quaked. Then huge hailstones, composed of blocks of ice and of fire, rained down from Heaven.  The fire did not consume the ice, nor did the ice extinguish the fire. The loud crashing of falling hailstones rocked the land. Midrash Lekach Tov describes how the hail broke entire trees and destroyed the crops even down to the deepest roots in the ground, breaking up the ground and its surface. (Sound familiar?) The Midrash Rabbah 12:3 relates the plagues were a clear sign of retribution - measure for measure. The Jews had to plant all of the trees and crops and could not go home; As a result, the plants and the ground were destroyed by the hail. The Abarbanel, Shmos 7:14, writes that the Egyptians beat the Jews, so the hail beat the Egyptians, literally down to the ground.

In conclusion, the Malbim explains the hail phenomena both scientifically and miraculously. During the natural course of a storm, one sees lightning and then hears thunder even though they are, in actuality, occurring at the same time. The reason we hear a pause is because the sense of sight (light) travels more quickly than our  sense of hearing (sound). In the case of the Makkos, the opposite took effect; the verse states that the sound of the thunder was then followed by seeing the lightning, demonstrating the occurrence of a miracle within a miracle- something that was beyond nature.

The takeaway is all about what we do and how we handle a Bracha/Blessing such as rain. If we use the blessings of Hashem properly, they will continue to flourish, building upon what we already have. Unfortunately, if we do not use each Bracha properly, serving Hashem in a better, more effective, meaningful manner, then all we will end up with will be potholes, attempting to patch up our lives instead of seeing the true potential of what the rain has to offer.

Ah Gutten Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Parshas Shemos - Your Money or Your Life      19 Teves 5783

01/12/2023 10:12:23 AM


What do Benjamin Kubelsky (aka Jack Benny) and I have in common? Perhaps the one thing people who know me well may quip is that we are both ‘economical’, the polite word for being cheap. There is a real difference between wasting something or being frivolous and careless about money and its value. Nevertheless, as necessary as money is in life (and money doesn’t necessarily bring happiness but having money can make life easier), it is almost always replaceable. Unfortunately, we only tend to pay lip service to that idea.

The importance of money was made famous in 1948 when Ronald and Benita Colman, along with “holdup man” Eddie Marr, gave Jack Benny something to think about.  This classic gag exchange took place as follows: Thug: Hey bud! Bud, you got a match? Jack Benny: A match? Yeh, I have one right here. Thug: Don’t make a move. This is a stick-up. JB: What? Thug: You heard me. JB: Mister, put down that gun. Thug: Shut up. Now come on. Your money or your life? Long pause…………Thug: Look, bud, I said, ‘Your money or your life.’ Jack Benny: I’m thinking it over.

The response reinforced the notion that Jack Benny was cheap with his money and considered his money almost more important than his life. The audience roared in laughter upon hearing this phrase from him. It has become one of the most classic lines in standup comedy ever since. For generations people have quoted this and continue to do so today.  But, as the saying goes, there’s a grain of truth in every joke.  Whenever a person is joking, they are, in actuality, disguising thoughts and emotions, either subconsciously or deliberately. There really is a moment where any of us are “thinking it over” - even when it’s “your money or your life”.

A few weeks ago, I smelled an odor in the laundry room and thought it was probably a dead rodent. Then, lo and behold, I found a defrosted meat roast in a Ziplock bag on top of the dryer which is right next to the freezer. Apparently, while I was rearranging the freezer, I neglected to put the frozen bag back into the freezer. I promptly returned it to the freezer, anticipating that the freezer would kill all the bacteria, thereby saving the roast. One Thursday night few weeks after this refreezing event, I took the roast out of the freezer to defrost, only then deciding to smell the meat. That was the moment I faced the question: ’Your money, or your life’…and actually spent a bit of time thinking about it. The meat cost about seventy dollars. “Hmm,” I thought, “Should I take a chance…”  But even I, overcoming my innate frugality, realized that even seventy dollars is not worth food poisoning or worse. As painful as it was, I discarded the meat and took out a fresh piece from the freezer. (I have to grudgingly admit that if I were the only one who would be eating the meat, I might have used it, but I could not serve it to my wife and company. Of course, in that case, if the meat wouldn’t have killed me, my wife would have). It struck me that even I had the thought of using spoiled meat to save a few dollars! This concept manifests itself in many scenarios, sometimes directly with money and other times indirectly.

In this week’s Parshas Shemos the Torah states in Shemos 2:11 "ויהי בימים ההם ויגדל משה ויצא אל אחיו וירא בסבלתם, וירא איש מצרי מכה איש עברי מאחיו"  “When Moshe was grown, he began to go out to his own people, and he saw their hard labor. [One day] he saw an Egyptian kill one of his fellow Hebrews”. Most commentaries focus on Moshe seeing the hardship of the Jews and or the Egyptian taskmaster smiting a fellow Jew. If one analyzes Moshe’s position in life in conjunction with this critical life-altering decision, we see a choice of immense proportion taking place. Moshe was brought up in the palace and would be the prince of Egypt, enjoying a worry-free life of pleasure, gratification, delight, and amusement. He would never have to worry about money or anything else for that matter. Instead of this guaranteed lifestyle, he stepped out of that world and into a world of uncertainty, a world of the unknown, a world that was both unfamiliar and foreign to all his experiences. Moshe knows he is a Jew, but he had grown up as an Egyptian. Moshe is at the crucial crossroad of “your money” - a life of leisure- or “your life” - a meaningful, challenging proactive life to help his people. Moshe could have walked out and make an about face, returning  to the comfortable life he was living. Instead, Moshe chose to sacrifice his ‘money’ for something far more meaningful. In Moseh’s case, it wasn’t ‘only’ his life and a life of this world; it was a life of destiny for the Jewish people, and, for himself, a life of eternity.

*Rav Shlomo Rabinowitz z”l in his sefer Tiferes Shlomo, elucidates this point. He explains that the Torah describes Moshe’s greatness through the fact that he went out to his brothers. Moshe, even at this time, viewed each and every one of the Jews literally as his blood brothers. Moshe was willing to give up his life of ease and luxury for his people. The word ויצא  - to go out -  is similar to the words in Shir Hashirim 5:6 נפשי יצאה בדברו : my soul departed at His decree. This is reflected in the words we say in the Shabbos morning Amidah ישמח משה במתנת חלקו  - Moshe rejoiced in the gift of his portion, so much so that he [Moshe] gave his life and soul on behalf of the Jewish people.

In conclusion, everyone makes decisions about how to spend the precious time they have in this world. An observant, religious Jew spends many hours a day following the rituals of what the Torah commands us to do. This entails the study of Torah, daily prayer, observance of the Mitzvos at hand, and then dedicating an overall adherence to what it means to be a Jew.  I have an ongoing philosophical dialogue with someone every so often. We agree and disagree on many issues, but we always analyze the pros and cons in arriving at a conclusion. We recently discussed how there are fewer and fewer meaningful life discussions. Most people just shoot the breeze and converse on very few things of substance and meaning. Many of the conversations are not about life, choosing to focus instead on nonsense and topics that do not make us or the world better. The discussions are like “the money” with regard to the choice of life - typically worthless and valueless. This behooves all of us to ask ourselves pointedly: What are the genuinely important things in life to talk about? We each need to process this, setting aside the comedy and focusing on the profound value of  asking ourselves the question: Our money or our life?


*Shlomo Hakohen Rabinowitz (1801 – 16 March 1866) was the first Rebbe of the Radomsk Chasidic dynasty and one of the great Chasidic masters of 19th-century Poland. He is known as the Tiferes Shlomo after the title of his sefer, which is considered a classic in Chasidic literature.

Ah Gutten Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Parshas Vayechi - Living in this World for the Next            13 Teves 5783

01/12/2023 10:10:00 AM


Is New Year's a religious day? According to some theologians, as applies to December 31st, New Year's Day is a Catholic feast day. It was long known as the Feast of the Circumcision and the Octave of the Nativity (that's just a fancy way of saying that it was the eighth day after Yashka's birth and, thus, the day he was circumcised in accordance with Jewish tradition.)

January 1st, the marking of a new year is not only a religious day for some, but its significance is connected to the entire world. Despite the association of it being a Christian day, religions throughout the world view January 1st as a non-denominational day celebrating the changing of the calendar year. As I mentioned in previous articles, the new year is notorious for making New Year’s resolutions,  firm decisions to do or not to do something for the sake of self-improvement or to make life easier. Perhaps we might compare a resolution to the Jewish concept of a ‘neder’ which is a vow. Is there a difference between the two? Well, as nouns, the difference between a vow and a resolution is that avow is a solemn promise to perform some act, or to behave in a specified manner, especially concerning a promise to live and act in accordance with the rules of a religious order. A resolution is a strong will, a determination. As a verb, a vow is to make a promise.

This past Monday, January 2nd, I was chatting with someone and mentioned that I had started exercising again, and that I’ve now been working out for three consecutive days – a chazaka -  something I had not done in over a year! He quickly responded,   “Oh, is that one of your New Year’s resolutions?” I responded,   “Well…yes and no. It was both a resolution and a vow.” He then asked me what I meant. I explained that “It was a resolution in 2022 that I would exercise that year.  I treated it as a vow because I only started working out the very last day of the year.  I intentionally avoided my ‘word’ to be desecrated. I was concerned that my declaration in the beginning of 2022, proclaiming I would begin to exercise again, would almost go afoul. In essence, I was trying to fulfill at least part of my commitment by finally fulfilling my intent to exercise, even though it was at the last possible day, leading immediately into the current 2023 year.  Hence, the three days were really the last day of last year and the first two days of this year. This was particularly poignant and concerning since we are currently studying Meseches Nedarim/Vows in the Daf Yomi cycle, providing me with a heightened awareness of fulfilling any statements I may have made during the year.  Nedarim- vows, commitments, and resolutions - must be taken seriously. In Jewish law, the parameters of both vows and oaths carry tremendous repercussions. In reviewing meseches Nedarim up until page 74 (out of 91 pages), I have not seen even one of the many components that appears in an interesting well-known story in the Torah.

The Torah states in Bereishis 45:24 וישלח את אחיו וילכו  “He sent off his brothers and they went on their way.” All Yosef’s brothers, Reuven, Shimon, and the rest, including Binyamin, were sent back to Canaan and to Yaakov so that Yehudah was able to keep his promise to his father. Yehuda, earlier in 43:9 stated: “I, myself, will be responsible for him. You can demand him from my own hand. If I do not bring him back and have him stand here before you, I will have sinned for all time.” We see Yehuda did fulfil his pledge to his father. If so, why then did the Chachamim, in the Gemarah Sotah 7b, say that Yehudah was punished for his guarantee (to bring Binyamin back) in so much that the bones in his coffin rattled the entire 40 years the Jewish people wandered through the desert? Rabbeinu Bachya explains the reason is because Yehudah’s vow and its fulfilment depended upon the goodwill of others. It is sinful to make such promises or vows unless the factors relating to fulfilment of the promise are all entirely under the control of the person making the promise. Yehudah had known from the outset that it would depend on the ruler of Egypt as to whether he could make good on his guarantee. The Chachamim, the sages in Gemara Makkot 11b, used this incident to formulate a halakha concerning conditional excommunication, saying that the threat of excommunication, even if conditional, requires a retroactive annulment even if, in the meantime, the party who had been threatened with such excommunication had fulfilled the conditions imposed upon him. This explains why Yehudah qualified for punishment for having guaranteed Binyamin’s safe return, despite fulfilling it.

In this week’s Parsha Veyechi, the Torah’s opening words are ויחי יעקב   - and Yaakov lived. Several commentaries explain this to mean Yaakov did not die but lived on forever. Surely, we can say he lived in this world and in the next. We, too, have an obligation to ensure our physical survival in this world and our spiritual eternal life in the next. Although our time on this earth is determined from the One above, we nevertheless must take care of the vessel we were given  always to the best of our ability. In other words, we need to be as healthy as possible by eating right, exercising regularly, and using good judgment on issues that affect our physical health and wellbeing. No less, and perhaps more importantly, are our spiritual arrangements which we need for the next world.

This week’s Shabbos Parshas Vayechi is dedicated to the awareness of ensuring a smooth transition from this world to the next when our time comes. Every year NASCK, the National Association of Chevra Kadisha, focuses on an area of Jewish importance in the here and in the after world. This year’s focus is the horrific scourge of cremation that is pervading Jewish communities throughout the United States. A zoom class has been advertised to bring this important and critical discussion forward, with the hope that perhaps any one of us can take an active part to prevent such a tragedy within the Jewish people. In addition, it is important to follow up on past discussions of estate planning, halachik wills, and end-of-life situations.  When I bring up these sensitive topics, people typically say, ”Yeh, we have to do this,” and then time goes by, and the ‘this’ gets swept under the rug for a little longer. Perhaps Parshas Vayechi usually occurs during the new secular year in order to remind us of our mortality in this world and to help us grow more deeply aware of the constant need to provide for our immortality in the world to come. Let us commit, Bli neder/without it being a vow, stating that we will take care of ourselves while living in this world, and take proper steps to also live in the next.

Ah Gutten Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Parshas Vayigash - Reading Between the Lines        5 Teves 5783

12/29/2022 09:51:43 AM


One of the many areas of Shlomo HaMelech’s --King Solomon’s --wisdom was transmitted came through  understanding the language of the animal kingdom, and, according to some, was even expressed by communicating directly with them. Although not mentioned explicitly, this was  derived from the verse in Kings I 5:13: “…Shlomo spoke of the trees, from the cedar of Lebanon down to the hyssop which grows out of the wall; he spoke of animal, of fowl, of crawling creature, and of fish”. But in sefer Targum Sheini Esther 3:1, it clearly states that Shlomo understood the speech and communication methods of the animal kingdom. The commentary Pas’shegen HaKesav explains that the animals knew Shlomo’s language as well. Interestingly,  there is a certain irony regarding the communication animals have with other animals of their kind, compared to that of humans to humans.

As far as I understand, animals do not have the same level of communication ability as humans. In Bereishis we are told of mankind’s ability to speak, giving them superiority to the animal kingdom. The last time I visited the zoo, I did not notice any animals asking for clarification regarding something they said to each other. I didn’t hear one animal grow insulted by another or completely misunderstand the message his fellow animal was trying to tell him. Yet, when it comes to humans, we tend to have serious regarding with our communication abilities despite having the highest intelligence of all living creatures. Since the beginning of time, man’s communication has evolved to the point where we are able to communicate half-way across the world instantaneously yet still manage to be misunderstood. How so? During the time of Adam Harishon, any communication was done face to face, leaving little room for not hearing or not understanding what the other person was saying. Furthermore, the person being spoken to could even read the expression and tone of what was being said. Fast forward a few thousand years. Today, we communicate through social media, apps for texting, messaging, and the like. In my own personal experience, I have misunderstood a person’s text message, thanks to poor  inflection, tone, or just poor writing.

Moreover, to add to the complexity of human communication, there is another way of getting a message across or to be understood – the ability to ‘read between the lines’. There is  much to be said,  written, or omitted altogether, intentionally or accidently, which frequently misconstrues and twists messaging.     Too often, omitting even a seemingly minor piece of information or a ‘minor’ detail here or there changes the entire meaning of the message. An astrophysicist, Carl Sagan, once said, ”The absence of something is often more telling then what is there.” Therefore, when reading something, one must not only read the words that are printed, but also the words that are not there. I heard this idea from Rabbi Wein many years ago. Rabbi Wein mentions this concept in his autobiography “Teach Them Diligently”.  He writes about one of his Rabbeim, Reb Mendel Kaplan zt” l, who was a disciple of both Rabbi Yerucham Levovitz, the famed mashgiach of the Mir Yeshiva, and Rabbi Elchanan Wasserman, Rosh yeshiva of Baranovitch. Rabbi Wein writes, “Reb Mendel’s aphorisms remained with me. I can still hear him say life is like chewing gum – a little flavor and the rest is chew, chew, chew.” Rabbi Mendel Kaplan taught me how to read a newspaper, spotting its unintended lessons in life.

I believe that this notion of ‘things being omitted’ or ‘reading between the lines’ and the ‘unintended lessons in life’ are means of communication that must be read and processed  with a keen eye. The Torah, as we know it, is not a history book. Even though Bereishis and some of Shmos reads like a history book, it is not. Nevertheless, even within the storylines of the Torah, there are always background and back drop to all the scenes of Tanach. A fascinating example comes in the way of this week’s Parshas Vayigash. The Torah in Bereishis 44:32 states "כי עבדך ערב את הנער מעם אבי לאמר, אם-לא אביאנו אליך וחטאתי לאבי כל הימים" “-  "Besides, I offered myself to my father as a guarantee for the lad, and I said, “If I do not bring him back to you, I will have sinned to my father for all time”. At this point Yehuda is fed up with the Viceroy’s shenanigans and is growing restless. Rabbeinu Bachya shares some of the details of the heated exchange between Yehuda and Yosef that are not in the actual text. Rabbeinu Bachya writes:

“After this outburst by Yehudah, Yosef told him that if he dared draw his sword, he, Yosef, would strangle him with it by wrapping it around his own neck. To this Yehuda replied: ”"If I so much as open my mouth I will swallow you”. Yosef countered: ”If you open your mouth, I will shut it with a rock.” Yehuda then asked: ”What shall I tell my father if I return without Binyamin?” To this Yosef replied,  “Tell him that the rope followed the bucket” [This is an allusion to Binyamin having a ‘genetic’ tendency to steal. Rochel, Benyamin’s mother, had stolen the teraphim having given birth to a son who also became a thief.].  Yehuda shot back that Yosef was framing them and judging them for a sin they had not committed. Yosef retorted that the only perverted justice at stake was the sale of their brother. Yehuda retorted that the holy fervor which had imbued him in their fight against Shechem, which was caused because of sin involving illegitimate relations, was beginning to fill him now. Thereupon, Yosef replied that the sin of illegitimate relations he should be thinking about was that of sleeping with his daughter-in-law Tamar. Yosef implied that it did not take much to extinguish Yehuda’s supposedly sincere fervor. Yehuda responded, shouting, “I am boiling over with fury, and no one takes me seriously!” Yosef said it would be easy to cool down Yehuda’s anger. Thereupon Yehuda announced that he was about to go paint the marketplaces of Egypt with the blood of its people. To this Yosef replied that this was nothing new, referring to his brothers who had experience in painting Yosef’s coat with blood, then bringing the bloodied coat to their father, suggesting it was Yosef’s blood, and that Yosef had been attacked and killed by a ferocious beast. At that point all the brothers agreed to destroy Egypt. When Yosef realized this, he said to himself, “I have to reveal myself to them so that they will not destroy Egypt.” At this point he faced his brothers, declaring  the famous words: “I am your brother, Yosef.”

From Rabbeinu Bachya’s explanation, in conjunction with the prior discussion of ‘reading between the lines’, we should all take a lesson concerning the importance of care with regard to  how and what we say when conveying a message. The last thing in the world we want is to be misunderstood and misguided by our language. When possible, make the effort to communicate the old-fashioned way - speaking face to face as human beings should, using their God-given power of speech with care and respect.  

Ah Gutten Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Parshas Mikeitz / Chanukah - Having the Right Tools     29 Kislev 5783

12/23/2022 09:52:06 AM


Ever wonder just what makes the most used hand tool? While a tape measure might not be the first tool to come to mind when making a list of hand tools, it is one of the most used items. When I was growing up we just had a few basic tools in the house;  when I got married and feeling manly, I also made sure to have the same basic tools in my arsenal. There are six basic tools that one needs, including a hammer, screwdriver, pliers, wrench, measuring tape, and perhaps the most important, the toolbox! Without a proper toolbox one can never remember where  the screwdriver or other stuff had been left. Today, just like many other instruments and devices used during our lifetime, we have exponentially increased the number of basic tools, primarily thanks to the available variety of each one of the basic tools. For example, there are no less than fourteen different kinds of screwdrivers, forty-two different kinds of wrenches, thirty-two different types of hammers, and  so forth. As a result, not only do I need a toolbox; I need a tool shed!

I do not claim to be “Mr. Handyman”, but I do pride myself on trying to fix small, uncomplex things that pop up around the house and car. There are times when I amaze my wife that I fixed the broken item. But there are always the other times when I disappoint myself, learning that this is one something I just could not repair.   One of my theories of life is that any average person has the intellectual capacity and the physical ability to perform and do almost everything in life within reason. The day-to-day tasks where we simply call someone to repair or help us with are usually driven by a lack of time, money, or basic laziness to just get around to fixing it on our own.  Over time, one comes to the realization that half the battle is having the correct tools for each job. Even a simple, basic item -  a ladder -made all the difference for me this week.  I needed to switch out an LED four pin prong lightbulb from a can fixture. In previous attempts, I stood on a chair, stretched my body to the maximum but was still unable to get a good grip, leading me to crack the bulb in my hand. This week I used a six-foot ladder, bringing me up to easy reach and switched it out in a few seconds. Another example is fixing a flat tire. Instead of changing the tire with the “sufganiya”, I bought an inflator that plugs into the cigarette lighter outlet in the car (the actual lighter piece is no longer provided in cars). To make a long story short, four days later I brought my car to my mechanic to patch my tire and I am back on the rocky roads of San Diego once again. Therefore, the basic recipe for fixing things requires two main ingredients: a good YouTube video that provides the know-how and knowledge, and an assortment of proper tools which offers the ease and skill to successfully complete the job.

An essential part of parenting children, employee training, and overall life experiences requires the necessary tools to succeed.  Too often, a person fails for either one or two reasons, neither of which is related to any lack of knowledge or intelligence. The first regards the shortage of tools needed to tackle the issues in life. The second could often be the misuse of these tools primarily due to not knowing how to use them properly. A supporting issue of equal importance is that these tools are used not only to build; they’re also used to take apart. For the Jewish people the Torah is the handbook of life that offers  the necessary tools through the study of halacha, history, mussar, and other important life strategies. It is through learning how to use the tools of the Torah that we are able to navigate life and fix the problems and challenges that come with the journey. The Torah teaches us how to build the positive and remove the negative. We see this concept in a unique combination of the portion of the week and Chanukah.

In this week’s Parshas Mikeitz, the Torah states in Bereishis 41:51-52 "ויקרא יוסף את שם הבכור מנשה כי נשני אלוקים וכו'...ואת שם השני קרא אפרים" - “Yosef named the first-born Menashe ‘because God has made me forget all my troubles -and even my father’s house’. He named his second son Ephraim ‘because God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering’. Rav Dov Zev Weinberger z”l, in his sefer Shemen HaTov, explains that Yosef called his first son by the name Menashe, hinting to the removal of his dark past and only afterwards to give thanks to Hashem for the present and future. When Yosef’s father Yakov named the tribes, we don’t find two reasons given on the naming of someone other than Yosef. These reasons “that Hashem has gathered my shame” and “add to me another son” are reflected in the past (Menashe) and the future (Ephraim), reflecting  and representing two hidden strengths in Yosef which ultimately are divided when Yakov blesses ‘Yosef’ through his two children. The most simple and obvious understanding of these names in the order of the names is סור מרע (מנשה)  and afterwards עשה טוב (אפרים)  :‘turn away from evil (Menashe) and perform good (Ephraim). This would later come to play in the difference of opinion between Yosef and his father Yakov (Jacob) at the giving of the brachos to Ephraim and Menashe. How did Jacob bless Ephraim and Menashe? Menashe, the older son, was placed at the right hand of Yaakov in order to receive the customarily  better blessing as the older son. Ephraim, the younger son, was placed on Yaakov's left. But instead of blessing Ephraim with his left hand and Menashe with his right hand, Yaakov crossed his arms, thereby giving Ephraim the better blessing. Yosef wanted to remove the bad first and then have the good, while Yaakov felt it was necessary to bring in the good, even though he, as of yet, had not removed the bad.

This is, in essence, the debate, or machlokes, between Beis Hillel and Beis Shammai regarding how to light the Chanukiah. In every flame there are two powers - one to burn and the other to give light. One power is the burning and get rid of the bad while the other is to give light, showing the good. This insight applies to the Chashmonaim’s victory over the Assyrian Greeks: first to remove the Tumah/impurity from the Beis Hamikdash, and then immediately kindling a new, fresh, pure light.

The debate regarding opinions of Beis Shammai to light from the eighth light down to one light, lies in his opinion that the fire of the eight lights is stronger, therefore working  first to remove the evil and bad. The House of  Beis Hillel, on the other hand, argues that the primary function is to brighten the world and bring goodness all around. Therefore, we need to start with one candle on the first day, adding more light each day with an additional candle in order to bring more light and good into the world

The word Torah means light. Through the learning of Torah may we be blessed with correct use of the tools, the light we’ve been given, to remove the bad while simultaneously bringing light, building up the world with good, using the same tools today in the manner accomplished by our ancestors over  over two thousand years ago!

Ah Gutten Shabbos & Ah Lichtiga Chanukah

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Parshas Vayeishev - Dreams Can & Do Come True    21 Kislev 5783

12/23/2022 09:50:08 AM


Words that are spoken may never be heard again, while words that are recorded – either orally or in writing -  can be read or heard repeatedly! This came to mind a few weeks ago after listening to a heart-rendering eulogy that Rabbi Wein delivered twenty-seven years ago.

When I was in Yeshiva Shaarei Torah my chavrusa (study partner) to learn Yoreh Deah (for Smicha) was with someone who was a few years younger than I but was years ahead of me in intellectual learning. After receiving Smicha and getting married, he accepted a pulpit position in Norfolk Virginia at a very young age. He made an incredible impact on the small religious community of only three Orthodox families and grew it to over a hundred in a few short years. Sadly, at the tender young age of twenty-seven, Rabbi Shlomo Goder z”l passed away. At the Shloshim (thirtieth day after his passing) our Yeshiva, Shaarei Torah, had Rabbeim deliver hespedim/eulogies; the Rosh Hayeshiva, Rabbi Wein, spoke last. The words of Torah Rabbi Wein delivered to describe Shlomo z”l were taken from these parshios that we’ve been reading in sefer Bereishis. Rabbi Wein was anecdotal and pinpointed the essence of Shlomo z”l, weaving an incredible story about the mighty sequoia trees of Sequoia National Park to the Parsha of that week. He related how Shlomo was a man of vision who assessed the community’s potential in a few short weeks. He identified that the community would grow through the adding of a Kollel, and within days he brought Rabbi Wein to Norfolk to begin laying the groundwork for this endeavor. Shlomo saw what the community could look like and dreamt of the future. Rabbi Wein explained the attitude a dreamer has, and the attitude others have toward the dreamer.

In this week’s parsha, Vayeishev, the Torah states in Bereishis 37:19 when the brothers see Yosef coming they say "ויאמרו איש אל אחיו, הנה בעל החלומות הלזה בא"  “Here comes the dreamer!” they exclaimed to one another. Dreamers in general are not very popular people; dreamers make us ordinary mortals feel very uncomfortable. Dreamers see a very different world than the average person: they are not practical, they challenge us, and they irritate us. Part of the reason for our annoyance is because at some level we know that the dreamer is right; we are jealous that we don’t have a piece of the dream. Chaza”l compare Yakov Avinu to his son Yosef, but Chaza”l point out that the greatness of Yakov and Yosef together was that they were both dreamers! Yakov’s entire life was the embodiment of his dreams, from the dream on Har Hamoriah with the angels going up and down the ladder to the dream of seeing the speckled and spotted sheep for which he would negotiate, resulting in Hashem telling him to leave Lavan and return to Eretz Canaan. Ultimately, Yakov dreamt when he was going down to Egypt on his way to see his son Yosef.  Therefore, when Yosef told his brothers his dreams and repeated them judiciously to his father, bordering closely to a lack of respect,  his father had to respond -  הבוא נבוא אני ואמך ואחיך להשתחות לך ארצה  - ”What kind of dream did you have? Do you want me, your mother, and your brothers to come and prostrate ourselves on the ground before you (37:10)? What kind of behavior is that, how do you talk like that?” The Torah nevertheless concludes the section 37:11 "ויקנאו בו אחיו, ואביו שמר את הדבר"  “His brothers became very jealous, but his father guarded or watched the matter”. Yakov pondered the matter, keeping this all in the forefront of his mind, while his father waited to see the result. The Midrash Rabbah 84 asks; how did he watch the matter? The Midrash answers He [Yakov] took a quill and wrote down on what day, at what time, and in which place this was actually going to go down. In fact, it was because  Yakov took Yosef’s dreams seriously, the brothers became jealous. Yakov lent credence and validity to the dreams. Why would Yakov actually believe in these dreams that seemed so preposterous? The answer is because the dreamer appreciates the dreams of another dreamer. Yakov  lived by dreams throughout his life. Through all the hardships Yakov endured - being pursued by the sword of Eisav, when he froze during the night of Lavan, suffered the tragedy of his daughter Dina, when his beloved wife Rochel died, even the night his precious child was taken from him, Yakov never let go of the dream. Therefore, on the way down to Mitzrayim, Hashem yet again appeared to Yakov in a dream and told him not to be afraid, stating, “I go down with you and I will take you out. Yakov, don’t be afraid.”  As a dreamer, Yakov appreciated the dreams of Yosef.

The ninth chapter in Meseches Brachos discusses the realm of dreams and relates that dreams are one sixtieth of prophecy. Everybody dreams in their sleep; sometimes it’s a fantasy, other times a nightmare. Many people get nervous when they remember a dream; others just disregard them. Whichever approach a person takes, it is usually not seriously taken as some sort of sign or communication from above.  The “other” kind of dream, dreams of ambitions, desires, aspirations, wishes, and goals are no longer part of the average person’s psyche.  In our time, not only in the Jewish world, in the general world of dreaming, practicality has taken the place of dreaming for greatness or gain. There is no room for dreamers seeking dreams of greatness.  Historically, the Jewish people always had someone dreaming for the future of His people. The British philosopher James Allen wrote: “Dream lofty dreams, and as you dream, so you shall become. Your vision is the promise of what you shall one day be; your ideal is the prophecy of what you shall at last unveil.”

We should not be afraid to dream. To the contrary, we should allow ourselves to dream as our forefathers did. Rav Shlomo Goder z”l was a dreamer. His prophecies on behalf of Klal Yisroel did come to fruition, but only because of his dreams and aspirations. So, too, we should allow ourselves the vision to dream in pursuit of making the world a better place, helping the Jewish people fulfill its mission in the world.       

Parshas Vayishlach - Alone as One                    14 Kislev 5783

12/08/2022 12:36:18 PM


When things we are not sure about don’t work out, we are not particularly fazed about the negative outcome, especially when compared to the disappointment we feel when things we are sure about don’t work out! For example, if someone drives an older car, it may require more maintenance and may be susceptible to breaking down. In that scenario, if it does break down, we are not surprised. But if someone was to drive a brand-new car straight off the showroom floor, the likelihood of it breaking down is slim. If by chance does break down, we would be completely devastated, probably go into a state of shock, and then go nuts. Up until a few years ago I found myself in the first case scenario, and therefore, for many years I had a membership with the AAA, the American Automobile Association. I primarily carried this membership for its roadside assistance benefits. So, when we upgraded to newer vehicles, I no longer felt the need to maintain AAA membership. Fortunately - and unfortunately - even new things grow old, despite the fact that we may keep on thinking that they are still new. Take me, for example. I still think I am twenty-five years old! Fortunately, I am getting older, but unfortunately, as the mileage climbs so does the required maintenance.

A few weeks ago, my wife mentioned that her still brand new 2015 Honda CRV was making some noises and was stuttering after a stop and go. I didn’t think much of this, reasoning to myself that my wife would be traveling shortly, so that would be a good time to have her car checked out. No sooner than that decision was made, I received that dreaded, panic-stricken phone call,  “The car isn’t moving and I’m in the middle of the road!” Luckily, the car had made it off the 8-freeway, going south, but broke down on College Avenue approaching the walking overpass during rush hour. I jumped into my car and sped to the scene, switched cars, letting my wife go home while I dealt with the helpless vehicle. I tried to get it going but quickly realized I need help and called for a tow truck, not AAA. The company said they were sending someone, but it would take about forty-five minutes to an hour for them to get there. In the meantime, I was out directing the oncoming traffic to merge into one lane. Let me tell you, some people know how to drive while others do not. As car after car whizzed by, I was pleasantly surprised that not only one, but three cars slowed down to ask if I needed help (in addition to one phone call asking if I needed any assistance). This experience gave me a renewed sense of faith in humanity, seeing that some people actually cared for someone else, for a total stranger, putting an urgent situation ahead of their own need to get to class or to a meeting, or arrive home in time for dinner.  The challenge to choose to help someone in need or to just ignore the person is not new to the world. We find this replete throughout history. Reviewing the events in my mind, I saw myself “alone” as the cars whizzed by, wondering what they were thinking as they sped past our stalled car. Did they think I was driving some kind of vehicle which I expected would break down or that they felt surprised that someone on the road got stuck and was in their way? The concept of being alone while facing an uncertain challenge is quite common in the Torah; we don’t always know who the enemy is or how to process even what it is. Let’s examine this more carefully…

In this week’s Parshas Vayishlach the Torah states in Bereishis 32:25 "ויותר יעקב לבדו, ויאבק איש עמו עד עלות השחר"  “Yakov remained alone, and a stranger appeared and wrestled with him until just before daybreak”. The Gemara Chullin 91a relates this explanation given by Rebi Shmuel bar Nachmeini: …the man he [Yakov] wrestled with appeared to him as an idolater and Rav Shmuel ber Acha in the name of Rava bar Ulla explains that the man [angel] appeared to him as a Talmid Chacham, a Torah scholar. It was explained in the name of Rabbi Avraham Borenstein, the Sochatchover Rebbe and author of Avnei Nezer (1838-1910), that there are two categories of the Yetzer Hora (evil inclination). There is one kind of evil inclination that simply seduces the man to sin, even though the person clearly knows that it is forbidden to do so. Nevertheless, the Yetzer Hora attempts and often succeeds. This is the appearance of the Sar Shel Eisav, in this opinion, who appeared as an idolater. At this moment, the Yetzer Hora just says to be like an Oved Kochavim, a sinner who just does not care. On the other side, is the Yetzer Hora who dresses up, disguised   as a Talmid Chachom - a Tzadik and Torah scholar. As such, the evil inclination dupes the man, yelling and rebuking him by saying that not only is it not a sin; it is a Mitzva! That yetzer hora, that evil inclination, affects the person to believe he is a tzadik and consequently will follow the yetzer hora, committing the sin. Just as his father and grandfather, Yakov had the ability to see through both disguises and remain steadfast in his single devotion to Hashem. The gid hanasheh, the sciatica nerve and part of the animal’s thigh that is forbidden for Jews to eat, is the reminder that we, the children of Yakov, remain devoted to Hashem despite the efforts of an Eisav coming to us in different forms to wedge something between us and Hashem.

The merit for Yaakov to remain “L’Vado”- by himself - was a portend for the Jewish people: Am Yisrael must be an “Am L’vadod”- a nation which stands alone! This has stood for us and our forefathers, even as the dust of society kicks up all around us with the ministers and subjects of Eisav. With this merit of our strong belief and security in Hashem, may we be permitted to see into the future and experience the “Also HasShachar”- the Days of Dawn - the Geula Shelaima, the complete redemption. At that time, even the remnants of Eisav will be forced against their will to say ‘Amen’ to the blessings of Yaakov.          

Ah Gutten Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Parshas Vayeitzay - The Odometer World        7 Kislev 5783

12/01/2022 01:40:46 PM


 There are several items that we might become attached to an item of clothing or unimportant item, not because we’re in love with these ‘treasures’, but more likely because they have been with us for a long time and have served us well. A few of these items come to mind. Perhaps the attachment to these things is more unique to me than to someone else. I happen to wear my clothing to death. I have a system of categorizing my suits, each progressing from Shabbos suit - until I buy a new suit - to weekday suit, to just a basic grab-from-the-closet  remaining old jacket or pair of pants suitable for wear when nothing important is going on. I always wonder yet  never seem to remember when I purchased the suit and how many years following that initial purchase, I continue wearing it. Besides not knowing how long it’s been in my closet, I’d also like to know  how many times I’ve worn it. I would love to have the option of having a “weardometer” installed prior to purchase in a hidden pocket of every suit that is sold – at least to me.

A second example was recognized by my wife who, while traveling, had to deal with the pull tags on the zippers of her suitcase which suddenly gave way and broke off. She immediately grew very concerned that at any moment the  zipper would completely break and she’ll be in trouble, or perhaps I’d be in trouble for just commenting that it’s fine,  and then the entire zipper would refuse to open or shut.  Thanks to this mutual nervousness, we went luggage hunting. Lo and behold, we encountered a wide range of sizes, quality, and price to consider. We began to consider buying something of higher quality which would probably last longer. Then,  as my wife was looking to buy a top-of-the-line piece of luggage she said, “You know, this piece of luggage  has lasted a long time.” In truth, I know it did, and then tried to remember how many years ago we had bought it. But if you think about it, the age of these items is not the critical factor, rather it is how many trips it took and how many baggage handlers man-handled this piece of luggage over its lifetime. So, I started to look for luggage that had a ‘lug-gageometer’, a device I just devised in my mind which would record the number of trips and distance the luggage traveled.  To date, I have been unsuccessful calculating this, so if anybody does find a lug-gageometer, please let me know. What I did find on-line was a Luggage Mileage Life Testing Machine. This kind of machine is used to test the suitcase or traveling bag equipment, complete with different kinds of wheels, assessing the limit load/ appropriate weight in each specimen, intentionally causing impact concussion and abrasion on the specimen by the rubbing and impacting between emery cloth. It even tests  turbulence board and specimen wheel through use of a conveyer-walking testing machine. This machine will imitate the using condition of a suitcase by walking on the road, testing the wheels, axle, wheel carrier, pull bar, and the overall quality of a suitcase to calculate the abrasion value of the wheels.

In Judaism we also measure and meter different parts of life and society. Some things we measure and value consciously; others are evaluated sub-consciously. As Jews, we may have difficulty with these odometers, because we sometimes have something unique, referred to as Kefitzas Haderech. Kefitzas Haderech  קְפִיצַת הַדֶּרֶךְ‎, -  "contraction of the road". It is a Hebrew term used in Jewish sources which refers  to miraculous travel between two distant places within a brief period of time. This would totally throw off the calculation process. Rashi says there are two times Chaza”l speak about Kefitzas HaDerech. The first reference to Kefitzas HaDerech in the Torah is during the story when Avraham’s servant, Eliezer, travels to Ur Kasdim to find a wife for Yitzchak. When Eliezer speaks to Besuel and Lavan, the father and brother of Rivkah, he states: "I came today to the spring, and I said: O Hashem, God of my master Avraham, if You would indeed grant success to the errand on which I am engaged." Rashi explains that the usage of "I came today" indicates that "Today I started on my journey and today I have arrived here.” Hence, we may infer that the earth (the road) shrank for him” (i.e the journey was shortened in a miraculous manner), and uses the literal phrase קפיצת הדרך to reference this phenomenon.

The second reference to kefitzas HaDerech is found in this week’s Parsha Vayeitzay when the Torah states in Bereishis 28:11 "ויפגע במקום וילן שם כי בא השמש ויקח מאבני המקום וישם מראשתיו, וישכב במקום ההוא"  : “He reached a familiar place and spent the night there because the sun had already set. Taking some stones, he placed them at his head and lay down to sleep there”. Rashi, on the word ‘he reached’ or ‘he lighted’ says, “Our Sages explained the word Vayifga as prayer”. This is the source that teaches us that Yaakov instituted the evening prayer (Maariv). The verse makes a distinction by not writing ‘and he prayed’ (instead of ‘he reached’) to teach us that the earth shrank, making the distance less for him.

I feel there is another definition to Kefitzas HaDerech besides the biblical one. In everyday life the road could be ‘shortened’ not only in physical distance but also in time. For example, I made all the green traffic lights, or I got on the right checkout line; it moved  quickly without any issues, etcetera. Each of us must internalize the fact that all extraordinary help is what gives us the super strength needed to do something out of the ordinary. Rav Yaakov Aryeh Guterman (1792-1874) who was the founding admor of the Radzymin Chasidic Dynasty, writes in his sefer Bikurei Aviv that these two incidents are a remez/hint or message to future generations. In the concept ,מעשה אבות סימן לבנים, the stories or actions of the fathers are a sign to their children. There will come a time that children will grow up and face great challenges that in the natural course of events they could not succeed in accomplishing. There are situations that are hopeless, have at best only a slim chance of success, yet unrealistic expectations crystalize, helping us to organize and make something lucrative from it. There are cases when a person struggles to make a living, finds it difficult to get that first break in life and can’t get on track. In all these examples a person needs to put his/her trust, security, and faith in Hashem to make it happen despite the uphill battle and difficulties of the situation. People of faith will gird themselves and become strong, overcoming massive obstacles with the help of Hashem. The help from Hashem to overcome the ordinary path of resistance is the modern day Kefitzas HaDerech,  getting from one place to the next in a quicker and successful fashion that under normal circumstances would be blocked by an impossible impasse.

This extra help can only come through a commitment to the belief that Hashem is the One guiding us in life. Our Avos clearly had that understanding and lived their lives with this belief firmly embedded to the core of their essence. We each could receive that extra benefit as we live our lives with the knowledge that Hashem is running the show; only He can decide how long it will take to get from one place to the next. With this said, on a mundane plane, at least let me know when it’s time to get a new suit.

Ah Gutten Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Parshas Toldos - Guilty as Charged, Innocent as Can Be                           30 Cheshvan 5783

11/24/2022 12:12:24 PM


Throughout Tanac”h there are stories and events which, at first glance, appear as if some righteous person had made a mistake. The average person who cannot research the commentaries for explanations of the events will not be able to arrive at the truth.

I’ve often pondered if life is strictly black and white or is gray a part of that analysis? Surely, there are situations in life that appear clearly black and we unknowingly call it wrong, while there are other times when something appears completely white and we naively call it correct, but is that true? I came across a business ethics article that addressed the idea of right and wrong through the lens of morality. Here is a brief quote from the article. “You may never have thought about why you think some actions are good and others are bad, but I’m sure that hasn’t stopped you from knowing the difference when you see it, so how do you determine whether an action is right or wrong; good, or bad? I suspect you have some sort of system for deciding. Everyone does. Maybe it’s a set of rules, maybe it’s a gut feeling, maybe something else.” If we think that differentiating “right and wrong” is strictly a moral discussion, we must ask ourselves where we get beliefs about morality. In other words, where do you believe morality comes from? Does morality come from culture, religion, feelings, pain/pleasure, personal interests, rationality, civil rights, relationships, or character? As a God-fearing, believing Jew, each of us appreciates that morality is a concept which comes from Hashem and is part and parcel with the Torah. The Torah does not take the list I mentioned earlier as a legitimate source regarding  from where morality and ethics stem.  As an example, some societies view “shechita”, ritual Jewish slaughter, as cruelty to animals. Yet, the Torah, given by God, decides what is and what is not cruelty to animals, known as Tzaar Baalei Chaim. If we believe that God is All-knowing, then who are we to say that something in the Torah is not what it is supposed to be? It must be that it is we who do not understand the definitions of what cruelty is and when it does or does not apply. Nevertheless, there are glaring parts of the Torah that need explanation. One of the issues that tops the list is when the first-born rights changed hands.

 There are two ways of looking at this scene; did Yaakov buy the birthright from Eisav, or did Eisav sell the birthright to Yaakov? One may say that it’s just semantics; obviously in any transaction one person sells and the other person buys. Even so, many commentators ask why Eisav did not come up with the “price” and the “item” to be sold; rather it was Yaakov who suggested that Eisav should sell the birthright specifically for a bowl of lentil soup. How could Yaakov even float let alone suggest such an exchange? Yaakov is considered to be the epitome of Emes/truth. How can he act in guile to obtain the Bechora? Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik,* in his work The Beis HaLevi, gives us insight into both Yaakov and Eisav and why this exchange was carried out in a completely ethical and moral fashion.    

In this week’s Parshas Toldos, the Torah states in Bereishis 25:31 "ויאמר יעקב, מכרה כיום את בכורתך לי"  - “And Yaakov said, first sell me your birthright”. The Beis HaLevi explains that the intention of Yaakov was clearly not to purchase the birthright so that he could gain monetarily by receiving a double portion. This event occurred before the Torah was given; who would have known that the Bechora entitles someone to a double portion? At that time the Bechora was just a title that received a modicum of honor from being the first born of the father, as we find earlier when Hashem said to Avraham in Bereishis 21:12 כי ביצחק יקרא לך זרע"  -“It is through Isaac that you will gain posterity”. The Rabbis define the word ביצחק  , B’Yitzchok, as meaning only a part of Yitzchok and not the entire Yitzchok. It would only apply to the part that holds onto his father’s ways, making it befitting to be called his son. Since on the day of the sale, Eisav behaved repulsively, Eisav had no connection to the first-born title. His action didn’t warrant the title of being a first born, a title which revealed close   association to his father. How could a child be referred to as the first born when he couldn’t even be called a son? Eisav’s only goal was to make sure Yaakov did not have that title; he personally could care less about the title. Therefore, Yaakov asked that the Birthright be sold to him, especially because at this point Yaakov had much to gain while Eisav had nothing to lose. This is exactly how Eisav responded to Yaakov: ולמה זה לי בכורה  - ”What good is a birthright to me?” In essence, the birthright had no intrinsic meaning to Eisav because he had no desire or intention of living in the ways of his father, Yitzchok.

A proof regarding how reference to ‘first born’ and ‘son’ are connected is taken from Shmos 4:22 when Hashem declares the greatness of the Jewish people by referring to them as בני בכורי ישראל  -Israel is ‘My son, My firstborn’. We deduce that the word son is included in the word BChori. Therefore, the verse comes to teach us that a Jew has two attributes. First, we are considered the son, and second, we are also the first born.  In this case there is no gray, it is all black and white and both Yaakov and Eisav acted in their own best interests.

Ah Gutten Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky


* Yosef Dov Soloveitchik (born 1820 in Minsk when it was part of the Russian Empire; He died May 1, 1892, in Brest-Litovsk, Grodno. He was the author of Beis Halevi, by which name he is better known among Talmudic scholars. He was the great-grandson of Chaim Volozhin.

Yosef Dov Soloveitchik was born to Rivka, a granddaughter of Chaim Volozhin, whose father was Yitschok Ze'ev, descendant of Simcha Rappaport.

In his youth, Soloveitchik lived in Brod. One anecdote illustrates his early mastery of rabbinic learning. Shlomo Kluger the Rabbi of Brod, enjoyed engaging in Talmud studies with him. When Soloveitchik was about to leave Brod, Kluger is reputed to have said to him, “You have always resolved my kushyos (difficult Talmudic questions). But I have one difficulty you cannot resolve. How will I manage to part from you?”

Parshas Chayei Sorah - I Had a Thought, But It Wasn't Thought Through                     24 Cheshvan 5783

11/18/2022 09:19:23 AM


Ever find yourself in a position when you did not want to do something, and you ended up not doing it? Have you ever found yourself in a position when you did not want to do something, but you did it anyway? Perhaps you had a situation that you wanted to do something, but you ended up not doing it? Or maybe you had a situation which bothered you and you wanted to do something about it, and you ended up doing it? These four scenarios are common real-life experiences which we may or may not take the time to reason through. I am sure there are times we struggle with making the decision to act upon or to ignore something and other times when we just allow our emotions to set the pace and course in our day-to-day lives. Life is full of decision making, ranging from  insignificant to major decisions that will alter the path of our lives forever. Many decisions in life may only affect us for the moment while others can affect ourselves and others, causing a ripple effect for years and even generations to come. Truth be told, every decision has a potential effect on more people than we can imagine. Decisions and actions play a role in our lives and on the lives of our families and others around us. Someone who works in an office and shares space with other employees  influences others - whether they choose to do so or not. A simple illustration: a co-worker who has an upbeat demeanor, choosing to view situations from a positive angle, will bring a positive vibe to the workplace, while a co-worker who tends to view situations and others from a negative perspective creates negative vibes in return.

What motivates a person to decide what to do? Certainly a few reasons pop up:  making money, attaining fame, reaching out to others. Some decisions are driven by lust and temptation, and sometimes we act without even thinking about the consequences or repercussions.  Acting without thinking is a natural reflex, working on raw instinct, a gut reaction essential  in certain high-pressure, split-second life-threatening situations. On the other hand, if a person has time to contemplate doing or not doing something and just responds instinctively, he is debasing himself, ignoring his ability to reason, choosing instead to act on the level of  an animal. A human being is blessed with intellect, with the ability to make informed decisions and think about the consequences of his actions. In fact, it is the Yetzer Hora, the evil inclination, that does not give us opportunity to think about whether we should do X or Y, encouraging us to  act on impulse.  So how do we train ourselves to process and respond in the correct manner? The answer is to make the effort to learn mussar, to educate ourselves about how to act appropriately, to be disciplined in our behavior, elevating our ethical standards and spiritual paths.  Mussar teaches us how to think and contemplate before we act. Once we reach the  level of appreciating the beauty of humility, clarity of thought, and empathy,  we will have the innate discipline to “just act” in a way that is clearly on the highest level a person can be. This is what Eliezer saw in Rivka as he was charged by Avraham to find a wife for Yitzchok. The following illustrates the level that Rivka was on which earned her the place in Jewish history to be one of the mothers of Klal Yisrael.

In this week’s Parshas Chayei Sorah the Torah states in Bereishis 24:22 "ויהי כאשר כלו הגמלים לשתות ויקח האיש נזם זהב בקע משקלו ושני צמידים על ידיה עשרה זהב משקלם"  “When the camels finished drinking, he took a gold ring weighing half a shekel, and two gold bracelets, weighing ten gold shekels, for her arms.” It interesting to note that it was only “when the camels finished drinking” - only then did Eliezer take a gold ring weighing half a shekel. *Ovadia ben Yakov, in his commentary to the Sforno, explains: Eliezer wanted to see if Rivka was a worthy mate for Yitzchok. He wanted to see if she had the qualities that was famous in the house of Avraham, namely the midah of chessed, the character trait of kindness. That being the case, why did Eliezer wait until the camels finished drinking, apparently at the very moment when Rivka said to Eliezer, “Drink and also your camels should drink” would have been a good enough sign to recognize her righteousness and give her the jewelry right then and there. Why wait until the camels literally finished drinking? The Sforno explains that Eliezer waited until Rivka gave water to all the servants and the camels to see if after she completed giving the water, she might ask for something in return. Perhaps she might ask for a favor or  wait for a tip for services rendered. Perhaps, give her a gift that was not so expensive, giving instead a little something of recognition for her being there at the right time and the right place for Eliezer and his entourage. But that was not to be the case, Rivka acted in more than a dignified manner; immediately upon finishing her chores, she quickly turned to go home as if she had done nothing that would deserve any type of reward, even a basic acknowledgement. Her act of chessed/kindness was performed naturally, in humility and empathy as if she had done nothing special and simply went about her business.    


Ah Gutten Shabbos


Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

*Obadja Sforno (Hebrew: עובדיה ספורנו) was an Italian rabbi, Biblical commentator, philosopher, and physician. A member of the Sforno family, he was born in Cesena about 1475 and died in Bologna in 1550.

Doing the Right Thing

Parshas Vayera - מי כעמך ישראל / Who is Like the Jewish People?      17 Cheshvan 5783

11/11/2022 11:31:03 AM


I have often wondered if the supply and demand equation applies to every scenario in the world. Whether it is food, housing, education, virtually anything, there is a vitally important measure of supply and demand required to see success or failure. In general, when it comes to food necessary to stave off starvation, there is an ample supply to meet the needs of the hungry. While this statement is based upon a global viewpoint, we must also calculate how to get that food supply delivered to the locations where starving people can be fed. When it comes to housing, the major indicators that factor into the supply and demand are price and interest rates. Finally, my third example focuses on the growing demand for dedicated, highly qualified teachers.  This is a demand where the supply is just not there. Across this country, in both the Jewish and secular world of education, there is a strong need for more and better qualified teachers in order to meet the growing needs of our children.

Recently, another example of the supply/demand issue came to mind. I think this example is more central to the Jewish family and perhaps more specific to the Orthodox Jewish community worldwide. Anytime we discuss a supply/demand issue when it comes to necessities, the issue of discussion and need carries much more weight than, for example, the supply and demand for cars. If there is a shortage of new cars, we can hold on to our old cars for a while, take taxis, Ubers, or or public transportation. This might not be so terrible; it could force us to talk to our spouse and children a little more instead of focusing on driving. But when it comes to educating our children or giving tzedakah/charity, there is no leeway. Those needs must be met. I found it fascinating and disheartening to see how much need exists within the Orthodox Jewish world. Perhaps it is through the creation of social media and instant communication that our eyes have been opened to the countless numbers of organizations, educational institutions, and individual needs there are. We see this daily through the number of requests that come to us via our phones, computers, and the good old mail system.

Online campaigns are popping up daily.  Numerous chessed platforms have been created. A small sampling of such platforms for giving include Charidy campaigns, TheChessedFund, Go Fund Me, GiveCampus, Fundly, GiveButter, Donorbox, Kickstarter, Crowdfunder, Indiegogo, Facebook Fundraising, PayPal, EdCo, 360MatchPro, Bonfire, Kiva, the list continues to grow. On the flip side, I am encouraged by the outpouring of support to which Jews across the globe willingly contribute, even if it is only a few dollars. It is truly amazing to take note of how these things are born  and quickly snowball into something so beneficial to those in need. Rabbi Wein often remarked that there is enough Jewish money available worldwide to keep every Jewish organization from operating in the red. I will take that statement and run with it and openly state there is enough Jewish money that if everyone gave their respected portion, we could wipe out all of the needs from every Jewish organization and household. This reality hit me when I read a posting in my Yeshiva Shaarei Torah Alumni WhatsApp group regarding an individual in need. Keep in mind, the Yeshiva has been in existence for almost fifty years. A posting of financial assistance was sent by a friend of an alumnus (who was at the time of the posting in the first years of the high school and is not on this chat).  He shared a letter written by a a quadriplegic who was trying to raise needed funds so he could  have a better quality of life. While the numbers are not important, within a few hours of the posting, the monies were raised from guys who never saw or spoke to this man, let alone previously knew of his existence and situation. I was so uplifted to realize the supply quickly came in to fill the demand. This is a concept that comes from the Chessed of our forefather Avraham Avinu whose kindness is detailed throughout the parshiot we read during these weeks.

In this week’s Parshas Vayera the Torah relates several instances of Avraham’s Chessed/kindness. Dovid Hamelech, in Tehilim 89:3 עולם חסד יבנה , stated that the world is created through kindness.  Bereishis Rabbah 8:5 states that the creation of Adam HaRishon was in the merit of God’s Chessed. Rav Yoel Schwartz, in his work Davar B’Ito, writes from this source that we see the root and very foundation of the existence of mankind is predicated on acts of Chessed. The acts of kindness that Avraham performed with complete self-sacrifice became the foundational platform of merits for the Jewish people in the future. The Midrash describes in the merit that Avraham ran three times: 18:2 "וישא עיניו וירא והנה שלשה אנשים עליו, וירא וירץ לקראתם מפתח האהל וישתחו ארצה"   “Avraham lifted his eyes and saw three strangers standing a short distance from him. When he saw them from the entrance of his tent, he ran out to greet them, bowing down to the ground.” 18:7 the Torah states "ואל הבקר רץ אברהם, ויקח בן בקר רך וטוב ויתן אל הנער וימהר לעשות אתו"  “Avraham ran to the cattle, and chose a tender, choice calf. He gave it to a young man who rushed to prepare it. For this Hashem said, “I [God] will run in front of his children to give them the Torah.

The Gemara in Bava Metzia 86b describes that so too, in the merit that Avraham gave milk and butter to the guests, his [Avraham’s] children merited to have the manna from heaven for forty years in the desert. In the merit that Avraham “stood over them [the angels/guests], the Jewish people merited to have the clouds of glory stand for the Jews traveling in the desert. In the merit that Avraham said to his guests, “Let some water be brought and wash your feet,” Avraham’s children merited the well in the desert to have water to drink. We see from Avraham’s actions how important it is for a person to be concerned with the welfare and well-being of others. The Gemara Taanis 13 teaches that anyone who separates him/herself from the community during its time of need will bear a great punishment. Therefore, we see the opposite is true when someone comes forward to extend help, the reward will be great.

Yes, it is true that many tragedies have befallen large numbers of people and many difficulties are occurring and deepening in our Jewish communities. There is great need, but I am confident that great blessing will come to Klal Yisrael for the resounding, ongoing efforts of collectively helping out Acheinu Kal Beis Yisrael. Let us all take active part in addressing and managing the needs and the essentials of every Jew we come across.

Ah Gutten Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky


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

Parshas Lech L'Cha - "Thinking Deep"     10 Cheshvan 5783

11/11/2022 11:28:42 AM


This Dvar Torah is sponsored by the Adelman/Gleiberman families in memory of Mr. Lonnie Adelman, Yehuda Zev Ben Shlomo Yitzchok z”l

One of the many horrible high school experiences I endured were all standardized tests, especially the SATs. Beyond the typical multiple-choice questions which most often can be figured out through a process of elimination, these multiple-choice questions were deceptive since, in my view, most of the choices offered could reasonably have been  the correct answer. They were written in a manner to purposely confuse the already-nervous test-taker. It was not only necessary to know the material; to answer correctly, it was essential that the student understood how to accurately decode the question.   This week I was reminded of these unpleasant memories thanks to experiencing nightmares, night sweats, and flashbacks of anxiety regarding  the upcoming election. Let me explain…

This week, in good company with many Jews across America, I found myself in the middle of two major elections. First, the Israeli elections, which, after an unprecedented fifth election in three years on November 1, showed clear indications that former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who served as the ninth prime minister of Israel from 1996 to 1999 and again from 2009 to 2021, was expected to return as prime minister following the 2022 Israeli legislative election. The Israeli election, however, did not grip me with fear as I could not vote since I am not an Israeli citizen. Nevertheless, it did set the stage for the upcoming U.S. elections set to take place this coming week. I chose to vote early, but that has not calmed my deep anxieties.

Typically,  there are the usual two candidates running for office.  Most often, I vote on party lines but will cross party lines when the candidate is someone whom I feel is worthy of my vote. In addition to the typical choice of candidate,there are referendums and propositions to vote for or against. Today,  twenty-six states have the power of initiative or referendum, showing what powers—initiated statutes, initiated amendments, veto referendums, or some combination— are available to their residents. Effective in the 2021/2022 election cycle, a signature requirement, with modifications from state-to-state, applies for each type of measure. Each state has different types of initiated statutes or amendments, such as between direct or indirect initiatives. If you are really interested in all of this, you can go online to read all the details about the process in each state by searching  ‘propositions state by state’.Just click the appropriate chart.

As I was filling out my mail-in ballot,  a mental melt down reminiscent of my high school years slowly enveloped me. I began to relive the trauma regarding a line of double or triple innuendo questioning packed with confusing, misleading language, clearly designed to trick the voter to approve a measure which is not only unclear but potentially harmful.  It took me longer to go through seventeen propositions than to complete a tractate of Gemara/Talmud. And I’m still unsure if I chose the answer which I believed to be correct. Whenever I fill out these questionnaires, I say to myself, “Why don’t they just ask the question directly?” After reviewing this week’s Sidra I found an answer to my question!

In this week’s Parsha Lech L’Cha the Torah states in Bereishis 12:1 "ויאמר ה' אל אברם לך-לך מארצך וממולדתך ומבית אביך אל הארץ אשר אראך"  “God said to Abram, ‘Go away from your land, from your birthplace, and from your father’s house, to the land that I will show you’. Rashi immediately jumps on the obvious question: ‘Why didn’t God tell Abram where he was to go?’ Rashi presents a Midrash which answers that God did not reveal the land to Abram immediately in order to make it beloved in his [Abraham’s] eyes and to give him a reward for each and every word. Similarly at the end of Vayera, in the commandment of the Akeidas Yitzchok, Hashem describes an elaborate description of whom he is to take to slaughter and once again, He does not reveal the place immediately. It is revealed only after he is already on his journey.  I might add not only did Avraham receive extra reward based upon each word Hashem used to describe the command, but Avraham would receive extra rewards for every step taken while kept in the dark regarding his ultimate destination. Rav Yaakov Yisroel Kanievsky zt”l, the Steipler Gaon, writes in his sefer Birkas Peretz on Chumash:  The first reason the Midrash offers ‘to make it beloved in his eyes’ we learn that when a person looks for something toils over it for a long time, the matter becomes clear and beloved to him. The Steipler continues, explaining  if the matter (understanding) would have come easily to the person, by chance,  without undue effort,  then it would not have the same value as if he had put in the effort.

From this we derive a lesson regarding the long-lasting effects of doing Mitzvos and learning Torah. Those who immerse themselves in learning the process and details of the Mitzvos will perform them differently, developing long-lasting, positive  effects upon the individual. The same applies to learning Torah in-depth with careful analysis.  Such effort will bring more meaning and truth to the Torah and bring the devoted individual closer to God. Unfortunately, the opposite is also true. Things that come without effort and toil will be regarded lightly. Truth be told this lesson extends not only to Torah and Mitzvos but to any situation and relationship in life, both spiritually and physically. Therefore, Hashem did not reveal information to Avraham immediately, rather Avraham would toil in the word of God, and it became precious in his eyes.

I now think back to the voter’s card and the proposition list that I forced myself to go over and review several times. In the end I won’t say I understood everything about each proposition but going through each one and reading over the confusing explanations accompanying each proposition helped me to understand the issues at stake in California. Whether I agree with them or not, whether I voted yes or no is not the issue. Through focused effort,   I developed  a deeper sense of understanding the issues that loom around us. With this newfound knowledge and a greater sense of appreciation of the importance of these issues, I now look forward to seeing the results of these propositions that will either alter our way of life or keep the status quo. On a deep, personal level, this valuable lesson applies to learning Torah.  All of us need to actively seek out the profound meaning of the precious words of the Torah, delving into performance of mitzvos, making every word, every mitzvah ever more sacred and beloved in our eyes.  Ultimately, this active effort to understand and to apply brings us closer to Hashem.        

Parshas Noach - Living to See the Day              3 Cheshvan 5783

10/28/2022 09:00:59 AM


This Dvar Torah is in memory of Yehoshua Heshel Ben Yehuda Leib z”l

Over the Yom Tov of Sukkos, we read the book of Koheles where Shlomo HaMelech writes        "דור הולך ודור בא" “a generation goes and a new generation comes”. With the passing of my father, Reb Yehoshua Heshel ben Yehuda Leib, Mr. Edward Bogopulsky z”l, a link to the previous generations has been severed. The following is not a “Chiddush”, something novel; rather it will hopefully remind us all, creating  a deeper awareness of what happens to everyone over time. I am connected to my grandfather, someone who was born in the 1800’s, through my father. When my grandfather died, the connection to that world was severed. Now, the historical connection that my children and grandchildren, who loved and knew my father, born in 1930, has been severed. My grandchildren will have a new historical perspective from the 1960’s. It takes the passing of someone who may have been a great grandfather, to more profoundly enable us to look back at the wisdom and sacrifice of the previous generation. Unfortunately, wisdom from the older generation is not only not passed down; but it can be outrightly ignored and even, at times, shunned. People are meant to learn from the past, yet too often fail to  see the benefit to them. Therefore…..  

The phrase “history repeats itself” and therefore what we learn from history is a lesson meant for the young. Unfortunately, however, that is rarely the case. It takes maturity to recognize the need to learn from our past, and usually a younger person looks at that part of history as irrelevant to the present, disregarding the lessons to be learned. Please take note that the “younger person” does not necessarily come with a certain age; rather, it is just a “younger person” who should take the time (and make the effort) to learn from the older generation at all ages and stages of life. Sometimes a person, as he or she ages, comes to understand and appreciate the lessons, teachings, and messages that their parents and grandparents endeavored to imbue within them. In many cases, lessons of life are taught with words, but perhaps the best teaching is through being a role model. My father, הרני כפרת משכבו and mother זכרונה לברכה taught more by action rather than by speech. My wife, our children, and I learned lifelong lessons from my parents. With the passing of my father, I feel that one of the most important mitzvos and certainly one of the two mitzvos the Torah states - its reward, as in כיבוד אב ואם ,no longer apply. That may be the case in other religions, but in Judaism the Mitzva of honoring your mother and father continues to be your mitzva until you are no longer able to  do it. My father was niftar on the day we completed the Torah and started again from the beginning. The book of Bereishis is also known in the English as Genesis. The word Genesis is a translation from a different name of the first book of the Torah known as Sefer HaAvos, the Book of our Fathers. It is a sefer which focuses on the teachings of our forefathers.    

The book of Bereishis or Sefer HaAvos, the Book of Our Fathers, describes the building of families after the world came into existence. In a few different places in Bereishis, the Torah goes out of its way to list several genealogical generations. The word Toldos – generations - is frequently used throughout the first book of the Torah. The beginning of this week’s Parsha uses the word ‘Toldos’. The Torah in Bereishis 6:9 states: "אלה תולדות נח, נח איש צדיק תמים היה בדרתיו את האלוקים התהלך נח"  “These are the chronicles of Noach. Noach was a righteous man, faultless in his generation, and Noach walked with God.” Rashi comments, ”Since it [scripture] mentions him [Noach], it relates his praise, as it is said in Mishlei 10:7 זכר צדיק :לברכה  the memory of the righteous shall be for a blessing. We learn from here that when a Tzadik’s name is mentioned, we must bless him. So too, when a person mentions his or her parents after they die, one must honor them. Within the first twelve months we say הריני כפרת משכבו  -I will be an atonement for them, and after twelve months we say זכרונו/ה לברכה : their memory should be a blessing.

I mentioned earlier that there are two mitzvos  where the reward is revealed in the Torah: honoring your mother and father and Shiluach HaKein - sending away the mother bird. Many ask, why is the reward for honoring your parents’ a long life? I saw in one of my favorite seforim on the laws of Kibbud Av VaEim, written by a great talmid Chacham Rav Zvi Aryeh Solomon, the following footnote (Siman 3 page 29) that perhaps sheds some light on my question. He explains  it is worthy to point out the mitzva of honoring your father and mother is unique among all 613 mitzvos in that not only can you, but you must honor your parents when they are alive and even after they pass away. Even when our parents go to their world, we cannot think we are finished with this mitzva. We honor them by leading exemplary lives, learning Torah, fulfilling mitzvos, or, heaven forbid, disgrace them by not doing those things mentioned. When people look at us for good or for bad, this serves as a reflection upon from whom we have come.  Therefore, we still must maintain giving our parents honor, albeit in a different way then when they were alive, but nevertheless the mitzva of honoring our parents continues on. Perhaps I’ll suggest that so long as we perform the mitzva of honoring our parents, Hashem will give us more time in this world to continue to honor our parents, hence giving us longer life.

Just remembering our parents, however, is the safeguarding, or passive method, but the proactive is “to do something” in their memory. If we act in a positive manner, that will influence others to follow the ways of the Torah and become more committed Jews. This is the greatest honor we can give a parent, especially after they have passed on to the next world. The influencing and teaching of Torah and giving proper derech eretz to others is important. Perhaps the most effective and highest form of honor to our parents is when the continuity of Torah and Mitzvos continues on through the generations and future generations who issue from them. I and my extended family hope to fulfill the mitzva of Kibbud Av VaEim, to honor our parents, their grandparents and great grandparents and continue down the line until the time of Techiyas HaMeisim ,when we will once again fulfill the Mitzva in person during their lifetime.        

Parshas Vayeilech - To Greet or be Greeted?     5 Tishrei 5783

09/30/2022 08:50:04 AM


History in the making catches the attention even of those who typically may not be interested in that particular happening. I believe most Americans have heard of the sport of baseball and even a team named the Yankees. Nevertheless, they may not follow or even care about this team or baseball in general.

The Yankees debuted to a cheering section seated in the right-field of Yankee Stadium on May 22, 2017. Called "The Judge's Chambers", the section spanned three rows containing 18 seats located in section 104. Fans were chosen by the team, seated there,and outfitted with black robes, wigs, and foam gavels. Since 2017, this section in Yankee Stadium stands out among the other sections in the ‘House that Ruth built’. It all started with a young rookie phenom named Aaron James Judge. The Judge’s Chambers are a section of seats out in the right field outfield next to the bleachers. The cheering section looks like a jury box with faux wood paneling, all causing this special section within the ballpark to stand out entirely from others. The jury box consists of three rows of seats located directly in the back of the right-field seats. Every time Aaron Judge walked up to the plate, viewers could see this entire section “rise” in honor of the slugger.

Judge began his career slugging home runs, continuing his wins with the    unbelievable feat of tying Roger Maris (also a Yankee) for the most home runs (61) in a season, a feat which, as of this moment, has not been beaten by any American league player. As Judge’s slugging record approached tying Babe Ruth’s record of sixty home runs, ticket sales and prices skyrocketed with fans wanting to witness baseball history. As of today, ticket prices for the upcoming game tops out at ten thousand dollars, climbing even higher as each game passes. One of the highlights of Judge’s career was listening to Yankee broadcaster John Sterling announce “All Rise… Here comes the Judge”. The original phrase "Here Comes the Judge" is a song made famous by American soul and comedy singer Pigmeat Markham, first released in 1968. The source of any of these “All Rise” are words, now part of our common vernacular announcing the arrival of a judge entering a courtroom, connoting respect for the authority of the court. Whatever the origin of such  phrases, the expression must be appreciated in context. Being part of a song, or even acknowledging the source coming from the  American pastime sport of baseball,  does not do justice to the concept. Perhaps in the courtroom one could find reason for expressing respect to the law and the person representing the law who enters the courtroom dressed in the dignified, somber, black robe.  

The irony of the hype during the Aseres Yemei Teshuva is eerily awkward, mentioning the coming of the judge and needing to stand. I must take objection to the roles that the people and the judge play. As we now find ourselves during these ten days of repentance, our lives hanging in the balance between life and death, the arena of a stadium, or even a courtroom, is far different than the Beis Din Shel Maalah - the Heavenly court where the ultimate Judge sits. Here, in the lower courts, the judges enter the room where the jurors, spectators and litigants are sitting, while in the Heavenly Court we all must enter the courtroom where the Judge is sitting, awaiting our appearance.  The powerful prayer Unisaneh Tokef, which we recited on Rosh Hashana and will again say on Yom Kippur, states, “All mankind will pass before You like members of the flock. Like a shepherd pasturing his flock, making sheep pass under his staff, so shall You cause to pass, count, calculate, and consider the soul of all the living”.

I cringed thinking of the day the record was tied, how the media stressed the scenario where people stood in their places as the judge entered the courtroom. In Selicha 64 are the words "ואני לא נקראתי לבא אל המלך"  -“while I have not been called to come to the King”. In our case the Judge is the King, our Father, and yet we go to Him; He awaits our arrival, not the other way around. Although, per Tefilla, we are supposed to arrive before Hashem, nevertheless in the Courtroom of our King, Hashem is ever-present. In this holy Courtroom, we – every one of us - find ourselves being brought to The Judge. This bit of baseball history and the Days of Awe also coincide with a mitzva relating to the King of Israel.

The Torah in this week’s Parsha Vayeilech states in 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 together the people - Hakhel: the men, 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.”

Many commentators ask why young children were also required to be present at Hakhel. The Gemara Chagigah 3a states: Rabbi Eleazar ben Azariah said: “Men would come to learn, and women would come to listen. Why would children come? To provide a reward for those who brought them.” Maharsha takes that to mean even children who are not yet in school, similar to a tradition of Sefer Chasidim: we don’t bring such small children to shul, since they distract their parents and others around them. The Ramban and Rashi indicate that even the youngest children should be brought. Rashi explains in Gemara Megillah 5a that we delay a Hakhel that falls on Shabbat  so that parents are able to carry their small children when there is no eruv. R. Ovadya Yosef suggests that there is a value -  even at the age of infancy - so that even the youngest of all will become accustomed to  hearing Torah, benefitting from being at an event where the Divine Presence is particularly present. The Gemara in Yevamos 64a tells us that any gathering of over 22,000 Jews has an added element of the Divine Presence. I’m not certain as to exactly when the King arrived at Hakhel. The point for Hakhel is not whether the King arrived before or after the people. Rather, it is to teach the lesson that we “go to” see the King, in person to listen to Hashem’s Torah. In life, it is always better to take the initiative, to go out actively and greet someone first and not wait to be greeted.  I would not swear to this in court, but I definitely want to confess, that I enjoy watching the Judge chase history. Nevertheless, when it comes to Yom Kippur, we had all better show up and take our places. There is no sitting back, waiting for the judge to arrive.  The Judge of all Judges is waiting for us – every one of us – to be there in sincere humility and repentance for our day in court.

Ah Gutten Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Parshas Nitzavim - Say it & You Can Make it Happen               26 Elul 5782

09/30/2022 08:48:00 AM


This Dvar Torah is in honor of Fred & Elaine Lepow upon making Aliyah, Mazal Tov!

There is a custom to perform “Hatoras Nedarim” - releasing of vows on Erev Rosh Hashana. A very famous, core question is ‘Why, if we do Hatoras Nedarim on Erev Rosh Hashana, must we say Kol Nidrei?’ Conversely, if we say Kol Nidrei, why must we say Hatoras Nedarim? The most common answer for the first question is that Kol Nidrei refers to the vows of the community, while Hatoras Nedarim takes care of personal vows. On another level, according to one Nusach, Kol Nidrei frees us from future vows only if the condition is forgotten later, while Hatoras Nedarim is said for all personal vows.

Nedarim/vows, which can occur for reasons as common as making a statement to do or not do something, are very powerful. Chaza”l say ”"It’s better not to vow than to take a vow and not fulfill it.” True, taking a vow and motivating ourselves to do or not do something could be a positive technique to get closer to Hashem, but it runs a risk. Beyond the technical issue of getting ourselves in trouble by not fulfilling a vow, there is always a way around it. 1) We can become accustomed to adding the words ‘bli neder’/without a vow either at the beginning or the end of our statements. 2) We can always have the vows annulled or released. Perhaps there are other lessons to glean from the halachik discussion of vows. One such incidence was recently addressed in daf yomi where the Gemara discusses vows which are taken by a husband that would affect his wife, and a wife making a vow that would affect her husband.

The Gemara Kesuvos 71b and the top of 72a discusses whether a husband can take a vow that would restrict his wife from participating in certain activities. If he is forbidden to make these declarations, then should she be entitled to leave her husband and receive her guaranteed Ketubah money. הַמַּדִּיר אֶת אִשְׁתּוֹ וְכוּ׳. בִּשְׁלָמָא לְבֵית הַמִּשְׁתֶּה § The mishna states: One who vows and obligates his wife not to go to a house of mourning or to a house of feasting for a wedding, must divorce her and give her the payment of her marriage contract because it is as if he were locking a door in front of her. The Gemara asks: Granted, when he forbids her from going to a house of feasting, 72a אִיכָּא נוֹעֵל בְּפָנֶיהָ, אֶלָּא לְבֵית הָאֵבֶל מַאי נוֹעֵל בְּפָנֶיהָ אִיכָּא? תָּנָא: לְמָחָר הִיא מֵתָה וְאֵין כׇּל בְּרִיָּה סוֹפְדָהּ. וְאִיכָּא דְּאָמְרִי: אֵין כׇּל בְּרִיָּה סוֹפְנָהּ. there is effectively an act of locking a door in front of her by withholding from her any possibility of rejoicing, but when he forbids her from going to a house of mourning, what locking of a door in front of her is there? He taught: In the future she too will die, and no person will eulogize her or take care of her, just as she did not care for others. And some say: No person will value her or pay attention to her, since a person who does not visit the sick or console mourners cuts himself off from others. תַּנְיָא, הָיָה רַבִּי מֵאִיר אוֹמֵר: מַאי דִּכְתִיב ״טוֹב לָלֶכֶת אֶל בֵּית אֵבֶל מִלֶּכֶת אֶל בֵּית מִשְׁתֶּה בַּאֲשֶׁר הוּא סוֹף כׇּל הָאָדָם וְהַחַי יִתֵּן אֶל לִבּוֹ״, מַאי ״וְהַחַי יִתֵּן אֶל לִבּוֹ״? דְּבָרִים שֶׁל מִיתָה: דְּ[יִ]סְפֹּד — יִסְפְּדוּנֵיהּ, דְּ[יִ]קְבַּר — יִקְבְּרוּנֵיהּ, דִּידַל — יְדַלּוּנֵיהּ, דִּ[י]לַוֵּאי — יְלַוּוֹנֵיהּ, דְּ[יִ]טְעֹן — יִטְעֲנוּנֵיהּ. Similarly, it is taught in a baraitaRabbi Meir used to say: What is the meaning of that which is written: “It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, since that is the end of all men, and the living will take it to heart” (Koheles 7:2). What does “and the living will take it to heart” mean? It means that they will take matters relating to death to heart, realizing that they, too, will eventually die. He who eulogizes others, people will eulogize him; he who buries someone, people will bury him; he who lifts others to bring them to burial, people will similarly lift him to bring him to burial; he who escorts others out for burial, people will similarly escort him; he who carries others, others will carry him. Therefore, one who does not come to a house of mourning to comfort the bereaved will himself not be treated with proper dignity when he dies.

The Talmud is contextually dealing with the relationship and status of vows between husband and wife. Often, the Torah whether it is the written law, the oral law, rishonim, acharonim or poskim, have a way of sending a message which causes us to read between the lines. The gemara is sending a clear lesson of communal involvement. The examples listed earlier are not limited to end of life, although I have seen this to be the case. Rather, the lesson should be for every aspect of shared Jewish life. In terms of a Jewish community, it entails every person to be on every committee. Every person needs to volunteer for whatever needs to be done. Every person needs to show up at every event. There is no room for just taking that which I need and if something doesn’t “speak” to me I don’t have to show up, I don’t feel the need to participate. If people choose not to show up, choose not to help or participate, the system will crash causing the entire infrastructure of the community to no longer have the ability  to carry out its obligation to attend to all the community’s events, occurrences and needs.   

The Torah, in the beginning of this week’s Parshas Nitzavim in Devarim 29:9 states:"אתם נצבים היום כלכם לפני ה' אלוקיכם, ראשיכם שבטיכם זקניכם ושוטריכם כל איש ישראל"   “Today you are all standing before God your Lord – your leaders, your tribal chiefs, your elders, your law enforcers, every Israelite man.” There are a handful of times that we as a shul community come together at the same time and place. One of them is the sounding of the Shofar when all men, women, and children listen collectively to the sound of the Shofar. The sound of the Shofar has many meanings, many levels of understanding. One of them is the that the Shofar is a call to action. Just as the trumpets’ blast leads the charge of the army to battle, so, too, the Shofar is the sound of the charge for each and every one of us to join forces with our comrades into the battle - whether we like that particular battle or not. We all need to be there for everyone else. Let the Shofar penetrate the core of our existence to remind us – all of us - that we are here for each other, and if I am here for you, then you will be there for me.

Ah Gutten Shabbos & Ah Goot Yur

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Parshas Ki Savo - Torah: The Bedrock of our Past, Present & Future       20 Elul 5782

09/16/2022 09:06:34 AM


Ninety-nine years ago, on the 3rd of Elul, 5683, corresponding to August 15th, 1923, the first Knessiah Gedolah took place in Vienna/Wein or Vien. It was a watershed event in the annals of Jewish Orthodoxy. This was the first gathering of world Torah leaders in the in the 20th Century,  united in the struggle against secular assimilationist movements that were threatening the survival of Torah Jewry. In 2015 the Orthodox community worldwide had been amazed and elated by the discovery of a rare short film containing images of numerous gedolei Yisroel (great Orthodox Jewish leaders) across the spectrum, including Roshei Yeshivos, Chassidic Rebbes and Torah luminaries. And among them was a crystal clear presence of the saintly Chofetz Chaim, Rav Yisroel Meir Kagan z”l.  

Hundreds of people gathered around the inn where the Chofetz Chaim was staying. Everyone came to catch a glimpse of the Gadol Hador, the greatest Rabbi of the generation. Remember, this was prior to twitter and any social media; most people didn’t even know what he looked like. Many in the crowd waited for the opportunity to meet the Chofetz Chaim in person and ask for a bracha from this great Tzadik. When people arrived to seek a blessing, the Chofetz Chaim replied, “I am not a Rebbe” meaning he was not among the Chasidic masters and Kabbalists who were expected to give brachos. Nevertheless, the people would not relent. They pushed the Chofetz Chaim to the point where he had no choice but to honor their request and began blessing them. Among the visitors were a man and his young son who the Chofetz Chaim did not recognize. This occurred around the time of Parshas Ki Savo. The Chofetz Chaim said to the man, “I am not sure why you are asking to receive a bracha from me. If you send your son to a yeshiva, then you don’t need my blessing because you’ve already been pre-blessed by six hundred thousand Jews who stood on top at the mountains of Greizim and Eival. The Gemara Sotah 36 describes six tribes on Har Gereizim and six tribes on Har Eival and the Kohanim, Leviim, and the Aron HaKodesh where the Shechina - God’s presence - rested was below in the middle. It was there that everyone who was present heard the words "ברוך אשר יקים את דברי התורה הזאת"   “Blessed is the one who fulfills and upholds the words of the Torah.” But if you are going to send your son only for a secular education, then I cannot give you a bracha.” He concluded in Yiddish by saying, “I am not a light scratcher when it comes to tochachah/ rebuke.” The father then began to tremble and his knees began to shake, asking himself, ”How did the Chofetz Chaim know to say this to me!”

There is a saying of the Rabbis: “if I don't learn Torah for one day, the Torah leaves me for two days.” I felt this lesson when writing this week’s message, having missed writing a message last week. Sometimes the lack of something good is the curse; the inverse is also true. Although I quoted above that blessing will come from those who uphold and disseminate Torah, that quote is, in fact, derived from the negative perspective. The Torah in this week’s Parshas Ki Savo says in Devarim 27:26 "ארור אשר לא יקים את דברי התורה הזאת לעשות אותם, ואמר כל העם אמן"  “Cursed is he who does not uphold and keep this entire Torah. All the people shall say, Amen.” The Ramba”n has a very scary interpretation on this. Nachmanidies writes that included in this curse of ‘not upholding the Torah’ are all the people who had the ability, the strength, and the wherewithal to do things, to take action so as to uphold and fulfill Torah and Mitzvos but did not do it! The Ramba”n explains the words אשר לא יקים  who does not uphold refers to those who do not try to put forth the effort to solidify and strengthen Torah learning and observance in their communities. Consistent with this thought, the Gemara Sotah 7:4 in the (Jerusalem Talmud) explains the words: “someone who does not uphold” indicates the Torah will otherwise fall. The Gemara asks, "Is it really possible for the Torah to fall?”  Rav Assi, in the name of Rebbi Tanchum Bar Chiya, explains that even if a person learns and teaches, observes, and performs yet still remains doubt regarding if he could strengthen Torah and did not, that person will be included in the category of those who will be cursed.

Learning Torah and even being a fully observant Jew is not what everyone grows to become. Nevertheless, everyone could be blessed by fully supporting Toras Emes, -a true form of Torah that supports the legacy of all that will help maintain, deepen and ultimately guarantee the survival of the Jewish people. Think about the Yisachar/Zevulun partnership of supporting Torah: the business partner receives the same reward as the person who is doing the actual learning. If someone learns but does not support, that person will fall into the cursed category. On the other hand, someone who does not learn but supports Torah will be included in the blessing.

The Torah is the blueprint Hashem used to create the world. Chaza”l teach us that Hashem looked into the Torah and created the world. As Rosh Hashana approaches, let’s remind ourselves that the beginning of the world and its creation are ongoing.  Hashem’s creation of our world, of our lives,  goes hand-in-hand with our learning – at all levels - and with our embracing the Torah. Rosh Hashana is all about everything we generally practice: apples and honey, special Amida, Shofar blowing, looking towards forgiveness. This is all underscored by the realization that it is the strengthening of the Torah which is the single most important issue with which each of us must enter the new year.  As the great Reb Yisrael Meir HaKohein sternly declared, ”If we want to gain the blessings we daven to receive,  they will come through upholding true Torah values and through the proliferation of Torah learning in our own homes and families and throughout our community.

Ah Gutten Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Parshas Shoftim - Drafting the Final Words       5 Elul 5782

09/01/2022 04:03:41 PM


In this week’s Parshas Shoftim, the Torah states that if a person should be found slain and the identity of the killer is unknown, the elders of the city closest to where the victim was found are to bring a calf down to a valley and decapitate it at that very spot. They then openly declare that they had no part in the death of this victim and ask for atonement for the people of Israel. We understand the procedure and details of this mitzvah. The underlying message is clear:  a tragedy of this sort cannot be allowed to pass without strong response from those nearby – even if the tragic event was not of their doing. Although the Torah is focused on the identity of the killer being unknown, chances are that the identity of the victim is also unknown. As we read in the Torah דברים כא:א כִּי יִמָּצֵא חָלָל בָּאֲדָמָה אֲשֶׁר ה’ אֱלֹקיךָ נֹתֵן לְךָ לְרִשְׁתָּהּ נֹפֵל בַּשָּׂדֶה לֹא נוֹדַע מִי הִכָּהוּ   Devarim 21:1 “This is what you must do when a corpse is discovered fallen in the field in the land that God your Lord is giving you to occupy, and it is not known who the murderer is.” The focus is on the anonymity of the murderer and not necessarily on the victim. The Gemara in Sotah and the Rambam Hilchos Rotzeiach codifies that if the identity of the murderer is discovered (even if the murderer is on the other side of the world), then the procedure of Eglah Arufah (breaking the calf’s neck) is not performed.  I would endeavor to postulate that if the identity of the victim were to come to light, then we would still go through the Mitzva of Eglah Arufah. The reason: we must stand up for the victim; we must take responsibility when not knowing the murderer even if we now know who the victim is. Apparently, one of the main issues is the identity at least having some knowledge of  the perpetrator, and, no less important, knowledge of the victim. Over time, we develop connections, knowing, connecting the people we meet to those who are around us.

Knowledge and ever-deepening of understanding continues to grow through experience of years of learning how to address tragedy and loss. Being a pulpit rabbi for close to thirty years has helped deepen my awareness of human behavior and has earned me some wisdom. Every pulpit rabbi, perhaps anyone whose work requires helping and guiding people,  has built up a treasure trove of stories and lessons gained over the course of his career that can help and benefit others. Mentoring assistant rabbis and communicating with and learning from other rabbis in the field builds additional layers of growth and wisdom. Questions and interests shared among the rabbinate contribute profoundly to the scope and depth of hands-on learning. Recently, I was having a discussion on death and dying which spilled over into bereavement and mourning. From there the discussion found its way to the cemetery and funerals, including some of the stories – and nightmares – that I have experienced. During that discussion someone asked,” Have you ever officiated at a funeral for someone you did not know?”  It was a great question, and the short answer was, “Yes, I have.” In fact, my rabbinic training course under the tutelage of Rabbi Wein included a public speaking class. We were given a topic to develop and present before the class. One assignment was to deliver a eulogy for someone whom we did not know. That exercise served me very well; my very first opportunity to preside over a funeral came to me in a most unusual way. The following story provides modern reinforcement to the mitzvah of Eglah Arufah.

Before I became a pulpit rabbi, my wife and I taught Judaic studies at a day school in Binghamton, N.Y. One day, my boss, the principal of the school, approached me and told me that a woman had just passed away and the rabbi of the synagogue was out of town. Under those circumstances, as in many smaller Jewish communities, the principal of the school was the default rabbi in charge. He was not particularly interested in doing the funeral in the middle of winter in Binghamton which at that time was experiencing below freezing temperatures and layers of snow over twelve inches deep. So, logically, he turned to me, knowing that I was aspiring to become a community rabbi, offering me the opportunity to conduct the funeral. He told me that the deceased was not someone from the community and this would therefore bring only a small gathering with very little pressure. I reasoned this would give me some good experience, so I agreed to do it.

Part of our training included preparation for a funeral/levaya. The first step was to visit with the immediate family and the mourners prior to the funeral in order to explain three things: 1) what will take place at an orthodox funeral; 2) review the laws of mourning, and 3) take the time to learn about the person whom you will be eulogizing. I asked about the deceased’s youth, education, work history, passions, hobbies, and family life. It was a cold, blistery, winter night as I made my way to the apartment of the deceased’s widower.  We sat down and introduced ourselves, then I began to execute my game plan. I went through the first two parts without incident. When it came to learning about his wife, I asked the widower a question or two. At that moment when I asked about her, his face grew stern, he closed his eyes, and with his hands in the air exclaimed, “Oh! What can I say! What can I say!” I jumped back in my seat and regrouped, changing the topic, and then approaching it from another angle to glean some information about his wife. Once again, arms raised, now palms open, raising his voice a bit stated, “My wife! Oy! What can I say! What can I say!” Again, I gave the husband a little time to regain his composure.  I tried one last time, once again asking if he could tell me something about his wife. Once again, now in a more forceful tone of voice, he called out,” My wife! My wife! What can I say! What can I say!”. At that point I realized I was not going to get anywhere. The next day I walked to the podium to deliver a eulogy for a woman I had never met, raised my hands off the podium, and cried out,” Oy! Mrs. So and so, what can we say, what can we say!” Yes, there are times we do not know the deceased and we are left wondering what happened to that person. This painful story provides perspective regarding our responsibility to the victim. But it also goes deeper: what about me?  This is the time for introspection and for growth.  It is a time to honestly evaluate how we are living our lives.

I felt that the lady whom I eulogized was a victim who had no identity. There was nothing we could say about her – nothing good, nothing bad. She was a “Jane Doe” who had no one to speak on her behalf. As we go through the month of Elul, we need to take the time to evaluate our lives, we need to ask, “What will people say about me when I am gone?” We cannot go through life and after 120 years have the eulogizer get up and repeatedly state,” What can I say! What can I say?” It is critical that we spend these precious days and years processing what others can say about notable things we’ve done, contributions we’ve made, memories we’ve woven into the fibers of our families and community. We live in this world to do and to act for the sake of others, for the sake of those we love, of those whom we can positively help and guide. Let this year be the year of creating the eulogy of what will be said about ourselves after 120 years of giving and caring!

Ah Gutten Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Parshas Re'eh - Getting Back Into Shape          28 Av 5782

08/24/2022 07:37:23 PM


There are seasons and pre-seasons; spring training and fall training. This past summer I participated in a pick-up baseball game with our mid-summer ruach boys who came to learn/teach in and out of the Beis Medrash. As many of my readers know, I love the game of baseball - love watching and even love playing. It has been a few years since I actually attempted to even be in a scrimmage kind of game, but when I do play, I approach it with the seriousness of a game seven of the fall classic. (I do not want to bore you with ALL the details because I know some people think baseball is a BOOOORING sport). I began throwing and swinging as if it were mid-season; unfortunately, I am just a little out of shape and many of the muscles necessary for those motions have been dormant for a long time. Now, about six weeks into this focused workout, I wonder why my left knee greets me with a nagging, lingering pain every morning when I wake up. Apparently, when I bat from the right side, a substantial amount of pressure collapses on the front leg as it comes down through the swing. I guess the good news is that had I swung from both sides of the plate, my other knee would be hurting too.

It is an understatement to stress the importance and need of spring training.  It is critical and crucial for the health and well-being of the athlete, who, in turn, can either add to or detract from the team as a whole. Muscles and joints that are rarely used cannot be simply turned on and expected to go full force. It is interesting to note that when we pull a muscle, stretch a ligament, or do any other strenuous activity, the body immediately recognizes something is wrong, diagnosing where the issue is coming from, and shutting down that part of the body by way of a strain or a pull in order to prevent further harm or damage.  One tends to disconnect the effect the brain has with regard to the rest of the body. The mind seems to think it can do something without first consulting the body to see if it can handle the sudden surge of energy and pressure exerted on any single part of the body. If we would just first think about this cause and effect, we’d be able to  prepare appropriately, based upon our physical ability and our mental acuity.  If one thinks first, then the resulting actions turn out to be a blessing, but if there are no forethoughts, the physical actions could be a curse. This concept is indicated in the first passuk of this week’s reading.

In 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”. This verse has a wide audience, connecting to everything we do in life, even how we treat our bodies and, of course, our souls. On another point regarding increasing the “load” is that one should be careful not to just add on or neglect from the daily routine, a point identified in the Parsha as well. In Devarim 13:1 the Torah states: "את כל הדבר אשר אנכי מצוה אתכם אותו תשמרו לעשות, לא תסף עליו ולא תגרע ממנו"  “It is enough that you carefully observe everything that I am prescribing to you. Do not add to it and do not subtract from it”. The Rabbis taught "כל המוסיף גורע"  ”Whoever adds is actually taking away.” The adding on must incorporate the related exercises and motions into the already existing routine in order to make it stronger and better. When it comes to Ruchni (spiritual), we do not necessarily need to take on more; rather we must strengthen that which we already have. This should be done slowly and steadily.

Furthermore, motions, actions, and activities that we feel within the physical realm must also be viewed in the spiritual realm. There are significant parallels between the physical and the spiritual in every facet of life. The key is to find them, using each of them to our benefit and not to our detriment. I have always maintained the position that when someone begins the journey towards becoming more observant, he/she needs to do so slowly. So many people start off in high gear, going a hundred miles per hour until wham! -  the bubble bursts or he/she just burns out. Training requires slow, focused growth, carefully building upon the effort and accomplishments of the previous day. This lesson is the entrée to the last month of the year, Chodesh Elul.

This coming Shabbos and Sunday is Rosh Chodesh, with Sunday being the first day of Elul, the day when we begin reciting L’Dovid Hashem Ori and blow the Shofar after davening. Elul is the training time to get back into spiritual shape. There are many different pathways and avenues of preparation, all helping us to get ready for the opening of the first day of the year: Rosh Hashana. There are many things we do throughout Elul including   shofar blowing, selichos, checking of our tefillin and mezuzos, reciting all of Tehillim twice during the month, and focusing on ever-deepening, genuine introspection. Some of the reasons people feel the High Holiday services are long and boring is because they have not mentally gotten into shape. Those who have earnestly participated in “fall training” will have a completely different experience coming to Shul. This ‘awakening’ requires more than just preparing to come to shul the same way we do throughout the year. It requires a little more. Beginning with Rosh Chodesh Elul, we need to put more time into training our souls and even our bodies. The sheer length of the holidays is two or three times as long as an ordinary Shabbos, but if we extend our attendance and participation during the training exercises, we will make the time of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur more meaningful and impactful.

There is a general cost and risk when a person invests in something in order to experience true profit and gain. As the old saying goes, “no pain no gain”. So too, spiritually speaking, if we want to gain, we need to invest with some pain by showing up more frequently for longer periods of time. The amount we gain from deepening our learning, focusing more earnestly on our davening, doing more chessed, and in general performing Mitzvos with a mindset to improve, the more profoundly we will produce gains we could never had expected under the ordinary efforts put forth throughout the rest of the year. Let us all show up for the fall training so that we will be in the best physical and spiritual shape as we head into the new year with all the blessings and none of the curses.            

Ah Gutten Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Parshas Eikev - Identity Religion         22 Av 5782

08/19/2022 08:46:05 AM


There are certain things we experience in life which convey one kind of meaning and then later take on a new dimension and purpose. There is a tradition at Jewish weddings, bar, and bat Mitzvos for the hosts to provide a kippa/yarmulka that would have information such as the name of the boy/girl/couple and date of the celebration. I would guess this practice originated more commonly among non-observant Jews who provided a kippah for the men upon entering and participating in a ritual life cycle event. This tradition, as many others, seeped into the orthodox venues. Today, it’s common to provide a kippah  commemorating the event even though most of the participants and guests arrive wearing their own kippah. It is still a welcome gift, especially to those who arrive without a kippah.

At a recent bar mitzvah which took place here at my shul beautiful kippot were attractively presented, available to anyone who needed or wanted one. As I gazed out and saw so many  men dotted with this kippah on their heads, it struck me that there is another dimension to this tradition: a sense of unity. Many of the attendees demonstrated a beautiful uniformity that conveyed a unifying message to the event. It was as though everyone, participating together, visually displayed that they were all on the same team rooting for the bar mitzva boy to hit a grand slam – which, by the way, he did!

 I once heard Rabbi Wein explain the phenomena of sports caps, jerseys, etc. Billions of dollars are spent worldwide by men, women and children of all ages who purchase sports paraphernalia and proudly wear the emblem of their teams. It is an identity with the athlete or the team and a sense of pride and joy whether the team or individual is successful or not. There are many kinds of teams - sports, management, business, but often in religion this does not occur. In religion we find most people gather together from similar backgrounds and are familiar with the people around them. Most religious scenarios reflect this kind of ‘sameness’, including Judaism. This is an unfortunate reality, but the following story is so beautiful because it gives the true and meaningful definition of a team.  

A little over twenty years ago Rabbi Yonah Weinrib, a remarkable artist who specializes in elaborate manuscript illumination which combines a wide array of art techniques and media to enhance his exacting calligraphy, was a scholar in residence in San Diego. He is an accomplished author as well as an artist. One of his pieces is called “Min HaMinyan” which is a picture of exactly ten Jews from all different backgrounds davening at the Kotel to make up a quorum to daven. I know that my shul, Beth Jacob, shares this beauty. Throughout the year we welcome tourists, businesspeople, individuals who have dome for medical needs, conference attendees, and so forth, who visit our shul. These visitors typically come from many different religious, economic and social levels. Throughout every summer, we have the pleasure of welcoming all the different brands of Jews - from the right to the left and everyone in between. Lo and behold, as soon as we all come together under one roof to daven, we become teammates all working towards the same goal, serving Hashem.

In this week’s Parshas Eikev the Torah in Devarim 9:10 states "ויתן ה' אלי את שני לוחת האבנים כתבים באצבע אלוקים ועליהם ככל הדברים אשר דבר ה' עמכם בהר מתוך האש ביום הקהל"  “God gave me the two stone tablets written with God’s finger. Upon them were written all the words that God declared to you on the mountain out of the fire, on the Day of Assembly”. Rav Yakov Kattina mentions that the last word of the passuk should be either the sixth of Sivan or Shavuos, which was the day the Torah was given. Why is the term “Kahal” or Assembly used in this case? In his Sefer Korban Ani, Rav Kattina addresses this, explaining that the day the Torah was given is called “Yom HaKahal”- the day of the gathering! On that day there was Achdus/Unity among the Jewish people that has never been before been seen or  witnessed again. Rav Kattina brings forward a Zohar that says there have been many times when the Jewish people have come and gathered together, but never has there been such an incredible degree of unity as that time around Har Sinai when we received the Torah. Let us keep in mind that there were twelve tribes plus the Leviim and Kohanim. Rare is the time when the entire Jewish people get together and are on “the same page”.

The ultimate goal is for all of us to come together at all times and places, to have one unified voice. In actuality, we do, but we don’t realize it. There is one and only one thing that unifies the Jewish people, our Torah. That last official unity took place back at Har Sinai; such total, complete unity is one of the things that holds us back from complete redemption. The sad part is that when Jews of different backgrounds get together under circumstances outside their regular environment, they thrive on meeting and being together. At least in my opinion - or perception- Jews enjoy being with other Jews despite their differences.  When Jews get together outside of their usual routine and away from their community, they tend to connect to other Jews with whom they’d otherwise never have opportunity or even desire to meet. When the tourists and visitors come to Beth Jacob, the identity crisis is left at the door. We all daven to Hashem, we all enjoy opportunities to learn together, we all share the same identity under the banner of Torah just as we did at Har Sinai!

Ah Gutten Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Rav Yakov Kattina, was an author of two major works. He served as dayyan in Chust, Carpathian Russia, in the bet din of Moses Schick (1849–79). His two works were published anonymously. The first, Racḥamei ha-Av, was first published in Czernowitz in 1865 and has been frequently reprinted. The work has 58 chapters on moral improvement. In the introduction, the author says: "I called this booklet Racḥamei ha-Av ["Mercy of the Father"] for it is true mercy for a man to chasten his child to lead him in the ways of God, this being the sole purpose of man." The second work, Korban he-Ani, homilies on the Chumash in a kabbalistic and cḥasidic vein, was published in Lemberg in 1872 and 1882.

Parshas Va'Eschanan - The Influence of a City   15 Av 5782

08/12/2022 09:37:31 AM


This time of the year brings many tourists to San Diego, and that includes many  “frum” religious Jews. On a daily basis, I encounter Jews from all walks of life and from all over the world. Most of these guests are vacationing from the East Coast, which gives opportunity for us to  play Jewish geography on all levels. I always ask where our visitors are from and where they came from originally, such as where did they grew  up. Recently, an older man visited with his married grandson. He told me where he was from and then went on to tell me where his grandson lived. He mentioned one of the myriads of small cities surrounding Lakewood and said, ”My grandson is from such and such Ir HaKodesh.”! I quickly jumped in and exclaiming ”Perhaps Lakewood itself is Ir HaKodesh, the Holy city, but not… (the city to which he was referring).!

This week I heard the usual line, “Tish’a B’Av has come and gone, and the Beis HaMikdash is still not rebuilt. I guess we will have Tish’a B’Av again next year. ”Truth be told, of course I hope there will be a Tish’a B’Av next year; it is only a date on the calendar! Of course, I understand the meaning of this statement. I fully understand that this statement laments the fact that we are still in exile and are only using the 9th of Av as the association to something tragic. Nevertheless, we should look toward next year’s 9th of Av no longer as a sad day, but rather, as the Rabbi’s teach us, that the day will become a holiday and a day of Yom Tov.

Of course, all of this is spoken in jest, I mean do people really think or believe that we should call Lakewood N.J. Ir HaKodesh/ a holy city? When I hear statements as such it lends itself to thinking we have made it religiously and there is no need to even consider Eretz Yisrael, a place which is our national homeland and home to the four major holy cities. This, unfortunately, rings to the sounds of a local Jewish community their city as equal to Jerusalem. The following is an excerpt from the Jerusalem Post in 2015: At the synod of Reform rabbis held at Frankfurt in 1845, Rabbi Samuel Holdheim rejected the idea of a personal messiah and political redemption in the Land of Israel. “The hope for a national restoration contradicts our feeling for the fatherland,” Holdheim stated. “Our nationality is now only expressed in religious concepts and institutions.”

This rejection of the concept of Jews as a nation was rooted in two concepts. The first was the Reformers’ rejection of what seemed to be a primitive notion of a personal messiah and the resumption of sacrifice in the Temple in Jerusalem. This concept clashed with the ideas of Enlightenment, an era believing in a religion of reason and universal brotherhood. But the second reason for Holdheim’s statement is just as striking: this Reform rabbi wanted to avoid charges of dual loyalty. The Jewish commitment to sovereignty in Israel brought into question the allegiance of Jews to the Germanic state where they were striving to be citizens.

The very notion of comparing cities with large Jewish populations, referring to them as holy cities, seems anti-ethical. As we assess the state of the Jewish people we wonder as we look around, observing our actions and behaviors, is this truly why Moshiach would come? Is this an era worthy of his coming? There is an overindulgence of the material world that prevents us from focusing on the truly important things in life. Nevertheless, there is one important difference between Germany, 1850 and Lakewood, 2022. That major difference is the flourishing of Torah and the commitment to Mitzvos at a level we have not seen in over 2000 years since the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash and the exile from Eretz Yisrael.  Despite the challenges the “frum” community faces, there exists a level of kedusha/holiness that is created by living a religious life. When more Torah is learned, more mitzvos are fulfilled, more tefillos are offered, more good deeds are accomplished, there is a holiness that is created within the place where this occurs. Hashem’s presence is still among us through His Torah, and that serves as a comfort for us despite being in galus/exile. The Gemara Brachos 8a states: “From the day of the destruction of the Temple, God only has the four cubits of halacha as His domain in His world.”

I would like to suggest there are two types of kedusha/holiness in the world; 1) an inherent holiness, somewhat “God made” that maintains its sanctity whether there is any Jewish life present at all. That is Yerushalayim Ir HaKodesh. 2) a holiness that is “man-made”, driven by the Jewish people living according to the Torah. The latter can be attained anywhere in the world. This stands in clear contradiction to Germany, 1850, where the reform movement rejected the Torah, mitzvos and the promise of Zion and the ultimate redemption. Germany was not like Jerusalem because there wasn’t any holiness created. This is by no means rationalizing that any “makom Torah” any place of Torah can replace Yerushalayim as the holy city. Rather, any Makom Torah creates an artificial kind of holiness, which for its time and place raises the level of sanctity for its inhabitants.

Throughout the millennia the Jewish people created great cities during every exile and in places that were desolate of everything. Therefore, I take back my comment that Yerushalayim is the only holy city. It is the only city that has its holiness from within and maintains its kedusha holiness throughout the millenia of time. Nevertheless, we each have within us the ability to create a holiness wherever we go. This applies to the individual and the Klal. In a place where the Torah is no longer being followed and fulfilled, destruction and desolation will follow, but where Torah and Yiddishkeit are flourishing, the influence of the Torah raises the level of every person in the city, Jew, and gentile alike.

 Every city where Jews reside should be a place where there is clear evidence of focused effort to make their city a makom Torah, a Makon Tefilla, a Makom of Gemillus Chassadim. This would be a wonderful way to identify our city of San Diego as a holy place. Perhaps the next time someone is asked where they went on vacation, they will respond San Diego, Ir HaKodesh. And more so if someone were to ask me where I am from, I can say, San Diego, Ir HaKodesh!    

Ah Gutten Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Parshas Devarim/Tish'a B'Av - It's Always a Good Time!!!                                   7 Av 5782 

08/04/2022 12:35:11 PM


This is the time of year we prepare our Shul’s annual calendar, combining the secular and Jewish dates as well as all civil and religious holidays. I enjoy preparing and editing the calendar (with a few others) for the coming year, benefitting from getting a clear overview of how and when the Jewish holidays fall out. The Jewish component of the calendar is more interesting and more challenging than the secular because in a certain sense it remains fixed. The secular or Gregorian calendar is based upon the sun (solar calendar), while the Jewish (and to an extent the Muslim) calendar follows the moon (lunar calendar). In short, since we follow the moon, all significant dates such as holidays, fast days and minor festivals occur a little before or a little after they did during the current year, almost never falling on the same day of the week two years in a row.

With that being the case, the holidays of Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, and the major festivals of Pesach, Shavuos, and Sukkos sometimes fall out mid-week while on other years over the weekends. The same can be said of all the dates in the calendar, including Tish’a B’Av. In Talmudic times, the establishment and setting of the new moon and subsequent holidays and events were determined by two witnesses testifying in Jerusalem about seeing the new moon. In the fourth century, Hillel II (Hillel HaZakein) established a fixed calendar based on mathematical and astronomical calculations. This calendar, still in use, standardized the length of months and the addition of months over the course of a 19-year cycle, mathematically assuring that the lunar calendar realigns with the solar years. Adar II is added in the 3rd, 6th, 8th, 11th, 14th, 17th and 19th years of the cycle. Therefore, we have two acronyms, one for Tishrei and the other for Nissan: Lo AD”U Rosh לא אדו ראש  - indicating that Rosh Hashana will never begin on a Sunday, Wednesday, or Friday - and לא בדו פסח  Lo BD”U indicating that Pesach never begins on Monday, Wednesday, or Friday.

During the year I often hear comments regarding the way certain holidays and national observances fall out. Sometimes these comments refer to the time of the year “oh it is so early this year” or “it falls out so late this year.” Those comments typically relate to how these holidays either coincide with the secular schedule or not. To me, a more significant and important observation are the comments of when Yom Tov falls out in the middle of the week, forcing people to take off more days from work, while a legitimate concern, but simultaneously implying  ”Oy! More Yom Tov and then a few days later is Shabbos?” almost complaining about more days of restrictions, too much eating, too much Shul, etc. A second scenario, which I feel is very offensive, concerns how the date of Tish’a B’Av falls out, either midweek or on the weekend, depending upon when the nine days occurs on the calendar. For some reason people can handle the no-meat custom if the Ninth of Av falls midweek, breaking up the nine days with a Shabbos in between in contrast to the way it fell out this year having a full week of no meat! People really complained, expressing how difficult it is to eat no meat for an entire week. Well, maybe that’s a good thing, helping us to become more aware of and more consciously experience the loss of the Beis HaMikdash. In today’s day and age there are very few things that we either do or do not do to remind us of even minor suffering, allowing us to at some core level  to feel the destruction of both of the Temples in Jerusalem.

This concept of doing without to help us to meaningfully grapple with the deep despair connected to the destruction of the 1st and 2nd Temples also applies to the restrictions on listening to or playing music, going swimming and some other activities that need a heter - some Rabbinic allowance to not observe these customary restrictions during the nine days. There is no question when it comes to someone’s health and well-being that Rabbinical dispensation can be awarded, but it behooves us all to think if and when we really need the heter or not. Can we get by for just one week without something that we typically have and enjoy during the rest of the year?

I think part of this issue is the length of the galus/exile itself. The further we get from the holiness of the Beis HaMikdash and the spiritual connection to Hashem, the more difficult it becomes to relate about the loss. Our spiritual and religious relationship with Hashem was strongest when we had the Temple. It is difficult to mourn for something that we have not seen or experienced in our lifetime nor the lifetime of so many generations since the destruction. We understand that a relationship is not based upon physical means and things, nevertheless lacking such physical memory or have  a physical memory or something to visualize, to internalize, this horrific destruction becomes much more difficult to truly appreciate. Reb Tzadok HaKoheinin Tzidkas HaTzadik 221 writes that “forgetfulness” is the beginning of evil. When God occupies our mind, our head is full of goodness, but when we forget about Hashem,  other thoughts seep in. Hashem represents everything that is spiritual;  this world represents everything that is physical. As the exile extends, we grow psychologically further away from Hashem. This notion is answered by the fact that Hashem always continues to seek out a closeness to us. The difficulty we have with it is the association, the connection between the physical presence of holiness in terms of having or not having a Beis HaMikdash. Now that we do not have the Temple we feel cut off from Hashem and subconsciously grow further away. That being said, it is challenging to feel the loss over time, and therefore the restrictions that the Rabbis consciously placed upon us to try to feel this loss doesn’t always resonate with everyone. Without a more physical connection we tend to put less emphasis on those restrictive reminders and feel unnecessarily burdened by them.

It is of utmost importance to stop and think of the purpose of the restrictions, not as a means to punish and make our lives uncomfortable, but to provide us with the subtle, physical reminders of what we have lost in that physical sense of God’s sanctuary, the ability to see, feel, experience the physical and spiritual presence of our Temple. The physical deprivation we try to experience during the three weeks, the nine days and on Tish’a B’Av itself is collectively summed up to remembering the spiritual connection through our physical separation.

With Hashem’s help we will internalize the loss by, yes, experiencing some physical and mental discomfort. This is the meaning of what the Gemara in Taanis 30b states, “And the Sages say: Whoever performs labor on the Ninth of Av and does not mourn for Jerusalem will not see her future joy, as it is stated: “Rejoice with Jerusalem and be glad with her, all who love her; rejoice for joy with her, all who mourn for her.” (Isaiah 66:10). From here it is stated: Whoever mourns for Jerusalem will merit and see her future joy, and whoever does not mourn for Jerusalem will not see her future joy”. Let us all take a little pain and benefit from the great gain!  


Ah Gutten Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Parshas Matos/Maasei - How Did I Get Here?    29 Tammuz 5782

07/28/2022 04:48:00 PM


Due to the necessity of security in our homes, offices and most places of worship, we are faced with a variety of push button locks necessary to gain entry. Here at Beth Jacob, we have different combinations for the gate entry to the property and the main door into the building. As I approach the gate/door, I by routine push the sequence of buttons; sometimes the gate opens on the first try, and at other times it does not. The fact that it did not open was not due to a jam or the need to reset the system; it was because I had used  the wrong code. I no longer “think” of the numbers and sequence; I just do it. This kind of action is called “muscle memory”, the ability to reproduce a particular movement without conscious thought, acquired through frequent repetition of that movement.

There is something in our brains called the Default Mode Network or DMN. Scientific investigation has now shown that our DMN takes over when we are undertaking familiar activities such as tying our shoelaces, playing a musical instrument (once a level of skill has been developed), driving a familiar route, or performing a repetitive task. Research shows that once our brains are familiar with an activity, they ‘switch off’ and go into ‘autopilot mode’, allowing us to undertake tasks without thinking about them. In everyday life we’re probably in DMN much more than we realize. Cooking, washing the dishes, taking a shower, mowing the lawn, and so forth, are all familiar tasks we undertakes mainly while in this Default Mode Network.

DMN may be okay when it comes to mundane acts and even more strangely, studies show that the brain seems to perform such tasks better and with more accuracy when in DMN than when in ‘switched on’ mode. But when it comes to spiritual and religious acts, we need the ‘kavana’, the purposeful, focused direction and proper concentration, not just performing routinized DMN. If we only rely on muscle memory, then when a situation slightly changes, we won’t be able to do the task correctly. If we are engaged in the actual process by going through each step with care, we will remember things better, openly working our cerebral muscles rather than relying on muscle memory.   My support for this idea is rooted in the details of the Torah’s description in a few places. As we know, the Torah does not waste words. Nothing in the Torah is superfluous, as we will read this week.

In this week’s double Parsha of Matos and Maasei, the Torah, in the beginning of Maasei  states in Bamidbar 33:1 " אלה מסעי בני ישראל אשר יצאו מארץ מצרים לצבאותם ביד משה ואהרן" “These are the journeys of the Israelites who had left Egypt in organized groups under the leadership of Moshe and Aharon”. This begins the listing of the forty-two locations during the forty-year journey of wandering through the Sinai desert. The Madreigas Ha’Adam says these verses are necessary to inform future generations of the greatness of the One whom we say created the world. To remind us that it is Hashem who nourished and sustained all the needs of six hundred thousand men ( a total of approximately three million people) in the desert. The desert was a place far from any civilization. There was no water, no vegetation, no protection from the elements. If someone expressed disbelief, then here is a clear listing of those places where each event occurred. Unfortunately, even if we could go back to those places, we wouldn’t see the miracles. Nevertheless the mentioning of these places is crucial to the everlasting memory of what was. If only the miracles that took place in the desert were mentioned, they would be forgotten, but by mentioning the places with the miracles, the history and events were cemented in our minds. This belief is summarized by the Rambam in his sefer Moreh Nevachim (Guide to the Perplexed III 50), quoted by the Ramban on the first passuk in Maasei. The following is an excerpt from the Moreh Nevuchim 

“It is also necessary to note the following observations. The view we take of things described by others is different from the view we take of things seen by us as eyewitnesses. That which we see contains many details which are essential and must be fully described. The reader of the description may believe that it contains superfluous matter, or useless repetition, but if he had witnessed the event of which he reads, he would see the necessity of every part of the description. When we, therefore, notice narratives in the Torah which seemingly have no connection to any of the commandments, we are inclined to think that they are entirely superfluous, or too lengthy, or contain repetitions; but this is only because we do not see the incidents which make those narratives noteworthy.

The enumeration of the stations the Bnei Yisrael traveled in the desert found in Bamidbar 33 supports this fact. At first sight this enumeration appears to be entirely useless. To obviate such a notion Scripture says, "And Moshe wrote their goings out according to their journeys by the commandment of the Lord." Bamidbar 33:2. It was indeed most necessary that these enumerations should be written. Miracles are only convincing to those who witnessed them; future generations, however, who know them only from the account given by others, may consider them as untrue. But miracles cannot continue, cannot last for all generations; it is even inconceivable [that they should be permanent]. Now the greatest of the miracles described in the Law is the wandering of the Israelites in the wilderness for forty years, always provided with a daily supply of manna. This wilderness, consisted of places "wherein were fiery serpents and scorpions, and drought, where there was no water" Devarim 8:15; places very remote from cultivated land, and naturally not adapted for the habitation of man, "It is no place of seed, or of figs, or of vines, or of pomegranates, neither is there any water to drink" Bamidbar 20:5; "A land that no man passed through, and where no man dwelt" Yirmiyahu 2:6. All these miracles were wonderful, public, and witnessed by the people. But God knew that in the future people might doubt the correctness of the account of these miracles just as they doubt the accuracy of other narratives. They might think that the Israelites stayed in the wilderness, but it was  in a place not far from inhabited land, a place where it was possible for man to live in the ordinary way; a place like those deserts in which Arabs live at present, or that they dwelt in such places in which they could plow, sow, and reap, or live on some vegetable that was growing there. They may declare that manna came always down in those places as an ordinary natural product, or that there were wells of water in those places. To remove all these doubts and to firmly establish the accuracy of the account of these miracles, The Torah enumerates all the stations, assuring that coming generations may see them, and learn the greatness of the miracle which enabled human beings to live in those places forty years.” Chaza”l intentionally arranged the reading of this parsha to always coincide during the three weeks of mourning so as to illustrate the ability and resilience of the Jewish people to survive and thrive under the most difficult conditions.

So, next time you have that startling ’How did we, the Jewish people, get here’ feeling, you’ll know why. It’s because of Hashem’s kindness and purpose of Am Yisrael’s destiny in the world!

Parshas Pinchas - "My Grandmother Regina & The Daughter's of Tzelafchad"                               22 Tammuz 5782

07/28/2022 04:43:37 PM


This Dvar Torah is L’ilui Nishmas, in memory of Regina Avigdor Bogopulsky - Rivka bas Moshe Aharon & Batsheva on her Yahrzeit

Today, the 22nd of Tammuz, is the Yahrzeit (yearly anniversary of death) of my “grandmother” Regina who passed away June 30th, 1994. It may sound odd that I refer to my grandmother by her first name and not by the traditional bubbe, safta or grandma. The reason is because she was my step-grandmother. She and my late grandfather z”l  had a wonderful second marriage of about twenty-two years until my grandfather passed away. Since both of my natural grandmothers passed away before I was born, and my grandfather re-married before I was born, Regina was effectively the only grandmother I had ever known.

Even though Regina had her own children and grandchildren, she treated me, the youngest of my grandfather’s grandchildren,  as one of her own. There are two  vivid memories I hold dear: The first was when she bought me a very sophisticated hockey set/game for my ninth birthday, a treasured gift which cost $100.00. . It was packaged in a large 3x5 box which she happily shlepped (carried)  to my house from Linick’s Toys store which was a few long blocks away. The second memory I treasure was the always -available variety of large, thick, sugar cookies, so delicious that I can still savor their taste in my mouth. I have never seen or tasted sugar cookies like those ever again in my life; they were one of a kind. Following my grandfather’s death, my parents visited with her regularly for the rest of her life.  She proudly attended my wedding and was prominent in all the family pictures. Unfortunately, once I moved away I was no longer able to visit her.  She passed away a few years after my wedding. I look back now, twenty-eight years later, remembering with total clarity how wonderful she was to my grandfather, and what a wonderful, nurturing grandmother (the only grandparent I ever had) she was to me.

Jewish women throughout our history have played an immense role in both the private world of their homes as well as in the national spotlight.  For me, Regina was my personal national spotlight.  I thank her posthumously for all she did for me. Regina was proud of me and treated me as one of her own grandchildren. To be honest, however, her biological grandchildren - understandably so - were the shining stars of her world. I believe the correct relationship for me regarding her grandchildren would be ‘stepcousins’. One of the older step cousins, Aidel, married Rabbi Ephraim Buchwald who penned* the following dvar Torah in the year 2000 just six years after Regina passed away. In my opinion Rabbi Buchwald’s words encapsulate a core aspect of our grandmother. May this be a zchus and an Aliyah for her neshama.            

“In this coming week’s parshas Pinchas, we learn of the precedent-shattering request of the daughters of Tzelafchad. The Torah, in Bamidbar 27, records that the five daughters of Tzelafchad came before Moshe, Elazar the Priest, the Princes of the Israelite tribes, and the entire congregation at the door of the Tabernacle. The women claimed that their father had died in the wilderness and had left no sons. The Torah in Bamidbar states in 27:4"למה יגרע שם אבינו מתוך משפחתו כי אין לו בן, תנה לנו אחוזה בתוך  :אחי אבינו"   “Why should our father’s name be disadvantaged in his family merely because he did not have a son? Give us a portion of land along with our father’s brothers.”

The Torah relates that since Moses did not know the immediate answer, he brought the question before God. God told Moshe that the claim of the daughters of Tzelafchad was justified and instructed Moshe to transfer the inheritance of their father to them. In further clarification, God states that if a man dies and leaves no sons, his property shall first transfer to his daughters, and only afterwards, if there are no female heirs, to other close relatives.

This scriptural portion is indeed remarkable. After all, why didn’t the Torah just include this law, that the property of a man who leaves no male heirs transfers to his daughters, as part of the regular legal portions that appear throughout the Torah? Why was it necessary for the daughters to approach Moses, and why was Moshe incapable of responding, making it necessary for him to get the answer directly from Hashem?

We live in an age where many disenfranchised, or so-called disenfranchised, people make claims about historic injustices. They demand that the discriminatory practices cease and often request compensation for previous injustices. While surely many of these claims are legitimate, the practice of discriminatory claims has become so widespread, and in certain instances has gotten so out of hand, that it’s been quipped, only half in jest, that soon left-handed people will start class-action suits against public accommodations which have staircase rails only on the right.

Distinguishing between a legitimate claim and a non-legitimate claim has become an art. And with the factor of “political correctness” often being added into the mix, woe unto the person who does not show proper respect to those claims — legitimate or not!

The Torah was the first universal document to insist that a man provide for and adequately support his wife, as we learn from Shmos 21:10, “Sh’era, k’sutah, v’onatah lo yig’rah,” Men must provide their wives with food, clothing, and physical pleasure. Furthermore, the entire narrative of the book of Exodus indicates that, were it not for the women, the Jewish people would never have been redeemed from Egypt — in each case citing the errant behavior of the men and the faithful behavior of the women. The Torah (Deut. 24:1) is also the first document in human history to provide for divorce for unsuccessful marriages. The Gemara/Talmud Sanhedrin 76b states movingly that one must love one’s wife as much as oneself and honor her more than himself. It is indeed fascinating to note that the male-dominated Halakhic hierarchy of Jewish law has worked assiduously over the millennia to expand the rights and privileges of women, particularly remarkable since this was done at the time when other civilizations were limiting the rights of women. It was not so long ago that women in some countries of the Orient were expected to jump into the grave and be buried alive after their husbands died. The Gemara Arachin 19a teaches that an older woman in the house is a treasure and a blessing.

Now back to the earlier question. Why indeed was the law of inheritance of daughters not included in the general legal sections of the Bible? Why was it necessary to ask G-d to render a decision? Perhaps because Halakha, Jewish law, is an evolving law. Clearly the social status and positions of both men and women change as society evolves. Could it be that the Al-mighty was signaling us that as the role of women changes in secular society, the role of women needs to be reevaluated in the religious society. But, of course, there is a caveat — if the laws of secular society controvert any of the values and laws of the Torah, they must not be followed. To the contrary, they must be rejected. However, when the laws and customs of society do not clash with Jewish law, then Jews must take a leading stand in the efforts to expand women’s rights and privileges.”

The laws that we learn from the episode of the daughters of Tzelafchad were a revolutionary breakthrough in society and family. Clearly, my grandmother Regina was a modern-day daughter of Tzelafchad. She was a true woman of valor of her time. Women of strength, clarity of thought and dedicated devotion to their families, women such as my grandmother, Regina, are the shining stars of our time. They exist to help us all understand the nature of Torah and the nature of the Torah’s perspective on women.

*This is an edited and truncated version of the original.

Thu, March 23 2023 1 Nisan 5783